What are you reading?
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Philo Offline yiff yap

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5th September 2014 04:28 PM
Post: #451
Currently reading:

Homosexual Desire by Guy Hocquenghem
The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass (1891 aka "deathbed" edition) by Walt Whitman
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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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26th November 2014 05:04 PM
Post: #452
Been reading some Haruki Murakami lately. His books create an excellent atmosphere of everyday surreality. Like, he describes really surreal and fantastical things happening, but manages to do so in a way that makes it sound like he's describing something perfectly ordinary.

"Kafka on the Shore" in particular is a masterpiece.
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Philo Offline yiff yap

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4th January 2015 10:02 PM
Post: #453
Books:

The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong with Banking and What to Do About It by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig
Scientific Realism: Selected Essays of Mario Bunge by Mario Bunge, ed. Martin Mahner
Realism and Truth by Michael Devitt
Ethics, Persuasion, and Truth by J.J.C. Smart
How Asia Works by Joe Studwell

Research articles:

"The Mismeasure of Machine: Synthetic biology and the trouble with engineering metaphors" by Maarten Boudry and Massimo Pigliucci
"Nonsense and Illusions of Thought" by Herman Cappelen
"Dewey and the Subject Matter of Science" by Peter Godfrey-Smith
"Freedom in the Market" by Philip Pettit
"Truth by Convetion" by W.V.O. Quine

To-read (books):

Philosophy Without Intuitions by Herman Cappelen
Coming to Our Senses: A Naturalistic Program for Semantic Localism by Michael Devitt
Environmental Debt by Amy Larkin
The Metaphysics Within Physics by Tim Maudlin
Just Freedom by Philip Pettit
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Jarvellis Offline Great Grey Wolf

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28th January 2015 01:05 AM
Post: #454
Been reading a lot more lately. Recently read:
  • Brass Man and Polity Agent by Neal Asher
  • The History and Origins of Druidism by Lewis Spence
  • Small Gods and Mort by Terry Pratchett
  • Tsotsi by Athol Fugard (though I heavily disliked it)
  • Kaz The Minotaur by Richard A. Knaak
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (thoroughly enjoyed this and I don't tend to do thriller novels)
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • Various Lovecraft stories (currently reading)
  • Celtic Myths by Jake Jackson (currently reading)

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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14th March 2015 09:09 PM
Post: #455
As I started reading Murakami's "Norwegian Wood" a couple of days ago, I was unsure whether I'd like it, because I knew it had none of the surrealistic or supernatural elements his other works have.

Just finished reading the book, and my worries were in vain. An excellent story about isolation and alienation. Competes with "Kafka" on my list of favorite Murakami novels.
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Annoyance Offline Resident Cosplayer

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15th March 2015 12:30 AM
Post: #456
(14th March 2015 09:09 PM)Paracelsus Wrote:  As I started reading Murakami's "Norwegian Wood" a couple of days ago, I was unsure whether I'd like it, because I knew it had none of the surrealistic or supernatural elements his other works have.

Just finished reading the book, and my worries were in vain. An excellent story about isolation and alienation. Competes with "Kafka" on my list of favorite Murakami novels.
Glad you like it! I'm still a bit more than halfway.
It's an excellent representation of mental illness for its time.
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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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15th March 2015 12:34 AM
Post: #457
(15th March 2015 12:30 AM)Annoyance Wrote:  Glad you like it! I'm still a bit more than halfway.
It's an excellent representation of mental illness for its time.

That, too.

Really refreshing to read a novel that doesn't really focus on mental illnesses per se, yet still doesn't fall victim to the usual clichés.
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Roth Offline Baeven

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3rd July 2015 11:25 PM
Post: #458
Starting on Lord of the Flies now.

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Selene Offline I Am Not What I Am

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7th July 2015 11:09 AM
Post: #459
Currently wrapping up The Brothers Karamazov (on the Epilogue now). Overall, I found Crime and Punishment to be superior to this, even if that's seemingly opposite of the view that most hold. mlp-tshrug

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Kadae Offline Wandering Tea Salespony

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7th July 2015 11:45 AM
Post: #460
I'm currently two thirds of the way through The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and I have to say, this is easily one of the funniest books I've ever read! I can't remember the last time I cried this much due to uncontrollable laughter.

If you've ever seen The Room, I'd wholly recommend it.
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Philo Offline yiff yap

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7th July 2015 03:34 PM
Post: #461
Been reading a bunch of research articles. Current books:

For Work
Clark, James. Models for Ecological Data.
Foster, Mercedes S. and Bills, Gerald F. Biodiversity of Fungi.

For Fun
Harman, Gilbert and Kulkarni, Sanjeev. Reliable Reasoning
Jackendoff, Ray. A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning
White, Edmund. Caracole

Some good papers I read recently

Ellis et al. "Character displacement and the evolution of niche complementarity in a model biofilm community"
Gigerenzer, Gerd and Gaissmaier, Wolfgang. "Heuristic Decision Making."
Sun, Ron. "Theoretical status of computational cognitive modeling."
(This post was last modified: 7th July 2015 03:41 PM by Philo.)
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Roth Offline Baeven

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7th July 2015 07:10 PM
Post: #462
(3rd July 2015 11:25 PM)Chaos Wrote:  Starting on Lord of the Flies now.

I finished this Saturday. Now I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye.

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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7th July 2015 09:47 PM
Post: #463
Been reading some Camus lately. "L'Etranger" is pretty magnificent, though "La Peste" doesn't seem to bad so far either.
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Shade Offline

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10th August 2015 08:54 PM
Post: #464
I'm (regrettably slowly due to other hobbies) making my way through four different fantasy series.

Discworld: Currently at book #5. I am in love with Pratchett's writing style, which I might have mentioned before, but it will never not be relevant.

Wheel of Time: A friend got me into this. Beforehand, I'd written it off as generic, but after reading three books, the characters and the world has really grown on me.

A Song of Ice and Fire: I had to keep up with this in some way, after all. Sa-v I think I just finished book six or something, but the nearby bookstore and library has this really weird thing with dividing each book into several smaller books, so I'm honestly not quite sure how far I am.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy: I read the first one waaay back when and I really liked it. I have now gotten the rest and I'm somewhere early on in the second book.

I also recently finished what books there are in The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. They're amazing, I'd recommend them to anyone.
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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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10th August 2015 10:00 PM
Post: #465
Been gettin' into "The Dresden Files" lately.

I don't want to say anything hasty since I'm only just finishing up the fourth book, but this might be among by top three most favorite fantasy series.
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Sith_Dreamer Offline I made room for the cupcakes!

