i was reluctant to start reading the book Anathem by Neal Stephenson because i was afraid that i would be depressed about living in the present. i voiced my apprehension to the author at a book reading here in Berlin. he thought it was a silly fear, and thus i started absorbing the pithy mathtastic volume. i usually jot down page numbers of my favorite passages at the front of the book, but since this one had been autographed and dedicated to me, i figured i shouldn’t sully it with my usual pencil scratches. [sidenote: why aren’t there ebook readers where i can annotate (underline and scrawl notes in the margin) and do full text search yet? get on it ebook creators.] so i twittered my three month journey through this mathic universe. notable quotes include:
p. 171: “When I recited the 127th through 283rd digits of pi, the fight went out of them.”
p. 210: “his plan had another advantage as well: it was flagrantly silly.” recreating battles with weeds vs. garden. awesome.
p. 351: “…desperate men living on the top of a mountain, eating lichens.”
p. 642: “We are speaking of an infinitesimal snatch of time just after the Big Bang…”
p.721: “anything else, as long as i have a channel open?” “is it a private channel?” “don’t be ridiculous,” he pointed out.
…and on page 799 reference to euclid’s proof that the square root of two is an irrational number. this was an incredible read, one which i hadn’t anticipated i would enjoy, but in the end it wasn’t the future world or its mathy inhabitants that drove the story. as always, it was the incredible characters that propel a narrative that only stephenson can weave into a cohesive story. i loved the whole journey.
i finished reading spook country last night in a fit of page-turning-late-nightedness. the book hit a little too close to home this time, sparking some sort of gibsonian convergence. i wonder, am i product of reading so much gibson, or are gibson’s inspirational subjects too close to who i am now? it was one thing after another with which i relate: the hardware hackers who help artists, scotch drinking new media journalists, the french chick, union square, cali, vancouver, river phoenix, cellphone tracking, cellphone encryption, maglev beds, aging powerbooks, and spray painted dumpsters.
perhaps, though, i just relate especially well to his leading ladies. i hope it’s just that.
a perfect sunday breakfast consists of oatmeal pancakes, pear juice, and the newest gibson.
dude, schneier, please please don’t write a rant that can so easily be blown out of proportion by other persons in the media. ok, i know we should be paranoid about all pseudo random number generators, but frankly all the media will read out of this piece is: ecc is b0rk3d omg!!11!!!11!
it really irks me that people crap on ecc (elliptical curve cryptography) just because they haven’t taken the time to look into some of the excellent literature on ecc’s use (and abuse, this is security, everything is broken as some point in time). even math kids should be studying up on this because wow is the math behind ecc fun.
the postman woke me at 9 am yesterday to deliver me ms. broket‘s the gentle art of domesticity. despite the surprise at being awoken after only a few hours of sleep, i went back to my warm bed then last night grabbed some lemons from my corner store. today i pulled on some hand-knit socks and baked up the “Natural Lemon Cake” from page 248. i modded the cake with silken tofu + vanilla soy milk instead of cream, some sunflower oil instead of melted butter and i added the juice of two lemons instead of one.
while the cake was baking i pored over the gorgeous pages of her book, marveling at the colors and textures and ideas. my favorite snippet so far is from page 116: “Embedded in the gentle arts is a slyly subversive streak that encourages free thought, individuality, creative self-expression, imaginative thought processes and not a little self-determinism. All this, and a great deal of pleasure, too.”
i stuck my amaryllis out the window to chill while perusing the pages of tulips and dahlias and lilac blooms. the cake finished, and though it didn’t rise as nicely as i had liked (i have no idea what self-rising flour is in german, i should have added more baking powder), it was delicious. for a modern and fresh take on the domestic arts from knitting to baking and back again, be sure to pick up this enchanting tome.
[my in-progress print o’ the wave couldn’t help but model with pages 154 and 155]
bruce schneier’s applied cryptography isn’t a new tome to many of you who follow this blog, but i had never cracked it open. i started with Chapter 11: Mathematical Background, mostly because i knew the familiarity of the math would draw me in faster than starting from the beginning. there was a time where i wouldn’t touch a book that included the word applied in the title, i fancied myself a pure math girl, one who didn’t dally with the banalities of real world problems. my old purist approach seems hilarious to me today as what i enjoy now is extremely hands-on and rarely theoretical in nature. i was worried the math included in the book would be too flippant or too mired in algorithmic code for me to enjoy it, but schneier’s writing is fantastic. even though i didn’t come across any math that i hadn’t studied, he includes a boatload of references for deeper reading. if nothing else, one should purchase the book for the 1,653 references listed. (is schneier an a.i.? how can one person possibly read that much?)
the author’s tone is relaxed, but precise. with talk of aliens and supercomputers, even the math chapter reads like science fiction. let’s just say i’m now inspired enough to absorb the other chapters, even the non-prime ones.
I read a recommendation of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell somewhere online as good modern science fiction, but I can’t remember where I saw it. The book has some fantastic writing, and in my typical manic fashion I mark the page numbers of my favorite quotes with a pencil at the front of the book so I can read them later.
p. 96 – She’s a born physicist with a better head for mathematics than I ever had, rather to her mother’s chagrin.
So I won’t give away the book’s clever structure entirely, but it isn’t completely science fiction, in fact the science fiction chunk is the smallest. That, however, didn’t deter me from devouring it chapter by delectable chapter.
p.52 – So I sat at the Bosendorfer and played the syphilitic crank Three Blind Mice, after the fashion of a mordant Prokofiev.