Friday, January 25, 2008
Thanks (eventually) to Television Without Pity's forums (TWOP, for those in the know) who finally clued me in. I kept hitting "back" on the DVR to listen to the voice over - knowing I knew the voice - without being able to come up with the name. And, unlike roles in TV shows or movies, you can't usually just look up on imdb to see what's up. Well, ok, you actually can, once you already know who it was doing the voice overs, but that's a little like telling someone to look up the spelling of Qatar in the dictionary. Sure, it might be out there, but unless you already know what it is you heard, you won't know where to look.
Oh, yeah, I should probably post the answer: It's John Oliver, known here at least as a correspondent on "The Daily Show".
Sunday, January 20, 2008
So, the first book I read since last post was a gift from my parents at one point, and while I started it when I first received it, I only finished it recently:
This is a collection of the first Superman comics from the papers of the day. It's an interesting and entertaining look back - from the fairly simplistic plots (oh no! The tree is falling on Lois - I hope Superman gets there in time!) to the interesting mix of slang and (from our perspective) "old-fashioned" words and phrases. It was also interesting to note that as you further through the book the villans change from business owners attempting to out do a rival or similar to what they referred to as "fifth columnists". In the final strip, in fact, Superman rounds up both Hitler and Stalin and deposits them in front of the League of Nations - interestingly enough, this was in 1942, when we were still nominally allies.
Also, in the original comics, it's never claimed that he can fly - although he comes awfully close with his leaping crazy distances. If you can remember the slogan from the TV show, "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound", they don't mention flight there either.
Anyway, thanks Mom and Dad - it was an enjoyable read, and an interesting slice of pop culture history.
Monday, November 5, 2007
In any case, the book in question is:
The Riddle of Scheherazade: And Other Amazing Puzzles
(yay - I can upload images now, dunno what was wrong before, perhaps I'll get motivated and update the previous posts).
In any case, this book and others by Smullyan are puzzle books, but they are based on a foundation of logic and probability theory rather than simply being your average brain teasers. They also tend to have a decent learning curve, such that if you work your way through each puzzle, you'll be able to build upon your thinking - and indeed, what you've actually learned - for subsequent puzzles. The only trouble I have with his style is that I, with a computer science background, kept having to rephrase the questions in terms of more basic logic states. That is, the questions are phrased in terms of tales of people who lie based on what day of the week it is, or "red and green lights" or "drawers with gems in them" etc, which are equivalent to the much drier representation of entities as state machines with truth tables, but I realize that I'm not necessarily normal.
If you're interested in bending your brain a bit and actually learning about logic and probability, I'd recommend reading either this book or perhaps The Lady or the Tiger.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Oh, and, I'd post cover shots, but of course blogger keeps popping up an error report when I attempt to upload pictures, so, oh well, you'll just have to click the link I guess.
Currently, I'm reading Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History, as well as Neal Stephenson's System of the World. System of the World is book three in the Baroque cycle, and while I'm enjoying it, Neal Stephenson has never met a paragraph he couldn't stretch to a page. This series, much like the Cryptonomicon, can end up as a bit of a slog from time to time, so I've been taking a break with a number of other books, the most recent of which are listed below.
In the last month or so, I've read:
Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge - Hugo Award-winning SciFi novel about the near future when the internet (or its successor) has become deeply integrated with most facets of people's lives, including wearable computing a near omni-present visual presence via connected contacts. I found it ok, but the story wasn't really engaging. While I do like the vision of future tech (one of the things which gets me through Neal Stephenson books), but I don't think it's sufficient on its own to carry a novel - perhaps a short story.
The Snow Queen, World's End, and The Summer Queen by Joan D. Vinge. I've read these before, but I enjoyed another run through. This is a trilogy, though only The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen are generally available, and the second book can be skipped without too much bother as The Summer Queen has sufficient flashbacks to fill in the important details. I enjoyed these books quite a bit - a bit coming of age, a bit political drama, with the requisite Old Empire, 1000 years past. The Snow Queen absolutely stands on its own, and I'd recommend you read it, and then try the others if you want to know more about Tiamat. Interestingly enough, I picked up The Snow Queen based entirely on the cover - from time I'll just want to try a semi-random new author, and I've gotten quite good mileage by picking books with Michael Whelan cover art. In fact, I have framed and signed prints of the covers of both books in my office. You can see (and order, if you really want) those covers here and here.
Frank Herbert's Dune. This is another book I've read many times. This is an absolute classic and a must read for, really, most people. This too is a coming of age story, and the world he creates is very rich and detailed - the word "epic" is perhaps over-used in book reviews, but this book is one worthy of the description.
Going Postal and Making Money, by Terry Pratchett. If you aren't familiar with Terry Pratchett yet, I envy you, because you'll get to read all of his stuff for the first time. While he has written other books for young adults, he's primarily known for his Discworld series of which these two are members. Discworld is a large flat world carried on the back of 4 elephants (or is it five?) which stand on the back of the great turtle A'Tuin. The books are first and foremost comedy, but they mix in parody and a number of insights into human nature too. These two books focus on the efforts of Moist von Lipwig aka Albert Spangler, a con man, whose sentence is commuted - so that he can try to run the sadly beleaguered Post Office and, in Making Money, the national mint. Going Postal is the better book, but both are quite enjoyable.