Books and literature

One big surprise from Michael Leinbach and Jonathan Ward’s Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew is the claim that people at NASA hadn’t anticipated the catastrophic loss of a Shuttle during reentry. That despite of the delicacy of the thermal protective tiles and the fatal consequences expected […]

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With the decline of archaic magic, the belief in single combat began to die out. The development of the modern, highly organized army and the concept of “total war” seemed to bury it forever. But then an extraordinary thing happened: the atomic bomb was invented, with the result that the concept of total war was […]

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More fighter pilots died in automobiles than in airplanes. Fortunately, there was always some kindly soul up the chain to certify the papers “line of duty,” so that the widow could get a better break on the insurance. That was okay and only proper because somehow the system itself had long ago said Skol! and […]

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If friends and students of Truth wish to reassess their views, they might stop depending on Gage’s report as if it were reliable, and depend instead on the reports of the speech that were published at the time, especially the fullest one, in the Bugle. If not as dramatic as Gage’s report, the Bugle report […]

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[Frances] Gage‘s report, gradually becoming well known, wove myths about [Sojourner] Truth, myths that helped build up Truth into a heroic figure. Nevertheless, we must ask whether the frequent uncritical use of Gage’s report in recent years has led to misleading interpretations not only about Truth and her place in history, but also about early […]

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My two TA jobs are keeping me fairly busy, but I am also reading a diverse set of interesting books: Naoki Higashida’s Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism: the second book written by a young autistic man who can only communicate verbally to a very […]

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Columbus could not have foreseen the results of his search for piperine, Magellan was unaware of the long-term effects of his quest for isoeugenol, and Schönbein would surely have been astonished that the nitrocellulose he made from his wife’s apron was the start of great industries as diverse as explosives and textiles. Perkin could not […]

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Thesis proposal reading continues to dominate my information diet, but I bought a couple of unrelated books today. Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson’s Napoleon’s Buttons — recommended by my friend Myshka — describes the influence of seventeen molecules on human history. I’m about 60 pages in and have been finding it entertaining and reminiscent […]

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For analyzing climate change activism, the contentious politics theoretical framework associated with Doug McAdam (a sociology professor at Stanford), Sidney Tarrow (a professor of government and sociology at Cornell), and Charles Tilly (formerly a social science professor at Columbia) has much to recommend it. In particular, it incorporates many explanatory factors used in the related […]

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On the Washington Post website, there is an article about my aunt Mirka’s new book: Making the Mark: Gender, Identity, and Genital Cutting.

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