Sunday, January 20, 2013

I want my God back; and they send me a girl.

With Andrea and the boys in Minnesota, I've had a bit more time for reading. One of my goals is to read more fiction, so I finally opened up God Knows by Joseph Heller. +Elissa Ballman lent this to me some time ago, as I recall, after we discussed Heller's more famous Catch-22.

God Knows is the retelling of King David's life in the first person. It's terribly funny and, surprisingly enough, at times rather sad. One of the most amusing features is that Heller made Solomon a complete idiot (presumably prior to him receiving his famed wisdom from God):
   "Solomon, my wise child, how in the world did you ever remember all that?"
   "She wrote it down for me on my tablet. She also put this little bell around my neck. To remind me to look."
   "Sooner or later I was going to have to ask you about that bell. I thought it might be in case you got lost. You and your mother are very close, aren't you?"
   "I like to believe that we are," Solomon answers with a nod. "She sits at my right hand whenever we are together. We always think only the very best of each other. She thinks I'm a god, and I think she's a virgin. Tell me, Father," he inquires with enormous gravity, "is it possible that my mother can be a virgin?"
   "There you have me."
   "She's been married twice."
   "I wouldn't jump to conclusions."
   "I've been thinking hard about it."
   "I thought I smelled wood burning."
   "I've been thinking also that I would have forty thousand horses and twelve thousand horsemen. I want to speak three thousand proverbs, and my songs will be about a thousand and five. From Dan even to Beersheba, when I have my way, every man will dwell safely under his vine and his fig tree, if I leave him his vine and leave him his fig tree. I want to cut a baby in half."
   "Good God! You do?"
   "I do."
   "Why?"
   "To show how fair I can be. Everyone will think I was very fair."
"Everyone will think you're nuts," I feel I have to let him know. "I think you'll go down in history as the biggest damned imbecile who ever lived if you tried even a single one of the things you've mentioned today. I won't breathe a word of your stupidity to a soul, and you don't say anything to anyone about any of this either. We will keep it our secret."
   "I want to build a navy."
   "Oh, my God!"
I found myself laughing out loud all too often while reading on the bus or at home. Surprisingly, based on a quick check of Wikipedia's page on David and of Solomon, it looks like Heller was quite accurate with many of the events and people he described in his book.

Having enjoyed God Knows so much, I might just re-read Catch-22 this year and relive Yossarian's struggle to survive the ever-increasing number of bombing raids.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From the archives: a hobble through Discovery Park

Shortly after I got back into town, I was bummed by my inability to go on a long, arduous hike like I had wanted to -- on account of my bum foot. Nonetheless, I found that I could hobble along at a slow but reasonable clip if I wore my hiking boots.

Not far from our house (less than a mile) is this great big park -- Discovery Park, which turns out to be Seattle's largest park. So I drove over there and went for a hike. I meant to post these pictures earlier, but better late than never, right?


There were plenty of trails like this that very much reminded me of Mom and Dad's place in Minnesota.

That's not rain -- just dust on my phone.




Stairs with a broken foot? Not a problem.
Definitely not the biggest trees I saw, but  I am always easily impressed by nature.


I was surprised at how amazingly secluded places in Discovery Park seem. I walked into this clearing and had I not drove into the park from Seattle, I would have thought I was in the middle of nowhere. No city sounds, no other people within earshot.


And further proof that it's quiet and natural, though I dared not go any closer, lest it attack me.


I walked about 1.3mi that morning, and it was well worth the foot pain (which, by the way, should go away soon, as my foot is healing reasonably well).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bachelorhood Journal: Day 20ish

Day 20. Maybe. I somehow make it out of the house every morning and onto the bus. So far, I've even made it to work. How it happens, I'm not quite sure. Residual rum from the night before. The promise of sushi (which I missed today due to two meetings sandwiching our soon-to-be biweekly sushi get-together).

I constantly have to remind myself that the locals fear the cold. I found myself on the wrong end of "how about this weather?" today when I responded - much to my chagrin - "Isn't it great! It's so warm out!" Apparently mid-30s is not, in fact, warm, but rather cold. This probably also explains why I get odd looks at the bus stop.

In other news, tentative plans are in motion for a trip up Mt. Rainier. Some coworkers and I are planning on hiking up this bad-boy this summer, if all goes well. If you look carefully, you can see Rainier in the background of this picture.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 in books

In 2012, I read as many books as in 2011 (though not as many as I'd like):

Living Buddha, Living Christ (Thich Nhat Hanh)
True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart (Thich Nhat Hanh)
The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (Thich Nhat Hanh)
One-Minute Mindfulness (Donald Altman)
Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life (Len Fisher)
Farewell, My Subaru (Doug Fine)
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Richard Louv)
Programming Collective Intelligence (Toby Segaran)
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Fisher, et al)
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Richard Feynman)
Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive (Bruce Schneier)
The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead (Scott Kenemore)

Not surprisingly, I didn't read a single fiction book this year, though this last one (a gift from +Krista) might be considered something close to one.

As I finish some of these books, I've been sending them out into the great big world with one of my projects, lendr.org, as a way to both [a] get rid of household clutter and [b] to let others enjoy things for which I have little to no use. The World We Have and True Love are already out there somewhere; the former, I dropped off at Parkour Visions, and the latter I don't remember where I left it.

Farewell, My Subaru was a gift from +Aaron and +Elissa Ballman that I read and promptly returned so they could enjoy it. It was a very entertaining read about a man that setup a ranch in New Mexico and tried to live as off-the-grid and self-sufficient as possible.

Most the other books were actually library-borrowed. Last Child in the Woods is about how childrens' distance from nature negatively effects their behavior and cognition (and, inversely, how proximity to nature is good for us). I enjoyed it, but it did get a bit long and repetitive.

Programming Collective Intelligence was a somewhat tedious survey of machine learning. An interesting read, but one I wouldn't buy.

Getting to Yes, as with other books (and podcasts; see Planet Money's An FBI Hostage Negotiator Buys A Car) on negotiating are really interesting to me -- someone who has terrible intuition about negotiating. This book, written almost 30 years ago, was a great resource for learning about many of the aspects of negotiating deals.

Schneier's Liars and Outliers was a great, approachable book on security. Not merely technical security, mind you, but the gamut of topics from biology and evolution to psychology and society. This is a book that I would actually recommend to others that have no particular technical or security interest, as it helps you think in a new way about why people defect and why you can only go so far in law enforcement, counter-terrorism, and so on.

In 2013, I'd like to break my habit of reading only non-fiction. I'm considering Frank Herbert's Dune and Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, among a few others.

Bachelorhood Journal: Day 11

Day 11. I went to work on Day 2. Forgot it's a regular thing. Spent days 4-8 working again. This sucks.

Started bachelorhood making real meals, shaving regularly and so forth. Now I eat Oreos and have mostly given up on appearances. My natural, Minnesotan resilience to near-freezing temperatures combined with my mountain man beard scares the Seattle natives.

Mostly pre-beard.
On the plus side, my productivity at home is ever-increasing. I've been putting out more LOC for Babbage than I have in a long time. It won't be long now.

My trip to Discovery Park was awesome, and I even ventured out on the motorcycle on New Years Day: