EppsNet Archive: Books

2017: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2017, roughly in the order listed. Not as many as I wuld have liked but I spent the first half of the year having a mental and physical breakdown. I’m back on track now. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (fiction) and From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe (non-fiction). My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Likes and Dislikes

Likes Dogs, books, spicy food Dislikes: Systems of thought that reduce the richness of human lives to impersonal laws, systems and numbers. Oxford commas. Read more →

Crossing the Border

It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, conviction, faith, history. Human life — and herein lies its secret — takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch. — Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Read more →

What Happened?

According to this review by Piers Morgan, Hillary has narrowed down the list of people and entities responsible for her 2016 election defeat to James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and his supporters, Mitch McConnell, the mainstream media, the New York Times, Matt Lauer, Fox News, Jill Stein, men, women, white people, black people, Joe Biden, Anthony Weiner, and the Electoral College. Notably absent from the list: Hillary Clinton. Read more →

To Young Women Considering a Career in Technology

You’ve probably read a lot of articles about how sexist and awful the culture is for women in technology. I think if anything deters young women from technology careers, it’s this glut of articles saying how sexist and awful the culture is. I’ve worked in software development for 30 years. In my experience — and feel free to discount this because I’m not a woman — the culture is not tough for women. If anything, men give women the benefit of the doubt because they’d like to have more women around. As Holden Caulfield used to say, “I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while, even if they’re only scratching their arms or blowing their noses or even just giggling or something.” Yes, I have seen bad things happen to women in tech, but I’ve seen bad things happen… Read more →

Identity Politics = Liberal Suicide?

Mark Lilla is professor of the humanities at Columbia University. He’s got a book coming out, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics. As you might have surmised from his job title, Lilla is a liberal himself. His concern is “the divisive, zero-sum world of identity politics” and its negative effect on liberalism in America. Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal: As a teacher, I am increasingly struck by a difference between my conservative and progressive students. Contrary to the stereotype, the conservatives are far more likely to connect their engagements to a set of political ideas and principles. Young people on the left are much more inclined to say that they are engaged in politics as an X, concerned about other Xs and those issues touching on X-ness. And they are less and less comfortable with debate. Over the past decade a… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch

The Sleepwalkers is one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read, very close to the edge of what can be accomplished with the written word. I had never heard of either the book or the author — neither seems to have any following here in the States — but Amazon for some reason started recommending me post-WWI Austrian modernists. (I also read Robert Musil’s A Man Without Qualities, which was extremely tedious.) I don’t know who to compare Broch with, in terms of language, wit, psychological and historical insight — maybe Nietzsche, if Nietzsche had decided to write historical fiction. The book chronicles, via multiple overlapping narratives, the moral history of Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the disintegration of values that led to fascism. And in his fear of the voice of judgment that threatens to issue from the darkness, there awakens within him… Read more →

Voltaire and Me

According to LibraryThing, Voltaire’s library and my library have three books in common, even though Voltaire died almost 200 years before I was born. The three books are: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne I also have in my library one book — Candide — written by Voltaire. Read more →

The Blindness and the Wretchedness of Man

hen I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, when I regard the whole silent universe, and man without light, left to himself, and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island, and should awake without knowing where he is, and without means of escape. And thereupon I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into despair. I see other persons around me in conditions of a like nature. I ask them if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around them, and seen… Read more →

2016: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2016, roughly in the order listed. I got off to a good start then had a kind of a breakdown later in the year. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (fiction) and For the Time Being by Annie Dillard (non-fiction). My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Doors That Didn’t Necessarily Need to Be Closed

You know, you spend your childhood watching TV, assuming that a some point in the future everything you see there will one day happen to you: that you too will win a Formula One race, hop a train, foil a group of terrorists, tell someone ‘Give me the gun,’ etc. Then you start secondary school and suddenly everyone’s asking you about your career plans and your long-term goals, and by goals they don’t mean the kind you are planning to score in the FA Cup. Gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg — that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you’d imagined, that the world occupied by your parents, the world of washing the dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to buy floor tiles is actually largely what people mean when they speak… Read more →

You’re Walking Around With a Mask On

You know you’re walking around with a mask on, and you desperately want to take it off and you can’t because everyone else thinks it’s your face. — Pat Barker, Regeneration Read more →

