This book is laugh-out-loud funny! It's very tempting to paste in a bunch of quotations to prove it, but if you pick it up you'll be howling in the fiThis book is laugh-out-loud funny! It's very tempting to paste in a bunch of quotations to prove it, but if you pick it up you'll be howling in the first chapter.
You know that feeling you get when you have a test or a big project looming over your head, and the pressure builds until you just have to start tidying up?
Me neither. Poor Marie delivers this and many other revelations suggesting the life changing magic might have more to do with her perky personality than the techniques she recommends. Pictured in a white sweater in front of a white book case with half a dozen sectional shelves, two books (white jackets) and a little jar of oregano (sure Marie, it's oregano, ok..) and nothing else, you accurately picture a fridge containing exactly two perfect pieces of sushi, one of which she'll throw away if you blink.
Loads of fun, and I expect it will work. I used to be that way and, over time and by strength of purpose, I eventually cured myself and became a slob. Now I've gone too far and need a couple of chapters of this excellent book. More later....more
I often begin with a review before finishing. In this case, I'm on page 2 of the intro, but still I am looking for a 6th star because I've never beenI often begin with a review before finishing. In this case, I'm on page 2 of the intro, but still I am looking for a 6th star because I've never been so immediately galvanized since 7th grade and Alistar Maclean.
We have a political war on right now, between the freeloaders and the oligarchs. The oligarchs epitomize power corrupting, money taking care of itself. Manifestly that's what's happening: the Gini coefficient is the thermometer of this metric and it is unambiguous.
The freeloaders meanwhile would suckle entitlements and never do an honest day's work, and as soon as they outnumber us, they'll vote that state of affairs into being.
At least, that's the arguments, in a nutshell. Both sides prophesy disaster, and soon, so at least they have some common ground.
Reich certainly has a leaning in this spectrum, but I credit him immediately for incisive clarity. For instance, consider this example: "there is no natural free market!" It is not a Law carved on the back of Moses' stone tablets that we're disobeying, and it's certainly not a fundamental principle of physics. It is not even some academic ideal we notionally agree on but are perverting because we're "only human." No, the free market is our construct, utterly: top to bottom, a skeleton of rules. Can you sell your spleen? ...buy a young immigrant to hunt? ...own ALL the gas stations? ...refuse to serve a black man? ...sell your mineral rights to a foreigner? No, no no. Nononooo. We have made up some rules which instantiate this thing we call The Market and it can be whatever we want, and that's all it is. It SHOULD be what we calculate will be "best" whatevertheheck that means. Obviously people's definition of "best" will vary, but hopefully we can get beyond the fiction of some universal law of economics. There isn't one. The founding fathers did not leave you an inalienable God-given right to 4% inheritance tax.
Now, what shall we do? Hey, I've got an idea: let's rig this Econ game so everybody wins!
Sagan is eloquent as always. It helps even more to read it out loud to yourself, (muttering lest someone observe) and make up a Sagan accent as you goSagan is eloquent as always. It helps even more to read it out loud to yourself, (muttering lest someone observe) and make up a Sagan accent as you go. He takes a gentle hand, which I think bespeaks desperation in his last years, his last chance to nudge the ball forward amidst tangible fear that forceful will be deemed strident, erudite will sound preachy, and warning the bitter rantings of an old Cassandra. Carl knows he's on the losing team, he loves humanity, and deeply fears our suicide by institutional stupidity, the tragedy of the commons, and Tainter's unwindable commitment to technological complexity beyond the point of diminishing returns.
Stale stuff, understood by all in my echo chamber, thus barely worth repeating, maybe. But still, he is gone now, the gentle Lorax of our times, replaced by a stronger, similarly poetic champion (Neil) who has taken up the lance, but the windmill doesn't look worried.
I am. I am in arguments I can't win. I lose faith. Like Carl, I fear I cannot push on the rudder enough to effect any change in course. Do you know the thing about Cassandra? ...about all her whining doom-laden prognoses?
She was right. That's the punch line.
Sagan used that and the similar story of Croesus (rich as...) who asked the Oracle at Delphi what would happen if he invaded Persia. He got back the answer: "you will destroy a great empire." He did, but it was his own empire that got destroyed. As leaders with an agenda are wont to do, he listened carefully with an ear tuned to hear what he wanted, and he heard it. That's you, Mr. Cruz, unless you subscribe to the yet more devlish code of knowing the truth and nevertheless perverting it to your will. For your sake I hope you're just stupid, not flatly evil.
