Monday, April 21, 2014

The Mistaken Extinction: Dinosaur Evolution And The Origin Of Birds, Lowell Dingus And Timothy Rowe. c. 1998

Part I: The Search for the Smoking Gun

Chapter One: The Seductive Allure of Dinosaurs

Chapter Two: Earlier Extinction Hypotheses

Chapter Three: Contrasting Volcanic and Impact Hypotheses

Chapter Four: Enormous Eruptions and Disappearing Seaways

Chapter Five: The Fatal Impact
Page 47: "In both marine and terrestrial rock layers, or sequences, many of the plants and animals that became extinct at or near the end of the Age of Dinosaurs drop out of hte record abruptly as one moves from lower, older rocks documenting the end of the Age of Dinosaurs up into higher, younger rocks representing the beginning of the Age of Mammals. Such an abrupt disappearance of many forms of single-celled plankton in the marine limestones near Bubbio, Italy, led Walter Alvarez and his colleagues to wonder how long these extinctions really took.
"Between the white limestone representing the end of the Age of Dinosaurs and the pink limestore representing the start of the Age of Mammals lies a three-eighths of an inch thick (1 cm thick) bed of clay. Alvarez discussed this problem with his father (Nobel-laureate physicist, Luis Alvarez) and several of his father's associates. In the end, they felt that they might get some idea of how long it took to deposit this layer of clay by looking at the concentration of an element called iridium. Iridium (Ir) is one of the platinum group elements and has an atomic number of 77."
Chapter Six: Direct Evidence of Catastrophe
"Throughout the 1980s, the proponents of the impact scenario searched feverishly through geologic data and satellite imagery for the "smoking gun," or, more appropriately, for traces of the "festering wound" inflicted on the Earth's crust by such an impact. 
"The Earth has long been bombarded by extraterrestrial objects. Although the rate of impacts appears to have decreased in the last 4.5 billion years since the year first formed, extraterrestrial objects (large enough to pass through the atmosphere without burning up) continue to hit the earth with tremendous force. ... Estimates of the frequency of crater impact suggest that a meteor large enough to leave a crater 6 miles across hits the Earth about once every 100,000 years." -- pp. 67 - 68.
"Another serious candidate was actually discovered as the result of exploration for oil in 1981. However, little attention was paid to the announcement by Glen Penfield and his colleagues because it was before the search for the K-T impact crater had actually begun. In an ironic twist of fate, most of the drilling-core samples that documented the geologic evidence at this site were destroyed by a fire in the warehouse where they were stored. Consequently, the crater's possible existence and relationship to the scenarios involving the K-T extinctions only came to light in the early 1990s. Studies...the site is located near the town of Chicxulub. It lies partly on the northwest corner of the Yucatan Peninsula and extends into the adjacent Gulf of Mexico." -- p. 69

Chapter Seven: Patterns of Extinction and Survival

Chapter Eight: Our Hazy View of Time at the K-T Boundary

Part II: Dead or Alive

Chapter Nine: Living Dinosaurs

Chapter Ten: Dinosaurs Challenge Evolution

Chapter Eleven: Dinosaurs and the Hierarchy of Life

Chapter Twelve: The Evolutionary Map for Dinosaurs

Chapter Thirteen: Death by Decree

Chapter Fourteen: The Road to Jurassic Park

Chapter Fifteen: Crossing the Boundary

Chapter Sixteen: Diversification and Decline

Chapter Seventeen: The Real Great Dinosaur Extinction

Chapter Eighteen: The Third Wave


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, Sylvia Nasar, c. 2011

Begins with Marx and Engels. Marx -- loser.

Alfred Marshall and Mary Paley (p. 66 -- first mentioned). Cambridge.

"In contrast to the majority of Victorian intellectuals, Marshall admired the entrepreneur and the worker. Carlyle, Marx, and Mill considered modern production to be an unpleasant necessity, labor to be degrading, and debilitating, businessmen to be predatory and philistine, and urban life to be vile. Mill considered Communism superior to competition in every respect but two (motivation and tolerance for eccentricity) and looked forward to a stationary, Socialistic state in the not very distant future. But none of these intellectuals could claim the familiarity with business and industry that Marshall was acquiring." -- he had recently returned from a trip across the United States. -- p. 81

Nasar contrasts Marshall's studies of factories and business (fanatical) vs Dickens and Marx (none). Marx had never been inside a factory; Dickens only saw the outside of a factory, watching workers trudge in, day in and day out but he never saw the inside of a factory either.

