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Books #6 and #7, and other things - Chronicles of a Hereditary Geek [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Darth Paradox

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Books #6 and #7, and other things [Feb. 14th, 2009|02:31 pm]
Darth Paradox
#6: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The story of a stonemason obsessed with cathedrals and his family, and the head of a monastery who hires him to build a cathedral. I assume it's a fairly realistic portrayal of how people lived at the time (middle of the twelfth century), but the centerpiece of the book is the cathedral itself. The author provides enough details of the cathedral's construction to provide a good sense of what's involved in building it, without letting the details overshadow the human drama playing out around it.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, and plan to recommend (and perhaps lend) it to my little sister, who inspired me to get around to reading it in the first place.

#7: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman, as told to Ralph Leighton

A "by X, as told to Y" authorship usually indicates a ghostwritten autobiography, but that's clearly not the case with this book. It is essentially a collection of anecdotes meandering through Feynman's life, and it reads like the author was sitting in a bar with you and relating "No shit, there I was" stories for drinks. His voice is apparent throughout the book, and I'd imagine that his coauthor's contributions were mostly to draw the stories out of him, organize them as best he could, and edit them somewhat. Feynman has a different idea of what is important and what isn't than you might expect; the Nobel Prize, generally considered the crowning achievement in the life of any scientist to receive it, is dispensed with in a page or two mostly consist of grumbling about what a pain in the ass it is. More prominent are his brief forays into drumming and drawing - both of which he was eventually able to do professionally, just to see if he could - and an overriding concern with the scientific method and science education here and around the world.

Feynman says he loves to teach, and I believe him. But science isn't the only thing he teaches; there are many lessons to be drawn from his life and the way he lived it.

Next up... well, I actually don't know what I'm reading next. Probably back into science fiction for a little while, though; I've largely been away from the genre for a while.

Fondue

Yesterday at work, I took a hammer and knife to a 40-pound chocolate Santa, reducing him to rubble to be melted down and made into chocolate fondue. Except for the head - that I left on my manager's desk. When he found it, he stuck it on his hand and went around the office making the chocolate puppet Santa talk to people around corners.

The fondue was a success, but we made way too much of it. And we've still got 5-10 pounds of chocolate rubble in a bowl at work...

Programming

After complaining that she was bored at work and didn't have enough to do, Sora got a project! She's started working on improving the tools that her team (and the lower support teams as well) use. This involves actual programming!

I've been giving her brief lessons in Perl this week, and yesterday she said she'd completed work on the first tool she was improving! (Or at least the first new version.) Apparently it works perfectly. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I'm very proud of her, and hope she continues to have fun programming. :D
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: nightsinger
2009-02-14 11:55 pm (UTC)
:) Thank you very much, love. I really appreciate the time you've spent explaining things to me, talking over concepts with me, and everything. It means a lot to me! **Hugs**
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From: nevyn522
2009-02-16 02:42 am (UTC)
Sorry, hon, If he started you on Perl, he doesn't love you.
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[User Picture]From: nightsinger
2009-02-16 06:15 am (UTC)
hehe, the Perl part is more mandated by my company's systems. ;) There're a number of things I have to use Perl for, and it's also the only reasonable thing I can use for CGI; I don't think we actually have anything resembling another, non-Java compiler on the appropriate server. We ARE planning on migrating the tools I'm working on to Java eventually, but not anytime soon.
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[User Picture]From: servalan
2009-02-14 11:55 pm (UTC)
I adore Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! There's a follow-up, if you haven't read it yet called, What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Feynman's autobiographies are super-keen.

If you want a "new science fiction that's so old-school SF that it's space-opera" recommendation, I've been quite enjoying R.M. Meluch's "Voyage of the Merrimack" series. (Book 1, Myriad was written decades back, but Books 2-4 have been coming out over the last few years. I haven't gotten around to #4 yet...)
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[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2009-02-15 12:05 am (UTC)
Ooh, thank you for both of the recommendations! I need to read more space opera. (I've got something like six books each of the Honor Harrington series and Doc Smith's "Lensmen" that I need to dive into sometime...)
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[User Picture]From: harlenna
2009-02-15 12:25 am (UTC)
your post cheered me up. considering how not cheery sick has made me these past few days, that's pretty spiffy.

those books sound very cool, and the chocolate santa head was just hilarious.
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From: yts88
2009-02-15 12:54 am (UTC)
I got zachmu and balford to grab some of that bowl, thanks for leaving it on my desk btw....
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