What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

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avenger
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by avenger » Sun May 17, 2015 5:29 pm

Just finished "Biocentrism" by Robert Lanza. Was recommended in this thread. Interesting read. Delves a little into quantum mechanics. Essentially poses that the observer creates the universe.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by MP173 » Sun May 17, 2015 5:48 pm

Just finished "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins. I enjoyed it.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by frugalguy » Tue May 19, 2015 10:37 am

MP173 wrote:Just finished "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins. I enjoyed it.


While I was reading that book, I kept hearing people say, "But it's no 'Gone Girl'". After reading both, I can say they are both good. Just in different ways. I'm liking this new genre of "psychological thriller".

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by abuss368 » Tue May 19, 2015 12:47 pm

"King of Capital" The Blackstone Group. Very good thus far.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by nisiprius » Tue May 19, 2015 1:34 pm

Finished Lest Darkness Fall, a 1938 L. Sprague de Camp SF-unless-alternate-history-isn't-SF "classic." I read a lot of 1960s SF in the 1960s but have only sporadically resd the 1940s John-W-Campbell era stuff. It was OK. It was readable. I didn't love it or find it totally convincing. No urge to read more. However, it has inspired me to begin reading Robert Graves' Count Belisarius, both being based on the history of never-heard-of-him-before-but-have-now Procopius. Not sure if I'll actually get into it or not.

Read the short nonfiction The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester. Very good, not as good as some of his others. Two big problems: the title isn't truthful, it's not really about Alice Liddell, it's about Lewis Carroll and his photography. Second, the book infuriatingly is full of long descriptions of photographs but no photographs.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Michread » Tue May 19, 2015 1:59 pm

Just finished this month: George Washington's Secret Six - non-fiction that read like a novel, interesting page tuner about the Culper spy-ring during the Am. Revolution.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by bondsr4me » Tue May 19, 2015 2:02 pm

Ben Graham's "The Intelligent Investor", among numerous other reading articles.....BH forum for one!

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by upperleftcoast » Tue May 19, 2015 4:24 pm

"The Orenda" by Joseph Boyden. Violent, yes, but very good. 17th Century clash be/tw the Iroquois, Huron, and Jesuits. His other books "Three Day Road" and "Through Black Spruce" are also definately worth reading.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Rocky Mountain » Tue May 19, 2015 4:34 pm

I just finished "The life-changing magic of tidying up" by Marie Kondo. It's motivated me to get started. If only life would get out of the way so I can take it to completion.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by callen » Thu May 21, 2015 11:18 am

Just finished The Martian by Andy Weir. I think someone else in this thread summed up my thoughts: good, not great. The plot was engaging and made for a page turner but often times I found it repetitive.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by gkaplan » Thu May 21, 2015 6:51 pm

I just finished Dakota by Gwen Florio. Dakota is the second book in this series. It's a disappointment, because I liked the first one, Montana, much better.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by wmackey » Fri May 22, 2015 9:34 am

Two Books

1. Data Science for Business (Provost &Fawcett)

2. The Great War of Our Time (Morrell)

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Valuethinker » Fri May 22, 2015 9:39 am

nisiprius wrote:Finished Lest Darkness Fall, a 1938 L. Sprague de Camp SF-unless-alternate-history-isn't-SF "classic." I read a lot of 1960s SF in the 1960s but have only sporadically resd the 1940s John-W-Campbell era stuff. It was OK. It was readable. I didn't love it or find it totally convincing. No urge to read more. However, it has inspired me to begin reading Robert Graves' Count Belisarius, both being based on the history of never-heard-of-him-before-but-have-now Procopius. Not sure if I'll actually get into it or not.

Read the short nonfiction The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester. Very good, not as good as some of his others. Two big problems: the title isn't truthful, it's not really about Alice Liddell, it's about Lewis Carroll and his photography. Second, the book infuriatingly is full of long descriptions of photographs but no photographs.


I confess LTDF is such a classic I have no idea if it is 'good' or not. I just love it. It really kicked off the whole Alternate History trend in Science Fiction (and in historical writing generally).

De Camp had such a gentle sense of humour. His 'The Incomplete Enchanter' with Fletcher Pratt had many of the same characteristics. As did his 'The Unincorporated Knight' (about a Knight who decides being chivalrous is too dangerous and sets off to start a stagecoaching business). Mind you so is 'The Fallible Fiend' (a daemon who finds his human masters incomprehensible) and 'the Unbeheaded King' (about a man who tries to avoid the literally life threatening event of being named king).

De Camp had a really rough time with the estate of Robert E Howard (Conan) and there is a sense he wrote these novels to blow off steam. He's one of the few 'Golden Age' SF writers about whom I have never read any dirt-- he seems to have been the gentleman he appeared to be. He also wrote a couple of factual books (the Ancient Engineers?) which themselves were bestsellers.

