Sunday, November 04, 2018

James Igoe's Reviews > Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith

Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia HighsmithNothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith by Patricia Highsmith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nary an off note, an interesting collection of short stories, the first half earlier light pieces, the seconds half written later, and often a bit darker. A very rewarding read, and personally, the second half was worth the time it took to get to, as I found it more engaging than the first half.

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James Igoe's Reviews > Godel's Proof

Godel's ProofGodel's Proof by Ernest Nagel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting and not terribly written but in a few areas highly repetitive. My background is not deeply mathematical, so maybe I was missing a subtlety here and there, but it seemed to be stating the same meanings over and over, although the bulk of the book was engaging and thought-provoking for someone 'mathy' like myself...

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James Igoe's Reviews > Here

HereHere by Richard McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thought-provoking, contemplative work. It seems at first inconsequential, a book of pictures, but when one is finished, left with a sense of something more weighty, life itself.

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Sunday, October 07, 2018

James Igoe's Reviews > Selected Poems

Selected PoemsSelected Poems by Jorge Luis Borges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have little experience reading poetry, and even less academic knowledge, but overall found most of the poems engaging and thoughtful, although I found Borges' occasional mentions of past European writers, as well as his excursions into descriptions of war, a bit off-putting.

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Educated, a Review

Educated: A Memoir Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always had a particular sympathy for people that overcome barriers to do something significant in life, and this story is a great one. Tara, raised in an oppressive environment controlled by a semi-delusional father, rose beyond her confined world of fundamentalism to reach a level of academic success that is typically unheard of for someone of her background. The first half of the book details her home and how she was raised, and while painful, we know she will eventually grow and evolve. The second half was more touching and joyful to read than the first when Tara starts to understand the larger outside world, supported by others who equally achieved in ways that are exceptional, as well as by faculty that saw something special in her. It is simply a great story of personal growth, told simply, clearly, and with compassion.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Stephen Miller’s Uncle Calls Him a Hypocrite in an Online Essay

Responding to an NY Times article, I wrote several bits, one of which was flagged as a TimesPick, likely because the moderator thought it was particularly thoughtful:

The Times Pick
Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America, a song that grew from "his mother, who frequently spoke the words with an emotion he later said “was almost exaltation,” despite their poverty." Although that same song is often the sounding cry of anti-immigrant and nativist sentiments, its roots say so much about America and what it has means for many people, salvation.

It's sad that all reason has gone out the window, that we no longer appreciate the belief in America as the great melting pot, that great human generator, a home of the brave and land of the free. Even more so, study after study points to the benefits of immigration for us, the US, and that has been completely lost in the rhetoric of right-wing zealots. Stephen Miller’s Uncle Calls Him a Hypocrite in an Online Essay
Response to a Libertarian
@FrederickRLynch Thought police? McCarthyism? Those involve the state, which can inflict real horrifying damage. His uncle's opinion is no such thing. In fact, Miller's policies are not simply thought, they are policies enacted, damaging the lives of many people, traumatizing them, more akin to the scourges of government campaigns targeting disfavored groups.

As a political operative, Miller's actions are always open to question. Rather the opposite to your claim, not being allowed to critique the government would be truly fascistic, and of course, the current regime is edging closer and closer to it...
Response to a Denier of Immigration's Benefits
@CS It isn't just about jobs, although that might be your favorite strawman, it encompasses many things, primarily the importance of human rights (the right to belong, to be free from harm) and the belief in the value of immigrants as a social principle. Many feel deeply about this, as we are all children of immigrants, or know recent immigrants who cherish America for the opportunity and freedom.

As for other salient aspects, studies showing:
  • immigration is tied to economic growth
  • immigration is tied to reduced crime
  • immigration is tied to increased government revenues
  • immigration increase innovation, specifically and generally
Humanity and intelligence are on our side.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Opinion | The Nation Betrays a Poet — and Itself - The New York Times

An interesting piece turning on freedom of thought and the press, coming against a tide of public opinion, fueled by concerns of racism, Opinion | The Nation Betrays a Poet — and Itself:
My first thought was that the offense was a cultural appropriation, but I decided to go read it. On the first pass, maybe not reading so closely, it sounded like it might be sensitive to the plight of discrimination, and insightful about how perception is displayed to justify our self-perceptions.

I read it again.


Now, it sounds like a description of a deceiving street person, but still with an understanding that the world's perception is to justify their own self-worth.

