> petek, marec 24, 2006
> komentarjev: 16

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

This is how the book begins. It is supposedly driven by the idea, and in general it is, but there is of course more to this book.
The social security and merely having a wife doesn't have anything to do with the main story. This book is very romantic, but not in such a way as tissues or anything are required, no, it's more of silly romantic, or smart romantic. It makes me feel good, and smarter.
I am very fond of this book. I remember now that I still haven't read The English Patient. I heard its romance is hard to beat, but I wonder, does it beat Pride and Prejudice?

The English is not difficult. I thought it would've been difficult to follow. The vocabulary is more shallow than of Tolkien. The only problem are the sentences, which are often unusually long, and in a funny word order. Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend descriptions and conversations. It's not hard to merely follow the story.

Gosh, Chapter 56! It leaves me breathless whenever I read it. It's the episode of Lady Catherine de Bourgh paying a visit to the Bennet family, when she isolates Elizabeth and engages her into a swording duel. Merely the setting, that prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of the lawn, is thrilling enough, but when their swords clash (it is a word-duel), I am sure that one of them is going to die, even though I've read the chapter many times, do you understand. It's so good.

This is grand fiction. The words and settings are engaging. I had great problems with stopping and postponing my readings. It's one of those books that teases you, yet it does that civilly, so you never start to hate it, but love it more with every chapter. The ending culminating chapters may result in harm, be warned.

* * *

Watching Pride and Prejudice (1995, BBC TV series in six 50 minutes parts, starring Colin Firth)
The first two shots show us the two most interesting characters: proud Mr. Darcy as he and his friend ride from the north to look for an estate to settle on. Afterwards the camera moves to a local girl, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, as she is keenly observing them from the top of the hill, enjoying the countryside, looking content with herself, being a modern woman of the 18th century.

Next we meet all of the Bennet family: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five daughters but no son. Their main project, particularly of Mrs. Bennet's, is to find five male matches. What a bold plan! But Mrs. Bennet has all the vigor you could imagine. She is the key humorous figure. Although full of energy, she never really gets on our nerves. She is mostly harmless.

The five Bennet girls have it all: some are pretty, some silly, all read all the time, and merely two know their best manners: Jane is the oldest, and she is thought to be the most beautiful too. As for me, I could not move my eyes off Elizabeth, who is the next in age. She is the most beautiful in my opinion. She is also very clever, she's all wits. Her father is particularly fond of her, and I can see why. I too would like to have a daughter like her. But first, I would like to have a girlfriend like her.
From the start there is no doubt that she will be the most captivating character, the one that will set the pace of our hearts.

If Elizabeth is the most lovely, then Darcy is the most interesting in every other respect. His pride lends a half to the book title, he's direct, and always rough on first acquaintance. He's handsome, smart, and knows to talk with sense and logic beauty. He's memorable. I can't forget him, but want to get to know him better. Since he's essentially a good guy, he improves on acquaintance.
I myself don't care much about money too, just like Mr. Darcy. He has a lot more, of course, and it's not that hard to be indifferent to money when you aren't exactly poor. However, we know that money can't buy you happiness, and many are unhappy in spite of being rich. Still, I guess even more are unhappy because they are poor, but sometimes I wonder if this is entirely true.
Soon the party meets Mr. Darcy and his friend Mr. Bingley at the local ball. Darcy keeps exclusively to himself. Such manners! Why won't he dance? He says it would be insupportable (i.e. unpleasant). The conversation of Bingley trying to force Darcy into a dance with a girl, why not Elizabeth, is particularly funny (as well as extremely cruel, I say):

(BINGLEY): "Come, Darcy, I must have you dance! I must. I hate to see you standing about in this stupid manner! You had much better dance!"

(DARCY): "I certainly shall not. At an assembly such as this? It would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged. You know it would punish me to stand up with any other woman."

(BINGLEY): "Good God, Darcy! I wouldn't be as fastidious as you are for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met so many pleasant girls in my life! Several of them uncommonly pretty."

(DARCY): "You have been dancing with the only handsome girl in the room."

(BINGLEY): "Darcy, she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld. Look, look! There's one of her sisters (staring at Elizabeth). She's very pretty too. I daresay very agreeable."

