Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: Decaffeinated Corpse

Decaffeinated Corpse
Decaffeinated Corpse by Cleo Coyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this; but much like a real cup of decaf, it wasn't quite as good as the previous Coffeehouse mysteries. Don't get me wrong, it was fun and I always love all the coffee-insider stuff. But the plot wasn't as strong as I would have liked and there wasn't much more character development beyond what was there from the earlier books. Nevertheless, if you like Coyle's mysteries, you'll like this one as well.

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Review: Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes
Blue Eyes by Jerome Charyn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. A Jewish detective in New York? Right in my wheelhouse. And there were many interesting aspects of it: the
Marrano elements in particular. But overall, I didn't like it. The language was hard to penetrate: trying too hard to capture the lingo and slang of the underworld and police. I need a character to root for in a novel, someone to believe in or respect. But these characters were either weird, unsympathetic, evil, or uninteresting. The storytelling itself jumped around; I didn't have a good sense of what was going on for most of the book.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I gave up on this about 85 pages in. Too slow and meandering. The characters were unappealing and cliched.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Sports Ethicist: Miguel Cabrera and the Triple Crown

On Sports Ethicist: Some quick thoughts on Cabrera playing in the last two games of the season. "Winning is only possible if you are able to risk losing"

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Sports Ethicist: You Make the Call! Golden Tate, Miroslav Klose, and Officiating Errors

New Blog Post: You Make the Call! Golden Tate, Miroslav Klose, and Officiating Errors

Why do we praise Miroslav Klose's act of sportsmanship in owning up to his handball, but do not expect the same from Golden Tate and other athletes?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

CFA: Fandom, Fantasy, and Fitness: Rockford College Sports Studies Symposium

Call for Abstracts

Fandom, Fantasy, and Fitness
The 2nd Annual Rockford College Sports Studies Symposium
Date: April 19, 2013

Grace Roper Lounge
Rockford College
5050 E. State. St.
Rockford, IL 61108

Fans play a central role at all levels and within various aspects of sport, so any study of sport would do well to consider their influences in connection to fandom, fantasy, and fitness. A specific and growing area of fandom, fantasy sports, illustrates a concrete and complex way fans relate to and even affect sport. Moreover, the implicit and explicit connection of sport to fitness offers another important way that fans interact with sport. This year’s symposium seeks to explore and examine these aspects of the relationship between fan and sport.

We invite scholars from all disciplines to submit an abstract on these themes. This symposium will then bring together several panels of scholars to discuss these themes. The focus of each panel will depend, in part, on the submitted abstracts. Each presenter on a panel will have 20 minutes for their presentation. This will be followed by 30 minutes of a combined Q&A.

Abstract Submission:
Submissions are welcome on this theme of Fandom, Fantasy, and Fitness, or other related issues arising in the study of Sport. Abstract should be 300-500 words. Send via email (as PDF) to

Deadline: Friday, January 25th, 2013.
Notification of Acceptance: Monday, February 4th, 2013.

If you have any questions, please email, contact Shawn Klein (Assistant Professor, Philosophy Department) at 815-226-4115, or Michael Perry (Assistant Professor, English Department) at 815-226-4098.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Sports Ethicist: Violence And Football

New Blog at The Sports Ethicist: Violence And Football.

In this blog, I examine, by way of criticizing George Will's attack on football, the value of playing and watching football.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sports Ethics Blog: Sports Ethics: Five Years Running

New blog post at the The Sports Ethicist Blog Sports Ethics: Five Years Running

I give an overview of the content we cover in my Rockford College course: Sports Ethics.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sports Ethicist Blog: Lack of Munich Memorial Undermines Olympic Spirit

New blog post at The Sports Ethicist blog:  Lack of Munich Memorial Undermines Olympic Spirit 

I argue that the IOC is shameful and hypocritical for refusing to have a tribute for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches that were murder by terrorists at the Munich Olympic games in 1972.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sports Ethicist Blog

Last week,  I launched a new blog: The Sports Ethicist. The blog will examine these issues and explore both the ethical implications of sport and the ways sport can teach us about ethics and human life. Along with the blog, there is a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Subscribe, like and follow!

