Tuesday, January 26, 2010

At least the trains are on time...

So I've decided to keep a record of all the books I read so that in forty years I can have a list like Art Garfunkel's. He averages more than two books a month and reads everything from 16th century philosophy to just released mystery novels. I appreciate his taste. He's got to be a fascinating man to talk with.
Anyway, so far this year I've read:
Jasper Fforde's 'The Big Over Easy'
Gabriel Brownstein's 'The Man From Beyond'
And I'm halfway through H.G. Wells' 'The First Men in the Moon'.
Generally during the school year I don't read anything that's not a text, but making a point of sticking a book into my backpack means that I'm grabbing a few minutes here and there throughout the day, and that adds up. Now to just get back into the rhythm of writing a couple times a week too...

Fun fact of the day: Sugar, flour, etc plants can be dangerous because all the crystalline dust in the air builds up a ton of static charge and is actually very flammable. Proper ventilation and machine care mitigates some of the risk, but there have been plant explosions because of the dust build up. I had no idea. Cool huh?


Paul Kuliniewicz said...

Later this week my total count of "books I've read this year" will reach, um, one. So yeah.

Jamie said...

The closest I usually get to reading real books is reading Mazur's non-technical essays, one of which is a real book called "Imagining Numbers."

I read "Ender's Game" a while back.

I haven't gotten much reading done outside my office, partially because hilltop has terrible lighting conditions.

Renee L. said...

I have good news, Jamie! I read somewhere that they invented these semi-portable light sources. Lumps? Limps? No! Lamps, that was it! They're called lamps! ;)

Renee L. said...

And Paul, it's still early in the year yet!

Ryan said...

Awesome, I wish I could remember every book I've ever read to have a big 'ol list.

P.S. Has somebody been watching the show Life After People?

Renee L. said...

Yeah, I'm not even trying to make the list retrospective. I may remember a lot of books I've read but I couldn't begin to tell you when I read them. But it's not too late; you could always start from right now, Ryan!
And yes, somebody does catch that show sometimes. I like desolation. :-D

Ryan said...

Oh my gosh I love that show. Seriously.

Jamie said...

I just got Renee'd!

I should explain further. Typically read in bed before I fall asleep. If I'm actually up and about, I don't feel justified in reading something that isn't mathematics.

My bed is HIlltop is the bottom of a bunk bed. So the overhead light is blocked by the top bunk. I could use a lamp, but obviously Danny sleeps in the same room, so leaving a light on is a dick move.

Since I felt called out by your post. I just started working late and leaving work at work. I've gotten some more reading done.

I read this amazing observation of Gretchen Mazur that the words Algebra and Jaberwocky may have their roots in the name of the same Arabic text.

al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala

Could be ridiculous, but its cool to think about. Some credence is given to the idea because Lewis Carroll was a mathematician and would have been familiar with this text.

There's possibly no real connection, but I'd find it cool if there was.

Renee L. said...

That you don't feel justified to read anything other than mathematics is... really, really sad. There are almost an infinite number of fantastic books in the world.
Your practices doubtlessly make you a great mathematician, but to someone like myself who loves books more than most people (by which I mean that I love books more than most people, not more than most people love books, although that may also be true) it's devastating!
But uh, glad I called you out... If that's a good thing that is.
Hint: Pick a good (non-math!) book to read over lunch everyday. Eating is often boring, and taking your mind away from work for 30 minutes can give a fresh, clear perspective when you get back.
Just a thought.

Jamie said...

I'm sorry that my guilt is devastating. Don't give up on me just yet, you've given me a lot of food for thought.

I've always admired your ability to think about and master so many different things. It makes you quite an amazing person intellectually.

I've always wanted to be more like you in these regards, but I've been told things that discourage me from doing dreams like this:

"You have to specialize."
"You can't get a job thinking about what you want to think about, you have to justify your existence."
"You can't be a polymath anymore."

Writing this I realize that I am no longer the subject of these sentences, but of the sentence:

"You don't count!"

You've just made something crystal clear to me. While before I've always followed one obvious path, there are now two paths before me.

One path leads to extreme specialization, lifelong obsessions, crusades to be fought, and dragons to be slain.

The other path leads to leaps of the imagination, dreams, optimism, beauty, and the joy of seeing connections between ideas which are quite disparate.

It's pretty clear to me that the heros who I most want to be like have taken the second path. Thanks for pulling me down that path tonight. Please keep pulling!

Renee L. said...

1) Don't be too amazed. I personally like direction, and I lack a lot of it.
2) These days most people do have to specialize in their line of work, and if you happen to adore your specialty then hoorah for you because that puts you ahead of most people, however, there is work and there is life. If you spend your entire life devoting yourself to one thing and one thing only, what are you going to do when you retire? So you don't have to specialize your life, no.
And you certainly can get a job thinking about what you want to think about, your case in point. And you certainly don't have to justify your existence. You exist. Ta-dah. End of sentence. It's the one thing we all have in common and it's completely up to you whether to waste that existence or use it. And who's to say that your idea of wasting isn't someone else's idea of treasuring? I can spend hours lying in a hammock staring at the sky through the leaves of a tree. And those hours are not hours that I will ever regret.
One thing that I can tell you is that when you're gasping your last breaths on your death bed I promise you you will not be thinking about whether or not you made your mark on the world for the good of humanity or if you managed to do enough. You will be thinking about whether or not you were happy.
And you can totally still be a polymath. Why do you think I like Brian May so much? He's a rock star, an astrophysicist, a writer, a photographer, a composer, an advocate for human and animal rights, etc, etc. Maybe you won't make money doing everything that interests you, but what does that matter? Nothing stopping you from pursuing it anyway!
But you're right, in putting aside anything at all because of something that someone said, you are selling yourself short, and there's absolutely no need for that. Let those people tamper with their lives, this one is yours. You only get one so you might as well do what you want with it.
I like a good crusade as much as anybody, but even crusaders come home and dick around in the woodshop for a while.
I'm done.

Renee L. said...

Just for reference, when I say "you", as in "And who's to say that your idea of wasting isn't someone else's idea of treasuring?" I just mean "Person other than myself", not you in particular Jamie. I'm emphatic about these things, not scolding.