Books of March 2012

These are the books read or listened to in March.

  • Philip Plait: “Death from the Skies! The Science Behind the End of the World” (2008)
    • Balancing between depression, amusement and fascination, astronomer Phil Plait (of lists a number of ways in which the race of humanity could be wiped out – everything from asteroid impact and sunburn to alien attack and black holes.
  • Mayfair Mei-hui Yang: “Gifts, Favors, & Banquets: the Art of Social Relationships in China” (1994)
    • A more non-academic friendly discussion on guanxi than the other books I’ve read on the topic. Yang deals with the more practical issues and less with causes and such, which is both good and bad. Definitely a necessary book for anyone who wants to delve into Chinese social relations.
  • Yanjie Bian: “Work and Inequality in Urban China” (1994)
    • Bian is probably the academic who has researched guanxi most of anyone, and this is his summary of surveys, interviews and official statistics, outlining how guanxi works and what impact it has on the Chinese urban society. A goldmine, albeit with somewhat debatable results which I critisise in an upcoming article this summer.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1892)
    • Twelve of Sherlock Holmes stories, most if not all very intriguing. Also the first book that I’ve ever read entirely on a smart phone.
  • Douglas Adams: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (1979)
    • After reading the book several times, this was the first time I heard the purportedly brilliant audio version read by the author. It was indeed brilliant. The book itself is indescribable, it’s a perfect mix of dry British comedy and insane science fiction.
  • Douglas Adams: “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” (1980)
    • The second book in the series, it’s much in the same vein as the first, continuing where it left off and bringing the same strange mix of sci-fi, suspense and humour. The sentient cow scene at the eponymous restaurant are the first I read from the series, in a primary school English class, discussing both comedy, sci-fi and the ethics of eating animals.
  • Douglas Adams: “Life, the Universe and Everything” (1982)
    • The third book, it’s a step down to be honest. It’s still exciting and funny, but I think the large scope (stopping a galactic war) hinders the comedy a tad. Reading it was first written as a Doctor Who story and then later turned into a Hitchhiker novel makes a lot of sense, seeing as it’s much closer to Doctor Who (which focuses more on the action and has comedy second, opposite of Hitchhiker).
  • Douglas Adams: “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” (1984)
    • “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” is again much closer to the original two novels, with a zanier and harder defined plotline than the somewhat straighter “Life, the Universe and Everything”. It’s filled with observational and absurd humour as well as finally reaching themes of love and friendship, previously relatively unexplored in the series. It is handled well, as is the character of Fenchurch, and the finale is brilliantly Douglasesque.

Dream: Failing random generation

Weird dream. Very weird dream.

For some reason, I was at the entry of the most luxurous casino of Las Vegas. I had imagined you had to be really welldressed, welthy or whatever to enter, but when I reached the door, the guard just asked me one question: ”Can you randomly generate three different number?”

I was shocked. ”That’s easy”, I thought, and said the numbers 3, 12 and 26.

Within moments I was grabbed from behind, dragged down in the dirt and suddenly I had handcufs and a blindfold. I lost conciousness and woke up minutes later in a cold prison cell with great metallic bars. Apparantly the cell was placed not far from the entry, because I saw the people passing through the gates, after being asked the question and after successfully generating three random numbers.

When I woke up I spent the entire bike ride to school (about twenty minutes) thinking about the dream, realising it’s impossible to generate a random number for a human being as a human’s thoughts are constantly bombarded by feelings and associations.

For example, the numbers I unconciously choose (3, 12, 26) are all low numbers (humans takes lower numbers since it’s harder thinking of higher ones), and they are in order by size. I don’t exactly know why this is, but I often happen to choose numbers in size. Probably it’s because I think ”oh, that’s not high enough, I unconsiously choose low numbers so I have to try a bit higher”.

I can’t wait until I start reading the discrete course of maths.