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11th August 2015 08:14 AM
Post: #466
I just finished "The Scarlet Gospels" by Clive Barker, aka his farewell to the Pinhead character from the Hellbound Heart/ Hellraiser films. It wasn't bad, but it was much more anticlimactic than I thought it would be. Still, it had an extremely epic battle I was not expecting, and that alone made the climax of the book awesome.
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Kadae Offline Wandering Tea Salespony

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11th August 2015 08:32 AM
Post: #467
(7th July 2015 11:45 AM)Kadae Wrote:  I'm currently two thirds of the way through The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and I have to say, this is easily one of the funniest books I've ever read! I can't remember the last time I cried this much due to uncontrollable laughter.

Finished this a little while ago. My overall thoughts on it remain unchanged.

I'm going to start re-reading Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy very soon, so that'll be a bunch of fun! After that, I might read Lolita again.

mlp-tbob
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Nina Offline No.1

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11th September 2015 12:24 PM
Post: #468
I got The Silmarillion for my birthday so I'm reading it again. I'm really enjoying it.

I feel like this is the book that my love for anything with overly detailed lore stems from
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Jarvellis Offline Great Grey Wolf

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10th October 2015 05:08 PM
Post: #469
Been doing a lot of reading lately, especially while on holiday:
  • Reaper Man and Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
  • Line War by Neal Asher (finally finished this series of his, great ending to it)
  • Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch
  • The Book of the Dead translated by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Damiano, Damiano's Lute, and Raphael by R.A. Macavoy
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by R.L. Stevenson
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (awfully written book, film adaptation is probably better)
  • Fear of De Sade by Bernardo Carvalho
  • Bête by Adam Roberts
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
  • Valhalla by Ari Bach
  • Horns by Joe Hill (Currently reading)

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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10th October 2015 05:11 PM
Post: #470
(10th October 2015 05:08 PM)Jarvellis Wrote:  [*]Horns by Joe Hill (Currently reading)

I really like that book, and Hill's works in general.

His way of making supernatural horror stories that are more about the protagonists' struggling with themselves and growing as people than the ghouls and ghastlies appeals to me.
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Xinder Offline CORRECTION COUNTER: 131

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10th October 2015 09:04 PM
Post: #471
I actually finished Brave New World finally. I have to say, I very much enjoyed that book.

I won't say anything about it really because i think there are already hundreds of high school book reports on it.

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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10th October 2015 09:08 PM
Post: #472
(10th October 2015 09:04 PM)Xinder Wrote:  I actually finished Brave New World finally. I have to say, I very much enjoyed that book.

I won't say anything about it really because i think there are already hundreds of high school book reports on it.

Even so, the one thing I want to ask you is: did you see the society portrayed in the book as more of a dystopia, or as more of a utopia?
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Xinder Offline CORRECTION COUNTER: 131

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10th October 2015 09:15 PM
Post: #473
(10th October 2015 09:08 PM)Paracelsus Wrote:  Even so, the one thing I want to ask you is: did you see the society portrayed in the book as more of a dystopia, or as more of a utopia?

i think that really depends on your point of view, and the book did a good job showing that. there's no suffering and everything is as efficient as possible, but it's also a world completely lacking in passion.

so personally, i'd say it's a dystopia. but one of the more acceptable ones i guess?

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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10th October 2015 09:21 PM
Post: #474
(10th October 2015 09:15 PM)Xinder Wrote:  i think that really depends on your point of view, and the book did a good job showing that. there's no suffering and everything is as efficient as possible, but it's also a world completely lacking in passion.

so personally, i'd say it's a dystopia. but one of the more acceptable ones i guess?

I am still a bit unsure how to think of it. On one hand, it sort of lacks in personal freedoms, which I value greatly. But on the other hand, those personal freedoms are just tools with which to find your personal happiness, so if everyone in the society is happy (in a way), freedoms are a bit irrelevant.
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Xinder Offline CORRECTION COUNTER: 131

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10th October 2015 09:22 PM
Post: #475
i don't know how one can be truly happy without passion, though. you need to care about something or someone. i feel like there's more to happiness than not being unhappy. their society is built around preventing anyone from feeling strongly about anything or anyone, which just feels sad to me.

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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10th October 2015 09:31 PM
Post: #476
(10th October 2015 09:22 PM)Xinder Wrote:  i don't know how one can be truly happy without passion, though. you need to care about something or someone. i feel like there's more to happiness than not being unhappy. their society is built around preventing anyone from feeling strongly about anything or anyone, which just feels sad to me.

Feeling strongly about things makes you despair or feel enraged or such too, though. Also, it makes people hate one another.

While in ordinary conditions I wholeheartedly accept these as the unfortunate but minor side effects of a free society, in a situation where a miracle drug would make everyone feel a content, it makes me uncertain.
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Xinder Offline CORRECTION COUNTER: 131

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10th October 2015 09:37 PM
Post: #477
(10th October 2015 09:31 PM)Paracelsus Wrote:  Feeling strongly about things makes you despair or feel enraged or such too, though. Also, it makes people hate one another.

While in ordinary conditions I wholeheartedly accept these as the unfortunate but minor side effects of a free society, in a situation where a miracle drug would make everyone feel a content, it makes me uncertain.

Despair, rage and hatred are all part of the human condition though. Forcibly removing them makes people less than human, in my opinion. Miracle drugs to make you content also just bother me on an intrinsic level. Even without side effects, it feels like having your emotions neutered.

From my perspective, the value of being yourself, flaws and all, is more important to maintaining humanity than making sure nobody is unhappy. Happiness that you "earn" (as opposed to tricking your brain) is more powerful than mere contentedness.

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Jarvellis Offline Great Grey Wolf

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18th December 2015 08:58 PM
Post: #478
(10th October 2015 05:08 PM)Jarvellis Wrote:  The Woman in Black[/i] by Susan Hill (awfully written book, film adaptation is probably better)

Saw the film and I was right, I'd suggest anyone interested in the book just watches the film, it has a much more solid plot and there are actual dangers rather than just "spooky things happen".

Quote:Horns [/i]by Joe Hill (Currently reading)

Also finished reading this, really enjoyed it. It also has a good film adaptation.
I thought that this time maybe I should give a brief synopsis and opinion on the book I've read rather than just listing them:

The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals by Anton Szandor LaVey
The books that contain the philosophies of LaVeyian Satanism and some of the workings of The Church of Satan. I found it to raise a lot of interesting and though provoking questions, especially on the modernisation of religions, even if I didn't necessarily agree with them all.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A dystopian novel set in future Britain during a time of high levels of criminal activity amongst youths. The story follows one of these criminals, Alex, who narrates his life and his forceful rehabilitation. A very interesting satire put across through the world-building of the dystopia it's set in, however I found that due to the narrator speaking in heavy slang throughout the entire novel made it rather hard to read.

The Darkening by Stephen M. Irwin
A horror novel about a man named Nick who returns from England to his home country of Australia after the sudden death of his wife. This recent tragedy also brings fresh to mind how 30 years ago his childhood friend was murdered in the woods near his home. Shortly after his return, another child is murdered in the woods that bares very similar details to the death of his friend. A very chilling novel that can really paint a good picture. There were quite a few times it really got to me, as Nick has a couple phobias in common with me.

Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy
A modern day (for the time of writing) fantasy novel about a woman named Martha searching for her missing daughter, Elizabeth, a computer programmer. Before going to investigate, she meets a man named Mayland in the hotel she's staying in, who claims to have lived previously as a Chinese dragon for over 2000 years, and is skilled in languages. He decides to put this skill to use in understanding computer programming in order to assist her. A very charming novel with equally charming characters, most of my favourite parts was when the two protagonists just got a chance to talk with each other.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
A horror novel about an ageing rock star named Judas Coyne, who spends his retirement as a collector of the macabre, such as occult artefacts, genuine bones, and even a real snuff film. He is directed to an online auction of a dead man's suit who the seller claims is tied to a ghost, which he immediately buys, not realising the ghost is in fact real and very hostile. This author might be becoming a favourite of mine. A very well written plot that has more layers than the synopsis suggests with some really interesting and complex characters that make me care for them all the more.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness & Siobhan Dowd
A children's fantasy novel about a 13 year old boy called Conor who has started to suffer nightmares of a monster ever since his mother was diagnosed with cancer. The novel begins when Conor begins to experience the nightmare again, but this time a different monster comes to visit him. This monster wants to tell him three stories, and in return asks that Conor tells him one back, which he only refers to as "the truth". I didn't actually realise this was designed as a children's novel until after I had read it, I think it's still a good read for older audiences. It seems to get across very well how it can be frustrating to deal with things such as terminal illnesses in the family at a young age.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
The fictional memoirs of a young man who has developed a mental illness (the specific one is only hinted at at first) after witnessing the death of his older brother as a child. A very interesting character that seems to accurately portray how one can manage with certain mental illnesses. It's heartfelt without romanticising it or skipping over the parts that show him as rather cynical at times.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
The fourth Death novel in the Discworld series, the story follows Death as he takes over the Hogfather's (Discworld's Santa) job after he disappears. Probably my favourite so far of the Death novels, I found the plot to be really clever and it introduced a lot of very funny characters.

Aliens: The Labyrinth by S.D. Perry
A horror sci-fi novel in the Alien series which follows Dr. Crespi, a military scientist, who desires to work for Dr. Church, a fellow scientist who has made remarkable discoveries after insanely dangerous experimentations on Xenomorph subjects. I was unsure at first how much I was going to enjoy this because I had no idea of the common opinion of the quality of the Alien novels, but I found it to be one of the most unpredictable books I've read, kept me guessing until the very end.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
A series of dystopian action novels about the lower class citizens of the country of Panem being forced to submit a selection of their children to large scale gladiatorial events. All I really have to say is that they are definitely deserving of their reputation. I'm glad I finally got around to reading them.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
A transgressive and satirical novel narrated by the protagonist Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street businessman and psychopathic serial killer, following his day-to-day life in his mid twenties. A highly interesting read if you're interested in viewing how his mental health effects his thinking, or in the satire on yuppie culture, but it is a rather dense novel that might bore people who are not. If the general concept interests you still, I'd recommend the film which is a classic in it's own rights too.

My Sweet Satan by Peter Cawdron
A horror sci-fi novel about a future manned NASA mission to investigate a moon that orbits Saturn in a very unusual way, and one that caused the destruction of a passing by probe. The story follows an astronaut named Jasmine who suffers severe amnesia after her emerging from deep-sleep. Her and the other 5 astronauts are informed upon awakening that their mission is cancelled after NASA managed to recover a signal that was transmitted from the moon to the probe before it was destroyed. The only part that can be made out is a serpentine voice that says "Here's to my sweet Satan. I... I want to live and die for you, my glorious Satan". I really liked the concept of this novel because it reminded me of nightmares I've actually had so it was pretty chilling for me, and it had a couple of very well written characters that made me feel instantly attached to them.

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Annoyance Offline Resident Cosplayer

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24th December 2015 11:35 AM
Post: #479
I recently finished 1Q84 and I'm so proud of myself. That book was sometimes a challenge to get through but it was so enjoyable and rewarding. Tamaru is my fave babe.
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Nina Offline No.1

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25th February 2016 11:44 AM
Post: #480
I'm finally in the process of reading Lord of the Flies. I'm enjoying it so far.

I'd love to read more books in general but I'm not sure where to start with finding ones that interest me. Fortunately I've missed out on a ton of classics so I can just make my way up from there.
(This post was last modified: 25th February 2016 11:51 AM by Nina.)
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Jarvellis Offline Great Grey Wolf

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25th February 2016 02:13 PM
Post: #481
(25th February 2016 11:44 AM)Nina Wrote:  I'm finally in the process of reading Lord of the Flies. I'm enjoying it so far.

I'd love to read more books in general but I'm not sure where to start with finding ones that interest me. Fortunately I've missed out on a ton of classics so I can just make my way up from there.

If you use an e-reader a good way to find a lot of old classics is to just go onto Amazon's Kindle Store and type in 'Public Domain' for a lot of the free stuff.

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Philo Offline yiff yap

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25th February 2016 03:28 PM
Post: #482
For School

William Wordsworth - The Prelude

Gigantic philosophical/autobiographical poem by Wordsworth, one of the great works of English Romanticism.

Percy Bysshe Shelley - Shelley's Poetry and Prose: Norton Critical Edition

Big scholarly compendium of Shelley's writings, which also includes academic articles on Shelley. For my research project for a literature class.

James Bieri - Percy Bysshe Shelley

The definitive scholarly biography of Shelley.

Steven Strogatz - Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos

Exactly what it says on the tin. Textbook on chaos, complex systems, nonlinear dynamical systems.

V.I. Arnold - Ordinary Differential Equations

We're using this for a "second look" at basic differential equations to complement our more advanced dynamical systems material. Soviet classic. This is an amazing book.

Samuel Karlin and H.M. Taylor - A First Course in Stochastic Processes

Again, exactly what it sounds like. I actually did a decent amount of stochastic processes last semester in my independent study, but this is for class.

Larry Wasserman - All of Statistics

We're using this as our statistics reference/refresher in mathematical modeling, and believe it or not it manages to almost live up to its title. Very comprehensive yet concise. Leans towards classical/frequentist methods so I'd be interested in getting a more Bayesian perspective, but this is one of the best classical statistics texts I've read, along with Cox and Donnelly's Principles of Applied Statistics.

John Hennessy and David Patterson - Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach

The industry standard computer architecture book as far as I can tell. Presumes familiarity with the basics like constructing ALUs from logic gates and the like. We covered that stuff rather quickly at the beginning of the semester for those who hadn't seen it or needed a refresher but didn't use a book.

Cormen et al. - Algorithms

Using this for my theory of computation independent study. Classic reference.

