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Archive for January, 2012

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The Lives of Transgender People reviewed in Inside Higher Ed

The Lives of Transgender People, Genny Beemyn and Susan RankinWhile reading Genny Beemyn and Susan Rankin’s The Lives of Transgender People for his review of the book in Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee was struck by some of the rather dispiriting findings in the book.

Beemyn and Rankin’s book builds upon their extensive survey of transgender individuals about a variety of issues confronting their lives. McLemee points to the survey’s revelations regarding the continuing harassment that many transgender individuals face. McLemee asked the authors whether their data is as depressing as he first thought. Beemyn and Rankin argue that while there are still many challenges for transgender individuals, things are getting better as younger generations are becoming increasingly understanding of transgenderism. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“In my mind,” responded Beemyn, “the study shows dramatically different experiences by age. While it may have been largely depressing for people in previous generations, it is often much less so today. Younger trans people in general are not going through prolonged periods of denial, self-repression, and uncertainty; have connections with other trans people from a young age; have role models and mentors; and are able to find friends and partners who support their gender identity.”


Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

We are happy to announce that The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann is now available as a book and an e-book. Please note that two corrections will be made to the upcoming second printing of the book. The 1995 IPCC report referenced in the epigraph on page 1 and on page 108 is the Second Assessment Report, not the Third Assessment Report.

A further correction will be made to the next printing of the book. On page 18, the following figures will be corrected: “another 2C (3.5F) warming…” should be “another 1.5C (2.5F) warming,” “(for a total of 3C or 5F warming)…” should be “(for a total of 2C or 3.5F warming)…,” and “another 2C of warming…” should be “a total of 2C of warming…”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The Kitchen as Laboratory Quiz

The Kitchen as LaboratorySure you love a great grilled cheese sandwich but do you know the science behind what distinguishes a good from a bad sandwich? Test your knowledge of the science and psychology with this quiz based on The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking, edited by Cesar Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden.

Click here for the answers.

1. What is the ideal pH for a good melting cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich?
a)    ~0–2.6
b)    ~2.7–3.4
c)    ~5.3–5.5
d)    ~6.8–7.0

2. The crunchy sound of an apple being bitten into is mostly transmitted:
a)    through airwaves
b)    through the skull
c)    through scent
d)    through touch

3. When onions are cooked to a dark color—resulting in a smooth texture, a sweet taste, and an intense scent—this is due to a chemical reaction known as the:
a)    tenderizer
b)    onion tears
c)    onion discoloration
d)    Maillard reaction

4. The ideal temperature range for the Maillard reaction to occur is:
a)    0–32ºF (–17–0ºC)
b)    90–98.6ºF (32–37ºC)
c)    113–158ºF (45–70ºC)
d)    230–340ºF (110–170ºC)

5. What term is used to describe the swelling of granules and an increase in viscosity when starch is heated with water?
a)    gelatinization
b)    freezing point
c)    boiling point
d)    foaming


Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

New Book Tuesday: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars and More!

Michael E. Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate WarsThe following books are now available:

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines
Michael E. Mann

Who Killed Hammarskjöld?: The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa
Susan Williams

Riot Politics: Hindu-Muslim Violence and the Indian State
Ward Berenschot

Playing to the Camera: Musicians and Musical Performance in Documentary Cinema
Thomas Cohen

Power and Politics in the Persian Gulf Monarchies
Edited by Christopher Davidson

The Last Dictatorship in Europe: Belarus Under Lukashenko
Brian Bennett

Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey
Edited by Ahmet T. Kuru and Alfred Stepan

The New Protectorates: International Tutelage and the Making of Liberal States
Edited by James Mayall and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

Salafism in Yemen: Transnationalism and Religious Identity
Laurent Bonnefoy

Oman, Culture and Diplomacy
Jeremy Jones and Nicholas Ridout

The Man of Wiles in Popular Arabic: A Study of a Medieval Arab Hero
M. C. Lyons

Empires of Mud: Wars and Warlords in Afghanistan (Now available in paper)
Antonio Giustozzi

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Mark C. Taylor: Is Modern Finance Ruining Modern Art?

“As art becomes a progressively abstract play of non-referential signs, so increasingly abstract financial instruments become an autonomous sphere of circulation whose end is nothing other than itself.”—Mark C. Taylor

In a piece for Bloomberg View, Mark C. Taylor, author of the forthcoming Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, argues that the art and financial markets mirror each other.

According to Taylor this is not a new phenomenon unique to our present form of finance capitalism. As the overall economy has moved from industrial to consumer to financial capitalism, a parallel process has occurred in the art world, which has undergone three stages the commodification of art, the corporatization of art, and the financialization of art. In this essay, the first of a series, Taylor considers the work and careers of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, two artists keenly aware of art’s place as a commodity and a business. Taylor argues that whereas Warhol’s appropriation of consumer icons and his factory system of mechanizing art challenged, Koons’s art is crafted to reassure. Noting Koons’s former work as a stock broker, Taylor argues, “Unapologetically embracing banality and freely admitting his ignorance of art history, Koons sounds more like Joel Osteen than Marcel Duchamp….Having learned his trade on the floor of commodity exchanges, Koons does not move beyond the commodification of art.”


Friday, January 27th, 2012

Michael R. Powers on Terrorism Forecasting

Michael R. Powers, Acts of God and Man

The following excerpt on terrorism forecasting is from Acts of God and Man: Ruminations on Risk and Insurance, by Michael R. Powers:

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. insurance industry confronted billions of dollars in unanticipated losses. In addition, major global reinsurers quickly announced that they no longer would provide coverage for acts of terrorism in reinsurance contracts. Recognizing that historical loss forecasts had failed to account sufficiently for terrorism events and facing an immediate shortage of reinsurance, many U.S. primary insurance companies soon declared their intention to exclude terrorism risk from future policies. This pending market disruption led the U.S. Congress to pass the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) of 2002 to “establish a temporary federal program that provides for a transparent system of shared public and private compensation for insured losses resulting from acts of terrorism.” Subsequently, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act (TRIEA) of 2005, which was similar (but not identical) to the TRIEA.

From the U.S. Treasury Department’s perspective, the TRIA was intended to provide protection for business activity from the unexpected financial losses of terrorist attacks until the U.S. insurance industry could develop a self- sustaining private terrorism insurance market. However, during the debate over the TRIEA, representatives of the U.S. property liability insurance industry argued that the industry lacked sufficient capacity to assume terrorism risks without government support and that terrorism risks were still viewed as uninsurable in the market.

Given that the TRIEA was extended for a further seven years at the end of 2007, the debate over the need for a federal role in the terrorism insurance market is far from over. Although the federal government does not want to serve as the insurer of last resort for an indefinite period, it is clear that there are major obstacles to developing a private market for terrorism coverage.


Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Olivier Roy: The cold choice — jobs or jihad

Olivier Roy

“In the final analysis, the victory of the Islamists is part of the normalisation of the Arab world.”—Olivier Roy

In the most recent issue of the New Statesman , Olivier Roy, author of Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways, examines the “Arab Winter” and the possible impact of Islamist victories in the Egyptian election.

Roy challenges the Western prejudice which sees Islam as incompatible with democracy and the Islamist victory as necessarily being a threat to the ideals of democracy, pluralism, and good governance that characterized the Arab Spring. Ultimately, as Roy suggests, the Islamists will have to respond to the current situation in Egypt and the fact that the Arab Spring did not have the kind of Islamic ideological component of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Roy writes:

The Islamists are certainly neither secularists nor liberals, but they can be democrats. It is not the convictions of political actors that shape their policies but the constraints to which they are subject. The Islamists are entering an entirely new political space: this was not a revolution in which a dictatorship was replaced by a regime that resembled its predecessor. There have been elections and there will be a parliament. Political parties have been formed and, whatever the disappointments and fears of the secular left, it will be difficult simply to close down this new space, because what brought it into being in the first place – a savvy, connected young generation, a spirit of protest – is still there. Islamist movements throughout the region are constrained to operate in a democratic arena that they didn’t create and which has legitimacy in the eyes of the people.


Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Michael R. Powers on Risk

Michael Powers, Acts of God and Man

In his book, Acts of God and Man: Ruminations on Risk and Insurance, Michael R. Powers discusses how risk impacts our lives, health, and possessions and proceeds to introduce the statistical techniques necessary for analyzing these uncertainties.

In this excerpt from the chapter The Alpha and the Omega of Risk: The Significance of Mortality, Powers discusses the morbidity principle:

In today’s business world, professional risk managers often construct extensive lists of pure and speculative risks, including every imaginable type of uncertainty to which individuals and firms are exposed. Among pure risks, one finds traditional “insurance” perils such as fire, wind, theft , disease, and professional negligence, along with more complex hazards such as substandard construction, inadequate security, technological obsolescence, and political instability. Speculative risks include real estate, common financial securities (stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.), and interest and currency-derivative products, as well as market- specific changes in the prices of raw materials, human capital, and end-of-line goods and services.

Fortunately, a remarkable simplicity underlies these myriad risks. Despite the great number of individual sources of risk, there are only a very few exposures subject to risk. These fundamental exposures are life, health, and possessions.

One then might ask: Why should we be concerned about the quality of life? I would argue that the following two principles provide the answer:

• The Morbidity Principle. An individual/corporation/society whose quality of life is damaged will have a greater chance of imminent death.

• The Lost-Gratification Principle. An individual/corporation/society whose quality of life is damaged may not have the opportunity to enjoy recovery of health or restitution of possessions before death occurs (i.e., “a good quality of life today is worth more than a good quality of life tomorrow”).


Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Interview with Joshua Miller, author of “Psychosocial Capacity Building in Response to Disasters”

Joshua Miller, author of Psychosocial Capacity Building in Response to Disasters, was recently interviewed as part of the Living Proof Podcast Series.

Here is a description of the series from “Living Proof”:

Dr. Joshua Miller discusses the many types of disasters that affect people around the world and how to help individuals and communities recover. He highlights the social ecology of disaster and the consequences of different types of disasters on individuals, families, and communities. Dr. Miller proposes an alternative to traditional, individually-focused mental health approaches, called Psychosocial Capacity Building, which is multi-systemic and addresses collective cultural orientations and helps foster access to the social support and connections that exist in groups and communities.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Ho-fung Hung: South China’s Protests Are Not as Subversive as Many Think

“China’s escalating popular violence against local authorities and humble petition to the central government in the last two decades should be understood in light of [a] longstanding Confucianist conception of authority. This conception persists despite all the ideological and political revolutions of the twentieth century….”—Ho-fung Hung

The following post is by Ho-fung Hung, author of Protest with Chinese Characteristics:

The recent protests against land grab in Wukan and a polluting power plant in Haimen in South China have captured the world’s attention and lead many to ask whether something significantly different from China’s many other local protests is happening., The Wukan villagers’ orderly exercise of self-governance after the CCP authorities fled the village, as well as their political demand for local democracy, is rare if not unprecedented. So is the Haimen protesters’ occupation of the local government building.

The Wukan protest, in particular, resonates with many great uprisings in China’s history such as the Leiyang rebellion of 1844. In the early 1840s, local intellectuals in Hunan’s Leiyang County adamantly petitioned higher authorities against local tax abuses. The arrest and torture of a leading petitioner unleashed an armed revolt in which villagers seized the county seat and set up their own local government, which was short-lived and was crushed by imperial government forces. After the crackdown, the grievances against the Qing state continued to brew in the area and prepared many locals to embrace the Taiping Rebellion that shook the very foundation of Qing rule in the 1850s.

Despite their democratic demand and parallel with uprisings in Chinese history, we should also notice the Wukan protesters’ emphasis of their loyalty to the central government and their begging for mercy and aid from the highest authorities. In the Haimen protest, we likewise see protesters kneel during their action to beg for intervention from higher authorities to stop the construction of a second power plant. In this regard, these protests are not much different from most other recent local protests that are militant against local authorities but submissive toward the central government. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, China watchers rested much hope on such confrontational local protests and cast them as precursors to larger-scale movements that could radically change the status quo. But these waves of unrest came and went and the party-state remained in control.


Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Michael R. Powers, author of Acts of God and Man, Takes the Page 99 Test

Michael Powers, Acts of God and ManMichael R. Powers, author of Acts of God and Man: Ruminations on Risk and Insurance, recently took The Page 99 Test.

