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go sane 2006-06-27 03:22 UTC
It's summer, and the thoughts of all parents turn to things that they could never get to during the school year. For myself, I'm assigning the works of two largely discredited 20th century authors, Ayn Rand and Alfred Korzybski. I was in post secondary school for a number of years, and the only in-school reference I heard to either one of them was a law professor saying something like "and then you've got Korzybski and all that crap..." partially under his breath during a lecture.

I have an old copy of Korzybski's Science and Sanity (or, more correctly, "Excerpts from Science and Sanity") that I've been half-heartedly trying to read for about 20 years. I could never get past the introduction, which is hard to follow, and seems a little self-important. I do find the general concepts of his work compelling (as I currently understand them -- a criticism of the human tendency to categorize, a rejection of the validity of binary logic in most real-world situations, and the inherent limitations of human language in thought), as well as the slogan I see repeated by modern-day proponents: "The map is not the territory". Wish me luck with this one - the reading is difficult, and the author has been run out of the halls of academia. There's also the nagging suspicion that a wholesale adoption of Korzybski's teachings would lead to more or less total mental paralysis.

I know even less about Rand, but have had several friends who admired her work. Admittedly, I've always been a little suspicious of the whole thing, but that's not entirely fair, since I haven't read it. I've been looking for electronic versions of her work (readable on a Palm OS smartphone) without luck, but I did find an ascii version of a piece called Anthem at project Gutenburg. She wrote this early on, and it's a short story about a futuristic totalitarian communal society where servitude, obedience, and a complete rejection of the individual are the rule, and one man's discovery of individuality (and one woman's discovery of servitude and obedience to an individual rather than a society). It's a quick read, and, taken as a light work of fiction, is not bad. Looked at from a moral or philosophical perspective, it seems sophomoric and a little repugnant -- she sets up at least two false dichotomies (individualism is either everything or nothing, people are either virtuously individualistic or irredeemably wretched), and uses the classic "straw-man" approach of setting up a contrived and impossibly vulnerable villain (in this case, the society and its benighted elders) and knocking it down in a display of righteousness (the escape and self-realization of the protagonist). To be fair, this is an early work, and it's actually refreshing to read when you consider that it was written by someone who had experience in the Stalinist USSR (I think she did, from reading her biography). I may have to break down and procure paper versions of her later works, but I'll get to them somehow.
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satanic verses 2005-01-14 22:44 UTC
Just finished Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. I liked it very much - couldn't resist the inevitable discussion about the fatwah with some of my Islamic friends. One opinion is that the Ayatollah provided some of the best marketing that any writer could ask for. Probably true, but a bit more extreme than I would hope for if I ever got off my butt (or on it, as the case may be) and started writing.

Anyway, if you can stomach the blasphemy, I recommend this one. It streched my vocabulary and sent me looking for a good palmOS based dictionary. I didn't find one that could keep up with Mr. Rushdie, but I did hook up with iNoah from Ars Lexis which is pretty cool as long as I have an internet connection.
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neuromancer 2004-12-27 00:16 UTC
just finished reading William Gibson's Neuromancer for the first time - wild how many unresolved references it resolved for me. It took me awhile to get used to the overloaded prose, but when I did, I really dug the book.
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we the media 2004-08-12 04:33 UTC
I'm currently reading the [e]book We the Media by Dan Gillmor. Great book - I heartily recommend it. A little depressing reading about all those widely read bloggers -- when I check the access logs for this site, anyway. If this site were to ever get extremely busy [snicker], I know I'd long for the days when nobody was reading it. So... I'll just go ahead and cherish this special time.

If you're a paper book person, go buy the book (you can order it from O'Reilly, and probably get it a bunch of other places, too). I'm getting to the point where I'll pay for e-books, and probably refuse free paper books. I'm fully prepared to be called a freak for that, but the truth is that my house is overflowing with stacks of books, collecting dust, and e-book readers passed a point of inflection for me in the last year or so.

I read the e-books on my Treo 600 phone thing. It's always with me, and it saves my place automatically. Mr. Gillmor (like other authors I'll feature here) has, as luck would have it, released the electronic version of his excellent book under the Creative Commons License. He's providing pdf versions of the chapters.

For me, though, pdf doesn't work - there's currently no pdf reader for PalmOS, as far as I can tell. I need Palm Doc format or something similar that I can read with my favorite reader software, TiBR. I set off to work converting the book by mailing the pdf version to pdf2txt@adobe.com - a free service that converts pdfs to text. I got the reply, and started thinking about what remained to be done. Fortunately, before I spent any time on it :) I found this version, which was put together by John Goerzen. It's rough, but he did a much better job than I planned on doing.
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hitchhikers guide 2004-07-27 18:33 UTC
I started reading ebooks of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a few months ago. I'm currently on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and I just heard about the upcoming movie. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I've read the series. At least it'll be fresh when I see the movie. There's a good website for Douglas Adams, generally - probably not news to fans, but news to me :).
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