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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