Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Busy busy

Hi everyone. In the last couple of weeks, I've been to Silicon Valley and Austin. Now I'm off to Denver on Friday. Get your all-expenses-paid recruiting trips in while you can, space is limited. They all seem like great offers.

I read a cute little book called Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. It's a deceptively simple book that's a comic about comics; their semantics, their special idioms, their potential, their uniqueness. I loved every minute of it, and even though I can't draw worth beans, it inspired me to put pencil to paper and do a couple of strips. I am certainly fascinated by comics, as my reading list shows, if not enough to become a starving comics artist.

I read a graphic novel (emphasis on graphic) called From Hell on the plane, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. It's a sprawling black and white about the Jack the Ripper murders, poverty, violence, freemasonry, Victorian England. It's one of the best and one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen and read. Rated a very strong R, if not worse. I don't see how they could make it a movie. Whether it's true or not, who could say.

I also finally finished a book I've been chewing on for months: Database in Depth, by CJ Date. It's a look at the relational model that underlies (or, rather, should underly) virtually all modern databases, and has for decades. My particular background with logic made some of the material more obvious to me. I am in a peculiar position, because I probably have more experience with relational theory than I do with actual database products like Postgres or MySQL, which basically turns the usual order of education inside out and backwards. If you're a computer science dude or a programmer and you've never thought much about data management or relations, I highly recommend it. It is concise, readable, occasionally crotchety and opinionated, and highly illuminating. I was surprised at how interested I became in the topic as time went on.

Yet another couple of plane books. I read Freakonomics, a bestseller about microeconomics with interesting applications, by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It showcases datasets that are more interesting than the run-of-the-mill demand curves, and draws out some classic results from economics, with somewhat bizarre human results. For instance, sumo wrestlers have, at times, strong incentives to take a dive on the last match of a tournament, and drug-dealing operations have an org chart not unlike your neighborhood McDonald's.

I also read a cool book on the origins, motivations, and contents of the Microsoft puzzle interview. It's called How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle -- How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers by William Poundstone. Don't let the title scare you. It's a mind-bending trip through the history of IQ, the trouble with one-hour interviews, and Microsoft, along with answers to some of the worst puzzles. Entertaining even if you are not interested in interviewing at Microsoft. And then there's me, who will interview with just about anyone these days. Mom recommended this one to me. Thanks Mom.

I totally forgot, but I still have Cujo and The Stand to read, so maybe I'll take those on the plane. I also picked up Thomas Pynchon's V on a whim, and Lauren Winner's memoir Girl Meets God. And as for the computer textbooks I've been reviewing with for my interviews... well, the less you know about those the better. If I actually finish one, which is a distinct possibility, I'll let you know.

By the way, have you been watching this US attorney thing blow open? My feed reader is overflowing from all the travel, to the point where I'm thinking about renting a laptop at the hotel just to read for a few hours. People deserve to go to jail for that one. Letting smart, competent attorneys go because they're investigating your corrupt buddies is out of the frying pan, into the firing. I'd be more indignant about it, but I guess the Bush people have managed to saturate my scandal circuits. I mean, screwing with corruption investigations is one thing, but then lying to Congress about it? And they still don't have their stories straight weeks later? If the medium is the message, the history of this administration will be written in feces.

2 comments:

vince said...

Dan,

This attorney firing scandal is a scandal. It was disconcerting to hear Hillary Clinton dismiss the scandal by saying she was planning to fire most U.S. Attorneys, if she was elected. It sounds like we have gone back to the old 'spoils' system of bureaucracy. Ulysses Grant's administration started protecting civil employees because all government jobs were being used for voting bribes. The Hatch Act was the protector against political use of government jobs.

However, as far as Attorney Gonzales, I agree with Daniel Schorr. It is the least of Gonzales's lapses ... listen to:

Daniel Schorr

Vince said...

Dan,

I recommend to you avoiding graphic novels. There are too many great novels that behave themselves. There are too many classics to waste time on novels to demean humans. I did enjoy the movie "V for Vendetta", but wish the bloody knife scenes could have been toned down a bit (I closed my eyes). The movie had a point to make about the necessity of certain types of violence (I almost always disagree this thesis.) Each human life is worth better treatment ... even the bad guys. I am not against a good story, but I am against the 'graphic' part.

A couple of very mature Christians that I respect were discussing and laughing about "Kill Bill". With some trepidation I decided to see what they were raving about. I was appalled and never got beyond the kitchen scene. The beauty of humans should remain so.

Certainly there is a place for graphic violence, but only in the despising of graphic violence ... "Schindler's List" for instance.

Just a bit of elderly exhortation.

Your character and kindness seem to bear the violence well, but only in spite of these gruesome selections.

Try a few brilliantly non-graphic (classic) novels:

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

The Idiot by Dostoevsky

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Shiokari Pass by Ayako Muira

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betsy Snow

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Great Gatzby by Scott Fitzgerald

Hit anything of interest, yet?



Try a few non-graphic classic movies ...

The Third Man

Metropolis (1926)

Anything after 1920 by Chaplin.

Many directed by Hitchcock (Rebecca, Vertigo, Lifeboat, Rope, Rear Window, North by Northwest)

Many by Capra.

Any directed by Kenneth Branagh.