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Darius Kazemi

Joined 2 years, 1 month ago

This is where I track and comment on what I'm reading. #nobot

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Darius Kazemi's books

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Travels in Persia (1972, AMS Press) 4 stars

In this remarkable account of his second sojourn in Persia, the author paints a splendid …

One of the better 17th century books I've read

4 stars

So, I read the first book of this multi book series by a Huguenot jeweler recounting his time traveling to Persia in the 1680s. The first half of the book is about his time passing through modern day Turkey and through Georgia and Armenia before getting to Azerbaijan and then into Persia proper. It's incredibly readable and breezy for something published in 1691, though you have to get Used to Randomly Capitalized words and Shoddy Orthography and typesetting where s and f look the same.

The book is half day to day diary, and half digressions on politics and religion and economics and geography. Chardin has reasonable command of English and Persian in addition to his native French. (This book was originally written in French but he collaborated on its English translation.) His understanding of history and etymology is pretty good for someone of his era though there is a …

Sapiens (Paperback, 2016, Signal) 4 stars

Destined to become a modern classic in the vein of "Guns, Germs, and Steel," "Sapiens" …

Read the first chapter and decided to skim the remainder of the book. Seems like it would be a good overview of human development and evolution for like a very bright high school kid. But there's not much here that I haven't learned elsewhere. I don't plan to finish this.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant (2016, Tor Books) 5 stars

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home …

Didn't want to put it down

5 stars

Wow this was one of those "can't put it down" books for me. It's hard to review without spoiling but basically it is a fantasy novel with extremely interesting and incisive things to say about how imperialism works. Most of the action takes place in a federation of dukedoms that is currently being occupied by a big bad Empire. When I looked at the map at the beginning of the book I thought "there is no way I am ever going to remember who these dozen different dukes are and where they sit politically" but by the end of it I was like "oh my god I can't believe Duke So-and-so decided to ally with Duke Whats-her-face! That will have horrific ramifications for petit bourgeois craftspeople!"

Anyway this is one of the best books I've read in years. The human drama is really gripping and it also has left me …

If Then (2020, Liveright) 3 stars

The Simulmatics Corporation, launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized …

Lots of potential but less than the sum of its parts

2 stars

I am a total sucker for learning anything and everything I can about the mid 20th century think tanks and defense contractors that helped invent American technocracy. And yet I find myself lukewarm on this book at best.

The weakest part of the book is its core thesis: it attempts to make Simulmatics, a short-lived company that was far more bark than bite, into a harbinger of the modern data-driven, democracy-destroying privacy nightmare we live in today. The author fails to do this. Oh, she makes the claim that it is a harbinger, many times, but she doesn't show the work, seemingly expecting the reader to go "oh, that sounds similar enough that it must be the same thing."

Simulmatics was a shambles of a company run by a bright-burning PR hack and staffed by scientists who did not seem to be very good at their jobs. They never owned …

@hunterowens @christa Extremely gratified that Seth Mnookin, who I respect greatly, agrees with our assessment:

In particular I was thinking the same thing as him: he positions Simulmatics as a harbinger of doom but they were a complete failure of a company that couldn't deliver on almost anything they promised. The fact that she says simultaneously "these people were charlatans" (true) and "these people possessed the seed of 21st century data mining" (false) is weird. I would have preferred it if she kept it to a narrative of "these guys were grifters. So was Cambridge Analytica!" Because there is a lot of evidence that shows that CA and similar initiatives don't actually do what they claim to do. It could have been tied in to the adtech grift, especially since the company tried to pivot into adtech between elections!