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Archive for May, 2012

 

The worst misfortune that can happen to an ordinary man is to have an extraordinary father.
  —    O’Malley Austin
[I still would have liked to take my chances…   —   KMAB]
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Woman was created from the rib of man
She was not made from his head
To top him
Nor from his feet,
To be trampled on.
She was made from his side,
To be equal to him
From under his arm
To be protected by him
From near his heart
To be loved by him.
  —    author unknown
[For another perspective, see one of my own poems:  “What’s A Woman Worth?“, located on my Poems page.  And, yes, I know both are probably incredibly chauvinistic, but please allow an older man his foibles.   —    KMAB]
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Sometimes it can be a real effort to keep up with some of the things I’m trying to get across on this site.  Generally, I’m just commenting about things I see happening in my life or around me.  I try to relate my observations, books I’ve read, movies (and TV) I’ve seen, poetry and music I’ve listened to (mostly what’s moved me).  Occasionally, I want to say something, but I’m waiting for something else to happen or for an idea to gel in my head.  Sometimes the thing is important, usually it’s trivial – but it ends up being a blog-blocker anyway.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the Avengers movie.  I held off on reviewing it because I wanted to see it a second time (this time in 3D), before I cast anything in stone (or as “stone” as a blog can be).  Anyway, I’ve not been able to get around to a second showing, so I’m just going to go ahead with my review of my initial sitting.  If you see only one comic book / super-hero movie this year, the Avengers should be it!!
This movie has all the great things about a great action movie – heroes, believable villains, action / fights, special effects, reasonable story / plot, and a little romance and something hard to find in most movies – pacing.  But most of all this movie has two things:  it has humor sprinkled in liberally and it has the HULK!  Now if you’ve seen the other two Hulk movies, you’re probably saying, “yeah, right!”  Well, I am!  Downey (as Tony Stark / Ironman) carries the movie with wit and panache, Thor and Captain America provide the beefcake, and then the HULK shows up to steal the last 20 minutes.
Unfortunately for Batman and Spiderman, both to be released later this year – the bar now seems set impossibly high…  We’ll see.  Bottom line:  Highly recommended!!
Last night I completed “Weaving The Web” by Tim Berners-Lee (1999©).  Now, in case you’ve been living under a rock, TB-L is the man who invented the World Wide Web.  He also invented web servers and web browsers.  He came up with the ideas and then worked it out with a colleague (Robert Cailliau) and a student intern (Nicola Pellow).  This book is the story of what they did and how they did it.  It is a story of insight, foresight and individual effort to turn an idea into a grass-roots movement, into a world-wide phenomenon, into the World Wide Web we know today.
The book is relatively easy to read and pretty lacking in computer mumbo-jumbo, but it is not read without some effort (or at least some prior understanding of web / computer history).  I found TB-L’s ideas about the future of the web (the “semantic web”) to be very interesting and, looking back, I wish he had spent more time explaining it more clearly.  As it is, I went on to Google and TED to get more information about it.  Having just skimmed the surface, it is obvious this is where the future of information retrieval is going.  My challenge (or the challenge for any IT professional) is getting up to speed and grasping more than just the theory behind it.  That will require hands-on experience though and other than using my own time, I don’t see how that will happen (at work).
Anyway, it’s nice to be able to look ahead and see where the world is going…
Bottom line: I highly recommend this book to anyone in technology and anyone who wants to be reasonably well paid in the next 20-30 years.
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And all of you this: I love you for what you might be; I’m deeply disturbed by what you are.
  —   Henry F. Ottinger
[My feelings about the Religious Right in America…   —   KMAB]
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Memorial Day

Monday 28 May 2012

To those who’ve served, to those still serving, to those who’ve lost…
We remember…

Thank You, Veterans!

