A fascinating history of science. Ever curious how everything we know about the world came to be - read this! I loved reading about what old greats li...moreA fascinating history of science. Ever curious how everything we know about the world came to be - read this! I loved reading about what old greats like Darwin thought about the world - they were all right about most things, but also very wrong about some things - makes you wonder how much we are wrong about today!
Another interesting piece was how many of the world's prominent scientists had the time to do their research because they came from rich families. Very different from todays notion of 'trust funders'.(less)
When people ask me what my favorite book is, Dune is always my answer. Words cannot even do justice to what an epic tale this is. We learn about spiri...moreWhen people ask me what my favorite book is, Dune is always my answer. Words cannot even do justice to what an epic tale this is. We learn about spirituality, human nature, politics, religion, and the making of a hero.
I loved the spiritual aspects of the book the best. The philosophies and practices and Pranu Bindu training of the Bene Gesserit that Paul learns and builds upon. The Bene Gesserit believe in a training regiment that results in a superior human being - one with every sense as refined as possible. This means a focus on learning, on controlling emotion, on controlling your body.
My absolute favorite quote from Dune is the Bene Gesserit litany against fear:
The litany is meant to be recited when you are in a moment of fear, and as I first read Dune 20 years ago, I've employed it many times. After Paul employs it when he is fighting Jamis, the affect on him is described as "a cool bath washing over him. He felt muscles untie themselves, become poised and ready." I have read a lot about people who perform at high levels - whether it be in athletics or business, and success is all about getting into that zen state where you have a clear, focused mind. Fear is the biggest thing that can cloud one's mind - usually fear of failure, but there are other forms too. While this Litany won't always eliminate it, I've felt it to be useful to recognize the fear and call it out for what it is.
There is also a focus in the book on being able to read people by paying attention to the minutia. In many crucial scenes we see Paul and Jessica and others employing this skill, using not only their eyes, but reading the tone of what a person says, what their body language or actions say, and more. Imagine the poker player I could be if I learned these skills!
It's interesting to me that so many science fiction novels contemplate a future with AI (aka post-singularity). In Dune, the Butlerian Jihad was the human rebellion to rid itself of AI or "thinking machines". They are now banned, and in their place we have Mentats, who are humans with processing powers far greater than any thinking machine. It's unclear to the software engineer in me how exactly that could be without some sort of physical manipulation (insertion of massive amounts of transistors, for instance), but the affect is pretty cool, we get Spock-esque beings who analyze everything extremely logically, and are great at political planning "feints within feints within feints".
There was a lot in the book about leadership. It started with Paul first learning about it from his Father, and also from the Bene Gesserit. This quote stood out to me:
Much has been made in modern reviews of Dune of the fact that it's clearly a statement about oil and the Middle East. The book even admits the Fremen are of Sunni descent, and many words they use (Jinn, Jihad, etc) are Arabic. I'm not sure I understand all the undertones, but one thing that was clear was about control of the worlds most precious commodity: "The people who can destroy a thing, they control it." I hope we are closing in on the end of the days when oil controls so much, but we aren't there yet. In the meantime, we had best beware of any future Harkonnen's. (less)
Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors (snow crash, cryptonomicon), but he didn't deliver in this one. Maybe because it was co-authored. The pr...moreNeal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors (snow crash, cryptonomicon), but he didn't deliver in this one. Maybe because it was co-authored. The premise was interesting, and the first half of the book was actually pretty good, but then it just skipped ahead and I didn't love the ending...(less)
A really interesting novel that takes place in the future in a world where some people live in the metaverse (aka digital universe/internet) more than...moreA really interesting novel that takes place in the future in a world where some people live in the metaverse (aka digital universe/internet) more than the real world. I don't remember it so well now but I do remember there being some really interesting tie-ins to ancient sumarian computers.
That plus any book with a protagonist named Hiro Protagonist who wields badass japanese swords is just badass.
This is the only poker book I read, but it came very highly recommended and it didn't disappoint. It helped me transition from a total newbie to an ab...moreThis is the only poker book I read, but it came very highly recommended and it didn't disappoint. It helped me transition from a total newbie to an above average newbie. I especially liked all the example hands in the book - helped a lot!(less)
A fascanating history of the NY Times. Interesting tidbits were:
- The family was Jewish but so afraid of being dubbed a Jewish paper that they barely...moreA fascanating history of the NY Times. Interesting tidbits were:
- The family was Jewish but so afraid of being dubbed a Jewish paper that they barely covered the holocaust - most stories about the mass graves were buried on page 7 and didn't mention the fact that the victims were mostly Jews. - Adolf Ochs, the first of the family to own the times, bought it completely on borrowed money. He was so in debt it took him 20 years to truly own it. That guy had some large cojones... - The author really played up the stiff competition each generation for publishership. Seems as the the names (ie Arthur Sulzberger) always won..(less)
Just re-read this for the first time, and it's still one of my favorites. This book is geek-heaven: cryptography, world war II, code-breaking, nazi go...moreJust re-read this for the first time, and it's still one of my favorites. This book is geek-heaven: cryptography, world war II, code-breaking, nazi gold, and modern day internet beginnings all tied together in one masterful story.
It also was largely lost on me, and I suspect many of my generation, that the second world war was won - or at least greatly accelerated - in great part due to the fact that we had cracked the German and Japanese codes. Learning more about the efforts of Bletchley Park, and Dr Alan Turing and huffduff and cribs, etc was fascinating.
I think the funniest part of the book is the page where Stephenson actually graphs out how productive Waterhouse is when he has recently had sex (very productive) and when he hasn't (not very productive).
The code-breaking and cryptography is not stuff I know a ton about, as modern day programmers largely don't have to worry about that stuff, but it's a good reminder to think about, as we don't have it on our brains nearly enough. Avi & Randy's paranoia and tendency to encrypt everything from their hard drives to their emails may be overkill, on the other hand, it also may be wise. I remember getting email from people who used public/private keys to encrypt their email before, but not in the last 5 years. Maybe we should request that Gmail Labs add that!
If there was a theme to this book, it's that cryptography is everything. It defined the second world war, and it also defines the modern internet. Information is king - not large caches of gold.(less)