links for 2010-04-05

  • I deliberately try not to fill my calendar. I choose not to say Yes to everything. For to do so would make me too busy, and I think, less effective at what my goals are. I always want to have some margin of my time in reserve, time I’m free to spend in any way I choose, including doing almost nothing at all. I’m free to take detours. I’m open to serendipity. Some of the best thinkers throughout history had some of their best thoughts while going for walks, playing cards with friends, little things things that generally would not be considered the hallmarks of busy people.
  • The Floating Market, inspired by Neil Gaiman from his best-selling book Neverwhere.
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links for 2010-02-20

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links for 2010-01-21

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Richard Dawkins

I went with our friend Mike down to Bloomington to visit our friend Joe and to see Richard Dawkins speak at the IU auditorium last night. He was there to read from and discuss his newest book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.

I don’t have the book and haven’t read it, but the lecture was interesting enough that I’ll pick it up. Dawkins is a compelling speaker and like anyone who regularly engages in scientific inquiry, he rigorously examines his own ideas and lays out premise and conclusions well (unlike, say ME). An excerpt from chapter 2 the book:

We can turn to the example of dogs for some important lessons about natural selection. All breeds of dogs are domesticated wolves: not jackals, not coyotes and not foxes. But I need to qualify this in the light of a fascinating theory of the evolution of the dog, which has been most clearly articulated by the American zoologist Raymond Coppinger. The idea is that the evolution of the dog was not just a matter of artificial selection. It was at least as much a case of wolves adapting to the ways of Man by natural selection. Much of the initial domestication of the dog was selfdomestication, mediated by natural, not artificial, selection. Long before we got our hands on the chisels in the artificial selection toolbox, natural selection had already sculpted wolves into self-domesticated “village dogs” without any human intervention.

Only later did humans adopt these village dogs and transmogrify them, separately and comprehensively, into the rainbow spectrum of breeds that today grace (if grace is the word) Crufts and similar pageants of canine achievement and beauty (if beauty is the word).

Coppinger points out that when domestic animals break free and go feral for many generations, they usually revert to something close to their wild ancestor. We might expect feral dogs, therefore, to become rather wolf-like. But this doesn’t happen. Instead, dogs left to go feral seem to become the ubiquitous “village dogs” — “pye-dogs” — that hang around human settlements all over the Third World. This encourages Coppinger’s belief that the dogs on which human breeders finally went to work were wolves no longer. They had already changed themselves into dogs: village dogs, pye-dogs, perhaps dingos.

I’ve had a copy of The God Delusion since I saw Dawkins speak on the Bill Maher show in 2006, but haven’t read more than the first few chapters. I have to admit I put it down a few weeks ago because as I was reading it, I became depressed about the fact that there is no afterlife and that this life is all there is. Terrifying to me. And terrifying that the idea of an afterlife is so strongly comforting to me that I was willing to put down a book and turn away from critical examination of an important subject out of fear. The childhood indoctrination of religious belief has a powerful effect on rational thought.

I’ve written critically about organized religion on this blog, and particularly on the religion of my family – Roman Catholicism. All of that writing has been reactionary in nature (like almost everything I write, I admit) in response to news stories and I haven’t explored the topic of religion in any depth – in truth because I haven’t done that for myself outside of the context of blog writing.

I guess there’s no time like the present, is there? (Especially if this is all the time we have.) I’ll pick The God Delusion back up and complete it, and do the same for Dawkins’s new book as well. And hopefully I’ll have something intelligent to say about them after.

A few thoughts on visiting the IU campus – wow, college students are young, given the questions they asked Dawkins after the lecture. Many of them gushed to him and about him because he’s famous, and it seemed to me that few of them had read his books or even had a clear as picture of what they were about. It’s odd that they’re on a college campus surrounded by the tools of learning and yet they’re so full of not-fully-formed thoughts. And yet they get to have Urban Outfitters on campus, and trucks that do “to your door” cookie delivery. How unfair.

2022-03-13 Update:
Didn’t Dawkins turn out to be misogynist Mother Fucker? I unlinked his books. I did finish The God Delusion and as far as religion goes, I agree with him. But not on much of anything else.
Continue ReadingRichard Dawkins

links for 2009-10-09

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5th Sentence, recurrent

I’ve done this meme a half-dozen times before, but it’s always different because the books is never the same.
Rules for this Experiment:

  • Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
  • Turn to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post that sentence along with these instructions.

“Here is Queen Victoria photographed in 1893 by George W. Wilson; she is on horseback, her skirt suitably draping the entire animal (this is historical interest, the studium); but beside her, attracting my eyes, a kilted groom holds the horse’s bridle: this is the punctum; for even if I do not know just what the social status of this Scotman may be (servant? equerry?), I can see his function clearly: to supervise the horse’s behavior: what if the horse suddenly began to rear?”
— Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography by Roland Barthes

Continue Reading5th Sentence, recurrent

Project Fill-in-the-Gaps

Project Fill-in-the-Gaps created by Moonrat on her blog Editorial Ass: fill in the gaps in your reading lists of classics and contemporary fiction. Make a list of 100 titles, give yourself 5 years to complete reading the list, and give yourself 25% “accident forgiveness” – consider the task accomplished if you achieve 75 titles in the time span. I found this via some blog or other — and sent it to Stephanie, who loves these sorts of projects and immediately put together her list.
I have some rather heavy lifting on my list (Proust!!!!!!) so I have 65 76 titles, rather than 100.

