Tag Archives: Book

Richard Dawkins Book Cheap

Did you ever wonder how Richard Dawkins got so smart? Or why he looks so much like Hermione Granger? Well, read this book to find out the answer to those two questions, and so very much more:

An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins.

In An Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins shares a rare view into his early life, his intellectual awakening at Oxford, and his path to writing The Selfish Gene. He paints a vivid picture of his idyllic childhood in colonial Africa, peppered with sketches of his colorful ancestors, charming parents, and the peculiarities of colonial life right after World War II. At boarding school, despite a near-religious encounter with an Elvis record, he began his career as a skeptic by refusing to kneel for prayer in chapel. Despite some inspired teaching throughout primary and secondary school, it was only when he got to Oxford that his intellectual curiosity took full flight.

Arriving at Oxford in 1959, when undergraduates “left Elvis behind” for Bach or the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dawkins began to study zoology and was introduced to some of the university’s legendary mentors as well as its tutorial system.

It’s to this unique educational system that Dawkins credits his awakening, as it invited young people to become scholars by encouraging them to pose rigorous questions and scour the library for the latest research rather than textbook “teaching to” any kind of test. His career as a fellow and lecturer at Oxford took an unexpected turn when, in 1973, a serious strike in Britain caused prolonged electricity cuts, and he was forced to pause his computer-based research. Provoked by the then widespread misunderstanding of natural selection known as “group selection” and inspired by the work of William Hamilton, Robert Trivers, and John Maynard Smith, he began to write a book he called, jokingly, “my bestseller.” It was, of course, The Selfish Gene.

Here, for the first time, is an intimate memoir of the childhood and intellectual development of the evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist, and the story of how he came to write what is widely held to be one of the most important books of the twentieth century.

In Search of Sungudogo: A Novel

I wrote a novel called In Search of Sungudogo.

I wrote this novel, really, a novella, a few years ago as part of a publicity and fundraising stunt several bloggers were doing all at once. Some bloggers shaved their beards or got Mohawks while live streaming, others did other things (nobody can really remember) and I live blogged the construction of a novel by putting out one chapter an hour until I was done.

The final product was rough, especially the beginning and the end. And the middle. As you might expect.

But a heavy revision resulted in what I think is a pretty good story. Those of you who saw the previously Kindle-published version are familiar, but it is further updated since then, not a lot, but with some helpful improvements.

The story started out as a take-off on the Heart of Darkness by Conrad. Other than certain personality shades shared between Archer Mallow (of Sungudogo) and Conrad’s protagonist, Captain Marlow, the similarities are no longer there. It is the story about a search for an as yet unverified form of ape, by a primatologist and a logistical expert familiar (more or less) with the region.

The setting is a part of Africa I am very familiar with. Many of the scenes in the novel are based on things that I’ve experienced, seen, or heard about in my work there. There really is a restaurant that has everything yet nothing, the park guards really are issued one bullet at a time, the volcanoes really do eat small planes. Also accurate are the geography and geology of the area, except where the story veers off into science fiction. And yes, this is science fiction.

In Search of Sungudogo is available in Kindle form now, and will be available in print form very soon, just a matter of days. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Feel free to put a review on Amazon if you like it!

Shocking revelation: Trump Cheats At Golf

As revealed in the shocking new book, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, by Rick Reilly

“He cheats at the highest level. He cheats when people are watching and he cheats when they aren’t. He cheats whether you like it or not. He cheats because that’s how he plays golf … if you’re playing golf with him, he’s going to cheat.”*

Reilly has been with Trump on the fairway, the green, and in the weeds, and has seen first-hand how the president plays–and it’s not pretty. Based on his personal experiences, and interviews with dozens of golf pros, amateurs, developers, partners, opponents, and even caddies who have first-hand experience with Trump on the course, Reilly takes a deep and often hilarious look at how Trump shamelessly cheats at golf, lies about it, sues over it, bullies with it, and profits off it.

From Trump’s ridiculous claim to have won eighteen club championships, to his devious cheating tricks, to his tainted reputation as a golf course tycoon, Commander in Cheat tells you everything you need to know about the man.

