Book Notes

Sexism in Silicon Valley

Thu, 27 Feb 2020

The Susan Fowler's "Whistleblower" should be required reading for any Silicon Valley start-up founder, or any company exec for that matter. The sexism/misogyny Fowler experienced at Uber and elsewhere derailed her career, multiple times. But it also damaged these organizations as well, in terms of lost talent and, later on, public goodwill. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Books I Read in 2019

Tue, 18 Feb 2020

Books In 2019, I learned that everyone falls in love with the daughter of the shoemaker, even if they fear her a bit. That the technological advancement depends of a civilization on its ability to control microdimensions. I learned what automobiles the members Pink Floyd drove and about the English houses in which they lived, circa 1968. That people who bond in youth can stay friends in the ensuing decades of adulthood, even as they grow apart. That the success of music depends a great deal on where it is played, and that the Beastie Boys really were in the center of things during the birth of Hip-Hop in the early 1980s New York. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Character, Not Age

Wed, 22 Jan 2020

Advice Growing old is an inevitability. How you live out your senior years, however, is entirely up to you. So make the most of it, Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero argued in his Jesus-era self-help, How to Grow Old. There are many who grow old without complaint. Those who are good-tempered in youth and middle age will take that with them into their senior years. And those who are irritable now will continue to do so as. Age has little with any of that. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

In Peru Without a Passport

Thu, 14 Nov 2019

Notes Appropriately enough, I picked up a worn paperback copy of Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 science fiction novel "Between Planets" in a book flea market while traveling around, undocumented, in Lima, Peru. Published in 1951, this slim volume, presumably aimed at the young adult market, grappled with serious questions that one can have about loyalty and freedom. It is still timely, or, rather to say, timeless. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

A Body Does Get Around

Sat, 22 Jun 2019

A Lena was walking to Mississippi, pregnant, all the way from Alabama, with 35 cents to her name. Her mother died when she was young, then her father, so she went to live with her brother, senior by 20 years, and his wife, who was always pregnant, or recovering from pregnancy, it seemed. They lived in a logging town. Lena stayed in a lean-to out back. Within a few years, she got pregnant by some local Sawdust Casanova in the words of her brother. So she went to go find the father, Lucas, who, she thought, would immediately take her in when he saw her. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Speed is Like Magic, Lonely Magic

Fri, 01 Feb 2019

A The inherent nature of addiction memoirs is that the part where the addiction is acquired is always more fun to recount (and read) than the part where the memoirist makes the slow, painful slog to recovery. Shenanigans are always more exhilarating than the reckonings that follow. But sometimes, lives do not go down this rutted pathway so easily, as two otherwise widely-divergent life accountings I just read have attested to: A memoir from Cat Marnell and a biography of George Jones. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Practical Tao

Wed, 31 Oct 2018

A The Tao has two halves, it would seem. The chapters in Tao Te Ching, of the Book of the Way, alternate between those describing the internal workings of the Tao itself - the unseeable, unknowable - and those describing how the external world works. The Tao Te Ching, which appeared in the 6th Century B.C., could have been authored by Laozi or it could be the work of many hands. Either way, the principles it offers about the world feel lucid and universally applicable. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Endless Slumber

Wed, 19 Sep 2018

Summary I see the appeal of taking a year off to sleep, just to sleep. Nothing but slumber. As many hours of the day as possible. When I was a kid, I asked my Dad what his favorite thing to do was. "Sleep," he replied. Perhaps he was just tired that day, who knows? But 40 years later, I feel this. Tremendously.

If the deep slumber of a single night (and perhaps much of the following day) offers both peace and renewal, then certainly a year's worth of solid (chemically-assisted) sleep would constitute a complete rebirth of sorts, right? So goes the line of reasoning that propels the protagonist in Ottessa Moshfegh's "My Year of Rest and Relaxation." She quits her job, barricades herself in her NYC apartment, finds herself a prescription-happy shrink, all with the full intent of sleeping through an entire year and emerging as an entirely new person. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Xenia and the Stranger at Your Door

Sun, 06 May 2018

A When Telemachus goes to learn what happened to his father Odysseus, he visits a series of stately manors and palaces of powerful families. These were the days, back even before the Greek dark ages, when the Mycenean Elite dominated regions, family-by-family.

