Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Month: December, 2013

184: Symposium by Plato

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184: Plato. Symposium. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Kindle Public Domain E-book. Approx. 96 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 180: Ancient, medieval, and Eastern philosophy
  • 184: Platonic philosophy

Plato’s Symposium is essentially a love story. The general outline is that a group of Greek thinkers are gathered together to a symposium by the poet Agathon to celebrate his recent victory in a dramatic competition. Phaedrus (an aristocrat), Pausanius (some sort of lawyer), Eryximachus (a doctor), Aristophanes (a comedian), Agathon, Socrates, and Alcibiades (a statesman) then take turns discussing the nature and types of love. They each offer valid perspectives on the topic while trying to surpass each other in the quality of their rhetoric (and trying to ward off a hangover from the previous night’s drinking). Socrates gets the upper hand quickly by undermining—piece-by-piece—each of their arguments about the nature of Love.

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393: American Afterlife by Kate Sweeney

 

393: Sweeney, Kate. American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2014. 232 pp. ISBN 978-0-8203-4600-7. Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 390: Customs and etiquette
  • 393: Death customs

Every 14 seconds, some one dies in the United States. But how do we mourn those deaths? How do current mourning practices compare to those of the past? And what do new innovations and practices in the funerary industry have to say about the social landscape of the country? Kate Sweeney’s American Afterlife looks at all these facets of the American funerary, burial, and death services to get a picture of how we deal with the loss of a loved one. Read the rest of this entry »

877: The Cambridge Companion of Roman Satire by Kirk Freudenberg

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877.010937: Freudenberg, Kirk. The Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 318 pp. ISBN 0-521-00627-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Latin and Italic literatures
  • 877: Latin humor and satire
  • 877.01: Philosophy and theory of Latin humor and satire
  • +0937: Italian Peninsula or adjacent territories to 476 CE

Satire as we know it was popularized first with the ancient Romans. The satirist Lucilius, writing in the 2nd century BCE, is usually credited as the earliest writer in the genre. Kirk Freudenberg’s Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire cover the length and breadth of the field with articles that discuss the origin of Roman satire, it affect on the social landscape of ancient Rome, and how the genre affected later and current English writing. While each of the authors’ take on Roman satire was interesting, you definitely need to have a bit of actual Roman satire for it to really sink in. This book is a decent supplement to the writing of Ennius, Horace’s satires, Persius’s stoicisms, Juvenal, Seneca, and even Julian and Boethius. It is good to know, however, that satire has survived to the present day. Without it, we wouldn’t have so many great movies today poking fun at all of society’s little cracks. A thick and interesting read.

414: The Music of Everyday Speech by Ann Wennerstrom

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414.6: Wennerstrom, Ann. The Music of Everyday Speech: Prosody and Discourse. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 263 pp. ISBN 0-19-514321-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 400: Language
  • 410: Linguistics
  • 414: Phonology and phonetics of standard forms of language
  • 414.6: Suprasegmental features

Ann Wennerstrom’s premise is a simple one: you need to properly hear a language to understand it. Languages have a tone, a pitch, and a musicality that is crucial to its analysis. This musicality is called a language’s prosody. Don’t worry if you’re already feeling drowned in technical jargon. Wennerstrom’s Music of Everyday Speech does a decent (if not terrific) job of helping the lay person understand her particular brand of linguistic analysis. She uses stress charts, vocal recordings, and scientific analysis to get at the heart of our language. Because the book is written in English, her results are limited to the English language, but it is interesting nonetheless. Her findings help support her theory that prosody helps to organize language almost as much as grammatical rules. She also brings in other contributors to help break up any potential monotony. One of these contributors (Heidi Riggenbach) takes a look at a person’s efforts in a second language and how their prosody is affected by their fluency in the language. This one’s a fairly dense that could easily get too tedious/boring for the average reader. I recommend it only if you’re in the field.

539: Cracking the Quantum Code of the Universe by John Moffatt

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539.721: Moffatt, John. Cracking the Quantum Code of the Universe: The Hunt for the Higgs Boson. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014. 181 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-91552-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 530: Physics
  • 539: Modern physics
  • 539.7: Atomic and nuclear physics
  • 539.72: Particle physics and ionizing radiation
  • 539.721: Specific kinds of subatomic particles

John Moffatt’s Cracking the Particle Code of the Universe is a history of particle up to the discovery of the Higgs boson. First theorized in 1964, it took nearly 50 years and a $9 billion particle accelerator to generate enough particle collisions and data to verify its existence. From what I understood (and I don’t claim to have understood everything in this book), Higgs particles are associated with Higgs fields, which are the very reason fundamental particles have mass and why the weak force and weaker than the electromagnetic force. On July 4, 2012, researchers at CERN announced that they had enough proof of its existence. At a mass of 125 GeV, it had all the properties that had been mathematically constructed a half-century earlier. And science finally had another piece of its puzzle.

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624: Engineers of Dreams by Henry Petroski

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624.20973: Petroski, Henry. Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America. New York: Vintage, 1996. 398 pp. ISBN 0-679-43939-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 620: Engineering and applied operations
  • 624: Civil engineering
  • 624.2: Bridges
  • +0973: United States

Many of the major cities in the U.S. got their start as big port cities. Ships could sail in, deposit goods, and flood the local economy with raw materials and other goods. They were ports because a bay or river brought the ship. And because there was water, there was a need for bridges. Bridges as an architectural or engineering feature have been around since the Romans, but new materials in the 19th century allowed for better, stronger, longer bridges to be built. In the United States, there are several iconic bridges—The Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge, The George Washington Bridge—whose conception and completion are due in large part to the engineers who first thought them up. Henry Petroski’s Engineers of Dreams is an ode to these thinkers and builders, the men who decided to cross a river and leave their mark on the American landscape.

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117: Complexity and Postmodernism by Paul Cilliers

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117: Cilliers, Paul. Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems. London: Routledge, 2002. 142 pp. ISBN 0-203-01225-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 110: Metaphysics
  • 117: Structure

Paul Cilliers’s Complexity and Postmodernism lies at the intriguing intersection of philosophy and science. It has long been theorized that the rules and equations that govern scientific processes and physical models could also pertain to complex, philosophical structures. One of the interesting notions of the postmodern school of thought is that there is the possibility to get away from traditional notions of order and morality, a way to escape structured thought. Complexity, on the other hand, deals with the notion that all the parts of a system are indelibly tied to each other, preventing the system from collapse. Complexity seems to evade understanding, but you don’t have to understand a system for it to still work.

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