Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Vacation for an Hour

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I last took a real vacation back around Christmas – so six months ago. It was good. I feel like I need another one but have no time scheduled until late in July. Things are just really busy. And busy is good. I’m not complaining about the work. I do need a mental break from time to time and frankly that is hard to get when you work at home.

I visited a real office yesterday and that was great. People interaction, a change of venue, free soda and ice cream. (OK the ice cream was unusual but it was still good.) But it is easy to fall back into work even when I am home because, well, because that is where I usually work.

I need a mental break at the end of the day. TV does not cut it. It is too mindless or perhaps I should say it takes up too little of the brain. It is so very tempting to get on the Internet while watching TV. What does work is to read. And by read I mean read for fun.

I love non fiction but that isn’t giving me the release these days. I have to think about it. There is no suspension of disbelief. It doesn’t take me away from reality but rather closer to it than I want to go. So I have taken back up reading Science Fiction. And oh is it wonderful.

I read a cartoon once where a wife is saying to her husband “when you said you wanted to retire to finish a book I thought you mean writing one not reading one.” I want to write a book (a novel) some day but for right now reading books is as good as a vacation. I wish I could spend a week just reading light fun reading. When I am rested enough I will write.

Until then though for a couple of hours a night I am somewhere out in the universe with larger than life heroes, impossible “science”, and as far from work as one can get. And that is good.

In Search Of Common Sense

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

In just about a month from now the US will have a new President. He will bring change both foreign and domestic. Will he bring in common sense as well? We al hope so. Common sense has long been lacking in American policies. The last President with any serious  foreign common sense was  Nixon. Both men had other flaws of course but at least in this area I was impressed with them. Carter and Reagan? Not as bad as the last two Presidents but and they seemed focused on small parts of the world. They didn’t pay that much attention to south America or Africa. Not enough anyway. And forget India because most of our recent Presidents seem to have while in office. And in my mind the only President who really understood China was Nixon.

China and India are two of the main focuses of Fareed Zakaria‘s book The Post-American World. It’s loaded with common sense as well. I think there are two types of people who absolutely must read this book. People who are interested in politics/foreign affairs and people who are interested in business. Matt, if you haven’t read this book yet what’s wrong with you. 🙂 This book lays out not the decline of America but the rise of other parts of the world. It brings a lot of history into it as well.

I’m a strong believer that to understand the present one has to understand history as well.  This book taught me a lot of history of both China and India that I didn’t know before. Of course US schools are notoriously bad for covering history other than of the west which is probably why we screw up so badly in the middle east, the far east and Africa and South/Central America. We just have too few clues about what is going on and how things got the way they are. Common sense requires knowledge.

So what are my key take aways from this book? Close to home we really need to do two things. Get our energy house in order and get our schools in better shape. Some greater level of energy independence would greatly increase our future development options. China and India are going to require a lot more oil and if we keep our current level of dependence on it prices are going to get higher. Education is the key to innovation and we are going to need that. Really our education system is not as bad as a lot of the media would have us think – at least in the top students – but clearly we need to do better to stay competitive. We do a better job of teaching creative and critical thinking than the rest of the world but that edge is shrinking and we cannot afford that. And by golly we have to turn out more people who have a clue about the world outside our boarders.

Globally the growth of China and India can be a huge opportunity for us if we just grasp it correctly. And as long as we keep our innovation lead. I tell you if every America needed a program like FIRST its now.

But I fear that too much of America, including its politicians and business leaders, are focused on short term fixes, ignoring history and a quick buck over long term growth and stability. How else to explain the current financial melt down? And our failures in the middle east with regards to terror and stability. Of course we are not alone in this. In my opinion both sides in the Arab/Israeli conflict are lacking in common sense. The situation in Saudi Arabia is of dubious stability. And could Africa possibly in a bigger mess? Darfur in the Sudan, Mugabe in Zimbabwe and piracy off the coast of Somalia, just to name a few!  But we can’t count on the rest of the world to screw up worse than we do. Clearly it is time to really get smart about some things.


Sunday, October 12th, 2008

I love to read books. Always have. Fiction, non-fiction, history, thrillers, mysteries and most especially science fiction. But there are problems. Once I start reading a good book I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to work, to eat to sleep, or do anything else. I just want to read. At times my body rebels and I do eat or sleep because I have to. And sometimes self-discipline kicks in and I work or do other responsible things. But a good book, far more than a good movie or TV show, consumes my attention. And I love it.

