What's on your reading/listening list?

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July 16th, 2017 at 4:31:51 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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I started Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" yesterday.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
July 28th, 2017 at 1:39:47 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
Posts: 11112
I finished "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond a few hours ago.

The main thesis is that different levels of development of human societies, depended largely on the crops and animals available for domestication. There is a lot of analysis regarding how crops and animals, plus technological developments, spread between different peoples, and how they failed to spread as well.

Domestication, BTW, either of plants or animals, is not at all easy, and won't work for all species. This should be self-evident, but it's often overlooked. Did you know, for instance, that strawberries weren't domesticated until the Middle Ages? Or that to this day no one has managed to domesticate oak trees to produce non-poisonous acorns?

It's well worth reading.

For fans of alternate history, it offers some interesting points of departure as well. A salient one: what if humans hadn't wiped out much of the native fauna they found in the Americas, Australia, Madagascar and New Guinea?
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
August 7th, 2017 at 7:46:03 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
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I just finished a Great Courses series called "The Skeptic's Guide to American History," by Prof. Mark A. Stoler

It tackles common historical beliefs and examines them, often showing their untrue but based on facts.

Past that, he makes several apt analogies and reaches several interesting conclusions. Two in particular are ones I've noticed on my own:

1) History does not begin with us. that's his last lecture, too. Even before I took up a deeper study of history, I've been amazed by how ignorant of history so many people are.

2) War is assumed to be only total war. I wrote a post on that recently.

One very apt analogy is to see history as a classroom where the blackboard contains an event, and the room represents time (ie the farther away you are form the blackboard, the farther you are removed in time).

What does that get you?

The people at the blackboard, experiencing the event, are very close to it and can make out even tiny details, but they can only see a small part of it. The people farther away can see all of it, the big picture, but can't see much detail.

I liked his style and content so much, I downloaded his other series of lectures, "America and the World: A Diplomatic History."

Unfortunately Mondays are reserved for Mike Duncan's "Revolutions" podcast (when he's not on break), so I'll get back to Prof. Stoler tomorrow.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
August 10th, 2017 at 2:10:05 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
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In the latest ep of Revisionist History, Gladwell is ranting about McDonald's french fries... I think he's losing it.

The ep is called "McDonald's Broke my Heart." It concerns how McD changed its fries recipe in order to replace deep frying in beef tallow with vegetable oil. I remember when that happened in the early 90s, in response to pressure about the amount of saturated fats in their menu. other fast food chains followed suit.

Ok. So apparently Gladwell loved the pre-90s fries, and hates the current ones. apparently Ray Croc was impressed the most by the McDonald brothers' fries (he glosses over their organization and training). Well, you know, I recall McDonald's fries from the era, in the US, in Canada, in London and in Mexico. I also recall they were not that good compared to fries in other restaurants, fast food or regular.

I'm still not finished with the ep. But unless he makes a good point about animal vs vegetable fats as regards nutrition and/or heart disease, this will be a "so what?" episode.

Earlier in the season he ranted about golf, though he raised some good points about municipal deficiencies in LA and in local tax assessment. Then he did one about how much more sadder Country songs are as opposed to Rock (and I assume Pop) songs, as though the purpose of a musical genre is to make people cry?
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
August 21st, 2017 at 10:19:50 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
Posts: 11112
Well, the McDonald's ep had nothign more.

The next ep, last in the season, was better. It turns out there was a double-blind, controlled, experiment involving a low-saturated fat diet, which reached the opposite of the expected results.

It turns out eating a diet low ins saturated fats (ie using vegetable oil and margarine) does not prevent heart disease. it does lower cholesterol, but doesn't affect rates of heart disease much (not in the groups tested).

Unfortunately Gladwell focuses more on the familial obligations between the lead scientist involved in the experiment, and his son who is a cardiologist. I know such "human interest" sells, or is supposed to, but it hardly fits a man who's self-described obsessed with "The Big Idea." Oh, he has good reason for having done it this way, but I was disappointed (even if also touched).
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
August 23rd, 2017 at 1:20:31 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
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After going through the major diplomatic history of the US, I moved to a related topic: the rise and fall of the USSR. After this one I think I'll re-listen to "The March of Folly" by Barbara Tuchman. And after that, I'd love to read "The Guns of August," also by barbara Tuchman. Then I may re-listen to Mike Duncan's "segment" on the English Civil war.

