Category Archives: Books

The Power of Abstraction, Part 2

I wrote about the power of abstraction earlier, and I just came across a beautiful passage on the same subject by one of my favourite authors, the prolific and master expositor, John Stillwell (see also here). It’s taken from the … Continue reading

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Black Earth Into Yellow Crocus

Perhaps my favourite joke of all time is actually an anecdote that I read in the wonderful book Thirty Years that Shook Physics, by George Gamow. The book is available in an inexpensive Dover edition, and would make a fine … Continue reading

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The Disney World of Good vs. Evil

One of the traditional purposes of culture is to educate. Before books were common, the spoken word was the essential tool for teaching. Stories are memorable, and so telling stories was an effective way to pass on life lessons, particularly … Continue reading

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On Failure

A great line from Gretchen Rubin’s delightful blog (The Happiness Project): If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. It’s similar to a basketball truism about playing defense (“If you commit no fouls at all, you’re not trying hard … Continue reading

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Words, Episode 2: compassion

Jian Ghomeshi interviewed Karen Armstrong (her recent book is 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life; for reviews see here, here, and here, for example) yesterday on Q, and she made the point that the major religions have largely failed at … Continue reading

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Is the growing divide between rich and poor a danger for society?

I grew up in Southern Ontario with my parents and my five siblings in a very small three bedroom “wartime house.” My father was a labourer in a steel factory, and my mother did a tremendous job stretching his weekly … Continue reading

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Random humour and the Sufis

I read this while browsing in a store in Ellicottville the other day: An actor included the following provision in his will: When he died he wished to be cremated, and then 10% of his ashes should be thrown in … Continue reading

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