Graves is harder work. Count Belisarius is a classic, but perhaps not as good as 'I Claudius'.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Michread » Fri May 22, 2015 10:49 am

Christ Actually the son of God for the secular age by James Carroll - excellent!

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by ruralavalon » Sat May 23, 2015 11:12 am

April 1865, by Jay Winik. The book explores turning points at the end of the Civil War, such as: the Union Army enters Richmond Virginia and Abraham Lincoln walks to the Confederate Capitol; Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomatox; Abraham Lincoln assasinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's theater; Johnston surrenders to Sherman in North Carolina; John Wilkes Booth killed in Virginia. "April 1865 is a month that could have unraveled the American nation. Instead it saved it."
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by nisiprius » Sat May 23, 2015 8:40 pm

Haven't finished Count Belisarius by Robert Graves, but have also started We, by Yegeni Zamyatin--an $0.99 Kindle edition translated by one Clarence Brown. I'm not quite sure whether it's good or not, but it's fairly readable and not too long, and one of those things that's been on my to-read list for... decades. It was written in 1921. I'm perhaps 1/3 of the way through. In his essays, George Orwell mentions the book fairly frequently. I don't think I fully realized, however, just how much Nineteen Eighty-Four owes to it. I'd been well aware of his debt to Jack London's The Iron Heel.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by pezblanco » Sun May 24, 2015 2:52 am

The Wright Brothers Hardcover – May 5, 2015
by David McCullough

Easy to read, enjoyable, well written. I wish the author had spent a bit more time and effort on the technological achievements of the brothers (wing warping, recognizing that lift calculations of a screw could be approximated by those of an airfoil, etc etc) or had at least put these in an appendix for the technogeeks).

Very interesting the fact that it took quite a while for their achievements to be recognized by their own country. They were feted and made heroes in France before they were recognized in their own country.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by pezblanco » Sun May 24, 2015 2:55 am

The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History...Mar 24, 2015 by Thor Hanson

Highly recommended. An evolutionary botanist whose specialty is seeds talks about the various strategies that plants have evolved for dispersing their progeny.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by heartwood » Sun May 24, 2015 7:38 am

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. It's the second in a fantasy series. The first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was excellent This is a fun read and I'll continue on to the next in the series when I finish. A fourth book is scheduled for this year.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by frugalguy » Sun May 24, 2015 10:57 am

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. A gripping courtroom drama that additionally touches on (in a big way) the past foreclosure crisis. This is part of the Lincoln Lawyer series.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Valuethinker » Sun May 24, 2015 12:29 pm

ruralavalon wrote:The Borders, by Allistair Moffat. The England/Scotland border from pre-history to the 21st Century, interesting myth and then history. Very detailed, and fun to read.


http://www.amazon.com/Candlemass-Road-G ... 161608099X

George MacDonald Fraser aka the creator of 'Flashman' (after the bully in Tom Brown's School Days) wrote the above after writing a factual book about the borders.

He also wrote a memoir of his time with the Cumbrians in 'the Forgotten Army', General Sir William Slim's 14th Army out in Burma, which fought the Japanese tooth and nail whilst remaining at the bottom of the priority list for supplies and reinforcements, of all the Allied Armies anywhere.

"Quartered Safe Out Here" it was called. He never lost his affection for the Cumbrians he served with, and who died around him, in the jungles of the Burmese-Indian border.

I had a great uncle at Kohima and Imphal. They were dug in across the tennis courts, the Japanese would lob grenades across into the hospital, and the Brits would lob them back-- the front lines were that close. I think the Allied compound got down to something like 250 feet across at one point.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by nisiprius » Sun May 24, 2015 2:33 pm

Very interesting the fact that it took quite a while for their achievements to be recognized by their own country. They were feted and made heroes in France before they were recognized in their own country.


pezblanco wrote:The Wright Brothers Hardcover – May 5, 2015
by David McCullough ... Very interesting the fact that it took quite a while for their achievements to be recognized by their own country. They were feted and made heroes in France before they were recognized in their own country.
I didn't know that, but I'm not surprised. Ailerons, fuselages, nacelles, and the very word "aviation" itself (also French-derived) testify that the French were seriously interested in aviation well before the U.S. was.
...I wish the author had spent a bit more time and effort on the technological achievements of the brothers...
And that tells me this book is not for me. Because the Wright brothers were consummate engineers.

The thing that was amazing was their understanding of human factors and "user interface," and their realization that the biggest problem with developing an airplane was not power or lift, but how someone, with no way to take flying lessons because nobody knew how, could learn to fly without killing themselves.

Of course as far as I know they never tried to build a flight simulator.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by HikerNC » Sun May 24, 2015 2:54 pm

Kent Haruf's Plainsong.[i][/i]

Very well written. Fascinating read.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by ruralavalon » Mon May 25, 2015 9:27 am

pezblanco wrote:Dead Wake by Eric Larson. The last voyage of the Lusitania. Everything I have read by Larson is just top notch and this book is no exception. It gives a very nice perspective of the world right at the beginning of the Great War. Very highly recommended. 4.5/5 stars.

