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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:42 am
The Mind's Eye

Oliver Sacks - The Mind's Eye

Book is very similar to the Man Who Took His Wife for a Hat and Anthropologist in Mars and actually refers to those books several times in notes and footnotes. In fact, the amount of notes has apparently increased. One chapter can now be expanded from a fate of a single patient to numerous other historical examples.

How to see and not to seeCollapse )

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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:42 am
Retief At Large

Keith Laumer - Retief At Large

Jaime Retief is a secondary level diplomat in the CDT - Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne - that represents the interest of Earth humans ("terries") in the galaxy. The main political opponent of humans are the Soviet analogue aliens named Groaci, who are just about as devious as you can think of.

Only competent human diplomat in the galaxyCollapse )

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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:41 am
In Search of Memory

Eric R. Kandel - In Search of Memory (2006)

Eric R. Kandel is an Austrian-born Jewish-American neurologist and Nobel laureate. This books is his sort of an autobiography and memoir of research he has taken part of. His interest in psychoanalysis lead to research in neurological basis of memory.

Life, neurology, psychology and moneyCollapse )

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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:40 am
Mysteries of Madrid

Antonio Muñoz Molina - Mysteries of Madrid

Lorencito Quesada, poor rural journalist who ekes out living in a garment shop, is charged by the local aristocrat to secretly find a stolen religious relic; statue of Christ that was taken from a local chapel. So he has to travel to Madrid to find pop star Marias Antequera whose wig was found in the scene of crime.

Country boy finds the city life frighteningCollapse )

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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:38 am
Amrita

Yoshimoto Banana - Amrita

Amrita is a tale of a young woman in modern Japan who lives in a family of five - four women and one small boy. It starts with the death of her older sister Mayu, who possibly committed suicide.

Weird tale of slice of life that goes only slightly bonkersCollapse )

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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:37 am
An Apple for my Teacher

Louis D. Rubin, Jr (edit.) - An Apple for my Teacher

First, I have to admit I don't know a single one of these authors who write about their mentors. It may be that their books are more "literary" variety that rarely crosses the Atlantic - or even their own world of academia to the outside world. Some of them admit as much: "Radical writer in America is stuck with the anomaly that his own only audience is the literate establishment"

How to learn to write to the social circle of your teacherCollapse )
"He can solve practical problems for you, pronlems of craft; but he cannot and should not neddle with the mystery of it."

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Wed, Oct. 1st, 2014, 12:33 am
A Zoo in my Luggage

Gerald Durrell - A Zoo in My Luggage

Gerald Durrell wanted to gather animals for his own zoo (even if he had no idea where it could be build). He had previously captured animals for others and now had money to start his own. So he went back to Cameroons to the area of an old friend Fon of Bafut - local tribal king with dozen wives and taste for whiskey - and had the locals to bring him local animals.

Africans are funny to himCollapse )

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Mon, Mar. 3rd, 2014, 01:01 am
Logicomics

Apostolos Doksiadis, Khristos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna - Logicomix

At least the nominal protagonist of the tale is a fictitious version of British philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell who tells his life story to an audience of American isolationalists in a lecture just after the World War Two has erupted. These parts alternate with parts where the makers of the graphic novel discuss how they should proceed with the story - between Doksiadis' desire to tell a story about people and Papadimitrou's arguments about the historical and mathematical facts.


During the tale the fictitious Russell meets with famous mathematicians Russell didn't meet in real life (part the writers readily admit in the afterword) and discusses matters of logic with them. Russell is also always drawn without moustache he always used in his early life, presumably so that the character would look more familiar. The ficticious Russell is also a much nicer that Russell ever was in real life.

The primary subject of the tale is the fundamental quest to find mathematical truth - which sort of ends to Gödel's mathematical proof that there are and will be mathematic and logic problems that cannot be solved - at least mathematically. It also sort of continues Doksiasis' theme about scientific obsession leading to madness - or at least ruination of relationships. Many of the greats of the mathematical world (and/or their relatives) succumbed to paranoia and schizophrenia - including Gödel who effectively starved himself to death.

(Personally it also brings some ironic pleasure to people like me who had to play with the set theory in Finnish primary school back in the 1970's - if Russell supposedly disposed of an demolished set theory by his paradox before the World War One, why the heck we had to play with those ovals decades later? I can actually agree with the common view that nobody actually needs set theory anywhere outside mathematical academia. In fact, it increased the attitude that "pure mathematics" has little to do with real life - a point the writers of this book also apparently make).

Many parts of mathematics are still being based of axioms that are regarded as being true - but has not been mathematically proven to be true, essentially being against the mathematics' own rules and therefore being in shaky theoretical foundation. I don't know how many have been fed up with exercises where they should produce a mathematical proof that X=1 when it certainly is but that's what the mathematicians often try to do. The writers illustrate this with the part where Russell writes a multi-page proof that 1+1=2.

The story ends in the dress rehearsal of the Aeschylus' play Oresteia. The play is essentially explanation of how vendettas were replaced with legal courts (not very successfully, I think, because in some areas of Greece vendettas are still popular) - and presents one version of how the problems are actually solved in the real world. Where there are no clear-cut happy or unhappy endings, only imperfect solutions and compromises.

That dichotomy can also be seen in Doksiadis' calling the story a tragedy and Papadimitrou's insistence that all this leads to Alan Turing and foundations of theories that lead to computer programming.

Sat, Feb. 11th, 2012, 01:48 am
Thoughts about Finnish presidential elections

The last month has been rather politically active in Finland, due to presidential elections. Tarja Halonen's last term ends next month. The president-elect is now Sauli Niinistö, a former finance minister of the 1990's who lost to Halonen six years ago. In that respect Finnish media's comments for the last couple of years have been turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I voted beforehand, before the voting day, as I usually do. In my opinion the worst candidates were dropped off during the first down, including two of three larger parties, Center Party and Social Democrats. That also included the candidate for the (True) Finns party and the so-called Christian Democrats - fortunately, in my opinion.

The second round of the election got especially interesting because facing Niinistö was Pekka Haavisto, a Green party politician, diplomat and a gay man who is living in a registered partnership (Finnish equivalent to civil union) with a man. There was bit more than usual amount of mudslinging, especially in the social media sites between the supporters, even if both candidates condemned it. One of the main tabloids even tried to make a story of two supporters of the candidates to hurl insults to each other in the paper; Haavisto's supporter refused to do so and asked others to refuse as well. Candidates retained the election numbers they had had in the first round to avoid confusion.

Haavisto still did relatively well, getting around 38% of the vote, which is quite a lot. There were bunch of homophobic comments thought HAavisto himself said that many people had refused to vote for him because he was Green (presumably he meant those that approached him personally). Still, getting over million votes is quite a bit for someone who media thought was a fourth-rate contender as best.

One interesting detail was the support of veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen of the Center Party, who ended up third during the first round and even in the second round some people still wanted to vote for him in some areas (ballots were now disqualified because he was not a candidate are more). Väyrynen has had presidential aspirations for decades now and he blamed the media, as usual.

Sat, Feb. 11th, 2012, 01:48 am
Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

Brad WarnerZen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

This is less of a guide to buddhism and more a biographical note about Warner's life – how he handled the breakup of his marriage, deaths in his family and the fact that his mentor pushed the leadership of the organization to him, against the wishes of many senior members. In the process he makes some sensible insights that life isn't what you want - it never is - get's two girlfriends after getting one divorce and continues to play with his punk band.

Warner is as irreverent as ever – and about as irreverent as life. Stuff happens, deal with it. Recommended only for those with sense of humor.

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