Tag Archives: books

Review of "iWoz" by Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith

iWoz is the sort of book I would have loved ten years ago, and indeed it’s the sort of material that makes for a great radio interview. If written in 1995, it would have been one of my favorite books of all time. As it is, Stephan Wozniak’s autobiography is a fine partial history of the era that saw the rise of the personal computer. It belongs in the same class as High Noon (about Sun Microsystems) and The Second Coming of Steve Jobs (about the Next-Apple transition). A step below true classics like Fire in the Valley, iWoz is quite good.


How He Founded Apple, Invented the Personal Computer, and Had Fun Doing it (, And Afterwards)

iWoz is broken into several large parts. The first section focuses mostly on Wozniak’s electric-logic experience, from earlier science fair experiments to an arpanet terminal that would eventually morph into the Apple I. These include early pranks and feature elements of obsession, sacrifices, humility, and geography that I would find as the basis of creativity in my series on Coming Anarchy. Woz’s systematic exploration of electronic circuitry would finally come together in the Apple II, a product he is quite proud of and truly one of the grandest achievements of the 1980s.

A second, gloomer half documents Steve’s inability to horizontally apply these skills to other aspects of his life. Two marriages fail and after the second he writes painfully of losing his house. Likewise, with grace and modesty Wozniak documents betrayals by Steve Jobs and poor treatment to the news media. Similarly, Wozniak documents the failures of his US Concerts to be either what he intended or profitable, and likewise his shortlived CL9 start-up firm.

In an earlier review of Robert Weisberg’s Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius, I criticized that author for his differentiating “horizontal” and “analogical” thinking. While Weisberg’s book retains many problems, this distinction is not one of them. While analogical thinking is the root of all creativity, horizontal thinking is worthless — expertise does not “translate” from one domain to another unless analogies help bridge those domains.

So all in all, iWoz is a very enjoyable book. It’s a fun guided tour of the early days of the Personal Computer, and has some valuable things to say along the way about the nature of creativity.

Haiku Book Reviews, Pretensious and Unhelpful, Arrogant blogging

Recently, I had the rare fortune of having a haiku poem in my honor, written by no less a poet than a a Chicagoist. It reads:

tdaxp
learned and dense yet cryptic
perfect for haiku

In honor of such an gift, below are short reviews of books I read during the recent break (in haiku form!). Enjoy!

Kingdom of Make Believe,” by Dean Barrett.


New York publisher
Visits Thai sister-in-law
The deaths have begun


Getting it Right,” by William F. Buckley, Jr.


Bill Buckley, Ayn Rand
The John Birch Society
Only one survives

The Emperor’s New Clothes,” by Joseph L. Graves read the tdaxp review)


Just call them racists.
Maybe that will shut them up
P.C. balderdash

The Scientist in the Crib,” by Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl (read the tdaxp review)


West Pole baby brains
Kantian learning machines
Ridley was better

Evolutionary Developmental Psychology,” by Bjorklund & Pellegrini (read the tdaxp review)


The genes make the man
Adaptations for his life
And for his children

My Secret,” by Frank Warren(read the tdaxp review)


From the angst ridden
Tales of human lives and lies
Through USPS

The Wary Cannibal

I was reading Hannibal Rising today when I realized that Hannibal Lecter, film’s most famous cannibal, is a Wary Guerrilla.

Wary Guerrillas are altruistic super-punishers. They accept absolute losses in order to avenge perceived injustices. They believe that society should speak in one voice and follow an eternal ethical code.

Hannibal Lecter is a particularly artistic wary guerrilla. Indeed, his orientation isn’t so much societal or political as it is aesthetic. Hannibal reacts strongly to violations of decorum and etiquette, often eating those he fiends bestial. While we often talk of the aestheticization of violence, Hannibal applies violence in the interests of a true, universal, and eternal aesthetic.

Interesting, no?

Review of "My Secret," edited by Frank Warren

Frank Warren’s PostSecret is an internet phenomynon, and I have been lucky to have followed it over the past few years. In November, 2005, I reviewed the website and the next month, following a gratis copy, I reviewed the PostSecret book. Now that Frank’s new book is out, the publisher kindly gave me a review copy.


My Secret: A PostSecret Book

I liked the book, but as My Secret seems focused on teenagers, I did not feel competent to write my own review. Fortunately, my friend Quiet Thoughts took a look at my copy and posted a review.

Frank Warren, a strong supporter of 1-800-SUICIDE has made a compelling composition of post cards from teenagers and young adults. Each page is an insight into a personality that is more compelling than mere letters. The appeal of a post card is indescribable. It is a mini work of art that shows a person’s personality and mood, and the snippets written on them are condensed letters that anyone can understand with one glance.

Some of the pages are more disturbing, though. I discovered the more macabre side of my personality through this book, because it was the darkest pages the riveted me the most. Confessions of self-destruction, painful longing for friendship, and even affirmations of being apathetic to others, were not in short supply.

Read the whole thing.