Thank you for this recommendation.

I just finished Dead Wake, it is a very interesting easy to read book. I'd call it a "page turner" except that I read it on a Kindle so it had no pages :) .
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by jdb » Tue May 26, 2015 7:11 am

On airplane flight yesterday reading very good book picked up at airport. Noticed guy next to me also engrossed in reading book but couldn't see cover. Only at end of flight did we notice that both had same book, The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown. Both of us second the recommendations on this site. Also reading The House of Owls by Tony Angell. Fascinating book about guess which bird species with great illustrations. Both books by authors in Seattle area, guess am on a Pacific Northwest book odyssey.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by gkaplan » Tue May 26, 2015 7:44 pm

I just finished The Big Nap by Ayelet Waldman. Public defender turned stay-at-home mom, Juliet Applebaum has her hands full with her two rowdy kids. Her life gets even more hectic when her newborn son's babysitter – a beautiful young Chasidic woman – vanishes without a trace.

This is the second of Waldman's Mommy-Track mysteries. They're fun reads.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by frugalguy » Wed May 27, 2015 10:56 am

The Book Case by Nelson DeMille. This is a short story (or novellete) featuring John Corey in his early years as an NYPD Detective before he became a Fed. It's a simple story centered around a bookcase that fell on a bookstore owner killing him. Was it an accident or a homocide? Who did it and why? A fun change of pace for Demille, though Corey is as snarky as ever.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by LadyGeek » Wed May 27, 2015 8:05 pm

The Martian, by Andy Weir. It was mentioned several times in this thread: Good Modern Science Fiction

This book is certainly targeted to the "tech" types, especially geeks. The main character's idea on how to solve problems was very creative, which kept my interest. When the deluge of ideas started to lose my attention, the focus shifted and it got interesting again. You have a good idea of what's going to happen, but the book is written in a way that I couldn't put it down.

I'm thinking about Wool for my next book. Dystopia seems to be in fashion these days.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by protagonist » Wed May 27, 2015 8:11 pm

LadyGeek wrote:The Martian, by Andy Weir. It was mentioned several times in this thread: Good Modern Science Fiction

This book is certainly targeted to the "tech" types, especially geeks. The main character's idea on how to solve problems was very creative, which kept my interest. When the deluge of ideas started to lose my attention, the focus shifted and it got interesting again. You expect what's going to happen, but the book is written in a way that I couldn't put it down.

I'm thinking about Wool for my next book. Dystopia seems to be in fashion these days.


Dystopia is always in fashion. Devils are way more interesting than angels.
The Martian sounds interesting. If I ever finish Visions of Jazz (excellent collection of essays), perhaps I will seek it out. It takes me a long time to finish a book these days.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by LadyGeek » Wed May 27, 2015 8:22 pm

Sorry, I forgot. On a related note, you may recognize the origin of the opening paragraph in Getting started

===================

The plot in The Martians is not all that complicated. It's a combination of the writing style and tech concepts that keep my attention. Those not attuned to technical / scientific details may want to pass this one by.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by sci fi » Wed May 27, 2015 9:39 pm

"The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, And Their Secret World War". I highly recommend it, especially for those interested in espionnage non-fiction.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Fallible » Wed May 27, 2015 9:51 pm

LadyGeek wrote:Sorry, I forgot. On a related note, you may recognize the origin of the opening paragraph in Getting started ...


AHA! I often wondered whether "Don't Panic!" in "Getting Started" was from "Hitchhiker" and now I finally know. Cool. 8-)
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by black jack » Wed May 27, 2015 9:59 pm

Memorial Day theme:

Finished The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944–1945 by Paul Fussell. Fussell was a 2nd lieutenant in 1944, wounded in France (he's written several other books about war, I find, but this was my first book by him). This book is episodic, focusing on the hellish aspects of the war: the youth of the American soldiers, their inadequate training, the high casualty rates of replacements, "friendly fire" incidents, self-inflicted wounds, and so forth, drawn mostly from first-hand accounts by soldiers. In the final chapter he writes about the liberation of the concentration camps, and quotes a soldier who wrote that after what he'd seen, he took no more German prisoners.

Still working on: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (the Spanish Civil War), and half-way through Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (Paris in 1938).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by andrew928 » Wed May 27, 2015 10:01 pm

Currently reading the Wealth of Nations, Nothing Like it in the World, and the Intelligent Investor.

Not sure if I will ever finish wealth of nations though, very hard to keep my eyes open with it.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by protagonist » Wed May 27, 2015 10:27 pm

LadyGeek wrote:Sorry, I forgot. On a related note, you may recognize the origin of the opening paragraph in Getting started



Wiser words have never been spoken, and have rarely if ever been as universally applicable. Unfortunately, telling somebody "Don't panic!" might backfire and have a similar effect as "Don't think about an elephant!"

