You Can Read These Books with Strings

August 3, 2011 - 11:08 pm No Comments

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of physics, and for some reason that intimidates people.  I have a new nickname at work, which has been used in jest, in earnest, and in mockery all: Lil Miss Science, usually followed by “over there”.

But here’s the real secret:

You can be too.

If you’ve ever logged on to my Goodreads account, you’ll see a slew of books on the subject, especially regarding physics of a quantum nature (though recently I’ve been branching out into pure mathematics and even geometry, Euclidian and non- both, but that’s a blog for another time).  Most of them have five stars, few of them have three or less.  And I am about to tell you which ones you can read off the bat, knowing only the maths you learned in high school.  Don’t scoff.  I failed algebra.  Twice.

In the Beginning:

If you really want broad, sweeping strokes, only touching on hard physics to get you prepared, start with Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Ah, I can see you being intimidated again, stop that.  I read this one over the course of a week while on vacation in North Carolina (because that’s what you do on vacation).  Not only will this book brush you up on your physics, the title is not really a lie – it’s got a little bit of everything in there, though it’s steered mostly toward the natural sciences.  And it’s clever.  And you’ll enjoy it.

For a more focused but still broad overview, try Simon Singh’s The Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe.  This was something I read in college while sitting alone in the cafeteria, busily not making friends.  Everything is explained clearly, and while it does get into a few technicalities, there are helpful pictures and charts, and if you don’t follow the math exactly (fuck, no one does) that’s perfectly okay, you’ll get more than the gist of it.

I Have the Science Channel and I Have Seen The Universe:

So you actually know what I’m going on about when I say quantum entanglement and dark matter.  Then you should read A Zeptospace Odyssey: A Journey into the Physics of the LHC by Gian Francesco Giudice.  Do not take it lightly when I say I have not been this impressed with a book – nonwithstanding a technical book – since I read House of Leaves.  And Maker above this is about nine trillion times easier to understand.  Giudice ties everything to easy-to-understand concepts and even popular culture, from Sherlock Holmes to the power output of the engine in a Ferrari Scuderia (he uses that last one for the mass to energy ratio, you’ll like it).  And you’ll get to learn fun facts like, if the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) was constructed entirely out of Swiss chocolate, it would have cost the same to build. This is what would happen if I was actually a physicist, binged on Top Gear, and then wrote a book.  Except you can actually understand A Zeptospace Odyssey. I laughed.  Out loud.  While reading this book.  To make it all the more impressive, this book was written by a native speaker of Italian.  In English.  You may commence feeling like a failure… now.

And if you haven’t already, read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell.  There are not difficult books.  I promise.  And if you get the fancy version, they have really nice pictures.  And Star Trek references!

I Have Made a Schrodinger’s Equation Cake:

No, really.  I have.

And if you’re like me, you’ll want to read Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law.  You may begin to feel a little intimidated, and this time it’s justified.  I’ll admit, there were parts of this book that I skimmed, but it’s not hard to get what the author, Peter Woit, is saying at all.  Though the math is a bit weeooweeoo scary, the points are clearly and concisely covered, and with a tinge of dark humor as well.  It’s always good to understand the alternate theories in physics today, if you’re interested in any of them, and string theory, despite its myriad Nova Science Now specials, honestly does come up a bit short.  Should we entirely discount it?  I don’t know, read the book and decide for yourself.

I Breathe Math:

I don’t.  This one was beyond me but there was so much good stuff in it I plowed through until I simply felt like taking a bath with a hair dryer: Nothingness: The Science of Empty Space by Henning Genz starts off easy-peasy, but about halfway through I knew I’d gotten everything out of this book I possibly could.  It starts pretty much where all the others leave off: the details.  I believe particle spin is introduced in chapter 2 or 3 and while I have a (tentative) grasp on that, there’s a point where even I shake my head, sigh, and make a special, defeatist library trip.  That all said, what I did understand was definitely worth the trouble.  It’s fascinating to learn about all the weird things that happen in what we considered to be The Vacuum of Spaaaaaace.  If you’re into that, give it an honest effort.  I did.

So there you go.  Physics is phun.  I swear.  And hell, you might even learn something.

The Universe on a T-Shirt

July 17, 2011 - 7:20 pm No Comments

The Universe on a T-Shirt by Dan Falk is a book which starts at the beginning and ends at the present, telling the story of the famed Theory of Everything, a theory – first in religion and now in quantum physics – which should be able to explain everything ever, quite literally, with an equation short enough to fit on a t-shirt.  However, in its quest for simplicity, the theory so far has failed.

And so has this book.

There’s a fine balance between simplicity and too little information.  Parallel with today’s Theories of Everything, this book just doesn’t quite cut the mustard.  There are places where Falk seems to go on for days about things we learned in middle school – possibly because they’re simple to understand.  And then there are places where the sheer simplicity of the book in its efforts to mirror the ever-elusive ToE is simply too simple.

Now, I’m not so hot at math, but in layman’s terms, I’ve wrapped my head around a good deal of physics, from spin to quark flavors to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.  I would go so far as to say that on a basic level, I understand quantum theory, from physics to electrodynamics to entanglement.  In fact, I think anyone could if they just sat down and watched as much of the Science Channel as I have found possible to do.  However, while reading Universe on a T-Shirt, I was confused – honestly confused – by Einstein’s relativity.  Now, these days, this is high school stuff.  And the problem wasn’t me, trust me.  It was the absolute dumbing-down of the content.  In his attempts to cut out the mathematical fat, a thing which, trust me, I very much appreciate, Falk has cut out the core of the theory.  I read the same three pages over and over, saying to myself, “No, but wait, I know this already…” but in the first-grade manner in which it was presented, I really couldn’t understand it.  Too much was left out, too much was simplified, and too much was just told wrong.  That there is the best example I can give of the overall presentation of the information in Universe on a T-Shirt.

Perhaps it’s ironic (or perhaps it isn’t) that it was Einstein himself who said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”  This book is courageous, I’ll give it that.  But it’s sure not genius.

Allow me to bring you joy.

June 29, 2011 - 6:35 pm 1 Comment

Toasted garlic lemon chick peas.

Let me show them to you.

I got so many inquiries about this on Twitter I decided to devote a whole post to this delicious concoction so that you can make them in your own home and stop pestering me about them.

Whatcher gonna need:
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp dried lemon zest OR the juice of one lemon
1 tsp margarine/butter
1/2 tsp olive oil
A pinch of salt and pepper
Large frying pan and lid
Colander
Paper towels

First things first – prep:

Open the chick peas and dump them in the colander.  Shake them around to get them as dry as possible.  Then line a bowl with a paper towel and pour the chick peas into the bowl.  Let them sit a moment while you put the frying pan over a medium heat and put in the 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 a teaspoon of margarine – not the whole teaspoon, just half of it for now.

Fun fact: Why butter AND oil?  Butter or margarine is for taste.  Oil doesn’t absorb as much into the food and takes a much higher temperature to burn.  A little of both is delicious and a better environment for your food!

At this point you can also chop up your four cloves of garlic.  Do them to a consistency you like: if you don’t want to actually eat any of the garlic pieces, halve them.  If you don’t mind munching some (absolutely delicious) roasty-toasty garlic, chop it up fine.

Let’s get cooking:

At this point you can go ahead and pour the chick peas into the hot pan.  A word of warning: they’re going to sizzle, since they’re very moist on the inside, and sometimes they even pop with enough force to escape from the pan.  Just chuck ‘em back in.  Add your lemon zest or juice now as well so it has enough time to integrate well into the chick peas.  DO NOT COVER, since you want the peas to become as dry as possible.

Depending on the size of your pan, you can let these guys toast up for between ten to fifteen minutes.  Every few minutes, put the lid on the frying pan, hold it down tight, and give those chick peas a good hard shake.  Flip ‘em all around, take the lid back off, and let them toast a little more.

Once the chick peas are looking dry and significantly darker than when they started, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter and your garlic.  Let it toast up, continuing to put the lid on every now and again to give your chick peas and garlic a proper saute.  This step should take between five and seven minutes, and you can consider your garlic good and done when it’s toasted brown on all sides.

