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EMT 2/12/23 | Main | Super Sports Ball Bowl Championship Game Today!
February 12, 2023

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 02-12-2023 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]

021223-Library.jpg

(ht: Weak Geek)

Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading. Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material, even if it's nothing more than the verbatim transcript of FJB's State of the Union Address. As always, pants are required, especially if you are wearing these pants...

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, pour yourself a cup of whatever bitter brew you're drinking, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


PIC NOTE

Today's pic is courtesy of Weak Geek, a regular commenter on the Sunday Morning Book Threads:

Prof --

I tripped across this on Facebook on Wednesday night. Supposedly built by a German octogenarian who died recently. No one knew he had done this. More than 70,000 books.

Shared by Goodwill Librarian on FB. Link to something called Brico et Deco.

I prefer practical shelves.

Weak Geek

I, too, prefer more practical shelving, but you have to admire the ingenuity of using every available inch for book shelves.

CHANGING READING HABITS OVER TIME

I have noticed some distinct changes in my reading habits over the years. I suspect all of us go through various phases of reading, depending on where we are in our lives and what is interesting to us at the time.

When I was a child, I loved ghost stories and tales of adventure. What young boy doesn't? So I devoured anthologies of age-appropriate ghost stories, along with mystery stories like The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators (many of the mysteries in the latter series had a supernatural component, though it was easily explainable by the end, like a Scooby-Doo mystery).

Then I discovered science fiction when I was around 12 or so and haven't looked back since. It's been a lifelong passion of mine and I'll always return to science fiction again and again. I just enjoy the sense of wonder and achievement to be found in stories that take humanity to very edge of our capabilities as a species.

I started reading fantasy in my early teens and that has also been a lifelong journey for me. Technically, I suppose I started reading it earlier, as I read Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain and C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, but then I *really* got into fantasy as a teenager after I read Lord of the Rings. Again, I just enjoy stories of adventure, heroism, strong characters who save the day (regardless of gender), and so forth.

After 9/11, I became much more interested in the world around me, so I started reading quite a few books on Islam to understand their psychology and religious/political ideology. Along the way, I started reading THIS website and numerous others to understand my own political leanings, which are decidedly conservative. I was also working on a project that involved teaching students mathematics so I delved into science and math to learn more about those subjects. I may be a failed physics major, but I do still love a good book on science!

Now, I spend a lot of time reading books on education and learning, as that's a large part of my job. You'd be surprised at how much we understand about how people *really* learn, but very little of that is implemented in the classroom.

And of course, I still read fantasy and science fiction, though at this point in my life it's to escape the bizarre reality we actually live in. The world is getting stranger and stranger every day to the point where even the weirdest stories in fiction tend to make more sense to me. That does not reflect well on us as a species. I'm also open to reading more diverse stories, in the true sense of the word, not in the DIE sense, especially those written by Morons (I have a couple lined up in my TBR pile right now).

I don't know what's next in my reading journey...Perhaps when I reach retirement I'll find some excellent books on hobbies I want to pursue...

++++++++++

021223-Joke.jpg

++++++++++

IT PAYS TO INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER

I encountered some unusual words in one of the books I've been reading this week, so I had to look them up:

peristyle - n. - a row of columns surrounding a space within a building such as a court or internal garden or edging a veranda or porch. Tetrastoön is a rarely used term for this style.

infundibular - adj. - shaped like a funnel

columbarium - n. - a room or building with niches for funeral urns to be stored

++++++++++

MORON RECOMMENDATIONS

Greetings! I enjoy the weekly book items; I am a long-time English teacher and I do some writing and editing on the side (between grading papers). I did some editing for a friend who is publishing his first historical novel, The Girl in the Thistles by S.K.Sandvig. [Amazon Link - PS]

Here's the book jacket blurb: Emilie, the 19-year old daughter of a Sioux mother and a Scottish father, finds her home destroyed when her clan is caught up in the US-Dakota war of 1862. Her mother is sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, and Emilie sets out to find her father, who has been missing since the beginning of the war. With help from two new and unlikely friends, Eustis and Anders, she begins a treacherous and emotional journey to track him down. Will she find him? Will her mother be set free? And will Emilie be able to rebuild the home she's lost?

The story is well-written and thoroughly researched; it includes accurate history, balanced portrayals of different groups, mystery, romance and a sympathetic coming-of-age story about a young woman caught between two warring cultures.

Writing Teacher

Comment: This came to me via the Book Thread mail bag (i.e., the Gmail account I use for the Book Thread items) and I always like to include recommendations from lurkers when possible. Sounds like a decent coming-of-age story for a young woman struggling to figure out who she is amidst the chaos and conflicts of mid-19th century America. NOTE: the American Civil War was also happening at this time...

+++++

How apropos that you started with a discussion of AI. I just finished The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, by Erik Larson. His principle thesis is that we are nowhere even close to general AI, and are, in fact, looking in the wrong places, using the wrong tools.

The book starts with a discussion of Turing's work, "deep learning", and the differences between deduction, induction, and abduction, aka inference. He then takes a tour through the last 40 years or so of efforts to replicate the human mind, but ultimately concludes that it's futile, if for no other reason than that we don't even know how WE think, much less how to imbue a machine with that ability. In effect, we're the guy looking for his car keys in the wrong spot because that's where the light is good.

