Archive for ‘Reading/Books’

September 6, 2011

Quote of the Day

by WIZ

“God’s promises were not given to save us the problem of thinking.” — John Stott

(thanks M.D.!)

August 21, 2011

Obama: Reader-In-Chief

by WIZ

Click on the image to view the enlarged version. I own Ghost Wars and tried reading it a few months back but ended up putting it down.

August 9, 2011

Amazon.com and Paying Taxes

by WIZ

John Judis at The New Republic has an interesting piece on Amazon’s intentional efforts to avoid taxation in several states that direly need revenue. After all, Amazon’s ability to avoid charging sale’s tax provides you and I opportunities to buy books (as well as plethora of other items) for dirt cheap.

This subject, which has been intensified lately due to Borders declaring bankruptcy, may be a good time for us all to question when to buy books online and when to buy in a store. What logic comes into play when we choose one outlet over the other? For me, if I can find a book for a penny plus ~$4 s&h on Amazon, I will go with that option over a store that may charge anywhere in the upward vicinity of $27 plus tax. If I can find a book in a store for a few dollars more than Amazon, I will go with the store. Judis elaborates on the ripple effects of the latter choice: “local realtors sustain neighborhoods and suburban malls; they fund local newspapers and theater groups. They are part of a community in a way that Amazon or Overstock—its Utah-based partner in fighting state sales taxes—will never be.” It is also worth noting that Amazon would not me Amazon without bookstores or trading houses who originally sell the books that we find online for a low price.

July 29, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

by WIZ
  • The family of Amy Winehouse believes she died because her body couldn’t take the withdrawal from alcohol. A friend of mine recently made a “too soon” joke about her: she has now been sober for 1 week.
  • TIME counts off their top 30 music videos of all time.
  • In case you hadn’t heard, Bob Dylan’s grandson, Pablo Dylan, is a rapper.
  • Tim Wise will have two new books out in the next six months!
  • Some awesome pictures from the Tour de France 2011.
  • President Obama comments today on the debt ceiling crisis.
July 10, 2011

A Web of One

by WIZ

I finished last week Eli Pariser’s book The Internet Bubble. His above TED talk is captioned as follows:

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.

His TED talk essentially captures the main points found in his 250 page book. What he doesn’t cover in those 9 minutes of talking is some background on the engineers and technological goliaths currently taking the internet by storm. He delves into their dreams for the internet (Google hopes to one day not even have a search bar but have an algorithm so good that it knows what we want to search for) and how this new era of internet and social networking is guissed as transparently democratic but is mostly shadowed by ever changing privacy settings and our data (info we share, links we click on, et al.) sold to creepy third party entities.

Pariser’s caveat regarding personalization as contrary to creative, serendipitous living (as well as democracy) is half truth and half inflated out of fear. While our Facebook newsfeeds are taylored by algorithisms that direct us towards things we “may” be interested in (based on what we click on or search for), personalization is personalized for each of us. What I mean is this: if you use Yahoo news as a daily source for news or even Facebook (which believe it or not is rising rather quickly as a place where plethora of people find out the news), you most likely will receive some skewed results. However, if you are similar to me in that I find my news via blogs (all set up through Google Reader), my personalization will be different from yours. Seventy percent (give or take) of the blogs or news sources I check can be classified as left of center. That itself lends towards a personalized experience that differs from a daily intake of The Blaze, The New York Post, and Fox News. With blogs, I choose which to read based on what I like and the quality. These blogs I check do not (yet) personalize what they present to me and the rest of their viewers. You have no choice in that matter, according to Pariser, when you look for the day’s news on Google or Facebook.

One other note: I experimented with another computer (both logged in to our Google accounts) in Google searching the following terms: BP, Barack Obama, dogs, and horses. Each of our results had the same front page results as well as total number of results. This doesn’t conclusively refute Pariser’s argument that everyone has a different Google search experience but goes to show that this whole Brave New World-type internet bubble is not as scary as he may crack it up to be.