Take the chick peas off of the heat and sprinkle with salt and pepper to your own liking.  Let them sit in the hot pan for another moment or so, and then put them in a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb any remaining moisture, butter, or oil.  Give ‘em a good shake, pull away the paper towel, and enjoy!  Careful: those little buggers are very hot right out of the pan!

If you want to mix it up, here are some other ingredients you could use (some of these I’ve tried, some I’ve not):

Add these ones at the same point you would add the lemon:
Vinegar
Red pepper flakes
A favorite salad dressing (this could get messy if it’s a creamy dressing, and might burn, but oil-based ones should be fine)
Peppercorns

Add these when you would add the garlic:
Shallots
Fresh chili peppers
Baby spinach
Chives
Mint leaves

Or anything really.  Just be aware of the burning times of the things you want to add: chick peas are extremely resilient, where as herbs and vegetables burn quickly, but dried ones take a while to re-hydrate and release their flavors.  If you come up with something good, let me know!

Bonus round:

If you like a little more salt and don’t mind getting a little messy, while the chick peas are still hot in the bowl, add a little Parmesan cheese – nothing fancy, just the sprinkly kind out of a canister.

So there’s my magic snack time recipe – super filling, and super healthy.  Now you can stop bugging me about it and add a whole new level of delicious to your life.

All sushi is good sushi. I guess.

June 20, 2011 - 9:39 pm No Comments

Well, I was gonna clear out all my spam comments but I got really bored with that so instead I’ll talk about two things I really love:

Food and Pittsburgh.

More importantly, food in Pittsburgh.

A good friend of mine had a birthday this past Friday and since nobody doesn’t like hibachi, he held his party at Saga, which is that new sushi/hibachi in Settler’s Ridge (that’s where the Giant Eagle USS Market District Starship Food Emporium is, and that is another tale for another time).

I’d mentioned the gathering to my boss, and though he had not personally eaten there, many of his friends had, and he had… well, let’s just say, not heard good things.

And now I know why.

Let me say on the face of it, Saga is not a bad place to eat by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’ll say up front that the hibachi chefs themselves are the best I’ve ever seen.  Those who ordered hibachi (see: everyone but me as I am a pescatarian, though I regretted my decision upon finding out there was swordfish hibachi and I’ve always wanted to try swordfish) said it was good, though I’ll get into that more in a moment.

First I ordered iced tea.  Let’s forget I’m a tea snob for a moment, but when my iced tea arrived it was very much warm tea and very little ice, and I was the only one at the table who didn’t get a lemon.  The waitress also forgot to mention that the tea is unsweetened and you have to ask for sugar and you’d better damn sure want that sugar because it’s gonna take a good ten minutes for you to get it.  It also tasted less like black tea and more like burnt.  That about set the tone.

I ordered sushi, two different rolls, with a sashimi appetizer.  My sashimi arrived with everyone else’s appetizers and was possibly the most gorgeously plated dish I’ve ever seen.  It came with the standard bean sprouts and ginger, but the whole thing was served on a sasa no happa (a large bamboo leaf) with an orchid bloom and was arranged immaculately.  It was cheaper than most sashimi plates at only $9, but for obvious reason: I only got nine pieces of fish, which I considered reasonable.  But though all the garnish was beautiful, there was a hell of a lot more of it on the plate than there was food, and it left me thinking I’d missed something somewhere.

Though I got my appetizer at a reasonable time, I also got my first sushi roll at… exactly the same time.  Now, I’m not a fan of warm sushi, and I’m also not a fan of being done with all of my food by the time everyone else has, well, started, and I wanted to watch the hibachi being cooked, so I had to sit, and let my sushi get warm.  That was the first real problem.  The second was that the sushi was far too huge.  Proper sushi etiquette (and if you don’t care for that, simple ease of eating) dictates that you don’t take bites, you put the whole slice in your mouth at once.  Let. Me. Tell. You. What.  I would have to have been a tyrannosaurus to fit one piece of this sushi in my mouth at once.  They were huge!  Bigger may be better, but when your sushi is the width of a pepperoni roll and so loosely configured that if you do try to take a bite it all falls apart in your soy sauce dish, you become aware that there may be a problem.  These, despite the impossibility of such a maneuver, were three-bit pieces.  And that is not cool.  I’m sure they would have been delicious if I could have fit them into my mouth in one go, but as it stood, I had to pick them apart and eat them bit-by-bit.  Warm.