For Odysseus, these land lords came in one of two varieties: one welcomed strangers into their homes; and the others were lawless aggressors... Click to Read More...

		
		
		

The Monster and the Thinking Machine

Wed, 28 Mar 2018

Mary WTF is up with this? Mary Shelley, 18, invented the Science Fiction genre in a single night, writing what would be the origins of "Frankenstein" in an evening parlor game led by Lord Byron; About 27 years later, a daughter of Byron's, Ada Lovelace, published the world's first computer program. Both acts, which arguably modern civilization rests upon as much as anything, were, in a manner of speaking, influenced by Byron. A fearsome and fearful influence, he turned out to be. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

The Birth of Meaning

Sun, 18 Feb 2018

Lewis What first set humankind apart from other creatures was the ability to make meaning, argued Lewis Mumford, in his 1967 book "The Myth and the Machine Volume One: Technics and Human Development." Born from dream and excess psychic energy, meaning made the universe around us, helping us not only to describe what was in front of us, but what could be, or what might have been. Philosopher Max Muller called it the Fundamental Metaphor, a "universal mythology, this flowing of our spirit into objective chaos and recreating it in our own image." Click to Read More...

		
		
		

What's the Story, Morning Glory?

Thu, 08 Feb 2018

Joab The collection of essays that make up "The White Album," Joan Didion asserts almost immediately, are about the collapse of meaning, about the dissolution of the narratives told to guide us through life. In the era when she penned them, the late 1960s and early 1970s, western culture itself was shifting from order to disorder, seemingly. The entrenched powers of the old were giving way to the strength of the young ("They got the guns, but we got the numbers," the Lizard King sang at the time). On the personal level, Didion's defense mechanisms were failing as well. So, what is left, this book asks. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

The Happiness Delusion

Mon, 11 Dec 2017

A We may think we see the world around us clearly, but our view is distorted by the powerfully magnetic influence of natural selection, our genes' insistent push to see everything in terms of passing themselves on to a new generation. "Natural selection didn't design your mind to see the world clearly. It designed your mind to have perceptions and beliefs that would help take care of your genes," Wright writes in his new book, "Why Buddhism is True." Click to Read More...

		
		
		

An Odyssey is a Long-Ass Voyage

Thu, 19 Feb 2015

omer's Young prince Telemachus was hanging around the fam's castle, increasingly fed up with all these sycophantic suitors sucking up to Mom, wearing down his long-lost father's riches with all their feasting, dancing and having their hands washed by his family's servants. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Darwin by the Fire

Wed, 16 Jul 2014

Origin Sometimes a piece of writing so closely describes the truth, that it itself becomes the truth. Charles Darwin's " On the Origin of Species," first published in 1859, made its argument so thoroughly, so absolutely, it literally willed evolution into being in the human consciousness. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Multiply Life Through Duplicity

Sat, 17 May 2014

Eudora Eudora Welty's short story "Old Mr. Marblehall" is about a man who lives two completely separate lives. In each life, he has a wife and a young son. One family lives on the one side of Natchez, Mississippi; the other family lives in the opposite side of Natchez. Neither one is aware of the other. Click to Read More...

		
		
		

Lush Life: Remembering Charles Bukowski

Wed, 20 Jul 1994

A Summer is the time in Baltimore to think about Charles Bukowski. Heat congeals the air, rendering visible waves of exhaust; the sun fries pigeon droppings in office-building ledges, choking the air ducts with foul aromas; and Pimlico races run 26 minutes apart, leaving time to get another drink and lazily stroll over to the betting window to lay down another $20. This is the time to sit in a dark bar, grab a cold beer, and read yourself some Bukowski.

His readers have become accustomed to this terrain--a landscape of bars, prostitutes, broken people, hatred, dead-end jobs, horse races, bars, chest-thumping misogyny, sad women, poker games, failed writers, irate landladies, bars, anonymous death, sweaty sex. Click to Read More...