Christopher Moore and Mertens - The Nature of Computation

The main attraction for my theory of computation independent study. Really unusual book, with integration of many topics and an informal style that actually reads as easily as a popular book, but is a proper textbook. It's amazing.

Sanjeev Arora and Boaz Barak - Computational Complexity: A Modern Approach

Supplementary textbook for my theory of computation independent study.

Personal

Saunders Mac Lane - Mathematics: Form and Function

A legendary book that provides a synoptic view of mathematics, with an eye to its nature and foundations, from the category-theory and abstract-algebra oriented perspective that is increasingly dominant, rather than the classic ZFC set-theoretic view of the early 20th century. One of the best mathematics books I've ever read. Warning, despite the title this is not a popular book, requires solid mathematical background.

A.D. Aleksandrov, A.N. Kolmogorov, and M.A. Lavrentev eds. - Mathematics: Its Content, Methods, and Meaning.

A truly incredible Soviet classic. It's a collection of review/overview articles on various parts of mathematics, each authored by one of the great Soviet mathematicians on the subject and edited by some of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, including Kolmogorov, one of my scientific heroes. Includes some of the clearest, most elegant expositions of certain subjects I've seen, like Gelfand on functional analysis. Not really suitable as a textbook since there's not much in the way of exercises and the chapters vary in comprehensiveness, but good for getting a general feel for a topic.

Trevor Hastie, Robert Tibshirani, and Jerome Friedman - The Elements of Statistical Learning

Slowly working my way through the industry-standard book on statistical learning theory, a big part of the statistical/mathematical underpinning of machine learning. I've fallen in love with machine learning, AI, computational statistics/inference and the like. It truly lies at the intersection of the things I'm interested in.

Gilbert Harman and Sanjeev Kulkarni - Reliable Reasoning

A short, sweet, and fascinating book on the intersection of philosophy and machine learning. It's a first pass at treating the theoretical aspects of machine learning as a rigorous approach to the notion of reliability in philosophy, which is part and parcel of an approach to epistemology known as reliabilism, the tl;dr version of which is that claims are justified if generated by a "reliable" process. Statistical learning, computational learning etc. can help, along with fields like cognitive science, make rigorous the notion of "reliable."

John Carey - What Good are the Arts?

Nice as a change of pace from all the technical stuff, this is one of the best works of art criticism/theory I've ever read. It completely tears apart the notion that artistic "quality" is anything other than personal preference as well as the idea that art "makes us better people." For Carey, art is of purely personal value, but therefore of enormous value, just not for the reasons touted by many tut-tutters.

He also has an intriguing argument, although I don't ultimately agree, that literature is the best art (not in the sense of aesthetic quality, but in terms of being a socially etc. valuable activity) because it is the most capable of persuasion and reasoning, rather than merely emotional influence, and synthesizes the aesthetic and the rational better than any other art.

Ken MacLeod - The Cassini Division

Philosophical anarcho-communist hard sci fi. Want an incredibly written and yet somehow super easily-readable novel about founding socialism on material self-interest, the nature of technological progress, AI, etc.? This is your book.

Greg Bear - The Forge of God

One of the most eerie and haunting sci-fi books I've read. I can't say much without ruining it but basically it's a tragedy that involves eerie and increasingly terrifying hints of what is to come, with masterful gradual buildup.
(This post was last modified: 25th February 2016 03:34 PM by Philo.)
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Nina Offline No.1

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25th February 2016 04:34 PM
Post: #483
(25th February 2016 02:13 PM)Jarvellis Wrote:  If you use an e-reader a good way to find a lot of old classics is to just go onto Amazon's Kindle Store and type in 'Public Domain' for a lot of the free stuff.

Nah I'll probably have to rely on just a regular library
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Xinder Offline CORRECTION COUNTER: 131

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25th February 2016 05:15 PM
Post: #484
His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

honestly i read the first book in middle school and the second book midway through high school so my memory of the series is hazy at best, but the end of the trilogy is standing fine mostly on its own. i definitely wouldn't recommend people to start here, but i am enjoying it despite my hazy memory of the setting and earlier plot.

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Steb Offline Hope

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28th February 2016 04:51 PM
Post: #485
I've been reading American Psycho on and off ever since I realised the copy I got for christmas wasn't completely ruined when my room flooded, and we've also been doing Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams in English. Been enjoying both of them.

Get a drink
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(This post was last modified: 28th February 2016 04:54 PM by Steb.)
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Jarvellis Offline Great Grey Wolf

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16th March 2016 03:03 AM
Post: #486
The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque
A historical novel set in Germany during the early 1920's hyperinflation crisis following the first world war. It follows a young veteran who works as a tombstone designer, and a collection of other characters including a young woman in an asylum for dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia whom he falls in love with. I wouldn't call this book a story in the traditional sense, in this novel Erich tells a setting rather than a story, and it's a fantastic insight into the time period by showing how these characters react to it and their philosophies on war, the rise of Nazism, business in the inflation etc.

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A Gothic mystery novel about a boarding school student in Barcelona who befriends a local girl and her German father. The story follows the two kids as they try to understand why a black-veiled woman leaves a rose weekly in a hidden cemetery, and the connections to the person buried there. It's kinda hard to really give a good overview of the story without spoilers but it's a really nice modern take on the gothic style of old akin to Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson etc. It has a lot of depth to it that nicely goes beyond the main plot.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
The first two of a series of crime novels following an investigative journalist for a Swedish political magazine, and a brilliant hacker working as an investigator for a security group. I won't go too far into the stories themselves because they are very complicated, but I will say these deserve the amazing reputation they have. Larsson's work on characters is especially phenomenal in my opinion, and is particularly great at writing women. I'm also glad that with the titular character, a lot of tropes involving a rather standoutish and gothic woman that I really hate (such as them 'maturing' by learning to conform to society's standards) are avoided. Do not be put off by the start of the first novel though, the second chapter is really really boring, but it does contain information that's needed. Get through that, and the rest is gold.

Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwich
A short horror story about a haunting at a girl's boarding school on the anniversary of a student's death. I don't have anything good to say about this one, it's absolutely boring, completely predictable, and does nothing new with this kind of story. It doesn't even finish properly, it just abruptly stops. Waste of time.

Critical Failures I-IV by Robert Bevan
A series of comedy fantasy novels about a group of douchey nerds that get trapped in a D&D game for realisies. Not an original idea, but still fairly funny, though occasionally gets a bit too juvenile for my tastes.

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton
A small collection of Gothic poetry. If you like Tim Burton you'll probably like this (like I do). It's funny, creepy, and nicely illustrated.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
A 'historical' novel about a woman telling her life story from the time she was sold into slavery to an okiya in the late 1920's with the intent of training her to become a geisha. First of all, this book has one rather major flaw. It's stated in the book that it is historically and culturally accurate, but many people who have really been geisha say otherwise, and some parts definitely are wrong. However, if you take the story just at face-value, it's a really interesting novel that makes you very attached to the protagonist, with an intense display of other characters. Just don't let the author fool you into thinking you're learning history as you read.

