seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[personal profile] seekingferret
As happens in the periods when I am not persistently a reclusive shut in, I am cycling between exhaustingly overscheduled and returning to being a reclusive shut in.

Three weeks ago I had plans every night of the week- D&D Monday, Puzzled Pint Tuesday, writing with a friend on Wednesday, Peter Frampton & Steve Miller concert Thursday with my family, local Shabbaton for young professionals Friday into Saturday. So I took the next week off from social interaction- the only time I went out was to go out for dinner with my dad and brother. Instead I read a lot and vidded a lot. Last week I was back to busy- D&D Monday, writing with a friend Wednesday, adventures in the City on Thursday, a few long phone calls with friends. This week's the 4th of July, messing with the flow of the week. I'll probably go see my parents tomorrow.

For a bit, I was talking to someone a friend set me up with. She's a grad student in Boston, seems interesting, and weirdly it turned out that her father has been a customer of ours for the past several months. We spoke on the phone a few times, mostly about books. Which I was just fine with, I like talking about books and can pretty much do it indefinitely. There have definitely been people I've gone on dates with for whom their inability to talk critically about books was a turn-off (An English major who said her favorite book was David Copperfield but couldn't explain what she liked about it.), so I was having fun talking books with her. Then she told me she wasn't interested, so oh well, that's how it goes. Maybe I should have talked less about books. More likely one of my other social flaws ruined it.

She recommended Walter Isaacson's The Innovators, and while Isaacson's not the sort of writer I normally love, she made it sound interesting enough to try. It's a history of digital computing technology starting with Ada Lovelace and going to the present day of web technology (as of five years ago, so already way out of date. ;) ). Thematically, it's theoretically about emphasizing the idea of innovators, plural, how computer technology has long resisted the lone inventor no matter how much people try to impose the narrator. Unfortunately, Isaacson doesn't quite manage to resist the narrative himself. In a discussion of the Harvard Mark I, he discusses the divergent creation myths crafted by Grace Hopper, who attributes the Mark I to its heroic lone founder Howard Aiken, and IBM, which attributes it to myriad small innovations from 'faceless IBM engineers.' But though Isaacson admits that the IBM version has merit, he doesn't go through the effort of giving names and faces to the 'faceless IBM engineers'. As a faceless semiconductor engineer myself, this rankled. If your point is that the teams matter, talk about the teams! In the end, The Innovators is a fun, breezy hagiography of the famous inventors of the computer age that gestures toward a broader vision it's unwilling to take to time to draw out in full detail. I enjoyed it, but I mostly enjoyed it as a pointer to a long reading list of books I'd rather be reading that do the details. I also appreciated that it was a book where the female innovators weren't buried or written out of the history quite as much, though at times it came off a bit patronizing when Isaacson described people as 'woman engineers'.

Because I'm me, I noticed when putting the book on hold at the library that the system also listed a book called Fashion Innovators and I got curious because I know so little about fashion. I was hoping it was basically The Innovators for fashion, a survey level tracing of the history of modern fashion, with an emphasis on innovation both stylistic and technological. It's not. It's just 2-4 page capsule biographies of 20th and 21st century fashion personalities, rarely reaching any kind of interesting depth, but it has its moments. The two page capsule biography of Lauren Conrad asserts already a broader definition of who is a fashion innovator than I had expected, and the more extended biography of Liz Claiborne paints a fascinating portrait of her both as a businessperson and as someone with a clear sense of style that considers both the practical and the visual element. I would like to read the book I'd imagined it to be, if I can find it. And I should hunt down a full biography of Liz Claiborne, too.

I've also read the first two books of Faye Kellerman's Rina Lazarus/Peter Decker series, which was love at first sight. <3 Murder mysteries featuring an ambivalently Jewish detective raised by Baptists and the Orthodox Jewish widow he falls in love with. They get the details of life in Orthodoxy so perfectly right, and also the feel of wrestling with God, the doubt and uncertainty of living a Jewish life in a world that does not feel tailored for it. There's a lot of books in the series and I'm sure the sharpness will wear off, but I'm looking forward to the ride as long as it lasts.


I also read The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter, which consists of obsessive close-reading of the first 4 books to try to point out all the clues Rowling embeds, firstly to the storylines of the book, and secondly putatively to the whole septology's myth-arc. Many of the supposed 'septology clues' didn't pan out, but some did, and it's fascinating to look as closely at the text as this book does.

And I read two and a half of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series, about a family of monster hunters. Action adventure books that I can easily pick up and put down. Enjoyable but not compulsive-reading inducing.


I've also gotten back into the rhythm of biking several times a week. I bike to shul for mincha/maariv, which is a short ride but important for keeping up the habit. And yesterday I rode over to the Raritan River and rode along the river for several miles in the park... total trip about 8 miles. Not all that much compared to my friends who talk about the fifty mile rides they go on, but it's a lot for me, and it was a big deal that my legs don't feel like rubber today after the trip. And it was a pretty ride, and a lot of fun.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-03 06:53 pm (UTC)
grrlpup: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grrlpup
I'm going to try the first in the Faye Kellerman series; sounds right up my alley. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-03 07:10 pm (UTC)
grrlpup: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grrlpup
thanks, good to know; not my favorite but not a dealbreaker.

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seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
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