Notes on Summer Reading

Today I read the first section of the three books that are (unofficially) on the reading list for Genetic Politics, a class taught by an innovative researcher that I am looking forward too. I tried to take my notes by subject, and I have illuminated them with graphics when possible. The three portions I read were:

Interesting, Adapting Minds was featured on Gene Expression, a genetics blog that I have been frequenting. You can read more here, or over there.

Topic: Press Incompetence and Bias
bioimg3_md
“The refusal to acknowledge human nature is like the Victorians’ embarrassment about sex, only worse: ti distorts our science and scholarship, our public discourse, and our day-to-day lives.” (Pinker ix)
“‘Revealed: the secret of human behaviour,” read the banner headline in the British Sunday newspaper the Observer on 11 February 2001. ‘Environment, not genes, key to our acts.'” (Ridley 1)
“It [nature v. nurture] had divided fascists from communists as neatly as their politics.” (Ridley 3)
“For invoking nurture and nature, not nurture alone, these authors have been picketed, shouted down, subjected to searing invective in the press, even denounced in Congress.” (Pinker viii)
“During almost every wait in the supermarket checkout line, I would find reference to the evolutionary psychology of human mating on the covers of women’s and men’s magazines.” (Buller 3).
“I found that published criticisms of evolutionary psychology typically contained more vitriol than serious analysis of the reasoning and evidence behind the claims made by evolutionary psychologists… Accordingly, it was too easy to find critics attacking evolutionary psychology for its ‘directly political dimension’ and its ‘culturally pernicious’ political claims.” (Buller 4)


Topic: Identities of the Field
bioimg2_md
“This book i s about the moral, emotional, and political colorings of the concept of human nature in modern life.” (Pinker viii)
bioimg5_md
“The two sides of this argument are the nativists, whom I will sometimes call geneticists, hereditarians,, or naturians; and the empiricists, whom I will sometimes call environmentalists or nurturists.” (Ridley 3)
“A year’s research later, it was clear to me that there were distinctly different lines of research being conducted undre the ‘evolutionary psychology’ label…” (Buller 3)
“The term ‘evolutionary psychology’ is sometimes used simply as a shorthand for ‘the evolutionary study of mind and behavior’ or as a shorthand for theories ‘adopting an evolutionary perspective on human behavior and psychology.’ When used in these ways, ‘evolutionary psychology’ designates a field of inquiry… For fields of inquiry are defined not by specific sets of doctrines, but by sets of related questions. Fields of inquiry are
defined not by specific answers to questions, but by the importance they place on particular kinds of questions. Mayn researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology often deliberately resist the ‘evolutionary psychology’ label, however, preferring to calsify their work as, for example, human ethology, human behavioral ecology, or evolutionary anthropology.” (Buller 8)
“When the term ‘evolutionary psychology’ is used to designate only work conducted under the auspices of the above theoretical and methodological doctrines, the term designates what the late historical and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm…. The paradigm is the cluster of fundamental doctrines on which scientists agree, and once a paradigm emerges within a field of inquiry it provides a large number fo working scientists with a common research focus… a paradigm provides scientists with a shared theoretical understanding… a paradigm provides scientists with a shared set of methods… a paradigm involves one or more exemplays, which are specific examples of empirical research that the scientists working within the paradigm accept as significant achievements and as exemplary of how their science is to be done.” (Buller 10-11).
bioimg1_md

Topic: Nature v. Nurture
“Genes are designed to take their cues from nurture.” (Ridley 4)
“Human nature is indeed a combination of Darwin’s universals, Galton’s heredity, James’ instincts, De Vries’ genes, Pavlov’s reflexes, Watson’s associations, Kraepelin’s history, Freud’s formative experiences, Boas’s culture, Durkheim’s division of labor, Piaget’s development, and Lorenz’s imprinting.” (Ridley 6)
“The idea that nature and nurture interact to shape some part of the mind might turn out to be wrong, but it is not wishy-washy or unexceptionable, even in the twenty-first century, thousand of years after the issue was framed.” (Pinker viii).

Topic: Important Founders
“Charles Darwin: seek the character of man in the behavior of the ape… there are universal features
Francis Galton: fervent champion of heredity
William James: instinct and… human beings have more impulses than other animals, not fewer
Hugo De Vries: discovered the laws of heredity — beaten to them more than 30 years before by a Moravian monk named Gregor Mendel
Ivan Pavlov: empiricism.. the key to the human mind lies in the conditional reflex
Emil Kraepelin, Sigmund Freud: away from “biological” explanations and two very different notions of personal history
Emile Durkheim: reality of social facts as more than the sum of their parts
Franz Boas: culture shapes human nature
John Broadus Watson: “behaviorism” .. claim to be able to alter personality at will merely by training
Jean Piaget: imitation and learning
Konrad Lorenz: revive the study of instinct and describe the vital concept of imprinting
others: David Hume, Immanuel Kant, George Williams, William Hamilton, Noam Chomsky, Jane Goodall (Ridley 4-6)
bioimg0_md
“Robert Wright introduced many of the ideas of this paradigm to a broad audience with his 1994 book The Moral Animal… Steven Pinker articulated the theoretical underpinnings of the paradigm in two books written for a general audience, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate… David Buss introduced the public to many of the details of the sexier aspects of the paradigm in his books The Evolution of Desire… and The Dangerous Passion… this group f researches has been so effective in marketing gits paradigm that it has become the single most dominant paradigm within the field of evolutionary psychology… To repeat, this book is a critique of Evolutionary Psychology — the paradigm associated with thte work of Buss, Pinker, Cosmides, and Tooby, and Daly and Wilson.” (Buller 11-12)
bioimg4_md

Topic: Social Engineering
“The belief that human tastes are reversible cultural preferences has led social planners to write off people’s enjoyment or ornament, natural light, and human scale and force millions of people to live in drab cement boxes.” (Pinker x).

Books Biz Borrowed: The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell


I apologize for the lack of posts lately, but to be honest, Dan’s homework is a tough act to follow. I am okay with following yet another amazingly cognizent rant by Aaron though.

My path to this book involved a review for “” that said, “Diablo Cody is to stripping what Sarah Vowell is to American History. As a lover of both strippers and the history of America I was intrigued. I rushed to the library with my eyes filled with visions of well-filled American flag bikinis. In fairness to Diablo Cody, she put in more work for her book than Sarah Vowell probably ever has.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot is a collection of essays that tie in current events with political history and travel. writes like a that focuses less on quirky one-liners and more on making larger connections full of irony. Calling Lincoln our “American Jesus” and contrasting Ted Nugent with Rosa Parks, Vowell remains intelligent yet accessible, and communicates her points very eloquently.
I do find a flaw in this book that brings it down an inch or two in my own opinion. Sarah Vowell is billed as an American History writer, and the library has this book wedged between books chock full of Pearl Harbor and Appomattox. However, only about half give history more than a passing glance.

The saving grace for this book and the main reason I recommend it is in the titular essay. Written in December of 2001, Vowell makes a powerful statement on being American.

“And while I could shake my fists for sure at the terrorists on page one, buried domestic items could still make my stomach hurt–school prayer partisans taking advantage of the guilt of children to circumvent the seperation of church and state; the White House press secretary condemning a late-night talk show host for making a questionable remark about the U.S. military: “The reminder is to all Americans, that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and now is not a time for remarks like that.” Those are the sort of never-ending qualms that have turned me into the partly cloudy patriot I long not to be.”

Review Center for Chet Richards’ "Neither Shall the Sword"

My review of Chet Richards’ Neither Shall the Sword in three words? Buy this book.

neither_shall_the_sword

I expect a number of posts to come out of Neither Shall the Sword, and this page will serve as an guide to them. While I won’t give away the surprise ending on page 82, the most radical proposal in the book is for what Mark Safranski has called “free companies,” or in Dr. Richard’s words

An obvious solution for a grand strategy of rollback, and I believe the correct one, is to private the Sword/Leviathan function and put direct government resources into the more complex Sys Admin mission of construction, once Sword/Leviathan has done its job

Once again: buy this book.

Ishihara and Tanaka

Liberals in the lead,” The Economist, http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3562305, 13 January 2005.

Besides sadness and aikokushin, Japan’s also noted for hyper-interesting local politics

If all politics is local, then 2005 could be a big year politically for Japan. Throughout the year, 136 elections will be held in prefectures and big cities, along with more than 400 local ones in smaller towns. Local politicians have already been gaining prominence in recent years, with independent-minded governors such as Masayasu Kitagawa in Mie, Yasuo Tanaka in Nagano and Shintaro Ishihara in Tokyo grabbing headlines and upstaging national politicians and officials. If these trends continue in 2005, that will be a good indicator of the prospects for reform.

The article drones on and is not all that interesting, but the mentioning of distinctly-Japanese-rightist Ishihara and distinctly-Japanese-leftist was nice. The best introduction to these two monumental figures, both of whom have a shot at becoming Prime Minister, is found in Japan Unbound. From a press release:

Nathan profiles several leaders in culture and politics. We meet Yoshinori Kobayashi, a demagogue and ultranationalist cartoonist. His series called The Arrogant-ism Proclamations, informed by the notion that arrogance is the only antidote powerful enough to rouse Japan from its subservience to foreign ideologies and foreign interests, has sold more than twenty million volumes. Politicians like Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo and the country’s most powerful nationalist, and Yasuo Tanaka, hero and champion of the burgeoning Japanese left, are also featured.

In the book, Ishihara is a politician the American Right could love. Proudly patriotic and a defender of Taiwan’s interests, he’s also a “can-do” Governor of Japan’s largest prefecture. Yasuo is a polar opposite, comfortable with stuffed animals and schoolchildren. He leads a prefecture laden with debt from the Nagano Olympics.

What will Japan’s future hold? I have no idea. But with great work like Japan Unbound in the bookosphere, and The Economist‘s reporting, we will know in time.