2020 books

They say there are no stupid questions. That’s obviously wrong; I think my question about hard and soft things, for example, is pretty stupid. But it turns out that trying to thoroughly answer a stupid question can take you to some pretty interesting places.
The lesson: If the optimist says the glass is half full, and the pessimist says the glass is half empty, the physicist ducks.
Your plane would fly pretty well, except it would be on fire the whole time, and then it would stop flying, and then stop being a plane.
But I’ve never seen the Icarus story as a lesson about the limitations of humans. I see it as a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.
Lastly, we need to know the strength of gravity on Dagobah. Here, I figure I’m stuck, because while sci-fi fans are obsessive, it’s not like there’s gonna be a catalog of minor geophysical characteristics for every planet visited in Star Wars. Right? Nope. I’ve underestimated the fandom. Wookieepedia has just such a catalog, and informs us that the surface gravity on Dagobah is 0.9g.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday MachineThe Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Each of these people told you something about the state of the financial system, in the same way that people who survive a plane crash told you something about the accident, and also about the nature of people who survive accidents.

I have always liked books that give the reader a ‘behind the scenes’ look at a genius scientist or a massive enterprise - “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer come to mind. This book gives the same look at some people who saw the 2008 financial crisis coming, and it is a fascinating look, filled with colourful characters. It is also complicated to follow, but I guess that’s necessary; a thesis of the book is that the crisis itself happened because the people in the middle of it did not know what they were doing. Some way through the book, a footnote reads as follows.

Dear Reader: If you have followed the story so far, you deserve not only a gold star...

I want a gold star (who doesn’t?) and therefore I will be reading this again.

I saw the Hollywood adaptation before reading the book, and that enhanced the experience. If you enjoyed the book, see the movie, and vice versa.

It's too much to expect the people who run big Wall Street firms to speak plain English, since so much of their livelihood depends on people believing that what they do cannot be translated into plain English.