Oh, how nice it is when it starts to feel like the worst of winter is behind you. Riding home after work and it is still light outside, and we are closer to St. Patrick's Day than Christmas. Things are looking up, my friend.
A decent week all things considered. Early on is started with one of those mornings where your first thought is that it is Satur-, no way, Fri-, maybe Th, ugh, it's Tuesday. It got better from there though with successes at work and a fairly relaxing week. One book finished and another started, a great D&D session, a decent beer, and a decision to take a week off work. Moving right along, then.
Book #7 for 2020 was "The Information: a history, a theory, a flood" by James Gleick. Regardless of whatever Gleick writes in his lifetime, to me he will always be the guy that wrote "Chaos", which you'll see if you look up at Worldcat has about a gazillion different editions since the original in 1988. Chaos is probably the book that influenced me the most given how little I really understood of it. Maybe I should read it again to see if I can actually glean more out of it this time.
Information was really three books in one. The history section was a nice write-up of how language and then writing changed our brains, lives, and societies. There were stories societies from the very beginning of history - history of course only possible of course by language and writing - and of famous individuals up to the early years of the twentieth century - Newton, Leibniz, Russell, Babbage, Lovelace, Morse All giants in the own rights, some much more famous than others.
Theory was a paean to Claude Shannon, the intellectual giant who gave the world information theory, and with it, a new definition for information itself. He showed us, or at least tried to show us mere mortals, what entropy was and how it mattered. He foreshadowed electronic computation and distributed networks, and allowed for entire new branches of science like molecular biology to form. He should one of the most well-known scientists of the twentieth century, but he didn't build a bomb, make a billion dollars, or create a law or theory that was easy to state if not understand (because, seriously, how do you casually talk about logarithms?) In the end, one of the great minds was reduced and degraded by Alzheimer's. I wonder what Shannon would have thought about Alzheimer's and its effects on the entropy of the human brain.
Flood almost seemed an afterthought, something that was added because no publisher would print a history of "information" with the story of an obscure scientist responsible for a mind-numbing theoretical concept. As much as I liked this book, the last few chapters really feel flat for me. Maybe that was because the concepts were more prosaic - information overload, media saturation - or maybe it was because there was no brilliant hero to read about. Whatever the reason, the ending took away from an otherwise excellent read.
Just one new beer this week. This one was the Lost Mitten Blueberry Sour from Alley Kat. Once again, another really nice beer from Alley Kat. A good punch of sour, but not a lot of sweetness. Amazing blueberry aroma, but could have tasted fruitier. Aside from that minor complaint, this is a beer that I would definitely drink again. (3.75 / 5)
A bunch of new words this week. Most came from the History section of Shannon's book.
stelae (plural noun)
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