Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quantum Man
(Lawrence Krauss, 9:32)
Great, gritty, detailed account of Feynman's physics. Instead of elaborating the tales that Feynman himself spun, Krauss discusses how hard he worked, how devoted he was to building up physics in his own style, and how frequently his informal approach caused him to stop once he understood an idea, even though it ended up being another physicist that proved his hunch. At the same time, there's several people who criticize Feynman for being so addicted to being original that he ended up being marginalized. It's a great pleasure just to hear of how his mind wended through the years. (I hadn't realized that his sister also was a physicist.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Plex
(Steven Levy, 19:58)
Levy had amazing access, and I've wanted to read this since he spoke at the Hillside about this right when it came out in April. The most interesting secrets unveiled: 1- Details on the scanning mechanism used in the Google books; apparently, their scanners use 3 lenses, so that the books needn't be flattened. 2- The intrigue behind the years Google spent in China, and their retreat upon being hacked by some arm of the Chinese government. 3- The revelation that neither Brin nor Page are gifted programmers. 4- The effort that Google has invested in building their data centers. Throughout, the record of their innovation (delivering great search results, granting gmail users 25GB of disk space, experimenting with open source Android & Chrome, trying to slay the orphan copyright gremlins) is a testament to the incredible intelligence of the founders. Some aspects of the Googly organization are not documented, e.g., whether Marissa Mayer's reign as the good witch Glenda of UX was in fact a distortion in the power structure. She was clearly a major source for Levy, and in the audible version, the book ends with an interview between Levy and Mayer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Practically painless English
(Sally Foster Wallace, 128pp)
This is a basic grammar exercise book, written by the mom of DFW. It's pretty sad. What kind of person wants to teach grammar? The kind of pedant who insists that you should never say "ain't." Oy. This sells for about $100 used on Amazon, for DFW groupies. It encapsulates the worst part of DFW's nerdy need to over-explain.

Monday, October 24, 2011

60 Stories
(Donald Barthelme, 16:46)
I first listened to this 2 years ago, but I honestly could listen to this over and over. His stories repay endless attention and would surely be among my desert island library.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The sacred sites bible : the definitive guide to spiritual places
(Anthony Taylor, 400pp)
This does not live up to its title. One of the most holy spaces I've ever directly experienced was Kyoto's Zen garden Ginkakuji. Other places that amazed me, but aren't listed here: the Bahai Temple in Wilmette (the book only lists one Bahai temple), and Maybeck's Christian Science Church in Berkeley. Listed, but probably only for purposes of political correctness, are sites like the Vatican & the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. I did admire the book's ability to let you travel from an armchair, and its method of organization is cogent and helpful. The photos from Tibet and Australia do transport the viewer to another realm.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Game over : how Nintendo zapped an American Industry, captured your dollars, and enslaved your children
(David Sheff, 445pp)
I just skimmed this, but it's a little too dated to draw me in. The book was written when Japan was still an economic threat, and Steve Jobs was just a one-shot wonder. Nolan Bushnell streaks through as a maniac, but the rest of the story didn't compel me to read it in depth.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

(Salman Rushdie, 7:39)
Loved this. It reminded me of Grimus, the fantasy novel that was Rushdie's first. Great fun, whimsy, and an understated erudition. I don't recall loving Haroun, it's older brother prequel, as much. Maybe I'm just at the right stage to appreciate the genre of weaving mesmerizing stories for children.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creative space : urban homes of artists and innovators
(Francesca Gavin, 256pp)
Nothing of exquisite interest. The book was cobbled together via the author's social network, and bops from London to Berlin to Tokyo and such places. No eye opening spaces that inspire or even incite envy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts on design
(Paul Rand, 95pp)
This was recommended by an interaction designer at the CCAC. But I found every design so ugly I couldn't believe how dated and irritating the examples were. I'm not a Randian, even of this design sort.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Intelligent Investor
(Graham, 2:45)
Not worth scanning, in this abridged version, which dates to the mid-1970s. The book may be a classic, but when cut down to conclusions w/o the technical details of how the famous search for fundamentals works, it's too thin to feed on.