Stacey Abrams, POTUS Candidate and her New Book

I assume Stacey Abrams is a candidate for President, though she has not officially declared.

The point has recently been made that three southern candidates came with a very small margin of beating their unbeatable Republican opponents in the last election. One of them was white, two black, and the only real difference among them candidate-wise is that everyone is falling all over themselves to elevate the white guy to the status of High Candidate, while the two African American candidates have, at best, been suggested for a subservient role.

That got me thinking, “has Stacey Abrams written a book by any chance” and yes, she has! Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams.

Leadership is hard. Convincing others?and yourself?that you are capable of taking charge and achieving more requires insight and courage. Lead from the Outside is the handbook for outsiders, written with an eye toward the challenges that hinder women, people of color, the working class, members of the LGBTQ community, and millennials ready to make change. Stacey uses her hard-won insights to break down how ambition, fear, money, and failure function in leadership, and she includes practical exercises to help you realize your own ambition and hone your skills. Lead from the Outside discusses candidly what Stacey has learned over the course of her impressive career in politics, business and the nonprofit world: that differences in race, gender, and class provide vital strength, which we can employ to rise to the top and create real and lasting change.

And here is a short video on the book:

Book Note: Preet Bharara Doing Justice

This is available for pre-order and it is probably going to be great. I’ve not seen it, but Bharara was a highly accomplished SDNY prosecutor and here he is writing about that role. This isn’t about the Trump Crime Family prosecutions and investigations, as so many books these days are, but this may be an important book to read to understand the bigger picture. Thought you’d like to know about it.

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law

Preet Bharara has spent much of his life examining our legal system, pushing to make it better, and prosecuting those looking to subvert it. Bharara believes in our system and knows it must be protected, but to do so, we must also acknowledge and allow for flaws in the system and in human nature.
The book is divided into four sections: Inquiry, Accusation, Judgment and Punishment. He shows why each step of this process is crucial to the legal system, but he also shows how we all need to think about each stage of the process to achieve truth and justice in our daily lives.
Bharara uses anecdotes and case histories from his legal career–the successes as well as the failures–to illustrate the realities of the legal system, and the consequences of taking action (and in some cases, not taking action, which can be just as essential when trying to achieve a just result).
Much of what Bharara discusses is inspiring–it gives us hope that rational and objective fact-based thinking, combined with compassion, can truly lead us on a path toward truth and justice. Some of what he writes about will be controversial and cause much discussion. Ultimately, it is a thought-provoking, entertaining book about the need to find the humanity in our legal system–and in our society.

By the way, for those who enjoyed this movie and/or book, Preet Bharara is the real life person of one of the key characters in it.

Minecraft Blockopedia

Minecraft is probably the most creative video game out there, not in the sense that its creators are creative, but rather, that it is all about creating things, and this is done by constructing novelty out of a relatively simple set of primitives. But to do so, the player needs to know about the building blocks of Minedraft, such as Lava, Fencing, Redstone, Levers, various chest and chest related things, and so on.

The Blockopedia in use.
Yes, you (or your child) can learn as you go playing the game, watch a few YouTube videos, etc. But if we want to fully enjoy and integrate the Minecraft experience, and help that child (or you?) get in some more reading time, there must be books. For example, the Minecraft: Blockopedia by Alex Wiltshire. Continue reading Minecraft Blockopedia

Making Raspberry Pi Robots

At the core of this post is a review of a new book, Learn Robotics with Raspberry Pi: Build and Code Your Own Moving, Sensing, Thinking Robots. I recommend it as a great above-basic level introduction to building a standard robot, learning a bit about the Linux operating system, learning to program in Python, and learning some basic electronics. However, I want to frame this review in a bit more context which I think will chase some readers away from this book while at the same time making others drool. But don’t drool on the electronics. Continue reading Making Raspberry Pi Robots

Voting With A Porpoise

A new book to help educate our small fry on the importance and meaning of voting: Voting With a Porpoise by Russell Glass, Sean Callahan and Daniel Howarth (illustrator).

