Finished reading “The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew” by Alan Lightman. The first 3/4s of the book was tainted and confused by his trial to blend religion and science. I so much wanted to see his argument but there was no substance to it. An interesting look at the accidental, temporary, spiritual, symmetrical, gargantuan, lawful and disembodied universes we live in simultaneously.
The last part “The Disembodied Universe” really showed him to be a old curmudgeon. Surprising for a theoretical physicist. The world is changing and has always been in a state of flux. Some have absorbed the changes as if they were natural and some have resisted by erecting barriers or ignoring them. He gives this away by reminiscing about “authentic” times. As if we somehow became ‘unauthentic’. The one nugget I got from the book was that idea that our discovery of the ‘invisible world’ of quantum and the vastness of the astrophysical world may be leading us to a place where things that are not “physical” (as in right in front of our senses) are becoming more and more normal. Indeed a surprising proposal. Some of the consequences of this are positive and some will turn out to be negative. Only time will tell which is which, no matter how much we reminisce for the good old day of authentic and natural.
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This book attempts to pull back the curtain of the mystery of mathematics. I was successfully both educated and entertained. This book is about symmetries and dualities both in mathematics and ultimately in the world we live in. Who knew the Henry David Thoreau saw the connection between math and love (our world).
“The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take at last the mathematical form. We might so simplify the rules of moral philosophy, as well as of arithmetic, that one formula would express them both.”
While Frenkel doubts a single formula can explain ‘everything’ he has convinced me that mathematical formulas are some of the “purest, most versatile, most economical expressions of truth know to mankind.” Mathematics is a field of discovery and not a field of human invention. Mathematics discoveries are objective truths about the world that are true no matter who or where you are in the universe and in fact it doesn’t matter if there is a ‘you' at all.
This book was challenging to read. I don’t pretend to have grasped all the math parts. Some became clearer with Frenkel’s guidance. Many I read, letting the words wash over me and the ideas slip in were they would, not worrying about ideas too big. I also can’t pretend not to be moved by the love parts of the book. Frenkel’s biography is full of drama and his luck at meeting the right people at the right time is uncanny. His love of math and the exploration is infectious. He insists that math is democratic and being aware of this importance is a key to a rich and fulfilling live and that the way math is taught is a problem. He likes to say that if we had been taught art by just painting a fence and never shown the works of the masters, later in life you’d hate art and you’d say you were no good at it and it was not worth much. This is how we are taught math. Never exposed to the great discoveries and their relevance.
I am grateful for being exposed by Frenkel and others to mathematics great discoveries and their relevance.
Here are some relevant links:
How our 1,000-year-old math curriculum cheats America's kids Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times
Why do people hate mathematics? Short Video
All things Frenkel Berkeley
Well, it looks like I have a few readers. I hope I can keep you interested.
Today is auspicious. A wonderful day. Make each day as awesome as you can. Each day added to the next, together make life. If each day is awesome then life will be awesome. Easy peasy. Reviewing my 2014 Aspirations and Commitments today, looks like many are on track. Writing has been good. It helps me remember and gives me goals to shoot for. Without writing I’d forget what goals I had and would not know if I was on course or not.
It has been one year since I challenged myself to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I didn’t make it. I only read 34. For me that is something. For some of you, this is a mere pittance and I should be ashamed to call myself a reader! I can do better. So this year I will repeat. April 1 to April 1 I’ll read 52 books. I noticed early in the past year I was focusing my reading on one book at a time and doing quite well keeping up with my goal. Later in the year I started reading 3 and 4 books at a time and got stalled. I’m going to try reading just one book at a time and see how it goes.
Here is a list of the books I read last year. I can recommend all of them except where noted. I was hoping some pattern would emerge from the books I read but I can’t see it.
- Cold Mountain by Han-shan translated by Burton Watson - Zen poetry
- Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchlor - Zen
- Mortality by Christopher Hitchens - Philosophy
- The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg - Psycology 4 out of 10
- Dog On It by Spencer Quinn - Fiction
- Broken Music by Sting - Memoir
- The Fault of our Stars by John Green - Fiction Tear jerker
- The Chocolate Cake Sutra by Geri Larkin - Zen
- War Dances by Alexie Sherman - Fiction
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Bren Brown - Self Help
- Cooked by Michael Pollan - Natural History
- Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland - Art Appreciation 10 out of 10
- On Being Certain by Robert Burton - Life changing 10 out of 10
- As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh by Susan Sontag - Memoir
- Strangers to Ourselves by Tim Wilson - Philosophy 10 out of 10
- A Skeptics Guide to the Mind by Robert Burton - First book better
- Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
- The Dip by Seth Godin - Inspirational as usual for Seth
- By Hand and Eye by George Walker and Jim Tolpin 5 out of 10
- James Krenov's "A Cabinetmaker's Notebook"
- The Five Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger & Michael Starbird
- James Krenov's "The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking"
- Touching A Nerve, The Self As Brain by Patricia Churchland (Audible)
- Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn -Audible
- Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean (Audible)
- David Pye’s book The Nature and Art of Workmanship
- Love 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson (Audible Real wowo at the end)
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide, by Douglas Adams
- You are now less dumb by David McRaerdey
- The Pre History of the Far Side. by Gary Lason
- Why we make thing and why it matters by Peter Korn (10 out of 10) January
- Transmitting the light - translated by Francis Cook February 1, 2014
- The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen
- This is a Happy Marriage by Ann Pratchett Short story
This week in the shop I plan on:
- finishing the welding cart that will support my welder
- starting on the cutting board as fine furniture for Becky
- get business card printed
- slowly start the “Shop"
I'm cooked! Michael Pollan's newest book "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" is so subtly full of metaphors and subversion that my head is still spinning. He put forth three ideas using four methods of cooking. Barbecue, braising, bread baking, and fermentation. He makes the perfect argument for his ideas, get in the kitchen and learning about food, that we are co-evolving with the microscopic organisms around us, and connecting socially with family and friends to share meals is a process worth rekindling.
Mary and I participate with a local CSA (Affinity Farms). It is such a rich and rewarding experience. Here is picture of an early box (week 4). Mostly greens, some turnips and green garlic. It filled our fridge and we will "suffer" and "struggle" to plan our weeks meals around the bounty. Having Russell and Kelly farm for us is a way that we can stay "intellectual incompetent" in the area of the details of gardening. Our lifestyle and living location makes it hard to have a garden. Something I sadly admit I have never had. Mary used to do the whole gardening/canning/food storage thing when she lived in Pennsylvania.
There is a lack of understanding of how our food is prepared. I'm not sure I understand all the implications. This "lack of understanding" is prevalent in many areas of live, technology, our health, interlay of the environment and our activities, the material world we live in. But food, we have be hood-winked in a group think through advertising that "they", the industrial food machine, can produce food better, safer, and more convenient than we can. Their motive, profits, not health and social well being. This is pervasive type of "intellectual incompetence" we have all fallen for in one way or another. Michael Pollan's book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation is in a way a subversive text, rallying us to overthrow the industrial food machine and take back cooking. Little by little, slowly, where it makes sense.
What the food industry can not produce is the feeling of satisfaction you get from preparing a meal from raw or near raw ingredients and sharing it together with family and friends. Learning new skills in the area of food give confidence to learn new skills in the other area where corporations have tried to influence us into being asleep sheep.
Cooking is a subversive act. You agree?
There is no combination of words I could put on the back of a postcard
No song that I could sing, but I can try for your heart
Our dreams, and they are made out of real things
Like a, shoebox of photographs
With sepia-toned loving
Love is the answer,
At least for most of the questions in my heart
Like why are we here? And where do we go?
And how come it's so hard?
It's not always easy and
Sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together
I believe in memories
They look so, so pretty when I sleep
Hey now, and when I wake up,
You look so pretty sleeping next to me
But there is not enough time,
And there is no, no song I could sing
And there is no combination of words I could say
But I will still tell you one thing
We're better together.
Thanks Jack Johnson for the song and the reminder that indeed Mary and I are better together. The picture is from Dec 30. There is no snow now. I remember this time as a happy time, snowshoeing on our favorite track, Boykan, the brown dog is somewhere. Warm and tired.
Rough night. Didn't sleep too much and I think I woke Mary a couple of times. Thought a lot about Sting. Played with Dave Matthews Band at Atlanta for the NCAA Final Four concert. I'm currently read his book "Broken Music: A Memoir". How he was able to compartmentalize parts of live. How he went for mastery though habit (the things we do everyday and every week become habits). There is a lot for us to learn there.
I just finished "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" Charles Duhigg and originally though it was to preachy and was offended by the religious references. I want to share my desire to change some of my habits. Starting with posting here. I plan on using this forum to share about (in no special order) my health and CLIPPERS, my woodworking progress, photography, my exploration of Mu and Zen and my cooking experiments.
Now I need a habit and a system. Added Amazon Affiliate Program and Cross Posting to Facebook.
A lot of thing have been happening in Will's life lately. My health as gone to shit. I've started using a cane to help control my balance. My talking has become increasingly difficult for my to articulate at a speed that feel normal. I'm weak. I have taken a 30 day leave of absence from work and I'm not sure it helped. I still feel about the same as when I started. I started a new treatment regime and am take Perdinsone by mouth instead of IV. This was the recommendation from the second opinion I got from Johns Hopkins. They seem to agree that I have a condition called CLIPPERS and this it the standart treatment. So much fo me and my health. I happy to restart this blog but am curious where it will lead and how it will fit in with my life.