10 votes

What are you reading these days?

What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction or poetry, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.

7 comments

  1. joplin
    Link
    I'm reading the book Mistreated. It's about how the US healthcare industry is failing patients. This is of particular interest to me because my spouse has a chronic condition that doesn't fit...

    I'm reading the book Mistreated. It's about how the US healthcare industry is failing patients. This is of particular interest to me because my spouse has a chronic condition that doesn't fit neatly into any known categories, and her care is a mess.

    The book makes some good points about computerized health records, though having used the system for several years now (the book was written in 2017), it has an overly rosy picture of the situation. It's better than it used to be, but it's not a panacea. In fact, it has exacerbated certain failings of the healthcare system.

    But the more insightful parts, in my opinion, are the stories about how stubborn doctors are to change when there is a well-known, well-proven better way. He talks at length about how doing a simple, very low cost test whenever a patient with sepsis comes through the door of the ER can lower mortality by 25%, yet many doctors just refuse to run the test.

    It's an interesting read, but also an infuriating one. He also talks about the politics involved, and patients' own biases and how they affect healthcare outcomes. Definitely worth a read if you or anyone you know has to deal with the healthcare system for anything other than routine maintenance.

    3 votes
  2. [3]
    acdw
    Link
    I'm reading Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (trans. from Se questo e un uomo by Stuart Woolf), Dante's Inferno (trans. Pinsky), and *Practical Common Lisp*. Auschwitz is very stark, of course,...

    I'm reading Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (trans. from Se questo e un uomo by Stuart Woolf), Dante's Inferno (trans. Pinsky), and *Practical Common Lisp*. Auschwitz is very stark, of course, and I've actually fallen behind on Inferno, though I'm enjoying the poem more this time around. I read it in college for class before.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      krg
      Link Parent
      Have you read any other Levi? I haven’t read Survival in Auschwitz, but I really loved The Periodic Table and would definitely recommend it if you’re enjoying his writing.

      Have you read any other Levi? I haven’t read Survival in Auschwitz, but I really loved The Periodic Table and would definitely recommend it if you’re enjoying his writing.

      1 vote
      1. acdw
        Link Parent
        I haven't, but I'll definitely check it out! I've heard of him before .. I think. This book was recommended me by someone else :)

        I haven't, but I'll definitely check it out! I've heard of him before .. I think. This book was recommended me by someone else :)

        1 vote
  3. drannex
    Link
    Far too many books to mention but a few that are at the top right now: The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of The Race by Walter Isaacson, it's his newest book (all of...

    Far too many books to mention but a few that are at the top right now:

    • The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of The Race by Walter Isaacson, it's his newest book (all of his books I consider are possibly the best that writing has gifted us) and this newest one is not an exception.

    • Flesh And Machines: How Robots will Change Us by Rodney Brooks is the greatest force in modern robotics and his book from 20 years ago is more accurate now than possibly ever.

    • Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos by Alan W. Hirshfield, one of the greatest stories in science, the book chronicles the history of two millennias of scientists racing to be the most accurate in measuring time and space, and the distance of us from stars and the true size of them.

    • Darwin among the Machines by George Dyson, the son of Freeman Dyson. It's a fantastic history full of characters, philosophy, and name drops of those who help in the evolution of machines.

    • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini, rereading this one. It's the latest book from the author of Eragon, but instead of high fantasy it's a salient story of a xenobiologist who becomes physically and mentally connected with the first unknown alien species. It's a space opera, and it's quite possible the best science fiction novel written in the last decade.

    1 vote
  4. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    I recently finished Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World. I now understand somewhat better why bank heist movies are popular. It's a lot of fun to read about how...

    I recently finished Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World. I now understand somewhat better why bank heist movies are popular. It's a lot of fun to read about how these things worked. (There is little action, though.)

