Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bad Arguments

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments is an entertaining and instructive website.  It is also a book you can print or download.  It is, as one comment put it, a "flawless compendium of flaws".  The book is an introduction to fundamental principles of logical discourse.  It is written by Ali Almossawi who also provided the creative and art direction.  And it is elegantly illustrated by Alejandro Giraldo. 

Ali Almossawi writes:

This book is aimed at newcomers to the field of logical reasoning, particularly those who, to borrow a phrase from Pascal, are so made that they understand best through visuals. I have selected a small set of common errors in reasoning and visualized them using memorable illustrations that are supplemented with lots of examples. The hope is that the reader will learn from these pages some of the most common pitfalls in arguments and be able to identify and avoid them in practice.
The illustrations are partly inspired by allegories such as Orwell's Animal Farm and partly by the humorous nonsense of works such as Lewis Carroll's stories and poems.
It you have spent time perusing the internet, particularly any areas of comment or discussion, you will have seen most or all of the bad arguments illustrated here. Even if you are not new to the principles of logical reasoning the book is instructive and entertaining. Each illustration of a bad argument has a brief explanation of the argument next to it.  Below are pictures from the book of some popular bad arguments you will encounter frequently.  Follow the link to An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments to see more and read the explanations.

Argument from consequences


Appeal to Fear

Straw Man



Ad Hominem

You will recognize these and many more reading through the book, which is very short and to the point.  One of the particularly nice features of the book is its creative commons license:

... this work is shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC license, which means that you can freely share and adapt it for non-commercial use with attribution.

I think this book might prove delightful for use with high school, college, and even middle school students. It can help anyone be more careful in their thinking and their arguments.  The author quotes Richard Feyman:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

If you enjoy An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, you may also enjoy these books from the MCPL collection.

Plato and a platypus walk into a bar : understanding philosophy through jokes by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein.

Aristotle and an aardvark go to Washington : understanding political doublespeak through philosophy and jokes by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein.

Nell M.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What are your family foodways for the winter holidays? 

Gingerbread, fruitcake, a Feast of Seven Fishes? Latkes, Lutefisk or Shortbread and Haggis?

Gingerbread HouseWhether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Festivus or Hogmanay, everybody has special foods that just mean ‘the holiday’ to them or to the family. I was looking for information about fruitcakes last week (I know, Johnny Carson used to make fun of them, but it’s my son’s favorite) and while perusing the catalog, found a great website for baking called Joy of Baking.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know web sites were included in our library catalog? They are and they can be a terrific resource for you.

LatkesJust looking at the subject of cooking (I used ‘cookery’ as the term to search the catalog) we find 90 entries that will take us to external web sites, each of which has been reviewed by a librarian and found to be dependable and appropriate. 

Not all of them will help me turn out that luscious fruitcake or help you refine your recipe for latkes, stollen or tamales, but what a find when you just want to stay home without venturing to the local branch for a browse through the 641 (cookbook) section of the stacks.

We also can provide you with cooking DVD’s from America’s Test Kitchen, if you are a visual learner. Not to mention Julia Child and John Shields.

Gingerbread Cookies
Oh, my family’s favorite fruitcake? It happens to be Alton Brown’s ‘Free Range Fruitcake’ which I copied down while watching ‘Good Eats’ years ago.

Excuse me, I hear  the cookie cutters calling my name.

Jan D.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's beginning to look....

Photo: Sister72/Creative Commons
Reindeer! Snowmen! Carollers! Giant snow globes! Lights of every hue and description! Santa in an inflatable NASCAR with elves as pit crew! Santa in a plane with spinning propeller! Santa Homer! Santa Grinch! Wooo!

All of the above and much, much more can currently be seen in yards across the country. For many Americans, outdoor holiday decorating is a serious business. Usually on the weekend before Thanksgiving homeowners begin the process of setting up elaborate displays, and the competition is fierce in my small town.

Strings and strings of glittering lights outline fencelines, outbuildings, rooftops and any architectural feature that can be reached. Giant inflatable figures that rival the balloons in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade loom over sidewalks.The amount of time, effort and money that go into the creation of these winter wonderlands is truly amazing. Some impressive and famous spreads can be see in "Merry Christmas, America: megawatt displays across the U.S.A.".

Many families take an evening during December to ride around and enjoy their neighbors efforts. Back in the  60s, my mom, dad and the six kids would all pile into the station wagon and drive around Silver Spring. The high points back then were one house off of University Boulevard outlined in blue lights, Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant, with wooden elf figures all over the roof, and the Bishop’s house on North Portal Rd, just inside the DC line (not the present extravagance, but still exceptional for the time).

If driving around the neighborhood seems too random, there are two parks in Montgomery County that offer beautiful light displays.
Brookside Garden - the Gazebo
Brookside Gardens hosts the Garden of Light walking tour, featuring over 700,000 lights throughout the grounds of the arboretum.

The City of Gaithersburg sponsors the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park . This one is a driving tour, with over 400 displays through out the park.

A longer drive, but an experience not to be missed, is a trip to the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore. The amazing displays on the facades of traditional rowhouses in one city block draw visitors from across the state.

Street in Hampden Photo: ©
The library has plenty of help for those who’d like to join in on the fun, but without risk of electrocution or rooftop pratfalls. "Holiday Hero, A Man’s Manual for Holiday Lighting" is suitable for all skill levels from can’t change a light bulb to electronics wizard.  If you need some inspiration, try "Holiday Lights Brilliant Displays to Inpire Your Christmas Celebration".

As for me, I stick to a modest string of lights, and an illuminated horse figure.  Not much, but at least I do my bit.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Off To Tokyo And Back

I was visiting my family in Japan a few weeks ago. While on the subway, fellow riders’ conversations used to entertain me. Somehow eavesdropping was easier in my native tongue.  I was not being nosy, but conversation just floated into my ears. I loved hearing about other people's lives, listening to school kids chat and laugh. I loved getting my street-level education and catching up on what's going on in Japanese society.

Not any more, though. Nobody talks on trains now. Most riders have their faces fixed on their mobile devices, or they wear ear buds. Every car seems to be a quiet car these days. Even I find myself automatically reaching for my cell phone. Times change.

When I'm not riding a train, one of my favorite activities in the city is to visit my favorite bookstores and used book stores. Now that I am back from Japan, I am curious about what MCPL acquired recently in English translation. 

Here are some well-received titles in the MCPL catalog:

Shipwrecks, Akira Yoshimura

Asleep, Banana Yoshimoto

Stones Cry Out, Hikaru Okuizumi

And, of course, Haruki Murakami and many of his books including Norwegian Wood, now also a film (2010)

-Megumi L.