February 22nd, 2004


(no subject)

I'm home. Tired, because I had to get up at 4 a.m. Pacific time to get to the airport on time. I need to shower. I promise to do so before Loser's Lunch so you don't have to smell me. Reminder, Loser's Lunch is at 12:30 p.m. at Mae's Café on Phinney.

More later.


Jason & Phil

It has come to my attention that the universe needs a name for the entity that is Jason and myself. There's the Hive Mind (for Leia and Elana) and the Mind Hive (for Jeremy, Brian, and Darren). And I'm sure there are some other examples floating around, but I'm too stupid this morning to think of them.

Post your nominations. Voting will commence sometime after sufficient nominations have been received.

Nomincations accompanied by icons and graphics encouraged.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Couple of weeks ago I decided I would jump on the bandwagon that is the Harry Potter series. At first, I was going to start with the 3rd book, since I had seen the first two movie adaptations and I also knew that J.K. Rowling insisted that the movies follow the books closely. Why bother reading something I already knew? Erin convinced me otherwise, though I can't remember why. So I started with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

You know the story. Harry Potter has been living with relatives for years. They treat him badly. He finds out he is a wizard and gets to go to the Hogwart's school of wizardry. In his first year he learns he's a wizard who defeated the infamous Voldemort as a mere baby. Voldemort has a new scheme from returning from a form of exile which Harry defeats in the this tome.

First and foremost, this is a children's story. Unforutnately, it's in a class of stories with which I am not really familiar. These seem to me to be geared more toward 8 to 10 year olds rather than the Newberry-esque young adult novels for which I have better recall and love. I think a better class of novels wherein to place Harry Potter is with Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and F.W.Dixon's Hardy Boys series. I loved those series as a child, but I recall little. Those were mostly bubblegum, and I think Harry Potter also falls into this category.

I think Rowling does a great job of capturing the essence of junior high kid behavior though. Absent the world-shaking events that swirl around Harry, the children act like children. They aren't smart-alecky adults in children's bodies like much of what passes for children on television these days. Harry and his friends have more in common with the Huxtable kids than they do with shows on the W.B. Network. She's managed to create complex characters who are also children. With the exception of Draco Malfoy. Though I suppose from the perspective of her protagonist Harry it makes no difference, it seems that her portrayal of the foil is extremely one sided. I'd have loved to see him turn out to be just a normal kid, just in another clique, and therefore seemingly bad and evil. But only seemingly.

Leaving aside the question of whether one can add new classic children's literature to one's beloved books when one is well past the age of the intended audience, I don't think these would rate as classics in my world. They are fun reading, but just not me.

Also, I'm not going to review books two and three separately. I definitely think that Rowling's skills as a writer improved with those two successive books. So I hold out hope that they will indeed become classics, but at this point I'm only going to place them as decently well written children's stories.


The Crystal City, by Orson Card

Will someone please beat me about the head? I contnue to purchase and read Orson Card's books, despite the fact his quality has seen a steady downward trend since the late 80s. Occasionally he writes something I find interesting, but more often than not I am exceedingly bored and I end up reading just because of loyalty. Such was the case with The Crystal City the next and it appears nearly the last book in the Tales of Alvin Maker series. The first three were good. The last three I've found tedious. I tell myself I read them only because I want to find out what happens to my characters. I'm finding the characters not believable, and the plots seems ever more like a thinly veiled allegory on Mormon myth.

Anyway, don't bother reading.


A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market, by John Allen Paulos

John Allen Paulos does for statistics what Stephen Hawking did for theoretical physics for the masses. Paulos takes a seemingly complex field and makes it understandable, and sometimes even usable. I own two of his previous books, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and Once Upon a Number. So when I browsed through the economics section at Barnes and Noble this weekend and came upon his latest book, I knew I had to buy it.

In this book, as the title suggests, Paulos focuses on the stock market. He bought into Worldcom and lost money on it. He uses his own investment and his own psychology to illustrate the vagaries of the market. For anyone who espouses any economic theory, be prepared to have your sacred cows slaughtered. Paulos ridicules such techniques as technical analysis (widely covered in Investor's Business Daily, which I stopped subscribing to last week for it's overemphasis on the technique). But he also shows some of the fallacies in more fundamental analysis of companies used successfully by such investor's as Warren Buffet. His central tenet throughout the book is this: the supposed advantages of most techniques could just as easily be the product of luck as it could be of innate skill. And he backs it up as well.

A large percentage of his book is devoted to examples and game theory. I won't go into it here, but watch gkr and I might include a few of them as well as how I can see these things applying. If nothing else, they are fun.