I was surprised at the lukewarm (and perhaps “lukewarm” is generous) reactions to yesterday’s selection from Thinking, Fast and Slow. It so happens that I am reading Thinking, Fast and Slow right now and I pretty actively try to highlight and add from stuff that I am reading at any time.
That was half, anyway. Some readers commented that they didn’t love Kahneman’s prose. I actually thought it was well written, but that wasn’t really why I picked it. Kahneman, in this segment, uses simple and very clear language. He describes a fairly complex sequence… but I think all of us got it, and more than that, believed it.
As for the content? It kind of reminded me of this old Matt Sperling comic.
Speaking of stuff I read recently, these are the first two paragraphs from Rachel Maddow’s excellent Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power:
IN THE LITTLE TOWN WHERE I LIVE IN HAPSHIRE COUNTY, Massachusetts, we now have a “Public Safety Complex” around the corner from what used to be our hokey Andy Griffith-esque fire station. In the cascade of post-9/11 Homeland Security money in the first term of the George W. Bush administration, our town’s share of the loot bought us a new fire truck — one that turned out to be a few feet longer than the garage where the town kept our old fire truck. So then we got some more Homeland money to build something big enough to house the new truck. In homage to the origin of the funding, the local auto detailer airbrushed on the side of the new truck a patriotic tableau of a billowing flaglike barrier, a really big bald eagle, and the burning World Trade Center towers.
The American taxpayers’ investment in my town’s security didn’t stop at the new safety complex. I can see further fruit of those Homeland dollars just beyond my neighbor’s back fence. While most of us in town depend on well water, there are a few houses that for the past decade or so have been hooked up to a municipal water supply. And when I say “a few,” I mean few: I think there are seven houses on municipal water. Around the time we got our awesome giant new fire truck, we also got a serious security upgrade to that town water system. Its tiny pump house is about the size of two phone booths and accessible by a dirt driveway behind my neighbor’s back lot. Or at least it used to be. The entire half-acre parcel of land around that pump house is now ringed by an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and fronted with a motion-sensitive electronically controlled motorized gate. On our side of town we call it “Little Guantanamo.” Mostly it’s funny, but there is some neighborly consternation over how frowsy Little Guantanamo gets every summer. Even though it’s town-owned land, access to Little Guantanamo is apparently above the security clearance of the guy paid to mow and brush-hog. Right up to the fence, it’s my neighbor’s land and they keep everything trim and tidy. But inside that fence, the grass gets eye-high. It’s going feral in there.
I love Maddow’s diction, humor, combination of simple and unusual words, and sense of the bizarre. But what she does really well in this segment is to engage your visual imagination. You can see the fire truck sticking out of the too-small garage; the flames and towers detailed, the little pump station, couched and hidden behind too-tall “frowzy” grass.
Anyway… same stuff as the last three days!
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Note that address change – Facebook has upgraded our HOMEWORK page to http://facebook.com/groups/DesperateRavings!
Yesterday’s fabulous winners:
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