Recently Read

Books read recently at home, at ICSE'09, on vacation, and back at home:
  • Smith: Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design and Ko & Rossen: Teaching Online: A Practical Guide.The most immediately useful books about (re-)designing courses for online delivery I've come across so far, though I wish both moved faster and went deeper. I understand that course design (online or otherwise) is as hard to teach out of a book as any other kind of design, but I'm still hoping that there's something as rich and readable as Programming Pearls or GUI Bloopers out there waiting to be found.
  • Blum: My Word!: Plagiarism and College Culture. "...the real problem of academic dishonesty arises primarily from a lack of communication between two distinct cultures within the university setting. On one hand, professors and administrators regard plagiarism as a serious academic crime, an ethical transgression, even a sin against an ethos of individualism and originality. Students, on the other hand, revel in sharing, in multiplicity, in accomplishment at any cost." Like McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing, it would have been better as an extended essay than as a book, but the good points are worth the filler.
  • Tropashko: SQL Design Patterns. It's more a "how to" cookbook than a catalog of design patterns in the traditional sense, and the early sections spend too much time on "here's how we used to do it back when", but again, the good points are worth the filler.
  • Ernst and Singh: Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine. This one's important, but the people who need to read it most probably won't. Singh is a professional science writer; Ernst worked as a homeopathic doctor in Germany before becoming the first professor of complementary medicine in the UK in 1993. This patient, well-written book explains how the scientific method and clinical trials work, then looks at the evidence for homeopathy, chiropracty, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. The verdict? With only a handful of minor exceptions, they are no better than placebos (which can be surprisingly effective, even when recipients know they're getting sugar pills). As with global warming, gender differences in math and science, and many other things, though, many people will continue to pick their facts to fit their beliefs, rather than vice versa.
  • Dunn: Everyday Life in Traditional Japan. Stumbled upon in a bookstore in Vancouver; more fun than it sounds.
  • Butcher: Turn Coat and Gilman: Gears of the City. Hot buttered popcorn and a roast beef sandwich, respectively.