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Frankenstein

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Because I could not decide on a new book, I bought two. Frankenstein and Dracula, the original versions.

Frankenstein is quite different from the stories that I (and probably most Americans) had heard. To start off with, the book opens with a series of letters from a young man who is traveling to the North Pole. He set out to be one of the first people there, I think. I could not really tell. Anyway, he then met Dr. Frankenstein on the ice one night.

The Hobbit

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Currently I am re-reading "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have a great copy. It is a hardback with illustrations by Stan Lee.

It has been a good year or two since I last read it and it is one of my favorites. Tolkien is just an amazing author. He can keep me occupied with his descriptions of the places the band of dwarves and Bilbo go.

More about this particular copy can be found here.

Just for Fun

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As I have finished Harry Potter, I started to read a biography on Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, called Just for Fun. So far it has been quite interesteing. He has just talked a little about his youth and how he used the old computers.

One quote that caught my attention and that I thought quite funny:

And he didn't have much desire to circulate among the rich and powerful. I asked him what he would like to say to Bill Gates, but he wasn't the least bit interested in even meeting the guy. "There wouldn't be much of a connection point," he [Linus] reasoned. "I'm completely uninterested in the thing that he's the best in the world at. And he's not interested in the thing that maybe I'm the best in the world at. I couldn't give him advice in business and he couldn’t give me advice in technology."

Linus has a great perspective on why copyrights and patents do not work to the benifit of society. Here is one example he writes about the music industry:


Flash forward to the music industry in the waning years of the twentieth century. The resource it controls is entertainment. A company owns the rights to an artist’s work. That artist produces a number of successful singles, but the company puts maybe one or two of those singles on each CD it produces. That way it can sell multiple CDs instead of the one that everyone wants. Then somebody invents the technology for MP3. Suddenly, music can be downloaded fro the Internet. MP3 is about doing the right thing for consumers by giving them a choice.


So if a typical CD costs $10 and contains two singles a consumer wants, it may make more sense for him to purchase those singles separately – along with others he wants – off MP3 for $1.50 apiece. No longer is the buyer trapped in a despotic situation, living by the greed-inspired rules of the music industry, which wants to give up just the bite-sized pieces that it chooses to give up. There’s a reason why the music industry is scared to death of MP3 and its sister technologies, Napster and Gnutella. The price of water got so high that it became profitable for somebody to devise a new method of bringing it in from somewhere else.


But this is an industry with a history of trying to control consumers - if not by what music it chooses to release, then by copyright and technology. This is the industry that tripped all over itself in the 1960’s, trying to keep consumers from copying music onto tapes when that technology entered the market. Because the industry felt tapes were the perfect medium for people to disobey copyright laws, it argued for ways to protect its copyrights. This was a bad excuse. The industry was taking the moral high ground and pleading copyright when it was simply trying to maintain control of its niche franchise. The fact is, tapes never hurt the music industry. Sure, people copied music for their own use, but that only meant that people actually bought more LPs from which to copy. Duh. A few decades later, when CDs came out, the players were built so that you couldn’t copy your tape perfectly. Paranoia strikes again. Next came digital tapes. They involved a different sampling rate from CDs – 48kh versus 44.1 – to prevent users from copying their CDs onto digital tape. Again the industry tried to screw over the customer to get control. But in the case of digital tapes, the market never quite hit. It was a bit like fooling with Mother Nature.


By trying to control each successive technology, the music industry only helps inspire people to devise new ways around it. Are they ever going to get it?
That brings us, inevitably, to DVDs. This time the entertainment industry delivered much better sound and video than VHS tapes, plus a smaller format and greater ease-of-use. But they added encryption to prevent copying. And to add insult to injury, they added geographic area codes. The DVD you bought in the San Francisco airport wouldn’t play in Europe. It made a perverse sense to the industry: Hey guys, we can sell movies at a higher price in Europe! So let’s make sure Europeans can’t buy movies from the United States.


Could the entertainment industry not have predicted the obvious? That the price of water would get so high that somebody would devise a new method of piping it in from somewhere else?


Yes, while the industry was greedily trying to control people through technology, the DVD encryption was cracked – not even by people who wanted to copy DVDs but by people who simply wanted to view them under Linux. These are folks who actually wanted to buy DVDs, but they couldn’t; the discs would have been useless on their equipment. The industry’s moves to protect its fiefdom backfired: It simply prevented the market from expanding and created the incentive for the cracking of the DVD encryption.

Linus contrasts this with a section on the Palm software, which is open sorce.


Contrast that with the if-you-love-it-set-it-free strategy taken by Palm Computing. The folks at Palm made their development environment open, and also opened up their platform, not only to vendors but also to individuals who would want to write programs for the platform. They opened up their APIs and made it easy to get their development tools for free. What this did was create a cottage industry around the Palm Pilot. It made the Palm phenomenon more than just one company struggling in a new market. So now you have companies selling games that work on Palm Pilots, and more advanced calendar programs than what Palm itself offers. Now the consumer can choose what he or she wants and everybody benefits, particularly Palm, which enjoys a larger market as a result of opening itself up.


