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Tenured Radical

Joined 5 months, 1 week ago

Dad, professor, marathon swimmer. Master procrastinator.

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Tenured Radical's books

Currently Reading

Zeke Faux: Number Go Up (Paperback, 2023, Orion Publishing Group, Limited) 4 stars

In 2021 cryptocurrency went mainstream. Giant investment funds were buying it; celebrities like Tom Brady …

A great read about the idiocy and tragedy that is the world of cryptocurrencies and defi. Faux is at his funniest when letting various personalities from the crypto and NFT manias speak for themselves, but he also manages to convey, occasionally with quiet horror, the real-world harms that these clowns have unleashed. He's also good at clarifying that these harms aren't the result of any flashy new distruptive tech, but simply old-fashioned confidence schemes and fraud. The only innovation is making these crimes far more difficult to track and prosecute. Given the timing of the book, Faux got a lot of press for his coverage of Sam Bankman-Fried and the fall of FTX and Almeda Research, but throughout the book and certainly in its final pages, his frustration with the genuine bad actors (who continue to escape accountability) is palpable: the real villian of the story isn't SBF; it's Giancarlo …

Cheryl Misak: Frank Ramsey (Hardcover, 2020, Oxford University Press) 5 stars

A beautiful and poignant biography of an astonishing mind

5 stars

What a marvelous biography of Frank Ramsey. In his brief life, Ramsey quietly changed so much about how we understand ourselves. But for me, the really frustrating parts of this story center around Wittgenstein, who loomed large in Ramsey's live, and who, for all his brilliance and bluster, left us with little more than smug quietism about key philosophical methods and hopes. Ramsey's emerging pragmatism was so much more contructive. Misak is far too measured a scholar to put it so bluntly, but it's hard to avoid the sense that much of what now we take to be original in the later Wittgenstein owes chiefly to Ramsey's profound influence. If only he had lived.

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kim Stanley Robinson: Ministry for the Future (2020, Orbit) 4 stars

Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the …

Review of 'Ministry for the Future' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Ambitious and well-informed, but politically and emotionally implausible in key respects. That, of course would hardly be a criticism in much speculative sci-fi (hell, it defines the genre!) but good world-building invites us to embrace certain implausible (or outright ridiculous) foundations, by drawing us into a compelling story or novel vision, hopefully both. Here, alas, the vision far exceeds the power of the underlying stories to draw the reader in, and so the limits of character development and political-institutional simplicities become increasingly grating. Still, things could be (marginally) worse: he could have written Neal Stephenson's Termination Shock instead! :/

Neal Stephenson: Termination Shock (Hardcover, 2021, William Morrow) 4 stars

Termination Shock takes readers on a thrilling, chilling visit to our not-too-distant future – a …

Review of 'Termination Shock' on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

I wanted to like this more, because I was an early Stephenson fan from Zodiac days, and I still consider Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon to be masterful storytelling. But this? Almost insultingly silly character development, implausible relationships, and a strangely attenuated focus, given the backdrop of the most complex and unrelentingly global problem of our age. If Kim Stanley Robinson's approach to anthropocentric climate change tries to take too sweeping a view (at the expense of character development and human cultural complexity), here Stephenson suffers the opposite failing: too narrow a focus on the relationships around a particular technology, which reveals his increasingly stark limitations as a character-based storyteller. The one character he does manage to make compelling? Well, no spoilers, but I was shocked at the lazy (and infuriatingly bad) conclusion of that particular arc.

Ian Urbina: The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier (2019, Alfred A. Knopf) 5 stars

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet. But perhaps the wildest, and least understood, …

Review of 'The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This is a compelling, frustrating, and infuriating collection of stories about what goes on beyond our shores, woven together masterfully by Urbina into a damning indictment of so many aspects of our lives - commodity trade and seafood, most obviously - that depend upon lawless cruelty, corruption, and indifference in international waters. Nothing I read here was unknown to me, but Urbina's ability to tell the stories of the voiceless and powerless, while wrestling with the moral complexities of his subject-matter, kept me reading intently, and in my judgement makes this a critically important book. Read it.

Ross Edgley: Art of Resilience (2020, HarperCollins Publishers Limited) 3 stars

Review of 'Art of Resilience' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

I'm a bit torn here. I wanted to love this book, and it is a compelling read for the most part.

The positives first: Ross Edgley is insanely fit, and a passionate advocate for fitness, and wellness more generally. On pretty much every page you feel that he genuinely wants to help others find and pursue their own athletic adventures. That comes across as an infectious enthusiasm throughout the book, paired with lots of research in sports science. If you follow Ross on social media you know he has a loyal following, and when you read this book you get a sense for why: he seems like a really great guy who cares deeply about friends and family, and who sincerely wants to help others achieve their goals.

Pair that personality (and stunning physique!) with an amazing adventure, and you have a fantastic tale, crafted by a charismatic adventurer who …

Scientists squabble over the locations and dates for human arrival in the New World. The …

Review of 'Atlas of a lost world' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A really great book - seamlessly blends a captivating adventure narrative with the state of current science on human migrations and settlement of the Americas. I really enjoyed this.

Leanne Shapton: Swimming studies (2012, Blue Rider Press) 4 stars

Review of 'Swimming studies' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I'd give this five stars for former age-group swimmers (especially from Canada). If that's not you, your mileage will almost certainly vary, but given the forgiving nature of the memoir genre and Shapton's considerable talents as an artist, four stars seems reasonable. Calibrating for my perspective in this regard (I'm a swimmer), I'd say that this memoir reads well and occasionally transcends the audience I've just described, with fleeting moments of poignant insight into how our childhood shapes us, and our relationships sustain us. (I read this as an ebook, but that format doesn't do justice to how Shapton weaves her visual art into the narrative). At other points, however, Shapton misses the chance to speak beyond swimmers and convey, to interested outsiders, the strange obsession with water that afflicts so many of us in our varied swimming tribes. Will anyone ever inherit Charles Sprawson's mantle in writing about swimming?

Mark Synnott: The Impossible Climb (Hardcover, 2019, Dutton) 4 stars

Review of 'The Impossible Climb' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Overall I enjoyed this book, particularly for the genre, but I'll confess that, over the years, I've become far more sensitive to the limiting tropes of that genre, i.e. 'amazing heroic adventure dude (and it's always a dude) doing amazing heroic adventures' and sometimes being sad (to the point of maudlin excess) about fellow climbers killed in the mountains, but ultimately concluding with variations on cliches about 'doing what we love' or 'finding inspiration and sharing wonder' or 'it really isn't that risky, when you think about the dangers of freeway driving ...'

... to be clear, I don't mean these as criticisms: I've said some of these things myself, more than a few times. I'm simply pointing out that they are indeed cliches of the mountaineering genre, although of course that genre has become more complex, not least since the popular success of Krakauer's "Into Thin Air."

Synnott writes …