I've already posted two substantive posts:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Robots And Empire

Robots And Empire
Robots And Empire by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In many ways this is my favorite of the four robot books. The characters, especially Giskard and Daneel, were more developed. I find the robot characters so much more interesting in this series: in particular the way they reason through the problems facing them and even evolve. Though I did like DG and thought Gladia was also more compelling. Since this is a reread, it is cool to see how Asimov uses this to set the stage for both the galactic novels and the foundation series. One can see the tension between Asimov's individualism (his respect for and admiration of individuals) and his philosophic commitment to a kind of benevolent (as he sees it) collectivism. Through his characters he is seemingly trying to work out how to integrate these contrary views. In some ways, this is the most explicit of the four in this regard.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book, but I am not sure what to make of it in the end. At times, Taleb can be arrogant and dismissive--though often this was what I like about him! There was a lot that I didn't quite get--either too technical or too mathematical for me. But I think I get the main idea. Life (and the world) is much more complex that we imagine (paraphrasing a different quote: more complex than we can even imagine). Important parts of our lives are beyond our control and predicatablity. We cannot predict the events nor their effects (these are the black swans). The proper response is to make oneself robust enough to absorb shocks (instead of ignoring them, pretending they don't exist, or fruitlessly trying to predict them with false metrics). The practical elements of how to do this are more challenging (aren't they always!). Nevertheless, the ideas have applications from personal, practical, living to economic and social policy. It is a worthwhile read, though at times frustrating and meandering (which the autobiographical elements of the book show come directly from Taleb himself). One might check out the interviews with Taleb on Econtalk to get the main idea and some of its applications.

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Monday, July 09, 2012

Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What every one says about this book is dead on. It is a rich, fantastical world. There is magic and there are mythical creatures, but the story does not lean on them too heavily. This is not as story about dragons or the undead, it is about men and women, honor and integrity(and the lack thereof). The characters face difficult choices and this drives the plot. Martin does not hold back or shy away from allowing the plot to unfold as logic dictates. The consequences of the characters' choices are never superficial or meaningless, this is a tightly crafted world: 800 pages and yet economically written. Every word is significant and bears upon the story. The ending is great, not obvious and yet has to be that way. I will be picking up the next book very soon!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Imagining Better: Philosophical Issues in Harry Potter (Reason Papers Special Issue)

I am very excited to announce the publication in Reason Papers of my article: "Harry Potter and Humanity: Choices, Love, and Death" (PDF).

This is a special issue of Reason Papers: "Imagining Better: Philosophical Issues in Harry Potter". It had its start at "Imagining Better: Philosophical Issues in Harry Potter Potter," a conference organized by Carrie-Ann Biondi at Marymount Manhattan College on October 29, 2011. (link to information about that conference). The paper I presented at this conference is a much expanded paper that I gave at Tufts University in 2008. The published version was further revised and expanded from the Marymount Manhatthan conference.

Here is a link to the table of contents for all the articles in this special issue: (Scroll to Issue 34, No. 1 June 2012).

Here is a link to the full issue on Harry Potter:

And here is a link to my original blog post about the conference (with my talk abstract):

Lastly, a link to my co-edited book on Harry Potter: Harry Potter and Philosophy (Open Court 2004)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: The Robots of Dawn

The Robots of Dawn
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starts a little slow, a little too much like the previous two. But it picks up and takes on its own path. I enjoy the way Asimov develops the relationship between Baley and the robots. Baley is a good character, but too intuitive as a detective for my tastes. The robots are in many ways the more interesting characters. It is also fun to learn about the early developments of psychohistory. I am mixed on the end. In a way it is a bit dues ex machina. At the same time, there are enough hints looking back so that is not really.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Socratic Circles: Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking in Middle and High School

Socratic Circles: Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking in Middle and High School
Socratic Circles: Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking in Middle and High School by Matt Copeland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A useful text for developing Socratic dialogue in class rooms. Some of it is more relevant for (as the title indicates) middle and high school literature classes, but I found a lot here that can be adapted to my classes. Copeland's suggestions on pre- and post-discussion activities and assessment techniques also will be, I think(and hope), helpful. I also really liked the examples he provides of actual student dialogues.

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Review: Murder Most Frothy

Murder Most Frothy
Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good, fun summer read. Involving coffee as a main ingredient (see what I did there??) makes it all the more fun.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: The Hutt Gambit

The Hutt Gambit
The Hutt Gambit by A.C. Crispin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This, like the first novel in this series, was a lot of fun to read. This was not as crisp as the first, but had some exciting battle scenes. It also introduces you to several well-known characters from the movies and how Han meets them (including the Millenium Falcon). Great summer time, fun read. I'm tempted to pop A New Hope into the DVD player.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Review: Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues

Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues
Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No one will mistake Brandman with Parker. Ace Atkins, the author conintuing the Spenser series, captured Parker's voice at least partially. Atkins got the feel of the characters, the style, and the language of Spenser. Brandman, unfortunately, is not as successfully. It is not a bad book, but it is far from Parker's Stone. One clearly sees the influence of the TV movies here, no surprise since that is how Brandman comes to the series. But Stone's edge, both from the Selleck movies and the Parker books, is too softened here. Brandman does a good job with the dialogue, but the inner life that Parker was so adept at is lost. All this said, the book was interesting and enjoyable. I am glad I tried it out, though I am not sure how quickly I'll pick up the next one. Almost certainly, it will be a library rental if I do (as was this).

