Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Finished (Audiobook) - "The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Liked this book - a "history" of the demotion of Pluto.  Lots of letters, arguments, poems, songs - it is interesting how much feeling goes into the classification of celestial objects.

It is nice to hear the types of discussion that go on in taxonomy - lists and labels aren't really scientific, the science underlies them, but the actual organization and definition can go many different ways - made for interesting read.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finished (E-Reader) - "Catching Fire" - Suzanne Collins

Read the 2nd book in "the Hunger Games" trilogy.  The young folk are in trouble as they get chosen again to compete in the Hunger Games.  Rebellion is brewin'.

A good read, very fast - killed it in a day.  Looking forward to the third.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finished (E-Reader) - "The Hunger Games" - Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games was recommended to me on a plane between DC and Detroit as I returned from a Florida Spring Training vacation.

A nice read - certainly similar in style, content, and age-of-reader to the "City of Ember" books (Jeanne DuPrau).  Strong mid-teen girl character, post-apocalyptic North American world space, electricity and food are relatively scarce outside of the capital region.  "Running Man" or "The Long Walk" (Stephen King as Richard Bachman") type game-show to the death scenario.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Finished "Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today" - Tom Brokaw (Audiobook)

Finally finished Tom Brokaw's book about the '60's.  A very interesting car audiobook.  Interviews and stories of key players in the '60s culture and what they are doing now, what they thought the big learning of the '60s was and whether or not that generation has lived up to the hype.

There was no definitive conclusion, but I'd say that by and large, most were unhappy with how things turned out.  Folks dedicated to ending the war seemed to lose their passion once they passed draft age, and many became supporters of the Iraq war.  In hindsight, much of the culture could probably be explained by size - there were lots of people in that cohort - most of their insights and issues seem pretty self-serving.  The hippie's who are now gazillionaires, the greed culture that followed (with the same physical bodies), the fact that they don't teach or treat their own children like they wanted to be treated in the '60s... all seem to indicate that selfish folks evolve and change to older selfish folks and their wants and needs reflect this.

It was interesting that one of the speakers (can't remember who) was saying that if the '60s spirit was still alive in the folks who are now in their 60s, they'd probably be supporting means-tested social security and variable age of social security coverage to reflect the wealth of some of that population (e.g. "I believe in social security, but am doing well enough to delay the start for myself and my family for another 3 or 4 years").

"Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt" - Patton Oswalt

I was a little harsh on Patton Oswalt's book.  I actually enjoyed the last few chapters - these were stories of starting in comedy on the road.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recent lame books

"Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt" - Patton Oswalt is the third of three books I picked up having been familiar with the authors (all stand-up comics I've seen on TV).  This book is quite bad, as was Judah Freidlander, and Olivia Munn's books.

I'll likely finish, having completed 3/4 of the book, but wouldn't recommend any of these books.

Reading - "THE MOST HUMAN HUMAN What Talking With Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive" - Brian Christian

Picked up "The Most Human Human" by Brian Christian, sight unseen.  I've always been interested in the limits and current status of computer "intelligence", particularly in the wake of the Deep Blue defeat of Kasparov in chess, one of the supposedly final limits in computer thinking ability.

This book uses the Turing Test contest (annual challenge using human judges to adjudicate whether they are communicating with a real person or a computer in a text-based discussion) to delve into philosophy, problem solving and generally exploring what it means to have experience and be human.

Hits right on the mark for what I'm interested in exploring at this point in my life.