    This book is by an economist who tells the stories of quite a few famous frauds, some I had already heard of and others I hadn't. I made a list of the more interesting frauds he writes about:

    • Silk Road and online drug markets
    • The Poyais fraud. (Poyais was a fictional country in Central America.)
    • ICO's
    • Canadian penny stocks
    • ZZZZBest
    • The New England Mafia (long firm fraud)
    • EF Hutton (check kiting)
    • The King of Salad Oil
    • Medicare fraud
    • Donald Trump's Atlantic City casinos
    • How the original Ponzi scheme worked
    • Pyramid schemes
    • Bernie Madoff and hedge fund fraud
    • Federal Reserve conspiracy theories
    • The Portuguese Banknote Affair (counterfeiting)
    • Bre-X (mining fraud)
    • Theranos
    • Counterfeit drugs
    • Vioxx (scientifically unsupportable claims)
    • Stratton Oakmont ("Boiler-room" stockbroking)
    • Enron
    • Rogue traders
    • The Savings and Loan crisis
    • Mortgage "robosigning" and the 2008 crisis
    • Toxic waste dumping
    • The Piggly Wiggly corner
    • Jim Fisk and the Erie Railroad
    • Swiss banks and tax evasion
    • Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

    In the introduction, he talks about four types of white-collar crime:

    • Borrowing money and not paying it back (Such as by "long firms", businesses that disappear.)
    • Counterfeiting
    • Control fraud, where a business's management defrauds the owners and creditors
    • Market crimes, which don't have specific victims but prey on the market in general

    (These tend to be used in combination.)

    And while I'm making lists, here are some techniques of accounting fraud:

    • Completely fake sales
    • Fake sales via economically meaningless transactions
    • Up-front recognition of revenues
    • Delayed recognition of costs
    • Completely fake assets
    • Unreported debt
    • Overvalued or undervalued assets

    A theme is that business procedures and human behavior have evolved to try to stop fraud, but not to try too hard because it's inconvenient. After discussing Silk Road and online drug trade, where Bitcoin escrow is possible but often not used:

    The lesson from the darknet frauds is that you can build technical controls into the system, but fraud will work around them. Precautions are expensive, or inconvenient, or both, and trust is free. This means people will substitute trust for precautions up until the point at which the "shadow cost of trust"—the expected fraud loss—begins to exceed the direct cost of precautions. Since this trade-off is likely to involve a mixture of both, there will always be trust and therefore there will always be scams.

    On why businesses use credit, and why I believe the cryptocurrency dream of eliminating trust can't work:

    Most industries would be very different—almost unrecognizable, and certainly unable to operate at their actual scale—if all transactions had to take place on a cash-on-delivery basis. Every single stage in the production of this book, from the author's advance to the printers' payment terms to the retailers' sale-or-return, depends on the fact that businesses extend credit to each other to let payment be made when the money has arrived to make it.

    Here are some quotes about why these crimes can be difficult to detect:

    Even after it has been completed and the money stolen, a long firm often looks just like an honest business that went bust. Unlike most other kinds of criminal, white-collar fraudsters do exactly the same basic stuff as their honest counterparts. What makes the crime is the intent to deceive.

    In particular:

    The moment a car is stolen, its owner will be on the lookout for it, and its sale will be difficult and risky. But if a dozen cars are stolen by an automotive dealership acting as a long form, the victim of the crime will expect to see them on the forecourt, being sold for cash to the public. The crime only comes into existence once the payment is overdue and the debt is in default. Fences for long-firm fraudsters always have the cast-iron excuse that the business did not look like a fraud when they were dealing it, because it did not, and in general, they have to screw things up pretty badly to end up being convicted.

    Control fraud can be hard to detect as well:

    A control fraud differs from the simpler kind because the means by which the value is extracted to the criminal is generally legitimate—high salaries, bonuses, stock options, and dividends, but the legitimate payments are made on the basis of fictitious profits and unreal assets, and the manager tends to take vastly higher risks than those that would be taken by an honest businessman.

    Also:

    A public financial market provides the same service to liars that it provides to honest businesses—it converts stories into cash.

    And for market crime, it can be hard to tell whether it's a crime at all, and different jurisdictions may have different opinions.

    It's a long book and a bit uneven, but definitely worth checking out if this sort of thing is of interest to you. And if you want to read more, there are recommendations at the end for further reading.

    1 vote
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Great rundown, skybrian. I’ll be adding this to my list. I’ve read a couple of books focused on individual frauds from that list (Theranos = Bad Blood, Silk Road = American Kingpin, the mortgage...

      Great rundown, skybrian. I’ll be adding this to my list. I’ve read a couple of books focused on individual frauds from that list (Theranos = Bad Blood, Silk Road = American Kingpin, the mortgage crisis = Griftopia and The Big Short, Bernie Madoff = No One Would Listen), so it’s definitely an area of interest for me, and I like the idea of reading something more focused on synthesis rather than just individual narrative. Thanks for sharing this!

      1 vote