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Review: The Chairman

The Chairman
The Chairman by Stephen W. Frey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A solid thriller. Took a little bit, but sucked me in. Many of the characters were a little too stereotypical; from central casting for wall st types. Many characterize Frey as Grisham for finance. Dead on. I really liked Stiles, the security guy. The main character could have been more heroic in my view. Still, it was fun and I'm sure I'll read more Frey in future--though I am in no rush.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Review: The Paradise Snare

The Paradise Snare
The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was a lot of fun. I got the book through the library as a test of its ebook lending. I was a little surprised at how quickly I got sucked in. But then Han Solo was always my favorite from the original film trilogy. Not sure I'll get into the whole expanded universe but I think I'll finish this trilogy. Crispin does a great job of capturing Solo. Hard not to picture a young Harrison Ford! A slight fault might be that Muuurgh and Bria where just a little too close to Chewie and Leia.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mystery science fiction, my two favorite genres masterfully knitted together by Asimov. It is curious this never quite made it to the big screen; it could be a good movie. The structure of society, these giant cities, is interesting; there is the standard inevitablity of greater and greater bureaucratic control at the cost of individualism. But at the same time, the need and value of individualism is implicit in many ways. I was also struck by the musing of Baley about the "ancient" market systems. He says something along the lines of the primitive nature of bartering and chasing the dollar, but then goes on to see that the same traits are still present but directed at status and similar things. I see these themes running through Asimov's work (which is why I am rereading).

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: I, Robot

I, Robot
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

May 2012: I'm excited to reread the extended Foundation series. These stories are great. Witty, fast-paced, still relevant. That is, it still feels futuristic and sci-fi. I particularly like The Evitable Conflict. This story, or rather an aspect of its theme, is big part of the reason I am reading this series. Asimov seems to subscribe to the notion that with enough knowledge and computing power we could predict the future, run the economy, etc. And yet, something always seems to go wrong. Old review: Another old Asimov book of mine without an ISBN. An old Signet paperback from the 50s. Very interesting story. Will Smith movie was very good, but very different.

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Review: Robert B. Parker's Lullaby

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby
Robert B. Parker's Lullaby by Ace Atkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was skeptical. But Atkins won me over. This a man who knows how to write and who know Spenser's world. He is cleary a well-versed, talented fan of Parker. This is a good book, and captures Spenser as well as can be imagined. Still, there is something ineffable missing. One knows this is not Parker writing. The voice in my head is different. It is just off in little ways that are hard to pinpoint or explain. I'd compare it to a really good counterfeit painting. For the most part perfect, but just a few strokes not quite right that give it away. Nevertheless, fans of Spenser should give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Review: Drop Shot

Drop Shot
Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An action-packed, entertaining read. Make Win black and slighty less psychopathic, and this is basically a Spenser/Hawk novel. Which is not a criticism in itself, I love Spenser and Parker. But, it is, nonetheless, derivative in that way.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Review: Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were things about this book I really liked, and things that infuriated and frustrated me. Part of the author's point is to revitalize and defend manual work. He wants to show the intellectual rewarding aspects of this kind of work. This part I liked, and he does a wonderful job here, with interesting anecdotes and references to historic thinkers. He seems to want to reject the mind/body dictohomy at the root of the manual-mental work division. But in developing the framework for his argument, he reintroduces or rather fails to reject fully the mind/body dictohomy in the form of a kind of concrete-abstract dichotomy.

