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Category: Books

October 18, 2015

Book deals

I've slowly been converting my physical books to digital. Sales help:

Anathem: Kindle, Google Play

Name of the Rose: Kinde, Google Play

Vertigo 70% off sale on Comixology. Y: The Last Man, Transmetropolitan, DMZ, 100 Bullets, Ex Machina, V for Vendetta, and more.

December 21, 2008

Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

phaidon21st.250.jpgPhaidon 0640 Disney Concert Hall USA.250.jpg

I already own the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture as well its travel edition, so its unsurprising that I finally caved and purchased the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture last night.

For the uninitiated, it's best to start describing the 21st Century atlas by its size as the title itself is straightforward. The 21st Century atlas comes with a plastic carrying case, which you will need as the inside cover proudly lists its weight at 14.5 lbs. The book is so tall and wide that I can almost squeeze my Wii Fit inside the carrying case.

So, does size matter? Yes, when you're looking at pretty pictures of architecture. The book is 800 pages, featuring 1037 buildings by 653 architects covering 89 countries. Anywhere between half a page and two pages are spent on each building, so the large page size is essential to packing in as much information per building while retaining good photo quality.

The Contemporary atlas covered 1998-2004 while the 21st Century atlas covers 2000-2008. As you might expect, there is some overlap between the atlases, though buildings that were lightly covered in the previous edition received expanded detail in the new edition and vice versa. It's not too troubling as the amount of actual overlap is fairly small. Head-to-head, the 21st Century atlas covers fewer buildings (1037 vs. 1052) but more countries (89 vs. 75). The page count is nearly identical and the page layout design is also similar, though the 21st Century atlas is updated with more saturated tones and a cleaner design. It somehow manages to shed three pounds of weight, which I assume has something to do with the paper. For the truly obsessive, the 21st Century atlas adds in coordinates so you can plot the buildings' exact positions: useful if you're trying to locate homes.

My favorite building so far is the Too Tall Teahouse in Japan, which immediately stood out as I flipped the pages: it is perched atop two tree trunks. Stunning and also the smallest building in the atlas at 67 square feet. The Sugiharto Steel House in Indonesia is also remarkable for its sub-$6000 modern looks.

San Francisco only received a single entry in the previous edition so I was happy (as a Bay Area resident) to see entries on Herzog and de Meuron's de Young Museum and Morphosis' San Francisco Federal Building highlight the recent construction in the city. Tokyo really lights up in the new edition and nearly doubles its entries from 15 to 27, led by construction in Omotesando. There are three new Omotesando buildings (MVRDV's Gyre, SANAA's Christian Dior, Toyo Ito's TOD'S) -- four if you count Herzog and de Meuron's Prada building down the street. Unsurprisingly, the Ginza gets a couple new buildings: Ito's Mikomoto building and Shigeru Ban's Hayek Centre. New York City also shines with Gehry's first NYC building, Foster's Hearst Tower, Piano's New York Times building and Morgan Library expansion, and several more.

If you are wondering whether or not to update to the latest edition, the answer is probably yes, because you probably have the same obsessive personality as I do, as evidenced by your ownership of the previous edition.

If you are new the the atlas and wondering whether you should buy it, consider whether or not you want a comprehensive book covering recent world architecture. I found the previous edition useful for finding architects that I wanted to study more about -- many of the architects in the atlas have monographs that you can purchase. The atlas is cross-indexed so each page lists other buildings by the same architect. The indexes are even color coded by region and have a three-letter code to identify the type of building. If you click on the Walt Disney Concert Hall page above, you'll see that the top of the page lists three other buildings by Gehry -- a Tourism building in El Cienego, Spain and commercial buildings in Berlin and New York -- all numbered so you can quickly find the page.

I also found the previous edition useful for planning buildings to visit while traveling. I wasn't too surprised when a travel edition came out and I look forward to the travel edition of this one as well.

Phaidon 0592-3 Africa South spread.500.jpg

(book spreads used with permission)

July 14, 2008

It's ginormous II


The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will go so nicely with my The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, aka The Phaidon Atlas of Turn-of-the-21st Century World Architecture, aka "The Only Book I Own with a Carrying Case." My bookcases cringe in anticipation. I can only hope they'll soon follow with a lite edition so it can accompany my travel edition from the first vintage.

June 23, 2008

Codys has closed (for good)

Codys Books has shown plenty of signs of struggling over the years. The biggest warning for me came when I tried to stop by the 4th St store and found it closed. I kept crossing my fingers that, like Keplers, it would make it through, but it sounds like the economic downturn made it too hard for even its generous benefactors to keep it afloat.

July 22, 2007

Potter complete


I finished the final Potter yesterday afternoon, finally allowing me to browse the Internet freely without fear of spoilage. I picked up a copy at Keplers at midnight and was among the hundreds, if not thousands of people present. Keplers sold at least 2600 copies, though I'm not sure how many were there to participate in the event.