"For Dickens and Marx, firms existed to control or exploit the worker. For Mill they existed solely to enrich their owners. For Marshall, the business firm was not a prison. Management wasn't just about keeping the prisoners in line. Competing for customers (or workers) required more than mindless repetition...." -- p. 83.

Chapter 3

All about Beatrice Potter, socialist.

Marries Sidney Webb.

Publishes The Minority Report.

"Lord William Beveridge, the eponymous author of the 1942 Beveridge Plan who worked on The Minority Report as a researcher, later acknowledged that his design for the post-WWII British welfare state 'stemmed from what all of us had imbibed from the Webbs.'" -- p. 138. 

Marshall and Paley: The Economics of Industry, 1879.

Marshall's most important discovery: competition raised productivity.

Henry George, 1880's, "land tax" -- property tax?

The 1880's: a period of financial and economic crisis. The term "unemployment" was coined during the recession that followed the Panic of 1893 during a heated debate over whether real wages were rising or falling in the long run. -- p. 86

1884: first public debate between Henry George and Alfred Marshall.

"Marshall did not object to unions or even to some fairly radical proposals for land reform or progressive taxation. He merely noted that none of these could produce 'more bread and butter.' This required 'competition,' time, and the cooperation of all parts of society, government, and the poor themselves." -- p. 89

Marshall: Principles of Economics, 1890. The book breathed new life into a faltering discipline. Principles: rejected Socialism; embraced the system of private property and competition; embraced optimism about the improvability of man and his circumstances. The chief insight he learned in America: under a system of private property and competition, business firms are under constant pressure to achieve more with the same or fewer resources. From society's standpoint, the corporation's function is to raise productivity and, hence, living standards.

Marshall: of all social institutions, the business firm was more central, enjoyed a higher status, and did more to shape the American mind and civilization than elsewhere. The company was not only the principal creator of wealth in America but also the most important agent of social change and the biggest magnet for talented individuals. It made Dickens' depictions of businessmen as cretins or predators, workers as zombies, and successful manufacturers as rigid repetition look ridiculous. -- p. 89 - 90.

Chapter 4

The phenomenal rise of the United States from the beginning of the 19th century to the end of the 19th century.

Remington (1816), Singer (1815), Standard Oil (1870), Diamond Match (1881), and American Tobacco (1890) were born. The era of mass distribution, mass production, and scientific management -- big business, in short -- had arrived. The Webbs visit the US during this period. Between 1880 and 1890, the annual income generated by America's largest industries quadrupled. Income from printing and publishing in the US jumped fivefold, machinery and malt whisky, fourfold; iron and steel and men's clothing, threefold. Electrification, refrigeration, new cigarette making, milling, distilling and other machinery, entirely new industries based on products derived from oil and coal, the extension of rail, and telegraph links to virtually every community produced a revolution in scale, structure, and reach of American firms. -- p. 141

"The money question" -- p. 158; how money became the paramount issue of the 1896 presidential campaign.

The story of Irving Fisher.

A nice summary, pp 169 - 170.

Beatrice Webb invented the welfare state ...

Irving Fisher was the first to realize how powerfully money affected the real economy and to make the case that government could increase economic stability by managing money better. By pinpointing a single common cause for the seemingly opposite ills of inflation and deflation, he identified a potential instrument -- control of the money supply -- that government could use to moderate or even avoid inflationary booms or deflationary depressions.

Chapter 5

Joseph Schumpeter and Gladys Ricarde-Seaver.
Turn of the century, born in what is now Czech Republic. Contemporary of Einstein. British. Anti-Malthus. Productivity based on human potential, not country's natural resources. It's what a country does with its resources that is important. About 28 years old when he made his name; visited US; a sabbatical at Columbia University, New York; toured US, returning to Vienna in 1914.

The American Civil War and the resulting cotton famine turned Cairo into a Klondike on the Nile. Egypt's ruler, the khedive Ismail Pasha, seized the opportunity to turn the whole country into a giant state-owned cotton plantation. As British trade with Indian grew.... p. 180

Schumpeter: completed the manuscript of The Theory of Economic Development in May, 1911 -- ended up in America.

There was talk of war. Fisher thought countries too financially interdependent for war.


War of the Worlds

WWI. Beatrice Webb's stock (as a socialist) continues to fall. John Maynard Keynes, Bloomsbury.