On some level, there are people like this, although the idea that it would be used to enable racist perceptions is plausible but unlikely. Does the fascist right-wing read The Nation, let alone poetry in The Nation? Have we all read great literature that stereotyped? Yes, but almost always it comes with a big dose of empathy, of being in someone else's shoes. When I mentally step away from this poem, I still imagine I am in that person's shoes and feel a deeper sympathy for them. Apologies were given, maybe not needed, but certainly, the reasoning behind the choice would have been appropriate.

On the other hand...

Considering how much majority culture has abused and misused minority culture for its own entertainment, maybe an apology is necessary. If nothing else, we have a better-rounded understanding of the meaning of this poem, to everyone.

Friday, August 03, 2018

It’s Not Just the Tampon Tax: Why Periods Are Political - The New York Times

My response to It’s Not Just the Tampon Tax: Why Periods Are Political in the NY Times.

Primary Response
It is about so much more than menstruation. Given our sexist, inequitable society, women's concerns and human welfare are given short-shrift. Areas where women would be the most benefit, although maybe more so society at large would be helped, is with children and child-care, health and welfare concerns, reproductive health issues, violence and guns, education and jobs. The 'tampon tax' is simply emblematic of a large socio-political problem.
Secondary Response, to a sexist rant
@Jon F - People can argue the specifics, usually nitpicking each other's arguments, but the problem is larger than tampons and viagra. The issue is emblematic of other concerns of our society, whereby men make decisions that harm women or benefit men without realizing the result is a product of biases. Men are aware and sympathetic to items affecting men, but unaware and unsympathetic to concerns of women.

Opinion | What Happened to the Country That Made Us Citizens? - The New York Times

In response to the NY Times article, What Happened to the Country That Made Us Citizens? I wrote what struck me as a lovely sentiment, and although barely recognized at the time, reposted in pieces in other comment areas, and in those threads, they received many 'Recommended' clicks, the equivalent of likes.

Original Quote
There still exists a great appreciation of immigrants and immigration, of what it brings to this country, and what it says about America. Just not in Texas. In our 'blue bubble' I would be hard-pressed to many people against immigrants and immigration. It is what makes America.

I live in a city where 40% of the population is foreign-born and work in an industry where native Americans are a minority. Because of immigrants crime is lower and economic growth is higher, but even then, the appreciation of what immigrants are to this country historically, and the understanding and humanity it takes to accept others, makes immigration so important.

Sadly, fear of outsiders, of 'the other', is an element of human history and human nature, but so is the sense, the hope, that we can be swayed "by the better angels of our nature.”
Reused Quotes

Saturday, June 30, 2018

She Knows How to Make an Exit. You’re Reading It. - The New York Times

In response to She Knows How to Make an Exit. You’re Reading It. - The New York Times I wrote the following:
Some of the best, most important, most moving pieces I've ever read have been obituaries. Sometimes, it's the moral courage of a Dutchman when asked why he risked his life to save Jews said, paraphrased, "What else could I do?". About others, it is their great ability I admire. Sometimes, it is simply the tenderness that the history instills in me, about someone's love and kindness. However unappreciated you feel, obituaries are one of those columns that resonate with us, that shows us our humanity and our highest aspirations.

Opinion | Dave Eggers: A Cultural Vacuum in Trump’s White House - The New York Times

In response to Opinion | Dave Eggers: A Cultural Vacuum in Trump’s White House - The New York Times, I wrote the following
I've said this many times to myself and confidants, Trump is artless, heartless, and cruel. You can see from his lifestyle, there is no appreciation of art or charity or humanity.

He exemplifies America, at its extreme and its worst. America can be characterized, ala Geert Hofstede, by traits such as individualism, short-termism, gender traditionality, indulgence, and organizational flatness. Trump epitomizes these traits, but in the extreme and in a way that seems incredibly destructive. His artlessness, like his personality, epitomizes America the anti-intellectual.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

‘Westworld’ Season 2, Episode 8: The Wrong World - The New York Times

In relation to ‘Westworld’ Season 2, Episode 8: The Wrong World:
My feeling, at the end, was that it was the best episode so far. Of course, that's not true, but it was a phenomenal one, a thoughtful dialogue mostly devoid of gore.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Organize your life with Personal Kanban | TreeHugger

Responding to Organize your life with Personal Kanban | TreeHugger, I responded as to how I manage tasks in my own life:
If one manages software processes, the same inclination is carried over into one's own life. One can't help but think of applying Kanban to one's personal tasks. That said, efficiency is not always a virtue. I've read that people are happier multi-tasking, so striving for efficiency is not necessarily pleasurable.