There were employees and fans in costume -- some excellent Voldemorts -- "Hit the Snitch" batting cage, the Stanford Band, Cafe Borrone selling Butterbeer (root beer floats), and all sorts of Potter decoration (the information desk was Gringotts, the children's section had Hogwart's dormitory doors, etc...).

I haven't been to Star Wars premieres with that much costumage and fun. Hopefully a new book series will capture the popular attention in the future -- you don't need Save Keplers events if you sell 2600+ copies of Harry Potter at cover price.

June 12, 2007

Help McSweeney's raise $$$

McSweeney's found itself out $130,000 when its distributor went bankrupt. They're doing their best to quickly make up the deficit by holding an eBay auction with items from Chris Ware, Tony Millionaire, David Byrne, Dave Eggers, etc... and also offering big discounts on items in their store. It might be a good time to fill in some gaps in the collection.

May 13, 2007

Coulton and Scalzi: leveraging Internet fandom

The New York Times has an article, Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog, that focuses on Jonathan Coulton -- Hodgman compatriot and Internet geek music star -- to illustrate how a new generation of musicians are using Internet-based fan interaction to create a new business model for music. The model is fairly simple: give away your music and rely on your fans to pay you anyway. A famous example is Jane Siberry's pay-what-you-want model that has resulted in an average price of $1.30/track. This model has two main element of success: that your fans like your work and that your fans like you. The latter leads to e-mail, blogs, MySpace, and other sorts of fan-facing interactions.

We've seen this model evolve over the past several years and it's nothing new, but I find it fun to track it across multiple media. The New York Times article tries to force the implication that the fan interaction becomes a new burden for the artist, but can also provide relief. Sci-Fi writer John Scalzi recently gave a talk at Google in which he mentions that his laziness led him to put his manuscripts online for free. Instead of creating submission after submission, he has been able to draw the book companies to him and sell multiple books.

Scalzi and the NYTimes article do seem to agree that this business model requires a particular type of artist -- it is not a model for a J.D. Salinger, but it can assist the author pushing product on the book tour circuit. To bring back a lesson from the NYTimes article, Jonathan Coulton is able to sample his audience and target his concert performances to where he can sell 100+ tickets. Coulton's performance with John Hodgman also shows that a book reading can be as much a performance as any concert (see also: Lemony Snicket). The fact is that any interaction with your fans is a performance and, like any performance, we buy tickets.

Scalzi talk at Google:

May 11, 2007

Talk: Michael Chabon - The Yiddish Policeman's Union

I went to the Barnes and Noble in San Jose tonight to listen to Michael Chabon read from his latest novel, The Yiddish Policeman's Union. Chabon followed his Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay with a young adult/children's fantasy novel, Summerland, and then a Sherlock Holmes homage, The Final Solution. His latest novel jumps into the hardboiled detective/noir genre with a alternate history novel that imagines that Alaska was settled as the new Jewish homeland after World War II -- something that was considered at the time. Chabon read us a chapter, intermixing yiddish crime slang (gun = shalom/peace/'piece') and channeling Raymond Chandler along the way (and doing his best to ignore the many Barnes and Noble interruptions).

IMG_6841 IMG_6843 IMG_6837

more photos

Introduction and Reading:

I took the Q&A as an opportunity to research parakkum's Chabon/Spiderman 2/Spiderman 3 theory. Chabon was a writer for the excellent Spiderman 2 but was absent from Spiderman 3 credits. I boiled this down to, "Spiderman 2: great movie. Spiderman 3: sucked... why didn't you save it?" To his credit, it sounds like Chabon saved Spiderman 2. Chabon mentioned that Spiderman 2 was originally going to have Doc Oct, the Lizard, Black Cat, and Harry Osborn/GG2 as supervillains. Chabon's draft focused it down on just Doc Oct. Chabon was eventually fired from the production, but they kept the focus on Doc Oct. If only they remembered for Spiderman 3 -- it was perhaps the pull of merchandising/Happy Meal tie-ins.


Q&A index: * "How long did he spend it Sitka?" * "Did he read a lot of alternative history?" (2:00) * "What's the status of the Kavalier and Clay movie?" (5:45) -- not quite as dead as vaudeville * "Does he know where his books are going when they start?" (7:00) -- not really * "What American crime writers inspired him?" (9:25) * "What was his inspiration to write Summerland for younger readers?" (11:00) -- he has four children * "Why did he choose the particular passage he read?" (12:41) -- he was tired of reading the other passages * "Did he use authentic yiddish words in his book?" (13:19) -- he had the idea of writing the novel in yiddish in his mind and simultaneously translating it into English (doesn't know why he thought he could do that). Shalom = peace = piece = gun * "How much research did he do for Kavalier and Clay?" (15:24) * "Why didn't he save Spiderman 3?" (17:04) * "How much of the character of Peter in the Mommy-Track Mysteries (his wife Ayelet Waldman's book) is him?" (19:27) * "What books has he enjoyed recently" (20:38)

Spiderman 2 vs. Spiderman 3 question:

Side note: tonight's event made me much more appreciative of Keplers and the like. Between the intercom interruptions, crying babies (it was held in the kid's section), flushing toilet, and employees accessing the stock room behind, it was hard to stay focused. I mentioned the Keplers sentiment to a fellow attendee on the way out -- he pulled back his jacket to show his Keplers' employee t-shirt beneath (FYI: Berkely Breathed will be at Keplers).