Reading Deadline: April 10, 2014

* = I own the book
Italic = I’ve started it
strikethrough = I’ve finished it

  1. Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale *
  2. Ballard: Crash
  3. Samuel Butler: Way of All Flesh
  4. Celine: Death on the Installment Plan *
  5. Cervantes: Don Quixote *
  6. Chaucer: Canterbury Tales *
  7. Chopin: The Awakening *
  8. Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell *
  9. Collins: The Moonstone *
  10. Connolly: The Book of Lost Things *
  11. Conrad: The Secret Agent *
  12. Danielewski: House of Leaves *
  13. Dreiser: An American Tragedy
  14. Don DeLillo: Underworld *
  15. Elliot: Middlemarch *
  16. Ellison: Juneteenth *
  17. Gibson & Sterling: The Difference Engine
  18. Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha *
  19. Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley *
  20. Hilton: Lost Horizon *
  21. Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  22. James: The Golden Bowl *
  23. James: The Portrait of a Lady *
  24. Jerome: Three Men in a Boat
  25. Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man *
  26. Lethem: Motherless Brooklyn *
  27. Lewis: Main Street
  28. Maugham: The Razor’s Edge *
  29. McCarty: The Road *
  30. McEwan: Atonement *
  31. Melville: Moby Dick *
  32. Moore: Fool
  33. Naipaul: A House for Mr. Biswas
  34. O’Connor: A Good Man is Hard To Find *
  35. Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago
  36. Proust: (In Search of Lost Time – Vol 1) Swann’s Way *
  37. Proust: (In Search of Lost Time – Vol 2) In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower *
  38. Proust: (In Search of Lost Time – Vol 3) The Guermantes Way *
  39. Proust: (In Search of Lost Time – Vol 4) Sodom and Gomorrah *
  40. Proust: (In Search of Lost Time – Vol 5 & 6) The Prisoner & The Fugitive *
  41. Proust: (In Search of Lost Time – Vol 7) Finding Time Again *
  42. Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel *
  43. Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea *
  44. Safran Foer: Everything is Illuminated *
  45. Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men *
  46. Stendhal: The Charterhouse of Parma *
  47. Sterne: A Sentimental Journey *
  48. Stephenson: Cryptonomicon *
  49. Gene Stratton Porter: A Girl of the Limber Lost *
  50. Donna Tartt: A Secret History *
  51. Tolstoy: Anna Karenina *
  52. Updike: TBD *
  53. Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea *
  54. Wallace: Infinite Jest *
  55. Wharton: The House of Mirth *
  56. Wroblewski: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle *
  57. Richard Yates: Revolutionary Road *
  58. Zusak: The Book Thief *
  59. Bloom: Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human *
  60. Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything *
  61. Campbell: The Hero of a Thousand Faces *
  62. Dawkins: The God Delusion *
  63. Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel *
  64. Diamond: Collapse *
  65. Jacobs: Life and Death of Cities *
  66. Jacobs: Economy of Cities *
  67. Jacobs: Nature of Economies *
  68. Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map *
  69. Pinker: The Blank Slate *
  70. Stein: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas *
  71. Weisman: The World Without Us *
  72. Zimbardo: The Lucifer Effect *
  73. Burroughs: Queer *
  74. Dickinson: Complete Works
  75. Plath: The Bell Jar *
  76. Whitman: Leaves of Grass *
Continue ReadingProject Fill-in-the-Gaps

Books I’ve Read – First quarter 2009

Wow, I’ve done horribly at documenting my reading for this year. Maybe I need to just give up trying to do posts for every book and just aggregate them into 1 post each quarter. Here’s what I’ve read in the first quarter of 2009:

D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths
by Ingri D’Aulaire
I loved D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths as a child and bought a copy of it as an adult, but never realized they had illustrated Norse Mythology as well until I discovered this in the children’s section last year. It’s excellent; while their illustrations of the sunny Greek Gods and Heroes have always been the pictures in my mind’s eye of those iconic characters, their illustrative style is even more suited to the dark and sometimes grim Norse story telling.

The Various: Book 1 in the Touchstone Trilogy
by Steve Augarde
I picked this up at Unabridged bookstore in Boystown while we were there for the gay games. That independent bookstore has been well-known for many years for it’s staff recommendations (a technique since picked up by large bookstores around the country) and The Various was a highly recommended title in the young adult section. It was very lovely, and reminded me a lot of I Capture The Castle, although this book fits very much in the fantasy genre. I enjoyed it enough to put the second two books on my wishlist. I have to see how it all comes out.

