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Jared

Software engineer and avid, lifetime student. I like deep, thoughtful non-fiction, and fiction that compliments and enriches it.

Prosper, TX, United States | Member Since 2010

28
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 19 reviews
  • 137 ratings
  • 914 titles in library
  • 56 purchased in 2015
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  • The Nano Flower: The Greg Mandel Trilogy, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Peter F. Hamilton
    • Narrated By Toby Longworth
    Overall
    (609)
    Performance
    (533)
    Story
    (534)

    Julia Evans, billionairess owner of Event Horizon, has for 15 years been the power behind England’s economic renaissance – but now she’s in trouble. With her husband missing, and rival companies suddenly claiming to have acquired a technology impossibly superior to anything on Earth, she has no time to take notice of a single flower delivered anonymously. But this flower possesses genes millions of years in advance of any terrestrial DNA.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Sci-fi mastery in full bloom for the nanoflower"
    "Massively entertaining and educational"
    Overall
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    Peter F. Hamilton has become my favorite modern author as I've read this series and his Commonwealth series. The only bad part is that there aren't more books in each series to fill out the rich and highly plausible future realities. It is a disservice to call his writing a "space opera" or even "sci-fi" (or fantasy). Hamilton's works are social, political, and psychological epics that employ straight-forward technological possibilities as plot devices to pose to the reader many of the most profound questions of great literature - in an engaging, modern package.

    And the reader, Toby Longfellow, is excellent - just as talented as John Lee, reader of The Commonwealth series. Both should qualify among the best readers out there - and on books where you have a choice of several editions with different readers, don't bother wasting time with any substitutes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By E. L. James
    • Narrated By Becca Battoe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12595)
    Performance
    (10808)
    Story
    (10833)

    Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist.

    Tracy L says: "I CAN'T LISTEN ANY LONGER! I'M BUYING THE BOOK."
    "Stephanie Meyer-class writing, with sex"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm reading the 50 Shades trilogy out of shear morbid curiosity regarding the books' sales and buzz from a not-too-recently-banned subject matter .I'm not prejudiced about the explicit romance genre - I give VERY high praise to Richelle Meade's Succubus line of books - but the worst aspect of E.L. James' 50 shades line is the Stephanie Meyer (Twilight)-like quality of writing - such as the reuse (over and over) of cliché phrases and descriptions, as well as a fundamentally absent plot.

    All in all, the only real value in the 50 Shades trilogy merely seems to be an improve ability to chit chat and denigrate the series in social settings...

    The 50 shades movie is actually more enjoyable than the book ( even though they mostly track the book plots) simply because the movie can avoid the poor writing.

    As much as I recommend the book and series, it is only as an example of bad writing, and at this point I sort of want to get my money back....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Sarah Chayes
    • Narrated By Sarah Chayes
    Overall
    (28)
    Performance
    (20)
    Story
    (19)

    A former adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff explains how government's oldest problem is its greatest destabilizing force. Thieves of State argues that corruption is not just a nuisance; it is a major source of geopolitical turmoil. Since the late 1990s, corruption has grown such that some governments now resemble criminal gangs, provoking extreme reactions ranging from revolution to militant puritanical religion.

    Krystyna Hanser says: "A Must Read Book"
    "An essential guide for all modern citizens"
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    First, everyone should read this book. But I must admit thats the author narrator bored me somewhat and led me to possibly think about returning the book. The first few chapters seemed to lack direction and the author seemed to strident in her reading. but from about the middle of the book to the end the tone of the reader became justifiable and the reader learns to be very sympathetic with the author tone and construct.

    The reason I recommend this to all readers is that beyond the civics class you had in middle school and political science that gets conveyed by pop culture, this book presents the next iteration in our collective understanding of the weaknesses of democracy and power structures and how to fix them..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By John Brockman
    • Narrated By David Colacci, Susan Ericksen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (38)
    Story
    (38)

    Each year,John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, challenges some of the world's greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating.

    Michael says: "3% Excellent"
    "Excellent - "science" is not a monoculture"
    Overall
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    This is a great listen, especially if you or anyone you discuss science with is caught up in the false dichotomy of "mainstream" vs fringe scientific communities and models.