April 12, 2007

So it goes

December 19, 2006

Free hobo names, read aloud

bp just pointed me to the free audiobook of Areas of My Expertise on iTunes (see also: Areas of My Expertise Web site). John Hodgman noted in his talk that Jonathan Coulton did indeed play his guitar for the entire length of the 700-hobo-name reading. They took no shortcuts with this production.

November 15, 2006

Sci-Fi Book List

Following the meme:

"This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved."

Mine in the extended.

Continue reading "Sci-Fi Book List" »

October 17, 2006

My first book cover

While not as cool as getting a solo exhibit in the Brooklyn Atlantic subway station, I did get my first book cover credit as a result of my Flickr habit. It's easy for your photos to end up in many places... when you give them away for free.

A couple of months ago I gave permission for a publishing company to use one of my photos, and in return a package arrived today with a copy of Cult of the Luxury Brand.

Cult of the Luxury Brand

Here is the original photo of the Prada Building in Tokyo:

Prada Building, Omotesando, Tokyo

The complimentary copy of the book is the entirety of my payment, but heck, at $35 ($23.10 sale), it is $35 more than I have received for any of my other photos -- though the MythBusters did give me a sandwich and a burrito.

August 21, 2006

Queen and Country Declassified Volume 2 and 3

In the absence of reviews for the other Queen and Country graphic novels, let me first start off giving a positive review to all those that aren't the title of this post. In general, I think Rucka has done a great job of making fun spy series that weaves its way through a variety of modern geopolitical dustups. Declassified Volume 2 is the first that I haven't liked, which was a combination of weak story and sloppy art. Volume 2 follows Tom Wallace's early career with a mission to Hong Kong during the handover back to China. Wallace's character development early in the book doesn't leave much room for the Hong Kong story to follow, I didn't actually feel that it was the same character being followed in both sections, and the political setup for the Hong Kong story was below average. Perhaps Rucka was being spread thin having to do two Queen and Country series in addition to his novels and DC duties -- I don't know, but Volume 3 was handed over to another writer in the Oni stable, Antony Johnston.

book cover Volume 3, the first to be written by a different writer, redeemed the fledgling Declassified spinoff series for me. The Irish Nationalist/SAS storyline with it's accompanying glossary was a welcome return to the immersive storytelling of Queen and Country. It's not without a few story cliches here and there, but overall it was the fun read I'm used to, Chris Mitten's art does a good job capturing the story, and I look forward to reading my copy of Wasteland, which is Johnston and Mitten's latest collaboration.

February 7, 2006

Book: Birth of the Mind

Birth of the Mind addresses the relationship between DNA and the development of the brain. Most of the ideas in the book are fairly simple and easy to understand:

  • It's both nature and nurture. We start with an initial structure that is highly adaptable. You can transplant a third eye onto a creature and it's brain will create the necessary processing structures for it.
  • Genes designate structure coarsely and relatively. One more more beacons draw certain types of cells towards them along channels. The stronger the beacon, the stronger the pull. If you move the beacon, you can change the location of where something develops.
  • The same genes get reused in different parts of the body like building blocks. Very few genes are unique to the brain. This is perhaps why there are so few genes in the human genome.

You won't get too much insight into how the brain works. Birth of the Mind is more akin to civil engineering than architecture, dealing with the materials of construction rather than the function of what is constructed. Birth of the Mind is deceptively short (< 200 pages), so you shouldn't have any problem pairing it with another pop-sci brain book to fill in some of the gaps in this book.

The brevity of Birth of the Mind sways my overall review of it. The writing is mostly clear but isn't clever, the analogies are rather bland (mostly computer programming analogies), the footnotes don't provide that much additional detail, and most of the writing is an exercise in aggregation rather than drawing a clear thread through a backdrop of works. But it's short. It's short enough that I see it as a good (re)introduction for future pop-sci neuroscience readings. The Amazon reviews are almost entirely glowing, so it would appear that a lot of the readership appreciated the material within.

Someone in the future will write a better version of this book, mostly because neuroscience/cognitive science is still making important discoveries on the nature of the mind and how it is formed. I'm awaiting an author to come along in Hofstadter-like fashion and pull together all the loose threads and unify our picture of the brain, from genes all the way up to consciousness. Having listened to how Hofstadter and Marcus both emphasized chunking/recursion, perhaps someone will be able to come along and draw analogies between the way we build our complex brain out of simple building blocks and the way we build complex concepts out of simple words. Maybe this book already exists and I just don' t know about it.

January 31, 2006

Book: McSweeney's 17

McSweeney's 17 comes disguised as junk mail. I'm pretty sure this takes the crown for most ridiculous media packaging that I have ever purchased. Screw the comb that came in my McSweeney's 16, the material in this issue is packed inside of envelopes and even comes with a rubberband!

The ridiculous packaging is an odd, yet appropriate, choice for the mixed assortment within. There's Envelope, which is a big brown envelope containing reproductions of various contemporary art, mostly paintings. There's humorous inserts, my favorite being the plural clothing brochure. There's Yeti Researcher, a parody of a scientific research journal filled, too filled, with yeti research articles. I was more frightened than entertained by the amount of effort that went into reproducing that much straight-faced yeti research articles. And, of course, there are a couple short stories, though most shorter than the usual McSweeney's fare.

There's a lot of variety in McSweeney's 17, but not enough for the hefty price tag. It's a lot of variety, little depth, with the exception of a frightening number of yeti articles. Issue 17 was supposed to come with the Wolphin dvd, which instead arrived with McSweeney's 18. If it had, this little mixed media packaging experiment might have been worth the price of admission.

Then again, I haven't watched my copy of Wolphin yet, so who's to say?

January 2, 2006

Book: Design of Everyday Things

meta warned me that when I read The Design of Everyday Things, I would learn very little. This is a compliment to the book, rather than a criticism. We both worked at PARC at the time and much of what is in the book is ingrained within the PARC culture. Thus, to say that I would learn very little is to say how influential the ideas of this book are. According to the Director of User Experience at TiVo, the book is somewhat of a bible. You'll find my own attempt at being Norman in "Affordances of a Seven-Foot Egg."

Another compliment I will pay this book is, in retrospect, the ideas presented seem like commonsense. As Norman dissects bad doors and light switch arrangements, the criticisms are intuitive, yet we must wonder, if this truly was commonsense, why is it so easy to find examples of bad design in everyday things? It's not hard to find a doors with "push" or "pull" signs taped on because the wrong type of handle was used. It's not hard to remember being confronted with an array of light switches and not knowing which light went with which. Sometimes the explanation is that someone was being cheap. Or lazy. But we also see simple principles violated in expensive, intensively designed products like airplanes and cars. Bad design comes with any price tag.

The most valuable aspect of the book for me is that it provides a vocabulary for being more specific about evaluating design. Norman once said something akin to, if it has poor usability, it probably got a design award. We don't do a good job separating out aesthetics and usability when we use the term design. The iPod is cited again and again as an example of "good design," but there are many usability problems. It's mappings are poor: press the center button and the next menu scrolls in from the right; press up and the previous menu scrolls in from the left; pressing left or right changes the track that's playing; rotating the scrollwheel wheel moves a linear menu up and down. The visibility is also poor: two weeks ago I taught two long-time iPod users that you can fast-forward/rewind, rate songs, and view album art if you press the center button while a song is playing.

I look forward to reading Norman's Emotional Design. I'm sure it will provide a vocabulary for discussing the good aspects of the iPod design, and then at last I can make my $billions.

Partial/ongoing notes in the extended.

Continue reading "Book: Design of Everyday Things" »

Book: Mind Wide Open

Mind Wide Open is a fun, light read by Steven Johnson. It's a pop-sci examination of the brain, with a focus on translating/rejecting Freudian ideas into a modern scientific framework. This Freud ambition limits the scope of the book: it is tourist equivalent of a quick day tour of New York by bus, a few stops, all brief.

The focus on Freud seems to come from a pop-sci similarity: Freud is one of the few psychologists whose ideas have entered into the popular lexicon and, by reinterpreting Freud's work, Johnson hopes to fulfill his goal of entering neuroscience concepts into the popular lexicon as well. Ambitious, especially in the book's final chapter which reads less like a conclusion and more like a Freud/Neuroscience manifesto (it is one Johnson's favorite chapters that he has written). If you hate Freud, don't distress. I hate Freud as well, but the most of the effort in connecting neuroscience to Freud is spent in the final chapter and only occasionally crops up elsewhere. Perhaps this is why the final chapter felt so out of place to me within the context of the book.

I prefer Emergence, Johnson's book on emergent behavior, to Mind Wide Open. Emergence was more the type of book where you want to grab a friend after reading a chapter and go, "did you know that __?" Perhaps this was an artifact of Johnson using himself as the subject of many of the experiments. Instead of focusing on the extraordinary cases of neuroscience like Oliver Sacks, we instead are confronted with the banal. We learn what Johnson learned about himself, but without being able to subject our self to the same tests the learning feels thirdhand. Much of the experiments have been better suited to a Discovery Channel special than a book, because video at least would better allow us to imagine ourselves in the experiment.

I have some limited notes in the extended. Due to the type of narrative, I found it difficult to take notes: much of the relevant details are scattered across many pages, so I eventually decided it was taking too much time.

Continue reading "Book: Mind Wide Open" »

November 26, 2005

Book: McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

It seems a bit hackneyed to complain that a collection of original short stories is uneven at best. We don't expect every author to be firing on all cylinders with their contributions. However, with a unifying theme of "Thrilling Tales," with Michael Chabon editing and with short stories by Neil Gaiman, Nick Hornby, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, and Dave Eggers, I had higher expectations. It is strange, then, that it was none of these authors that delivered my favorite stories of the collection. That title would go to Glen David Gold's "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter," Rick Moody's "The Albertine Notes," and Elmore Leonard's "How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman." I thought Gaiman's and Hornby's were entertaining, but not great, King's was only interesting to Dark Tower fan, Chabon's was only an introductory chapter of a serial, and Egger's, while good, is burgeoning with the "epiphanic dew" that Chabon rants against in the collection's introduction. The collection has a sequal, Astonishing Tales, which I may pick up, but with more selective reading.

October 3, 2005

Keplers saved

I won't be able to be there, but Keplers is reopening this Saturday!

September 3, 2005

Save Keplers Tuesday

Rally For Keplers on Tuesday, Sept. 6

August 31, 2005

Book shopping sadness

Keplers has closed.

August 26, 2005

Book lite: Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, travel edition

The biggest book I own is the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, which weighs in somewhere between 17 and 18 pounds. It sits in a slot in my nightstand next to my bed, which has become it's permanent home by virtue of the fact that it's immensely unportable, even with it's large plastic carrying case. I read through it from time to time trying to pick which city I'd most like to visit on account of its recent architectural additions, but the book and I have not made any actual trips together for obvious reasons.

Perhaps the editors at Phaidon have been using their book to dream up travel itineraries as well because you can now buy a 'travel' edition of the book, which weighs in at 0.7 pounds and is about a third of the dimensions. With a list price of $20, versus the $160 of the original, they'll probably end up selling a lot of copies to people who already own the larger edition and who need a version to make up for the dimensionally challenged big brother.

July 19, 2005


I've just started Harry Potter 6 and I realize that I have very poor recollection of what occurred in Harry Potter 5. I remember parakkum's critique of the Harry Potter series, which is that after the second or third book he could no longer tell them apart.

I mentioned this to ao and she sent me this Spark Notes outline of HP5, which should help me get back up to speed before I continue further.

SparkNotes: Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

April 25, 2005

My ten first liners

Following parakkum's and meta's lead, here are the first lines of 10 books I like. I think that I have chosen relatively easy books, though I've tried to spread the genre's around. Clicking on the links will give you the entire first page of the book, as well as the answer (check the URL).

  1. Current theories on the creation of the Universe state that, if it was created at all and didn't just start, as it were, unofficially, it came into being between ten and twenty thousand million years ago.

  2. It is often said that America "invented" democracy.

  3. "You would need an engineering degree from MIT to work this," someone once told me, shaking his head in puzzlement over his brand new digital watch.

  4. Anyone who watches even the slightest amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary home or office.

  5. Our thinking is filled with assessments of quantity, an approximate or exact sense of number, amount, size, scale.

  6. "Filipinos are a warm, caring, giving people," Avi says, "which is a good thing since so many of them carry concealed weapons."

  7. After Slitscan, Laney heard about another job from Rydell, the night security man at the Chateau.

  8. I was born in the city of Bombay... once upon a time.

  9. The amber light came on.

  10. Welcome to Java.

January 27, 2005

On Being

A discussion on thinking in your native language vs. abstract concepts somehow segued into a discussion of Heidegger (or, more specifically, his abuse of the term dasein/being). Apparently, even to a German/linguist and her philosopher husband, H-dog is still unintelligible. We did make an important discovery, though: after discussing how it was important in German academia to be completely unintelligible in your writings in order to garner respect, my coworker Susanne stumbled upon the key to German intellectual stardom:

susanne: mein dasein muss nicht immer hier sein sondern kann auch unabh´┐Żngig existieren
me: babelfish: "my existence must separate not always here its can exist also independently"
susanne: about as comprehensible
susanne: see, babelfish is PERFECT for translating heidegger!
me: thumbs up
susanne: in fact, you can become a famous german academic
me: translating heidegger for the masses
susanne: by writing in English and using babelfish to produce obfuscated German :)
susanne: if someone studies long enough, they might have a chance to reverse-engineer babelfish and figure out what you must have meant :)
me: ah, you are much wiser than i
susanne: always assuming you didn't just input gobbledygook to begin with ;-)
me: ah, but then my work would be eternal
susanne: true - people would still study it 2000 years from now :)
susanne: I think we have a plan
susanne: what field do you want to become eternally famous in?
me: ideally i would want to be rich AND famous
me: but i'm not sure how being an unintelligible german intellectual gets me both
susanne: German full profs get paid fairly well
susanne: and more interestingly, they don't have to do any work
susanne: and get a ton of respect
susanne: so you can be a little king or dictator who comes in only a few hours a week or whenever you feel like bossing everyone around
me: hmm, as long as there's Internet access i would be free to keep publishing endlesly
me: i would be prolifically unintelligible
susanne: it's self-perpetuating - you'd produce so much output that by the time someone's decided that one of your pieces is unintelligible and not worth bothering, you have 10 other publications :)
me: i could then just say, "ah, but you haven't read this work which clarifies everything"

January 14, 2005

Another chapter

Tufte has posted one of his ugly evidence chapters from his upcoming Beautiful Evidence book:

Ask E.T.: Corrupt Techniques in Evidence Presentations: New Chapter from Beautiful Evidence

December 26, 2004

It's ginormous

I don't own many architecture books, but with the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture I don't think I'll need many more. Measuring 12"x18" and weighing in at 18lbs (comes with a clear plastic briefcase-style carrying case), and surveying architecture across the world (1052 buildings completed since 1998), it's absolutely gorgeous. I'm a complete nut when it comes to visiting modern architecture in cities and now I have a gigantic reference with which to plan my future trips.

December 13, 2004

Eco quote

This is one of my favorite quotes from Travels in Hyperreality, which I am getting close to completing my notes on (also have to wait for DSL to finally turn on):

I thought then about how much, in the history of civilization, dress
as armor has influenced behavior and, in consequence, exterior
morality. The Victorian bourgeois was stiff and formal because of
stiff collars; the nineteeth-century gentleman was constrained by his
tight redingotes, boots, and top hats that didn't allow brusque
movements of the head. If Vienna had been on the equator and its
bourgeoisie had gone around in Bermuda shorts, would Freud have
described the same neurotic symptoms, the same Oedipal triangles? And
would he have described them the same way if he, the doctor, had been
a Scot, in a kilt (under which, as everyone knows, the rule is to wear

December 5, 2004

Good companion to Eco's Hyperreality

The Apothecary's Drawer Weblog has a great entry about polychrome restorations of ancient Greek/Roman sculpture. For those of you reading Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality, you may want to check out these links while you read the title essay.

Update: danah boyd's entry on Friendster's fictional personas also reminds me of the same essay, though for different reasons. Eco wrote his essay well before the Internet entered into most people's lives, but I think he could write a new essay with observations of how online social networks allow media companies to create fake personas so that people can make fake connections to real celebrities (connections that are indistinguishable from a person's actual social network).

More to buy

Dana Street Coffee is about to close along with my only Internet connection right now, and I don't want to lose this link: NYTimes: 100 Notable Books of the Year

Update: The Economist's List

October 25, 2004

Network Society

I'm currently reading a book that's blowing my mind, much in the same way Godel, Escher, Bach blew my mind, i.e. it synthesizes new ideas across a broad set of topics that I'm familiar with but never juxtaposed in that manner.

The book is The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells, which is part 1 of 3 of his Information Age trilogy. I never expected a book from a Spanish former-Marxist sociologist to be so cool, but it is. It combines the classes I took from Dower on the Meiji Restoration and post-war Japanese industrialization with economics classes I took from Krugman (and others) with specific references to both professors, and then throws in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley boom with references to Xerox PARC, SRI, and a little bit of AMD, while discussing the rise of ARPANET/Internet and the personal computer/microprocessor industry. There's also a dash of AI and MIT, as well as heaps of DARPA.

That's not to say that the book is just rehashing what I've learned. Rather, it's a book of entirely new concepts for me built up in a historical framework that is more than a little familiar to me, which helps me understand better the trends and analysis he is trying to present. I'm only a hundred pages into the book, and it may take a couple rereads given the relative unfamiliarity of the concepts, but this is about the coolest academic book I've picked up in the past three years.

October 20, 2004

Neal Stephenson Interview on Slashdot

Neal Stephenson's Slashdot interview is good fun. Slashdot readers are still stuck in Stephenson's Snowcrash/Cryptonomicon days, but that's understandable, considering that even though I own all three, I still have not made it through the first of the Baroque Cycle books. Some pirate questions would have been fun, though.

September 28, 2004

Reading backlog

I've added my reading queue to my reading list. The list is a bit overwhelming at the number of unread books on my bookshelf represents over a year's worth of reading, especially since my Caltrain time has decreased.

I'm looking for suggestions as to which books to promote/demote in the list. If you liked/hated any of the books in this list, or, heaven forbid, you have more books to recommend, feel free to comment.

PS: the list is still incomplete. There's a several more graphic novels, some books on loan, and non-Amazon-listed books in the queue as well.

August 1, 2004

What book are you

I'm only posting this because meta and I were discussing the book quiz and what book I'd probably be (not knowing what all the answers were on the test), and my guess was Cat's Cradle, though my reasoning was because I was going to bring about the end of the world.

You're Cat's Cradle! by Kurt Vonnegut

You believe quite firmly that free will deserted you long ago and far away. As a result, it's hard to take responsibility for anything. Even though you show great potential as a leader of a small 3rd world country, the choices are all made ahead of time. You're rather fond of games involving string. Your fear of nuclear weaponry is trumped only by your fear of ice.

Take the Book Quiz

July 18, 2004

Howard Rheingold, I tip my tin-foil hat to you

My book reading habits frequently inspire paranoia. Perhaps it does not help that I started the week reading generics Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, putting me in a particular mood to notice trumpet-shaped logos everywhere. I next picked up Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown, which contains a brief mention of "virtual-reality maven" Howard Rheingold and his stewardship of the The Whole Earth Review. As I finished the book I arrived in the city to meet with meta, who had just spent all day at the Intel's Urban Atmospheres Street Talk, which included, coincidentally, a panel with Howard Rheingold. As Rheingold is a prominent figure in his field, I was not yet surprised, but I next picked up Johnson's Emergence, which mentioned Rheingold's The Virtual Community. ENOUGH!!!

A virtual reality expert deft in the art of electronic media and communication? Howard Rheingold, I say thou art a modern day Templar! I must escape your collapsing media stranglehold on me!

I must choose my books more carefully.

Update: hmm, meta recommended Lot 49, Emergence is meta's book, and Emergence was apparently mentioned during the Urban Atmospheres event that meta attended and Rheingold spoke at... It's all so clear now.

June 24, 2004

Supplementary reading

After having recently finished Beowulf and The Stand, I was happy to stumble across some good companion reading.

First, there's Beowabbit, which features such mighty verse as:

Then spake Uncouth, who was under Hogrower's heel, official foot-stool, "Thay, aren't you that Beowabbit Who with Thumper thwam in contestht, Thoppily thloshed in that-thea scum; and quoth Thumper, 'My gum, you're dumb!'"

There's also When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?. Although The Stand features a global-annihilating plague instead of mass zombification, I imagine the electrical plants don't mind the distinction.

(via Mr. Happy)

June 23, 2004

Updated reading lists

The popularity of the mammoth user-generated list made me want to go and revisit three lists (Guardian Top 100, Random House Board Top 100, Random House Reader's Top 100) that we traded around eight months ago (entry 1, entry 2) to see how I have progressed. I didn't improve as much as I would have liked on the lists, as my biggest improvement was seven on the reader's list, which I previously referred to as the kool-aid list, as someone must be on something to place Rand and Hubbard so frequently and prominently.

Also, to repeat some of our previous evaluations of these lists:
- Guardian: pretentious, tends to select less well known works by prominent authors, not too many American authors
- RH Board: less pretentious, but very American author biased
- RH Readers: kool-aid list, top ten is rather worthless, even more American author biased

Note: I'm giving myself credit for Catcher in the Rye as I am only one or two Caltrain rides away from completion.

bold means that I have read the book
italics means that I have the book in my possession, but haven't read it yet
strike means that I will never read the book

Continue reading "Updated reading lists" »

June 18, 2004

Huge whomping book list

Got this from glynn. It's a huge booklist, on which you're supposed to bold the novels you've read, and add three of your own. In addition to bolding, I italicized books that I own but haven't read yet, to illustrate just how far behind I am. As I am far behind, I haven't added any novels to the list. My rough count is that I've read 52 out of the ~430 books on the list, and have 9 more that I own (or indirectly have a copy) but haven't read. There were certain books that I think I read in high school, but seeing as I don't recall them strongly, I left them unmarked. In a couple more months, I'm sure my Terry Pratchett score will improve, as I have just started making my way through the Discworld series (Pratchett, Dahl, and Jordan are a tad bit overrepresented on this list).

My guess is that meta would destroy me on this list, as I helped her organize many of these books on her bookshelf when she moved into her latest place.

Update: as I didn't contribute three, I'll include the three meta added.

Continue reading "Huge whomping book list" »

June 10, 2004

Bloomsday copyright

This post caught my eye because I was just in Dublin and the post deals with public readings of James Joyce's works for the upcoming Bloomsday. Apparently, the celebrations are being threatened by the last surviving Joyce grandkid unless payment is made.
- Neil Gaiman: Pre-Bloomsday Sigh

April 8, 2004

Kavalier and Clay + Campbell

book image

I'm posting this entry in the extended entry as it contains spoilers. It's not worth reading unless you've read the book. But if you've read the book, please visit and offer your thoughts on the question I pose.

Continue reading "Kavalier and Clay + Campbell" »

March 31, 2004

Still not done

I've rewrote some of my original entry on Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies, but I still have a little ways to go. I still haven't summarized part three of the book, where he actually criticizes Bush. If you somehow have been refraining from reading the entry until I finish, I will tide you over with this little diddy from the extended entry, which is my favorite anecdote in the book:

Clarke: "How can you be sure there are no Aum [Shinrikyo] here, John [O'Neill], just because you don't have an FBI file on them? Did you look them up in the Manhatten phone book to see if they're there?" O'Neill: "You serious?" O'Neill instructs a deputy to contact the FBI New York field office. A while later, he gets a note back O'Neill: "Fuck. They're in the phone book, on East 48th Street at Fifth."

March 11, 2004

Heidegger Mad-Lib

____ being ___ being being ____ being ____ being ____ being ____ ____ being ___ being ____ being ____ being ____ being ____ ____ being ___ being ____ being ____ being ____ being ____

February 22, 2004

Notes on the Tale of Genji translation

Posting this to refer to, as meta's copy of Tale of Genji is sitting on the shelf.
- Gen Kanai weblog: translating the Tale of Genji

December 29, 2003

Cretins, Fools, Morons, and Lunatics

I just finished Foucault's Pendulum, and this entry on Making Light reminded me of lunatics/Diabolicals/The Plan:
- Making Light: Dinosaurs of Eden

November 28, 2003

Something to read

Saw this on Slashdot. Should get around to reading it when I'm less tired.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Books Supplement | Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books

October 13, 2003

Top 100 Novels for American Monkeys

After I posted the Guardian's list of top 100 novels, I received a chorus of "they're biased towards British authors, this list is so pretentious!, etc..." So, to correct for some of that bias, here's Random House's list:
The Modern Library | 100 Best | Novels

WARNING: before you click on the link, it might be wise to shield the right half of your browser so as to not read their reader's list, which would shame a Raelian.

I scored an amoeba-worthy six. James Joyce would have given me an eleven. On the kool-aid list I did a little better with a ten.

I'm an illiterate monkey

I've only read eleven of the top 100 novels of all time according to the Guardian. If I knew who James Joyce was I would have read twelve:

Top 100 Novels of All Time

Oh well, even monkeys can play video games without moving a muscle, making them the ultimate couch potatoes.

October 4, 2003

Warning Signs of a Bad Paperback Sequel

I can't believe metamanda read this book (Orson Scott Card's latest Ender book, Shadow Puppets). When I saw this book in bookstores, I was tempted, but in examining the backcover and first couple pages, it reminded me of the seven warning signs of bogus science, though applied to paperpack releases instead.

Keeping this in mind, I've drawn up a preliminary list of "Six Warning Signs of a Bad Paperback Sequel"...

Continue reading "Warning Signs of a Bad Paperback Sequel" »

August 4, 2003

Good Web companion to American Gods

If you read/are reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, you might like this site: only the gods are real. It has a brief description of the actual mythological figures that Gaiman is referencing.

August 3, 2003

Reading backlog

I cleared off a lot of my reading back log today, as I had a huge pile of comics and several half-finished novels lying around. Here's the damage:

Graphic novels:
- Black Orchid (Gaiman/McKean)
- Y: The Last Man, both of which were fun to read

- The Gunslinger (Stephen King). The Gunslinger didn't impress me as a book that should've taken twelve years to write, though it was a interesting, light read inbetween my other reads, kinda like the bread they sometimes give you at wine tastings.
- Seville Communion (in progress). After having spent twenty-three years reading nothing about templars, it seems that I've been finding references to them everywhere. I think it all started when I tried to read Foucault's Pendulum. How apt.

- Wolverine #3 (really like this story so far)
- Venom #3 (it's fun to see Venom recast as a horror character)
- Spectacular Spider-Man #1-2 (which looks a lot like Venom #3), Daredevil #25
- Ultimates #11
- Ultimate X-Men #35 (I liked reading a Spidey/Wolverine matchup from the fresh Ultimate perspective)
- Ultimate Spider-Man #43 (not liking the new arc so far)

July 22, 2003

Harry Potter Innuendo

People with dirty minds and far too much time: Order of the Phoenix Fun-tastic Innuendo List

May 27, 2003

Another William Gibson Link

Techno\culture blogger Karlin Lillington
interviewed William Gibson and posted her summary. Unfortunately there's very little of Gibson's own words, but a nice homage nevertheless.

May 21, 2003

William Gibson on the progression of media

As Gibson is one of my favorite authors (I just finished Pattern Recognition - good book), I feel compelled to link to his latest blog entry, which is a metaphorical and imaginative look at media past, present, and future (google link weight +1).

April 28, 2003

Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions

Article by Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.


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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to kwc blog in the Books category.

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