Bookmarked Lurking: How a Person Became a User by Joanne McNeil (MCD )

In a shockingly short amount of time, the internet has bound people around the world together and torn us apart and changed not just the way we communicate but who we are and who we can be. It has created a new, unprecedented cultural space that we are all a part of―even if we don’t participate, that is how we participate―but by which we’re continually surprised, betrayed, enriched, befuddled. We have churned through platforms and technologies and in turn been churned by them. And yet, the internet is us and always has been.

In Lurking, Joanne McNeil digs deep and identifies the primary (if sometimes contradictory) concerns of people online: searching, safety, privacy, identity, community, anonymity, and visibility. She charts what it is that brought people online and what keeps us here even as the social equations of digital life―what we’re made to trade, knowingly or otherwise, for the benefits of the internet―have shifted radically beneath us. It is a story we are accustomed to hearing as tales of entrepreneurs and visionaries and dynamic and powerful corporations, but there is a more profound, intimate story that hasn’t yet been told.

Long one of the most incisive, ferociously intelligent, and widely respected cultural critics online, McNeil here establishes a singular vision of who we are now, tells the stories of how we became us, and helps us start to figure out what we do now.

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Bookmarked How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom by Matt Ridley (Harper)

Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society. Forget short-term symptoms like Donald Trump and Brexit, it is innovation itself that explains them and that will itself shape the 21st century for good and ill. Yet innovation remains a mysterious process, poorly understood by policy makers and businessmen, hard to summon into existence to order, yet inevitable and inexorable when it does happen.

Matt Ridley argues in this book that we need to change the way we think about innovation, to see it as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens to society as a direct result of the human habit of exchange, rather than an orderly, top-down process developing according to a plan. Innovation is crucially different from invention, because it is the turning of inventions into things of practical and affordable use to people. It speeds up in some sectors and slows down in others. It is always a collective, collaborative phenomenon, not a matter of lonely genius. It is gradual, serendipitous, recombinant, inexorable, contagious, experimental and unpredictable. It happens mainly in just a few parts of the world at any one time. It still cannot be modelled properly by economists, but it can easily be discouraged by politicians. Far from there being too much innovation, we may be on the brink of an innovation famine.

Ridley derives these and other lessons, not with abstract argument, but from telling the lively stories of scores of innovations, how they started and why they succeeded or in some cases failed. He goes back millions of years and leaps forward into the near future. Some of the innovation stories he tells are about steam engines, jet engines, search engines, airships, coffee, potatoes, vaping, vaccines, cuisine, antibiotics, mosquito nets, turbines, propellers, fertiliser, zero, computers, dogs, farming, fire, genetic engineering, gene editing, container shipping, railways, cars, safety rules, wheeled suitcases, mobile phones, corrugated iron, powered flight, chlorinated water, toilets, vacuum cleaners, shale gas, the telegraph, radio, social media, block chain, the sharing economy, artificial intelligence, fake bomb detectors, phantom games consoles, fraudulent blood tests, faddish diets, hyperloop tubes, herbicides, copyright and even―a biological innovation―life itself.

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Coming out on May 19, 2020
Bookmarked The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology by William E. Engel
This is the first critical anthology of writings about memory in Renaissance England. Drawing together excerpts from more than seventy writers, poets, physicians, philosophers and preachers, and with over twenty illustrations, the anthology offers the reader a guided exploration of the arts of memory. The introduction outlines the context for the tradition of the memory arts from classical times to the Renaissance and is followed by extracts from writers on the art of memory in general, then by thematically arranged sections on rhetoric and poetry, education and science, history and philosophy, religion, and literature, featuring texts from canonical, non-canonical and little-known sources. Each excerpt is supported with notes about the author and about the text's relationship to the memory arts, and includes suggestions for further reading. The book will appeal to students of the memory arts, Renaissance literature, the history of ideas, book history and art history.

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Bookmarked City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism by Abram C. Van Engen Abram C. Van Engen (Yale University Press)

book cover of City on a Hill by Abram C. Van Engen

In this illuminating book, Abram Van Engen shows how the phrase “City on a Hill,” from a 1630 sermon by Massachusetts Bay governor John Winthrop, shaped the story of American exceptionalism in the twentieth century.

By tracing the history of Winthrop’s speech, its changing status throughout time, and its use in modern politics, Van Engen asks us to reevaluate our national narratives. He tells the story of curators, librarians, collectors, archivists, antiquarians, and often anonymous figures who emphasized the role of the Pilgrims and Puritans in American history, paving the way for the saving and sanctifying of a single sermon. This sermon’s rags-to-riches rise reveals the way national stories take shape and shows us how those tales continue to influence competing visions of the country—the many different meanings of America that emerge from its literary past.

