I love baseball. In my humble and correct opinion, it's superior to all other sports. So it's probably not surprising that I also love baseball books....moreI love baseball. In my humble and correct opinion, it's superior to all other sports. So it's probably not surprising that I also love baseball books. But in the interest of staying well-rounded, I limit my consumption of them to about one a year. Last year, it was Jason Turbow's terrific The Baseball Codes. This year, it's Tim Wakefield's autobiography, Knuckler: My Life With Baseball's Most Confounding Pitch.
Co-written with Tony Massarotti, the book is really not just the story of Tim Wakefield's journey from power-hitting prospect to grizzled flutterball-throwing veteran, but also the story of the knuckleball itself. And it's a fascinating story. Having read Robert Adair's The Physics of Baseball (highly recommended for any other geeky-ish baseball fans, BTW), I was already familiar with the "why" behind a knuckleball being difficult to hit. For those not in the know, when you throw a baseball with no spin (hint: this is called a knuckleball even if it's thrown without knuckles), the motion of the ball through the air is unpredictable as the laces hit air currents on the way to the catcher's glove (or just as often, the backstop).
I've been a fan of Tim Wakefield ever since I first saw him pitch, which was about the same time I discovered that there were still knuckleball pitchers around. Not many of them, mind you, but there seems to always be one hanging around the majors. Right now, incidentally, we've got one in the American League (Wakefield) and one in the National League (R.A. Dickey). I just about had a fit of baseball-geeky-hyperactivity a couple of years ago when Dickey pitched for the Mariners and was matched against Wakefield and the Red Sox.
As I mentioned in my book review for Kenneth Miller's Only a Theory, I've read quite a few books on the topic of origins and have gradually migrated f...moreAs I mentioned in my book review for Kenneth Miller's Only a Theory, I've read quite a few books on the topic of origins and have gradually migrated from creationism toward something like theistic evolution. It's still not a subject I'm a big fan of fighting over, so I generally just keep my opinions to myself. But I do keep reading. It's how I roll.
My migration, though, has had more to do with science than theology. When I watch something like Dennis Venema's excellent YouTube videos on the genetic evidence for common ancestry between apes and humans, I don't have any particular issue with the science.
But then if I read something like Karl Giberson's worthwhile Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, I can recognize the science as excellent but the theology as lacking (in my mini-review of Saving Darwin, I noted that it failed to live up to its subtitle). Because regardless of what anyone might think, my views on the science of origins have implications for my theology of origins. And that's where I've been stuck for a while.
Well, I'm a bit further along now, thanks to Karl Giberson and Francis S. Collins's The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Approached like a Frequently Asked Questions for the whole topic of theistic evolution/BioLogos, it's everything I hoped it would be. I'm not saying that all my questions have been definitively answered or anything, but I at least have some confidence that the answers exist.
I'm not sure the last two books in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series were truly necessary, though they were definitely inevitable given the few dangli...moreI'm not sure the last two books in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series were truly necessary, though they were definitely inevitable given the few dangling threads left after the first three books. And I get the impression that either Mr. Koontz or the publisher thought the series was best wrapped up quickly, as this last volume seemed a bit rushed. Still, it was an enjoyable read even taking its faults into account.
Of course, I can't divulge much about the plot of this book (The Dead Town) without giving away a lot, so I'll keep this fairly short. In many ways, this volume and Lost Souls are one long novel, with this one picking up immediately after the previous one. Both books take place on the same day, which probably gives rise to the rushed pace. Where the previous trilogy took time to show the beginnings of the downfall of Victor Frankenstein's army, the cracks show early and often here.
I'm glad I'd recently listened to Lost Souls, because many of the characters weren't reintroduced in this volume. It was just assumed you remembered what had happened. I'm not a big fan of that. However, some of the new characters and situations tickled my fancy quite nicely. The people and action at the radio station were my favorites in this final book, though the Nummy/Mr. Lyss scenes were also basically awesome.
The fact that it took me twelve weeks to finish David Crystal's ambitious Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language should not be taken a...moreThe fact that it took me twelve weeks to finish David Crystal's ambitious Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language should not be taken as a criticism of the book. In fact, I see it as a result of two things: 1.) my other reading and 2.) short chapters.
With the Herculean goal of determining the impact of the King James Bible not on Western Culture or Western Law or anything like that, but on the English Language itself, Crystal in Begat takes a meandering stroll through the more and less productive parts of the KJV and analyzes the impact notable phrases have had on English. In doing so, he also mentions whether the same wording occurred in earlier or contemporary English translations, and what kind of use the phrase is put to in the here and now.
As I mentioned, the chapters are nice and short, and each chapter is broken up into sections for each phrase under consideration. So it makes for good nightstand reading, and that's the chief reason I kept not finishing this book. But it's a fascinating tour of one of the most read books in history.
