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April 23rd, 2007

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10:36 am - recently finished books
White Night by Jim Butcher. It took a little mental gear-shifting to go back to the milieu of the text Dresden Files from that of the SciFi channel Dresden Files - in part because I've become terribly fond of the TV version of Bob, as played by Terrance Mann. However, the world of the books is definitely the richer and more developed of the two, and the complexities of the on-going story threads were a delight to reacquaint myself with, no matter how much I enjoy the stripped-down television version.
I've been impressed with the amount of character development Butcher has imbued this series with from the beginning, when I felt the writing and story were decent but best characterized as "popcorn" level - and you need to understand that for me, popcorn is a major food group, so that's not a denigration in any way. White Night is number nine in the Dresden Files book series, and is definitely a smoother ride than some of the earlier works. Butcher's craft is catching up with his story-telling and his ideas, and it's fine thing to watch happen.
White Night is about trust, and choices, and free will. When it looks like someone you think you know is doing something horrible, what do you do? Worse yet, when it comes to light that most folks who aren't well-aquainted with you (and even some who are) think you are the one killing people and making it look like suicide (since you are one of the few with the power and position to get away with it), then what? Harry Dresden gets to find out.

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. This was a pure delight for me. Godel, Escher, Bach was a touchstone for me as a young adult, as well as being my introduction to Cool Math (as opposed to the torturous boredom and seeming uselessness of higher mathematics as taught at my school) and Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, which intuitively resonated with me even though I didn't have anything like the context to properly understand it. IAaSL is Hofstadter's revisitation of the germ ideas that prompted him to write GEB, enriched by the 20-odd years of additional study and experience between the first book and the second.
His theory that consciousness/sentience/en-souledness[*] is an epiphenomena arising from the complexity of the brain makes sense to me on such a fundamental level that I have trouble doing anything besides gesticulating and making noises of assent. At the same time I hesitate to attempt to say anything further because I'm afraid I'll almost certainly convey the wrong impression, if I haven't already with that term marked [*]. If you like thinking about thinking, I highly recommend this as an eminently readable and at times laugh-out-loud-funny (to me at least) meditation on how consciousness arises and persists.

[*] Not to be taken in the religious sense as much as the sense of what ever it is about us that goes away when we die. Please hold my feeble attempts at definition in abeyance though, if they at all turn you away from looking at the book, since he spends a fair amount of time explaining himself, and all I'm doing here is getting in the way.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 24th, 2007 06:01 am (UTC)
I loved GEB, and I hadn't yet heard of this new one. I look forward to picking it up! (I, too, pretty much fuzzed out on the math, having not received the math gene from my dad, who was pretty much in the mathematical genius territory).
[User Picture]
Date:April 24th, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)
I've always wanted to be more mathematically inclined than I am, but I'm good at pattern-matching - so one of the most bittersweet moments of IAaSL was a passage where he cites the search for patterns as a sign of the mathematical mind.

Speaking of your dad, I was very sad to hear about your loss. My father passed away about ten years ago; you have my sympathies.
[User Picture]
Date:April 25th, 2007 05:43 am (UTC)
Thank you. I appreciate it. :)

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