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by MindTheGAAP » Thu May 28, 2015 4:00 pm

The Big Short by Michael Lewis - about 50% of the way through and find it to be a great book thus far. May have had me considering Option Trading using Event-Based timing as a hobby, though!
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by a » Thu May 28, 2015 9:51 pm

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom

I noticed that while reading this book, my writing became
florid and flowery like his. I think I also, since thoughts are
transmitted in language, began thinking like him a little bit.

This calls to mind the saying that you are the average of the
5 people you spend time with the most. I guess it applies a
little to books too. One should be careful what books one
reads.

Mr.Bostrom should apply himself more to sharpening some
other skills. He could accomplish a lot; merely needs to
refocus his aim. It's a good lesson for all of us: it's a virtue
to build oneself up, because it will bring up those around
you.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by gkaplan » Thu May 28, 2015 10:22 pm

I have been reading A Playdate with Death by Ayelet Waldman. This is the third of her Mommy-Track mysteries, which I have been binge-reading. I even recommended them to my sister-in-law, who generally does not read mysteries. She just started to read the first Mommy-Track mystery, The Big Nap, and is enjoying it so far.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by rgs92 » Thu May 28, 2015 10:47 pm

The Midnight Special 1972-81 by B.R.Hunter, VH-1 Books.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by market timer » Thu May 28, 2015 10:48 pm

Enjoying Morgenthal & Co. by Barrie Wigmore. It's about a fictional investment bank between the years 1972 and 2010, written by a retired Goldman Sachs partner.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by a » Fri May 29, 2015 12:14 am

Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford

Just started. His first main point is that money
has been concentrating in the hands of the rich
and shrinking away from the poor. Not only do CEOs;
in general the owners of capital, are sucking up
more than their historical share of growing profits
from increased productivity (productivity is
increasing due to technology) but companies themselves
are the entities that are the magnets for all this
new wealth being created by the application of
new technology (primarily computers).

His thesis is this is apocalyptic. Robotics will
only exacerbate this trend until finally less
skilled workers cannot be hired at all; 80% of
the population will be unemployed and anarchy will
ensue.

I see it a different way. The reason as technology
advances, money concentrates more in the hands of a
few, is that as technology increases, productivity
naturally favors brains. The more brainy, skillful,
creative your work is, the more literal production
you can lever with the button of technology.

In the past, the most intelligent person in the
village lets say he was a blacksmith. Because of
his braininess he could invent faster more efficient
ways of pounding out the iron implements, and even
design better materials and designs that made his
shovels help you shovel manure twice as fast as the
next guy's.

But big deal. It's still just shoveling manure and
planting crops. Big brains didn't have a big lever
to move things with.

Now a single brainy human can, thanks to the Internet,
mass computers, and a legion of employees each with
their own set of computers, give a single order or
implement a single idea and cause 10,000 tons of metric
chemicals to be processed in a better way or 10,000
cars to be produced instead of 5,000. Technology should
be viewed as simply a multiplier to the inherent
mental differences (including education, skills, and
knowledge - not just inherent ability) between humans.

So hit the books, go back to school, quit your job and
move into a position where you are LEARNING and building
skills, and USEFUL skills for the future. Don't waste
any time getting proficient with Microsoft Excel
because in 5 years you will just tell Siri, "Do a linear
regression on this data and compile a report for the
proper optimization to our process for eliminating any
fluff."

What skills are the hardest to be replaced by robots?
My own view, which Ford sort of echoes, is to consider
what you do in your job every day. If there is any
portion of it that you consider tedious, or really
don't look forward to, finding it really drudgery..
that is what is going to be automated by robots soon.

On the contrary, if there is something that makes you
think so hard during your work that you think your brain
must be sweating bullets, and you physically have to
give yourself a break because youre thinking so hard:
chances are you are building skills and gaining knowledge
that the robots will have a hard time with.

So I say again, really think hard about the way you spend
your time at work. If you find yourself bored in a meeting
that's 60 minutes of your life you'll never get back to
be able to work on a problem that builds REAL skill,
and gains REAL experience, that is what homo sapiens should
really be using their brain for. Find a new position or
new job or go back to school to get into a new field
(really, endeavor - it's not so much the field that's
important as the endeavor you apply to)
that every minute you can be doing things that naturally
make you more and more homo sapienish.

Later I'll talk about what I think the important fields
in the future will be, that are least likely to be automated
- they aren't hugely revolutionary and you could probably
come up with them on your own if you'd just think about it.
That is really the main problem with most people is that
they are content never to think. They only respond from
dawn to dusk.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Bfwolf » Fri May 29, 2015 12:38 am

LadyGeek wrote:The Martian, by Andy Weir. It was mentioned several times in this thread: Good Modern Science Fiction

This book is certainly targeted to the "tech" types, especially geeks. The main character's idea on how to solve problems was very creative, which kept my interest. When the deluge of ideas started to lose my attention, the focus shifted and it got interesting again. You have a good idea of what's going to happen, but the book is written in a way that I couldn't put it down.