Handspring is doing the same thing with its device, the Visor. It’s a Palm competitor that uses the Palm operating system, and the company takes openness a step further by allowing hardware plug-ins like GPS receivers and mobile phone attachments. Like Palm, Handspring is creating a community of companies to support a new platform.

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Just for Fun at Amazon.com

Harr Potter and the Half Blood Prince

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I just finished the new Harry Potter book. No, I will not spoil the book by talking all about the giants that Harry faces and that Snape dies and all about how Voldemort kills the Dursleys. It is a very good book. It has a great plot and the character development from the previous books is well connected. It makes a seamless transition from the Order of the Phoenix.

One of my favorite quotes:
These words seemed to rouse Uncle Vernon. It was clear that as far as he was concerned, any man who could look at Harry and say "excellent" was a man with whom he could never see eye to eye.

"I don't mean to be rude —" he [Uncle Vernon] began, in a tone that threatened rudeness in every syllable.

"--yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often," Dumbledore finished the sentence gravely. "Best to say nothing at all, my dear man. Ah, and this must be Petunia."

Needless to say, there is a very unexpected ending, a twist of fate if you will. I cannot wait until the next book comes out. But sadly I will have to wait a long time.

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Haryy Potter and the Half Blood Prince at Amazon.com

The Last Juror

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Last night I stayed up most of the night and finished The Last Juror by John Grisham.

Kristen found this book for me at a garage sale about a month ago and it has been sitting on the table since then. I picked it up last night as I was bored and was not tired. Usually I can read a few chapters and it will help put me to sleep, but for some reason, this book was good and I had had too much sleep previous nights. It was really good.

One of my favorite quotes:
I couldn’t imagine a worse place for some nut to start shooting. There were thousands of guns within arm’s reach around the Clanton square. Every pickup had two rifles in the window rack and a shotgun under the seat. These people couldn’t wait to use their guns!

Talking about a small, southern town in the mid 70's during a mad man and his shoot out at the court house. I thought it was a funny quote that describes many of the rednecks that I knew in high school.

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Theh Last Juror at Amazon.com

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

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Political Wisdom From the Guide

When Douglas Adams writes about the lizrad community, I cannot help but make the connection between our two party system and the lizard party system. It is crazy that people will vote for someone they feel is not competent just to keep another person out of office. When are we going to actually have people who are worth voting for?

Any way, here is an exerpt from the So long and thanks for all the fish, the 4th book in the Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy series.

     “I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

     …”It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

     “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

     “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

     “Odd,” said Arthur, “I though you said it was a democracy.”

     “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

     “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

     “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

     “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

     “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

     “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

     “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

     “What?”

     “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

     “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

     Ford shrugged again.

     “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

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The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy at Amazon.com

Life, The Universe, And Everything Else

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Here is an excerpt from Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's guide series:
Ah the wonders of Bistromathics...

      "The bistromathic drive is a wonderful new method of crossing vast interstellar distances without all that dangerous mucking about with improbability factors.
      Bistromathics itself is simply a revolutionary new way of understanding the behavior of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that space was not absolute but depended on the observer’s movement in space, and that time was not an absolute, but depended on the observer’s movement in time, so it is now realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer’s movement in restaurants.

Perelandra

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I am currently reading the 2nd book of C.S. Lewis's Silent Planet trilogy. It is a good book. The writting is very complex but the story is well told, as in most of Lewis's books.

At last, from exhaustion, he sat down. Te solitude,which up till now had been scarcely painful, had become a horror. Any return to it was a possibility he dared not face. The drugging and entrancing beauty had vanished from his surroundings; take that one human fro away and all the rest of t his world was now pure nightmare, a horrible cell or trap in which he was imprisoned. The suspicion that he was beginning to suffer from hallucinations crossed his mind.

As Rasome is cast to be the sole human on a distant planet, he meets a being much like his own. His thoughs express his feelings at having met another being and having that being taken away. By being plunged back into solitude after a brief experience of companionship.

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Perelandra at Amazon.com

The Pianist

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Wilm Hosenfeld

I have just finished reading The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman. Some of you may have seen the recent movie about the book.
It was a very good book. It showed the depth of the oppression of Poland very well and the hardship and constant fear that the people were put through.
One of the most compeling parts of the book was in the end, where some of the diary of Wilm Hosenfeld, the German officer who help Szpilman, was written. Many times I think of the Germans of the WWII era as being almost unhuman and not deserving of compasion and forgivness, but I fail to realize that they were also people. They become an almost idea of all that is evil, which is not correct. I was realy moved by Hosenfeld's diary and how he observed the events which he took part of.

- There are no commandments now against stealing, killing, or lying, not if they go against people's personal interest. This denial of God's commandments leads to

Prozac Nation

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I have finished reading the wheel of time series (well all that there is right now) and I have started to read Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel. It is an ok book, basically she rants about how bad she feels all the time. It is interesting to gain a little of the perspective of what a manic depressant feels. Anyway, she did have one good idea about the family unit and divorce.

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