    The only real spoilers were one of the narrator's - David Colacci - persistent ignorant misreads - for instance, changing F=ma (mass * acceleration) into "f equals 'ma'" (as in "mom") [yes, really!], and pronouncing Tycho Brahe's name "tee-koe bra" every time. .. but definitely something anyone interested in science will benefit from listening to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Leonard Susskind
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (522)
    Performance
    (234)
    Story
    (232)

    What happens when something is sucked into a black hole? Does it disappear? Three decades ago, a young physicist named Stephen Hawking claimed that it did - and in doing so, put at risk everything we know about the fundamental laws of the universe. Leonard Susskind and Gerard 't Hooft realized the threat and responded with a counterattack that changed the course of physics.

    wendy says: "great!"
    "An exceptional good book to read"
    Overall
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    I can't recommend this book enough for anyone even remotely interested in science. Susskind covers both in-depth hard science as well as all the simpler layers you need to understand. However I've re-read it 5 times now - in each reading, I get more out of it.

    The narrator, Ray Panek, is simply the best audio book reader there out there.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Johann Hari
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    Overall
    (230)
    Performance
    (205)
    Story
    (206)

    It is now 100 years since drugs were first banned in the United States. On the eve of this centenary, journalist Johann Hari set off on an epic three-year, 30,000-mile journey into the war on drugs. What he found is that more and more people all over the world have begun to recognize three startling truths: Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.

    P. Smith says: "A Must if the drug war has touched you at all"
    "Read this book!"
    Overall
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    I wish this book was required reading for every politician in the US, every voter, every 7th grader.... everyone!

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Senseless Bureaucracy

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Philip K. Howard
    • Narrated By Allen O'Reilly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (20)
    Story
    (20)

    The secret to good government is a question no one in Washington is asking: “What’s the right thing to do?” What’s wrong in Washington is deeper than you think. Sure, there’s gridlock, polarization, and self-dealing. But hidden underneath is something bigger and more destructive. It’s a broken governing system. From that comes wasteful government, rising debt, failing schools, expensive health care, and economic hardship.

    Jared says: "I Wish Everyone Would Read This Book"
    "I Wish Everyone Would Read This Book"
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    If I had the money, I'd buy a copy for every US voter. Howard calls attention to what is really paralyzing our government - a bureaucratic reversion to microscopically inane rules that 1) no one fully knows, 2) no one can change, and 3) provide "cover" for both amoral politicians as well as inept workers. It is April 15th and millions of Americans are doing their taxes - and cursing those incomprehensible forms. Welcome to the world of Administrative Rule-Making.

    I don't know how or why this happened - Howard says the administrative rule-making craze really got going around 1969 - the idea being that to have a "fair" government, you have to have a mechanistic ("automatic") government where office-holders (including bureaucrats) are not free to act prudently, but must act according to prescribed rules. However, no one seems to have stopped to question the logic behind this: sure, it is true that an impersonal, mechanistic government is incapable of "unfair" treatment - but unless the rules are being created (and updated) by God - a little knowledge of the history of human predictive prowess would indicate that the result of a mountain of procedural rules will produce absurd results - like a superpower that threatens itself with a shut down every other year while Congress trades chits.

    As Howard says, for all the virtue of the US Constitution, The Founders failed to consider that the structure they created makes it hard to make new laws - but it makes it even harder to change or revoke old laws.

    There are only two possible outcomes here. Either we adapt our government into an agile format that restores authority (and with it, accountability) to office-holders, or the US government will collapse, sooner or later. The billions of dollars wasted every year on policies and programs we know are broken - but can't be fixed - are unsustainable - and immoral.

    I would also like to note that this book can also be read as a prescription of what is wrong with corporate America, too. Large corporations suffer all the same problems seen in our government.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • On Intelligence

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee
    • Narrated By Jeff Hawkins, Stefan Rudnicki
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1500)
    Performance
    (389)
    Story
    (391)

    Jeff Hawkins, the man who created the PalmPilot, Treo smart phone, and other handheld devices, has reshaped our relationship to computers. Now he stands ready to revolutionize both neuroscience and computing in one stroke, with a new understanding of intelligence itself.

    James says: "Epiphany"
    "If you're curious about the mind, read this"
    Overall
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    I've read many of the latest neuroscience books and this book is an essential addition to those - at least until we have a more definitive science of how the brain leads to consciousness. Hawkins presents several key philosophical insights that I agree have been missing from modern neuroscience and seem very likely to reshape the field.

    One of his insights is related to Turing's "Turing Test" - that intelligence is not truly manifest in behavior. Rather, intelligent behavior is just one aspect of intelligence - but if a rock understood language and sat there, motionless, comprehending the universe - we would consider that intelligent, too. This leads to another of his insights - that what really makes something "intelligent" is an ability to make successful, timely predictions.

    Hawkins builds on these and many other insights, presenting a dense discussion of, based on how we experience consciousness combined with what we know so far about the brain, there are some slightly radical hypotheses we can make about how the brain really works. One he develops throughout the book is the idea that the structure of the brain is not a pure hierarchy, where peripheral signals are condensed to higher and higher neurons - a "one-way" circuit. Rather, Hawkins' relates how the neural structure consists of a larger number of feedback - or loop-back - circuits. This is an accepted fact. But the importance of the feedback circuits has gone unappreciated. Hawkins' presents a model for understanding how the feedback signals fill in the gaps to explain both how the brain can execute pattern-matching (such as face-recognition) in, based solely on timing, less than 100 neural steps, while modern computers require billions or trillions of steps to accomplish the same task.

    As a software engineer I could really relate to his presentation in terms of what computer systems teach us about the brain - both what it might be doing and what it is not. There were portions where I struggled to get through his presentation of possible neural structures, but I recommend readers just push through if they experience this too - there are meaningful insights to be found from cover to cover.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Housing Boom and Bust

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Thomas Sowell
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    Overall
    (261)
    Performance
    (99)
    Story
    (102)

    There was no single, dramatic event that set the current financial crisis off. A whole series of very questionable decisions by many people, in many places, over a period of years, built up the pressures that led to a sudden collapse of the housing market and of financial institutions that began to fall like dominoes as a result of investing in securities based on housing prices. This book is designed to unravel the tangled threads of that story.

    Adolphe says: "Inciteful Non partisan blame"
    "More Sowell Superficiality - A Painful Listen"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Thomas Sowell seems to have a problem thinking about the consequences of his own conclusions, and he doesn't seem to question his own beliefs or even question what types of evidence are required to support his conclusions (which is the same problem with another book of his - Economic Facts and Fallacies).

    If you have even a basic understanding of economics, politics, or the real dynamism of the modern world, you will be able to easily see problems with virtually every point Sowell states. And the frightening thing is that, especially since the book is only 4 hrs 45 minutes, he drops amazingly unsupported conclusions with little if any supporting evidence. At times, unless he is simply a fool (I don't think so), he appears to even be willfully deceptive.

    One instance I remember clearly comes in the last chapter, where Sowell blends the history of The Great Depression with the 2008-2014 economy, stating that while many people believe the increase in government spending during the build-up to World War II is what ended The Great Depression, (he says) this is incorrect, since the federal "deficit" was greater in 1936 than in 1939. An uncareful reader - or one that is simply looking for pseudo-intellectual support for their conservative beliefs - might feel this is a valid argument. However, "deficit" is [tax revenues, etc] minus [spending]. That means the size of the "deficit" is meaningless for determining whether a government is engaging in stimulus or austerity - you have to look at how total spending has changed, how tax revenues have changed. Changes to tax policy (who pays how much) have a significant bearing on the degree of stimulus vs austerity that is in effect. These nuances are lost on Sowell, apparently. To him, the pointlessness of government stimulus is apparent by simply comparing the nominal federal deficit between the worst years of the Great Depression and the pre-World War II recovery. He goes so far with this presumption as to conclude that The Great Depression did not end as a result of New Deal programs, but rather ended because World War II ended New Deal programs!