Powers discussed how page 99 from his book reflects some of the ideas in his book Acts of God and Man. Here are some excerpts:

Reports abound that the realm of risk and insurance – with its chary underwriters, cynical claim adjustors, and calculating actuaries – is dry and forbidding. In Acts of God and Man, I challenge this notion by proposing a “science of risk” that entails:

* a fundamentalist Bayesian (i.e., subjective/judgmental) approach to modeling uncertainty and assessing probabilities;
* a formal distinction between the primarily natural “aloof” risks of insurance and the largely artificial “non-aloof” risks of other financial markets; and
* a personalized scientific method that casts off the shackles and inconsistencies of more orthodox methods too burdensome for the study of risk.


Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Epigenetics, J-Pop, and More!

Nessa Carey, The Epigenetics RevolutionFrom Nessa Carey’s Epigenetics to J-Pop, here’s our list of new titles now available:

The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance
Nessa Carey

Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop
Michael Bourdaghs

Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action (With a new Afterword by the Author)
Dennis Dalton

Psychosocial Capacity Building in Response to Disasters
Joshua Miller

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (Now available in paper)
Lillian Faderman

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City

The following is a video for Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, which is now available in paperback.

For more on the book, you can browse the book using Google Preview or visit the site jonathansoffer.com

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Free Book Giveaway: Acts of God and Man and More Titles from Columbia Business School Publishing

Acts of God and Man

This week our featured book is Acts of God and Man: Ruminations on Risk and Insurance, by Michael R. Powers.

As part of our week-long focus on Acts of God and Man, we are also giving the book away for free along with five other titles from Columbia Business School Publishing to one lucky winner!

In addition to Acts of God and Man you can also win:

The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor
Howard Marks

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers
Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie

More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Updated and Expanded)
Michael Mauboussin

The Origins of Business, Money, and Markets
Keith Roberts

Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement
William Duggan

To enter the giveaway please submit by email your name and mailing address by 1 pm eastern time on Friday, January 27th to pl2164@columbia.edu. The winner will be drawn at random. (Unfortunately, the giveaway is only available to those living in the United States or Canada.)

Spread the word and good luck!

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars Reviewed in Publishers Weekly

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars“Careful descriptions of the methods and models behind climate change science bear out that assertion, proving that the only way to counter dangerous lies is to expose the truth, however inconvenient it might be.”—Publishers Weekly review of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael Mann was recently reviewed in Publishers Weekly. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

In this meticulous and engaging brief on climate change research and the political backlash to legitimate scientific work, Penn State professor Mann narrates the fight against misinformation from the inside…. The persuasiveness of the “hockey stick,” as it was dubbed, made Mann an instant political target. In the 2009 hacking scandal known as “Climategate,” emails discussing the mathematical models he used to create the figure were said to prove an international conspiracy to dupe the public. That controversy, Mann writes, is only the latest attempt by deniers to discredit scientists one by one; for decades, powerful interests have spent untold millions to tarnish legitimate research and the reputation of scholars who have dedicated their lives to understanding our world….. Mann balances the statistical analysis with charming personal anecdotes from his life and work. Careful descriptions of the methods and models behind climate change science bear out that assertion, proving that the only way to counter dangerous lies is to expose the truth, however inconvenient it might be.

Friday, January 20th, 2012

My Life with the Taliban

We are pleased to announce that the much-discussed My Life with the Taliban, by Abdul Salam Zaeef is now available in paperback.

My Life with the Taliban is the autobiography of Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former senior member of Afghanistan’s Taliban and a principal actor in its domestic and foreign affairs. Translated for the first time from the Pashto, Zaeef’s words share more than a personal history of an unusual life. They supply a counter-narrative to standard accounts of Afghanistan since 1979.