The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis
A fantasy novella that's considered to be one of the worst fantasy stories ever written. If you like train-wreck fanfiction and the like, you'll probably find a lot of humour in this. It can be painfully funny how bad it is.

A Closed Book by Gilbert Adair
An almost-entirely dialogue based novel about a now-blind author who hires a man to help him write his autobiography. The story is fairly good, but where this shines is in the writing style. It's really well done in a way to simulate the blindness of the protagonist in order to make it sometimes deliberately confusion as to what's going on. You have to rely on the information given in the same way a sightless person would. A neat unique experience.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
A the first book in a series of fictional fantasy autobiographies about a woman who became a natural historian on dragon kind during a time where women were shunned away from the sciences. I absolutely adored this book, partially because dragons, but I find the main character to be a fascinating person, and the story has a lot to offer, from the fictional biology, the social issues, politics etc. A really good read and I'm excited for the rest.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
A historical novel that follows a group of German soldiers during the trench warfare in WWI. Like The Black Obelisk, it's more about telling the setting than a story, and he does it just as well in this novel. A very moving and interesting book.

Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
A.k.a Schindler's List, is an account of the life of Oskar Schindler, and his role as a German industrialist during WWII who used his position and companionship among the Nazi party to save over 1200 Jews. This book gives a fantastic account of the tale, and really gave a great idea of how the Jewish population was treated during Nazi occupation.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A satirical black comedy about an air-force squadron based near Italy during WWII. The story follows these soldiers as they deal with sanity clashing with insanity. While the book was hard for me personally to follow, as the narrator seems just as crazy so the writing can get confusing, it was a really enjoyable book, and probably the story that's made me feel the most frustration from empathy.

Lord Loss and Demon Thief by Darren Shan
A series of horror fantasy novels. Lord Loss is about a boy who's immediate family are murdered by demons, and is taken in by his demon-hunting uncle. This honestly isn't a very good book at all. The writing style is really bad with an overuse of short sentences (in fact it reminded me of the writing style of My Immortal at first), the protagonist is the most boring character in the entire book and is cringeworthy, and it's really predictable which isn't helped by the book cover being a spoiler! There are lots of scenes I have problems with that I can't really explain why without spoiling, but one thing I can't abide is that in this universe some people can just 'do' magic without practice. Like be ready for demon killing immediately. That feels kinda like a constant deus ex machina to me.
Demon Thief is a lot better, but not better enough for me personally to consider the rest of the series. The main character is not as boring, but still a bit iffy, and it genuinely has a pretty good ending. So if the general idea of the series interests you, I'd skip certain books.

Izevel, Queen of Darkness by Kate Chamberlayne
A gothic novel about a disturbed Baalite princess who is given away to the King of Israel, and tries to manipulate him into turning his country away from Judaism to Baalism. While the story didn't quite turn out to be what I was expecting, I was thinking it'd be a more neutral tragedy story about Religions clashing due to stubbornness, but it had a bit of a bias towards the Christian side of things, but it doesn't really get too preachy apart from one bit. That being said, it was still an good story, and the titular character was well done and her methods of manipulation were pretty interesting.

Changeling by Steve Feasey
A horror fantasy novel about an orphaned boy taken in by demon hunters after he starts to show signs of lycanthropy. This book is basically what Lord Loss by Darren Shan should've been. It's pretty well written, the protagonist is a much more interesting teenager rather than a stereotype, and while not a wholey original story the collection of colourful characters really make the book. Just don't read the blurb for it, not only is it generic as hell but it's wrong. Whoever the publisher hired to write that bit should probably be fired.

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Paracelsus Offline Battle Lover

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18th May 2016 09:09 PM
Post: #487
Been reading "The Portable Dorothy Parker". Not sure, but I think it has everything she's written in it.

Very delightful poems and short stories, filled with snark, failing romances, social commentary or any combination of three.
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Philo Offline yiff yap

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20th June 2016 08:02 PM
Post: #488
Francis Spufford - Red Plenty

This is a hard book to describe, but it's awesome. It's basically historical fiction about various people - some fictional, some fictionalized versions of historical figres - involved in economic planning in the Soviet Union in the late 50s and early 60s. This was a time when many people, both within the Soviet sphere and some Western observers, legitimately thought there was a chance that the USSR's planned economy would overtake the US's in providing material comfort for its citizens, and the book is an incredible depiction of the meeting of this optimism with the realities of the Soviet economy. It's also very heavy on serious economics and politics, including the math that GOSPLAN really did try to use.

Bernard E. Harcourt - Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age.

Harcourt uses mathematical modeling and an economic approach to show what is wrong with profiling in law enforcement (e.g. racial profiling), arguing against both those who advocate extensive profiling and against those who are against all use of aggregate data, statistical prediction etc. in law enforcement. Most of the book is about the former, but before I move on, his case against the latter is that it's better to, insofar as we are going to make broad judgments in policing, use impersonal (if not unbiased) methodologies which at least can be publicly scrutinized, rather than leave things totally at the officers' discretion.

Most of the book is concerned with why profiling is (usually) a bad idea. Harcourt has us, in his model, assume the following:

1. The population has two types of citizen, law-abiding and non-law-abiding
2. The population also has a majority and a minority, distinguished by some observable (or more broadly, measureable) trait.
3. The minority is more likely to be non-law-abiding (that is, if you sampled a random member of the minority, you'd be more likely to get a non-law-abiding citizen than if you did so from the majority)

The question is, should the police profile (give more attention to) the minority, even given these assumptions?

The conventional wisdom in certain circles is "yes." The reasoning is obvious; if my objective is "maximize my chance of finding a criminal" (operationalized as the fraction of investigations that are successful), then I ought to sample more often from the minority, i.e. give them extra scrutiny. But this is where the subtlety comes in; if your goal is not "maximize the proportion of investigations which are successful" but "reduce crime" (which I think is the point of law enforcement) then it isn't so clear, and depends on the specifics.

We add the following assumption:

4. Assume fixed police resources

Now, if the police's resources are fixed, any additional scrutiny on the minority means some amount of decreased scrutiny for the majority. A higher proportion of the majority will then commit the crime which they wanted to before, but the risk of getting caught was too high. How big of a decrease in risk (price) is needed and how many more people will commit crime is a matter of the elasticity of demand (crime), but ceteris paribus, a decrease in the risk of getting caught will at least cause no change, or will make crime more likely amongst the majority. High inelasticity means that the amount of crime doesn't change very much for each change in the risk, while high elasticity is the opposite (even a small decrease in risk produces a large increase in crime).

The upshot of this is that an increase in scrutiny on the minority group can produce a sufficiently large increase in crime amongst the majority group that the overall crime rate in the population actually goes up, since the majority is larger, and that this happens under a wide range of realistic parameter values for relative population size, elasticity, prior crime rates, etc.