Some give more than others…

Some give all…

We thank you…
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Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade.  Not the kind of writing that you’ll find in this book, anyway.  It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head — even if in the end you conclude that someone else’s head is not a place you’d really like to be.
  —    Malcolm Gladwell
From the preface to his book:  “What The Dog Saw
[…And certainly not the kind of writing you’ll find on this blog.  But I still hope you come to enjoy the view!   —   KMAB]
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I grow old learning something new everyday.
  —    Solon
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My sister Carm with her newly Harvard Law School graduated son: Patrice!!

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Here’s two more books which fall under the general category of “Serendipity and Chaos“.  They are: “What The Dog Saw” (2009©) and “Linked” (2002©).
The first, “What The Dog Saw“, was written by Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell is science-popularizer style writer in the vein of Isaac Asimov.  Basically, he looks for interesting areas of science and then explains them to the general public.  This is the fourth book by Gladwell which I own and have read.  The others are: “The Tipping Point“, “Outliers” and “Blink“.  Those three books are single source texts.  This book is a compilation of a number of stories from his articles previously published in The New Yorker.
The book is divided into three sections and the articles (chapters) are meant to focus around the group headings, which are:  1) Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius; 2) Theories, Predictions and Diagnoses; and, 3) Personality, Character and Intelligence.  Unfortunately, the group titles do not provide adequate descriptions of the individual articles.  It is enough to say, that each chapter is a mini-book in itself and Gladwell is a very good writer (at least his writing suits MY tastes).  I won’t describe the articles individually except to say the book title comes from the story about Cesar Milan, aka “The Dog Whisperer“.  Most reviews of Milan’s techniques describe what we humans see when he is training the animals.  This article poses the questions: “What does the dog see?” and directly related: “Is that what makes the technique work?”
Bottom line: like Gladwell’s other three books, this is Highly Recommended!!
The second book is: “Linked“, and was written by Albert-László Barabási.  In this book, the author attempts to explain the current state of network theory.  The first couple of chapters cover the history of network theory and then we are quickly shifted into “current” (circa 1990-2002) theory.  The author contends there are three basic types of networks – “centralized”, “decentralized”, and “distributed”.  The author goes on to explain why he feels distributed networks are emergent and how they exist in a broad range of settings, hardware, software, social, economic and biological.  He has an additional premise they are distributed because there are inherent fail-over mechanisms in them which support the network in ways the other two networks simply can’t reproduce.  Most significantly, from my point of view, he is the first person I’ve heard explain both the “rich-get-richer” and the “winner-takes-all” results of distributed networking concepts in economics.  Finally, the author provides an explanation of the concept of “power law” and how it acts in the context of networking – and he does it with a minimum of formulae and in plain English.  All in all, I found this book a fascinating read and highly recommend it.
Gladwell’s was a $2 clearance book from Half-Price Books and Barabási’s was a discounted (used) book purchased from my $50 Amazon birthday gift card.  The book cost more to ship than to buy!  Very good values, if I do say so myself!!
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On This Day In:

 