And evenings before bed I'm re-reading "Nightfall," the novel version by Asimov and Silverberg. It turns out between playing with the android devices, having delved into ebooks and audio books, I can't find a single bookmark in my house.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
August 24th, 2017 at 7:01:16 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
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Patrick Wyman at Tides of History (formerly The Fall of Rome) has an interview out with Mike Duncan (The History of Rome, Revolutions). I've heard interviews of Duncan before by other podcasters, including Robyn Pierson (History of Byzantium). This one's more focused on history and historical theory and philosophy.

Duncan made a point I've noted before: Western civilization and culture is descended from Rome, and still has a Roman character to it. I've noted before that Western civilization is of Greco-Roman roots through and through. So it's good to see that great minds do think alike ;)

Wyman made a really good point, too, regarding the limitations and boundaries imposed on the academic study of history, contrasting it unfavorably with Duncan's more integrated, boundary-free approach.

A couple of years ago, Will Webb (The Heritage Podcast) jokingly invoked the Goddess Podcastia in an imitation of how ancient bards began telling their stories with an invocation to the gods and the muses for inspiration. at the time I thought Duncan was the God of Podcasting. Then I realized he's more like the Muse of History Podcasting, since he has inspired a lot of people to do their own history podcasts. But Muses were goddesses, so he does remain a deity int he field ;)
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 7th, 2017 at 7:09:13 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 322
Posts: 11112
I came across two podcasts recently.

1) The History Fangirl. The idea here is to talk about specific places the host, Stephanie Craig, has visited, but to do so with people more knowledgeable about them. her first guest was Mike Duncan (The History of Rome, Revolutions), to talk about the Roman Forum.The second, features Eric Halsey (Bulgarian History Podcast), and they talked about a monastery in Bulgaria. It's ok thus far.

2) How it Began. This is thematic, dealing with one subject at a time. The content is not very deep, but the production is amazing. The host, Brad Harris uses an intonation I can only describe as portentous, the language is highly poetic, and has background music to set the mood throughout. What the experience feels like most, is watching the original Cosmos with Carl Sagan. It's a great thing to listen when you want to feel good about humanity.

While the content isn't very deep, as I noted, there are some interesting tidbits. In the episode about dogs, he mentions wolves and people often hunted the same animals. This ads to the theory that proto-dogs scavenged food from human trash. One can imagine human hunters protecting their kill from wolves, and then the wolves following the hunters home.

Modern predators are not loath to scavenge at all. It's often less work to drive away a smaller predator from its kill, than to stalk, hunt and kill. Also animals drop dead from natural causes all the time. A large predator coming across a large dead animal, will eat it, and possibly drive away smaller predators and scavengers as well. So one can conceive of wolves following the humans to steal their kill or pick over the remains.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 7th, 2017 at 10:50:10 AM permalink
Pacomartin
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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Quote: Nareed
I finished "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond a few hours ago.


I thought "Guns, Germs and Steel" were the three reasons why Europe became the dominant continent.

The general level of engineering in Teotihuacan exceeded anything in Europe in 1520, but a small number of men conquered and subdued the Empire primarily because of "Guns, Germs and Steel".
September 7th, 2017 at 11:05:45 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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Quote: Pacomartin
I thought "Guns, Germs and Steel" were the three reasons why Europe became the dominant continent.


Read the book. Or listen to it. The title should have been "Crops, Animals, Guns, Germs and Steel." Really, the "germs" part is a direct consequence of the "animals" part, and that's related to the "crops" part.


Quote:
The general level of engineering in Teotihuacan exceeded anything in Europe in 1520, but a small number of men conquered and subdued the Empire primarily because of "Guns, Germs and Steel".


Well, there are many myths about that. What's often overlooked is that Cortez augmented his small force with thousands of native subjects of the Aztecs who resented Aztec rule (I doubt they found Spanish rule to their liking). barbara Tuchman devotes a chapter of "The March of Folly" to this episode, but she bvuys too much into the theory that the Aztecs, especially the emperor, regarded Cortez and his thugs as gods
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
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