The Limerick Trick
by Scott Corbett
I picked this up at Midland Antique Mall because Scott Corbett was the author of a childhood favorite book of mine – The Great Joke Game. This was cute, but not as exciting – a young man needing to write a poem for class invokes a spell and ends up spouting limericks unintentionally. Fortunately, none of them had anything to do with Nantucket.

The Fourth Bear: A Nursery Crime
by Jasper Fforde
I’ve been a fan of Jasper Fforde’s literary comic mysteries, and like the Tuesday Next series, the Nursery Crime series is clever and quite funny.

The Book of General Ignorance
by John Mitchinson and John Lloyd
A fun book of trivia and arcane factoids that challenge common wisdom, old wives tales and some of the rather general notions handed down in our elementary school textbooks.

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
This year’s Newbery award winner. It’s excellent, and quite worth it. Pick it up to read.

The Eight
by Katherine Neville
I bought this thinking it was a book about a jeweled chess set that I’ve been hunting for many years. It turned out not to be the book I remember, but it was quite engaging. Katherine Neville was Dan Brown years before Dan Brown, and she was much better at it. The story of the mysterious lost chess set of Charlemagne; this book spans several centuries and continents as various players race to gather up the pieces and unlock the mystery encoded there centuries ago.

Fresh Styles for Web Designers: Eye Candy from the Underground
by Curt Cloninger
A revised edition covering more modern styles of site design; a must-own book for web designers.
Wow, practically everything I’ve managed to finish so far this year is a children’s book. Yeesh! That’s sad, right there. I know I’ve been busy, but this is pretty unprecedented, even for me. But here’s the reason why….

Books I have in progress:
I’m in another one of those stuck modes where I keep getting distracted and picking up and putting down books. Here’s what I have on my plate to work through:
The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror
by Beverly Gage
This is a really engaging book and one that I will absolutely finish. I especially enjoy walking around saying “The day Wall Street asploded.” I am a mental five-year-old, after all.

The Writer’s Idea Book
Jack Heffron

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
by Twyla Tharp

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
by Ph.D., Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Cities in Civilization
by Peter Hall

The Lovecraft Lexicon: A Reader’s Guide to Persons, Places and Things in the Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
by Anthony Brainard Pearsall

H.P. Lovecraft Unabridged
by H.P. Lovecraft
I have finished quite a few of his short stories, but this is a complete set, so it’ll be awhile before I get through them all.

The Moment It Clicks: Photography secrets from one of the world’s top shooters
by Joe McNally
This is a great book for any photographer. McNally and Scott Kelby are great for people who have some experience with photography in understanding technical proficiency. However I keep picking it up, and then returning to the more technical other photography book I’m reading to fill in the gaps…

Photography (9th Edition)
by Barbara London (Author), Jim Stone (Author), John Upton (Author)
This is the best book I’ve read so far at explaining the fundamentals of how a single lens reflex camera actually works – at helping me sort out what I need to know about aperture, focal lengths, depth of field, etc. I had learned all that back in photography class in college, but in the 20 years since then, I managed to spring a leak in my brains and all those bits of data fell right out. This book has helped me put them back in again.

Castle Waiting
by Linda Medley
Publisher’s weekly explains it might better than I could – “A set of linked nouveaux fairy tales, this graphic novel extends the story of Sleeping Beauty into a modern, feminist Chaucer for happy people.”

Continue ReadingBooks I’ve Read – First quarter 2009

Books I Read in 2008

It’s my 12th Annual end of the year reading recap. Grand total: 30 books. I don’t think that’s my lowest total, but it’s no 98 titles like in 1997. And boy, oh boy did I hit the genre fiction this year. It did help to have lots of fun light reading while all the wedding planning and such was going on — too much to think about during all that to be reading weighty tomes.

Maybe I’ll finally get that “year of reading Proust” started in 2009. Ha! Who am I kidding? I started Swann’s Way more than once and kept falling asleep. I should go back to it just to cure my insomnia. I have lots of other good books on my shelves, so I need to range further afield in the coming year, though.

  1. The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
  2. The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman
  3. Locked Rooms (Mary Russell Novels) by Laurie R. King
  4. The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King
  5. Standard Hero Behavior by John David Anderson
  6. The Best of MAKE (Make) by Mark Frauenfelder and Gareth Branwyn
  7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 1: The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon, Andy Owens, Georges Jeanty, and Jo Chen
  8. Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
  9. The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
  10. Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (Jane Austen Mysteries, book 8) by Stephanie Barron
  11. Justice Hall (Mary Russell Novels) by Laurie R. King
  12. The Game (Mary Russell Novels) by Laurie R. King
  13. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
  14. The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
  15. The Archivist: A Novel by Martha Cooley
  16. The Egyptologist: A Novel by Arthur Phillips
  17. Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck
  18. Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
  19. The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
  20. Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
  21. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  22. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby
  23. Night Work (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  24. A Grave Talent (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  25. To Play The Fool (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  26. With Child (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  27. The Spice Box by Lou Jane Temple
  28. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
  29. Snobs by Julian Fellowes
  30. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Continue ReadingBooks I Read in 2008