I also stole the husband’s ginger-dressed salad since he’s anti-ginger (but loves red-heads, I promise), and I have to say…  Well, there’s good ginger dressing, and there’s bad.  They tried to make this gingery enough to soothe those who actually know what ginger is supposed to taste like but palatable enough for those more familiar with ranch dressing, and they failed.  The dressing tasted like nondescript orange vegetable mash.  And that’s bad.

The husband, having ordered hibachi, informed me that the food was fine but had perhaps a bit too much teriyaki.  Take that with a grain of salt, as he likes his food a bit blander than most.  What he was right about were the sauces.  The traditional sauces, being the shrimp and steak dipping sauces, were both a little bit off.  The shrimp sauce was not creamy enough and a bit too tangy, in an effort to be more akin to cocktail sauce.  It didn’t work.  The steak sauce was a good sauce all around, but not a shining example of hibachi by itself.

I was left with the feeling that Saga had gone out of their way to hire the very best chefs they could get their hands on, who put on the best food-related show anyone had ever seen, and hoped that that would cover for the mediocre nature of absolutely everything else in the restaurant.  So if you want a good show, by all means, give Saga a try.  But if you just want some delicious and reasonably-priced sushi or hibachi with good service and a good atmosphere, for heaven’s sake just go to Yokoso.

Since.

June 12, 2011 - 1:05 am No Comments

Since I last updated this blog,

I have incurred over $21 in library fines. I will pay them off, I promise.

I got a new job, which didn’t at first leave me much time for updating this blog.

I received over 1600 emails, about three of which I’ve read.

I have not checked Facebook more than thrice.

I became addicted to a certain series of video games which I’m sure will work their way into this blog.

And so on.

What I have been doing, aside from playing said video games, is reading like a fiend.

Kristen, who makes myriad appearances within the text of this blog and even more within the context of my life, convinced me finally to watch BBC’s Sherlock.  It being streaming on Netflix didn’t hurt either.  Suffice is to say, I fell in love.  But what does one do when one is faced with a series containing only three episodes?

One reads the books one should have read as a child.

And that’s what I’ve been reading.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collective works are now lodged firmly at the top of my Kindle’s list, right underneath Thread Words (it’s a real problem).  I read at least one of the short stories every day, mostly on the bus to work (which, I confess, was initially a plot to stop people from talking to me on the bus.  It didn’t work).

But what do you say about a century-old series of short stories which everyone knows and no one has read?

You say how funny they are, how the clever interjections Holmes makes and the first-person narrative of the keen Watson hold up to a century of hype and expectation.

You say that the absolutely logical deductions that Holmes makes are typically neither far-fetched nor impractical and that if you yourself were capable of such leaps someone would have created dozens of television programs loosely based on your life as well.

And you say that if such crimes really ever took place the world would be a more interesting place to live.

So that’s what I say, in brief.  I also say that everyone should be forced to read Sherlock Holmes and I also point out how Wishbone cleverly forgot to mention all the cocaine Holmes jammed into his arm.

Funny thing, that.

First they built the road, then they built the town.

April 1, 2011 - 12:56 pm No Comments

By now you’ve probably heard of Arcade Fire.

I mean, they won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards which is apparently still a thing that people watch.

Which brings me to my point.

Arcade Fire won the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year.  I’m not going to downplay this because I have to say, that’s awesome.  Allow me to be completely selfish when I say that this means the music I listen to is now popular and that means I’m cool again and I didn’t even have to do anything.  (I am cool, right?  Then again, if you have to ask…).  But the album that won the Grammy was (obviously) their new album, The Suburbs.  If you haven’t heard it yet, go open your Grooveshark, play it, and come back.  Back?  Okay, now go listen to their first album, Funeral.  I’ll wait.