It is a whale of a book:

A pod of dolphins (and their porpoise friend, Petey) is in trouble. Their reef no longer provides the food they need to survive. The pod can’t figure out what to do until Petey suggests they hold an election to decide.

2018 Parent and Teacher Choice Award winner, Voting With a Porpoise is a fun, timeless, and beautifully illustrated story that teaches children how elections and voting have the power to solve hard problems.

The authors created this book to help change the culture around elections and voting. To that end, 100 percent of the profits for Voting With a Porpoise will be donated to 501(c)(3) non-partisan voting-related causes focused on getting more people of all backgrounds to the polls, such as Rock the Vote, Vote.org, TurboVote, and others.

This book is the next best thing to lowering the voting age to 16! Or lower!

The Fourth Impeachment

Andrew Johnson was impeached for matters related to what to do with the South after they were defeated in the American Civil War. I would like to know more about that. What I understand of it now is that it may have been a great Irony, in the sense that Johnson was a Democrat, appointed as a Republican’s VP, who had the intention of implementing that president’s policies after his assassination by a pro-Slavery assassin, but those policies went easier on the South because that is how Lincoln wanted to approach reconstruction, and the Republicans in Congress wanted to crush the South. But I’m sure I’m leaving out important details. Anyway, Andrew Johnson was impeached and nearly thrown out of office.

Later on, Richard Nixon was impeached because he and his minions carried out crimes that were kinda bad and then tried to cover them up, which led to the absurd modern day aphorism that “it’s not the crime, its the cover up,” implying that no matter how bad the crime is, the cover up is worse (wrong). Nixon was not thrown out of office, but rather, he left on his own.

Later on, Bill Clinton was impeached for his affair with a White House Aide. But other than anti-Clinton Republicans, most people, while not liking the affair thing, did not see this as worthy of impeachment, and recognized the Republican effort to impeach Clinton as a bald faced political move.

Now, we are faced with Trump. We don’t know where impeachment will go. It may be impossible until there is a Senate super majority, and that may not happen any time soon. Trump will have to be caught talking on the phone to Vladimir Putin, discussing their recent successful assassination of Bambi. But likely, that won’t do it either. Republicans put party over country every time. The only way Trump is going to leave office is feet first in the case he croaks on his own, or by being voted out of office, and the latter is not likely to happen because, face it, Trump represents American values in he (slim) minority, but that minority rules due to voter suppression and Russian-powered ignorance.

Whatever. The point is, impeachment is on the table, and there is a new book out that helps us understand the earlier impeachments, and I recommend it. Impeachment: An American History by Jon Meacham, Peter Baker, Tim Naftali, and Jefrey Engel.

Four experts on the American presidency examine the three times impeachment has been invoked—against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton—and explain what it means today.

Impeachment is a double-edged sword. Though it was designed to check tyrants, Thomas Jefferson also called impeachment “the most formidable weapon for the purpose of a dominant faction that was ever contrived.” On the one hand, it nullifies the will of voters, the basic foundation of all representative democracies. On the other, its absence from the Constitution would leave the country vulnerable to despotic leadership. It is rarely used, and with good reason.

Only three times has a president’s conduct led to such political disarray as to warrant his potential removal from office, transforming a political crisis into a constitutional one. None has yet succeeded. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for failing to kowtow to congressional leaders—and, in a large sense, for failing to be Abraham Lincoln—yet survived his Senate trial. Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against him for lying, obstructing justice, and employing his executive power for personal and political gain. Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, but in 1999 he faced trial in the Senate less for that prurient act than for lying under oath about it.

In the first book to consider these three presidents alone—and the one thing they have in common—Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker explain that the basis and process of impeachment is more political than legal. The Constitution states that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” leaving room for historical precedent and the temperament of the time to weigh heavily on each case. This book reveals the complicated motives behind each impeachment—never entirely limited to the question of a president’s guilt—and the risks to all sides. Each case depended on factors beyond the president’s behavior: his relationship with Congress, the polarization of the moment, and the power and resilience of the office itself. This is a realist view of impeachment that looks to history for clues about its potential use in the future.