I'm thinking about Wool for my next book. Dystopia seems to be in fashion these days.


I finished The Martian tonight and agree with your assessment and the earlier person who said "Good, not great."

I thought Wool was great.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by heartwood » Fri May 29, 2015 6:56 am

I'm just starting The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. A novel about a drought in the American Southwest in the near future and a water war between the major cities. Perhaps reminiscent of Chinatown? I like Bacigalupi in general for his dystopian writing.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Valuethinker » Fri May 29, 2015 7:36 am

black jack wrote:Memorial Day theme:

Finished The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944–1945 by Paul Fussell. Fussell was a 2nd lieutenant in 1944, wounded in France (he's written several other books about war, I find, but this was my first book by him). This book is episodic, focusing on the hellish aspects of the war: the youth of the American soldiers, their inadequate training, the high casualty rates of replacements, "friendly fire" incidents, self-inflicted wounds, and so forth, drawn mostly from first-hand accounts by soldiers. In the final chapter he writes about the liberation of the concentration camps, and quotes a soldier who wrote that after what he'd seen, he took no more German prisoners.

Still working on: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (the Spanish Civil War), and half-way through Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (Paris in 1938).


Yes Fussell really was into breaking the Spielbergish 'Band of Brothers' notions of WW2. His defence though of the atom bombing of Japan, as having saved his life and that of so many others (including Japanese), is worth digging out if you can find it.

And of course in some way they are both right. It was horrible. The US Army had expanded from a peacetime force of barely 200k geared to small colonial wars into a massive military machine which treated its soldiers like cogs in a wheel. Read Martin Van Creveld's classic Fighting Power for a compare and contrast with the German Wehrmacht of the same period, whose officer corps had totally embraced the lessons of WW1 in the trenches. American (and British) combat effectiveness was markedly worse than German. Except at the top, strategic level (Marshall, Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower v. Hitler) the German military leadership was significantly better than the Allied.

A lot of young Americans, Canadians, Brits and other nationalities died because of poor Allied generalship and inexperience, inferior weapons (tanks in particular) and just general screwups.

John Ellis's 'In the Line of Fire' is a good scholarly treatment of the experiences of allied combat troops in WW2. And Eric Beregrunds "Fire in the Pacific" does the same for the Papua New Guinea and Guadalcanal campaigns (treating them thematically not episodically) just as his "Fire in the Sky" does the same for the air war in S Pacific.

Friendly fire is estimated in most wars to cause something like 10% of all casualties.

But also there was comradeship, and heroism. And esprit de corps. Bravery. I met a man once who crossed the Albert Canal with the Canadian engineers-- blowing up bunkers with Germans in them, a farm boy from rural Ontario.

We were not ready to fight probably the best army human history has raised up, the German Wehrmacht, on its home ground. Even in 1944 when the Germans were well past their best. We did so clumsily and bloodily, and won largely because of bigger numbers, better logistics and vastly superior firepower including total air supremacy. Meanwhile it was the Soviet Red Army which decisively defeated Hitler and bore the brunt of the casualties in that war: estimated 28m Soviet citizens died, including c. 8m Red Army soldiers. (and about 3m German soldiers-- you can stand at the church in any Austrian village and read the horrific cost of 2 world wars in young men).

But we won. We did the thing that history required of us. We won the battles that had to be won.

It was enough. It was not pretty, and in reflection it does not have the glory that we try to associate with it. But we did it.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by abuss368 » Fri May 29, 2015 10:50 am

Still reading "King of Capital" about The Blackstone Group. Excellent Wall Street story and I really recommend.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by black jack » Fri May 29, 2015 10:32 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
black jack wrote:Memorial Day theme:

Finished The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944–1945 by Paul Fussell. Fussell was a 2nd lieutenant in 1944, wounded in France (he's written several other books about war, I find, but this was my first book by him). This book is episodic, focusing on the hellish aspects of the war: the youth of the American soldiers, their inadequate training, the high casualty rates of replacements, "friendly fire" incidents, self-inflicted wounds, and so forth, drawn mostly from first-hand accounts by soldiers. In the final chapter he writes about the liberation of the concentration camps, and quotes a soldier who wrote that after what he'd seen, he took no more German prisoners.

Still working on: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (the Spanish Civil War), and half-way through Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (Paris in 1938).


Yes Fussell really was into breaking the Spielbergish 'Band of Brothers' notions of WW2. His defence though of the atom bombing of Japan, as having saved his life and that of so many others (including Japanese), is worth digging out if you can find it.