This was the first of several books & stories I'll read while laid up with a broken leg. So, there's context for you.
I liked the first scene veryThis was the first of several books & stories I'll read while laid up with a broken leg. So, there's context for you.
I liked the first scene very much, the nose so tangible in the breakfast roll, like a marzipan center gone horribly wrong. After that, I lost interest. I didn't get it. What a pompous ass, was all I could come up with. ...more
Ok, it's the middle of the night, that time when I watch helplessly while my mind runs giddy down tortuous canyons familiar and unfamiliNow I like it.
Ok, it's the middle of the night, that time when I watch helplessly while my mind runs giddy down tortuous canyons familiar and unfamiliar, sometimes taking branches again and again, forging an inch further each time with my encouragement, or ignoring my puny will as, in a semi-conscious state, I can only cheer or lament the next turn.
Just yesterday it was very frustrating. I was making progress...
I love the Lighthouse, the paragraph about Q in particular. It describes my own thinking so well, as a tragic assault on a gravelly hill, conducted in a rickety wagon, pulled by a fast horse that only occasionally goes where you ask. I'll append it, so as to stay on track just now.
What track was I on? Oh yes, the mind racing. It's not that hour, any more. ('cause I'm up typing complete sentences, duh.) I got something done last night, but not tonight. Last night I designed the airplane. I really did; figured out how to go logically from sunshine to thrust, from thrust through speed and wings to lift, and then structure and batteries for the darkness at night and is it all lightweight enough? It makes sense! It might work, or it might not, math will tell, but I see my way through it. That's what's important. Last night was great: I was semi-conscious and the horse mind ran hard, lathered and crazed occasionally taking heed of my nudges back to the course, and I too giving it rein to see what surprises it might flush out by luck and persistence and speed.
Last night was great, I was making progress.
Tonight there was nothing important to do, so I got up early in the witching hour. Tonight I got up and hoped to subdue myself, to go back to bed by boring my poor horse brain to sleep. "I'll use that tedious book, 'Sapiens,' that's the ticket!"
But just half an hour in I'm transfixed, by a sentence! (ok, 3.) Here they are:
"People easily understand that 'primitives' cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis. Take for example the world of business corporations. Modern business-people and lawyers are, in fact, powerful sorcerers."
Holy smokes. Society is all unicorns.
It is the thesis of this book that the special thing that makes us human is not cooking or tools or opposable thumbs or language it's making shit up and believing it in-masse.
Next thought: I've awakened, transcended monkey-superstition. I am like, science-man or something, in the vanguard of humanity's future. Since about high school, I haven't believed in religion: it's not real. But if unicorns are down, if monkey-superstition is defunct, is not the Federal Reserve Bank just one mincing cognitive baby-step behind? How long before I quit believing in corporations, or apple pie, money or justice or human rights or gravity? Arrrrrgh.
Ok I can totally go back to sleep now.
. . . much later . . .
I'm done with this book now, disappointed and removing a star. Too fragmented, too derivative, too thin. He touches on many interesting topics, so many! Too many. ...and only touches. I wrote more but that would be wasting your time.
Here's the thing from Virginia Woolfe -------------------------
...or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. Here, stopping for one moment by the stone urn which held the geraniums, he saw, but now far, far away, like children picking up shells, divinely innocent and occupied with little trifles at their feet and somehow entirely defenceless against a doom which he perceived, his wife and son, together, in the window. They needed his protection; he gave it them. But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but glimmers red in the distance. Z is only reached once by one man in a generation. Still, if he could reach R it would be something. Here at least was Q. He dug his heels in at Q. Q he was sure of. Q he could demonstrate. If Q then is Q—R—. Here he knocked his pipe out, with two or three resonant taps on the handle of the urn, and proceeded. “Then R . . . ” He braced himself. He clenched himself. Qualities that would have saved a ship’s company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water—endurance and justice, foresight, devotion, skill, came to his help. R is then—what is R? A shutter, like the leathern eyelid of a lizard, flickered over the intensity of his gaze and obscured the letter R. In that flash of darkness he heard people saying—he was a failure—that R was beyond him. He would never reach R....more
**spoiler alert** Hmm, this is my 5th NS book, Snowcrash & Cryptonomicon being great, the Columbus one pretty good, Anathem and ---- just ok.
This**spoiler alert** Hmm, this is my 5th NS book, Snowcrash & Cryptonomicon being great, the Columbus one pretty good, Anathem and ---- just ok.
This one is close to 2 stars, but I gotta give it time. I like to review when I'm part way through and then amend and expand after so, dear reader, be advised you're here for the early show (& run away while you can!)
I didn't like this one. I feel as if the only character we're getting to know is Neal Stephenson. The book plugs too many political mantras, while leaving the story as just a big hard to chew bolus of plot. Somebody else said there are too many parenthetical dissertations about just how some piece of geek technology works, and I have to agree. Since he's in "my" geekspace, I get them all & could even quibble & tweak, but that's not my point at all. In fact I think it's wrong to quibble with sci-fi: that's the fi part and you're supposed to let it go.
The problem here is rather that he's downloading the full contents of his head with more technical detail than we need to get through the story, and not ENOUGH detail to feel what it's like to be there. This is a failure of description. When I was a kid I typically put myself to sleep by designing zeppelins or personal submarines in my head. The submarine was Very cool, shaped like a sunfish, diesel electric of course and... What? You don't want to hear All About It? Well, there you go. We've got 750 pages of it here.
Part of the point of all this tech detail, and it's substantial veracity, may be a chiding appeal to us that "Hey, we can Do this, now. ...already. So let's get to it!" Well I'm as big a fan of the space program as the next guy but (a) I don't think a scifi book aimed at me is a good propaganda lever: all his readers are onboard already, and (b) the critical flaw here is the usual Heinleinian exuberant megaoptimism wherein one stolid eagle scout and a bag of "vitamins" (beautiful terminology for anything you can order from Digikey) can MacGuyver together a swarm of emergent space robots. Ok maybe I could go with that, but our eagle scout (Dinah) is flat and neglected character. Another page from the Heinlein recipe is the ultra casual, yet only obliquely referred to emotionally inconsequential sex. I think that's in there because any book this big about people without any must be missing some aspect of what it feels like to be a human, but NS doesn't seem to be able to pull that off convincingly.
Lucifer's Hammer is a similar but better book, aided by a smaller catastrophy which genuine survivalists with a van full of real vitamins and bullets and spam can survive. Also see The Postman (The book! God save us all from the movie) for a better take on this theme. I'll finish with an alternate ending. When Peter Diamandis comes back from his asteroid hunt, it'll be revealed he actually picked out a comet, and he's somehow aimed it to HIT the moon in a giant steam-powered explosion of incremental delta V, which will blow all the shrapnel up into a higher orbit right away, and we get our rings immediately without any disaster. How about that for a movie ending, baby?
In other words, Peter gets to save the world, by thumbing his nose at bureaucracy. Well, I worked for him, on an actual moon shot, which did not fly. The reason is that this stuff really is way way more complicated than they let on in the MacGuyver episodes, and usually something goes wrong, or it turns out that there are reasons why it's all so expensive. I've bounced off this personality type more than once in fact, and they get quickly frustrated by the strictures placed on them, which constraints guys like me tend to call "reality."
This might work if you can bring your inner 18 year old, but otherwise skip it: he phoned this one in.
now up to page 500-ish, and year 5000. I have had to skim the last hundred pages. Setting it aside for a while: it's changing to a different book now.
Grr, didn't finish it, & may not ever. However, it's light airplane reading, so who knows? In the late section, we have 7 master races of descendents of the original 7 Eves, who've somehow preserved their personalities intact, or indeed focused and amplified them, through five milennia. One would hope for a little more cross fertilization. A new set of characters works to recolonize earth, with loads of interesting sci-fi tech. Should be pretty interesting, but I'm having trouble giving the book any more of my time.
I'll try to be terse. Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon were both great favorites of mine, and this one didn't measure up. However it was very good.
An interI'll try to be terse. Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon were both great favorites of mine, and this one didn't measure up. However it was very good.
An interlude in the middle fails to conjure the freezing cold of a pole passage but has a close brush with greatness in the conception and description of a giant tracked sledge train. One imagines a steam engine on caterpillar tracks pulling houseboat-sized sleighs behind. Over the north pole, no less! That was a great, romantic image, if not thoroughly exploited.
I found the vocabulary charming: NS demands a lot of you to pick up his lingo along with this giant book, but I thought the terms artfully derived, not mere random syllables.
The societal structure with peaceful scientist monks locking themselves away from big macs and supersize pepsi and cell phones was a well aimed barb at today's society: kudos.