Now of course, the flipside of this is that there are also conditions under which profiling does make sense if the goal is crime reduction. For example, it probably makes sense to profile men for rape, because of the specific numbers involved - each group is .5 of the population, the male-rapist rate is many, many times that of the female-rapist rate, and these are probably highly inelastic (that is, it's unlikely that there are going to be a lot more female rapists, even with a lot less scrutiny than we already have on women for this crime). But for most crimes and demographics, the plausible ranges of parameter values do not come out well for profiling.

The book is not a knock-down case against profiling, obviously. First, that depends on the specific numbers involved, which is an empirical question. The model shows that with the right crime rates for demographic groups, right elasticities etc. profiling can make sense in principle if the overriding goal is to reduce crime, it just so happens not to for most crimes and most demographics (particularly most of the hot-button ones in the US, like profiling black people).

Second, I would've liked to see more exploration of what happens if we use more sophisticated assumptions. For example, we could expand on the fixed-police-resources assumption by talking about possibility frontiers. It could be that even though police resources are fixed, they learn to utilize them more efficiently. Say that x is the scrutiny of the majority, and y the scrutiny of the minority, with x + y = 10 being the possibility frontier. If the police are operating in a very inefficient manner, they may be only doing (3, 3) = 6, so they could increase the scrutiny on the minority without a decrease in absolute scrutiny on the majority, and crime is presumably sensitive to the risk of getting caught, not the relative scrutiny directly. He may get to this later in the book, we'll see.

And of course, this cannot in itself answer the question of whether we should profile regardless. Perhaps there is an argument to be made that profiling is unjust (violates the norms of liberal society) regardless of increases or decreases in crime. What this book shows is that the appealing - to some - notion that a group being more likely to commit crime makes profiling/extra scrutiny obvious is not correct, and makes some steps towards an analytical framework for discussing the problem. Advocates of profiling will have to show precisely how the model fails to hold, and/or demonstrate empirically that parameter values favorable to their position are real after all, which looks unlikely for many of their pet bugbears.
(This post was last modified: 20th June 2016 08:16 PM by Philo.)
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Irenarch Offline Retired Staff

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22nd June 2016 09:35 PM
Post: #489
Infinite Jest, a book that I know will leave me unsatisfied with the amount that I read about Michael Pemulis.

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Annoyance Offline Resident Cosplayer

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22nd June 2016 11:26 PM
Post: #490
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did a bit of shopping since i finished cat's cradle.
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Philo Offline yiff yap

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22nd June 2016 11:48 PM
Post: #491
(22nd June 2016 09:35 PM)Irenarch Wrote:  Infinite Jest, a book that I know will leave me unsatisfied with the amount that I read about Michael Pemulis.

I couldn't finish it. I should probably revisit it at some point.

From the experience and some of his other works I also have a mixed relationship with Wallace. My reaction to him is that on different days of the week he can be brilliant and everything I dislike about contemporary "serious" American literary culture.
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Irenarch Offline Retired Staff

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23rd June 2016 04:12 PM
Post: #492
(22nd June 2016 11:48 PM)Philo Wrote:  I couldn't finish it. I should probably revisit it at some point.

From the experience and some of his other works I also have a mixed relationship with Wallace. My reaction to him is that on different days of the week he can be brilliant and everything I dislike about contemporary "serious" American literary culture.

To tell you the truth, I've never found a book so personally affecting before. I read a passage about AA meetings yesterday and then started crying about it a few hours later. The way that a lot of the subject matter is handled - alcoholism, the absent father, elite high school stress, and so on - hits very close to home. It's an extremely draining yet cathartic read.

Disclaimer: I love Wallace's writing.

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Philo Offline yiff yap

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28th June 2016 04:58 PM
Post: #493
Technical

(mostly for work, some of which I have been asked to review for the department)

Robert Reitano - Introduction to Quantitative Finance

Not so much an introduction to quantitative finance methods as a set of mathematical foundations said methods. Nice to see an attempt to raise the mathematical level of finance students and professionals in one volume, but I can't say I like this book. The style is artificially formal (it attempts to be definition-theorem-proof when it is not warranted), the relative emphases placed on different topics is odd (there is a whole chapter on logic and yet optimization is crammed into the set theory chapter?) and the ordering is bizarre (in aforementioned chapter, for example, the author is discussing compactness and optimization but then cuts it short because he hasn't introduced fucking differential calculus yet)

Mark Joshi - The Concepts and Practice of Mathematical Finance

This is more of a true "methods" book. It's oriented around finance concepts, with the mathematical tools introduced along the way. The finance concepts build very logically on one another, with the mathematical methods progressing from tree/combinatorial approaches, basic differential equations, stochastic processes, and culminating halfway through the book in stochastic calculus, which is used for the rest of the volume. The discussion is mostly informal, in a good way, with formal definitions and such used when warranted.

While I liked this book a lot overall, I have two main problems. First, while overall I liked the level of formality, sometimes the author is too fast and loose with the mathematical concepts, with some provided definitions or explanations being very misleading. Second, the book is too heavily centered in my view on Black-Scholes and pricing in general. While this may make sense given a likely large audience for the book - people who want to be quants at investment banks - it gives a distorted view.

There is more to finance than pricing securities and options (more time spent on portfolio optimization, high-frequency trading etc. would have been nice), and while this sadly probably does reflect practice in much of the industry, I don't think the limitations of Black-Scholes and other pricing methods are given enough time. Black-Scholes relies on the no-arbitrage assumption, but the no-arbitrage assumption cannot be correct in general (Grossman and Stiglitz 1980, DeLong et al. 1990), so for particular cases one has to always justify why no-arbitrage is an appropriate approximation.

This disproportionate emphasis on pricing (although it seems common in the industry) also leads to not exactly enough attention being paid, in my view, to the relationship between informationally efficient pricing and allocative efficiency. What finance is to a large extent is the high-level coordination of capital allocation, but informational efficiency is not necessary or sufficient for allocative efficiency (Dow and Gorton 1997). Again, one needs to show what the relationship is for a particular case/phenomenon, and this is not really covered in Joshi.

I mentioned I wish high-frequency trading was covered, and this is in part because the pricing methods used in Joshi assume price changes are random so they can be treated as Brownian motion. While again this is a good approximation for many purpose, with high-frequency data and action, prices are not completely impossible to predict. (Campbell et al. 1997). Joshi does not really discuss how we should evaluate if the particular dynamic we're working with is one where random prices changes are a good approximation. Overall market behavior is hard to predict, but this systematic volatility is not the same as what we get with random price changes and no-arbitrage (Shiller 1990).

Works cited:

Campbell, J.Y. et al. 1997. The Econometrics of Financial Markets. Princeton University Press.

