Linkage

Terry Tao gives general tips on solving analysis problems.

A charming animation from Taiwan (h/t Bobak Nazer).

Apparently optical-scan ballots aren’t so simple to deploy.

A surprising fact about almost everywhere convergence.

James Fallows can Google that for you.

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Readings

The Hakawati (Rabih Alameddine) — an expansive novel, framed by the story of a son who has gone to the US coming back to visit his dying father in Lebanon. The sharply drawn tension and anguish of the present shifts rapidly through old family stories, to the story of Baybars (and parts in between). It’s hard to pick up the strands initially, but it’s a rewarding read once you get into it.

A Short History of the American Stomach (Frederick Kaufman) — a quick read, repeats of some stories from Harpers I had read. It might appeal to people who like Sarah Vowell’s writing, but it’s too heavy on snark for me. Good for picking up some cocktail-hour conversation pieces, if you enjoy talking about the puking habits of Puritans at cocktail hours.

The Magicians (Lev Grossman) — I enjoyed this book, even though some people call it Hipsters in Narnia. It is a bit of that, but I couldn’t really put it down (= brain candy). Recommended for those who want a jaded view of Harry Potter.

Ghostwritten (David Mitchell) — I read this one after reading Cloud Atlas, which I absolutely loved. It’s written in a similar style, with interlocking stories, but more direct storytelling going on than, say, if on a winter’s night a traveler. Maybe I just like the relay-race novel. In any case, definitely engrossing, if a bit… bleak? It’s simultaneously lush (descriptively) and bleak (psychologically).

Gaming the Vote (William F. Poundstone) — a popular nonfiction book about elections, the spoiler effect, and the history of voting systems. It’s larded with examples of elections from US history and makes for an engrossing read. Most of the focus is on the weaknesses of first-past-the-post and other methods of determining winners, but it’s a nice accessible read.