Read this book as a distraction from the current intense and rather explosive (nearly explosive?) political climate. A little history to distrat you from the future…

Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels

I swear, the Trump administration is going to produce more books during (and I assume just after) Trump’s term than Abraham Lincoln’s presidency produced in a century.

And the latest volume is Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels.

If the use of the term “Full Disclosure” sounds familiar to you, it could be because you are a West Wing fan. I wonder if Stormy is a West Wing Fan?

She was already well-known in some circles before March 6, 2018, but that’s probably the first time you heard the name Stormy Daniels. That’s the day she filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump over a nondisclosure agreement negotiated before the election but never signed.

How did Stormy Daniels become the woman willing to take on a president? What is it like to be reviled by some, held up as a beacon of hope by others, and to be an object of fascination to all?

In this book, Stormy Daniels tells her whole story for the first time: about how she came to be a leading actress and director in the aderlt film business, the full truth about her journey from a rough childhood in Louisiana onto the national stage, and everything about the events that led to the nondisclosure agreement and the behind-the-scenes attempts to intimidate her.

Stormy is funny, sharp, warm, and impassioned by turns. Her story is a thoroughly American one, of a girl who loved reading and horses and who understood from a very young age what she wanted—and who also knew she’d have to get every step of the way there on her own.

People can’t stop talking about Stormy Daniels. And they won’t be able to stop talking about her fresh, surprising, completely candid, nothing-held-back book.

Fear and Loathing in Trump’s White House as only Woodward could Tell It

You know Bob Woodward, because he wrote All the President’s Men along with Carl Bernstein. Woodward was played by Robert Redford, and Bernstein by Dustin Hoffman, in the famous movie based on the book. That was about Nixon and Watergate.

But you might not know that Woodward has a new book just about to some out (you can preorder it), which reveals never before revealed revelations about the inside of the Trump White House. Fear: Trump in the White House.

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

I’ve not seen it yet, but I’ve read a WaPo overview of it, and it looks fantastic. I’ve already ordered mine.

In case you’ve not see the movie adaptation of All the President’s Men, have a taste:

Logan’s Run

The book, now on Kindle cheap. You may not remember the movie, but if you do, you probably want the book.

Logan’s Run: Vintage Movie Classics (A Vintage Movie Classic) by William Nolan

The bestselling dystopian novel that inspired the 1970s science-fiction classic starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, and Richard Jordan.

In 2116, it is against the law to live beyond the age of twenty-one years. When the crystal flower in the palm of your hand turns from red to black, you have reached your Lastday and you must report to a Sleepshop for processing. But the human will to survive is strong—stronger than any mere law.

Logan 3 is a Sandman, an enforcer who hunts down those Runners who refuse to accept Deep Sleep. The day before Logan’s palmflower shifts to black, a Runner accidentally reveals that he was racing toward a goal: Sanctuary. With this information driving him forward, Logan 3 assumes the role of the hunted and becomes a Runner.

Amazing Book On Amazing Arachnids

I am strongly recommending Amazing Arachnids by Jillian Cowles.

This book is in line to win the Greg Laden’s Blog Science Book of the Year.

Sample text, to give a taste of the science
It looks like a high quality, almost coffee table like, book on the arachnids, things like mites and spiders and such. But that is only what it appears to be on the surface. Just below the surface, it is a compendium of evolutionary amazingness, a detailed description of the photogenic history, behavioral biology, and co-evolution of plants and animals, with almost all the protagonists in the numerous loosely connected stories being one sort or another of amazing arachnid.

Geographically, the book focuses on the arid American Southwest. This allows the author to be quasi-comprehensive in coverage of species (about 300 from among 11 orders). It also allows the author to tell the story of these critters as a story, with interconnected features of evolution and ecology. This is literary hard core science, with great illustrations (about 750 color photos, and other illustrations).

Because of the US SW focus, it might be a better purchase for people living in just that area. But as is the case with a handful of other nature-oriented books, like the The New Neotropical Companion, the science content and overall interest of the book transcends geography. You’re not really going to want to get that close to these arachnids anyway….

This is a very good book. You will learn things, even if you already know a lot about arachnids.

The author is a clinical microbiologists and photographer.