Eric Kandel explains the basics of neural signaling through this autobiographical narrative. While I can't pretend that I didn't know that there would...moreEric Kandel explains the basics of neural signaling through this autobiographical narrative. While I can't pretend that I didn't know that there would be some discussion of his own personal stuff, I didn't realize just how much of the book would be dedicated to his life as a Holocaust survivor. I'm sorry if it seems that I'm unfairly trivializing something serious, but his Holocaust survival experience consisted of being forced by Nazis to stay with some neighbors for a week and then promptly being shipped to America. He also uses up a lot of paper wildly calling everyone who doesn't like him an "anti-semite".
While the Holocaust was undeniably a revolting display of human beings' capacity for cruelty and stupidity, I hope you'll forgive me if I say that it seems that the author is so in love with the idea of being Jewish that he can't seem to shut the hell up about it.
On the other hand, he's made some amazingly important scientific discoveries and wrote a book that I enjoyed, and I haven't done any of that crap, so maybe I'm the one who should shut up.
What did I say? Oh, right. Yeah, I did enjoy this book, and despite being somewhat annoyed by his obsession with all things Jewish, learning about the specifics of neural signaling in the same order that he did provides the reader with a story that acts as a powerful mnemonic device. It makes what would probably otherwise be very difficult and dry material a lot more approachable and memorable.
Do I wish that he'd spent more time explaining neural signaling and less time on his autobiography? Yeah, but it's a free country. He can write a book about whatever he'd like. (less)
A very insightful book that tells the story of two different cultures at odds, not just with one another, but with themselves. He draws parallels betw...moreA very insightful book that tells the story of two different cultures at odds, not just with one another, but with themselves. He draws parallels between these two disparate societies by focusing on each one's search for identity. In addition to the politics, greed, and the arrogant assumption that cruelty can be justified by an invisible sociopath in the sky described in this book, the author also beautifully conveys the dignity and sanity of which human beings are capable, even in the worst situations.
I don't pretend to know a hell of a lot about politics and I've never been off of the North American continent, so I can't say much about the accuracy of the author's assessments or predictions, but they seem a lot more realistic than the cartoonish view of the world that Sean Hannity and his merry band of jackasses at Fox News present.
So, if you want to read a very clever book about a bunch of idiots killing each other over a patch of dirt, then this is for you. (less)
It would seem that one of the primary goals of the author was to show that the Afghani people, who have been painted with the broad, McCarthyist brush...moreIt would seem that one of the primary goals of the author was to show that the Afghani people, who have been painted with the broad, McCarthyist brush of "terrorist threat" and consequently dehumanized in American media, are, in fact, not so unlike us.
It's unfortunate that one of his other goals wasn't to avoid writing an unbelievable, tear-jerking load of crap. I was hoping that by reading this book, I'd get a taste of Afghani cultural "flavor", but instead, Khaled Hosseini just sprinkled some turmeric on a Pop Tart. We already have tons of Pop Tarts in America.
Reading this book is kind of like wearing a hand puppet. The packaging may be different, but you're still just jerking off. (less)
Inbetween talking about stuff that those of us with opposable thumbs had figured out already by the time we were twelve years old, Sam Harris comes up...moreInbetween talking about stuff that those of us with opposable thumbs had figured out already by the time we were twelve years old, Sam Harris comes up for air to explore things like the absurdity of religious tolerance and the ethics of torture. Much as Susan Blackmore does with "The Meme Machine", Harris uses the last chapter or two of his book to tell us that he thinks that Zen is really peachy, for no apparent reason whatsoever.
When I'm at the airport, there is usually exactly one book for sale that seems to be worth reading (other options are pulp nonsense like Dean Koontz,...moreWhen I'm at the airport, there is usually exactly one book for sale that seems to be worth reading (other options are pulp nonsense like Dean Koontz, or something like, "How to Succeed in Business and to Make Your Cock Thicker in 21 Days", or some warm-and-fuzzy empty-caloried load of crap like, "The Kite Runner"). So, I'd seen Mr. Beah on John Stewart and decided to pick this one up.
Ishmael Beah tells his story as it occurred to Ishmael Beah. He made no attempt to provide any sort of historical background for the political struggles of Sierra Leone. Indeed, had he tried, it would have been counter-productive. His story remains completely subjective, and very clearly illustrates for the reader that it makes not a damn bit of difference that he fought for one side or the other. War is insanity, and while he was a pawn in somebody else's power trip, he takes responsibility for his actions without indulging in guilt or feeling sorry for himself.