The essence of the novel though was the protagonist Erasmus, mild-mannered clockwinder (that's like being on the crew team though: it's a big clock) finds himself entangled with all sorts of world changing political innuendo and science. He grows into a man, makes a contribution to science, gets the girl, saves the world and is friends with all the best people. Fraa Jad stands out as the best one. He's the 007 of philosophers, and we learn to watch his every move closely, because they're all so awesome. Still, the characters can't stand up to Half-cocked Jack, Hiro or YT.
Neal's written a great book but topping himself...? That would be a tall order....more
Let me start you off wit a good one: "diese Absonderung der technischen Mechanik als eines... oh wait, you prolly want the english version: "...practitoLet me start you off wit a good one: "diese Absonderung der technischen Mechanik als eines... oh wait, you prolly want the english version: "...practitoners must have the freedom to develop concept of their own, and these might be distinct from those acceptable in the more reflective and leisurely branches of knowledge." (!!!) Now THAT, in case you missed it, was a roll-on-the-floor lauging zinger where August Foppl puts some stuffed shirt British mathemascientists in their place, bay-bee! So to all my scientist friends, you reflective and leisurely-minded chumps, take That! Boom. Word. QED. Thas' what IM talkin about.
The book was recommended to me by a respected source, I am sorry to report I'm not up to enjoying this book. I can about follow it: my math w.r.t. hydrodynamics is ok, but the political jousting which this book makes it's centerpiece is a bit dry. There are some delicious moments of wry sarcasm when one very British academician roasts another, but the barbs, though poisonous, are so polite and oblique as to require learned explanation, which research David Bloor has assiduously undertaken. It's mostly just too much, and I just wanted a pop-sci refresher on my aerodynamics!...more
**spoiler alert** A bit disappointing. There were a couple of great vignettes, but the multiple stories compressed into one somehow didn't fit togethe**spoiler alert** A bit disappointing. There were a couple of great vignettes, but the multiple stories compressed into one somehow didn't fit together. We've got what basically amounts to vampires, a bit of a love story, (for a moment you believe in Lamb and Sykes) a second less compelling love story, and then the endarkening apocalypse, a jarring ending.
I felt the impact of this book most clearly when Root went out to buy candles for his birthday cake. It was the obvious crisis in the book. Mom's at hI felt the impact of this book most clearly when Root went out to buy candles for his birthday cake. It was the obvious crisis in the book. Mom's at home with the professor, not wanting to leave him, and you can feel the ominous portent of making either choice: is her son safe? Will the professor be safe if she leaves?
She goes, all's well with Root, but on returning the Prof. has had a relapse and their relationships, already tenuous and sustained (not very believably?) by effort to reload his memory each time, begin to unwind quickly to complete dissolution. This seems like foreshadowing of all our eventual losses of loved ones. People inevitably unravel and if this denouement is unusual and comical, it may soften the alarm a little, but it's still an inevitable harbinger of death.
It's tragic, supports Gina's assertion that good fiction requires tragedy, but I couldn't get deeply involved. The plot's so close to Memento that I wonder if it could be derivative.
I have to say I didn't like the number relationships either. Was there some significance to e^(j*pi) + 1 0 that I missed? I'm looking for meaning in the missing equals sign, I guess. (Everyone thinks it's just a text formatting shortcoming in the electronic book, nothing exotic.) That, btw is a favorite formula of mine from this book: the rest of 'em are stupid integers. They seemed too trivial a subject to devote such effort to, though it proves you can make sublime art out of integers if you work at it.
I was hoping the professor'd do something really significant thanks to using his untutored but intelligent housekeeper's insights & superior memory but no such luck. Perpahs Japanese literature is too understated for that. He tried every day though: fought the good fight. Like the professor in To the Lighthouse, he saw R often enough.
Last, I noted the cultural ambiguity of most of the book. It wasn't overtly foreign at all, except in small bits, as though the nationality of the author were purposely hidden.
--- postscript --- There were formulas offered at Zan Mai for the meeting! Gina: Cantor's triangular proof of infinite # of reals. Each number is created distinct from those above it in the list, by inverting just one digit. We choose the third digit do be different from its match in the third number, and similarly for all the others. Mine was (-1)^(1/3), and a question about why roots of motion can be comprehensively explained with just 1st and 2nd order poles. Manuel's was a proof that there's an infinite # of pythagorean triplets. Fun and elegant. Adam's was d/dt(e^x) which proof I need to try to understand. ...more