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And yet another comic book collection from my son, James.  This one is titled: “The Flash: Omnibus“, (2011©).
I have very mixed feelings about this book – and at over 430 pages and hard-bound, this is definitely a book!  I liked the character of the Flash when I was growing up.  Marvel Comics didn’t really have the same  kind of super-powered hero.  They had fast heroes, but nothing like the Flash.  But, in the DC universe, the Flash was still a 2nd / 3rd tier hero to me.  Well behind Batman and Superman (1st tier) and many others (like Green Lantern) (2nd tier).
Anyway, in this story we have the creation arch for the re-boot of the whole of the DC universe.  The Flash breaks the dimensional barrier and splits the universe into 52 different versions.  This means the DC universe has a virtually unlimited number of options in re-writing all of its heroes with new endings to all of the old stories.  While I don’t think this is actually “practical”, it is theoretically possible with an internally consistent universe logic.
Now, why MY mixed feelings?  Mostly because the book is divided up by two artists, one of whom I like (about 1/3rd of the book) and one I don’t really care for (the other 2/3rd).   Had I paid the full, retail price for this book, I would not have been a happy camper.   Between the bad drawing and the jumping around in the story (kind of embedded universes), the story suffers and I was left feeling, who are these people and why should I care about them?  In the end, I didn’t really, which was too bad.
Will I keep reading The Flash?  Yeah, as long as they’re being supplied by my son for free, but I don’t think I’d ever actually pay for them – particularly if the book has the bad artist.
Bottom line: weak recommendation.
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Another comic book collection from my son, James.  This is the re-boot of the Justice League of America as the “Justice League International: vol 1“, (2008©).  Does it work?  Yeah.  Is it great?  No, not really.
To start off with, the book is kind of drawn from the early 60’s method.  The book is hard-bound, rather than just thick paper like most of these “modern” collections.  And it’s done on old school paper, not the glossy stuff they put everything one these days.  Overall effect – I liked it!!
Now, meat and potatoes – the art work itself is good – old school, so not the super-heroic, ultra-muscle drawing so common today.  The story is well put together and has a decent flow.  It doesn’t jump all over the place like an Ang Lee movie.  As a first introduction to many of these characters, the book was well done.  Some of the characters are “old”, like Green Lantern, but he’s not the Hal Jordan character I grew up with.  Also, Batman is a very interesting character / leader in this version of the League.  I found that intriguing, because I was always used to Batman being the loner.  Finally, I appreciated how the various heroes have personality quirks which cause them to rub each other the wrong way.  That made for group dynamics I don’t remember ever seeing in DC Comics before.
Bottom line:  recommended reading.
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This is another of the comics from my son, James.  In this one, “The Flash: Rebirth“, (2010©), the main character (hero) is The Flash, who’s super-power is speed.  As a youth, I enjoyed The Flash, but he was never one of my favorites.  Basically, I knew him from a few of his own issues and from his participation in the Justice League of America.
With the passage of time, most of these characters have been “reborn” either by retiring or somehow otherwise transitioning (dying) into a new mortal / human who gains the super power.  This is one of those stories.  Basically, the story brings back all of the “Flashes” from 1940-ish onwards and throws them together for this series (book form).  The story line is rather disjointed due to poor character introductions and was difficult for me to follow.  Fortunately, there is a story arch summary at the end of the book which explains what was supposed to be happening in the book.  I think it’s an indictment of the comic when it has to be explained in text form at the end of the book.  Oh, well…
I liked the art work a lot – dramatic (which suits my taste).  The writing, so-so…   Weak recommendation.
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This review is for the book: “Napalm & SillyPutty“, by George Carlin (2001©).   Way back when I was a youth, I heard the “Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV” and “The Hippy-Dippy Weather Man” skits, and I was hooked as a Carlin fan.  Carlin passed away a couple of years ago (2008) now, but he remains in my mind as a “definer” – a dictionary – of words, pre- and post-PC (politically correct).  Carlin was an atheist who railed against BIG (organized) religion and unwilling to trust government at any level.
This book is NOT his best stuff.  Most of it seems to be re-hashes of things he said on TV or in magazine interviews.  Still, some of it is pretty funny.  George can make you laugh, he can make you cry and he could make me laugh until I cried.  Often imitated, and rarely equaled, we are unlikely to see his like again anytime soon.  RIP, George.
I got this book on clearance at Half-Price Books for $2.00 and it was worth that just to remind me of the old days.  If you can get it cheap or at a library (free), it’s worth reading.  Otherwise, just YouTube George Carlin and watch him do his thing.  You’ll probably get more out of it.  Sorry, George – weak recommendation…
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Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know.
  ––    Michel de Montaigne
[For another perspective, please read Robert Graves’ “In Broken Images” on my Poems page.  —   KMAB]
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It is far better to know something about everything than to know all about one thing.  Universality is the best.
  —    Blaise Pascal
From:  “Pensées
[UBI = Useless Bits of Information — KMAB]
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