I’ve recently finished reading “What Works: Gender Equality by Design”, a book by Iris Bohnet out on Harvard University Press and it’s one of the best books on gender matters that I’ve read recently. I can seriously recommend it. She takes a clear topic for each chapter and looks at the literature on behaviour change and design around that topic, considering a broad range of evidence from psychology, anthropology, economics and business to craft a wide research base from which to recommend behaviour modification strategies to support equality. The general idea comes from behavioural design, which is the field of “nudge” units and subtle designRead More →

I’ve published lots of writing – articles in journals and conference proceedings, mainly. Also quite a few magazine articles and one poem (aged 14, in the Skateboarding magazine RAD, but that’s a different story). Last week our book came out so now I can say I am a published author. It’s taken a while – over a year in total, with 6 authors collaborating online – but today I got the paper copies and so it feels a bit more real. The book aims to be a handbook and a practical guide – so if you are interested in diversity and more importantly interested inRead More →

I recently finished Algorithms to Live by (the computer science of human decisions), by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. The book provides a fairly detailed popular science account of some major findings from computer science, relating computational algorithms to the way humans solve problems. As an example – how do we fit things in our busy lives? Let’s look at scheduling theory! Or, how should we organise our books and libraries and computer files? Let’s look at the theories behind Caching! As an interloper into computer science I found the book particularly interesting; I know about a lot of CS and algorithmic concepts through workingRead More →

Since Christmas I’ve read two books by Eugenia Cheng and have hugely enjoyed them both. Cheng is a mathematician, author, concert pianist and writer (and, it would appear, all-round awesome human). The first book was called “How to Bake Pi“, and combined a general introduction to category theory with a bunch of cookery tips and recipes. It was a lot more entertaining than that one-sentence description implies, honest. Upon finishing it I immediately ordered a copy for my brother-in-law, who also likes maths a lot (and cake, but who doesn’t). x+y is billed as “A mathematician’s manifesto for rethinking gender”. I have read a lotRead More →

I’ve just finished the book “A Computer Called LEO“, by Georgina Ferry, and it was a great read. I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s not new either so if you like secondhand books you can probably pick a copy up cheap. It’s a book about the early days of business computing, but don’t let that put you off. Lyons teashops, which I don’t really remember (the last closed in 1981, when I was 8) were apparently MASSIVE before the second world war. The parent company Lyons were innovative, in their business practices and the way they approached problem solving. In 1946, two managers persuaded theirRead More →

I’ve just finished reading John Lanchester’s account of the credit crunch, the excellently titled “Whoops!”. I’m not particularly up to date with finance, banking or economics but I now understand a lot more about what has happened, why it happened, and why it’ll probably happen again. (In the epilogue, Lanchester sticks his neck out and makes a prediction: within the next 5-10 years, due to either a collapse of the eurozone, automated trading failure, or a bubble bursting in China.) I really enjoyed reading Whoops! and now understand a bit more about sub-prime, credit default swaps, and international banking reguations. The real genius of theRead More →

“The whole question of what Britain is best at, in global terms, is an interesting one. There are four sectors in which Britain is world-class: finance, arms manufacturing, the creative arts, and higher education. Of these, the first receives strong government support, the second lavish investment and strong support, the third is largely left to mind its own business and the fourth has been gradually run down, with three decades of consistent discouragement and underfunding. What would Britain look like today if instead of the arms industry or the City it had been our Russell Group universities which had been the subject of attempts toRead More →

Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester is one of my favourite novels. It’s a complex, evocative story set in Hong Kong from the 1930s to the late 1990s, told through the lives of four characters. It has an amazing sense of place – of Hong Kong as a city – so I decided to re-read Fragrant Harbour on the plane out. Due to an electrical fault at Manchester, a midnight race through Helsinki to make my connection, a loudly snoring neighbour and a frankly shite collection of movies on Finnair I was unable to spend much of the journey time watching movies, sleeping or drinking inRead More →

My current parallel text is “L’homme à l’enverse“, a Fred Vargas novel translated into english with the title “Seeking whom he may devour“. I guess the title translation should have tipped me off to the fact that this was likely to be a clunky read. There’s one translation detail that’s really beginning to wind me up though, and that’s the name of the dog. The old shepherd, called “Le Veillard” in the french and “Watchee” in the English, has a faithful sheepdog. This dog, in the french, is called “Interlock“. When asked about the name by the protagonist, Camille, the shepherd explains that this isRead More →

In an effort to improve my French, I’ve been reading a few of my favourite books in translation alongside the original. It saves me from having to pick up a dictionary every time I come across a word I don’t know, and it also encourages me to try and work out what words mean myself (it’s a bit of a pain stopping and starting and switching between languages, so I try to do a paragraph or a page at a time). I’ve just finished L’appel des morts, by Ian Rankin (also known as “The Naming of the Dead”; one of my favourite Rebus novels). ThisRead More →