(DARCY): "She's tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I'm in no humour to consider young ladies who are slighted by other men. Go back to your partner. Enjoy her smiles. You're wasting your time on me."

This conversation is held within the hearing distance of Elizabeth, mind that!
This is how Elizabeth gets acquainted with Darcy for the first time. She then makes a promise to her mother to never accept his proposal: "I may safely promise you never to dance with Mr Darcy."

She should've known better!

The girl outfits seem rather funny. Why are they worn so high? I can't imagine if they are comfortable. It looks like everybody got pregnant, and it certainly makes them look a bit chubby. Perhaps they were a bit fatter those days, while in every other scene they are gathered around a generously laid table, and nobody is ever shown to exercise in any manner, save for Elizabeth going on hikes around the countryside and playing with the dog, and Darcy horseback riding and swording. See, they even made noble particularly these two in that respect.

I hope you will stumble upon this series, for it is charming with an exceptional acting. The first part (of six) in an ok-DivX can be acquired here (its subtitles can be found here, I myself make them display properly in BSplayer, while of course the DivX Codec must be installed at all).

The film regretfully keeps that abominable line (look at the bottom for details), "... dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!", and I may just as well cut it out of my personal copy.

Having seen Pride & Prejudice (2005, starring Keira Knightley)
It's 2005, and actresses are thinner. They are indeed, and one soon realizes that the breasts of Keira Knightley are much smaller than of Jennifer Ehle.
The film covers the book much quicker than the TV series, but of course, it must, since the runtimes are: 130 and 300 minutes respectively. In many details the film doesn't do justice to the book, and takes original approaches, but that turns out well. Remember that fantastic scene of Darcy giving Elizabeth the letter of explanation. However, in the last part the film "takes matters quite in its own hands", but again doesn't do injustice to Jane Austen, always showing her high respect.
The film is compact and visually polished. I enjoyed the advantageous usage of a beautiful scenery, for many shots are taken outside. The film turns out to be very funny, and it builds some great moments. The pace never lessens. The end happens abruptly, and I particularly enjoyed it, for it's simple. One of the best thing is that the film gets rid of that abominable line, "... dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!".
Two main actors are quite pleasing. Both, Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy, are by every mean worthy of the thrones of Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The facial expressions and talk of Miss Knightley seem sometime a bit diabolic (as in wicked).
Still, I like the series more, even though this film is more romantic. My current status is: both, the film and series, I've seen twice. When the temptation comes for the 5th time, I shan't resist, and I will choose the series. The film is less than half of the length of the series, which means: 170 minutes less of Pride and Prejudice.
Both leave a sweet taste.
This is a feel-good film. It rises and sets with a rising sun.

On vanity
This will perhaps not feel like a book example about vanity to you, but it feels fundamental to me. I am to dive deep into my subconsciousness and try to improve my conscious part.
Am I vain, as in excessively proud of my appearance and accomplishments?
I may be. They say that vanity is in everybody, that it's very human. I can't do anything about that, but I can see that it can make us unhappy sometimes.
You can definitely call me names for posting a picture of a girl I knew, and you will be right, but, at the same time, as I've done that, I think I've already become that better a person, a bit more vanity-proof.
Here is a scene from the TV series:

(ELIZABETH about Darcy): "A man without fault?"

(DARCY): "That is not possible for anyone. But it has been my study to avoid those weaknesses which expose ridicule."

(ELIZABETH): "Such as vanity, perhaps, and pride?"

(DARCY): "Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride ... Where there is a superiority of mind, pride will always be under regulation. I have faults, but I hope they're not of understanding. My temper I cannot vouch for. It might be called resentful. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever."

(ELIZABETH): "That is a failing indeed, but I cannot laugh at it."

(DARCY): "I believe every disposition has a tendency to some evil."

(ELIZABETH): "Your defect is a propensity to hate everyone."

(DARCY): "Yours is wilfully to misunderstand them."

I think I could not quote the series enough and still not mine it justily for this purpose.

The first girl from the left is Navi Rawat. She is Amita Ramanujan in the new TV series Numb3rs (2005). The girl next to her is A., and she was once almost my girlfriend, and she would've been just that, had I moved my finger a bit differently. However, some things bothered me on her so much that I was never able to move my finger correctly. Sometimes I wished I'd had, for her heart was sweet and pure (yet not entirely), or maybe I should've said that it had been pure, for I might've just as well spoiled it. This is one of my biggest tears.