Bookmarked Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana by Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross (Cambridge University Press )

How did Africans become 'blacks' in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders' efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies - Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana - Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom - not slavery - established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.

Becoming Free, Becoming Black book cover

This is coming out in January, but I’ve managed to grab an advance reader copy for my holiday reading.
Bookmarked Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood by Colin Woodard (Viking)

book cover of Union by Colin Woodard

Union tells the story of how the myth of our national origins, identity, and purpose was intentionally created in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A small group of individuals--historians, political leaders, and novelists--fashioned a history that attempted to erase the fundamental differences and profound tensions between the nation's regional cultures, the motive for the Confederacy's secession (protecting a slave system), and even the reasons that drove the colonies to secede from Britain. These men were creating the idea of an American nation instead of a union of disparate states, and a specific, ethnically defined "American people" instead of just a republican citizenry.

Their emerging nationalist story was immediately and powerfully contested by another set of intellectuals and firebrands who argued that the United States was instead an ethno-state, the homeland of the allegedly superior "Anglo-Saxon" race, upon whom Divine and Darwinian favor shined. Their vision helped create a new federation--the Confederacy--prompting the bloody Civil War. While defeated on the battlefield, their vision later managed to win the war of ideas in the late nineteenth century, capturing the White House in the early twentieth century, and offering the first consensus, pan-regional vision of U.S. nationhood by the close of the first World War. This narrower, more exclusive vision of America would be overthrown in mid-century, but as early twenty-first-century Americans discovered, it was never fully vanquished. Woodard tells the story of the genesis and epic confrontations between these visions of our nation's path and purpose through the lives of the key figures who created them, a cast of characters whose personal quirks and virtues, gifts and demons shaped the destiny of millions.

Bookmarked American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard (Penguin Books)

book cover of American Character by Colin Woodard

The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in our history, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention and in the run up to the Civil War to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the civil rights movement, and the Tea Party. In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these two key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation’s existence, from the first colonies through the Gilded Age, Great Depression and the present day, and he explores how different regions of the country have successfully or disastrously accommodated them. The independent streak found its most pernicious form in the antebellum South but was balanced in the Gilded Age by communitarian reform efforts; the New Deal was an example of a successful coalition between communitarian-minded Eastern elites and Southerners.

Woodard argues that maintaining a liberal democracy, a society where mass human freedom is possible, requires finding a balance between protecting individual liberty and nurturing a free society. Going to either libertarian or collectivist extremes results in tyranny. But where does the “sweet spot” lie in the United States, a federation of disparate regional cultures that have always strongly disagreed on these issues? Woodard leads readers on a riveting and revealing journey through four centuries of struggle, experimentation, successes and failures to provide an answer. His historically informed and pragmatic suggestions on how to achieve this balance and break the nation’s political deadlock will be of interest to anyone who cares about the current American predicament—political, ideological, and sociological.

Bookmarked The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard (Mariner Books)
In the early eighteenth century, the Pirate Republic was home to some of the great pirate captains, including Blackbeard, "Black Sam" Bellamy, and Charles Vane. Along with their fellow pirates—former sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves—this "Flying Gang" established a crude but distinctive democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which servants were free, blacks could be equal citizens, and leaders were chosen or deposed by a vote. They cut off trade routes, sacked slave ships, and severed Europe from its New World empires, and for a brief, glorious period the Republic was a success. Book cover of The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard featuring a skull and crossbones
Bookmarked How to Cook Without Recipes by Glynn Christian (Portico)

Gone are the days when cooking skills were handed down through the family. Recipes, which were originally memory aids, have become a set of measures and rules to follow slavishly, whether we understand them or not. And while people have been inspired by up-beat and accessible celeb chefs, they're nearly all restaurant chefs rather than home cooks. The art of cooking, in short, has been lost. How to Cook Without Recipes is all about setting the home cook free. This wonderful little book will teach you to understand the recipes you follow, why they sometimes go wrong, and how to cook independently to make better use of them and invent their own. Glynn Christian begins by taking the reader on a fascinating journey through the history of recipes, and explains how a useful aide memoire became a set of shackles for would be cooks. He explains how to learn to taste, and to understand what ingredients go together, giving you the tools to create your own recipes. And if you still insist on using your cook books, he explains how to 'read' the recipes of the big names where you should take notice of them, and where you should do your own thing. How to Cook Recipes A cook book, in every sense, with taste.

Book cover of How to Cook Without Recipes
Referred to by Peter Hertzmann in a paper about food communication.
Bookmarked Introduction to Statistical Learning with Applications in R by Gareth James, Daniela Witten, Trevor Hastie and Robert Tibshirani (faculty.marshall.usc.edu)

This book provides an introduction to statistical learning methods. It is aimed for upper level undergraduate students, masters students and Ph.D. students in the non-mathematical sciences. The book also contains a number of R labs with detailed explanations on how to implement the various methods in real life settings, and should be a valuable resource for a practicing data scientist.