Keynes buys up French art for the National Gallery (and for himself). Edgar Degas, who had been an art dealer before he devoted himself full-time to painting, had amassed hundreds of works by Manet, Corot, Ingres, Delacroix, and other contemporary artists over his long career, rarely parting with a single canvas. This treasure trove was to be auctioned off at the Galerie Roland in Paris on March 26 and 27.

Keynes sent the painter Duncan Grant, his former -- and Vanessa Bell's current -- lover, a triumphant telegram.

Frank Ramsey: at age nineteen Ramsey wrote a criticism of Keyne's thesis on probability so devastating that Keynes gave up any notion of a mathematic career. He was drafted to revise the Principia Mathematica, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead's prewar attempt to reduce all of mathematics to a few logical principles.

Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out, 1915, and Mrs Dalloway.

Chapter VI
The Last Days of Mankind: Schumpeter in Vienna

Armistice was announced November 11, 1918.

Vienna and Austria after the war. The political demise of Schumpeter.

Fascinating, if somewhat boring economic look at Austria in between wars. Explains a lot. Every European country (and the US) celebrated at the end of WWI except Austria -- it was a shadow of itself after the war. Every country lost in WWI but Austria was the biggest loser.

Chapter VII
Europe Is Dying: Keynes At Versailles

A good chapter for understanding / learning about Keynes.

Chapter VIII
The Joyless Street: Schumpeter and Hayek in Vienna

The 1920s: Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, John Maynard Keynes, Irving Fisher

Keynes and Fisher became economic oracles

1918: Hayek, corporal in the k.u.k army; young soldier in multi-national army; swept along by a disintegrating Hungary-Austrian army, finally ending up in Vienna; gave up a dream of becoming a diplomat; enrolled as a law student at University of Vienna; completed his doctor of laws degree in the spring of 1922, at the height of the hyperinflation; another contemporary of Einstein; his salary rose from 5,000 kronen to 1 million kronen in the space of 9 months; Bolsheviks' "lightning socialization" caught his attention; most urgent question, "Could socialism work?" Hayek's mentor, Ludwig von Mises, argued against central planning.

Hayek, 1923 - 24: New York University, Greenwich Village, research assistant to Jeremiah Whipple Jenks, a currency expert on the Allied Reparation Commission who had confirmed Beatric Webb's prejudices about Americans. Hayek's main motive for coming to New York was to learn as much as he could about American thinking about booms and depressions. Business cycle research suggested to him by Von Vises. In his April 1929 newsletter, Hayek noted corporate borrowing was growing faster than production in the United States and warned of "unpleasant consequences." That observation led Robbins subsequently to credit his protege with prophesying the 1929 stock marcket crash. In fact, Hayek's alarm was transitory. In his October 1929 newsletter, he reassured readers that neither "a sudden breakdown of the New York Stock Exchange" nor a "pronounced" economic crisis were imminent." Chapter ends.

Chapter IX
Immaterial Devices of the Mind: Keynes and Fisher in the 1920s

The Bloomsbury group -- p. 282

Keynes: tried to show that inflations and deflations made it difficult for investors and businessmen to calculate the effects of decisions and, to a much greater degree than the public appreciated, distorted decisions to save or invest. Strong proponent of regulation/intervention; agreed with Fisher: "We can no longer afford to leave [things to nature]." The evil of inflation was that it redistributed existing wealth arbitrarily, pitting one group of citizens against another, and, ultimately, undermining democracy. The evil of deflation was that it retarded teh creation of new wealth by destroying jobs and incomes.

Again and again, Keynes stressed his main message, namely, that there was a remedy: "The remedy would lie ... in so controlling the standard of value that, whenever something occurred which, left to itself, would create an expectation of a change in the general level of prices, the controlling authority should take steps to counteract this expectation." And failure to make money the "subject of deliberate decision" would leave a dangerous vacuum in which "a host of popular remedies ... which remedies themselves -- subsidies, price and rent fixing, profiteer hunting, and excess profits duties -- eventually became not the least part of the evils." -- p. 284

WWI wrecked the gold standard (previously controlled by the banks of London). -- p. 285

As a writer, Keyne's career in writing culminated in his becoming publisher of the left-wing political weekly founded by the Webbs and G. B. Shaw, the New Statesman.

Keynes, gets married. Anti-semitic. Visit to Russia. Potemkin village.



Chapter X
Magneto Trouble: Keynes and Fisher in the Great Depression 

The chapter begins: "Keynes spent the first half hour of every day in bed in London reading the financial pages and talking to his broker and other City contacts on the phone. But his daily research turned up no early warnings of the American stock crash of October, 1929."

