Thu 29 Jun 2006
Well, I've certainly been in a blogging lull lately. After getting back from 3 weeks in Europe (which was awesome, and I have a few posts I've been saving about it), I've been catching up and working feverishly on summer projects, most notably Mycroft, which is about to become a legal corporate entity!
I've also been trying to do a lot of reading, both for work and for pleasure, though a lot of the books cover both. I was pleased with the reading I did on vacation, too. I read:
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking – This was a fascinating introduction to astrophysics. A lot of it went over my head, but Hawking did a very good job of simplifying abstract theories and making them accessible. One of my favorite things in the book was a discussion of the Anthropic Principle (both weak and strong), which apparently explains some very important phenomenon. In a nutshell (some editorializing here), it basically states that in the absence of other explanations for observed phenomenon, we can explain them by saying that they have to be as they are because humans exist, and if they weren't exactly that way then we wouldn't. Ha! The link does a much better job of explaining. Final note, Hawking is such a weird bird! At one point he talks about he and his friend who made a bet (about physics) where the prize for each was a subscription to either Private Eye or Hustler. Nice.
- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara – This is a fantastic, Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Battle of Gettysburg. Shaara's writing is compelling and personal, even though it's basically a single glorified battle sequence. What I like about it is that it's entirely based on actual letters and memoirs of soldiers and others who were at the battle. So it's historical fiction, really. I recommend it for anyone who's got the slightest interest in the Civil War. One interesting point involves the differences between the North and the South on what the war was about. (Hint: not slavery)
- The Shipping News by Annie Proulx – My mother and law said she couldn't get started with this book, and I can see why, but if you can get involved with it the book really sucks you in. It takes place in Newfoundland, for one thing, and so it offers all these rich descriptions of a very foreign place. Proulx's writing is chock full of metaphor and simile, which I like as kind of a throw-back, but it can be hard to struggle through sometimes. The good thing about it though is she writes so that if you want to spend some time re-reading her turns of phrase it can be really deep and beautiful, but if you want to skip them, that works too.
- I started to read another book, The Known World, by Edward P. Jones, but I just couldn't get into it. I found the writing pedantic and self-important.
Here's the rest of my (ambitious) summer reading list, in no particular order. (I am too lazy to link them all right now)
- Thomas Friedman – The World is Flat
- Malcolm Gladwell – The Tipping Point (only got halfway through the first time)
- Howard Becker – Boys in White
- Howard Becker – Doing Things Together
- Levitt & Dubner – Freakonomics (worth another look, given all the recent criticism)
- Stephen Johnson – Interface Culture
- Yochai Benkler – The Wealth of Networks
- Mancur Olson – The Logic of Collective Action
- Harris – The Rise of Anthropological Theory (This is an anthology, really.)