A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This book was a suggested read by the ‘book club’ at work. Frankly, I don’t get what was supposed to be so great about this book (or maybe I do). First off, I found the writing style chatty and sophomoric (and in some cases annoyingly so). The way that much of the material is dealt with many times focuses more on the controversy around a given topic or some gee-whiz statistics than on actual substance and understanding.
While I was tempted to give up on the book about 100 pages into, I told my wife that I was going to force myself to finish it, in an ultimately vain effort to find out why it was so highly recommended. The only conclusion that I could come to is that the readers were really only interested in the sound-byte qualities of the book — something that they could chirp in on during a lunch conversation or over drinks.
In comparison, I found any number of books by Simon Winchester, such as Krakatoa, The Map That Changed the World, and The Professor and the Madman to be much more compelling and ultimately satisfying.
I thought that this was a brilliant little java applet that allows you to examine the popularity of names over time. Not surprisingly, many of the biblical based names remain at a somewhat steady stream of popularity and that some names tend to come and go based upon television or movie characters having those names.
My name appears to have been most popular in the 30s and 40s and has been in decline since. Suits me.
It also demonstrates a frightening trend of late to have children named after product brands.
I predict that this sort of thing (Wired: Hearing Aids for the unimpaired) will get increasingly popular as people run out of cosmetic surgery options in their quest to be (at least superficially) ‘different’ from others (which paradoxically tends to make them gravitate toward some homogeneous ideal).
Perhaps wearable mods are a step along the path to what William Gibson described in Burning Chrome where electronic mods to the human body become commonplace.
The Guardian recently had an article discussing how Curry spice may protect against cancer . Potentially good news for me, as I make it a point to have some Indian food a least once a week and tend to use at least some turmeric in cooking at home.
Not sure how efficient this is as it requires 220 volts to operate (manufacturer lists the output at 31,000 BTU). The brilliant part is that 100% of the heat goes into the room that it is in and it produces water vapor as a side effect so it humidifies the room as well.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Ok, everybody has already heard of/read this book (what can I say, Im slow and don’t have many opportunities to read). I thought that there were a great many interesting ideas about how things become adopted/popular. I particularly enjoyed the writing style which I found to be engaging without being chatty.
I also enjoyed the book because it is the sort of thing that helps me in my job, which is largely about trying to make complex things understandable and influencing people to take action on them based on the benefits.
This little tidbit seems to be making the rounds on the net:
The designers of some elevators include a hidden feature that is very handy if you’re in a hurry or it’s a busy time in the building (like check-out time in a hotel). While some elevators require a key, others can be put into “Express” mode by pressing the “Door Close” and “Floor” buttons at the same time. This sweeps the car to the floor of your choice and avoids stops at any other floor.
Elevators that have been tested and worked on:
Otis Elevators (All But The Ones Made In 1992),
Dover (Model Numbers: EL546 And ELOD862),
And Most Desert Elevators(All, But Model Numbers ELD5433 And ELF3655)
I might try this out the next time I am in a high rise building (which isn’t too often these days).
Came across this nifty site at world66.com that lets you generate a map of the places that you have been (which appear in red on the map) and even the ones that you would like to visit. Mine looks something like this:
It appears that the idea of the site is to allow travelers to add their own commentary and advise on places that they have visited or lived. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
It’s always been my contention that the gear you have doesn’t matter, its what you can do with it that does. This article about an award winning professional photographer who uses so called point and shoot cameras for his pictures rather than a ‘big, fast, bulletproof pro SLR’ really makes the point.
I get a certain satisfaction out of his current choice of camera, the Olympus c-8080, the same camera that I have (though the results I get are not in the same league as this guy).
Just in time for the anniversary of the moon landing, it’s google moon. Just for fun, go to the Apollo 11 landing site and zoom all the way in to confirm what the moon is really made of…
Clearly a case of too much time on their hands: a group who as documented the preponderance of time the number 47 has appeared throughout all of the various Star Trek shows.
This is a quite odd, but somehow compelling piece of eye candy.
I had written previously about the initial construction of the front garden pond and nothing since. Sigh.
Here are a few links to some of the flowers (mostly lilies) in the pond over on flickr.
I had been mulling over a solution to carrying around both a Palm and a mobile phone to deal with my day to day. After returning from vaction, my phone was ripped off, so the pressure was on to try to find a converged replacement. After trying out the Treo 650 and Blackberry 7100, I decided against both of them and started to zero in on the Nokia 6682. Problem is, the 6682 isn’t readily available, but supposed to be released ‘any day now’ by Cingular.
After two weeks without a phone, I finally made up my mind to stop waiting for the Nokia 6682 to be available from Cingular and to just get the Nokia 6620 instead and ‘upgrade’ to the 6682 when and if it becomes available.
Searching high and low around the area quickly led to the conclusion that none of the Cingular stores around here have a very complete selection of phones and definately not the more feature rich units. I noticed on Amazon that they had the phone available and with the two rebates offered, I essentially made $25USD on the purchase of the phone. I ordered with Amazon and ponied up for the next day delivery as the item was listed on their site as ‘shipping within 24 hours’. The next day I get, not a delivery notice from Amazon, but an email telling me that there is a delay in processing my order. It turns out that it can take up to 48 hours for Amazon/Cingular to do the credit check — Amazon won’t ship until Cingular says your credit is good. So three days later my phone ships. The amazing thing was that it shipped at 3AM and I recieved it later that same day.
Activating the phone was another adventure which required no fewer than 8 phone calls to Amazon and Cingular to get the phone activated, the correct calling plan options established, voicemail initialized, etc. In spite of all of the calls required, Amazon and Cingular did an excellent job of quickly and politely dealing with each and every issue including staying on the phone with me as I went through the various activation steps. At one point, I was on the phone so long that my cordless phone’s battery died with no warning. About 30 minutes later the Cingular rep called me back to make sure that everything had been activated properly. Outstanding!
Since then I have been trying to find the time to familiarize myself with the phones features and software (and there are quite a few of them). More on that later.
No surprises in this article on Wired. Driving while talking on a mobile phone is unsafe whether you are using a headset or not.
It is my firm belief that accidents caused while someone is talking on a cellphone should be treated as other driving impairments (DUI). Do it more that a few times and you lose your license.
This is a simple but very effective way of helping yourself if you are in a bad state. The jist of the article is to add an entry (or entries) into your mobile phone contacts list under ICE (In Case of Emergency). That way a paramedic or hospital attendant would have a good chance of getting ahold of someone on your behalf if you were incapacitated. Multiple entries could be added for ICE2, ICE3, etc.
What a series of horrible and senseless events in London this morning. My thoughts go out to all those impacted by this barbarity.
And me scheduled for a business trip there in a few weeks…
The mind boggles to think that the Dalai Lama and dubya were born on the same day.
Happy 70th Birthday, Tenzin
I sure hope that this neuron doesn’t work for shoot-em-up video game fans.
It would be interesting to know whether this only works for other live human beings that we observe and not for other virtual activities.
Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
I have had this book for a while now and just finished it in while on vacation in Alaska. In fact, I bought this book back when the original Power of Myth PBS series aired some time ago.
I have always had an interest in mythology, religion, cognitive psychology and linguistics and this definitely plays into the first two and to a lesser extent the third. It also builds on my interest in the works of Carl Jung as well.
It was interesting to finish the book in Alaska, a place where the indigenous practices have (seemingly) not been surpressed as they have been in other places. The visit to the Alaskan Heritage site was rewarding to talk to some of the people who are from the various tribes and collectives of Alaska.
In a subsequent conversation, I was curious as to where young kids these days get their mythology and how do they learn the lessons that a cultures mythology attempts to internalize? Video games? Television? Internet? Sadly, interaction with parents and the community seems to be a scarce commodity.