Navi is Amita is an applied mathematician, pursuing her second Ph.D. in astrophysics. There she is again on the left. Am I in love?

You know about the Genome Project, and you must remember Bill Clinton having announced on June 2000 a successful sequencing of the bigger part of our genome. Prior to that scientists worked on chimps, having sequenced their genome, and now they are telling us that in 98 or so percent their genome equals ours. This sounds like we not only descend from the apes but that we are apes: our long arms, having no tail, our habits and temperaments, everything seems very apish.
Biologists, what a compliment, thank you guys!
This puzzles me. You take a man and chimpanzee, and you can easily tell them apart; given only their DNA, however, you can't.
Could the explanation lies in misunderstanding of genetic differences, and could this paradox of the anatomical differences and the genetic similarity be an illusion?
If we wanted to be serious, we should probably talk of criteria first. Compare DNA sequences, and you've got a match. But to compare a human being to a chimpanzee, one should first ask: "Compare to what?"
Here my weakness of perceiving the nature through the eyes of a mathematician is explicit. Genome can be measured and species easily compared, yet genetic data does not determine our place in nature. Great forces clash at this point: humanness and animalness, beasts and angels, technology and ideology. Math can never encapsulate that.
Still, I can't think without mathematical analogies. They give me a significant reason to live. So I ask myself: If I am, at least DNA-wise, just a part in hundred apart from a chimpanzee, what part in billion am I apart from A.?

The most obvious reason to me why one can't be happy with a physically unappealing partner, is because he can't perceive her (or vice versa) as attractive and can't make himself to enjoy intimacy with her. This is a very dear problem to me. I see only two ways out: either he dumps the girl, or, he matures to the point when he is able to weight contents against appearance in a fair manner, and tries to keep the girl. Nobody's perfect, that's for sure, and sooner one realizes that the better for him, so he is able to recognize beauty in people of great bigger a pool. With bigger a pool there is bigger a chance to crash into a true soul mate. Finding a soul mate isn't spiritual, it can be mathematical: increasing the number of crashes is one way to go.
Last time I checked, however, I was still pretty thickheaded.

Getting obsessed with Pride and Prejudice; suffering from Darcymania; can't get enough of Elizabeth Bennet?
I certainly can't get enough of Elizabeth Bennet.
I've stumbled upon this half serious half crazy recipe for Treating Darcymania:

1. Bookmark The Pride and Prejudice Paradise
2. Borrow the original book, and read it
3. Get The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle
4. Borrow the sequels to Pride and Prejudice
5. Try the other books by Jane Austen
6. See the movies based on her books
7. Download the Desktop Theme
8. Buy the soundtrack
9. See the documentaries abut the movie
10. Buy the sheet music for the theme song

However, this list does not help me. I can't say it does, since I've practically went to my boss already, and asked him for some three weeks of leave. Thank heaven for the number 10 won't do for me: My playing piano is ill indeed. But then ... I can learn it better ... yeah, I may do that, and since I am at it, I might just as well get a friend to learn a violin, flute, or hell, a clarinet, so we could play the duets together.
This is not a complete solution, I agree, but it's something, and something is better than nothing, as they say: act, do not observe yourself, act now, and buy those music sheets.

Would I like to lead the life of Mr. Darcy?
I must admit I've been attracted to this particular idea ever since: how lovely would it be to live in the time of Darcy for example, being cosy all the time, reading books besides a fireplace long into nights, still getting up content in mornings, learning piano, meeting attractive people, horseback riding on my own, boundless estate, having my own gym facilities, and in general just trying to be noble all day long, lifelong.
Wouldn't it be lovely to see such time?
It could be, but it would also be highly improbable to actually live like Darcy, because one had to be extremely lucky in those days to have parents from aristocracy. This was very rare. Today a much higher percentage of people can live like Darcy. The world today is much fairer than it used to be, although it is of course still very unfair. With fairness I would like to imply on the world uneven distribution of goods. Picture below shows such distribution, namely 2003 Per Capita GDP (in thousand of 1995 US Dollars) for world population, binned in countries, compared with 1980:

Perhaps you are thinking, how the hell is that fairer, right, since USA and the rest of the West have gained much much more, while the poorer countries have only slightly more. But you have to look at it more relatively. Think about the initial positions for example, country population, and so on. Just look at the bulk in the middle, and see how China and India are doing well. The world is getting fairer. (I mined the data at EIA, 2006.)
Thinking about it again, I would not like to be born in the time of Darcy. The probability of leading a decent life was much smaller than of today. I think it's a good time we live in.
About these heights of times, I can't tell you more, but I can point you to a greater treatise: by José Ortega y Gasset in his Revolt of the Masses.

* * *

Say this' just a trifle, but one particular bit, one single line in the book in the scene just before the end bothers me so much, that it can almost spoil my good feeling about the book. It's when Darcy and Elizabeth are walking together outside, behind Bingley and Jane, and Darcy renews his proposal to Elizabeth. Her answer is memorable. But then - Darcy concludes:

"I was spoilt and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!"

This is wrong. It so falls out of place. The relationship between the two always felt like a play between a cat and dog which wanted to hurt each other a bit, and then it looks like they are still like a cat and dog, except they try not to hurt each other any more. In my opinion, "wittiest!, would be a better response.
That's the only, yet big, complain I have with the book. I will probably cut it out of my personal edition.

* * *

So long, Darcy, Elizabeth, and thank you for all the common sense:

"Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."

- Pride and Prejudice - Wikipedia
- EIA - Energy Information Administration. This is where I mined the data for the 2003 Per Capita GDP picture.
- Jonathan Marks. What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes (2003). There is also an essay to be found, by the same author, on the same topic.

> petek, marec 17, 2006
> komentarjev: 9

... forthcoming books of spring 2006

Knock knock knock, spring is knocking on my door.
Every season brings me new books. Altogether there are six of them now: two sexual, two biographies and two physics books. They are heavy on my mind. Practically every free moment is consumed by contemplating about them. I am looking at them from afar now, slowly approaching, gently touching their covers, skimming the contents and indices, and just teasing myself to the fullest, to whenever it will go. Then I will devour them.

* * *

1. Clio Cresswell. Mathematics and Sex. September 2004, 192 pages, ISBN: 1741141591.
I am positive that like my blogger friend Nadezhda many of you will shook your head in mockery, for what the hell has math got to do with sex!? At first I could perhaps even agree with you, for I've been surrounded by math geeks for all my life, and it seems to me that they are convinced that "sex" and "mathematics" live on two different planets, so yes, perhaps it would be more convinient to change the title into something like Mathematics and the (lack of) Sex. But I will tell you, a lot can change, when one starts to look at the phenomena of sex differently, for example in the words of the mathematician Hardy: "Mathematics is the study of patterns: their discovery, their interconnections and their implications."
Isn't the sexual behavior only the most intriguing pattern of them all?
I bet Hardy had a lot of sex.
An extremely attractive feature of this book is its author. I was never quite attracted to dead poets and inertial writers, but this is a rare case indeed: Clio Cresswell is a woman, and a very beautiful one too, she was even voted one of Australia's 25 most beautiful people in their equivalent of People magazine. Remember, Australia is the land of Nicole Kidman. She's on the cover of her own book. Nobody could fit there better, because all said is not even all yet. The best part is that she has - a PhD in math. I will eat my shoes. But first I will read this book, for it is exactly the sort of a book for me. I am passionate about the role of mathematics in every human activity. I am also happy to note that the role of mathematics in society is ever growing. I've been having this feeling ever since, and it's getting stronger.
Have you already heard of the new TV series Numb3rs (2005)? I am enjoying it as I've rarely enjoyed a TV series before. Just about everything is great: characters, writing, acting, and here's the best thing: it seem that all involved have a commitment to getting the math right! Perhaps you would care to see the Pilot (it's in DivX, its subtitles can be found here, I myself make them diplay properly in BSplayer, while of course the DivX Codec must be installed at all). Please comment afterwards, comment do.
Power to the math!

