I just finished a wondeful book, The Poincare Conjecture: In Search of the Shape of the Universe by Donal O'Shea, and because I'm not very good at writing I'm just going to quote a good chunk:
Mathematics reminds us how much we depend on one another, both on the insight and imagination of those who have lived before us, and on those who comprise the social and cultural institutions, schools and universities, that give children an education that allows them to fully engage the ideas of their times. It is up to all of us to ensure that the legacy of our times is a society that stewards and develops our common mathematical inheritance. For mathematics is one of the quintessentially human activities that makes us more fully human and, in so doing, leads us to transcend ourselves.
Looking up at the night sky, at the distant stars and galaxies and clusters of galaxies, it is inconceivable to me that there are not other intelligences out there, some far different then us. Hundreds of years hence, if we ever develop technologies that enable us to meet and to communicate, we will discover that they will know, or want to lknow, that the only compact three-dimensional manifold in which every loop can be shrunk to a point is a three-sphere. Count on it.
There were lots of mathematical concepts in this book that I didn't understand, but these two paragraphs I surely understood.
I'm a huge Frank Zappa fan and have been for more than a decade. It's probably the most listened to artist ever in my life in terms of number of listened to songs. Actually not probably; definitely. I adore his music and his personality and this is the second book I read about him. The other book I read was Real Frank Zappa Book written by Peter Occhiogrosso based on biography interviews with Frank for the purpose of writing this book. That book was much more bland and emphasized particularly his early political work and also very much emphasizes on his work as a orchestral conductor/business man.
The detail work in this book is really fantastic. It's thanks to Barry's in-depth understanding of music and the music industry that you get deep down to the nitty-gritty details of Zappa's work. As always with books like this, it's not till you read about the lyrics that you fully understand the lyrics even if you have listened to them many a times. Some of these lyrics I'm actually kind of sad to have understood now as of reading about them in this book. For example, I now understand that the song We're Turning Again which is an up-yours to his old band members Mothers of Invention.
If anything bad can be said about the book it's that it sort of ends on a bad note (no pun intended), as it ends on the sad last few years when Frank was really sick and up to the point of his death. And also, I would have liked to find out more about Barry's own personal relationship with Frank because he couldn't possibly have written this book had he not admired the guy too.
There is no doubt in my mind that Frank Zappa is one of the most innovative and inspirational characters in twentieth-century music history. And probably show-biz too for that matter. Even though the book reveals some truths about Frank as a bit of "douche bag" I'm still firmly one of his biggest fans. If you wanna find out more about Frank Zappa this is most like the book to get.
Following is an extract from a quoted interview by Gail Sloatman who later became Gail Zappa:
"And I remember thinking, Oh my God! Here's this guy, I think he's extraordinary, it's such a different sensation! I know he hasn't taken a bath in four months and his moustache smells like peanut butter..."
She sums it up nicely in her own very personal words so well. There is something amazing about this guy beyond the less appealing facade.
The 4-hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris
29 July 2009
An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor's orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
"How long did it take you to catch them?" the American asked.
"Only a little while," the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" the American then asked.
"I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends," the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.
"But... What do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican looked up and smiled. "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."
The American laughed and stool tall. "Sir, I'm a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats."
He continued, "Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will all this take?"
To which the American replied, "15-20 years. 25 tops."
"But what then, senor?"
The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions."
"Millions, senor? Then what?"
"Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos..." (The 4-hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss, page 231-232)
This quote is ripped from a book called The 4-hour Work Week by nutty young entrepreneurial American man called Timothy Ferriss. Just finished the book I have to admit being quite hit by it. It says on the back "WARNING: Don't read this book if you don't want to change your life". I don't want to radically change my life but a bit wouldn't hurt.
If your an office guy working for the man (or as the Japanese call it "salary men") reading this book will probably leave a bad taste of guilt and trembling eager to take his advice on board.
My take is to not take the book on at either 100% (what the author wants) or 0% (what almost all readers will do) but instead do some cherry picking of ideas and concepts that I like. I've actually already started to change a few things in my life all thanks to inspiration in the book.