DeLong, J.B. et al. 1990. "Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets," Journal of Political Economy 98:4:703-738

Dow, J. and Gorton, G. 1997. "Stock Market Efficiency and Economic Efficiency: Is There a Connection?" The Journal of Finance 52:3:1087-1129

Grossman, S.J. and Stiglitz, J.E. 1980. "On the Impossibility of Informationally Efficient Markets," The American Economic Review 70:3:393-408

Shiller, R. 1990. Market Volatility. MIT Press


Felix Klein - Elementary Mathematics from an Advanced Standpoint

A true mathematical classic from the early 20th century by the great Klein. Basically a look at high school mathematics (basic algebra, trig, etc.) but from the perspective of a mathematician, intended for other mathematicians, at least as of about WWI. This is one of my new favorite books already.

Georgi Shilov - Linear Algebra

A classic Soviet linear algebra book, this may rise to be another favorite of mine, alongside Strang's book, Axler's Linear Algebra Done Right and Treil's Linear Algebra Done Wrong. Classically Russian math book in being to-the-point without being austere or terse, and it is one of the most balanced presentations I've seen in terms of both formality-intuition and theory-application, possibly the most balanced (Axler's book, for example, while amazing is hardly balanced).

Non-Technical

Laura Kipnis - Against Love

I was looking forward to this book, as one of my major intellectual hobby subjects is sexuality/gender and Kipnis is regarded as a major feminist figure in certain circles. But I thought this was honestly pretty bad. There were some very pointed observations and some very funny and well-written segments, but most of the book was a glob of Marcuse's crticial theory and Foucault that was impressionistic in its "argument" and makes no attempt at empirical demonstration of its claims. It's that worst kind of humanities/"social science" reasoning where someone more or less makes up something and we are supposed to see that it's just obvious.

Kipnis engages in the all-too-common absurd form of bordering-on-conspiracy functionalism in trying to show how certain behaviors/norms, like serial monogamy, are instruments of capitalist oppression. Regardless of if you are a capitalist or an anti-capitalist, this unfortunately common sort of argumentation is silly; a social phenomenon exists, therefore it has a purpse/function, and if it is bad then its function is to maintain capitalism.

Kipnis is at her best when she is pointing out the absurdity of the restrictiveness of many of our norms. That lifelong monogamous marriage should not be an expectation is something I am wholly supportive of, and it's definitely a very interesting question how this persists as an expectation in our culture and the ways in which it can be oppressive. But I don't find most of Kipnis' actual analyses at all persuasive when they are coherent, nor am I much moved by her normative argument against romantic love (it's something which has only really become prevalent as a goal since the rise of modern capitalist society. So? It might still be good and something many people quite justifiably desire, even if it shouldn't necessarily be an expectation for everyone). I've read some of Kipnis' other work and this reinforces my opinion of her as someone who would make a much better short essayist/cultural critic than would be social scientist or philosopher.



Two much better books on the same subject are Eva Illouz's Why Love Hurts (academic) and Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg's Modern Romance (popular)

"Some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore how they got that way"
-Tom Lehrer
(This post was last modified: 28th June 2016 07:17 PM by Philo.)
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Nina Offline No.1

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10th July 2016 04:54 PM
Post: #494
An acquaintance insisted I read Orlando by Virginia Woolf so I'm on that at the moment. It's a bit of a hard read due to the much older style of prose but I'm not quite sure on whether I'm just not finding the content compelling or if my enjoyment of it is just hampered by the modern conventions of portraying the subject matter and perhaps I might enjoy it more by approaching it from a completely neutral stance.

I think ultimately it's way too archaic for me to find it interesting as anything else than a somewhat curious piece of feminist history from the 20s.
(This post was last modified: 11th July 2016 10:53 AM by Nina.)
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Jarvellis Offline Great Grey Wolf

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20th July 2016 02:41 PM
Post: #495
The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey
A sci-fi fix-up novel of the first short stories that make up the Brain & Brawn Ship series, which is about when parents of children with severe physical disabilities are given the option to let their child become 'Brainships', trained to run space crafts as an extension of themselves. The novel follows one of these people, the titular character of Helva, in her early years as a Brainship. A very interesting introduction to the concept of McCaffrey's universe with a very wide range of good characters, although sometimes her writing can be very confusing from a spacial perspective.

The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffrey & Mercedes Lackey
As the title suggests it's another story in the Brain & Brawn Ship series, this time about a 7 year old girl, the daughter of two archaeologists, becomes paralysed from an alien disease discovered at a dig site. Although she is well over the suggested age for it, she is deemed intelligent and stable enough to become a Brainship with the hope to continue her work in archaeology. This felt much better written than the previous novel, possibly due to the help from Lackey, but still with the same charm and well-written characters that the previous novel had.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
Final book in the Millennium trilogy. Can't say much about it because it's a direct sequel so spoilers, but it was a great end to the story.

Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
A science-fiction novel that went on to inspire the 1979 film Stalker, and later the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video game series. Anyone who's a fan of the book Catch-22 will probably like this also, it has very similar vibes but more focused on the morbidness of the situation rather than the comedy.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
An epic poem about the poet's travels through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. I read this more for the subject matter rather than the poetry itself as I was interested in the world building of his idea of the afterlife's structure. I will admit that much of it went over my head but still a fascinating read with a beautiful way with words even despite the translation.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
A dystopian novel set in a time of constant warfare, intrusive surveillance, and public manipulation through the media and psychological persecution of the concept of individuality. I would almost go as far as to call this a horror novel considering how well Orwell portrays the oppressive government in this world. It is terrifying that even though it's obvious what they're doing is wrong, many characters state their ideals with such conviction it sounds correct. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this novel.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A dystopian novel about an overly-benevolent dictatorship where humans are socially discouraged from reproducing naturally and breed via artificial means to allow the government to raise groups of children however they please. While the concept really interested me like 1984 did, I actually didn't like this book. I dislike Huxley's writing style, often finding it rather unnecessarily confusing and lacking a lot of vital information that would allow me to set the scene in my head. I will give him credit however, for a very impactful final page of this book.

[SEX SUCKS] by Michael Hrejsa
A chapbook of poetry that I will not attempt to describe because I have no idea how to talk about poetry. That being said I found very memorable with the themes (or my perceived themes) of enjoyment either in spite of or because of certain 'imperfections', and there were a few very witty moments I couldn't help but smile at.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Another dystopian novel, set during America in the future (at least as of the 60's) where books are outlawed and burnt by firemen, and the story of one of these firemen as he starts to question the current ways of life. I was really unsure about how this novel's direction would go with it's concept but it leads to a really interesting debates about why books in this story were banned, and it ends on a very high note with discussions about mankind dealing with communal mistakes.