And of course in some way they are both right. It was horrible. The US Army had expanded from a peacetime force of barely 200k geared to small colonial wars into a massive military machine which treated its soldiers like cogs in a wheel. Read Martin Van Creveld's classic Fighting Power for a compare and contrast with the German Wehrmacht of the same period, whose officer corps had totally embraced the lessons of WW1 in the trenches. American (and British) combat effectiveness was markedly worse than German. Except at the top, strategic level (Marshall, Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower v. Hitler) the German military leadership was significantly better than the Allied.

A lot of young Americans, Canadians, Brits and other nationalities died because of poor Allied generalship and inexperience, inferior weapons (tanks in particular) and just general screwups.

John Ellis's 'In the Line of Fire' is a good scholarly treatment of the experiences of allied combat troops in WW2. And Eric Beregrunds "Fire in the Pacific" does the same for the Papua New Guinea and Guadalcanal campaigns (treating them thematically not episodically) just as his "Fire in the Sky" does the same for the air war in S Pacific.

Friendly fire is estimated in most wars to cause something like 10% of all casualties.

But also there was comradeship, and heroism. And esprit de corps. Bravery. I met a man once who crossed the Albert Canal with the Canadian engineers-- blowing up bunkers with Germans in them, a farm boy from rural Ontario.

We were not ready to fight probably the best army human history has raised up, the German Wehrmacht, on its home ground. Even in 1944 when the Germans were well past their best. We did so clumsily and bloodily, and won largely because of bigger numbers, better logistics and vastly superior firepower including total air supremacy. Meanwhile it was the Soviet Red Army which decisively defeated Hitler and bore the brunt of the casualties in that war: estimated 28m Soviet citizens died, including c. 8m Red Army soldiers. (and about 3m German soldiers-- you can stand at the church in any Austrian village and read the horrific cost of 2 world wars in young men).

But we won. We did the thing that history required of us. We won the battles that had to be won.

It was enough. It was not pretty, and in reflection it does not have the glory that we try to associate with it. But we did it.


Interesting reflection. Yes, war does bring out great virtues, as well as having hellish aspects.

Being very good at war didn't work out very well for Germany in the 20th century; perhaps there's a lesson there.

Creveld's book sounds interesting; thanks for the reference.

Do you have a suggestion for a good book on the experience of the eastern front; I'd like to understand what happened there - how did Russia take such casualties and keep going, and eventually turn the tide?
We cannot absolutely prove [that they are wrong who say] that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much apparent reason. | -T. B. Macaulay (1800-1859)

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by Valuethinker » Sat May 30, 2015 9:09 am

black jack wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
black jack wrote:Memorial Day theme:

Finished The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944–1945 by Paul Fussell. Fussell was a 2nd lieutenant in 1944, wounded in France (he's written several other books about war, I find, but this was my first book by him). This book is episodic, focusing on the hellish aspects of the war: the youth of the American soldiers, their inadequate training, the high casualty rates of replacements, "friendly fire" incidents, self-inflicted wounds, and so forth, drawn mostly from first-hand accounts by soldiers. In the final chapter he writes about the liberation of the concentration camps, and quotes a soldier who wrote that after what he'd seen, he took no more German prisoners.

Still working on: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (the Spanish Civil War), and half-way through Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (Paris in 1938).


Yes Fussell really was into breaking the Spielbergish 'Band of Brothers' notions of WW2. His defence though of the atom bombing of Japan, as having saved his life and that of so many others (including Japanese), is worth digging out if you can find it.

And of course in some way they are both right. It was horrible. The US Army had expanded from a peacetime force of barely 200k geared to small colonial wars into a massive military machine which treated its soldiers like cogs in a wheel. Read Martin Van Creveld's classic Fighting Power for a compare and contrast with the German Wehrmacht of the same period, whose officer corps had totally embraced the lessons of WW1 in the trenches. American (and British) combat effectiveness was markedly worse than German. Except at the top, strategic level (Marshall, Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower v. Hitler) the German military leadership was significantly better than the Allied.

A lot of young Americans, Canadians, Brits and other nationalities died because of poor Allied generalship and inexperience, inferior weapons (tanks in particular) and just general screwups.

John Ellis's 'In the Line of Fire' is a good scholarly treatment of the experiences of allied combat troops in WW2. And Eric Beregrunds "Fire in the Pacific" does the same for the Papua New Guinea and Guadalcanal campaigns (treating them thematically not episodically) just as his "Fire in the Sky" does the same for the air war in S Pacific.

Friendly fire is estimated in most wars to cause something like 10% of all casualties.

But also there was comradeship, and heroism. And esprit de corps. Bravery. I met a man once who crossed the Albert Canal with the Canadian engineers-- blowing up bunkers with Germans in them, a farm boy from rural Ontario.

