Thursday, May 30, 2019

Chernobyl Forum issues revised "book" on the health effects of the 1986 catastrophe in Ukraine

Here’s a curiosity from behind the former Iron Curtain.
The Chernobyl Forum 2003-2005 published a second edition of “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental, and Socio-Economic Effects” with the subtitle “Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine”, on the IAEE site here.  The Moorfield Storey Institute contributed to the report.

James Peron wrote an article for Medium in a column called “The Radical Center” with title “Chernobyl: What Facts Found”, excerpt here. Despite total desertion of the living areas, later studies showed that the health effects and cancer were not worse than from normal air pollution.  Thyroid cancer increased, but thyroid cancer is usually treatable (it was not for Roger Ebert, remember).
By MHM55 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Range". by David Esptein, argues that generalists can do very well in public life

If you’re going to be professional at something and get public recognition for it, do you have to be a prodigy and start early and focus on it from childhood?

According to a New York Times book review by Jim Holt, David Epstein says, not necessarily, in his new book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, published by Riverhead Books.

The idea is that learning environments can be kind, or brutal.  Classical music performance tends to be a kind environment that rewards starting early and sticking with it. Composing may be more nuanced, and some modern composers are quite versatile with their skills:  Jaron Lanier (“You Are Not a Gadget”, and “10 Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now”), well known for large, eclectic compositions (Plays blog, June 19, 2013), is quite versatile with tech for its own sake (as are many other musicians).

The review compares the careers of Tiger Woods (golf) with Roger Federer (tennis), the latter of which is more compatible with generalism.  Medicine is said to be so, despite the fact that interns and residents have to live such unifocal existence.
My own case with piano was a narrow miss. It was not easy for boys to consider this in the Cold War obsessed 1950s and early 1960s. I had an audition in a ritzy NW Washington apartment building with a Dr. Hughes, who was 72 at the time, when I was about 15, for a piano career.  It was indeed close. 

I wound up with a double life, where mainframe information technology rather dead-ended itself after 2000 as a real career field that creates a professional identity. 
Chess requires real focus from early in life to get really good (at least International Master or higher). 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nicholas Buamah, at age 8, has book published that helps grade school students learn vocabulary

Selena Hill of Black Enterprise reports that a seven-year-old’s book, “Kayla and Kyle: The Walking Dictionaries; Election Day” bas been accepted by the Library of Congress, story. The author is Georgia’s Nicholas Nuamah.

The children’s book depicts a class election, and teaches vocabulary along the way.
Nicholas appeared on Steve Harvey today. He gave the example of a big word, "exacerbate" means "to make worse". 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"First Books" provides children's books to low-income schools

I received a charity mailing from a non-profit named “First Books”, which apparently distributes children’s books to schools in low-income areas. Some of these were from the “Magic Tree House” series.

The group also has a distribution agreement with a group called OMG based on a court settlement.

I don’t generally respond to over-personalized charity requests, but I try to look for things that match the work I do. 
But I may start talking to independent bookstores more soon. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Time Magazine writer, after long piece very critical of India's leadership, finds Wikipedia page vandalized

Time Magazine recently offered a booklet-length article by Aatish Taseer on Narenda Modi’s :reign” in India, as an example of populism and leading to anti-intellecualism.

In an attempt to defuse socialism (and India’s bureaucracy, which has been criticized). Modi is said to have created a climate of “religious nationalism”, comparable to alt-right movements in many countries.

His attitudes are supposed to have undermined the intellectual capital that allowed Indian companies to get Y2K work from American companies, for example.

The writer’s Wikipedia page (now OK) is said to have been vandalized.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Why is author Dan Harris so controversial (with Carlos Maza, anyway)?

Eric Johnson of Vox publishes an interview by Kara Swisher of Recode Decode of Sam Harris, whose best known book now is “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” (Simon and Schuster, 256 pages, 2015).

