EppsNet Archive: Books

Programmers Don’t Play Polo

16 Aug 2014 /

On the product page for a book on software development principles, Amazon showed me this:

Customers also viewed ...

The product on the right — is that a bug in the cross-selling algorithm? I’ve worked in software development for about 30 years and have never met one person interested in the game of polo . . .


Books, Writers, Bookstores, Libraries

27 Jul 2014 /

The Smartest Kids in the World

12 Jul 2014 /

Via Philip Greenspun:

Amanda Ripley identifies the following major problems with American schools:

  • people who are poorly educated are hired as schoolteachers
  • teachers have limited autonomy (partly as a result of their low level of knowledge and ability)
  • schools have multiple missions, only one of which is education, which leads to a loss of focus
  • teachers and administrators dwell on student and family backgrounds so as to build up a catalog of excuses for poor educational outcomes
  • parents are complacent regarding the low expectations set for their children

Elite Daily: Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With

Posted by on 11 Jul 2014

Climate Change is Making People More Stupid

11 Jul 2014 /

(HealthDay News) — Add another possible woe to the growing list of consequences of climate change: Kidney stones.

A new study of American cities suggests that rising temperatures may increase the number of people who develop the painful urinary obstructions.

You have to read all the way down to the second-to-last sentence of the article to find this:

The study uncovered a connection between higher temperatures and risk of kidney stones, but didn’t prove cause-and-effect.

The article implies cause and effect only to fess up right at the end and admit that there is no cause and effect. In the absence of cause and effect, what exactly is the point?

In the epilogue of War and Peace, a peasant notices a “connection” between smoke and locomotives and infers cause and effect: the smoke causes the locomotive to move. The point being that it’s easy to infer causality from “connections” in ways that have no grounding in reality.

In other climate news, the Wall Street Journal reports that researchers have, for the first time, counted all the world’s Adélie penguins — a sprightly seabird considered a bellwether of climate change — and discovered that millions of them are thriving in and around Antarctica.

Rather than declining as feared due to warming temperatures that altered their habitats in some areas, the Adélie population generally is on the rise.

Adelie penguins


Ten Steps to Being Fat, Lonely and Broke

7 Jul 2014 /

Some behaviors come naturally while others require more effort. For example, there are dozens of bestsellers on finding love, losing weight and creating wealth but no market for books like Ten Steps to Being Fat, Lonely and Broke.


Not Enough Information?

6 Jul 2014 /

Bertrand Russell declared that, in case he met God, he would say to Him, “Sir, you did not give us enough information.” I would add to that, “All the same, Sir, I’m not persuaded that we did the best we could with the information we had. Toward the end there, anyway, we had tons of information.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

A Pug Story

30 Jun 2014 /

Lightning Epps

Hi everybody! It’s me, Lightning!

My owner read me a story by Isaac Babel:

And Mimka arrived too, curled up on the sofa and fell asleep at once. She was a terrible sleepy-head, but a wonderful dog, good-hearted, sensible, small and pretty. Mimka was a pug-dog. Her coat was light in colour. Even in old age she never grew fat or flabby, never put on weight, but remained shapely and slender. She lived with us a long time, from birth to death, the whole of her fifteen years’ doggy life, and loved us — quite plainly, and most of all Grandmother, who was stern and without mercy to anyone. What friends they were, silent and secretive, I shall tell another time. It is a very good, touching and tender story.

Actually that was only part of the story but the rest was kind of boring and I don’t really remember it.

— Lightning paw


Two Mediocrities Are Not Better Than One

23 Jun 2014 /

Effective executives rarely suffer from the delusion that two mediocrities achieve as much as one good man. They have learned that, as a rule, two mediocrities achieve even less than one mediocrity — they just get in each other’s way.

— Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

I Was Never More Hated Than When I Tried to Be Honest

22 Jun 2014 /

I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I’ve tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied — not even I. On the other hand, I’ve never been more loved and appreciated than when I tried to “justify” and affirm someone’s mistaken beliefs; or when I’ve tried to give my friends the incorrect, absurd answers they wished to hear. In my presence they could talk and agree with themselves, the world was nailed down, and they loved it.

— Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

I Know the Feeling

20 Jun 2014 /

A leaf flattened itself against the window beside his head and leaped away into the darkness, and a feeling of profound despair came over him because everything he had done was useless. All that he believed in and had attempted to prove seemed meager, all of his life was wasted.

— Evan Connell, Mr. Bridge

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

19 Jun 2014 /

I believe what I believe, and I have not yet believed a single thing only because it was believed by others, nor do I intend to. I can be grateful for this, at least: that I have kept myself. I have not once dressed up in a costume. There may be stronger consolations, but not many. Be that as it may, I cannot live differently than I do. Whatever the reasons for this, good or bad, they exist. Evidently that is enough. So, early tomorrow, I must get up again to do what I have done today. I will get up early to do this, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, and there is nothing to discuss.

— Evan Connell, Mr. Bridge

Thinking on Your Feet

18 Jun 2014 /

I can forgive someone who lies, but if he can’t think on his feet, he has no business representing my interests. If he can’t lie to me, how can I expect him to lie, on my behalf, to the other guy?

— David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge

People Who Have Died

14 Jun 2014 /

I am getting aware of the fact that I keep writing and thinking about people who have died. I love living. I do not want to die for a long time because I am not ready. I suppose if I thought I was going to die, I could get ready given a period of time, but I am not sure about that. Some folks think that this is not a good thing to think about. I envy the control they must have over their thinking processes.

— Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace

Know Why the Meeting Was Called

1 Jun 2014 /

People call business meetings for seven reasons, so plan accordingly:

  1. To get you to decide something. (Probably useful to you.)
  2. To hone their own ideas. (Maybe useful to you.)
  3. To convey information. (Probably not useful; ask for a document instead)
  4. To test out a presentation. (Probably not useful unless it’s your boss.)
  5. To accomplish group writing. (Never useful to anybody.)
  6. To prove their own importance. (Never useful to anybody.)
  7. To fulfill a process step. (Never useful to anybody.)

Good Causes

22 May 2014 /
NASCAR

The Good Causes of the Left may generally be compared to NASCAR; they offer the diversion of watching things go excitingly around in a circle, getting nowhere.

— David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge

Small Obstinacies and a Few Proverbs

18 May 2014 /

They have dragged out their life in stupor and semi-sleep, they have married hastily, they have made children at random. They have met other men in cafes, at weddings and funerals. Sometimes, caught in the tide, they have struggled against it without understanding what was happening to them. All that has happened around them has eluded them; long, obscure shapes, events from afar, brushed by them rapidly and when they turned to look all had vanished. And then, around forty, they christen their small obstinacies and a few proverbs with the name of experience, they begin to simulate slot machines: put a coin in the left hand slot and you get tales wrapped in silver paper, put a coin in the slot on the right and you get precious bits of advice that stick to your teeth like caramels.

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

The Single Greatest Source of Economic Error

11 May 2014 /

But the underlying fallacy — the failure to notice that things must add up — is, in my experience, the single greatest source of economic error. Politicians routinely promise to make medical care or housing or college educations more widely available by controlling their prices; economists routinely scratch their heads and ask where the extra doctors or houses or classrooms are going to come from. You can no more speed up the line for medical care by lowering prices than you can speed up the deli line by handing out tickets.

— Steve Landsburg, The Big Questions

Lit Quizzes

10 May 2014 /

New additions to the First Lines and Last Lines quizzes:

First Lines

These notebooks were found among the papers of Antoine Roquentin.

 

One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds.

Last Lines

The building-yard of the New Station smells strongly of damp wood: tomorrow it will rain in Bouville.

 

However passionate, sinning, and rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it peep serenely at us with their innocent eyes; they tell us not of eternal peace alone, of that great peace of “indifferent” nature: they tell us, too, of eternal reconciliation and of life without end.

 

His bruised memory has subsided again and until the next full moon no one will trouble the professor—neither the noseless man who killed Hestas nor the cruel Procurator of Judea, fifth in that office, the knight Pontius Pilate.


Miss Marple

19 Apr 2014 /
Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

Really, I have no gifts — no gifts at all — except perhaps a certain knowledge of human nature. People, I find, are apt to be far too trustful. I’m afraid that I have a tendency always to believe the worst. Not a nice trait, but so often justified by subsequent events.


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