Saturday, December 26, 2015

Why vote?

Re: paragraph on why it's not rational to vote, cited in Library of Economics and Liberty article: Economists who lack an imagination by Scott Sumner

This is the paragraph:
4. Economists who say that voting is not rational because there is only a tiny probability that your vote will swing an election.
This is why I vote:
  1. I've seen bizarrely close elections in my life. I know it's important to cast a vote, so you don't feel guilty at the result.
  2. What do you think happened in France a few weeks ago? Right wing won because majority didn't bother to vote. The win shocked more citizens into voting, so the right wing lost the subsequent election. 
  3. My dad used to say it's better to flip a coin than not vote. He had some statistical argument for this, which I can't remember, but it may have been: at least it builds the impression that we're paying attention.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Audiobook Recommendations

Based on my experience with Overdrive and a 50-mile commute to & from work.
To be updated as I listen to more books.

Science/Tech - These two really held my interest:

  • The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
  • The Information - James Gleik

Other Nonfiction


  • David Sedaris books
  • Malcolm Gladwell books
  • Nora Ephron, e.g. I Feel Bad About My Neck  (good for women, esp 40+)

Neil Gaiman


  • Neverwhere (the best, IMHO)
  • Stardust (lighter than above, worked well for putting on timer at bedtime)
  • Anansi Boys - read by Lenny Henry (star of ‘Chef’), also pretty good
  • Fortunately, The Milk - short, amusing, kid-friendly

Other Fiction


  • Embassytown -  China MiĆ©ville - perhaps the best SF I’ve ‘read’ in years
  • Lunatics - Dave Barry & Alan Zweibel - Funny slapstick kind of book. The 2 authors read the first person POV character for the 2 main characters.
  • The School for Good and Evil (book 1 of YA trilogy) - Soman Chaimani (the whole family was caught up listening to this on my phone during a blackout last year)
    • book 2: A World without Princes
    • book 3: The Last Ever After
    • Definitely read this series in order.

Terry Pratchett


Not in a series, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers:


  • Nation - parallel universe story, kind of upsetting near the beginning, but overall good
  • Dodger - also parallel universe London, not as deep as above, but enjoyable

Tiffany Aching - Discworld YA Subset

 These were all eventually available on Overdrive. More fun if you listen in order, because she grows up in the books:
  1. The Wee Free Men
  2. A Hatful of Sky
  3. Wintersmith
  4. I Shall Wear Midnight
  5. The Shepherd’s Crown

Other Discworld


I wish the folks at discworld.com would offer a subscription lending-library service to all of the Discworld audiobooks so that I could hear them in order. If I ever shell out the money for audible.com, my main reason would be to listen to Discworld as I drive. Nothing makes a commute as fun as Terry Pratchett on audio.
All the discworld audiobooks I've borrowed from the library were read by great narrators. In some ways they are better to listen to than read, because my imagination wouldn't supply those voices. Reading is good for picking up the wise words you didn't hear while driving and listening.
Hogfather, in particular, I remember had better voices than I would never have managed in my head.

Even if you listen to the Pratchett discworld out of order, they are still funny. But try to start as early in the list as possible. Pratchett’s writing also improved towards the end. I thought Thud was great, but would not be as good if you’d not heard earlier about the characters.
Other advice:
  • You could probably read Monstrous Regiment without reading the others
  • Definitely read Going Postal before Making Money