It took several readings and about five years, but this become my favorite American novel, a scathingly funny and uniquely-voiced series of protean, mIt took several readings and about five years, but this become my favorite American novel, a scathingly funny and uniquely-voiced series of protean, multilayered routines on the "U.S. drag, closing around us like no other drag in the world". William Lee's fulgent, unforgiving narrative voice rides teasingly along gossamer interconnects and flowing word-pictures suggestive of Conrad, a sing-songy jazz now and again becoming a big bass drum fit for Mencken or Twain....more
Ugh, so my ninth or tenth reread this last week has finally destroyed this first copy -- I'd duct taped and then stapled the thing back together a fewUgh, so my ninth or tenth reread this last week has finally destroyed this first copy -- I'd duct taped and then stapled the thing back together a few times, but it's now losing pages about as quickly as I read them. Time to go leave this old friend in a public place for someone to pick up like so much bait, and acquire a new one.
IJ is only the fourth or fifth book with which I've reached this state of ratty tatters -- Ulysses, The Illuminatus Trilogy (I think I've bought that particular epic close to a dozen times), The C Programming Language and Red Storm Rising come immediately to mind (heh, one of these things is not like the other). A mighty fine book. Damn fine. ------ I need to read this one again, but wow, the first time through blew me away.
Updated: this has become one of my favorite books. I recommend it to everyone, having read it several times now....more
Found myself rereading this the other day, after recommending Chapter 8 to a young engineer seeking the Truth behind malloc(3)...still as fresh as theFound myself rereading this the other day, after recommending Chapter 8 to a young engineer seeking the Truth behind malloc(3)...still as fresh as the day it was printed, although I do note minor failings now (ubiquitous definitions of "MAXLINE" to 1000 rather than idiomatic use of ANSI/ISO's BUFSIZ, rather more use of "register" than I care to see in peacetime, etc). Also, when are we getting an update for C99? I'd like to see more people making proper use of <stdint.h> than is today typical.
Say what you will about C. I thought it close to perfect upon first grokkage back in that beatific summer of 1995. A year's eager detour into Prolog advocacy made absolutely clear the walls of the logical paradigm. Alexandrescu's marvelous work in metaprogramming was by that time mainstream, or as mainstream as it will ever be or need to be; for two years I became an effete C++ snob, until I realized just how poisonous it is when inflicted upon actual teams. The time was right to worship at Hindley and Milner's altars, and much joy was had hacking away in SML and OCamL -- still wonderful languages, to which I return when my code needn't, say, read or write data. But while my heart might pump pure computation, my ass rests firmly before the loom of systems programming; short-lived, sweaty, heavy-breathed infatuations with Haskell, Erlang, and most recently Scala have left indelible imprints, but only on a mind aimed like a missile at hacking UNIX applications on supercomputers--or whatever's bigger.
(I've recently developed a curmudgeonly fondness regarding FORTRAN, largely due to an absence of pointer-aliasing issues (and thus massively simplified construction of optimizing compilers). This is more due to C99's baroque restrict system than anything else, and of course an unsatisfiable impulse towards contrarianism.)
And so I return always to C, not my first but certainly my most torrid and long-affected love. It's likely the only usable language I'll ever have truly memorized in all its detail. I've dreamed in C too many nights to count -- not about discussing C, or debugging C, or writing C, but being C code and interacting with other entities as God meant us to: call-by-value reduction strategy. It is an imperfect language. Truth be told, it's in ways not even an acceptable language.