We were not ready to fight probably the best army human history has raised up, the German Wehrmacht, on its home ground. Even in 1944 when the Germans were well past their best. We did so clumsily and bloodily, and won largely because of bigger numbers, better logistics and vastly superior firepower including total air supremacy. Meanwhile it was the Soviet Red Army which decisively defeated Hitler and bore the brunt of the casualties in that war: estimated 28m Soviet citizens died, including c. 8m Red Army soldiers. (and about 3m German soldiers-- you can stand at the church in any Austrian village and read the horrific cost of 2 world wars in young men).

But we won. We did the thing that history required of us. We won the battles that had to be won.

It was enough. It was not pretty, and in reflection it does not have the glory that we try to associate with it. But we did it.


Interesting reflection. Yes, war does bring out great virtues, as well as having hellish aspects.

Being very good at war didn't work out very well for Germany in the 20th century; perhaps there's a lesson there.


Twice the Germans failed in the Grand Strategy. Never engage on a war with the major powers on 2 fronts. Operationally and tactically they were the best combatant in both wars, but they failed to understand the very nature of strategy. A bit like the Japanese-- attacking the world's largest power by surprise, and imagining that could lead to a limited war.

And the other rule of strategy was violated twice: never invade Russia. Charles X of Sweden failed. So did Napoleon. So did the Germans. so in fact did the British and Americans (in 1919). Russia has the numbers and extraordinary tenacity of its people, vast distances, huge resources, and a leadership willing to spend those people to achieve victory.

Creveld's book sounds interesting; thanks for the reference.

Do you have a suggestion for a good book on the experience of the eastern front; I'd like to understand what happened there - how did Russia take such casualties and keep going, and eventually turn the tide?


Van Creveld's book is a classic and was standard reading at the Marine Corps office academy. However I did hear a new commander dumped the library's entire collection. His Supplying War is another classic: "amateurs talk of tactics, professionals talk of logistics".

Gabriel and Savage's "Crisis in Command" about the US military leadership in Vietnam is a classic--highly highly controversial, and it goes too far (effectively it accuses American officers of cowardice, and I think there's enough evidence of physical courage by the American officer corps in Vietnam, however the other issues they raise (about a bureaucratic and numbers-based mindset to war, directed from helicopters) are valid and are echoed in other critics such as "Cincinnatus" (a serving US officer wrote a critique of the early 1970s US Army under that pen name). But Gabriel and Savage in time led me to Van Creveld. I think of the fictional Vietnam war novels, Matterhorn captures it best.

I enjoyed Van Creveld's history of modern Air Power as well, and it dovetails well with Robert Pape's Bombing to Win. Pape also wrote 'Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of the Suicide Bomber" which is controversial but well researched-- rationality on a seemingly irrational act. At various moments Kindle has had sales on Pape.

Chris Bellamy wrote Absolute War which I thought was a pretty good general history. John Erickson's history of the same events was pathbreaking, but he was dependent on then Soviet sources and 'spun' by some of their propaganda. Paul Carrell's Drang Nach Osten and Scorched Earth are too German-centric.

Richard Overy's Russia's War is good (anything by Overy is good).

I had mixed feelings about Catherine Merridale's Ivan's War. The perspective of Russian soldiers in the war. It should have been great, but I found it a little dry. And she barely mentioned the role of women soldiers and pilots in the war which is one of the most interesting and little explored aspects.

Antony Beevor's Stalingrad will give you a grounds eye view of one of the pivotal battles. Stalingrad stopped the Germans (July 1942-January 1943). Kursk (July 1943) showed that their defeat was inevitable.

I am not sure about another ground's eye narrative, although watching Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron (or the German made movie about Stalingrad -- recent drama) will give you a feel for the desperation of it.

Stalin said "it takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army". Drawn up behind every Russian division were NKVD troops (ie KGB) with orders to shoot any man heading back from the front without proper papers. The Russians were absolutely savage with their own men, driving them on. Every unit had a Zampolit, a political officer with a network of informants, and anyone caught uttering defeatist talk would be arrested and shot, or transferred to the penal battalions which were used as the spearheads of each offensive, eg to clear mines under German fire (the Germans had similar units, and hung many of their own soldiers for desertion or defeatism). Generals like Zhukov were famous for their disregard of the cost in lives to achieve their objectives, driving their subordinates onward. When Chuikov took on Stalingrad, he ordered shot any office who relocated his HQ across the safe side of the river, behind Chuikov's own command bunker (which stayed on the west side of the Volga, at times with Paulus' 6th Army only a couple of hundred yards away).

The brutal depredations the Germans inflicted both on occupied civilians (not just Jews), in anti partisan operations (see the Daniel Craig movie 'Defiance') and the deliberate starvation and forced labour of POWs and civilians undoubtedly stiffened the Soviet will to resist. Hitler's Commissar Order ordered the shooting of any Communist Party official captured, and made damned sure the Zampolits knew they had to fight to the last bullet.