His losses in commodity futures, converted Keynes into a value investor, convincing him that "the right method in investment is to put fairly large sums into enterprises which one thinks one knows something about and in the management of which one thoroughly believes." [Sounds like something Warren Buffett would have said.]

This is a fun chapter to read in light of the US financial crisis in 2008.

The depression:
As often happens with novel doctrines, most of the measures urged by Fisher and Keynes, except for the abandonment of gold, were not adopted in either the UK or the United States. Still, in England, the worst was over by August 1932, when the economy began slowly expanding. By 1937, Japan's economy had been growing for a half dozen years. In Germany, where the economic collapse was as bad as in the United States, unemployment had virtually disappeared by 1936. Keynes notd the bitter irony of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy achieving full employment by engagement in massive deficit spending, repudiating their foreign debts, and letting their currencies depreciate. The same was true of Imperial Japan. Of course, the goal of these governments was to wage war and to pay off their debts by exploiting their victims.
In the United States, however, the depression had come roaring back with a vengeance in 1937 -- largely, it seems, because of blunders by the administration (FDR) and especially by the Federal Reserve. In 1936, after three years of recovery, FDR raised taxes and scaled back spending on New Deal programs such as the WPA. A onetime bonus payment to WWI veterans on June 1936 briefly pumped up the federal deficit, but federal spending fell sharply thereafter. Meanwhile, the Social Security Act of 1935 created a payroll tax that began in 1937. Together these two ill-timed actions brought the federal budget into virtual balance by late 1937.
Chapter XI
Experiments: Webb and Robinson in the 1930s

Global depression and why the Soviet experiment attracted English economists.

A great biographical sketch of Joan Robinson. In another age, she would have been a darling of the US left.

Important chapter to read to understand the lure of the Soviet Union during the global depression.

Chapter XII
The Economists' War: Keynes and Friedman at the Treasury
"More surprisingly, the war put Hayek and Keynes on the same side of the economic policy debate. For most of the 1930s, Hayek had dismissed Kenyes's proposals to fight the Great Depression with easier oney and deficit spending as "inflation propaganda" and once referred to his rival privately as a "public enemy." But by 1919, Hayek was praising Keynes in newpaper articles. Much to the chagrin of some of his left-wing friends and disciples, the war had turned Keynes into an inflation hawk." -- p. 355

The introduction to the story of Milton Friedman:
John Kenneth Galbraith, a farm boy from Canada who looked and sounded like an English lord, liked to say that Kenynes's ideas came to Washington via Harvard. But it would be more accurate to say that they had also come by way of the University of Wisconsin, Columbia, the City University of New York, MIT, Yale, and more often that not, the University of Chicago.
Milton Friedman, a recent Ph.D. from Chicago, did not attend the dinner with Keynes at Lauchlin Currie's house, but in 1941 the future leader of the anti-Keynesian monetarist revival of the Reagan years was nonetheless one of the brightest young Keynesians in the Treasury. And, as it it happens, he did more than most to make Keynesianism practically feasible in the United States. -- p. 364

Friedman: a Keynesian; thought up "income tax withholding" to pay for WWII.

Chpater XIII
Exile: Schumpeter and Hayek in World War II

Short chapter; did not interest me.


Nothing To Fear

Keynesians never run out of reasons for government deficit spending. LOL.

How Stalin misread capitalism: Stalin as a genuine captive of Lenin's primitive economic theory, a theory based on a false analogy between economic competition and warfare.

Chapter XIV
First and Future: Keynes at Bretton Woods

The purpose of the Bretton Woods conference was to revive world trade and stabilize currencies and to deal with war debts and frozen credit markets. The war had left much of the world dramatically poorer, and countries had to be able ot earn their way back ot prosperity. In the broadest sense, salvage meant rebuilding and reconstruction, moving back toward pre-1913 globalization, but without reviving the pre-World Ware assumption that the economic machinery worked automaitcally.

Chapter XV
The Road from Serfdom: Hayek and the German Miracle

The sensational success of The Road to Serfdom, Hayek.

"Keynes and Hayek never fully resolved their long-running debate over how much and what kind of government intervention in the economy is compatible with a free society. Nonetheless, Keynes endorsed The Road to Serfdom and nominated Hayek, rather than his disciple Joan Robinson, for membership in the British Academy. When Keynes's heart finally gave out on april21, 1946, Hayek wrote to Lydia that Keynes was "the one really great man I ever knew, and for whom I had unbounded admiration." -- p. 402

Chapter XVI
Instruments of Mastery: Samuelson Goes to Washington

Post-WWII in America.
FDR, Truman, Kennedy. Nixon: we are all Keynesians now.

