Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, Book 1) by Jack Campbell

How to Lie with Statistics – Darrell Huff

Extrapolations are useful, particularly in that form of soothsaying called forecasting trends. But in looking at the figures or charts made from them, it is necessary to remember one thing constantly: The trend-to-now may be a fact, but the future trend represents no more than an educated guess. Implicit in it is “everything else being equal” and “present trends continuing.” And somehow everything else refuses to remain equal, else life would be dull indeed.

The book gives straightforward examples of how statistics may be used to deceive. Although written in 1954, it is actual and relevant. The writing is fluid and can be simply understood even from some who is not astute in mathematics.

Manual for critical thinking.

Each chapter presents a particular twist of facts through statistics, usually taking an example from a journal or an advert. Because it is assumed that people give more credibility to facts presented through figures (the more precise, the better), those figures are used to mislead and misinterpret what is really happening.

To mention just a few twists: sample biases (for example a conservative magazine asking readers who they think will win the presidency); inadequate sampling (only 3 or 9 cases); difference between mean and median (the block of apartments might have a different average salary if a very rich man moves in; this doesn’t mean you are richer, but the average goes up); statistical differences lower than than the statistical error presented as relevant differences (such as IQ tests); graphs with no axis measurements; small differences made great through graph manipulations; infographic manipulations (when the difference is, let’s say x2, but the two objects compared in the infographic have surfaces presented at square (x4)); semi-attached figures (when you prove a fact and associate a second one to the first, letting the second fact subtly draw its veracity from the proof of the first); difference between forecast and extrapolation; and many others.

Overall, this little book from Darell Huff is a great defense technique manual for a critical thinker and it is a particular good recommendation for honest journalists, wanting to get the facts from press releases.

The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat – Tim Spector

A very pleasant surprise was that items I thought were naughty but that I enjoyed immensely, like strong coffee, dark chocolate, nuts, high fat yoghurt, wine and cheese, are actually likely to be healthy for me and my microbes.

There are a lot of books on nutrition, but this one is written by the Director of the TwinsUK Registry, which has detailed data on 11,000 twins. With more than 5,000 pairs, one as variable, one control group, a lot of good research can be made.

A good education in nutrition.

The book talks about the microbes in our guts and how they influence our health. It covers a lot, from fats and sugar, to vitamins and antibiotics. It gave me the impression of a good education in what to eat. The chapter on antibiotics was quite strong.

As many good books show, there is no silver bullet.  Of course, we all know that eating non-refined, mostly plants, not a lot, is good, particularly with some exercise; but beyond this, Dr Spector basically says that we are all different and we should discover our own way.

He puts some thought and presents some research in other areas as well, such as fasting, various type of diets and some really weird experiences.

Overall, the book is also packed with examples of various patients, mainly twins, showing how microbes influence our body and how different we all are, one from the other.

The book is less about demystifying, but about creating a good education on nutritional health…which I can all, but recommend.

Le Style Masculin, Guide a l’usage de l’homme moderne – Bernhard Roetzel

Le look business conventionnel

  1. Le costume foncé en fin lainage constitue la base du look business. Couleurs : bleu foncé ou gris foncé. Le marron et le noir sont interdits.
  2. Avec le costume, il faut une chemise à manches longues dotée de poignets classiques pour le quotidien et de poignets mousquetaires pour les occasions. Le col à pointes boutonnées, au col mou dont les pointes peuvent être boutonnées sue le devant de la chemise, est d’abord un col business, même si les experts en style et les vendeurs disent le contraire. Mais, en Europe, cette variant est souvent considérée comme trop sportive. Encore quelques mots sur un vêtement que beaucoup préfèrent pour le bureau : les chemises à manches courtes conviennent très bien aux chauffeurs d’autobus et aux policiers, mais pas au bureau.
  3. La combinaison veste-pantalon ne convient pas pour le business, mais seulement pour la transition vers le week-end, le vendredi. Exceptions : entreprises moyennes, travailleurs indépendants, collaborateurs sans contacts avec la clientèle. Le blazer bleu marine non plus n’est pas conçu pour le monde d’affaires.
  4. La cravate reste un must. Cela changera peut-être, mais pour le moment elle fait encore partie du costume d’homme affaires dont on ne peut se passer. C’est autre chose si nous parlons de branches dans lesquelles il est de bon ton d’être en tenue décontractée. Mais ce n’est pas ce dont il est question ici.
  5. Les chaussures doivent être noires. Les conventionnelles sont des modelés à lacets et avec peu de motifs perforés. Les derbys à double semelle de cuir sont trop grossiers pour être portes avec un costume raffiné. Les mocassins sont trop sportifs pour le puriste et les chaussures à boucles font trop dandy. La couleur est cependant plus importante que le modèle.

Parfois, je suis étonné de voir le manque d’attention aux vêtements que beaucoup de hommes matures ont. Ça veut dire pas d’habiller tout le temps à la cravate, mais juste une peu d’attention.

Homme ou garçon ?

Le livre parle des règles de base pour habiller, principalement au bureau, pour hommes, pour les métiers qui ont des contacts avec les clients : finance, politique, conseil, assurance, commerce, etc. Le livre a des chapitres sur Look casual et Tenue de cérémonie aussi.

Bernhard Roetzel couvre aussi les chaussures, les accessoires, le nettoyage et entretien, silhouette et les règles de la coupe. Il donne plusieurs conseils pratique pour construire une garde-robe flexible, de grande qualité et pas chère. Les sub-chapitres sur Combiner les couleurs sont particulièrement très bien écrits.

