Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts in Books

I finished Iain M. Banks’ Look to Windward yesterday, and I liked it very much.

This is one more book in the author’s Culture series; if you’re not familiar with it, this book may be a good introduction. As usual for Banks, some parts are darkly pessimistic but a few shorter passages are simply hilarious. My favorite is where a pair of unnamed characters talk about (and, at the end, exclusively in) ship names:

…”Oh, come on. You have Zero Credibility.”

“And you’re Charming But Irrational.”

“While you’re Demented But Determined.”

“And You May Not Be The Coolest Person Here.”

“You’re making these up.”

“No I’m… hold on, sorry; was that a ship’s name?”

As I’ve said before, most of Banks’ ship names also sound perfectly plausible for weblogs.

Yesterday I received a box with a dozen or so books. A second one will arrive next week, I hope. From Not sure if I’ll do this again, at least not soon; shipping charges were higher than I had imagined initially.

As some of you may know, I’m a science-fiction collector. Twenty or even fifteen years ago, it was easy to buy SF paperbacks in Brazil; at least three bookstores got regular monthly shipments. Then the time between arrivals started to lengthen, and the quality started to drop. Today, every three months or so they get something straight off the so-called “bestseller” lists; Danielle Steel, Anne Rice, some Tom Clancy, and so forth. Bleh. About once a year I find a SF paperback worth buying.

For some years, I used to abuse my yearly US or Canada trips by coming back with huge heaps of books. Now that we’ve moved into a smaller apartment, even this had to be scaled down.

Anyway, as it seems there’ll be no such trip this year, I broke down and selected two dozen books which I’m pretty sure will be essential additions to my library. The latest from Iain M. Banks, Greg Bear, David Brin, Greg Egan, R. A. MacAvoy, Terry Pratchett, James P. Hogan, JanWillem van der Wetering, and so forth. I’ll try to write some brief comments on each one as I finish it.

Happiness is a new book… icon_biggrin.gif

For several reasons I decided to rename this weblog “Solipsism Gradient”. Blame it on having reread all of Iain M. Banks‘s Culture novels in a row…

…on the practical side, it’s shorter and easier to remember than “Stochastic Aleatory Ontological Expostulations”, or whatever it was before. At least for me. 😛

Now, can someone explain to me why weblogs are traditionally named like rock bands? (Or Culture starships, for that matter?)

Hi Michael, thanks for dropping by!
Michael Tsai wrote:

My guess is that Feynman’s Samba School comments can be found in Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman.

You’re right, I found my copy yesterday while reorganizing my library, and there it was on page 185 (the Bantam Books ’86 edition). I could find no reference to this on the web, though.

Andy Ihnatko’s Colossal Waste of Bandwidth points at Paul Hoffman’s site about Paul Erd?s, the Hungarian number theorist, who said about himself:

A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.

Paul Hoffman wrote an excellent biography of Erd?s, “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers” – which I coincidentally reread last month. The site itself is also interesting, with lots of number-theory stuff casually strewn about, and certainly the oddest site navigation bar I’ve ever seen.

Highly recommended.

Update: Oops. Forgot to link to the Paul Erd?s Information page, which has N additional links, and to the Erd?s Number Project, which attempts to track collaboration between mathematicians. The “Erd?s Number” is an integer that measures the link of collaborations between Erd?s and some other author.

I recall that Stan Kelly-Bootle, senior computerist and columnist extraordinaire (“more columns than the @#$%ing Parthenon”), once offered to co-write a paper with me, thus assigning me an Erd?s Number of 4 (or was it 5?); but it didn’t work out. I just read Stan’s recent SODA and was shocked to hear about his heart attack; hopefully he’ll be okay…

Just found out that Neil Gaiman, the author of “American Gods”, also has a weblog (or rather, a journal) up on his site.

His review of Terry Pratchett‘s “Night Watch” is excellent. As you may (not?) know, Neil and Terry have co-authored a great book called “Good Omens”. All are highly recommended.

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing fame has released his science fiction novel “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” in several formats… including a free download. Thanks, Cory!

More information here.

Very highly recommended!

Update: here’s a great review of the novel by Kevin Marks.

William Gibson

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One of my favourite writers, William Gibson, now has a great blog up. Excellent reading. Thanks to Boing Boing for the link!

Gibson says:

I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.

He seems to be one of the few people who watch TV even less than I do… but if you substitute “writing and debugging code” in the quote above, I could have said it myself… icon_wink.gif

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