Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Books Read

End of the year, so time for my annual accounting of books consumed for 2016!

The 2016 Book List
  1. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
  2. This Will Make You Smarter by John Brockman
  3. The Koran
  4. A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells
  5. Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
  6. Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden
  7. Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills (The Great Courses) by Professor Stephen Novella
  8. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  9. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
  10. The Higgs Boson and Beyond (The Great Courses) by Sean Carroll
  11. Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology by Kentaro Toyama
  12. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford
  13. The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross
  14. Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  15. The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses) by Prof. Robert Garland
  16. Revisionary by Jim C. Hines
  17. Chupacabra's Song by Jim C. Hines
  18. Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer
  19. Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft
  20. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer
  21. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
  22. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
  23. There Was No Jesus, There Is No God by Raphael Lataster
  24. The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems ... And Create More by Luke Dormehl
  25. Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists by Raphael Lataster w/ Richard Carrier
  26. Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart Ehrman
  27. Answers to Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life by Massimo Pigliucci
  28. The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
  29. The Ark: Children of the Dead Earth (Book One) by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  30. Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
  31. Trident's Forge: Children of the Dead (Book Two) by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  32. Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior by Bart Ehrman
  33. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  34. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
  35. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
  36. Extraordinary Zoology: Tales from the Monsternomicon, vol. 1 by Howard Tayler
  37. Mr. Monster by Dan Wells
  38. I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
  39. Partials by Dan Wells
  40. The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells
  41. Necessity by Jo Walton
  42. Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work That Matters, and Make Smart Choices About Giving Back by William MacAskill
  43. The Lady Astronaut Club by Mary Robinette Kowal (beta reader of draft edition)
  44. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (with commentary by Steven Barnes) (re-read)
  45. How Great Science Fiction Works (The Great Courses) by Prof. Gary K. Wolfe
  46. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

  • Audiobooks: 26
    • Audio courses: 4
  • Kindle: 13
    • Kindle shorts: 1
  • Google Docs: 1
  • Dead tree books: 6
  • Total Fiction: 22
    • Classics: 2
    • Science Fiction: 8
      • Young Adult: 2
    • Fantasy: 13
      • Horror: 3
  • Non-Fiction: 25
    • Science: 9
      • Physics: 3
      • Psychology: 1
      • Biology: 3
      • Technology: 4
      • Math/Statistics: 1
    • Religion: 8
    • History: 8
    • Politics: 5
    • Education: 1
    • Economics: 5
    • Business: 6
    • Philosophy: 7
    • Humor: 2
    • Writing/Creativity: 2
These numbers don't quite match up, because some books cover multiple areas, and so I've included them in all relevant categories. So, for example, a book on free will would fall in both Psychology and Philosophy (and possibly even Religion) categories.

Similarly, some books I read using Whispersynch-for-Voice to jump between the Amazon Kindle and Audible audiobook versions of the books, so they got double-counted in the format section. I've also included The Great Courses audios that I listen to through Though not actually books, I figure that a 10+ hour course on a subject contains about the same informational content, if not presented structurally in quite the same way as it would take in a written book.

The History

And for anyone who is interested in looking into the past to see some of my previous book lists...
Prior to 2008, I didn't keep a precise running record of the books that I read.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Why I Hope to Vote for Donald Trump in 2020

There has possibly been no political contest in my living history that I have felt more strongly about than this one, so the result that Donald Trump has been elected as President is really devastating. These aren't quite my first thoughts on this, because I had to get up, see my kids off to school, take my youngest to a doctor's appointment ... you know, the stuff of living that actually matters, far more than this political stuff.

But the political stuff matters, too, when people's healthcare, and their family's marital status, or ability to stay in this country, or the integrity of their control over their own bodies are on the line.

At about 10:50 last night, the results were coming in were devastating, and I convinced my wife to go to sleep rather than suffer through hours of stress watching the results come in.

I woke up at 4:00 am (because my phone went crazy with a bizarre series of junkmail texts) and saw that Donald Trump had won ... and could not get back to sleep.

I have been fundamentally wrong at every stage in this election, sure that the Republicans would nominate a reasonable candidate, and then sure that the American people would reject the man they eventually chose. I clearly had too much faith in the American people to make the moral choice - yes, the moral choice - in this election. I was wrong about what America would do.

Now, I find myself in the position of hoping that I am wrong. I truly hope that I'm wrong about the character of Donald Trump, that I have misinterpreted his statements that were strategic attempts to gain support and do not represent his actual views. I hope that he will be a centrist, with conservative economic policies and a concern for individual civil liberties.

I remember reading about President Bush's first advice to Barack Obama:
Trust yourself. And know that ultimately regardless of the day-to-day news cycles and the noise that the American people need their president to succeed, regardless of political party.
We are in the position where Donald Trump, along with the Republicans, have the run of the table. And, as much as I loathe the way he has run his campaign, and indeed his whole life, and the way the Republicans have handled themselves the last 8 years, I cannot wish the government abject failure.

Americans need a government that succeeds. We need economic and tax policies that promote jobs and growth. We need a President who can deftly maneuver the various threats to our national security and national interests.

And, much as I loathe President-Elect Trump's rhetoric during the campaign, I hope he rises to the challenge. I hope that the White House brings out the very best in him, in fact that he leads in such an exemplary fashion that in four years, when he runs for re-election in 2020, it is not primarily among rural white voters that back him, but that he has broad approval among women and African-American, LGBT, urban, and Latino populations, and that he has earned that because his policies are really working, and he's proven himself to be a thoughtful man with deft leadership.

I doubt this will happen ... but I truly have never hoped to be wrong more in my life.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On Scalia: Letter to Dan Coats

In this February 16 interview, Indiana Senator Dan Coats said that he didn't believe President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. Here is the point he made, in particular:
“I think that ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate,” Coats said. “But at that point, that person has to be evaluated in a non-partisan way, in my opinion. Does he have the experience? Does he or she have the criteria to be a justice? The temperament?"
He isn't alone. There's been a slew of this talk from Republicans, and some Republicans have actively broken ranks to say that Congress should do its job, including the definitely-not-pro-Obama Tea Party governor of Maine. While I'm willing to attribute this behavior strictly to political opportunism, and a real fear about losing strong conservative voices on the court, some have attributed far more sinister motives to the call.

The end result of all this, for me, was the following letter to Indiana Senator Dan Coats:
Dear Senator Coats,  
I was disappointed to read today that you had publicly expressed the desire to push off a decision on a Supreme Court nominee until after the election. In the interview you claimed that this was a desire that it "ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate."  
It occurs to me that this question has indeed been put to the American people twice, in 2008 and 2012. I voted for President Obama in both cases, but I'm non-partisan, and in each election I seriously considered all of the candidates. I intend to do so again this year, but I will confess that this sort of obstructionism on the part of Republicans is troublesome to me. If Republicans have a hope of winning over enough moderate voters in a general election to win the White House, they have to convince the American people that they can actually govern. 
In this case, that means allowing President Obama - whom the American people decided twice to be their president - to perform his duties for the fourth year of his second elected term. What it seems to me you are actually saying in the above quote is that you feel uncomfortable with the decision the American people made in 2012 and hope they make a different one this year. You are certainly free to be uncomfortable with it, but your Constitutional duty as a Senator is clear. If President Obama puts forth a qualified nominee, and Republicans obstruct it on purely political grounds, I suspect it will cast a very poor shadow on Republican prospects among moderates in the general election.  
I know it will for this moderate.  
Thank you for your time. 
I don't know if this sort of thing ultimately has any impact, but it seems good to have one's voice heard. You can leave a message for Indiana Senator Dan Coats here.