Harris gets into why even mainstream Islam, in his view, has a problem, that tends to invite radicalization. By comparison, white supremacy among Christians, he thinks, is at the very fringes, even given Charlottesville.

He made some comparisons of Sri Lanka with New Zealand that many will not welcome.

Yet, Carlos Maza yesterday tweeted that Vox should not have published this, and that “bad faith actors and bigots should be quarantined” from speech. They can be explained around without being given a platform. 

As for Harris’s ideas, I’ve worked for persons of Muslim faith and with them for years, and never imagined a problem before 9/11 happened.  The point of terrorists is to force others to become polarized.
And it’s hard to say what scripture has the most clobber passages.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Fiction authors of color irritated by expectations of political correctness at book signings

Thrity Umrigar is a prolific author from India with an interesting column in the Washington Post Style section on Monday, May 6.

Her novels are complex family sagas, like “The Space Between Us”, “The World We Found”, and “Everyone’s Son”.

She talks about the quizzed about political correctness at book events, as indicated by the title of her article, “For writers of color, the questions that sting”.

Technically, people from India are usually considered Caucasian by science, but still call themselves POC.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Indie bookstores become much more conscious of indulging consumers with other items

Here are a couple more stories about how indie bookstores make comebacks.

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Susan Kitchens on Apr. 28, discusses A Capella Books in Atlanta – how a retailer borrowed from a closed-knot social structure but in time turned to special author events.

The article discusses “book curation”, the idea that a local store could indulge consumers with very specific and narrow genres.

Alexander Alter, in a New York Times article on May 2, talks about a Canadian chain, Indigo, that packages books with consumer items like “reading socks”.  The idea seems to be catching on with Barnes and Noble, but I had noticed this – certain games and toys (and previously music cd’s) were often sold.
This reminds me of a bizarre phone call I got, out of the blue, in 2012 quizzing me if I would want to go on a tour in Canada.  Why would this make sense when my main 1997 book had been about an American policy regarding gays in the military? 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

New York Times explores the importance of public libraries, in the "Web 3.0 age".

The New York Review of Books from Sunday April 28 has a long article by Sue Halpern, “In Praise of Public Libraries”, link
She mentions a long (197-minute) documentary “Ex Libris: TheNew York Public Library” by Frederick Wiseman (there is a shorter version for China) which I should watch some day.  Does the title of this film have anything to do with the name of the POD publishing company (under Author Solutions) "Xlibris"? The movie is also the name of a cloud-based education content company.
She starts out with an anecdote about a small town apparently in the Catskills and a bookmobile (remember those?) that went out of service.  The town proposed a small tax increase to fund a library, and wrought a resistance from the right wing. Eventually, however, the library was built and it boomed and became very popular, even in the Internet era.
She then goes into discussion of the New York City and Los Angeles central libraries.
That is all in conjunction with two new books: (1) Eric Klineburg, “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life”.  So can reforming social media (another post to go up today), and (2) “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean, from Simon and Schuster.

A good question for new authors is how seriously they should go after the public library market to sell their books, even in this Internet age.  

Harvard undergraduate John Fish has made several videos on his channel about reading, such as the value of fiction, the value of volume reading (for humanities in college), and increasing reading speed without losing comprehension (I can imagine how that can matter in the culture wars).  He also sells audio books (link ) as a dorm room business. This facility would make me wonder how far new authors should go in offering audiobooks;  I haven't heard the topic come up in self-publishing contexts.  It sounds expensive.  You would wonder how students would have time to listen to them, but that's like having the time to watch videos or listen to podcasts. He hasn't posted in the last three weeks, don't know why.  
Back in 2012, actor Reid Ewing had made a short film “It’s Free” set in a Los Angeles public library, where he made the case for free access to information but almost inadvertently set up today’s debate on whether “free” social media is really free.  I wish the film were available because it could help with today’s debate on Internet policy. 
There is a correlated post on the Movies blog today about the Alexandria Egypt library fire in 47 BC.