Eventually the book is over and a feeling of let down ensues. The only answer is distraction or finding another book. Often when I finish it is night time and I am overdue for sleep. That is pretty much the ideal situation. I get to shut down and overnight my subconscious brain processes. It’s a good thing.

On the other hand sometimes I finish a book and there is more time in the day. If I have finished a book in a series and have the next book handy I can start reading right away. It’s harder though if the next available book in not in the same series or worse if it is a different genre. Somehow the context switch is, or at least can be, very difficult.

If I read a book that is the beginning of an existing series and I like it I try to buy the rest of the series right away. That works well. On the other hand today I read a book that is the first of a promised series but the next book is not out yet. I will probably have to wait a year for it.

I have two more books on my reading table and they are from series that I really enjoy. But both are very different in character, in venue, in time, and so switching is proving complex. The book I just finished "Dragons Wild" by Robert Asprin“ is more of less a fantasy. It is about dragons in human form. I have another dragon related book but those dragons are very much in dragon form. While one book takes place in modern times on earth the other one takes place in the distant future on a world very much unlike earth today.

So I picked the other book on my list which while it is in the future and on other worlds doesn’t really have a dragon in it. Well a flying lizard that spits acid but its not really a dragon. I’m still having trouble getting into it but I think I will be able to do so. And then I’ll have trouble putting it down when I should be sleeping tonight. sigh

When I am not reading a book, as for example when I went out with friends last night or shopping earlier today, my mind wants to process a good story. This is especially true with SF or fantasy where a different, imaginary culture or situation has been created for the story. I think about would the consequences of things would be in that culture. This ties in very well with my interest in sociology and anthropology so I have some training to fall back on. But still a good book, a well-written story is a mental workout. And that is probably why I like them so much.

On Moving Books

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

We’re having our family room painted next week. That means a lot of things have to be moved out of the room or at least away from the walls. That includes book cases. We have four book cases and between them they hold several thousand books. At least 2,000 based on my best guesstimate. That’s a lot of books to move. Right now they are all stacked up in an unused bedroom until the job is done.

There are a couple of, lets just call them issues, with moving  books. Sure there is the obvious that they are heavy and that it takes a lot of trips to move them. Then there is the issue that they collect some dust which is now doing wonders for my sinuses and allergies. But a bigger issue is that, surprise, I like books. That means that it is hard to avoid looking though them as I pile them up. That slows the process down and I think as we put them back next week I will be holding some out to re-read.

I’ve also looked though a couple of old scrap books. Would you believe that Mrs T and I once saw a Broadway play, Godspell no less,  for $8.50 a ticket? You can’t get in for less than ten times that today. Oh and 30 years ago Mrs T and I had less weight and a lot more hair. And wow did she look great! Well still does to me but when I look at those pictures I wonder how I ever managed to date her at all. But I digress.

The plan is to thin the collection a bit after the painting job. That will be an interesting process as neither of us has ever been good at getting grid of books. But really there are some books we are unlikely to ever read again and we need space for the new books we keep buying. Putting up still more shelves is not an option as there is only so much wall space in the house. 🙂

A Little Light Reading

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

One of the things I got for Christmas was Alan Greenspan’s book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. I started reading it a few nights ago. I’m reading it in small chunks not because it is dry and dull but because there is so much good/interesting stuff in it. I’m mulling it over as I read it.

There are more or less two main things about this book. One is economic theory. The other is Greenspan’s life and his interactions with people and events in history. For example he has worked with Presidents from Nixon to Bush junior. He has opinions on all of them and they make for interesting reading.

He’s also not the complete nerd you might expect. He is an accomplished mission and performed professionally for several years. Not what you expect in an economist.

I’m finding the economics interesting as well. It has been a long time since I studied macro economics (about 35 years) and things have changed in the economy and in the world since then. So I have to think a bit about what he writes in that area. I’m only part way through (the USSR just started breaking up) but I expect that I will learn a lot by the time I am finished. At the same time I expect that I am going to want to do some additional reading in economics to fill in the extensive holes in my knowledge.

I love getting books that make me think!