But the German soldiers also write in their letters and diaries complaining of the savage joy of Soviet soldiers-- the Russians would cheer when they reached Russian lines. Russians fought with a savage tenacity and ferocity. As the war went on, their weapons became more refined (the T34 85mm tank a significant improvement over the T34 76mm and probably the best all round tank of WW2), their tactics and operational ability improved. After they beat the Germans at Kursk in July 1943, the greatest tank battle in history, they performed better than all but the best German army units.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by bertilak » Sat May 30, 2015 10:30 am

market timer wrote:Enjoying Morgenthal & Co. by Barrie Wigmore. It's about a fictional investment bank between the years 1972 and 2010, written by a retired Goldman Sachs partner.

I read that. I thought it was fascinating. If I didn't have so much other reading to catch up on I would probably go through it again.

Definitely worth a read by anyone who finds the world of high-finance and the types of people involved interesting. Even if you don't this book may put that bee in your bonnet.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by black jack » Sat May 30, 2015 11:43 pm

Valuethinker wrote:Stalin said "it takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army". Drawn up behind every Russian division were NKVD troops (ie KGB) with orders to shoot any man heading back from the front without proper papers. The Russians were absolutely savage with their own men, driving them on. Every unit had a Zampolit, a political officer with a network of informants, and anyone caught uttering defeatist talk would be arrested and shot, or transferred to the penal battalions which were used as the spearheads of each offensive, eg to clear mines under German fire (the Germans had similar units, and hung many of their own soldiers for desertion or defeatism). Generals like Zhukov were famous for their disregard of the cost in lives to achieve their objectives, driving their subordinates onward. When Chuikov took on Stalingrad, he ordered shot any office who relocated his HQ across the safe side of the river, behind Chuikov's own command bunker (which stayed on the west side of the Volga, at times with Paulus' 6th Army only a couple of hundred yards away).

The brutal depredations the Germans inflicted both on occupied civilians (not just Jews), in anti partisan operations (see the Daniel Craig movie 'Defiance') and the deliberate starvation and forced labour of POWs and civilians undoubtedly stiffened the Soviet will to resist. Hitler's Commissar Order ordered the shooting of any Communist Party official captured, and made damned sure the Zampolits knew they had to fight to the last bullet.

But the German soldiers also write in their letters and diaries complaining of the savage joy of Soviet soldiers-- the Russians would cheer when they reached Russian lines. Russians fought with a savage tenacity and ferocity. As the war went on, their weapons became more refined (the T34 85mm tank a significant improvement over the T34 76mm and probably the best all round tank of WW2), their tactics and operational ability improved. After they beat the Germans at Kursk in July 1943, the greatest tank battle in history, they performed better than all but the best German army units.

Valuethinker, I know you didn't read all those books just recently, but still, how on earth do you read so much, and write so much, and have time to do anything else?

Thank you for the recommendations; I finished Mission to Paris last night, and now have Overy on my Kindle, so I'll be spending part of my summer on the Eastern Front, trying to understand how the Red Army survived long enough to transform itself and get stronger, even as it (and the nation) was absorbing losses that are difficult to comprehend. The 30 million or so casualties estimated to have been suffered by the Soviets in WWII would be equivalent to around 50 million in the contemporary US (though it appears all population estimates dealing with the Soviets in that period are rough guesses). Imagine a struggle on US soil in which almost one in every six citizens dies, and yet the nation fights on - now THAT is an "existential threat."

Fussell mentions the difference in US and German treatment of deserters: there was desertion in US units (he says one reason the Skorzeny plot - dressing several dozen German soldiers who were fluent in English in captured US uniforms and putting them in captured US jeeps with the idea that they could cause chaos behind the lines, and perhaps even assassinate top generals - had little effect was that MPs were generally on the alert for soldiers traveling away from the front without a good reason), but he says it was mostly dealt with by having a non-commissioned officer near the rear of units looking for would-be deserters and "encouraging" them to "stay the course," while in German units deserters were shot on the spot. He suggests that difference may reflect part of why the US was fighting in Europe.
We cannot absolutely prove [that they are wrong who say] that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much apparent reason. | -T. B. Macaulay (1800-1859)

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part VI

Post by black jack » Sat May 30, 2015 11:49 pm

bertilak wrote:
market timer wrote:Enjoying Morgenthal & Co. by Barrie Wigmore. It's about a fictional investment bank between the years 1972 and 2010, written by a retired Goldman Sachs partner.

I read that. I thought it was fascinating. If I didn't have so much other reading to catch up on I would probably go through it again.

Definitely worth a read by anyone who finds the world of high-finance and the types of people involved interesting. Even if you don't this book may put that bee in your bonnet.


I also enjoyed Blumenthal & Co., which I picked up on the basis of a recommendation here last year. It reminded me a little of Mad Men: a glimpse of a foreign (to me) office culture in New York City's past (though the book comes up to the present, or nearly so).
We cannot absolutely prove [that they are wrong who say] that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much apparent reason. | -T. B. Macaulay (1800-1859)

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