Sunday, November 28, 2021

Travels with George by Nathaniel Philbrick

Travels with George by Nathaniel Philbrick is a solid book subtitled In Search of Washington and His Legacy. Philbrick writes a first-person account of traveling with his wife and their dog on the same journeys that Washington took starting less than six months after his presidential inauguration in 1789.

Washington felt a great deal of pressure and consternation about being President and wanted to get out and be with the people of the fledgling country. He stayed in tavern houses and wanted to try to bring together Federalists who embraced the new constitution and Anti-Federalists who distrusted a strong central government. Washington started with a month-long tour of New England and the following year did a three-month-long circuit that took him to the South, covering thirteen states in total. 

It was interesting reading about Washington and his attempts to bring the country together, as well his attitudes and actions around slavery. There was also compelling mention of Washington's horrible teeth, and how wealthy people used to buy healthy teeth from others and implant them, replacing their rotted out teeth. 

The book is a good historical travelogue up and down the east coast, with Philbrick writing of his own life and interacting with people who would tell their stories of Washington and his actions. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Greatest Beer Run Ever by John "Chick" Donohue and J.T. Molloy

The Greatest Beer Run Ever by John "Chick" Donohue and J.T. Molloy is a remarkable nonfiction tale subtitled A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War. Donahue writes how he was 26 years old in his neighborhood New York bar in 1967 when he decided to take several cases of beer to Vietnam and deliver cans from home to local boys fighting there. 

The book is a rollicking story of Donahue's time in Vietnam, finding some of the people he set out to track down, and keeping himself alive while in a war zone. It's not necessarily great writing, but it is entertaining reading about someone who set off on a crazy plan and then had wild and dangerous adventures. He was in Saigon, slated to leave for home when the Tet offensive was launched, with the Vietcong briefly taking over the U.S. embassy and personnel airlifted off the roof. 

Donahue expected he'd only be in Vietnam three days, but was there for four months and a movie based on the book and starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, and Bill Murray began filming in fall 2021.

The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit by John Petrocelli

The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit by John Petrocelli is an interesting book that examines the type of information that's presented by people who don't really care if it's true or not. 

Petrocelli is a professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University and he writes of how bullshit is a disregard of genuine evidence or established knowledge. Maybe a statement is true, maybe it's not, it doesn't really matter to the person making it, nor does it matter to them whether the result of these bullshit statements is harmless or dangerous. A bullshitter move is to refute fact and say that research is needed.

Also in the book is the idea of truth-default bias. People have at least a passive presumption that others are being truthful, so when an idea is heard, that idea is afforded the benefit of the doubt, even if it's blatantly false. Another concept is the ease at which someone remembers something determines how true that thing feels. People remember anecdotes more than they remember actual studies with hard data behind them, and when is something is in the mind, it takes effort to purge it. 

Petrocelli covers that the way to combat bullshit is to have an attitude of skepticism and a practice of questioning, utilizing critical and scientific thinking skills. We need to compel bullshit artists to prove their thoughts and theories, asking them to clarify their claims. Give people a chance to correct themselves and if they don't, treat bullshit like lies, not like harmless statements that we write off as just things certain people say.