Saturday, February 26, 2011

Still reading "Lord of the Rings"

Still at "Lord of the Rings", reading to my 9 year old son.  He may be in university when we finish - not the easiest book to read aloud.

Wired - November 2010

Found and read the November 2010 issue of Wired - perhaps the cleavage on the cover led it to be quickly and quietly filed away.

Nice issue - cover story about breast reconstruction options through the use of stem cells harvested from fat cells in the body of the patient.  Breasts are seen as a potential early use of the technology given to the relatively low risk of death in reconstruction when compared to hearts or other organs.  Recovery from mastectomy and lumpectomy with few side-effects, low post-surgical trauma/recovery (same day home) and positive 6 and 12 month follow ups are all good.  Long term fear of recurrence or incubation of potential cancer sites is a concern that can't be addressed given the short history of use.  Heart attack and other key potential uses mean that this is a tech to watch.

Nice article on the origin of the computer - a pre-ENIAC, much smaller, binary device that was completed before the start of the ENIAC project......Background on attempts to dethrone TicketMaster for ticket sales and distribution....

Finished (Audiobook) - "Shoeless Joe" - W.P. Kinsella

"Shoeless Joe" is a great read, and a great listen.  Very nice story, captured well in the movie "Field of Dreams". J.D. Salinger, real-life author of "Catcher in the Rye" is featured in the original, in place of the character played by James Earl Jones in the movie.

Definitely a great story to play during car trips - pretty family friendly (except perhaps the section where the main character and his twin brother, as teenagers, decide to see if there are any differences at all in their bodies, or the occassional references to lovemaking between the main character and his wife).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finished (E-Reader) - The 4 "City of Ember" Books (Jeanne DuPrau)

My daughter was reading "City of Embers" on the recommendation of her cousin, and really liked it.  For Christmas, she received the 3 remaining books in the series and asked me to read them as well.

I must say they were a pretty good read.  The basic storyline involves a city that has no natural light and relies upon stored food, and a hydroelectric power generation for survival.  As the inhabitants are not the first generation in this city, they are unaware of the details of how the city was formed, nor how the generator works, nor do they have any knowledge of what is outside of their city (a dark zone).

The books explore what happens to this city when the generator goes wonky and the supplies run low, some history of why the city was created, and followup of where the inhabitants end up after abandoning the city.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finished (Audiobook) - "One More Day" - Mitch Albom

Listened (again) to 'One More Day' by Mitch Albom.  A very nice book - a fantasy book where a mid-life man is contemplating suicide, after his family life falls apart - he's been in one World Series as a younger man.

The book takes a biographical tour of events in life, and focused on the relationship he had with his mother.

I'd recommend it - a fast read, or listen, very much worth the effort.

Finished (E-reader) - "How to Beat Up Everybody" - Judah Friedlander

Not worth reading - better to pick up and read a page or so from time to time at the bookstore.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finished (Audiobook) - "God is not Great" - Christopher Hitchens

I listened to "God is not Great" by Christopher Hitchens.  As I stated about Richard Dawkins books ("The Blind Watchmaker", "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "The God Delusion") and Stephen Hawking ("The Grand Design") I do appreciate the perspective that science and religion are distinctly separate, and rely upon different tenets (science is empirical - proof for even the most absurd conclusions must be treated using the same mechanisms and constraints; religion is faith based and ultimately rests upon an expert or body of experts that interpret events into a framework - no specific "event" can be used to disprove faith as it is not based upon scientific methods).

I found Dawkins arguments a little too strong - I'm happy with the Gould inspired separate worlds idea, but understand why he feels so strongly that in the current political environment (particularly the US) there is an activist element that is trying to undermine science directly from a religious standpoint (intelligent design) that is hypocritically using scientistic words to portray faith-based belief as scientific hypotheses.  As such, Dawkins feels the need to retaliate and show the hypocrisy for what it is.

I did  not, as such, find anything particularly problematic in Dawkins arguments - they basically outlined the scientific method, and did not find a need to place a pro-active God in the middle of events.  Hawking came to a similar conclusion from a physics standpoint - there is no need for an intervention in events once they are in play. Hawking's world "works" assuming that you have quantum mechanics and gravity - the universe will form given these conditions.

Hitchens has a much stronger viewpoint on the evils of religion, calling it child abuse in certain chapters, and argues that the basic idea of religion is dangerous as it undermines critical thinking.

From a religious perspective, I imagine Hitchens would be considered the most difficult to read - he allows the presence of a supernatural being the least room.  Dawkins also thinks religion is dangerous, but is less dogmatic in his arguments than Hitchens, and I suspect without the Intelligent Design crew at work, Dawkins probably would leave well enough alone.  Hawking is probably the easiest from a religious perspective - he argues that the universe doesn't need a god to have the processes function (e.g. no intervention required) but doesn't directly argue against religion (as both Dawkins and Hitchens have) nor does he say that God doesn't exist.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finished (Audiobook) "The Black Hole War My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" - Leonard Susskind

Finished "The Black Hole War My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" -  Leonard Susskind.

I liked this book - I'm really interested in physics these days.  As with most books that are semi-biographical, there is a tendency for the author to look arrogant at some points.

The coverage of quantum mechanics, the quirks, sub-atomic particles etc. are well stated and worth listening to - quantum mechanics is odd enough that you need to hear from several sources.  The "battle" was a little less interesting - whether or not information is lost in black holes is interesting, but it didn't "read" as a battle - the entire picture is certainly interesting enough without the battle.

Finished "Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek" - Olivia Munn

Read "Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek" by Olivia Munn.

Some interesting and sad stories of childhood bigotry in Oklahoma, seedy stories from Hollywood, but all in all, not really worth the effort.

As with the Larry Wilmore book, I wanted to read Olivia's book due to her connection with "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart".  I really liked the Wilmore book, not so much this one.

It was relatively quick to read, though.