For more on the book, you can read the chapter No War to Win and below is an interview with the editors of the book Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Jonathan Lyons: A New Model for Understanding the World of Islam

Islam Through Western Eyes, by Jonathan Lyons

“This model, then, calls for the compilation of a new, hidden history of Islam that fills in those areas declared off limits by the anti-Islam discourse. But, first, we must radically rephrase the West’s favorite polemical question—What’s wrong with Islam?—to a less comfortable query: What’s wrong with us?”—Jonathan Lyons

We conclude our week-long feature on Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism by Jonathan Lyons by excerpting, fittingly enough, from the conclusion. In the final chapter Lyons offers a new way for the West to approach the Muslim world:

I propose a new model for approaching the world of Islam—a “hidden history,” as it were, of its practices, beliefs, and culture. To begin with, we must acknowledge that the established Western discourse of Islam does not—or, at the very least, does not necessarily—reflect the reality of Islam itself, what I have referred to earlier as “Islam qua Islam.” Rather, this discourse is the product of a process that has embedded a particular discursive formation in Western thought. Here, then, are the roots of what Sutton and Vertigans have identified as the prevailing “caricature of Islam” (2005:31). Chapters 4, 5, and 6 established ample grounds for such an assertion, and many more examples beyond the scope of this inquiry might likewise be marshaled in support.

Next we must deliberately remove the central pillars of the thousand-year-old anti-Islam discourse and examine what remains behind. Or, to return to the question posed at the outset, we must ask, When we open this particular window, what is it that we see that has not been seen before? Were we to set aside these central notions—that Islam is inherently violent and spread by the sword; that Muslims are irrational, antiscience, and thus antimodern; and that they are sexually perverse and hate women—as flawed representations of the nondiscursive reality of Islam, then whole new vistas of possible relationships between East and West will begin to open up before our eyes.


Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Go Nomadic Now with Rosi Braidotti

Check out this great video for Rosi Braidotti’s Nomadic Theory: The Portable Rosi Braidotti and the new edition of Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory:

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Jonathan Lyons on Islam and Women

Jonathan Lyons, Islam Through Western Eyes

The Bush administration adopted and perpetuated the established discourse of Islam and women for the benefit of specific Western interests—in this case, the military occupation and political and economic domination of Muslim societies…. Bush and his fellow social conservatives were able to obscure their own opposition to women’s advancement at home by contrasting the freedoms of Western women with those of women suffering under Islam.”—Jonathan Lyons, Islam Through Western Eyes

In his book Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism, Jonthan Lyons examines Western, frequently misguided views on Islam. In the chapter on Islam and women, Lyons “traces the emergence of th[e] discourse of Islam and women from within the greater anti-Islam narrative, commencing with the Enlightenment and progressing to the war on terrorism.” This discourse, Lyons argues, has been used to further various political and ideological agendas.

Lyons concludes the chapter by examining how in recent years, the West, particularly the media, has looked to the veil and women’s sexuality as a kind of barometer of progress and modernity. Here is an excerpt from the chapter:

This narrative of the veil, sexuality, and Western notions of modernity and progress reaches its height, however, whenever the subject is postrevolutionary Iran. Since the victory over the U.S.-backed shah in 1979 and the creation of the Islamic Republic, Iranian women have been required to veil in public. In the early years, dress requirements were extremely strict—no hair showing, no makeup or nail polish, no open-toe shoes, and so on—and at times brutally enforced by religious vigilantes. These practices have been relaxed significantly in recent years, and some middle-class and upper-class urban women now adopt colorful and personal expressions of the hijab that do little to disguise the figure or fully cover the hair.

Both the official line and public opinion toward this dress code have a complex and nuanced history (Abdo and Lyons 2003), but the Western media have universally seen and shown it as a reliable barometer of progress or lack thereof by secular civil society at the expense of the ruling religious establishment. In this schema, then, the more lipstick and hair visible to visiting foreign correspondents, the less secure the conservatives’ grip on power and the better the chances of popular revolt against the Islamic system.


Thursday, January 19th, 2012

New Book Tuesday (Thursday edition)

Readings of the Platform SutraSorry for the delayed posting and only two new books from our weekly list of new titles:

Readings of the Platform Sutra
Edited by Morten Schlütter and Stephen F. Teiser

Ratnakirti’s Proof of Momentariness by Positive Correlation (Ksanabhangasiddhi Anvayatmika): Transliteration, Translation, and Philosophic Commentary
Joel Feldman and Stephen Phillips