I tell you, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the fun things that need to be done – so now I’m running around in ever-decreasing circles shouting “Don’t panic! Don’t Panic!”
As one example, there are a whole bunch of books I’ve read and DVDs I’ve seen recently for which I plan on writing reviews … when I get a free moment (as I keep on telling myself). But writing reviews takes time and effort, and I also have an ever-growing pile of books and DVDs that await my attention and are calling to me “Max, Max, when will it be my turn?”
In a moment I will briefly summarize all of this stuff, but first… I just received an email from a reader saying:
Hi Max, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but would you recommend a good poster or something appealing to get kids to question or at least understand the very basics of computer logic? Such as how switches can display the characters we see on our screen. Any suggestions would be great, even educational games that can teach them how math can display the very thing we are writing now and understand it. How punch cards were used etc. Anything like that would be great.
My knee-jerk reaction was that this would be a really cool project to work on, but again there simply isn’t the time, so if you are aware of anything like this (posters, educational games, etc.) please add a comment to the end of this blog telling us about it.
Stuff to do with time travel
Earlier this year I posted a blog titled What’s the best time-travel book/film ever? One book I forgot to mention in that blog – but which I have since re-read – is Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett. This is a wonderful book for kids of all ages (like me). But give me strength! This must be out of print because (as I pen these words) new versions of the paperback are selling for $499.95 via secondhand booksellers on Amazon, so I’m certainly happy that my copy is safe on the bookshelves in my office.
I also got to see the Donnie Darko DVD (interesting but I wouldn’t watch it again). Meanwhile, the Primer DVD – for which I hold great hopes – is still awaiting my attention (I’m currently working my way through Season 5 of the new Dr. Who).
Based on readers’ recommendations I read Lest Darkness Fall and Related Stories by L. Sprague de Camp and other authors (this was a very interesting read); also Fire Watch by Connie Willis (it was OK, but I’m not driven to read any of her other stuff).
Two books I really do recommend are The Breach and Ghost Country by Patrick Lee. You can read either of these on its own, but I would suggest reading them in order. I don’t want to get into these too much here (I really do intend to write a full-up review one day), but The Breach is based around artifacts from the future appearing in the present. Now, although The Breach is really exciting, it pales in comparison to Ghost Country, which had me sitting on the edge of my seat crying “No, it can’t be!” (Seriously, there were parts where I would read a couple of pages and then close the book and catch my breath because I couldn’t handle the excitement – I so want one of the devices in the book that lets you travel into the future… but I can say no more).
Biographies and autobiographies
I just finished reading My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke, which was very interesting, but somehow left me wanting a little more. And just before that I read Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss. This was really good in the way in which it explained both the man and the physics. It was especially relevant with regard to an article I read recently about how we now know that quantum-level effects do affect our macro-level world.
Another good read was The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine. In this book Michael repeats some of the stories he told in an earlier autobiography called What’s It All About, but he also adds a lot of new material to bring things up to date. I also recently finished Life by Keith Richards of Rolling Stones fame. This was interesting in many ways – first to get a feel for the world (well, England) as it was back in the 1960s and to see how groups like the Stones came into being; also to get a feel for Keith’s relationship with Mick Jagger; and also to complement Ronnie Wood’s autobiography, Ronnie (which I read last year), because now you get to see the same things from two different perspectives.
Other books I’ve read Please understand that the following are just the books I've read recently that I see as I spin my chair around in my office – these are currently sitting in piles on the floor awaiting a full review.
With regard to The Walking Dead comic books I mentioned in my recent Zombie tales for people with brains blog, I’ve now read Books #1 through #5 – I’m saving #6 for this coming weekend. I know that comic books aren’t for everyone, but I’m really enjoying these.
One book I read that I would NOT recommend is Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. You may find this to be a little surprising, because this book is jam-packed with the tidbits of trivia and nuggets of knowledge that I love. But the author’s writing style just didn’t appeal to me – toward the end I read on with dogged determination looking forward to not having to read any more. Contrast this to The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean – a book I cannot praise highly enough (Click Here to see my review).
Books I'm reading (non-technical)
I just cannot help myself – I love reading and I typically have two or three books on the go at any particular time. I’m currently reading America's Galactic Foreign Legion: Book 1: Feeling Lucky by Walter Night (I purchased the paperback version for $9.99, but I just saw the Kindle version is only $0.99). This was recommended to me by my friend Adam Traidman from Cadence Design Systems when I met him at DAC a couple of weeks ago. In turn I pointed Adam at Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (see my Got Discworld? blog) and I can’t wait to hear what he thinks when he starts reading these little scamps.
But wait, there’s more, because I happened to be passing the local Barnes and Noble earlier this week. I had a “Father’s Day” gift card from my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) burning a hole in my pocket, so of course I had to stop in to check out the bargain book section where you find hardback books for just a couple of dollars, and I couldn’t resist picking up three tempting treats: Who Were the Celts? By Kevin Duffy, Just After Sunset by Stephen King, and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (the latter item wasn’t with the bargain books, but it was crying out to me to give it a good home).
As I say, I just can’t help myself. And the books I’m talking about here are only the ones that are sitting on my office desk – I daren’t even think about the stacks of books waiting for me at home. And the really scary thing is that I will have worked my way through all of the items mentioned here over the course of the next few weeks.
Phew! If nothing else, perhaps this blog will give some idea as to why I keep waffling on about reviews I plan on writing but never seem to get around to … I really want to post full reviews on all of these things, but I can’t resist the siren song of a new book or DVD that needs my personal attention in order for it to fulfill its destiny. So many books… so many DVDs… so little time…
"how punched cards were used" The first use was in tabulating the census of 1910, I think that was the year. They were invented by James(?) Hollerith. I am looking at a punched card right now. The card was divided into rows and columns.
There were 80 columns and I think 12 rows, the top 3 rows were called zones and indicated how the remaining rows were encoded.
Each column could be a letter(A - Z) or decimal number/(0 - 9). There are 26 letters so each zone punch along with one of the lower 9 was one of 9 letters -- 3 zones times one of 9 lower rows covered the 26 letters. I think this is accurate, no punch was zero and a punch in a lower row was 1 - 8. The cards were read by having a spring loaded contact that would fall through the hole so that whichever made contact that would be the meaning of the punched hole.