14 April 2009
Rumor has it's it's $thousands still if you can even buy one. The juicy thing about these is that they promise around 50 hours of battery life since it takes 0 power to show a screen. It only takes power to change the screen which makes it ideal for reading e-books.
Aussies in London - What are you doing here?
02 March 2007
I've just finished Dylan Nichols book called "What Are You Doing Here" which is a funny little book about Australians in England (London especially), why they came, what they do here, what influences they bring with them and why they keep coming and last but not least what gets them to go back home.
Dylan is a good friend of mine and I book my signed copy at his book launch a couple of weeks ago. A lot of my friends here in London are aussies and reading this book will only help me understand them and possibly whats going on in their head. Reading this book has given me some profound understanding about Australians' feelings about coming here that I didn't understand before.
The only bad thing I can say about the book is that it wasn't meant for me. It's got a very strong Australian taste to it and I don't think Dylan and his aussie reviewers even noticed that it could be accepted as almost a bit condescending towards the britons.
The first couple of chapters are about the history of arriving aussies and the responses on that. I love the way Dylan has plenty of little facts about very small things such as quotes from old Australian prime ministers and certain celebrities and what they added to British culture.
As the story is told Dylan often pops back to himself and his feelings and actions when he came here and this happens throughout the book which gives it a nice personal touch to it and not just history lesson.
There were also some interesting sections about "brain-drain" and how it might not be a brain-drain since a lot of these brains actually come back enriched. This I think applies very much to Swedes too.
Martial Arts by Pen Rance
27 February 2006
Kung Fu, Books
Martial Arts is a book about martial arts films such as Enter the Dragon and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon etc. written by my "kung fu sister". Within the club you sometimes refer to other people in club as brothers and sisters. Pen and I train both train with Dave in Islington.
Have you seen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? Do you understand it all or are you, like me, just watching for its fascinating effects, scenery and swordplay? Apparently, all the questions that you've always wanted to know is in the book. I remember asking Pen once: "Why does she jump off the bridge in the end?" To which Pen replied: "Buy my book and you'll find out". So I did. Can't wait!
Geek entrepreneurs' reading list
13 December 2005
FogGreek is putting together some sort of management training course and Joel has put up a reading list for the course. They're all either technical computer or modern management books that new-age web entrepreneurs should read.
Of all those books I've only read five but I recognize almost half of them.
Here are the ones I've read:
var and why it matters well.
In retrospect the book was probably a few thousand words "too simple" for me. I'm not an expert at DOM scripting but the XHTML, CSS and stuff was a bit basic. For example, I've already used AJAX, I didn't need to know what it is. Did that sound too cocky? Sorry, I hope you see what I mean.
If you're quite new to web standards, DOM scripting and AJAX and stuff; get this book! Or, you're an old-school web developer still using Flash, tables and popup windows; get this book!
Python Cookbook arrived
05 April 2005
I got my copy of the Python Cookbook today. This book might have been available in the US for some time but I had it preordered here in the UK. So for all fellow UK Python people who have been waiting like myself, just wanted to let you know that now it's avaible.
Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
31 March 2004
"One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin."
On Sunday morning I heard that Project Gutenberg has started to provide some of their books in MP3 format. I did a "random" search and eventually started downloading The Trial by Franz Kafka. Whilst waiting I started to read Metamorphosis also by Franz Kafka.
We read it at school many years ago and I appreciated it even more this time. What a fantastic book it is. So incredible many subtle hints that you easily oversee. This time around I understood it much more. Maybe it's that I've matured more or maybe I read it too quickly last time. Last time I understood it as Gregor Samsa just felt forgotten and dying. This time I realised that it abstracts so many other forms of social development. I had not understood the importance of the mother, the father and the sister. They in themselves represent different layers of social groups in a very well hidden way. Before I used to think of the members of the family all as one entity.
This was also the first I've ever read a book on screen. It's definitely not an alternative to read long novels on the computer but Metamorphosis isn't very long and I was curious what it'd be like to read a book on the screen. The biggest problem I think is the sitting position. If laid back and comfortable and it becomes hard to focus on the little letters and to close you end up with neck strain and tear running eyes. Nothing beats the paper alternative. The question is, what's the next ideal digital alternative to reading from paper?