L’auteur est strict avec ses règles, mais c’est bien de leur lire, juste pour avoir une idée qu’elles sont les grandes fautes. Pour les connaisseurs, Mr Roetzel a quelques sub-chapitres sur les tissues, filature et juste une peu de connaissance générale pour reconnaître un vêtement de bonne qualité.

Je vous laisse avec quelques images des hommes bien habillés.

Regarde la différence, Source: http://collider.com/kingsman-the-secret-service-images/
Promenade au travail Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/492933121684658485/

Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke

Man was, therefore, still a prisoner on his own planet. It was much fairer, but a much smaller, planet than it had been a century before. When the Overlords abolished war and hunger and disease, they had also abolished adventure.

Childhood’s End is a good scifi from the accomplished author Arthur C Clarke. It starts with a sudden arrival of some aliens, just after the second world war. They bring peace and prosperity, but never disclose their reason to come to Earth. The book ends somewhat surprisingly, into a kind of transcendence for humankind.

Quality scifi writing

Although written in 1953, the book keeps pace with current development and innovations, which shows the, what proved to be correct, vision of the author for the future.

The plot has several twists, a couple of stories being intermingled, but the narrative is kept straight and easy to follow. The anchor of the book are the aliens and the slow progress towards the inevitable end. It reminded me of the more recent series of Harry Turtledove (Colonization – also on this website).

The book is an easy read and imaginative enough to be an entertaining scifi almost 70 years after writing.

While I enjoyed reading the book, I think it could have explored more the excellent plot lines developed. A solid reading overall.

[Featured picture by ITU Pictures]

The Future of Almost Everything – Patrick Dixon

Over $5.3 trillion of currencies are traded every day, yet nations like the Philippines, Peru, Poland or the UK hold less than $80bn in reserves to defend against speculators. Enough to last only a few days.

The book is trying to identify future trends, developments that human society might take. Dixon considers that there are six main future trends, conveniently named: Fast, Urban, Tribal, Universal, Radical and Ethical (FUTURE).

Patrick Dixon has a lot of guessing and the arguments he shows are shallow. There are so many statements that some will certainly turn true.

Guessing the future

Nonetheless, he is intriguing and has a good grasp of what is happening in the world. It makes a good overall read and challenges the reader. However, I did not feel that he bring anything new, all being trends that exist already and are extrapolated into the future.

Patrick Dixon is a professional futurologist, having a company specialized in this niche, with many reputable international clients. He writes often, on various subjects.

The style of reading is very fluid and it follows very neatly the logic of each chapter or trend. It make a good read overall, but not exceptional.

[Feature photo by Kristian Bjornard]

Man of war (series) – H. Paul Honsinger

New contact!” Lieutenant Kasparov announced from the Sensors Station.  “Infrared and mass detection, bearing three-five-seven mark zero-six-eight.  Designating as Hotel eleven.  Classified as definite hostile.  No effort at stealth.”  Then, under his breath, he added, “Arrogant bastards.”

“Very well.”  Lieutenant Commander Max Robichaux, Union Space Navy, Captain of the Khyber class destroyer USS Cumberland, acknowledged the contact report but let the comment pass, not because it was appropriate–which it was not–but because he heartily concurred.  Judging by the quiet murmurs of agreement from the dozens of men at their General Quarters stations in the Cumberland’s Combat Information Center, he wasn’t the only one.

The destroyer’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Eduardo DeCosta, leaned toward Max and said in a low voice, “No stealth.  Looks like disdain.  We’re not a threat to them, so they don’t need to waste effort making themselves hard to detect.”

Max shook his head and answered at the same volume—his voice would not carry beyond the Command Island, the platform in the center of CIC where the Commander’s and Executive Officer’s Stations, as well as an additional console known as the Commodore’s Station, were located.  “That’s not it, XO.  Krag disdain for us ‘blaspheming monkeys’ is a given.  Their goal is intimidation.  They want to make sure we know they’re here and how many of them are hunting us.  They want us cowed.  Too scared to think.  Believing we’re already dead so we’ll stop fighting to survive.” [Book 3 – Brothers in Valour]

The series follows the adventures of Max Robichaux, captain of a war spaceship engaged in the war with an alien empire, some 300 years in the future.

There are three books in the series: To Honor You Call Us, For Honor We Stand and Brothers in Valour. Interestingly, the first two were self-published (this means there was no publishing house behind them) and enjoyed an immense success.

The series are classical in the sense of story building. Captain Robichaux gradually earns his success and military victories, while training and giving confidence to his destroyer’s crew. On his side, there is his best friend, Dr Sahin, and a reliable council of advisers. The victories follow one after the other, but not without losses. The focus is on the hero and his crew, less on the ship itself.

A nice, relaxed reading.

There are writers who like to introduce convoluted psychological plots and mind games. However, the author, Paul Honsinger, likes his story clean; the focus is on the fight itself, on the universe around it and on the crew. This makes the story easy to follow and engaging.

There is no hard scifi in those books, but the plot is imaginative, with nice twists. Also, every decision from the universe (such as why no women on board) is given a credible explanation (a genophage virus  sent by aliens to kill human females, due to the low reproductive rate of human species in comparison with aliens).

The battles are very creative and well described. The evolution of the hero and the crew is impressive. The captain is just an ordinary guy (not a prince or the son of a general), with a lot more grit, common sense and willingness to win that others. This type of character makes the reader to identify him/herself with the hero and follow his decisions.

I loved the series, it was easy to read. It was not a big,  convoluted plot where you have to make notes in order to remember what is happening. One of the most relaxing reads of military scifi.