Friday, May 6, 2016

The Invention of Science by David Wootton

THE INVENTION OF SCIENCE by David Wootton explores the origins of critical thinking and the concept of discovery. The very idea of discovering something new was, surprisingly, little known to sailors and politicians prior to Columbus. It is hard to imagine now exactly how, due to superstition and religious dogma, so very few people in the “dark ages” and beyond conceived—much less experimented—with elements of the natural world, with mathematics, or with abstract concepts. Historian David Wootton, a professor at the University of York, has here explained how it really was, and what has come to be since. The Scientific Revolution was the greatest revolution, he says, because it transformed mankind (or much of it, anyway) from willful ignorance into a better understanding of our relationship with nature. Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Newton, Einstein: these men (among others) paved the way, not just to our current technology, but to the very concept of facts, theories, progress, and explanations. Abstract thought was one of the tools used, along with geometry, that led to physics, as Einstein said, “My pen and I are greater than I alone.” This audiobook, read by actor James Langton, is a fascinating overview that gives the listener perspective on why science is important, and how it has infinite reach (to borrow a phrase from an earlier audiobook, THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY.) Being more accessible to the layman than David Deutsch’s masterpiece, Wootton's and Deutsch's books are both highly recommended for anyone wishing to refute bad philosophy and bad science with carefully reasoned logic. For most of recorded history mankind has struggled with conflicting beliefs, which in the present has led to much suffering as people get their identity from those beliefs and fight to force them onto others. “To err is human,” though, and so no one has ever been immune from fallacy, delusion, or ego. Curiosity is key to progress out of the morass, because if one is not curious enough to discover the truth, the problems remain and endlessly repeat. Yet these authors are optimistic because progress has always trumped ignorance wherever it has been applied. AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

SUCCESS AND LUCK by Robert Frank

SUCCESS AND LUCK by Robert Frank is a scientific examination of chance in business and personal success, with the subtitle: “Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy.” In it, Frank debunks the idea that hard work alone or “picking oneself up by one’s bootstraps” results in the vast fortunes acquired by many icons we often worship as role models. More likely, it is a combination of work and chance: a small advantage magnified over time, or a “nip slip” viral event, or (in the case of running races) a tailwind. Everything has to go right. Without her sex tape, Kim Kardashian would be unknown today. Without his dad, so would Trump. Even many music icons got a break without which they would now be unknown. Does this mean we should count on everything going right for us in multiple “lightning strike” chance incidents? Many in line at talent shows do hope for this, and some of those gave up traditional careers in medicine or education to do so. What is wrong with finding middle ground, a much more likely niche in which to do one's best? Not accepting this intensifies the inequity that is our winner-take-all economy. Robert Frank argues for a progressive consumption tax, which is actually beneficial to both rich and poor, since it negates the “arms race” that is building bigger and bigger houses (just like actual weapons races which have nearly bankrupted both the U.S. and Russia.) Since relative wealth is the goal, if one lowers the insanity by creating incentives (such as what the high tax rate in NY real estate does for billionaires there, making it acceptable to own more modest dwellings than they would in, say, Dallas) the progressive tax would save our economy trillions by freeing up money for investment and infrastructure.  Frank is economics professor at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, and a columnist for the NY Times. He narrates his own book.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day: Guns and Global Warming

Global warming’s physical impacts can be separated into three broad categories: melt, drought, and deluge. Award-winning journalist McKenzie Funk travels to two dozen countries to profile entrepreneurial people who see a potential windfall in each of these forces. The melt is a boon for newly arable, mineral rich regions of the Arctic, such as Greenland—and for the man-made snow trade. Drought creates opportunities for private firefighters working for insurance companies, as well as for fund managers backing south Sudanese warlords who control local  farmland. The deluge—rising seas, surging rivers, and superstorms—has been our most distant concern, but for Dutch architects designing floating cities and American scientists patenting hurricane defenses, the race is on. By letting climate change continue unchecked, we are choosing to adapt to a warming world. Containing the resulting surge will benefit some, but much of the planet will suffer. McKenzie Funk has investigated both sides, and what he has found will shock us all. McKenzie Funk is an award-winning magazine journalist and the author of WINDFALL. His writing has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Outside, and the New York Times.  Sean Runnette, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, has also directed and produced more than two hundred audiobooks, including several Audie Award winners. He is a member of the American Repertory Theater company and has toured the United States and internationally. Also, THE GUNNING OF AMERICA by Pamela Haag, a history of guns and gun culture in America.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs

Thank You for Arguing is your master class in the art of persuasion, taught by professors ranging from Bart Simpson to Winston Churchill. The time-tested secrets the book discloses include Cicero’s three-step strategy for moving an audience to action, plus Honest Abe’s shameless trick of lowering an audience’s expectations by pretending to be unpolished. It’s also replete with contemporary techniques such as politicians’ use of “code” language to appeal to specific groups and an eye-opening assortment of popular-culture dodges, including:
The Eddie Haskell Ploy
Eminem’s Rules of Decorum
The Belushi Paradigm
Stalin’s Timing Secret
The Yoda Technique

Whether you’re an inveterate lover of language books or just want to win a lot more anger-free arguments on the page, at the podium, or over a beer, Thank You for Arguing is written by one of today’s most popular online language mavens. It’s warm, witty, erudite, and enlightening, not only teaching you how to recognize a paralipsis and a chiasmus when you hear them, but also how to wield such handy and persuasive “weapons.” Jay Heinrichs spent twenty-six years working as a writer, editor, and publishing executive before heading to the North Woods and devoting most of his time to rhetoric. He currently gives frequent workshops to corporations, colleges, schools, and organizations. David Drummond has made his living as an actor for over twenty-five years, appearing on stages large and small throughout the country and in Seattle, Washington, his hometown. He has narrated over thirty audiobooks, in genres ranging from current political commentary to historical nonfiction, fantasy, military, thrillers, and humor.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dogfella, The Agency, and Andrew Dice Clay

THE AGENCY: The Devil Wears Prada meets Entourage in this sharp, glitzy ride through the backstabbing and ambitious world of a literary agent. Sassy super-agent Tess Drake has worked hard to make a name for herself in the glamorous yet cut-throat entertainment industry. As part of a multinational firm, she deals with some of the world’s biggest egos—and that's just those inside the agency. When Tess’ sworn enemy, Cosima Tate, takes over the firm after the mysterious death of a senior partner, Tess thinks it's time to get out and start her own agency. But to make it, she needs to take her biggest client with her—and Cosima is not about to let that happen. Money, power, pride, and personal vendettas are in play, and Cosmia will stop at nothing to see Tess go down in flames. With an unsolved murder investigation going, a secret affair to protect, and her career at stake, Tess is going to need plenty of guts to make it in this fast-paced, high-stakes game of risk and revenge. Can she jump ship and survive, or is she about to be crushed under Cosima’s stilettoed heel? Narrator Kate Reading is an Audie Award–winning narrator and has received numerous Earphones Awards. She is also a theater actor in the Washington, DC, area and has been a member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company since 1987. Her work onstage has been recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards Society, among others. News: Andrew Dice Clay has a new comeback show starting the day of this post. His biography is HERE. And DOGFELLA is the charming true story about an abused dog named Bruno that was found abandoned by a John Gotti mob boss—a dog that changed his life around. Narrated by Tom Perkins.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Courage of a Samurai

Who were the samurai, and how could a people dedicated to war and violence have such an impact on a culture known for its politeness, manners, and aesthetic beauty? The samurai warriors of ancient Japan lived by a moral and ethical code known as Bushido, “the way of the warrior.” This code of chivalry sculpted a culture and influenced all aspects of their lives and society. After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, the world witnessed the characteristics of Bushido, including courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty. THE COURAGE OF A SAMURAI presents these principles as a guide for navigating the challenges we all face with examples of individuals who exemplify their meaning in today’s world. Sharpen your sword, and let the journey begin! Lori Tsugawa Whaley is an author, professional keynote speaker, and life coach. She is a third-generation Japanese American baby boomer and a descendant of the samurai warrior; she is on a mission to empower others to reach their God-given leadership potential no matter their path, heritage, or circumstances. Whaley and her husband reside in a Japanese-style home in the Pacific Northwest. The audiobook is read by Sharon Sobie-Seymour, and is only $5.95 to rent for 30 days by clicking the Downpour box to the right. Question: do YOU have the courage to try it, and other audiobooks? If not, you will never know what you're missing. Even the Star Wars audiobook version of THE FORCE AWAKENS has scenes not in the movie, and which will spark your imagination as you listen on the road, at home, or walking and enjoying the mysterious Rubik's Cube we call life on this planet. --Jonathan Lowe