My personal code and sites are managed in VSTS, while my work environments have used a variety of systems, most recently Jira. Although I have explored a variety of Kanban systems to manage my life, I also settled on Trello, owing to its cost and ease of use. That said, I more often manage tasks as simple lists either in Wunderlist, Instapaper, email - I find my inbox a very effective way of tracking diverse items - or OneNote. As was always the case with lists, they can become unwieldy and outdated, so they require periodic review, deletion, and reorganization.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Why Scientists Are Battling Over Pleasure

Responding to a New York Times article, Why Scientists Are Battling Over Pleasure:

Although some can argue that art does more for pleasure, it seems to make more sense to think of art appreciation as a pure pleasure that invokes less, as opposed to those that also involve other senses such as hearing or touch. The experience of art, although it can include tactile and auditory aspects, is often the ideation of objects and concepts, minimally as an aesthetic and emotional experience.

In the same way that intelligence can be thought of as g, or general mental ability, it does not mean that one no longer studies what makes for great specific ability, or the influence and effect of learning.

Although pleasure might be processed the same way, that does not mean one should stop there and be done with it. It seems to make more sense, assuming one accepts that pleasure is the same, to find the ways that such things are different. On an experiential level, it seems that the various pleasures are different, in that they seem to engage additional pathways.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Love is Love

Love is Love Love is Love by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful and touching, but a hard read. Gorgeous drawings, many insightful comments, but it can be painful, tearing every few pages, and I am sure for some, heavy cries.

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Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller List

I was struck but how disproportionately male my reading genres are - I ran across a comment decrying Infinite Jest as one of those 'jerk off bro books' - so started examining some of my reading habits. It should have obvious to me when I was reading Beckett 15 years ago, and a woman I was chatting with not understanding who or why,  said that it "must be a guy thing." I still love some science fiction and will finish off the few remaining Dick and Vonnegut I haven't read, and the non-fiction I read will, for now, stay focused on systems sciences and programming, but I have stopped Infinite Jest - great writing, but the story devolved into themes around drug rehab and  cross-dressing amputee assassins - and I am now on one a search for authors. I'll start maybe with Austen and Highsmith - I loved the Ripley series, although the genre is lopsided male - and will peruse the Nobel list as one avenue for better female representation.

The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller List

Monday, January 15, 2018

Karl Ove Knausgaard Answers the Proust Questionnaire | Vanity Fair

Reading this piece only makes me want to read his works more than I do now. This was the first:

Which living person do you most admire? I found Barack Obama’s dignity as a president remarkable, and even more so when I think about it these days.

With more responses that I so identified with, and then maybe not, but, still...

Source:Karl Ove Knausgaard Answers the Proust Questionnaire | Vanity Fair

The Patriarchs Are Falling. The Patriarchy Is Stronger Than Ever. - The New York Times

The US, as a traditional work-oriented culture, is unlikely to every move forward easily on social welfare and equality. It's a long, uphill battle, and for every two steps forward, there will another step back.

The culture is the problem, not women. In gender-equal countries, life is focused on quality of life for both men and women, while in masculine countries, as per Hofstede's cultural dimensions, life is work and success-oriented but focuses on male success and as such discriminates against women.

My spouse and I often consider moving to a country where we would better fit, either Sweden or the Netherlands, and not suffer living in such a moronic and backward country. The fight for equality is only going to be much harder in a traditional country, that's all. I think the fight is a worthy one, but in the words of Prince, "If you like to fight, you're a double-drag fool, I'm goin' to another life, how 'bout you?"

The Patriarchs Are Falling. The Patriarchy Is Stronger Than Ever. - The New York Times

Some Thoughts on Social Media Is Making Us Dumber

I don't think social media is making anyone dumber, but mass hysteria and fringe ideas seem to be more prevalent, even if we are only more aware of them than before. Anyway, it's a good piece, focused on a very nuanced speech, that was turned into something simplistic.

The article: Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A. - The New York Times

A Journey — if You Dare — Into the Minds of Silicon Valley Programmers

My responses in a NY Times comment section for the book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson ...