I just finished The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2011), by historian author James Gleick. This past summer I read his book, Time Travel (2016), which was about time travel in fiction and in our hearts. [see Passing Time (My bad; it should have been titled Gleick: Time Travel, but I can never resist a pun.)]
If you read my post about the time travel book, you know I didn’t care for it, although I place the blame on my expectations, not the book. I do find Gleick, as I said then, “ambling, rambling, and meandering,” but I’m sure many greatly enjoy his excursions. I ended that review mentioning I’d like to read another book of his (a trend takes two data points).
The Information is that book, and I did like it more than Time Travel.
They’ll be back!
Along with Black Friday, another of the more modern Thanksgiving traditions is the TV marathon put on by various broadcast, and some cable, channels. For example, what is now called the SyFy channel typically ran a Twilight Zone marathon, and BBC America often ran a Doctor Who marathon (I didn’t even think to check for that this year — one more sign of just how disturbing 2020 was.)
This Thanksgiving I decided to create my own marathon after noticing Hulu had all three of The Expendables franchise (although at this point it’s probably better just called a trilogy given how large most movie franchises are).
All three movies, despite being truly dreadful on many — perhaps even most — counts, are surprisingly watchable. Some parts are even really funny (although not always intentionally).
It has been quite a year, but very many of us are very thankful about our Presidential election. We’re grateful for a return to sanity, decency, and our espoused American values and political traditions. (As much as possible under the circumstances, anyway.)
Sadly, we’re far from the idealized image of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want. (And weren’t we always, really?) We’ve long upheld those ideal values as our goals, the change we’re trying to be, but we’ve been tested and been found wanting these last years. Maybe 2020 can be a turning point — we skated awfully close to the Abyss this time.
Meanwhile, in local weather news…
With the distraction of the election, on top of the distraction of the pandemic, my note pile has started to accumulate again. I’m way behind on my “Fall Clearance” plan to either finally write the posts or throw away the notes. (The issues I’ve been having with my laptop’s WiFi incompetence haven’t helped.)
Between winter and social distancing, I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on reading. I’ve also been catching up on TV shows I wanted to either check out or re-watch. There have been some new shows I liked so much the first time that I wanted to see them again.
So for this TV-Tuesday I’m channel surfing over all those shows.
And the total is…?
Oh the irony of it all. Two days ago I post about two math books, at least one of which (if not both) I think everyone should read. This morning, reading my newsfeed, I see one of those “People Are Confused By This Math Problem” articles that pop up from time to time.
Often those are expressions without parentheses, so they require knowledge of operator precedence. (I think such “problems” are dumb. Precedence isn’t set in stone; always use parentheses.)
Some math problems do have a legitimately confusing aspect, but my mind is bit blown that anyone gets this one wrong.
Well they finally made a good Terminator sequel! Granted, the first one is a modern classic and a very tough act to follow. There is also that sequels are almost always necessarily warmed up left-overs, but this franchise has been noted for being especially disappointing. (I know I saw #5, but it left absolutely no impression, and #4 was dismal and awful.)
I’m definitely more of a Terminator fan than a Star Wars fan. That’s even more true when it comes to Star Trek. I’m willing to at least see the Star Wars movies, but I gave up on Trek ever since J.J. Abrams took over (although it had already gotten moribund).
For my money, Terminator: Dark Fate is a nice return to form and a pretty good action movie in its own right.
There are many science-minded authors and working physicists who write popular science books. While there aren’t as many math-minded authors or working mathematicians writing popular math books, it’s not a null set. I’ve explored two such authors recently: mathematician Steven Strogatz and author David Berlinski.
Strogatz wrote The Joy of X (2012), which was based on his New York Times columns popularizing mathematics. I would call that a must-read for anyone with a general interest in mathematics. I just finished his most recent, Infinite Powers (2019), and liked it even more.
Berlinski, on the other hand, I wouldn’t grant space on my bookshelf.
There is real joy and happiness in the world.
Whatever else is going on, however dark it seems, this is something to smile about. Something to be truly thankful for.
Stay safe, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.
One of the ways I’ve coped during this insanest of years is by escaping into fiction, and it’s hard to beat the sheer escapism of a good murder mystery. Science fiction, my other favorite escapist drug, particularly the good stuff, is often parable, prophecy, or pointed social examination, but a murder mystery is typically just a rippin’ good yarn.
The older classics especially, for instance Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe (two favorites of mine), when you come down to it, are utterly preposterous. Fairy tales staring a fussy Belgian with his mustaches or a corpulent epicurean who never leaves his house, both brilliant and eccentric, both prone to that final scene, everyone gathered, for the denouement, “J’accuse!”
Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series is a very different kind of yarn.
I keep thinking about the 71+ million Americans who voted against nearly everything American has stood for until the last few years. Our Continental Divide may be beautiful to behold, but our National Divide is an ugly disgrace to normative values.
At least they have been our values until now.