2.Jonathan Margolis. O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm. November 2004, 416 pages, ISBN: 0802117864.
Do you remember that scene from Amelie (2001) where the girl that plays Amélie (see image a bit down below) imagines all the people she knows and who are orgasming right at that moment? Do you think it's possible to extend a similar imagination to the whole world, and perhaps to count in all the masturbators too? I believe one would go mad, had he undertook such an intellectual workout. According to WHO there are more than a hundred million acts of sexual intercourses taking place every day.
How many of them would you say are taking place right now, at this very moment? This is a bit hard to say. Sexual intercourses are not equally distributed neither in time (day-night) nor space (geography). Most of the people are for example at their workplaces during a day, and they normally don't do it there, right.
I've played with the idea for some time (in spite of warnings, for I am fearless) and came up with this. Suppose:
- that there are n = 10^8 (a tenth of a billion) sexual intercourses a day,
- each lasts for ti = 3 minutes,
- and an orgasm last for to = 6 seconds,
- the Earth population and lust is divided equally among nt = 24 time zones, so there are approximately n / nt = 4*10^6 sexual intercourses in each time zone a day,
- the same time distribution describing the number of engaged sexual intercourses holds for every time zone, only that each distribution is offset for its day-night feature. The distribution is normal with periodic boundary conditions just as the time of a day wraps into itself every 24 hours,
- a couple is orgasming simultaneously in the to time window at the end of the intercourse,
- people engage into sex most probably at 19h in the evening (this is the mean value of the distribution, with variance of 3h),
- and finally, it's now 19h, and we are in Ljubljana.

First a more illustrative example: How many people engaged in sex between 16h and 18h today?
Calculating from the model above, one has to integrate the intercourse distributions from 16h to 18h. The sum (integral) for Ljubljana time zone yields: 900,000.

To that one has to add all the terms for all the time zones (animation on the right). This adds to: 8.5 million intercourses or 17 million people having been engaged in sex.
That is a number to be reckoned with. No ordinary man can have a million intercourses in his whole life, yet we counted more among people of the Earth in a single day between 16h and 18h. One man's body just can't produce that much fluid. (But bear with me boys for some time in the future, and I will tell you something about separating ejaculation - which is in fact a reflex, an involuntary muscle spasm - from orgasm, and you will be able to see there's practically no limit to them number of orgasms, even though there is an obvious limit to the number of ejaculations.)

And now comes the moment t = 19h, the moment to imagine how many people are orgasming at this very moment. Following the previous example, one has to sum the 24 time zone terms, integrated from the moment t - ti to t - ti + t0, that is from 3 minutes into the past to 6 seconds just afterwards. This is exactly the integration domain that people who are orgasming at this very moment started their intercourses in. The resulting figure is: 10,000 intercourse peaks, which means 20,000 orgasms.
I myself am unable to imagine that. (And you might think that my mind has gone boink ... well not just yet, it's only book 2/6!)

The model can be improved in various ways. It's a crude approximation indeed to suppose that a couple is orgasming simultaneously, and so on, for example a more realistic distribution of both lengths of sexual intercourses as of orgasms (also depending on the sex: F | M, etc.) can be built in.

This book is dealing the science of orgasm: how long orgasms last in various species, what makes them happen, what keeps them from happening. It goes beyond raw facts, and stirs thoughts on such subjects as what is the origin of oral sex. The writing seems breezy and sophisticated, but this doesn't hurt, for even the topic of orgasming can be thought of as a sophisticated one, when you think of it. Much looking forward to this book I am, in fact much much more than to the first one. (In spite of the fact that the author this time seems a much less agreeable male to me.)

3. Gerard Helferich. Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We See the World. April 2004, 358 pages, ISBN: 1592400523.
I've adored the von Humbolt character from the moment I read his first quote aloud: "I despise anything to do with bourgeois life; that slow rhythm of home life and fine manners sickens me." He was a personal friend of Goethe, and he could just as well be one of the two of my personal heroes (along with Richard Feynamn). After all, every friend of Goethe is my friend. Humbalt was the one to have inspired Darwin, Goethe's "winters" were melt by watching him: "My natural history studies have been roused from their winter sleep by his presence." Alexander Von Humbalt (1769 - 1859) was a scientific traveller, an explorer of the highest merit. I dare say he was the greatest.
The book retraces von Humboldt's 1799-1804 odyssey through South and Central America from piranhas to volcanoes.
The only sad thing here as I see it is that I pick my heroes among men long passed away.