Chapter XVII
Grand Illusion: Robinson in Moscow and Beijing

Friday, February 7, 2014

Amazon's List Of 100 Best Books To Read In One's Life

I'm a sucker for lists, and this is one of the best. I won't change my reading plans based on this list but it it is interesting. Here they are, all 100, said to be alphabetical, but some at the end are not in alphabetical order:

  • 1984, George Orwell
  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
  • A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah
  • The Bad Beginning or. Orphans, Lemony Snicket
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine Lengle
  • Alice Munro: Selected Stories
  • Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  • All the President's Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume
  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Born to Run -- A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Hunter S. Thompson
  • Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared M. Diamond (overrated)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  • Interpreter of Maladies,  Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  • Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware
  • Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
  • Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalis Wilder
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
  • Man's Search for Menaing, Viktor Franki
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
  • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
  • Moneyball, Michael Lewis
  • Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  • Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • Portnoy's Complaint, Phillip Roth
  • Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Age of Innocence, EdithWharton
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
  • Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
  • The Color of Water, James McBride
  • The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  • The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
  • The Fault in our Stars, John Green
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown
  • The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman
  • The Great Gatsby,  F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • The House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  • The Liar's Club, Mary Karr
  • The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
  • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chanderl
  • The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and The Road to 9/11, Lawrence Wright
  • The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and Other Clinical Tales, Oliver Sacks
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
  • The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel, Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro
  • The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  • The Shining, Stephen King
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  • The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel, Haruki Murakami
  • The World According To Garp, John Irving
  • The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  • Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
  • Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
  • Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • I was pleasantly surprised by some on the list, including Tim O'Brien
  • I was surprised by the absence of the great women writers of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries (Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, just to name a few)
  • I was surprised to see Hawking but not Darwin on the list
  • I was surprised to see none of the following: Defoe, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce
  • any list that includes Fear and Loathing by Hunter S Thompson is almost a perfect list
  • I was surprised to see how much reading I have left to do
  • I think our older granddaughter (age 10) has read more on the list than I have (if one counts all seven volumes of Harry Potter and three volumes of Hunger Games)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne

Laurence Sterne, 1713 - 1768, Tristram Shandy, nine volumes, 1759 – 1767. A must-read is the Everyman’s Library edition, with an introduction by Peter Conrad, c. 1991, but included in Everyman’s Library as early as 1912.

197 pages; 111 chapters. 

In the introduction, these four novelists were, perhaps, the “founding fathers” of the English novel: Defoe, Richardson, and Sterne, and Cervantes, though not English.

Mentioned in passing in the introduction: Marianne Moore, Jane Eyre, Don Juan (Byron), Hamlet, Whitman’s Prelude, and many others, particularly Fielding’s Tom Jones.

From page viii of the introduction,
“… Sterne discovers a new way of writing and a new way of understanding human nature which makes his book a sacred text both for Romantic poets and modern novelists, who like him want to liberate literature from its self-imposed and unnecessary rules.”
Everyman's Library was founded in 1906 and relaunched in 1991. It aims to offer the most complete library in the English language of the world's classics. Each volume is printed in a classic typeface on acid-free, cream-wove paper with a sewn full cloth binding.

I first read Tristram Shandy some years ago, probably in 2004 or thereabouts when I was at the height of my reading program which began in 2002. I was, at that time, reading about the evolution of the novel. Until much later, I did not know how "important" Richardson's Clarissa and Defoe's Robinson Crusoe were in that development, both of which I read about that time. It is no easy "thing" to get through Clarissa

To some extent, I suppose, Laurence Sterne was the Mark Twain of his era.

Monday, January 27, 2014

On The Map, Simon Garfield, c. 2013

The full title: On The Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks.

The Year Without Summer: 1816, William K. Klingaman And Nicholas P. Klingaman, c. 2013

How coincidental, having just read the Mary Shelley biography, c. 2013, which discussed the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. See my earlier post.

The full title of the book: The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History.

It discusses the lives of famous personages affected by the eruption and the socioeconomic events that resulted between 1815 and 1817 due to this eruption.