For a more advanced treatment of these topics: The Elements of Statistical Learning.

Slides and videos for Statistical Learning MOOC by Hastie and Tibshirani available separately here. Slides and video tutorials related to this book by Abass Al Sharif can be downloaded here.

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I’ll note that the author has a downloadable .pdf copy of his text on his site.
Bookmarked Understanding Concept Modeling by Winston Perez (conceptmodeling.com)
Ideas and concepts are different. In fact, they operate in two separate, radically different worlds that few have been taught to distinguish. One carries the “surface layer” and “whole” of the idea. The other, deeper layer carries essence, the structure of essence. and the activity of essence. Concept Modeling is about the art, science and philosophy that is concept. It is the missing discipline and here is the place to learn about that discovery made on February 6, 1989 by Winston Perez.
Bookmarked Food As Power: an Alternative View by Jeremy Cherfas (ARROW@TU Dublin)
Abstract:

Lost, sometimes, in the more metaphorical interpretations of food and power is the basic crudity of food as stored energy. Muscles turn the chemical energy stored in food into mechanical energy, which enables work to be done. Power is the rate of doing work. Food, literally, is a store of power. In the wake of World War Two, Europe faced a shortage of coal and oil, the two most important sources of chemical energy that threatened to gum up the transport of goods from place to place. There was, however, no shortage of unemployed men. Geoffrey Pyke, the quintessential British boffin, pointed out that people are actually much more efficient than steam engines at converting chemical energy to mechanical energy. Pyke’s proposal, that trains could be moved by cyclo-tractors, locomotives powered by the muscular effort of twenty to thirty men, themselves powered by sugar, went nowhere. The paper looks at the background to Pyke’s proposal, its reception at the time and the future of food-powered machinery.

🔖 50 Ways to Cook a Carrot by Peter Hertzmann

Bookmarked 50 Ways to Cook a Carrot by Peter Hertzmann (Prospect Books)

Book cover featuring carrots

Peter Hertzmann's mission is simple - to make as many people as possible realise that if you can manage 50 ways of cooking one simple ingredient - the carrot - you can cook almost any dish, and cook it to perfection.

Every method presented in this book is approachable for both novice cooks and those with many years’ experience. He gives prescriptive advice, such as the salt concentration for pickling a carrot should be 3%, but his book is easy to put into action in the kitchen.

Some of the methods:

Simple slices — Matchsticks, julienne, or bâtonnets — Dicing — Roll cut — Grating carrots — Mandolins — Juicing carrots — Blending carrots — Immersion blenders — Processing carrots —

Making sauerkraut — A new-fangled pickling container — Salt fermented carrots — Miso-pickled carrots — Acid fermentation — Keeping pickles crisp — Acid fermented carrot pickles — Determining liquid quantity — Salt for acid pickling — Sugar for pickling — Pickling spices — Processing acid-fermented carrots

Modern, sous-vide cooking — Why sous-vide cooking works— Set-up your equipment — Choose your bag — Prepare your carrots — Cook your carrots

Peter Hertzmann is a passionate cook, and educator on food cooking, with years of teaching to his name. He is a professionally trained cook, completing ‘stage’ placements in several high end restaurants in France, then worked in restaurants, and produced complicated seven course menus as part of a team over many years. He has taught in prisons and colleges of further education. Peter lives in the USA and is a regular contributor to the Oxford Symposium on Food.

This should be released in mid-January 2020 in the United States. I can’t wait!

🔖 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Bookmarked Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1) by Chinua Achebe (Penguin Books)

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Things Fall Apart
 is the first of three novels in Chinua Achebe's critically acclaimed African Trilogy. It is a classic narrative about Africa's cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior of Umuofia in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man's futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British political andreligious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.

With more than 20 million copies sold and translated into fifty-seven languages, Things Fall Apart provides one of the most illuminating and permanent monuments to African experience. Achebe does not only capture life in a pre-colonial African village, he conveys the tragedy of the loss of that world while broadening our understanding of our contemporary realities.

h/t to Greg McVerry who mentioned it in passing.

🔖 Mind and Memory Training by Ernest Egerton Wood

Bookmarked Mind and Memory Training by Ernest Egerton Wood (Theosophical Pub. House (Reprint by Occult Research Press))
Saw a reference to this obscure memory text from the 50’s on the Art of Memory Forum. Looks interesting to check out for the state of the art then, particularly in comparison to Bruno Furst’s work, and who could resist the quirky book covers for this and its reprints?