Topless Jihadis: A Review

I recently started reading Jeffrey Tayler on Salon.com; he is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic. In Salon, he writes a weekly column in which he fiercely attacks religion (for example, We must offend religion more: Islam, Christianity and our tolerance for ancient myths, harmful ideas and It’s time to fight religion: Toxic drivel, useful media idiots, and the real story about faith and violence). This lead me to purchase his latest book, Topless Jihadis: Inside Femen, the World’s Most Provocative Activist Group. It is only offered as a Kindle book on Amazon, otherwise it could be described as a “slim volume” of 94 pages.

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The Dissent Of Man by JF Derry: Unbound

This project is an attempt to explore the huge range of interpretations of Darwinism. To do this I’ve interviewed over fifty commentators: conservationists and creationists, bishops and biochemists, palaeoceanographers and Intelligent Design theorists, theistic evolutionists and a Bahá’í lecturer, sex researchers, mathematicians, ophthalmologists, linguists, evangelical Christians, philosophers, physicians and the Astronomer Royal. As a starting point, I asked each one the same question: ‘what does Darwin mean to you as an individual, and as part of humanity?’

via The Dissent Of Man by JF Derry: Unbound.

Sponsorship of this book seems to have stalled. I think it is a worthwhile project. Please consider offering your support.

I have no connection to the author except that I have also pledged.

More Reasons To Feel Old

I have just started reading Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick TetzeIi. This early section made me feel very old. Clearly, the authors deemed it necessary to explain in very simple terms what mainframes and punched cards are.

After settling on the problem you wanted the machine to solve, you would painstakingly write down, in a programming language like COBOL or Fortran, a series of line-by-line, step-by-step instructions, for the exact, logical process of the calculation or the analytical chore. Then, at a noisy mechanical console, you would type each individual line of the handwritten program onto to its own rectangular “punch card”, which was perforated in such a way that the computer could “read” it. After meticulously making sure the typed cards were in the right order—simple programs might require a few dozen cards that could be held by a rubber band, while elaborate programs could require reams that would have to be stacked carefully in a cardboard box. You would then hand the bundle to a computer “operator”, who would put your deck in the queue behind dozens of others to be fed into mainframe. Eventually, the machine would spit out your results on broad sheets of green-and-white striped accordion-folded paper. More often than not, you would have to tweak your program three, four, or even dozens of time to get the results you were looking for.

Clearly, the authors expected that most of the readers would have no clue about this era of computer use. I’m not sure, though, why they deemed it necessary to put so many “words” in quotation marks. And the authors either never used punched cards themselves, or they have forgotten that a successful run by no means meant you got “the results you were looking for”.

There’s been a certain amount of broohaha about the new book with some complaining of hagiography, but people close to Steve Jobs, like Tim Cook and Jony Ive, claim it gives a more balanced and realistic view of the man they knew than the [official biography][4] by Walter Isaacson. Here’s John Gruber’s take on the issues with the Isaacson book and his response to negative criticism of Becoming Steve Jobs.

Review: Why Evolution Is True

I’ve just finished reading Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne. I personally don’t (and never did) have any doubts about the scientific Theory of Evolution, or Darwinism. Unfortunately, it is staggering how many people do. I was wasting some time a few days ago playing with the app, Voice Polls. It’s a kind of instant opinion poll.

 

IMG_0700

Only 37% answer “science and evolution”; 33% say “god” and 30% “both”

It’s a bit hard to read the numbers for anything but the top choice, so I’ve added them in the caption. What this amounts to is that 63% of responders think god had a hand in human creation.

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I’m on iBooks!

After we came back, at the end of May, from our holiday in Jordan, I decided to try to create an ebook containing some of my photos and a commentary using iBooks Author just because…

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Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

I have not read many self-help books. Something I pondered as I was writing this review and decided that’s because they are probably read by people who are more dissatisfied with their life than I have been—I am, by and large, content. So my motivation to read How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert was more to find entertainment than inspiration to drive self-improvement. Right away, I’ll say the book is an entertaining and interesting read on, at least, two levels. How To Fail… is not a biography, but there are ample illustrations and examples drawn from the author’s own life and career from which we learn a lot about Scott.

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Free books: 100 legal sites to download literature

Free books: 100 legal sites to download literature | Just English.

Continuing the literary theme from a few days ago, here’s a (not-very-new) post that StumbleUpon threw up.

Library

Need A Book Suggestion?

I read a lot. Most of it is not what you’d call great literature, or is uplifting or educational—though there are a few books that would qualify in those categories. 🙂 I came across a blog post from one book site—unfortunately, I have misplaced the link—that offered the author’s personal view of 100 books to read to qualify as well-read. His final selection was Fifty Shades Of Grey, which caused a furore in the comments. The blogger’s justification was that the book was a huge popular success and a well-rounded reader should take note. I don’t think I’ll bother with the book, but there is much entertainment to be had from reading the Amazon reviews. The most helpful favourable review is currently:

 5.0 out of 5 stars Fire in the Book
Perfect for making a fire when camping. You just rip the pages out, set them down and set them on fire, it works like a charm.

I suspect that the overall rating of 3.3 stars might be a bit misleading.

I came across this site, A List Of Books, courtesy of StumbleUpon. There’s no indication on the site of who’s responsible, but what they have done is combine 13 lists of “100 best books” into one giant list. Thirteen lists have resulted in 623 books—so not inconsiderable underlapping.  The Great Gatsby is top of the charts.

The site does not, however, confine itself to presenting a list of books, but—with the requirement to sign up for a free account—you can tag each book with “read it” or “want to read it”. You are also invited to review any of the books you have read. Each book has a “home page” with any reviews that have been posted, and links to Amazon, GoodReads and LibraryThing. This page also shows the lists on which the books appeared: The Great Gatsby is 1st, 2nd and 3rd on three different lists, but is then in the 20’s or 40’s for most of the others. It does, however, appear on all 13 lists.

I’ve tagged all my read books and have a long way to go: 47 down, 576 left. Someone identified as PoetDee claims 338.

All in all, A List of Books seems like a worthwhile project to follow.

While checking the Amazon links, I did take a look at their top 100 books (Kindle paid and free). There’s not much commonality, but The Great Gatsby does come in at 19 on the free list.

Update 15 January 2014

I found the lost link to which I referred in the first paragraph: it was a post on the BookRiot site.

10 Things I Learned Reading Brad Stone’s — The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

10 Things I Learned Reading Brad Stone’s — The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

Persuaded me to buy the book.

Design Crazy: Good Looks, Hot Tempers, and True Genius

I’ve just finished: Design Crazy: Good Looks, Hot Tempers, and True Genius by Max Chafkin. Short, interesting commentary—the book combines interviews with a bunch of people who worked at Apple, but not any more. It’s only 0.99p from the Amazon Kindle Store; I enjoyed it.

The guy next to me was working was working on NeXT for Steve Jobs. I saw three identical mice on his desk, and I couldn’t tell the difference between them, so I asked. He said, “Can’t you see?” And he pointed to the bottom plate of the mouse. One was 1 millimeter thick, one was 1.5 millimeters, the other 2 millimeters. And then I saw the difference—and it transformed my worldview about details in design. That’s the reason I moved to California.

That is Apple’s contribution: this dogmatic, beautiful striving for perfection, that chasing for the last millimeter. It drove the world of design to a completely new level.