This Was the Room I Had to Live In

This was the room I had to live in. It was all I had in the way of a home. In it was everything that was mine, that had any association for me, anything that took the place of a family. Not much; a few books, pictures, radio, chessmen, old letters, stuff like that. Nothing. Such as they were they had all my memories. — Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep Read more →

3 Possibilities

From The Possibilities of Organization by Barry Oshry (with very slight modification): Possibility I. Internal Warfare We can misunderstand one another’s worlds; we can misinterpret one another’s behavior; we can see malice, insensitivity and incompetence behind one another’s actions; we can see ourselves as the well-intentioned, blameless, helpless victims of other people and of circumstances; we can act accordingly and go to war with one another. Possibility II. Understanding and Accommodation We can see into, comprehend, accept and adjust to one another’s worlds; we can accommodate to others, acting in ways that make it possible, easy even, for them to do what we need them to do in order for us to move ahead with our work; we can see the “stuff” that comes at us from others as the behavior of people struggling to cope with and survive in the unique conditions of their worlds; we can choose NOT… Read more →

Harper Lee, 1926-2016

28 Sep 2008 I took my son to the bookstore to buy To Kill a Mockingbird for his English class. They had two paperback editions available — one with a fancy binding for $15.95 and another one for three dollars less. I pulled the cheaper one off the shelf and my son asked, “Why are we getting that one?” I said, “Because it’s three dollars less for the same book.” “I like the other cover better,” he said. “Gimme three dollars.”   23 Oct 2008 FATHER: Would you take out the trash please? SON: Are you KIDDING?! I’m doing homework! I’ll take out the trash if you read To Kill a Mockingbird and tell me what each chapter is about. FATHER: I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird. You want to know what it’s about? ‘Racism is Bad.’ Now take out the garbage.   RIP Harper Lee Read more →

Free Advice on Free Advice

Today a colleague offered to fix the pain in my shoulder. “Sounds like a problem with the connective tissue,” he said. “I can push it back into place.” “No,” I said. “No no no no no no no.” “Why not? Are you homophobic?” “Not wanting you to touch my shoulder is not homophobic.” Also this guy is not gay. “You don’t trust me?” “I was trying to think of a nice way to say that.” “I have a gift for this. I’ve helped a lot of people.” “You might be able to fix it. Probably you could. On the other hand, you might, just perhaps, push on it the wrong way and I lose the use of my left arm. Not worth the risk.” He then recommended that I go to a health food store and buy some red something-or-other algae to use as an anti-inflammatory. Which I’m not going… Read more →

The Savvy Clinician

It’s a little hard to read the subtitle on the book cover but — “Savvy”?! I don’t think I want to work with clinicians who consider themselves “savvy.” Being “savvy” sounds like a poor substitute for actually knowing something. I’m not fully informed but I’m “savvy.” I’m “with it.” I’m “in the know.” Read more →

2015: The Year in Books

These are the books I read in 2015, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: Hotel World by Ali Smith (fiction) and Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton (non-fiction). Honorable Mention: Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Disgrace, Lament for a Maker, Nothing. My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Carol Dweck’s research is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of people’s beliefs. These may be beliefs that we’re aware of or unaware of but they strongly affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it. This tradition also shows how changing people’s beliefs can have profound effects. Dweck’s insight into fixed mindset (bad) vs. growth mindset (good) is powerful but there’s really not enough to it to sustain a book-length exposition without a lot of repetition and illustrational anecdotes, the problem with which is 1) they tend to be overly simple tales of triumph and failure with clearly identified causes; and 2) they ignore the inevitability of regression. For example, two of the people Dweck identifies as exemplars of the growth mindset are Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez. Mindset was published in 2006, after which Woods’s career imploded in the wake of extramarital… Read more →

Huckleberry Finn Banned Again

A Pennsylvania high school has removed Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its 11th-grade curriculum after complaints from students who said they were made “uncomfortable” by the novel. The school’s principal defended the decision to remove the book from the curriculum. “I do not believe that we’re censoring,” he said. “I really do believe that this is an opportunity for the school to step forward and listen to the students.” He went on to add, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Because if suppression of material you deem objectionable is not censoring, what is? As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!” Read more →

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