In fact, his presence on the Stewart show was so powerful for exactly this reason. He accepts his mistakes, but understands that every moment is new. He chooses not to wallow in the stale, musty basement of memory. His presentation was fresh, energetic, and alive.
Seeing that made me love this book even more.(less)
Want to be a kernel hacker? Don't start with this book. It's much better as a reference. For example, the whole discussion on the process address spac...moreWant to be a kernel hacker? Don't start with this book. It's much better as a reference. For example, the whole discussion on the process address space is very confusing because it assumes that you already understand a whole bunch about protected mode programming on the x86, and, when discussing the implementation of page tables, etc, doesn't really make it clear that some facets of the implementation are due to i386 limitations, while others are conscious design decisions by the Linux kernel developers. The book is riddled with this sort of thing and it's more likely to obfuscate than to elucidate.
Still, if you're not going in cold, this is a very valuable book that every kernel hacker should have on his/her desk. (less)
I've been somewhat of a novice kernel hacker for many years now and the few pieces of the kernel that I can say that I understand very well have been...moreI've been somewhat of a novice kernel hacker for many years now and the few pieces of the kernel that I can say that I understand very well have been small, hard-won victories for me. There are a number of Linux kernel books out there, and most novice hackers will find, as I have, that it's very difficult to just go in "cold" and learn about a specific kernel subsystem from these books. Books like "Linux Kernel Internals", "Understanding the Linux Kernel" and "Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager", are all very good references, but may be a bit overwhelming for the neophyte.
The problem is that there's just so damn much going on in the kernel. Diving too deeply too soon is likely to give the novice a sense that he/she is working without enough context to actually understand the material.
"Linux Kernel Development" acts as a nice primer for someone who wants to get an idea of how everything comes together before taking the deep dive. The book is fairly light on source code, so you're not terribly likely to come out a kernel hacker if you read this cover to cover, but in conjunction with a reference like "Understanding the Linux Kernel" and, of course, the source code, the kernel becomes much more approachable.
And, of course, while there's no substitute for source code, if you're like me, you need to know *why* something is implemented in a certain way before you're able to make heads or tails of it.
If I get lost in the source, I often find myself coming back to this book to get a sense of the "big picture". Robert Love does an excellent job in getting readers over that initial hurdle.(less)
In George Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith is an open source developer who writes his code offline because his ISP has installed packet sniffers that are...moreIn George Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith is an open source developer who writes his code offline because his ISP has installed packet sniffers that are regulated by the government under the Patriot Act. It's really for his own protection, though. From, like, terrorists and DVD pirates and stuff. Like every good American, he drinks Coca-Cola and his processed food has desensitized his palate to all but four flavors: sweet, salty-so-that-you-will-drink-more-coca-cola, sweet, and Cooler Ranch!(tm). His benevolent overlords have provided him with some war happening somewhere for some reason so that he, and the rest of the population, can be sure that the government is really in his best interests. In fact, the news always has some story about Paris Hilton or yet another white girl who has been abducted by some evil bastard who is biologically wired by 200,000 years of human evolution to fuck 12-year-olds, but is socially conditioned to be obsessed with sex, yet also to feel guilty about it. This culminates into a distorted view of sexuality, and results in rape and murder, which both make for very good news topics. This, too, is in Winston's best interests because, while fear is healthy, thinking *too* much about his own mortality is strictly taboo, as it may lead to something dangerously insightful, and he might lose his taste for Coca Cola and breast implants. The television also plays on his fears of the unknown by exaggerating stereotypes of minorities and homosexuals, under the guise of celebrating "diversity", but even these images of being ghetto-fabulous and a lisping interior designer actually exist solely to promote racism and homophobia, which also prove to be efficient distractions.
For some reason, Winston gets tired of eating recycled Pop Tarts and eating happy pills and pretending to be interested in sports and manufactured news items. But, in the end, they fix him and he's happy again. Or something.(less)
This is the most awesome book ever. No, I'm serious. It's the Chuck Norris of OS design books. It does a comparative analysis of the way in which seve...moreThis is the most awesome book ever. No, I'm serious. It's the Chuck Norris of OS design books. It does a comparative analysis of the way in which several Unix variants implement each concept presented in the book (as well as the Mach kernel), and gives the reader a sense of historical context for each concept. As someone with less than a year of university under my belt, I had struggled for years to understand kernel internals, and mostly in vain. I tore through this book in about a week, and then read it again. It blew the doors off of kernel design for me, and suddenly everything was demystified.
If you've been through operating system design courses, maybe you won't have as much of a boner for it as I do, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this excellent book.(less)