The bottom line is that until we have a much better theoretical understanding of how our brains develop the educated guesses we use to navigate the world, GAI ain't happening. He argues for much more foundational work in neuroscience by individuals, as opposed to simply throwing teams of engineers at the problem.

p.s. Insty has a nice piece this morning on this topic. Just search Robots.

Posted by: Archimedes at February 05, 2023 09:06 AM (eOEVl)

Comment: Larson seems to make a good point in that we don't understand how WE think or how any animal really thinks. So how can we build a working intelligence? It may not be a completely futile endeavor, it just that we are still in very infancy stages of understanding human thinking. We have tremendous capacity for sorting through patterns via computers. But we humans can do it on a scale that dwarfs computation and don't even understand how it's possible.

+++++

I just can't read only Doom Patrol stories, even if the calendar is ticking. And I'm still on a respite from poker.

That's why, to my surprise, I'm reading an Ellery Queen mystery, There Was an Old Woman.

The Old Woman (70!) is a wealthy manufacturer who dominates her six offspring, sired by two husbands. The three oldest children, by Husband No. 1 -- long missing and declared dead -- are twistos. (Bidens?) The eldest son, who takes umbrage at everything, challenges one of his half-brothers to a duel. Pistols at dawn on the front lawn. Ellery surreptitiously replaces the rounds with blanks -- but somebody switches in a live round, and bang! A man is dead.

The book overuses exclamation points and italic type, and Inspector Queen's detectives aren't very intelligent. (One doesn't understand "universal.") And Ellery tosses out $50 words, making me feel not very intelligent. I'm still enjoying the book.

I've read that one of the EQ authors focused on the "how," and the other on the "who." I like the "who;" we get interludes of Ellery visiting each of the weirdos. Experience with EQ has me thinking I know who's guilty. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: Weak Geek at February 05, 2023 09:10 AM (Om/di)

Comment: Ellery Queen gets mentioned quite a bit around here. I'll have to check out some of those stories someday. I know a long, long time ago, I had a collection of Ellery Queen short stories (I think), though I can't remember the title or any of the plots. I do have fond memories of the book, so I'm guessing I enjoyed the stories. I do like how the authors seem to have divided the labor in crafting stories according to their strengths. The best collaborators do try to write according to their own strengths, complementing their partners' weaknesses in writing.

+++++

The discovery aspect was getting started on The Landmark Herodotus. I can't compare this translation to others but I'm finding it well done. Herodotus is usually mentioned for his book but I sense that it was more often heard than read in his day. It has a feel of Homer's epics about it. The Landmark translation has a conversational feel that I like. I'm just on the first chapter, so haven't got to the weirder stuff. Like with any of the Landmark series, which are all excellent, there is an ongoing battle between reading the text and getting lost in the copious maps and footnotes.

Posted by: JTB at February 05, 2023 10:10 AM (7EjX1)

Comment: "It was more often heard than read in his day." Sounds familiar, like a coffee table book that everyone just has to have to show off how well-read they are, yet no one has read beyond the blurb on the back cover. From just a cursory glance at his Wikipedia article, it does sound like Herodotus was keen on preserving events for posterity, though how well he achieved this feat is still open to debate.

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (630 Moron-recommended books so far!)

+-----+-----+-----+-----+

WHAT I'VE ACQUIRED THIS PAST WEEK

In the interests of "completionism" I've been trying to finish various series of books. I'm currently working on completing the The Harpers, which is a series of 16 (mostly) stand-alone novels set in the Forgotten Realms campaign world for Dungeons and Dragons. As with most books of this nature, they can be a bit hit or miss, but I find them to be good "popcorn" fare when you don't want to read anything too serious or depressing. These days, I can use some light-hearted, enjoyable adventure stories with absurd plots and overpowered characters.

  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 04 - The Night Parade by Scott Ciencin
  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 05 - The Ring of Winter by James Lowder
  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 06 - Crypt of the Shadowking by Mark Anthongy
  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 10 - Masquerades by Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb
  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 11 - Curse of the Shadowmage by Mark Anthony
  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 12 - The Veiled Dragon by Troy Denning
  • Forgotten Realms: The Harpers 13 - Silver Shadows by Elaine Cunningham
WHAT I'VE BEEN READING THIS PAST WEEK:
  • Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett -- The sequel to Foundryside, exploring more about the nature of the magic system...
  • Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett -- A magical version of Skynet takes over the world (seriously)...
  • Swamp Yankee 1 - Glitter Girl by Moron Author James Y. Bartlett. Buck Throckmorton highly recommended it, so I'm giving it a try. So far, it's like a cross between Haven (with no supernatural elements) and Justified (with less snark). Pretty good stuff!
  • Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover -- Luke Skywalker is in a gay love triangle with Emperor Palpatine (who's dead) and a supervillain who wants Luke to be the next Emperor. Not really, but LGBTQ+ could probably read it that way.

That's about all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your kind words regarding the Sunday Morning Book Thread. This is a very special place. You are very special people (in all the best ways!). The kindness, generosity, and wisdom of the Moron Horde knows no bounds. Let's keep reading!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, reading recommendations, or discussion topics that you'd like to see on the Sunday Morning Book Thread, you can send them to perfessor dot squirrel at-sign gmail dot com. Your feedback is always appreciated! You can also take a virtual tour of OUR library at libib.com/u/perfessorsquirrel. Since I added sections for AoSHQ, I now consider it OUR library, rather than my own personal fiefdom...

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 02-05-23 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)

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