Holiday Reading List 2012 / 2013

Holiday Reading

While some folks are enjoying days and days off this holiday season, some of us have to work (grumble, grumble, grinch, grumble..) but it doesn’t mean that we can’t take a little time to flex the old grey matter by indulging in some good books.

Thanks to Sara raiding my Amazon wish lists, these 4 books are going to make up the bulk of my holiday reading for the next week or two.

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed – Ray Kurzweil

Futurist, inventor and author Ray Kurzweil was recently hired by Google as their Director of Engineering , as such this book should be on the list for anyone with even a passing interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The bold futurist and bestselling author explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

Ray Kurzweil is arguably today’s most influential—and often controversial—futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilization—reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.

Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the world’s problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional and moral intelligence and the origins of consciousness and envisions the radical possibilities of our merging with the intelligent technology we are creating.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You – The Oatmeal

Everybody loves The Oatmeal, and Sara took a stab at in the dark guessing that I’d love this collection of some of Matthew Inmans most popular cat jokes. I’ve not yet read it, because Gabby (our 14-year-old) swiped it from me and brought it to “the pit of no return: (a.k.a. her room). I’m informed that it’s hilarious!

If your cat is kneading you, that’s not a sign of affection. Your cat is actually checking your internal organs for weakness. If your cat brings you a dead animal, this isn’t a gift. It’s a warning. How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is a hilarious, brilliant offering of cat comics, facts, and instructional guides from the creative wonderland at TheOatmeal.com.

The Physics of Star Trek – Lawrence M. Krauss

In a book that (as a Trekkie) I’m ashamed to say I didn’t read when it was first published in 2007, theoretical physicist and Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Dr. Lawrence Maxwell Krauss, dissects the science of Star Trek.

What warps when you’re traveling at warp speed? What is the difference between a wormhole and a black hole? Are time loops really possible, and can I kill my grandmother before I am born? Anyone who has ever wondered “could this really happen?” will gain useful insights into the Star Trek universe (and, incidentally, the real world of physics) in this charming and accessible guide. Lawrence M. Krauss boldly goes where Star Trek has gone-and beyond. From Newton to Hawking, from Einstein to Feynman, from Kirk to Picard, Krauss leads readers on a voyage to the world of physics as we now know it and as it might one day be.

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel – Michio Kaku

Over the past year I’ve become a big fan of futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. It was his talks on Big Think that initially drew me in, so this book was an absolute must for me.

Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current understanding of the universe’s physical laws may permit in the near and distant future.Entertaining, informative, and imaginative, Physics of the Impossible probes the very limits of human ingenuity and scientific possibility.

Dude, You’re Gonna Be A Dad! (Video)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m about to become a father for the very first time. This has led me to hunt out reading material so I can learn from, and hopefully not repeat the mistakes of others.

This video is a quick update on where Sara and I are and an endorsement of the book “DUDE, You’re Gonna Be a DAD!” by John Pfeiffer.

So We Bought This Baby Name Book…

100000 Baby NamesOkay, lets get this our of the way: No Sara’s not pregnant. No we’re not trying, well not for at least another year, but yes we are giving serious thought to having a baby in the next 2 years or so.

So being us we ordered a book of baby names as Sara simply refuses to allow me to name the kids anything like “Captain Jack O’Flaherty” or “Darth O’Flaherty”.

The book we ordered is “100,000+ Baby Names” by Bruce Lansky, and it is quite simply the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

I know you’re wondering how a book of baby names could ever be funny, but let me explain:

Near the beginning of the book there is a section called “The Impressions Names Make” which lists girls and boys names by the impression the name gives. So if you’d like you child to have an athletic, beutiful/handsome, friendly, hippie, intelligent etc., sounding name then you’d pick from one of these lists. Simple right? No quite.

Each of these lists is divided into names for girls and boys except for “nerdy” which has only boys names listed. Apparently only boys can be nerdy, and it gets worse.