David Crystal is one of the foremost authorities on the English language, and I'd been meaning to read one of his books for quite some time. His writing is excellent, and I appreciated the examples he picked out to use when considering the lengths to which phrases could be adapted. One of my favorite examples was an adaptation of "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" into "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's WiFi." Heh.
I love trivia games, to the point that I've been accused of having a trivial mind. I love having one-on-one Trivial Pursuit matches against my dad, an...moreI love trivia games, to the point that I've been accused of having a trivial mind. I love having one-on-one Trivial Pursuit matches against my dad, and generally losing. And of course, I love playing along with Jeopardy! at home. If I could avoid getting penalized for all the wrong answers I blurt out and the buzzer wasn't an issue, I could totally take those people. Yeah, right. (I'm a fair hand at Wheel of Fortune, too.)
[ Interestingly, Ken Jennings (of the 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy!) subtitles his blog "Confessions of a Trivial Mind." So I'm not sure my paltry trivia-bufferiness rises to the level of "trivial." ]
When I became aware of an impending match between Jennings, fellow big-winner Brad Rutter, and a computer called Watson (from IBM), I was pretty jazzed about it. Having seen the match and now having read Stephen Baker's Final Jeopardy: Man Vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, I'm even more fascinated by the whole thing.
The book gives a nice background both to Jeopardy! and IBM, and delves just a bit into the world of Artificial Intelligence, all while chronicling the concept, development, and refining of Watson from very dumb to extremely bright. And of course, the match between man and machine is retold in exciting style. (I was surprised to find myself pulling for Jennings and Rutter even though I already knew the outcome. I guess that's the mark of a good storyteller.)
In writing a book about a robot uprising, it had to be difficult not to write something just terribly derivative of Asimov or Terminator or even Wilso...moreIn writing a book about a robot uprising, it had to be difficult not to write something just terribly derivative of Asimov or Terminator or even Wilson's own How to Survive a Robot Uprising. But Wilson basically took all of those previous things as starting points and wrote something awesome. Now, I'm not saying it's my favorite book ever or anything. Speaker for the Dead still holds that distinction. And I'm not going to be reading this book at least once a year like I do with Speaker. But for a bit of summer reading, breaking me out of my nonfiction doldrums, Robopocalypse hit the spot.
I love a good Man v. Machine story. You might recall I thought Colossus was incredibly awesome. And I've always loved the Terminator films. (Yes, even the newest couple of them. I think T3 is underrated.) And I, Robot is one of my favorite audiobooks to grab from the library when nothing else is working for me. And let's not forget Battlestar Galactica.
Robopocalypse puts forward a world in which a machine intelligence has arisen and declared war on humanity, but with an eye to preserving life. But with billions of people around, humans are in large measure expendable. So Big Rob doesn't want to destroy the planet by using nukes or anything like that. In fact, there's some measure of Asimov's The Evitable Conflict at work in the story, though with a dark twist on things.
I work in the computer industry, but I'm hardly an industry expert, so this book broadened my mind quite a bit, letting me get between the ears of som...moreI work in the computer industry, but I'm hardly an industry expert, so this book broadened my mind quite a bit, letting me get between the ears of some pretty remarkable people who have shaped and are shaping the way we live.
The thing that helps the book rise above a mere collection of interviews is that, in addition to the original interviews, Mr. Van Winkle did his best to follow up with each of the interviewees to get a retrospective on the topics at hand. This was especially cool when those being interviewed were asked to forecast the future a bit in the originals. Of course, the predictions were hit and miss, but more hit than you'd probably think. It was cool to see where a few years had taken them.
And God Said is just an excellent primer on the science of translation, with terrific examples of figuring out how we know what a word means by tracin...moreAnd God Said is just an excellent primer on the science of translation, with terrific examples of figuring out how we know what a word means by tracing its uses and concepts in the rest of the Bible. Particularly good was his discussion of the translation of "virgin" in the famous "The Virgin shall conceive" passage from Isaiah, which he also blogged about. (I blogged about that topic some time ago, but he actually knows what he's talking about.)
This book also gives a real appreciation for the craft of translation, flawed though the results may be. The number and quality of study tools in English, though, makes it possible to get closer to the original text. And that's cool. And since I'm probably not learning Hebrew in the near future, I'll need to continue reading lots of different translations and make use of NETBible's online interlinear to check on stuff when I need to. But I'd love to see a Hoffman translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Alas, it wasn't. It's certainly a worthwhile read, and there are some exciting parts in it, but I found myself slogging through more than enjoying it. I couldn't put Manhunt down. I put this one down as frequently as I could, finishing seven other books after starting it.