Now, this is a real distinction, so what I mean is he consistently priviledges knowledge and ideas that are more concrete over more abstract ones. This is related, I think, to what Ayn Rand called this the anti-conceptual mentality. She says that this mentality "treats concepts as if they were (memorized) percepts; it treats abstractions as if they were perceptual concretes." Crawford doesn't do this completely, but he does fail to treat abstractions as fundamentally connected to and about reality. They are, well, too abstract to provide us with guidance, validity, or objectivity in work. Only, it seems, a particular, concrete direct experience can do this. There is a ubiquitous contrast of a kind navel-gazing, head in the cloud shadow of a person with the real guy doing real work that anyone can see, experience, and measure. We can only get objectivity with things we can see, if it is abstract or far-off, it cannot serve that function, and worse, misleads us. So carpenters know when they have done a good job, they can see it, others can see it. But the manager of some team in a corporate environment has nothing to look at the end of his work day. This, Crawford claims, leaves him with no objective standards to judge his work. What follows in his account are all the problems caricatured by The Office and Dilbert.

This anti-conceptual mentality leads him to several misdiagnoses of problems with contemporary work environments and institutions (the marxist influences don't help either). Nevertheless the book is an interesting and worthwhile read, with many insights into the pleasure and value of work and the essential role that work plays in the good life.

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Review: The Given Day

The Given Day
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I still prefer the Patrick and Angela novels, but Lehane is always an entertaining author. I like how he pushes himself into new areas and genres. This novel brings you into the world of Boston in the 20s. Lehane weaves a complicated plot, but it comes together at the end. I don't know how sold I am on the Babe Ruth angle, but it ended up working and added a novel element to the story.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Harry Potter and Humanity at PCA/ACA

This is my abstract for the paper I will be presenting at the 42nd Annual PCA/ACA National Conference in Boston, MA.

Harry Potter and Humanity: Choices, Love, and Death

In this paper, I analyze how the Harry Potter novels bring to our awareness two fundamental parts of the human condition: the importance of one’s choices and the inevitable of one’s mortality.

Lord Voldemort, in his ruthless search for immortality, never accepts his own humanity; he openly rejects it. I argue it is this choice that makes his irredeemable evil, and his ultimate defeat, possible.

On the other hand, it is Harry’s acceptance of his mortality that allows him to embrace his humanity. It is this recognition that gives Harry the power defeat Voldemort. More than that, it makes it possible for Harry to develop into a realized, virtuous adult. In his acceptance of his mortality, the boy that lived is able more fully and wholly to live.

This revised paper was originally written for "The Power to Imagine Better: The Philosophy of Harry Potter" at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abstract for APEE Presentation

I will be speaking on the panel "Author Meets Critics: Adam Moore's: Privacy Rights " at the Association of Private Enterprise Education International Conference in Las Vegas on April 1-3, 2012.

Here is the abstract:

Adam Moore argues for a robust right to informational privacy. He defines privacy as "an access control right over oneself and information about oneself" (16). A potential problem arises, I argue, in that some information is created in such a way that two different parties can be said to own the information. For example, when I buy an espresso at a cafe, that is personal information about my tastes and habits. But this information is created in a context involving other agents who, it would seem, have a right to this information by the same arguments that establish my right to this information. While I agree with much of Moore's account, it does not adequately address this potential conflict which seems to be at the heart of many disputes over privacy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: A History of the Jews

A History of the Jews
A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not just a history of the Jews. It is a history of Western Civilization. It covers so much, it is at times overwhelming. It is hard to sum up one’s response to a book that covers nearly 5000 years and every major event in the West. I can do no better than quote Johnson from his Epilogue: “It seems to be the role of the Jews to focus and dramatize these common experiences of mankind, and to turn their particular fate into a universal moral” and “The Jews believed they were a special people with such unanimity and passion, and over so long a span, that they became one. They did indeed have a role because they wrote it for themselves.” These lines succinctly and accurately sum up the book and Johnson’s approach on the history of Jews.

Johnson’s take is sympathetic and admiring. He is fascinated by the history he is telling and so the reader is fascinated as well. I do wish the parts where broken up in to chapters or sections to facilitate reading. This is not a book one reads in a sitting. Each part is a small book in itself, and so more natural breaks in the text would have helped. Johnson does an amazing job of integrating the history, of tracing lines from ancient Baghdad to modern Tel Aviv. Like any good long book, I am glad to have finished it, but I will miss it.

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Review: A Brief History of Liberty

A Brief History of Liberty
A Brief History of Liberty by David Schmidtz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brief it is, but still manages to be a thorough and extensive history and discussion of liberty and freedom. Convassing many different conceptions of liberty, it is not a polemic or didactic work. It is thoughtful and well-researched. The authors deal with interesting questions and problems that arise within the history of freedom, including some of the contemporary social psych literature that is sometimes cast as providing a basis to reject the claims of classical liberalism. I hope my students find it as useful and as interesting as I did.

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