Volcano, location, year of eruption, volcanic explosivity index:
  • Vesuvius, Italy, 79, 5
  • Huaynaputina, Peru, 1600, 6
  • Tambora, Indonesia, 1815, 7
  • Krakatoa, Indonesia, 1883, 6
  • Santa Maria, Guatemala, 1902, 6
  • Mount St Helens, Washington (USA), 1980, 5
  • Pinatuba, Philippines, 1991, 6
  • Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland, 2010, 4
This book will likely be quickly remaindered, and will be sold throughout English-speaking airports in the softcover edition.

The Peloponnesian War, Donald Kagan, c. 2003

Donald Kagan: Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University. His four-volume History of the Peloponnesian War is the leading scholarly work on the subject. So, I guess here he condensed it to one volume for the "general" public.

The introduction begins: "For almost three decades at the end of the fifth century B. C., the Athenian Empire fought the Spartan Alliance in a terrible war that changed the Greek world and its civilization forever."

As I read that, and having just completed a bit of reading on the Persian war, it dawned on me that for memory purposes, one could argue the Greek / Persian was much like our own Revolutionary War; and then the Peloponnesian War much like our own US Civil War.

The introduction continues: "Only a half-century before [the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War] the united Greeks, led by Sparta and Athens, had fought off an assault by the mighty Persian Empire, preserving their independence by driving Persia's armies and navies out of Europe and recovering the Greek cities on the coasts of Asia Minor from its grasp."

Even the Persian army and the Persian navy could be easily compared to the Red Coats, the British Army, and the British Navy, second to none at the time of the American revolution. Perhaps now I might remember the sequence of events and the importance of these events in the Near East.

The author compares the Peloponnesian War with World War I in terms of devastation and importance.  (In the Peloponnesian War, Sparta "won," and replaced Athenian democracy with Thirty Tyrants in a puppet government, subservient to Sparta.)


Most important source, by far, of our knowledge of the war: the history written by war's contemporary and participant -- Thucydides. His account ended mid-sentence, seven years before the end of the war.

There is way to much to write but this is THE reference book for the Peloponnesian War.

It has an introduction, seven parts, and a conclusion.

Part I: The Road To War

Chapter One: the great rivalry, 479 - 439

Part II: Pericles' War

Starts with chapter five.

Part III: New Strategies

Starts with chapter eleven.

Part IV: The False Peace

Starts with chapter sixteen (the peace unravels, 421 - 420)

Part V: The Disaster in Sicily

Starts with chapter twenty (the decision, 416 - 415)

Part VI: Revolutions in the Empire and in Athens

Starts with chapter twenty-six (after the disaster, 413 - 412)

Part VII: The Fall of Athens

Starts with chapter thirty-three (the restoration, 410 - 409)


The author compares the Peloponnesian War with World War I in terms of devastation and importance.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Seven Pillars Of Wisdom: A Triumph, T. E. Lawrence, First Anchor Books Edition, c. July 199

For some time, off and on, I have wanted to read, or at least see if I wanted to read, T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It should have been easy to find, but for some reason I never ran across it. I probably wasn't looking too hard. Then, while looking for the new (2013) biography of T. E. Lawrence I spotted the soft cover book on the shelves of the South Lake, Texas, public library.

I found it incredibly easy to read, and incredibly interesting. It is too immense to take many notes, but a few things that catch my interest might be recorded here. 

c. 1926, 1935 by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

Author's Preface
/s T.E.S.
Cranwell, 15.8.26

3/4 page, a portion:
"Mr Geoffrey Dawson persuaded All Souls College to give me leisure, in 1919 - 1920, to write about the Arab Revolt. Sir Herbert Baker let me live and work in his Westminster houses.
The book so written passed in 1921 into proof: where it was fortunate in the friends who criticized it. Particularly it owes its thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw for countless suggestions of great value and diversity: and for all the present semicolons. "

Synopsis (particularly good). Explains why there is no index: "Halfway through the labour of an index to this book, I recalled the practice of my ten years' study of history; and realized I had never used the index* of a book fit to read. Who would insult his Decline and Fall, by consulting it just upon a specific point." He says more. *An index has been added to this edition.

Synopsis: Book I through Book X

Epilogue: "Why the taking of Damascus ended my efforts in Syria (p. 661)." Particularly interesting.

Illustrations: many

Preface by A. W. Lawrence: ostensibly his brother Arnold, but written in the first person to suggest T. E. Lawrence, in fact, wrote it, and signed "T. E. Shaw," the name he used in 1923 after leaving the RAF.

Includes 1.5 page of questions (from publisher) and answers from "A. W. Lawrence" on inconsistency of place names and names of persons. Examples follow:

"Q: Slip 28. The Bisaita is also spelt Biseita. A: Good.