Funeral was Arcade Fire’s first real album (disregarding the “Us Kids Know” EP from 2003), which was released in 2004.  And it was magical.  MTV2 named it their Album of the Year way back then, and it won a lot of stuff and broke a lot of ground and was generally very well respected.

And no one heard about it.

Hell, I didn’t even hear about it until right around 2007, and the when the opening strains of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” hit me, I was sucked in.  My heart was ripped out of my chest.  I listened to it dozens of times in a row.  That was right before their second album, Neon Bible, was released, and the timing was perfect.  Soon enough, I was an Arcade Fire addict.  There was something so raw and powerful about those albums, more so with Funeral, but it wasn’t lost in the more polished Neon Bible.  They both meant something.  They didn’t have to grow on you, they were you.

The Suburbs is not that kind of album.

In fact, let me fess up right here: the first time I heard the album in its entirety, I was entirely unmoved and entirely disappointed.  In fact, I listened to it twice in a row, but for the exact opposite reason I put Funeral on repeat for the entire summer of 2007: I had completely zoned out and missed half the album.  It took me several minutes to even notice there was no music playing in my headphones anymore.  But the second time, the same thing happened.  Could this be the case, I thought?  I’d heard the single “We Used to Wait” on The Daily Show and had messed around with the totally engrossing interactive video for it and I’d loved it; how was it that the rest of the album could be so lacking?

And then I listened to it in the car.

This is not the kind of album you can listen to sitting still, staring out the window.  This is the kind of album you put on and turn up and roll down the windows and go for a long drive.  The lyrics reflect this, they’re almost about this, but that’s not even the point.  You have to be moving.  Get on a bus, ride your bike, go for a drive.  This album is too huge to listen to sitting still.  If you’re not moving, it won’t move you.  It’s like an experiment, or it feels like it to me.  It’s also completely back-loaded with the good stuff.  Sure, the first seven or so songs are by no means bad; they’re catchy, toe-tappy.  I’d go so far to say that “Rococco” is infectious and that the extra beats inserted into “Modern Man,” after it’s finished giving you a head trip, will make you want to take up the drums.  But it’s the second half of the album that has that magical, gut-twisting, tear-jerking Arcade Fire feel.  It’s hard to say where it starts, since all the songs are derived from three or four central themes and bleed into each other, but you’ll know it when you feel it.

That is why The Suburbs won Album of the Year.  Because unlike the longing, lonely, and yet somehow upbeat strains of melody in Funeral’s “Wake Up” or the crushing, solitary pipe-organ opening of Neon Bible’s “Intervention”, The Suburbs is not something you can put your finger on.  You almost can’t find a place to say, “This is my favorite part,” because there are no parts.  It’s just one massive creation.

It’s still not Funeral, it’s still not my favorite.  But I get it now.  It’s part of a story, a story that Arcade Fire started to tell us in 2001, that they’re still telling ten years later, of primal humanity and modernization, of finding light in dark places, of corruption and a salvation that we cannot find in things or institutions, but that we can only find in each other.

New to Arcade Fire?  Paperclippe recommends: “Crown of Love” from Funeral; “Intervention” from Neon Bible; “Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains)” from The Suburbs.

Think you’ve maybe heard this band before?  You might have heard the re-recorded version of “Wake Up” in the movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are or heard Peter Gabriel’s cover of “My Body is a Cage” on a recent episode of House.  BBC’s Top Gear used “No Cars Go” as the montage for their introduction of the show’s tenth series, and oh yeah, they played at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

Forget everything I’ve ever said.

March 25, 2011 - 7:04 pm No Comments

Well, alright, not everything.

The fact of the matter is, I have far too many interests to make this a topical blog.  Of any kind.

At the front of this, let me say, this will not be a ‘personal’ blog in that, if you want to follow the minutia of my life, I have a Twitter.

If you want to know what I’m reading while I’m reading it, I have a GoodReads.

If you want to know what I’m listening to, I have a last.fm.

If you want to know… pretty much anything else, I have a GetGlue.

And if you want silly rants and blurry pictures, I have a Tumblr.

