What I’m Reading – October 2016

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb. So when I was a kid, Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean was one of my favorite books (still is).  This is kind of like the real life version.  A commando team went into Norway during the War and took out the Nazi facilities that were racing to make their own Atomic bomb.  It doesn’t get more high-stakes than that and the fact that it’s all a true story makes it even more interesting.
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Head First Mobile Web by Lyza Danger Gardner, Jason Grigsby.  I am continuing to work on my programming skills.  Mobile is an area I haven’t explored much so this is more of a way to let me see what’s involved.  It seems just figuring out what device the user has is tough, much less tailoring the experience for their specific needs!  Still, more people in the world have cell phones than working toilets, so mobile is the wave of the future.
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The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free by Alex Perry.  Speaking of those billions of cell phone users, Africa is one area where the usage of cell phones has exploeded due to the lack of infrastructure.  Most of what we see on the news is famine, war, and pestilence and yet, there is another Africa, wired and high-tech, out there.  This book tries to show both sides, using the Great Rift Valley as a metaphor of the two Africas.
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What I’m Reading – July 2016

Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money by Nathaniel Popper. Anybody who hasn’t heard of Bitcoin by now must be living on Mars.  Although I know a little about it, I wanted to get a better handle on how it works, why it works, and whether or not it really has a future.  This book seemed like a good place to start, especially since it was at my local library for free.  I look forward to exploring this subject in more depth over the coming months.

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Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande. I read Gawande’s book on checklists – The Checklist Manifesto –  and found that it was easy-to-read, interesting, and had practical applications.  I decided to read this one and see if that was again the case.  So far, it seems to be.  In the first chapter, Gawande talks about how hard it is to implement simple things like just having a doctor wash their hands frequently, which cuts the infection rates in hospitals significantly.  But humans are humans, and behavioral change is hard.

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Abyss Deep (Star Corpsman: Book Two) by Ian Douglas.  Ian Douglas has written many novels involving the Marines in space.  They are well researched hard science fiction with excellent combat scenes and enough techno-geekery that even an engineer can love them.  I think he’s one of the best military sci-fi writers out there.  the fact that he’s from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles from my hometown of Pittsburgh, makes me happy too!

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On Facebook and Readers who Lead…?

I use Facebook, while it’s nice for keeping track of friends, mainly for one thing:  keeping track of the books I read.  I guess I could use other applications to do that but since I am on Facebook once a day (at least) it’s easier just to use the built-in app for it.

But one thing that irritates me is the leaderboard.  I consider myself pretty well read but I know there’re quite a few books I haven’t read.  I’m never going to be in the top ten, and that’s fine with me.  What irks me is that the leaders’ claims seem to be, to me, a tad unrealistic.

For example, the woman in the lead claims to have read over 10,000 books.  Hmmm.  I’ve racked my memory trying to remember all the books I’ve read, and while I know there are a whole bunch that I’ve missed or forgotten about (and a lot of children’s books, both what I read as a kid and what I’ve read to my own child), I would be surprised if the number exceeded much more than a thousand or so.  And I read all the time.

So, 10,000 books.  We’ll assume she’s 30 – she doesn’t look much older.  Say she started reading at 5 years of age – maybe early, but we’ll assume children’s books.  At 1 book a day, that’s around 8,000 books.  Possible?  Maybe.

Except it isn’t.  There are books out there that can’t be read in a day (War and Peace, anyone?).  Even if she didn’t read serious books like that (all Harlequins, maybe) there had to be days where she didn’t have a chance to read (work puts a cramp in my reading time, for sure, as well as family stuff).

Let’s say she did, though.  What kind of quality of books?  If they were all potboilers, then 10,000 is a lot but it’s not very nourishing.  And if she burned through them and didn’t retain a lot, then what was the point?  Entertainment?  Doing that is only slightly better than watching TV!

Harriet Klausner is a (infamous?) name on Amazon that has drawn the same comments.  People say she just reads the summaries of the books and restates it.  Or that she just skims the books.  I don’t know.  But if being in the lead means reading mindless stuff or just skimming like an appetizer rather than tucking in like a main course, I feel pretty comfortable being back at number 870 or so…

What’s your opinion?

Scott