The lists that contain only boys names include: Nerdy, Strong/Tough and Wimpy.

Lists containing only girls names also feature, such as “sweet” and every bodies favorite “sexy”.  Yup, you know you’ve always wanted your baby girl to have a name that makes her sound “sexy”. LOL

Still the best part of the book was yet to come. Setting aside the fact that many of the names in the book do not have the origins that the author claims, and many more appear to be exercises in seeing how many ways the author could phonetically spell a name to make it sound remotely like the base name in order to fill the 100,000+ names claim, the best part of the book was this name:

Gagandeep

First off let me say that “Gagandeep” is a genuine Indian name and I apologize if anybody gets offended by this, but Sara and I have filthy minds. Damn filthy minds. Think Urban Dictionary levels of filthy.

So when we’re reading through the names in the book and come across other names and start putting then together on a “first name, middle name basis” it was all we could do not to fall off the couch laughing.

If your not from America say these with your best  American accents, and if you are just say these out loud: Ima Gagandeep. Sukhdeep Gagandeep, Fulla Gagandeep…

This list goes on, and on and on. It’s like listening to an Austin Powers script.

I know that we have the sense of humor of 12 year old boys in a sex education class but damn, it was just so funny. I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot more laughs out of this book over the next year or two :)

Feeding The Brains

These are what I’ll be reading in order to stretch the remaining neural connections this week.

Quotes from the Amazon Pages.

Theories of International Politics and Zombies

Theroies of international politics and zombies

Drezner (All Politics Is Global), a Tufts professor of international politics, comes up with an intriguing intellectual conceit to explain various schools of international political theory. He imagines a world overrun with zombies and considers the likely responses of national governments, the U.N. and other international organizations, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs). He examines possible reactions through the lens of seven theoretical approaches including realpolitik, liberalism, neoconservatism, and bureaucratic politics. After considering the efficacy of each approach in combating the zombie hordes, Drezner weighs their flaws and concludes that given the limitations of human reason and a highly fluid situation, all theories are “more circumscribed than international relations theorists proclaim in their scholarship.” Drezner is fascinated with zombies—he’s seen all the movies and read the books—and writes with clarity, insight, and wit. For example, he notes that as zombies bite humans, who then become zombies, human-zombie “alliances of convenience” might be possible,” that NGOs would arise “devoted to the defense of the living dead,” and that neoconservative “shock-and-awe” military approaches probably wouldn’t impress the undead zombies. This slim book is an imaginative and very helpful way to introduce its subject—who knew international relations could be this much fun? (Mar.)

Inside WikiLeaks

Inside WikiLeaksFormer WikiLeaks Insider and Spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg Authors an Exposé of the “World’s Most Dangerous Website”

In an eye-opening account, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former spokesman of WikiLeaks, reveals never-disclosed details about the inner workings of the increasingly controversial organization that has struck fear into governments and business organizations worldwide and prompted the Pentagon to convene a 120-man task force. In addition to Germany and the U.S., Inside WikiLeaks will be published simultaneously in 12 other countries.

Under the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt, Domscheit-Berg was the effective No. 2 at WikiLeaks and the organization’s most public face, after Julian Assange. In this book, he reveals the evolution, finances, and inner tensions of the whistleblower organization, beginning with his first meeting with Assange in December 2007. He also describes what led to his September 2010 withdrawal from WikiLeaks, including his disenchantment with the organization’s lack of transparency, its abandonment of political neutrality, and Assange’s increasing concentration of power. What has been made public so far about WikiLeaks is only a small fraction of the truth. With Domscheit-Berg’s insider knowledge, he is uniquely able to tell the full story. A computer scientist who worked in IT security prior to devoting himself full-time to WikiLeaks, he remains committed to freedom of information on the Internet. Today he is working on a more transparent secret-sharing website called OpenLeaks, developed by former WikiLeaks people, to be launched in early 2011.