4. Carlos Baker. Hemingway. November 1972, 460 pages, ISBN: 0691013055.
Ernest Hemingway is an interesting chap. He lived what it seems to me a completely filled life. What interests me most is the bussiness with his first real girlfriend: how she dumped him, and how that affected all his later days, his great words, drinking, womanizing, acting suicidal and even the very suicide he did at the age of 62. The girl Agnes and the unfortunate love somewhat determined his life for ever.
I've read some of his books, and enjoyed his rich, practical and light language, but I've never read anything substantial about him, and I'd been picking his biography for ages. I think I picked very well.

5. O. C. Zienkiewicz, R. L. Taylor. Finite Element Method:
- Volume 1, The Basis
- Volume 2, Solid Mechanics
- Volume 3, Fluid Dynamics

All 2000, all 5th edition, 712 + 480 + 352 pages, ISBN: 0750650494, 0750650559 and 0750650508.
This it the finite element method bible. There are few books in the world like this. It comes in three volumes. I'd known them for a long time, but my math had not been good enough to really comprehend them. Then suddenly my math got better and at about the same time my boss at work clearly articulated that I had to read them through and through. So here I am, all hot with these 1544 pages, and rightly I am hot, for these are the books from one of the greatest professors ever, covering the entire finite element field. I am getting more confident from exactly such books.
How would you care my briefly telling you what's the story with them finite element methods? It goes something like this: A physicist observes nature, and the science of physics tries to tackle the natural phenomena. Till phenomena are relatively simple, or idealized, one can fully model them with a similar mathematics that one is taught in secondary school: merely algebra, geometry and some calculus.
For example, if one observes someone throwing a rock, he can perhaps idealize the situation and calculates the motion of a mass point under the gravitational force. He can predict everything: when the rock is going to land on the ground, and how far it will go. He knows that the mass point follows a curve called parabola. This is a very simple motion. One can tell you all about it quickly and merely with the help of a paper and pen. His calculations are analytical and symbolical.
But as soon as the situation gets a bit more complicated, as for example when the wind starts blowing harder, and the air drag must be considered to calculate the right trajectory, the calculation suddenly can't be done by hand anymore, analytics is replaced by numerics to some extend, at least at the crucial point of calculating the effect of the drag force on the motion of the rock. This is how it is with physics and mathematics: one would like to model real phenomena, yet it becomes increasingly more difficult to do so.
You can imagine that in practice one can't help himself much with the classical tools of mathematics (yet the understanding of them is crucial), but must instead learn to utilize new numerical methods. Only with general numerical schemes, implemented effectively on a computer, one can model phenomena that we readily observe around us. Finite element methods are one of the best tools we have.

6. E. M. Lifshitz, L. D. Landau. Fluid Mechanics. 1987, 552 pages, ISBN: 0750627670.
I still can't believe that Landau-Lifshitz (series course on theoretical physics) is considered for the undergraduates. I know I wasn't able to handle them as an undergrad, and I didn't meet anyone who was. But still, just about every professor bragged about that we too should've studied from them. Like they did! Yeah right, they were undergrads once too. I didn't believe them then a bit, and I still don't, but as my mind matured a bit, I found myself being able to relatively easily follow these books now. They're perhaps the hardest, but also the richest, treatise on basic physics. The Fluid Mechanics volume is connected to my work, and I must finish it and the others anyhow, so now it really looks like: that all is well that ends well.

* * *

These are not the only books I am currently having an affair with, but they are my dearest. And don't you worry, I may spare you with reviewing the last two, but I will surely write something on the first four, oh double yes I will, just you wait!

> torek, marec 14, 2006
> komentarjev: 12

... discover bookcrossing.com

You know very well that books don't like to get dog-eared, when they get those nasty turned-down corners of their pages. They also hate to get deserted on a bookshelf, not being touched by anybody for ages, save your roommate cleaning the dust.
This is why I like to say: give them legs, not ears!