July 5, 2011

Nightly Reading

by WIZ

Enjoy this long read by Frank Rich (former NY Times columnist, highly recommended) in the New York Magazine. Topic:

Obama’s Original Sin

The president’s failure to demand a reckoning from the moneyed interests who brought the economy down has cursed his first term, and could prevent a second.

June 22, 2011

100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books

by WIZ

This isn’t an exhaustive list (and many would argue over which books made it or didn’t) but enjoy. It is organized by category (which is helpful). I thought the memoirs looked good.

June 1, 2011

From My Bookshelf

by WIZ

I hope this turns into a daily series.

The Rabbis frequently suggested that on Mount Sinai, each one of the Israelites who had been standing at the foot of the mountain had experienced God in a different way. God had, as it were, adapted himself to each person “according to the comprehension of each.” As one Rabbi put it, “God does not come to man oppressively but commensurately with a man’s power of receiving him.” This very important rabbinic insight meant that God could not be described in a formula as though he were the same for everybody: he was an essentially subjective experience. Each individual would experience the reality of “God” in a different way to answer the needs of his or her own particular temperament. Each one of the prophets had experiences God differently, the Rabbis insisted, because his personality had influenced his conception of the divine. –Karen Armstrong (pp. 73-4) in her book The History of God.

June 1, 2011

Afternoon Links

by WIZ

Read up:

  1. A list of the 50 best cover songs ever.
  2. Some info behind the sped-up re-authorization of the PATRIOT act.
  3. A drug war-style raid on a house that had some small connection to viewing a pornographic website a year ago.
  4. A Macbook thief gets pwned.
  5. Police officers in New Mexico can take guns away from drivers who pose no threat.
  6. A Mexican teacher has been honoured after video footage showed her calming pupils (via singing to them) as a gun battle raged outside her school.
May 31, 2011

Summer Reading

by WIZ

As they say, with the passing of Memorial Day weekend, we now enter summer. With that, here are some books mostly geared towards education and information. I have churned through a few fiction (Ordinary People) and nonfiction (Underboss, the History of God, which I am only 70 pages in) lately and am on the lookout for some others for the summer.

6. THE FILTER BUBBLE

We live in a culture that puts a premium on customization, but this ultra-personalization has its price when it comes to the information we’re being served. That’s exactly what Eli Pariser, founder of public policy advocacy group MoveOn.org, explores in his fascinating and, depending on where you fall on the privacy spectrum, potentially unsettling new book, The Filter Bubble — a compelling deep-dive into the invisible algorithmic editing on the web, a world where we’re being shown more of what algorithms think we want to see and less of what we should see. (Did you know that Google takes into account 57 individual data points before serving you the results you searched for?) Implicitly, the book raises some pivotal questions about the future of the information economy and the balance between algorithm and curator — something I feel particularly strongly about.

May 27, 2011

Some Reading For The Rapture That Wasn’t

by WIZ

Hearts and Minds has some great ones. Money quote (but there are so many to pick when reading their stuff!):

I think we have regrets about the weekend End fiasco because, as Gabe Lyons nicely put it on Good Morning America, this stuff distracts us from our real purpose and work, from being busy serving God and neighbor.  Some evangelicals (although actually fewer than you might think, I’d say) have allowed end-times speculations, bizarre interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, and weird methods of counting of numbers and names in the Bible to determine who the anti-Christ might be, to distract them from serious missional engagement.  I hate to sound snide about it–and I pray that I do not–but sometimes when well-meaning customers come in the story asking for books of “prophecy” (like is American in the ends times, a la John Haggee, say) I direct them to Haggai commentaries.  Spend some time with Amos or Habakkuk, I sometimes suggest, if you want prophecy. Eugene Peterson’s wonderful and slightly revised Run With the Horses(IVP; $15.00) is a fabulously rich and easy-to-read set of meditations on Jeremiah.   God’s prophets spoke into their times, calling for social reform and holiness and justice and cultural repentance, they didn’t just invite people to try to predict the future. How can we help folks get that?

