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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Smalltalk

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I wonder what percentage of my comics are just me scolding my younger self.

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Sly
159 days ago
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Planète Terre - Don't Panic
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Bones Speak

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Now that I can no longer have faith in all the beautiful things I once held dear, I've decided to go into finance.

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Sly
168 days ago
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Planète Terre - Don't Panic
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JayM
169 days ago
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Heh
Atlanta, GA

Irregular Webcomic! #1521 Rerun

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Comic #1521
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229 days ago
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Planète Terre - Don't Panic
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Pleasure Button

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Hey venture capitalists! I have an idea: New social media that ONLY shows you things that allow you to wallow in misery. As far as I can tell, that's what people want anyway.

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Wednesday Book Reviews!

(belated again, because I'm an idiot)

A Numerate Life (Paulos)

What a fun and strange little autobiography. Paulos is a mathematician and writer whose books I’ve enjoyed in the past. They’re word books, and they’re not for everyone. For instance, this book has a (quite clever!) section on transhumanist pickup lines.

You may ask what that’s doing in an autobiography. Well, this isn’t *really* an autobiography. It contains a few stories from Paulos’ life, but the bulk of the book is either digressions into topics that interest Paulos or discussions of why memoirs are probably mostly false, in that they rely on flawed memories and attempt to create cogent narratives of haphazard lives. In some ways it reads like a long chat with a beloved grandfather who’s quite quirky. All in all, the terrible puns notwithstanding, that’s a pretty good thing.

The Undoing Project (Lewis)

This book is a telling of the story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, as they created prospect theory, and all that came with it. On the one hand, this ground has already been covered in other books (including one by Kahmeman himself!), but on the other hand… it’s Michael Lewis. I dunno. It’s weird. Like finding out there’s yet another book about Einstein, but it was written by Mary Roach.

In any case, it’s definitely a fine book, and it contains a lot of information I was not aware of, including in depth discussion of the intellectual love affair and later falling out between Kahneman and Tversky. I’d have to say I recommend it if you’re not familiar with the topic. Lewis always writes well, and the subject matter is interesting. But, if you’re in any way up to date on this stuff, a lot of the stories will be familiar to you.

We Have No Idea (Cham, Whiteson)

I’m trying to figure out how I should handle books by people I know, given that it means I’m not a reliable source. I think from now on, I need to just have a blanket caveat.

So, here goes: I know the author (one of them, anyway) so I am not a reliable source.

Bam. OK, so this is a sort of quick primer on all sorts of areas of particle physics and cosmology where we don’t have a good sense of what’s going on, such as with Dark Energy or the nature of time. It is peppered with jokes and comics to lighten things up a bit. So, if you’re a fan of Jorge Cham and want to learn some physics of the universe, I recommend it!

A Contract With God (Eisner)

I think this book must be read as a historical document, as it’s sometimes considered the first serious graphic novel. Given that pedigree, it’s interesting to point out that the book is in fact somewhat transitional between books and comics, containing large sections of (hand-drawn) text, with somewhat simple drawings. I didn’t find the stories themselves particularly amazing (sorry if that’s heretical to say!) but they aren’t bad, and they are well drawn. And, as a window into the history of comics, it’s quite good. Incidentally, if you are interested in the history of Jewish New York, there’s a lot here for you as well.




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Sly
255 days ago
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Path of a Hero

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On the other hand, without adventurers, the entire brigand economy would collapse.

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Sly
328 days ago
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josephwebster
327 days ago
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Heros and survivor bias
Denver, CO, USA
JayM
328 days ago
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Heh.
Atlanta, GA

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A New Debate Format

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Networks: I am prepared to direct this pilot at a moment's notice.

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BOOK REVIEWS!

 

I had to stop the experiment for a bit because I wasn't getting much reading done while finishing up a project. But, I'm back on track, and I'm going to try to run weekly book reviews from here on out.

 

For transparency: If you click the links below, for the next 24 hours, if you buy something on amazon, SMBC gets a small payment. So, basically, if one of the books below looks tempting, we'd appreciate if you clicked the link before buying.

 

This is a new thing we're doing, so if you have any thoughts on how it can be improved, please let us know.

 

 

Aug 17 - Shocked (Casarett)

 

A quick bit of history and science on the topic of bringing humans back from the brink of death. It’s a quick read, with a lot of dorky humor injected. It’s not bad, and there are a lot of neat stories and weird science, but it kind of felt like it was Not Quite Mary Roach. Still, fun if you’re interested in the topic.

 

Verdict: 3/5

 

Aug 20 - Red Notice (Browder)

 

An INSANE memoir about Browder’s life in high finance, going on adventures making crazy deals as the Soviet Union collapses and breaks apart. Making deals required him to go to strange places and repeatedly risk being assassinated. He sounds like he’s totally nuts, but it’s a hell of a story.

 

Verdict: 4/5

 

Aug 25 - The Conundrum (Owen)

 

An interesting book. It starts with the economic observation that efficiency (which theoretically is good for the environment) often leads to increased consumption (which is probably bad for the environment). Owen suggests that if efficiency tends to lead us to consume more, the only way to save the environment is to reduce our lifestyles.

 

I don’t buy everything he’s saying, but I think it’s a very interesting argument that’s worth confronting.

 

Verdict: 3.5/5

 

Aug 27 - Woe to Live On (Woodrell)

 

A great novel about a group of Confederate soldiers, written with a lot of realism and depth. An interesting feature of this book is that it’s stylistically very 19th century, but it yet contains the violence and sex that tend to be elided in actual books from that period.

 

Verdict: 5/5

 

Sept 1 - How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything (Brooks)

 

This was a pretty excellent book. It’s a sort of combination of a memoir of Rosa Brooks’ time in the Pentagon, along with the history and psychology of how (according to her) our relationship to war has changed for the worse in recent times.

 

Verdict: 3.5/5

 

Sept 3 - White Trash (Isenberg)

 

A good historiography of poor whites in the history of the United States, and how they tend to be viewed by cultural elites. I felt like it got a bit less compelling as we got to modern times, but maybe that’s just because I’m more familiar with life now than life 300 years ago.

 

Verdict: 3/5

 

Sept 5 - Eye in the Sky (Dick)

 

Like a lot of these early Philip K Dick novels, I feel like it’s a cool idea and a well-developed world, but the execution is really hokey.

 

The plot is about a bunch of people who get zapped by a high energy beam, who then somehow start serially inhabiting each other’s consciousnesses. Each such universe contains the strange biases of its consciousness. It’s fun, but it’s really just 1950s pulp stuff, despite the clever premise.

 

Verdict: 2/5

 

Sept 6 - Messy (Harford)

 

A fun little book on how interesting ideas often come from what Harford refers to as “messy” situations, in the broad sense of (supposedly) non-ideal creative environments. It contains a lot of fun stories ranging from musicians to scientists.

 

Verdict: This book is written by an author I have met personally, and I’ve decided my policy on such reviews is that I won’t list a number verdict.

 

Sept 7 - The Man Who Japed (Dick)

 

A dystopia story about a sort of puritanical world, only the puritanical culture stems from something like suburban American cultural norms circa 1950. It’s all right. Dick has so many stories about controlling prudish middle-aged women that I’m starting to wonder if the character isn’t based on someone real.

 

Verdict: 2.5

 

Sept 9 - The Broken Bubble (Dick)

 

Now this is something interesting! It’s Philip K Dick, but not science fiction, and it wasn’t published until after his death. Early on in his career, Dick wrote literary fiction, and I would say this is the best one I’ve read so far. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. It’s a story about two couples - one very young and accidentally pregnant, and one divorced because they were unable to conceive. The dynamics are really interesting, but it lacks the subtlety and depth that Dick would later develop. I found myself wishing he had come back to this novel later in life.

 

Verdict: 3/5

 

Sept 14 - The End of the Cold War (Service)

 

A very enjoyable and in depth history of the last six years of the USSR. The only part that was slightly odd was that now and then he seemed to really fanboy over Ronald Reagan. I certainly don’t mind reading history books from people with political views (because the alternative doesn’t exist), but it felt out of place in such a long meticulous work of history. Still, quite good!

 

3.5/5




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360 days ago
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Planète Terre - Don't Panic
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