I share mutual philosophy with bookcrossing.com, a web community where people (bookcrossers) are exchanging books and opinion. Some are competing against each other who is going to register and release more books, some are very fond of their lengthy reviews, while some like to get in touch with bookworms around the world, exchanging messages and talking bookish. Bookcrossing.com got international fast, and is now covering most parts of the world. The hype made it even to a dictionary, would you believe that:

n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.
(-- added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in August 2004)

This is a simple answer to the question: What is bookcrossing? More details are naturally to be sought on the website.
A happy day in the life of a true bookcrosser looks like this:

1. He picks a fine book and reads it,
2. registers it on bookcrossing.com, leaves a journal comment, and gets a unique book identification code BCID for the book,
3. releases the book, either giving it to a friend or dropping it off somewhere in the wild (these wild releases are my favorite)
4. waits for an e-mail, informing him who has caught the book and what does he think about it.

That's it. It's easy, and exciting, right?
I can give credit to both. For I am a true bookcrosser. I've been eagerly bookcrossing since September 2002. Till today almost half a million bookcrossers have become members, having registered around 3 million books. I am one of them, and I've registered 63 books. I am not the only Slovene bookcrosser of course, there are many others. As far as I got to know them, they are all interesting people, each on their own; but of course, they read. I should mention now that bookcrossing.com is somewhat fortunate for us male readers, since the great majority of co-members is of female sex. Slovenia is no exception. I met some of them and I think you should meet them too: ajdica, Kana, Ruj, tanja and WhiteDwarfStar - to name just a few out of 200+. (Hint guys: Those linked are all highly literate, also pretty pretty and some are pretty witty. The road to their hearts winds through a mountain of books, mind that.)
The last figure of 200 I mentioned is not a lie, but in practice only some of the members are active. You could be one of them. That would be great.
And how would you like now to meet a guy too? His name is BoLe and that means me. There is BoLe yet again, or his bony fingers at least, in the picture on the left as he is pointing to the Sydney Opera House as the next release zone for Beach the book.

I must say I've been disappointed by the Slovene bookcrossing inactivity. I've put my membership on hold for some time. Yet my hopes are not completely disintegrated, for I believe that the bookcrossing fever will still get you. I believe in you.
However, I really don't get this stat:
- Slovenia. Population: 2M, members: 200
- USA. Population: 295M, members: 130,000

USA has 150 times the people as Slovenia but 650 times the members at the same time. The factor of 6.5/1.5 = 4 is what I don't understand. I think Slovenia is on average only slightly behind the USA in their technological development. True they have Google, Intel and Apple, and we have none of those, but I am talking about the relative number of internet users for example. The factor here is, what, 1.5 in favor of USA? But the factor of 4 is huge, and it is problematic. It led me to believe that the main cause behind the discrepancy is in different mentality. People in the USA just want to bookcross, and people here don't want to. This makes me sad. At the same time this looks like a great advantage of my moving to the States. I am not thinking merely of all that greater number of woman bookcrossers, I am talking about a real bookcrossing community: they are getting together all the time there, exchanging books like madmen, organizing bookish parties, going on long hiking trips around the country and beaches, and reading to each other whilst resting, and so on and on, and all this sounds so exciting that I am seriously inclining to that move.
Or perhaps you could save this brain drain?

Read and Release at BookCrossing.com...

So tell me: since you are well aware that books can't stand dust or getting dog-eared, why don't you release them? Give them legs, set them free, and see what will become of them. Perhaps they will find an adventure of their own, what they deserve. I dare say both of you will be more happy. Ease the pain, make their neuroses supportable!

You could also reply to this offer. I am just reading a pack of Roald Dahl's books:
- a children book, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke,
- and two rarer gems of his adult books (picture on the left shows also Kiss Kiss and My Uncle Oswald).
They are all registered on bookcrossing.com and as soon as I read them through, I will either:
a) give them back to ajdica or
b) set them on a journey to you, or
c) give them back to ajdica alright, only so she will give them to you.
How does that sound? In any case, you should drop a comment, or mail me at moc.liamg@97elob (- reverse that).

This would make me very happy, igniting interests in fresh new bookcrossers.

> petek, marec 10, 2006
> komentarjev: 14

Erich Fromm: Umetnost življenja

Vprašanje stoji na mestu: biti ali imeti; kaj imaš rajši: da si ali da imaš? Dilema ni tako črno-bela, se strinjam, da bi bil odgovor kar to ali ono. A dilema je temeljna, se ti ne zdi?