May 27, 2011

Long Read of the Day

by WIZ

OutdoorLife magazine has an exclusive interview with Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

May 27, 2011

Libraries Crumble

by WIZ

Charles Simic laments:

All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak. “The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

I see this when I am at the library in York. Scores of grown adults and kids do not have computers at home and rely strongly on their 2 hours allotted to them a day to look for jobs, work on schoolwork, and yes a fair amount of time set aside to watch YouTube videos.

Once I started to enjoy reading, libraries became my new toy store. Free books, so many services and resources at your fingertips (secondary language services, such as Rosetta Stone, are there to use and others are available to check out) and more all there and paid for by our tax dollars.

Simic makes a few more points worth noting:

This was just the start. Over the years I thoroughly explored many libraries, big and small, discovering numerous writers and individual books I never knew existed, a number of them completely unknown, forgotten, and still very much worth reading. No class I attended at the university could ever match that. Even libraries in overseas army bases and in small, impoverished factory towns in New England had their treasures, like long-out of print works of avant-garde literature and hard-boiled detective stories of near-genius.

Wherever I found a library, I immediately felt at home. Empty or full, it pleased me just as much. A boy and a girl doing their homework and flirting; an old woman in obvious need of a pair of glasses squinting at a dog-eared issue of The New Yorker; a prematurely gray-haired man writing furiously on a yellow pad surrounded by pages of notes and several open books with some kind of graphs in them; and, the oddest among the lot, a balding elderly man in an elegant blue pinstripe suit with a carefully tied red bow tie, holding up and perusing a slim, antique-looking volume with black covers that could have been poetry, a religious tract, or something having to do with the occult. It’s the certainty that such mysteries lie in wait beyond its doors that still draws me to every library I come across.

Pictured: a library established by Andrew Carnegie.

Tags:
May 23, 2011

The Budget Crisis View Of Pennsylvanian Schools

by WIZ

The impacts are stark:

  • About 31 percent of districts are considering cutting full-day kindergarten next year, compared with 1 percent that eliminated it this year.
  • About 86 percent of districts anticipate seeing class sizes increase next year, compared with 17 percent increasing this year.
  • 91 percent of districts don’t plan to fill empty positions next year, and about two-thirds plan to lay off instructional staff.
The full report (pdf) is worth a read.
May 23, 2011

eBooks Are Surging

by WIZ

There are the obvious defenses for traditional books, but what the downsides, which can play into pro-defenses for eBooks? eBooks, by the way, are outselling traditional books in some markets.

Stray bits of paper fall out of books, and then you’ve lost your place. You can’t access your highlighted passages when you’re at the office and your book is at home. You can’t read your matchstick etchings two months after they were written. A ripped out page gets quickly lost. The natural shield against distraction means that if you do want a quick distraction, you have to put the book down entirely — and then you may not pick it back up.

Tags: ,
May 18, 2011

Vacationland

by WIZ

Maine – a great read and place to vacation.

Tags: ,
May 18, 2011

Chris Heuertz on Friendship & Denominations

by WIZ

First, an interview he gave on his book Friendship at the Margins:

A brief description of the book: In our anonymous and dehumanized world, the simple practice of friendship is radically countercultural. But sometimes Christians inadvertently marginalize and objectify the very ones they most want to serve.

Chris also briefly discusses denominations and doctrine.

May 17, 2011

Reading Materials

by WIZ
  • Gifted students (I found out recently that they have GIEP’s) do not make many quantum gifted leaps once in gifted programs. I have found from personal experience that it can be just one more task to differentiate lessons for gifted students (my choice, not the students fault).
  • The type of relationship we form with a hard copy of a book is different than the one we form with a book on a Kindle.
  • Finally, a run-down of GOP hopefuls and reactions from bloggers.
May 16, 2011

The Moral Duties of the State

by WIZ

N.T. Wright (New Testament scholar) and some others duke it out over the theological complexities of killing Osama Bin Laden. Follow up with the links – they are worth mulling over.

May 15, 2011

“A library is a good place to go…”

by WIZ

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people—people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book,”- E.B. White, writing to the children of Troy, Michigan, congratulating them on their new library in 1971.

H/T: A.S.

Tags: , , ,