    Reversing common perceptions of cause and effect is something Sowell is fond of offering up as thoughtful analysis, though he never comes close to even attempting to look at the timeline of events to check whether this revisionism is correct. For instance, he says that since "Smart Growth" government policies existed (policies that preserve parks and green spaces from being converted to suburbs, etc) as housing prices increased, therefore these government policies explain the housing bubble, such as in California. He uses Dallas as more evidence, saying that Dallas did not have "Smart Growth" policies restricting land use, and also did not have as much of a housing bubble. He is oblivious to the inherent limits on preferable land caused by California's coast-line. He makes no attempt to reconcile the quantity of "Smart Growth" land against the actual demand for land and housing that drove up prices. He also makes no attempt to mention or reconcile the fact that the increase in housing prices just happened to occur in localities that also saw large increases in wealth - like the tech wealth of Silicon Valley and Redmond, Washington, and the lobbying wealth of Fairfax, Virginia (just to name a few examples).

    Further, Sowell makes no attempt to reconcile his position with the fact that most of the sub-prime mortgage bubble was due to re-finances - people who were simply accessing the appreciated value of the home they were already living in.

    To hear Sowell's telling, there were really just two main causes for the 2008 crisis. Government politicians, distorting the market. And irresponsible borrowers, signing up for loans they could never sustain - which he actually refers to as "less-educated" at one point. He sprinkles in a few secondary influences here and there, such as "speculators" (ie, home-flippers, though, curiously, he also never tries to reconcile the temporary entrepreneurship of home-flippers against irresponsible, less-educated borrowers that just don't understand the mortgage they signed). But overall, this is a book where over and over again, the root of the problem is government and politicians and the financially irresponsible (and uninformed) masses they serve, and the victims are always the virtuous market and bankers who find themselves persistently compelled to act against their "years of experience" of prudent lending.

    It's a wonder Sowell resisted throwing in a few Ayn Rand "at the point of a gun" references.

    In sum, whether you are a novice or expert in economics, you are best off reading something else. This book isn't even useful for knowledgeable people to learn what the Libertarian-Conservative counter-position is, because the arguments are so superficial and undeveloped that it just amounts to a painful-to-listen-to list of Ron Paul-like sound bites.

    I only give 2 stars on the Performance because the reader, as in Sowell's other book(s), is like listening to the voice of recorded instructions played at an airport - a smooth, deep voice giving you directions, and your job is to just listen and heed the voice.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Sam Harris
    • Narrated By Sam Harris
    Overall
    (996)
    Performance
    (620)
    Story
    (608)

    In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a "moral landscape".

    gerald says: "The book says what many feel, but fear to say"
    "Throws down the gauntlet against Kant's Is/Ought"
    Overall
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    I'm writing this review because I'm stunned anyone (other than a devout theist) has rated this book poorly. Everyone should read this book! Let me explain why by addressing others' critiques.

    1. "There's nothing new here." Reviewers that say this are like someone who goes to a Mozart symphony, then walk out declaring, "It's all the same instruments all over again. Bach, Schmock, Mozart, Shmozart!.... There's just no more originality! I've already heard all those notes before!" It really is that absurd. Yes, there isn't much that is "new" here, as Sam is assembling a profound recipe from the ingredients of dozens of the world's greatest thinkers. Like all "not so new" ideas, the "new" idea is (merely?) incremental. This does not mean there is nothing profound about the idea! Is Sam Harris the first human to ever think this idea? Surely not - but is he the first to write such a well-developed, widely-accessible explanation of an answer to one of the most polarizing questions in the history of human thought? In my opinion, YES!

    2. "Thesis is not thought-out/explained." Several reviewers complained that Harris did not address his thesis. His thesis is possibly best explained by relating one of the author's motivating experiences: at a an academic conference, a woman serving as a US presidential adviser on bio-ethics responded that science has nothing to contribute toward improving the well-being of a (hypothetical) tribe that plucks out the eyes of every third child because they believe doing so appeases the volcano gods. That is, the presidential adviser says that whether or not science has anything useful to relay to the tribes-people would, "depend on what they believe."

