This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



January 2009

Kindle Ratio for 31 Jan 2009 – 35%

So, keeping with what I started when I finished the previous book, I just looked up my “Kindle Ratio”… namely the percentage of the last 20 books I’ve read available on Kindle. I’ve said that as soon as this ratio reaches 50%, I want a Kindle. Well, it stays steady at 35%… 7 of the last 20 books. So we’re still not quite there unfortunately.

Book: Foucault’s Pendulum

Author: Umberto Eco
Started: 30 Nov 2008
Finished: 24 Jan 2009
623 p / 56 d
11 p/d

(As translated from the Italian to English by William Weaver that is.)

This is the kind of book that has a reputation as being the kind a lot of people start, but most don’t finish, because it is difficult and inscrutable. So of course I wanted to try it out. Reading the first chapter, I firmly believe that it is intentionally constructed in such a way as to put off readers, and encourage all but the most dedicated to stop there. Not that there is anything particularly DIFFICULT about the reading, it is just a guy having very scattered seemingly random thoughts while wandering through a museum… with all sorts of references to all sorts of things that a reader may or may not get. It is rather annoying.

But the book does settle down a bit after that and starts to read (mostly) like a regular narrative, although it does use that very annoying method of regularly moving backward and forward in time, with the vast majority of the book being flashbacks from the guy in the museum remembering what has happened that led him to the museum at that time. Annoying. I hate that device when it is used in TV and Movies, and I don’t really like it any more in writing.

Over the course of the novel, the main characters delve into the creation of a huge conspiracy theory involving many of the usual suspects in conspiracy theories. They are making it all up, but as often happens in such things, it takes on a life of its own and trouble ensues.

Some of the conspiracy and historical stuff is actually quite interesting. I found myself on more than a few occasions taking a detour to Wikipedia to look up people, places and organizations that were mentioned to investigate a bit about the real world versions as opposed to what was being depicted. And that was fun.

But a big part of this was a very transparent look at words versus reality, and questions relating to objective reality versus perceived reality, and if saying something and believing it enough makes it true… or close enough to true that it doesn’t matter…. if there is even a such thing as “true” outside of the perceptions of those looking at and talking about things.

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Look, I like those sorts of philosophical conundrums. But it was a bit of a stretch to make it 623 pages long.

The value in this book is in the thinking about the concepts being raised and in the interesting historical bits. In those ways it is interesting. There is fun stuff there for those who are intellectually curious about various aspects of European history, or of philosophical questions about the interrelationships between knowledge, language, perception and reality. Or, to be specific, semiotics, which Eco is a professor of. If you like exploring those kinds of concepts, you will like this. But as a flat out novel with an interesting story for the purpose of entertainment… not as much.

So I guess it depends what you are into. I did like it for the intellectual stuff, but it would have been nice if the story part was a bit more compelling. Am I glad I finally got around to reading it? Yes. I’d wanted to read this for awhile, and now was the time I guess.

Many years ago I read The Name of the Rose, also by Eco, and I must say I liked it better. It has many of the same types of themes and intellectual side trips, but I think the Medieval setting just worked better and the actual story was better…

So if you want to read an Umberto Eco book, I’d go with The Name of the Rose first.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: In with the New

Sam and Ivan talk about:

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Um… I really don’t know what to think of this.

Interactive Jacuzzi Girl

(via The Daily Dish)

For the record, I picked “Peel Her a Potato”, “Rub Her Face With a Mop” and then “Slap Her with a Fish”.

Yup, Late Again

The podcast was recorded around 3 UTC on Monday, but I’ve had things going on during almost all of the time I wasn’t at work or asleep since then, so I haven’t gotten the podcast out the door yet. And it isn’t going to get done before I leave to drop Amy off at school and then go to work in a few minutes. Sometimes if it is all edited and processing has started when I leave for work, and all that remains is hitting the “publish” button once it is done spitting out the mp3 file, then I’ll hit that button and do the blog post announcing it during my lunch break. But alas, it is not even edited yet, so it will have to wait. I promise I’ll have it out the door within the next 24 hours or so though.

DVD: American Beauty

Last weekend was time for another DVD. This time it was from my Netflix list. I’m not sure how or when it originally got on my list, since it is many years from bottom to top of my netflix list, but the next film was American Beauty. Despite it being an Oscar Winner and such, the only thing I really knew about it was the Lolita-esque part of it and the image of the girl with the rose petals. Amy expressed no interest. Brandy was busy watching movies she had to watch for class. So I was once again watching by myself.

I wasn’t expecting much. Dunno why. The first 30 minutes or so did drag a bit. It was slow, and not super compelling. But then again, it was supposed to be laying the groundwork about how much the main character’s life sucked. Then it got a bit creepy when he started lusting after the cheerleader.

But then it hit its groove. It seemingly cycled between hilariously funny, creepy, and just sad. In the end end it was a compelling combination. I liked it a lot. I guess I understand the five Oscars. :-)

And, despite the impression I had before hand, it was most definitely NOT primarily about the guy and him lusting after the teenager. This was a portion of it to be sure, and an important element, but it was just one element in a larger picture. It was more a mid-life-crisis movie than creepy old man in love with teenager movie, although of course that is one of the ways the mid-life-crisis manifested itself.

Anyway. Good movie. I liked it. Worth a rental if you didn’t see it back in 1999 when it was in the theaters.

Want One

Last Gift!

What I believe to be my last Christmas present (that of course was supposed to arrive on December 24th or earlier) just arrived! This means I can now start doing the whole Thank You note thing! By email of course. :-)

In the Oval

(White House via DemConWatch)

So Very Different

This whole little speech has a lot of interesting stuff in it. Click through for the whole thing. But I quote the part I find most interesting:

President Obama’s Address to WH Staff on Ethics, Pay Freeze, and more
(White House via Doc Jess on DemConWatch, 21 Jan 2009)

But the way to make a government responsible is not simply to enlist the services of responsible men and women, or to sign laws that ensure that they never stray. The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well served.

The directives I am giving my administration today on how to interpret the Freedom of Information Act will do just that. For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.

To be sure, issues like personal privacy and national security must be treated with the care they demand. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.

I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.

Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that’s why, as of today, I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans — scientists and civic leaders, educators and entrepreneurs — because the way to solve the problem of our time is — the way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.

The executive orders and directives I’m issuing today will not by themselves make government as honest and transparent as it needs to be. And they do not go as far as we need to go towards restoring accountability and fiscal restraint in Washington. But these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country. And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people in the days and weeks, months and years to come. That’s a pretty good place to start.

In addition in his first day, Obama also put a hold on new regulations the Bush administration was putting through at the last minute, suspended proceedings at Gitmo, and more. We’re getting off to a quick and strong start. And while in many elections it seems that there really is not much difference before and after, this time the contrasts are immediate and striking.