But I too am an imperfect vessel, and I've erected yet great castles in the air, from air, creating -- by exertion of the imagination -- real tools and potent effects. The greatest of these have shared one feature all: they were set down in the language of Kernighan and Ritchie, the syntactic heritage of systems programmers since the minicomputer era. Each year a few new hackers come under my wing, and more often than not it is my privilege to guide them through C's finer points. Frustration and puzzlement give way to understanding of, say, array-pointer equivalence or userspace threading via sigaltstack(2) trampolines, and in their delighted faces I see a bit of my youth...how many years spent in a phosphoric VGA glow, gnashing teeth, finally greeting sunrise with the wild-eyed exhilaration of Victory, screwing a Lucky Strike between my lips and knowing the problem has been solved? Millions of programmers around the world, thousands of epiphanies a second, synapses firing and recoiling by the trillion, transistors uncountable switching through forbidden zones from 0 to 1, all of them ordered by the principles set out in 189 pages plus appendices.
update: Dennis M. Ritchie exited with status code 0, EXIT_SUCCESS, 2011-10-13. He will be missed....more
man, went and reread most of this (up through "thermonuclear reaction rates", including most of the work due to Bethe/Fowler and of course the Virialman, went and reread most of this (up through "thermonuclear reaction rates", including most of the work due to Bethe/Fowler and of course the Virial Theorem). it's rare you get such an awesome textbook, especially out of despised clemson!...more
Penrose came to GT and gave an open lecture on cosmic parameters and cosmological arguments from the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (chapter 27 in this booPenrose came to GT and gave an open lecture on cosmic parameters and cosmological arguments from the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (chapter 27 in this book, one of the most ambitious and impressive -- if incomplete, a bit uneven, and just as taxing as you've heard -- catechisms I've ever read), and a closed lecture on twistor theory (chapter 33), and signed my copy! w00t! I shook Sir Roger's hand as trillions of neutrinos passed through us both, completely undetected, our entangled R-type state evolution leaving an indelible imprint on all our lightcones forevermore at the cost of a little more entropy, order traded for disorder in the guise of order, orderly. ...more
Hysterical and insightful, but somehow lacking....it's not voyeuristic, it's not belletristic, it's....too self-aware, I think, too conscious of justHysterical and insightful, but somehow lacking....it's not voyeuristic, it's not belletristic, it's....too self-aware, I think, too conscious of just how good it is. Then again, it was very, very good...The opening piece, "derivative sport in tornado alley", is the earliest (1990) and clearly an immature Wallace, but still more resonant and striking than most of what I've come across in the form of personal essays. The grotesque adjective "amphetaminic" or even more substantially obstreperous "methamphetaminic" are dropped a dozen-odd times throughout, a noticable and annoying leitmotif, but this is more than made up for by "bullshit of the finest vintage" and "this request struck everyone from the maître d' on down as disturbing and maybe even disturbed". Lots of fun....more
addendum, 2010-06-26: i picked up the hardcover edition, my many paperbacks all having fallen apart over the years. love it! a beautiful edition of thaddendum, 2010-06-26: i picked up the hardcover edition, my many paperbacks all having fallen apart over the years. love it! a beautiful edition of this ultraclassic. hail eris, all hail discordia. --- It's unlikely that any book has affected me more deeply than Illuminatus! did over the course of several readings the summer between high school and undergrad. I'm not sure it would be so incredible an experience were one to first read it outside of adolescence, but it's one goddamn fine book at all times.
I've purchased this book at least a dozen times now, having loaned out copies to innumerable friends knowing they somehow wouldn't come back (and rendered a copy or two of my one to chunklets unbound)....more
Good times, good times, but like Watership Down it must lose a point due to rampant and silly abuse of anthropomorphism.
Personal note: This was, so fGood times, good times, but like Watership Down it must lose a point due to rampant and silly abuse of anthropomorphism.
Personal note: This was, so far as I know, the first "real book" I ever read. Before that, it was all Baby-Sitters Club and Young People's Encyclopedia of Science and Tom Clancy and manuals for NES GamePaks. By "real book", I guess I mean "possible answer to an Academic Bowl question" for lack of better semantics....more
It could have been better, but it certainly could have been a lot worse.
Personal note: I saw this at Woodruff/Alliance in 2002, and remember it as preIt could have been better, but it certainly could have been a lot worse.
Personal note: I saw this at Woodruff/Alliance in 2002, and remember it as pretty much a perfect evening. Six years change a person more than I'd expect, although not necessarily more than I could expect....more