"Q: Slip 53. 'Meleager, the immoral poet'. I have put 'immortal' poet, but the author may mean immoral after all. A: Immorality I know. Immorality I cannot judge. As you please: Meleager will not sue us for libel."
Again, signed by "A. W. Lawrence."

Introductory Chapter: was chapter 1 at one time, then removed, then re-inserted. Finally left in but did not want to re-number all the chapters for the "nth" time.

Postscript  to the introductory chapter, also signed "A. W. L."

Then the book begins: SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM

An introduction, a short page, "Foundations of Revolt, Chapters I to VII.

Chapter I
"The Arab was nature continent; and the use of universal marriage had nearly abolished irregular courses in his tribes. The public women of the rare settlements we encountered in our months of wandering would have been nothing to our numbers, even had their raddled meat been palatable to a man of healthy parts. In horror of such sordid commerce our youths began indifferently to slake one another's few needs in their own clean bodies -- a cold convenience that, by comparison, seemed sexless and pure. Later, some began to justify this sterile precess, and swore that friends quivering together in the yielding sand with intimate hot limbs in supreme embrace, found there hidden in the darkness a sensual co-efficient of the mental passion which was welding our souls and spirits in one flaming effort. Several, thirsting to punish appetites they could not wholly prevent, took a savage pride in degrading the body, and offered themselves fiercely in any habit which promised physical pain or filth." -- p. 30
"A man who gives himself to be a possession of aliens leads a Yahoo life, having bartered his soul to a brute-master." -- p. 31
Chapter II (geography and population)

Chapter III (Arabic thinking, religiosity)

Chapter IV (the Turkish Revolution)

Chapter V (the beginnings of the Arab Revolution)
The position of the Sherif of Mecca had long been anomalous. The title of 'Sherif' implied descent from the prophet Mohammed through his daughter Fatima, and Hassan, her elder son. Authentic Sherifs were inscribed on the family tree - an immense roll preserved at Mecca, in custody of the Emir of Mecca, the elected Sherif of Sherifs, supposed to be the senior and noblest of all. The prophet's family had held temporal rule in Mecca for the last nine hundred years, and counted some two thousand persons.
The old Ottoman Governments regarded this clan of manticratic peers with a mixture of reverence and distrust. Since they were too strong to be destroyed, the Sultan salved his dignity by solemnly confirming their Emir in place. This empty approval acquired dignity by lapse of time, until the new holder began to feel that it added a final seal to his election. At last the Turks found that the needed the Hejaz under their unquestioned sway as part of the stage furniture for their new pan-Islamic notion. The fortuitous opening of the Suez Canal enabled them to garrison the Holy Cities. They projected the Hejaz Railway, and increased Turkish influence among the tribes by money, intrigue, and armed expeditions. 
As the [Turkish Ottoman] Sultan grew stronger there he ventured to assert himself more and more alongside the Sherif, even in Mecca itself, and upon occasion ventured to depose a Sherif too magnificent for his views, and to appoint a successor from a rival family of the clan in hopes of winning the usual advantages form dissension. Finally, Abdul Hamid took away some of the family to Constantinople into honourable captivity. Amongst these was Hussein ibn Ali, the future ruler, who was held a prisoner for nearly eighteen years. He took the opportunity to provide his sons -- Ali, Abdulla, Feisal, and Zeid -- with the modern education and experience which afterwards enabled them to lead the Arab armies to success.
Chapter 6 (the Revolt, a new factor) If the revolt was to succeed, a new "factor" was needed to counter the Turks. The Arabs needed assistance.
Nearly all of us rallied round Clayton, the chief of Intelligence, civil and military in Egypt. ...
The first of us was Ronald Storrs, Oriental Secretary of the Residency, the most brilliant Englishman in the Near East, and subtly efficient ... Storrs sowed what we reaped, and was always first, and the great man among us. ...
George Lloyd entered our number. He gave us confidence, and with his knowledge of money, proved a sure guide through the subways of trade and politics, and a prophet upon the future of the Middle East. ...
Then there was this imaginative advocate of unconvincing world-movements, Mark Sykes: also a bundle of prejudices, intuitions, half-sciences. His ideas were of the outside; and he lacked patience to test his materials before choosing his style of building. ...
Not a wild man, but Mentor to all of us was Hogarth, our father confessor and adviser, who broughtus the parallels and lessons of history, and moderation, and courage. To the outsiders he was peacemaker (I was all claws and teeth, and had a devil). ...
We called ourselves 'Intrusive' as a band; for we meant to break into the accepted halls of English foreign policy ....
The 'Intrusive' band began to work upon all the chiefs, far and near.
Sir Henry McMahon, High Commissioner in Egypt, was, of course, our first effort...
Others, like Wemyss, Neil Malcolm, Wingate, supported us in their pleasure at seeing the war turned constructive. Their advocacy confirmed in Lord Kitchener the favourable impression hehad derived years before when Sherif Abdulla appealed to him in Egypt; and so McMahon at last achieved our foundation stone, the understanding with the Sherif of Mecca.
Chapter VII (how Lawrence strategizes his removal from Cairo as a mapmaker and to join Storrs (who the Brits in Cairo also did not like) in the Arab Bureau. This was a key move, if Lawrence were to lead the Arab Revolt.

