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Book review: The Young Visiters, by Daisy Ashford

This novel was written in 1890 when the author was aged nine. She rediscovered it in a drawer in 1917 when she was 36 and it was published two years later, spelling mistakes and all; the only editorial concession made was to insert paragraphing to aid readability. (Incredibly, a reviewer on Amazon recently complained that the publishers should have corrected the spelling!) The book was an instant success, being reprinted 18 times in the first year alone; it is still in print today. Read more

Book review: How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker

This is a book about evolutionary psychology, which Pinker explains at the outset as follows.

The evolutionary psychology of this book is in one sense a straightforward extension of biology, focused on one organ, the mind, of one species,Homo sapiens. But in another sense it is a radical thesis that discards the way issues about the mind have been framed for almost a century.


The view outlined here includes a number of ideas: that the mind is a set of modules whose organisation is genetic, that it is an adaptation designed by natural selection, and that the goal of natural selection is to propagate genes. But Pinker cautions us that none of these ideas should be pushed too far. Each of them contributes part of the explanation but none gives us the whole story. Read more

Book review: A Life in Questions, by Jeremy Paxman

This is a memoir but not an autobiography because, as Paxman explains at the outset, he does not say anything about his family: 'what they choose to disclose about themselves is up to them.' The first three chapters describe his early upbringing and education. He went first to a preparatory school and then to a minor public school, Malvern College. He was not greatly impressed by either of these institutions, which he saw as designed to foster class prejudices in those who attended them, but in the end he got an Exhibition (minor scholarship) at St Catherine's College, Cambridge, where he read English and edited the student newspaper Varsity . Read more

Firefox: error_net_inadequate_security

I kept getting this error code when trying to connect to various sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia. The solution required a good deal of digging on line. In brief I did this:

(1) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return.

(2) In the search box above the list, type or paste http2 and pause while the list is filtered

(3) Double-click the network.http.spdy.enabled.http2 preference to switch it from true to false

Note added March 24 2017
Since updating Firefox to 52.0 the problem is fixed and I have restored the above entry to True.




Book review: Yoga Body, by Mark Singleton

Yoga is becoming ever more popular in countries outside India and it is claimed to have all kinds of mental and physical benefits. It is also widely believed to be an ancient practice and this is an important part of its appeal for some. But Singleton presents a wealth of evidence to show that modern yoga, with its emphasis on postures (asanas), is not rooted in ancient traditions (whatever these may have been) but instead owes a lot to Western gymnastics and other physical culture techniques. Yoga has also been cross-fertilised with Indian nationalism and New Age spirituality. Read more

Unanswerable question on Mastermind

In yesterday's "Mastermind" the competitor who eventually won the contest was asked: What Greek term is used in the gospels as a translation of Golgotha, meaning the place of the skull? She replied "Calvary", which was taken to be correct.

Although the gospels were written in Greek, "Calvary" is Latin not Greek. So the question was unanswerable. If I'd been in the contestant's place I wouldn't have known what to say.