Monthly Archives: March 2018

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information AgeA Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As if I need any more book suggestions, I have a couple of feeds I’ve voluntarily signed up for and this popped up on one of them some time ago and I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I eat up the good stuff on critical thinking and this just appealed. Sure, there were few revelations for me, but the composition was refreshing and even though Levitin seems to churn out variations on a theme, this is my first by him, so gets a good nod from me. It gets an extra star because I like his coverage.

Levitin covers a lot. And he covers it well. His writing makes for easy reading and easier digesting if you’ve never read anything on the subject. for those who have, it’s a nicely packaged compendium with quotable sound bites. He addresses the usual numbers game, … and also words. Lies, damn lies and…

Statistics are not facts. They are interpretations.

All right. Important safety tip. (and spot on). And when he talks about infographics? (“…often used by lying weasels to shape public opinion” [my emphasis]) He’s also spot on that “they [the weasels] rely on the fact that most people won’t study what they’ve done too carefully.” Rather disparaging to the much maligned weasels, similizing the ilk to them. Advising the reader, wisely, when encountering just about any claim: “…ask yourself: How could anyone know such a thing?” Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer? Well, of course, but equally obvious…advise so needed and ignored.

On authority, he also advises (obviously) sagely:

The first thing to do when evaluating a claim by some authority is to ask who or what established their authority. If the authority comes from having been a witness to some event, how credible a witness are they?

And in a discussion later in the book he notes that “Experience is Typically Narrow” I recalled a discourse I had on The Petition Project…appeals to an “authority” beg the question as to the source of the authority; does the authprity have any pedigree at all on the subject in question? (Great pop culture reference in mind is the television show West Wing’s character President Bartlet eviscerating a sham talk radio host for masquerading her PhD in English as some authority in divinity or psychology…)

On things like Academy Awards – something I question when I actually take an interest – he makes a very good observation that

The award system is generally biased toward ensuring that every winner is deserving, which is not the same as saying that every deserving person is a winner.

Important distinction.

There’s a lot more here. I made a lot of electronic highlights and notes (that I should remember to save in event of another device glitch…) and though I like James Morrow’s “Science has all the answers. We just don’t have all the science”, Levitin notes, “Science doesn’t present us with certainty, only probabilities.” I might need to adjust my thinking.

Highly recommended for the beginner and veteran.

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Where did the time go?

Today I have been married to my extraordinary life partner Andrea Davis for thirty two years! Where did the time go?!

“They” like to say “time flies when you’re having fun.” Well, you don’t hit 32 years without having fun … and we’ve had fun!

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I came up with a list of why she’s “Still the One“, and yet a list is so incomplete! A snapshot (in a family album?) glimpse…a moment in time…so valuable, and still, how many more things can I add? More than I can remember. A partnership is a continuum, while memories are a spectrum…they are part of the whole but don’t tell the whole story. I usually don’t mind the forgets, because the remembers tell the best parts…but there are so many more “best” parts!

Thirty two years. Wow. Where did the time go? She still reinvents herself, is adventurous and never wants to be afraid of anything. We’ve moved beyond finishing each other’s sentences to sometimes blurting the same thing simultaneously! She indulges my quirks – socks, beer, coffee, costumes – and more than not encourages them!

The Secret? It’s not a secret. Enjoy your time together. Do things together. Be together.

So, where did the time go? …it didn’t “go” anywhere. We were together, even when we weren’t (I had some Navy in my career.)

I love you, Andrea, and always will. 32 is not enough to know you…I still want to grow old with you!

The Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age by Gordon Marino – ARC

The Existentialist's Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic AgeThe Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age by Gordon Marino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a challenging read for me, evidenced by the length of time it took. I kept reading a few pages, setting it aside, digesting, reading a few more… The Existentialists were obscurants; I needed some help (I started listening to The Teaching Company’s Great Courses lecture series “No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life”.) Disclosure: I was given a review copy of an Uncorrected e-proof from the publisher, Harper-Collins, through Edelweiss+. My copy had place-holders for, but no Epilogue, Acknowledgements, or References. I’m not sure what if anything else will change with the final publication.

I requested this because I’d not explored much of the Existentialists, though I thought I’d identified with at least some of the talk. Now I’m not so sure. I had to do a little research; as it turned out I had a less than cursory knowledge of the group. Learning that it is essentially exclusively a Western phenomena, by the time I was finished with this book I determined that most of the existentialists seemed constrained in focus by geography and cultural fetters. Kierkegaard was particularly hamstrung by his affinity to Christianity (so were Newton, Pascal, Descartes, to name a few…so that’s not new), but even Nietzsche, as anti-Christian as any of his age, was a Christian atheist. That colors a perspective. Even if they manage to decouple from religion they fall to an unimaginative trap of searching for a replacement….meaning. Continue reading

The Mystery Men of Mars by Carl H. Claudy – a serendipitous find…

The Mystery Men of MarsThe Mystery Men of Mars by Carl H. Claudy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found this in an antique store (no dust cover) and with only a little urging, got it. Starts out like a hard-boiled detective novel of the era (1933) and settles into early science fiction adventure. Claudy gave it some science thought, but given the premise, couldn’t put that much into it. I did find it quite interesting that he made Robots (he capitalized the word) prominent…seven years before Asimov penned his first robot story. An interweb search did not uncover this book as one of the early robot novels, which was also interesting.

Claudy’s writing is inconsistent…two of his three characters vacillate between golly-gee naive and sage wise. And for the modicum of science, one absurdity rings out…not a spoiler, but the United States language (curious, that…not “American English”, or even “English”) is learned solely through vocabulary. Universal translator anyone? Silly. And the ending seemed rushed – like he didn’t know how to finish.

Heirloom…for the age, if not the content!

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