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4 july 2015

I greatly admired James Gleick's Chaos when it appeared in 1987 – everybody did, its ideas were pervasive – but then I lost track of Gleick's work. When perusing my public library's limited selection of nonfiction e-books recently, I stumbled across The Information, a long, labyrinthine book, sometimes florid, sometimes crystalline. It took Gleick a long time to write, and it took me a long time to read. It was worth the effort to behold such a synthetic imagination unifying an extremely big collection of vital ideas.     read more

3 july 2015

Dumplings, like pies, pancakes, and puddings, are not easy to define, but we know them when we see them.     read more

19 june 2015

As battles involving oar-powered warships go, Arginusae (406 BCE) isn't exactly Salamis, Actium, or Lepanto. Which is to say, it isn't one of the handful I'd ever heard of before Debra Hamel's The Battle of Arginusae arrived in the mail this week.     read more

17 june 2015

In Esperanto and Its Rivals, Roberto Garvía takes a sociological approach to the rise and fall of invented languages in late 19th-century Europe. I'd read some about this phenomenon from the linguistic and historical perspectives, and from the popular and journalistic angles (including Arika Okrent's smart and entertaining In the Land of Invented Languages). Garvía's study teaches me much more about the contexts for the international-language debate, and generalizes in interesting ways about why and how people adopt new inventions.     read more