    This science adviser subscribes to Kant's is/ought distinction, as Harris explains throughout the book at numerous levels, that "science" (the practice of establishing what is objectively true) can only tell us what "IS," not what we "OUGHT" to do. Harris' thesis is that Kant was clearly - obviously (in the hindsight of two centuries of scientific advance) - wrong - and so is the presidential adviser. As Harris explains here and for many other cases, there is no actual difference between what a person believes "is" and what a person believes they "ought" to do - because all of our perceptions about what we "ought" to do our ultimately based on what we believe "is" the case.

    In the case of the hypothetical tribe, any sane, modern (educated) person would find themselves inextricably drawn to try to explain to the tribes-people that, actually, the volcano spews lava for reasons that have nothing to do with gouging out their children's eyes! Harris makes the comically simple - yet "academically" (in some circles) novel argument that those who persist in advocating this ethical divide - or as Stephen Jay Gould put it, "Non-overlapping Magesteria" - between science (what is objectively true about our reality) and moral compulsions (what we subjectively feel we ought to do - or ought to judge what others have done) is now an ethically bankrupt position, given what we now know from modern neuroscience.

    In this reader's opinion, the only people who will not like this book, find it (at least!) very stimulating, or will come away unclear what the author was trying to say are the people who:

    A) do not actually read it
    B) do not want to understand it (such as devout believers in religion - the kind of people who will perpetually choose to believe that there just, must be some divine arbiter of what is right and wrong, despite all the discussion points that undermine this position).

    That is why I think *everyone* should read this book - or at least come to learn the thesis via the increasingly large number of other voices joining the chorus.

    Finally, my review has not shed any light on why the book uses "landscape" in the title. One of the more novel ideas Harris explains is that we will surely find that a (new) science of human morality or ethics will not be so simple as to identify one or more "best" ways of being or not being.

    Rather, Harris proposes that modern neuroscience will increasingly be able to simply say that this or that way of being (or thinking) is better or worse - and there may well be multiple "peaks" of well-being. This isn't new to religious accomodationists who, for instance, may say that it isn't important whether you are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim - it's all the same, one God and three different paths in your life - that none of these lifestyles is empirically better or worse than any other, in the God's-eye view of things.

    Harris, of course, does not advocate any of these religions. However, he does propose that something like this kind of religious equivocalness will surely exist for some time, since we do not (ie "science does not") know everything. He uses the useful analogy of health. Through science, we know lots of different ways to be "unhealthy," and science has similarly informed us a great deal of ingredients for being *more* healthy. Yet does it even make sense to speak of "perfect health"? What would that be, exactly? The concept is very unclear to us - at least for now - but as Harris points out, this ambiguity about "pure health" has *zero* bearing on our ability to objectively discover that drinking Arsenic is bad for your health!

    ...and that Arsenic example, my friends, is "SCIENCE" establishing new boundaries wherein an "is" (arsenic = bad drinking water) has become transformed into a crystal clear "ought" (don't drink it unless you choose to die), and the basis for moral judgements (if you knowingly give a person arsenic water in place of pure water, you have done a thing that is not conducive to the well being of your two personages, all other things being equal.)

    Some people may find his thesis inanely obvious. As Harris explains, so does he. But Harris does a thorough job of explaining why all of us should be a lot more concerned about the fact that many people still unknowingly - or knowingly - cling to the Kantian position and even regard those who disagree as simpletons. This is why everyone should read this book. This disagreement is old and has crept in to many of our most divisive debates, crimes, and wars.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Eric Schlosser
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (590)
    Performance
    (539)
    Story
    (536)

    Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind.

    S. Mersereau says: "Stunning"
    "Incredible and true"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Schlosser tells the story of how the US narrowly avoided a Chernobyl-level catastrophe by sheer luck, but also conveys the history of US nuclear weapons, both the public-side - as well as the messy details officials have struggled to keep quiet. In the midst of these two narratives, this book wrestles with the philosophical viability of command and control heirarchies - where they succeed and where they fail. An engaging and entertaining read that is broadly relevant.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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