An introduction, a short page, "The Discovery of Feisal," Chapters VIII to XVI.

Chapter VIII (to the Arab Bureau; permission to join Feisal to protect Mecca) The Lawrence party sails down the calm Red Sea to Jidda. Colonel Wilson, British representative to the new Arab state, sent his launch to meet the ship. On shore they met Ruhi, Consular Oriental assistant, whose old patron was Storrs, great friends still. Abdullah arrives on a white mare, flushed with his success at Taif, and happy. Discussed the dismal state of affairs. Abdullah noted that his failure to cut the Hejaz Railway, the Turks had been able to collect transport and supplies for the reinforcement of Medina. The Turks were on their way to capture Mecca; Abdullah said, "over his dead body." Storrs instrumental in getting the Sherif's permission to join Feisal in Jebel Subh.

Chapter IX 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Idle Chatter on Literature

[Note: this note was written a long, long time ago. I don't remember when but it would be easy to find out. However, I left it in draft stage, and only posted it today. But it was written a long time ago.]

My laptop is about to run out energy; the battery is down to 17 percent. An iPad with 17 percent battery life left would last almost two hours. The MacBook Pro might last another twenty minutes. And no outlet where I am to charge the battery.

But I couldn't leave without this short note. Yesterday I didn't get the chance to read the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal (the older daughter had a swim meet a couple of hours distant in driving time -- only a few miles away for a Canadian goose, but the meet was in Salem, Massachusetts, on one of the last weekends before Halloween, perhaps the biggest tourist month of the year for Salem; think witches).

So, today, before the start of the second day of that same swim meet, I will read the WSJ -- all the more so because Starbucks accidentally gave me a "grande" instead of a "tall" which represents about twice as much coffee, three times more than I need. But that's another story for another day.

Back to the WSJ. I used to know some friends (okay, one) who subscribed to Playboy Magazine for the stories. That's the way it is with me. No, not Playboy Magazine, but the WSJ. I subscribe to the WSJ, not for the business news, but for the incredibly good writing, the weekend edition, and the fourth section each day (in that order).

This weekend's issue might be one of the best in a  long time. Or maybe like meat loaf it just seems better because it's a day older and I've been looking forward to it twenty-four hours.

The long, long lead story is fantastic -- read this story if you want to know my reading habits: My 6,128 favorite books, by Joe Queenan. Fortunately he only lists about 100 books. Most of those were books he did not like, so he must have read more than 6,128. You know that any article that mentions Middlemarch in the first few paragraphs is going to be a great piece of reading.

Paul Johnson's five favorite biographies: Macaulay, Sir Arthur Bryant; Ulysses S. Grant, Michael Korda; Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills; Rossetti: His Life and Works, Evelyn Waugh; and, A Portrait of Charles Lamb, David Cecil. The authors are relatively unfamiliar to me; the lives they have chosen to write about I know very, very well, except for Charles Lamb.

And finally, before I run out of battery (now 13%): How the French Invented Love, Marilyn Yalon. Four hundred pages of what appears to be an exceptionally interesting book. I don't know if this was planned by the WSJ editors or if it just happened, but earlier in the section there is an essay on "the new face of infidelity" by Peggy Drexler. Her findings: infidelity is no longer an exclusive domain for men (it never was, but the statistics are starting to even out): 23 percent and 19 percent. You can google the article to see what the numbers refer to. Something tells me the former number is way, way low; the latter number is low, but hard to say by how much. It will be interesting to see what a similar essay reports 15 years from now. My hunch is that the definition of infidelity will have changed. See Marilyn Yalon's book review.

And now I must sign off with less than 10% of my battery power left.