BUT.  If and when I have fully-formed thoughts on any of those things worthy of more than a paragraph of discussion, you will now find it here.  Prepare yourself for TV and fashion and food and books and cars and culture and video games and shoes and local entertainment and bands and tea and serious rants and…

…okay well pretty much everything.  So you’ll get what you were getting before and more!  And hopefully more often!

50 Book Challenge

January 6, 2011 - 3:41 pm No Comments

So, Angie (you’ll remember her from previous posts) challenged me – and herself – to read and review at least 50 books this year, and of course, I accepted.   I figure it’s a good way to get more active on the blog and be more social in the literary community, so keep an eye out for at least 50 more posts this year!

(Speaking of being more social, I’ve currently joined up on Goodreads, so if you want to friend me there to check out what I’m reading as it happens, find me as  – you guessed it – Paperclippe.  Let me know who you are and how you found me and I’ll happily friend you right back!)

Already this year I’ve finished 4 books and will probably be blogging about at least half of them.  They are (were)

  • Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds
  • The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
  • Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
  • Audition by Ryu Murakami

And I finished a good few during the holidays (thanks to my shiny new kindle oh my god it is more awesome than I ever could have imagined) but unfortunately those don’t count toward the 50 book challenge.  They may, however, get blogged about at some point.

All for now.  Keep an eye out, I don’t plan on being as big of a slacker as I’ve been lately (but how many times have I said that before).

It’s time for SCIENCE!

December 2, 2010 - 5:08 pm No Comments

Well, almost.

First I’m going to share with you a delightful but simple wintertime treat (for those of you north of the equator) that you should enjoy while reading this blog.  I hope you like coffee.  And joy.  It doesn’t have to be covered in bees.

FIRST!  Set a cup of coffee to brew or press it or use your espresso maker or however ya fix your caffeine fix.

Get a cup, a teaspoon of sugar, and a packet of cocoa.  Preferably with marshmallows.  Dump cocoa and sugar in cup.  Pour coffee on top.

Scrape marshmallows off of top, eat, mix thoroughly, be happy.  Oh, yeah, then read the rest of this blog.  Which starts now.

I. Love. Science.  I was an English major with a creative writing concentration, I only took my mandatory amounts of science in high school I belonged to the English, drama, and jazz clubs, and I. Love. Science.  You will never not find me watching The Universe or crushing on Michio Kaku or wearing my Periodic Table of the Elements shirt or reading about Einstein.

Which brings me to installment’s book: The Quotable Einstein collected and edited by Alice Calaprice.

This is a quick read.  Yes, yes, it’s several hundred pages long, but it’s exactly what it purports to be: a collection of quotes by the man himself, Albert Einstein, who was generally a great guy except he was really bitter about women so don’t take anything he says about us at face value.  He was also a friend of Sigmund Freud so let’s blame his mom and move on (I’M KIDDING).

This collection paints a deeper picture of Einstein as a man who realised he was just a man and did his best to quell any sort of belief that he was anything more than human.  It also portrays how firmly Einstein stuck to his beliefs, many of which were unpopular at the time.  He believed women should be allowed to have abortions up to a certain point, much as we do now.  He believed homosexuality should not be punished, he loved America but saw how it suppressed it’s minorities and spoke out against it, and he was an avid pacifist, believing only in violence when it was to protect oneself.  This isn’t surprising giving the atmosphere he grew up in: pre-WWI Germany was already a hotbed of conflict, more so than many of us realise, and for Einstein, himself a Jew, it was imperative he leave that behind.  Indeed, he rescinded his German citizenship and became a Swiss citizen very early in life, before he was naturalised in US many years later.  For many of these beliefs, though weak and obvious they may seem now, he was suspected of Communism and questioned in the McCarthy hearings, to be subsequently dubbed by Mr. McCarthy as an “enemy of America.”  Incidentally, that was about the time that America decided they weren’t buying that shit anymore.  Einstein had already said previously in a letter, “I have never been a Communist.  But if I were, I would not be ashamed of it.”

The book also delves into more personal subjects: Einstein had an amazing sense of humor, loved music, played the violin, and enjoyed the company of his family pets very much.  Once, during a particularly bad rainstorm, his tabby “Tiger” was upset that he could not go outside.  Einstein commiserated with the creature, saying, “I know what’s wrong, dear fellow, but I don’t know how to turn it off.”  (That’s right, Doctor.  Everyone talks to cats.)  The volume also includes snippets of his letters to his first and second wife, including the period in between where his first marriage was falling apart and he sought comfort in an affair with his soon-to-be second wife, Elsa.  Clearly he was not a perfect man, but if he was, I doubt half of us would be able to relate to him at all, for as hard as that can be already.

My only complaint with the collection is that, in an effort to be thorough, Ms. Calaprice has included several iterations Einstein made of the same quote.  While it’s good to see an attempt to be sure that the most important quotations were included, there are several occasions where this gets distracting.  This is perhaps most obvious in the case of the “God does not place dice” quote.  While it is true that this is something Einstein believed firmly and repeated so often that Niels Borh was prompted to respond, “Stop telling God what to do!”, it is not necessary that the reader see every single instance wherein Einstein restated his belief.  The most eloquent or succinct iteration would have been just fine, and this is a problem which occurs with several other quotes in the book.  It is a problem which becomes very distracting very quickly, causing the reader to pause and say, “Wait, I caught that and the editor let it slide?” which is never something you want to hear said about a book.

Beyond that, though, the book is a good, clear insight into the mind of Einstein through the man’s own words, and I recommend it to anyone interested in his science, life, or personality.

With that, I leave you with these choice Einstein-ian quotes (and hopefully some of that cocoa left over):

  • “With fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a very common phenomenon.”
  • “Personally, I experience the greatest degree of pleasure in having contact with works of art.  They furnish me with happy feelings of an intensity such as I cannot derive from other realms.”
  • “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.”
  • “That worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor…  this plague-spot of civilisation ought to be abolished with all possible speed.  Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!  How vile and despicable seems war to me!  I would rather be hacked into pieces than take park in such an abominable business.”
  • “I do not believe that civilisation will be wiped out in a war fought with the atomic bomb.  Perhaps two-thirds of the people on earth would be killed, but enough men  capable of thinking, and enough books, would be left to start out again, and civilisation could be restored.
  • When asked why people could discover atoms by not the means to control them: “That is simple, my friend: because politics is more difficult than physics.”

I like my sponsorships like I like my coffee:

November 20, 2010 - 8:22 am 1 Comment

COVERED IN BEES

You guys.

You did it.

With ten(!!) days left in NaNoWriMo, you charming folks have gotten me one-hundred-per-cent to my goal of one-hundred-freaking-dollars!  And never once did I have to employ my tactic of selling myself to the internet by means of covering Short Skirt/Long Jacket on solo piano for $5 a pop.  Though I would have.

Not only that, but this is the first year of writing whence I am actually ahead of schedule.

You have to understand.

I never finish anthi

Last year, I managed to raise $50 and never finished my NaNo.  This year, this year is so much better.  With the confidence given to me via the support for this cause, there’s no way I won’t finish this year.  Maybe that’s a jinx, and maybe it has something to do with the fact that if I even want to wrap up the main plot thread of this ridiculous novel it’s going to take me at least another 75k words so really I’m only 1/3 of the way through it anyway and 50k is a completely arbitrary number at this point BUT LET’S GO WITH IT’S A SUCCESS.

And that’s just how you’ve helped me.  With the money donated, Offices of Letters and Light can fund their computers or employees or buy supplies for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to be creative.  Obviously by clicking one of the links in my previous post you can find out more about any number of these causes, but suffice is to say, go make yourselves a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese, ’cause you’ve wracked up some points on the good-karma-o-meter and you deserve the lycopene.

Trust me, too, when I say that once November is over, I’ll be blogging more.  I have so many books to talk about and albums to review (OH MY GOD THE WEEPIES) and nonsense shit to discuss in an entirely one-sided conversation with myself… I gotta say, 2011 is going to be great for paperclippe.com.  It helps that I’m in charge.

Thanks again, guys.  It really means the world to me.  And of course, just because we’ve made it to my goal doesn’t mean you can’t continue to donate if you’re so compelled.  OLL can use all the help they can get.