Nod by Adrian Barnes
An apocalypse novel about how 99.9% of the world's population loses the ability to sleep, and the madness that ensues from mass sleep-deprived psychosis. The story follows Paul, a writer who studies etymology and can sleep, as he tries to survive this world with his girlfriend Tanya who is one of those that can not sleep. The story is far more of a look into Paul's personality than a sci-fi 'what's going on?' kinda story. This works really well because Paul is a rather interestingly flawed character; he's cynical, misanthropic, and some might argue pretentious, but the story throws events that contain possible hope at him. A minor couple of problems I have with the book however is that sometimes it can get a bit unnecessarily crass, and for a book obsessed with etymology there are a couple of poorly chosen names in the book.

Ragnarök and Guðsríki by Ari Bach
The second and third books in the Valhalla trilogy, a sci-fi series set in the 2200's where society views brain over brawn to an over-the-top extent, leaving the world open to certain criminals who will take advantage of this. I can't say much about the specifics of these two books because spoilers, but it's a series that absolutely ramps up in quality and insanity. Probably the best action sequences I've read in books.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito
A seinen horror manga series about a small town plagued by a curse that all revolves around the symbol of the spiral. I knew that Junji Ito was very well known for writing good horror (especially this series), but from the description alone it seemed like such a vague concept I didn't know what to make of it. Seeing it in action however, it's amazing all the things done with the idea of horror based around just a bit of geometry. On top of that, I adore a lot of the artwork and it has some great body horror.

Yume Nikki by Kikiyama & Machigerita
A psychological horror manga based on the surreal game of the same name. I adore the game itself, it's one of my favourites, and while I was all over the idea of a manga adaptation, I was also really unsure how they'd manage to do it. The game had no dialogue and interaction with the environment and characters was always up for interpretation rather than exposited. While this doesn't exactly feel like the story to this game, it feels like a really good possible story that could come of the setting, kinda feeling like a really well done AU. The art wasn't fantastic but not too bad either, and Madotsuki's character I felt was rather lacking, but for a short story using the ideas of the world of the game it wasn't bad.

The War Against the Chtorr 1-4 by David Gerrold
The first half of an apocalypticish sci-fi series where an alien ecology is 'planted' on the Earth which started to take over our own, causing mass plagues and killings at the claws of some of the more vicious wildlife, especially that of the titular Chtorr; giant worm-like creatures known for rather slowly grinding down it's prey to eat. The amount of stress placed in this series is super intriguing to me, because it's a sort of slow but almost certainly inevitable apocalypse scenario that the world is desperately trying to find ways of fighting back. The story centres around a biologist in the military doing his best to study the ecology in order to find out ways to combat the threat, the slight problem being that he's a bit of an asshole which constantly causes tension amongst those he interacts with, even when he's right. I love the series so far but goddamn does Gerrold need to hurry up with the next book, the 4th one was published in 1992 and he only finished the first draft of book 5 last August.

Space Odyssey 1-4 by Arthur C. Clarke
A quadrilogy of sci-fi novels centred around alien beings who sewed the seeds of intelligence amongst our ancestors, and the discovery in the (then) future of various artefacts left behind by them in the solar system. I don't think I've ever found a story both so confusing and satisfying at the same time. The whole mystery behind this super advanced alien race is not just stubbornly kept a mystery throughout the story, things do get answered, but these answered are then often accompanied by the next question "Yes, but what does this mean?". I have mixed feelings about some of the ideas and criticisms of the 20th century displayed in the final book, however overall it's a mystery that I felt answered the perfect amount of questions and left the perfect amount unresolved.

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Philo Offline yiff yap

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21st July 2016 02:02 PM
Post: #496
Justin Gregg - Are Dolphins Really Smart?

Semi-popular book aiming to summarize the state of research on dolphin cognition (circa 2013) and relate this to popular tropes about "how intelligent dolphins are," which directly influences much discussion about the ethics of our relationships with dolphins (and often by proxy, however much of an intellectual stretch it may be, with other animals). Gregg is a serious scientist and director of the Dolphin Communication Project, and I picked up the book on the recommendation of Marian Dawkins (wife of Richard), one of the best ethologists in the world.

Gregg's goal is not to tackle the normative questions, but rather to summarize, as accurately as possible, the state of scientific work on dolphin cognition, language etc., so that, as he says in the first chapter, those who are making normative arguments at least have the facts right. So far, he's succeeding wonderfully. This is a semi-popular treatment, so while it is not in the style of a scientific paper or monograph, it doesn't overlydumb-down the information and does have a full arsenal of citations. It's perfect for a scientist or scientifically-educated person from outside the field of ethology, which is exactly what I am. The information density is deceptively high; I've already learned a bunch about comparative neurology that I didn't know before without really trying.

Gregg's overall point is not that dolphins are "dumb" - he's not being lazily contrarian. But he does throw cold water on various overhyped claims, and the implicit argument is that certain animal rights advocates and dolphin lovers are overstating or misinterpreting the science. His overall assesment is roughly that dolphins are cognitively similar in their degree of difference from human cognition (his metric), in a very general sense, to dogs, although it is obviously far more nuanced than that.

My only real criticism so far is as follows. Gregg wants to answer popular claims about "dolphin intelligence," but "intelligence" in general is a very nebulous concept. It's not even clear it's coherent. Gregg does point out the cognitive-scientific case that "intelligence in general" is a vague and scientifically unsupported notion and should be scrapped in favor of discussion of various cognitive processes, structures, and abilities, but argues (correctly, I think) that in discussions of animal "intelligence" what most people roughly mean is actually more like "similar to a typical adult human, cognitively." Gregg's approach is to meet people where they are (so to speak) and answer the question of dolphin cognitive similarity to humans, because regardless of what the cognitive scientists say, that's how most people instinctually think. While I can see the pedagogic value of reaching out this way, I think it is a mistake to acquiesce so easily to unscientific intuition, and that while discussing cognitive similarity is valuable, he should have pressed the cognitive scientists' "intelligence is not a coherent notion" point.

Overall, this is an excellent book which I recommend to anybody with an interest in animal cognition, marine mammals, and/or animal welfare.

(reviews for the following to come)

Nick Cohen - What's Left?
Daphne Patai - Heterophobia
Andrew Lo - Hedge Funds
Karel Čapek - War with the Newts

"Some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore how they got that way"
-Tom Lehrer
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Roth Offline Baeven

Posts: 61,084
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1st August 2016 11:55 PM
Post: #497
Well, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out yesterday as just the script to the play yesterday, and after reading it in mostly one sitting I have to say it was pretty underwhelming.

Spoiler's here:

Spoiler:

Overall, it's not as bad as say, the Star Wars prequels, but I can't really say I thought it was great either. It really did just feel like mediocre fanfiction, and even then, I feel like there's fanfics out there that have taken the concepts explored here and done them way better. I also won't excuse the faults with the idea that "It's a play, so it can't be as good as the books" because there are plays and movies that I think are more in-depth with their content than the regular Harry Potter books.

Spoiler:

(This post was last modified: 1st August 2016 11:56 PM by Roth.)
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