Moja zadnja je bila takšna: Ker sem bil kot Mobi naročnik dalj časa grozovito potraten (pa ne s pogovori, teh je bilo vedno za tretjino naročnine), sem le presedlal med uporabnike Mobi kartic. Zraven se mi je ponujala še krasna nova Nokia, ki nikakor ni bila poceni, a bila je nova, pa tako čedna! Takoj sem jo hotel odnesti s seboj domov. Naslednji hip pa sem pomislil na svojo Nokio, saj z njo ni nič narobe. Morda zgleda že malo nemodna, ok (mimogrede, je moja prva nasploh: ha, lepo pazim na svoje stvari), a ko zazvoni, ti povem, žvižga enako fletno kot prvi dan, ko sem položil baterijo vanjo, in ko zabrni, se trese prav tako dobro. Pogovori z njo se ne zdijo nič slabši.
Ampak tisto novo Nokio bi bilo vseeno dobro imeti ... ali pač?
Naposled je nisem vzel! Namesto sem si okrepil prepričanje, da kar ni pokvarjeno, ni treba popravljati. To se mi zdi sila priročno vodilo v življenju. To je ena od stvari, ki ti jih lahko iskreno svetujem. Seveda se ga sam ne držim popolnoma, po mojem se ga noben ne more, vsaj živ ne; tu in tam "grešim" - kdaj je treba, kdaj je dobro -, a na splošno poskušam zatreti te bedne nevrotične želje po novitetah, stvareh, ki jih prav zares ne rabim. V službi imam mnogo stvari za postoriti, dela je čez glavo, že glava sama pa je polna želja, kaj vse bi se še rad naučil, tega je ogromno; verjemi mi, nočem biti suženj dodatnih stvari po nepotrebnem.

K razmisleku me je napeljala zanimiva knjiga: Umetnost življenja Ericha Fromma (njegova poslednja; prevedel Milan Štrukelj). Navadno ne jemljem v roke knjige s takšnimi, "poceni" naslovi, a tokrat je bilo drugače: vreme in težko življenje (tudi Stepni volk, moja prejšna - knjiga) sta me spravila precej nizko, zato sem si iskal lažjega branja. Pa sem se uštel, kajti knjiga sploh ni tako zelo lahka.
Da knjiga ni poceni, s približno izdelanimi idejami, pričajo pisateljevi dosežki, se pravi sploh on sam: Eric Fromm (1900 - 1980: Nemčija, ZDA, Mehika, na koncu Švica) je bil mojster življenja. Jemal si ga je premišljeno, bilo mu je pestro. Bil je asket, ko je bilo treba, in hedonist, ko se mu je tako zazdelo. Izmojstril se je v psihologiji, sociologiji, filozofiji in psihoanalizi. Lasten pogled je razvil iz najboljših izročil budizma, starogrške filozofije, krščanstva, renesanse in razsvetljenstva, kar je obogatil z lastnimi dognanji ter izkušnjami iz psihoanalize. Njegove besede imajo žar, imajo čar, so ostre in iskrive obenem; predvsem pa jim je verjeti. Njegovi nauki prej kot učijo, opozarjajo. S tem seveda lahko nekoga tudi poučujejo, če tako pusti.
Glavni motiv Frommovih knjig je obolelost sodobne družbe in njena dvojna življenska usmerjenost: k biti ali k imeti.

Moja bloger frendica (... kaj je definicija tega; kakšen je doseg; obstaja kakšen post na to temo?) Nadezhda bi rekla, da življenje ni matematika (vsaj "enostavna" ne; čeprav mislim, da je ona do zdaj mislila, da sem jaz mislil, da je). Abstrakcija ne deluje dobro v stvarnih življenskih okoliščinah, po njenem je življenje ena sama velika izjema.
Nadezhda, s tem se popolnoma strinjam. Le dodal bi: da življenje tudi ni "neenostavna" matematika. Nikakršna matematika ne popiše življenja. Kar ne pomeni, da ne more biti zabavna, in kar tudi ne pomeni, da ne bi moglo biti tole čisto res: "Vse pomembno je zapisano v matematiki." (Tega nisem rekel jaz! Ne me linčat. To je izrekel zvezdni bojevnik Robert Heinlein.)
Biti napram imeti si kdaj predstavljam kot dva vrtinca, nasprotna, malo narazen, ki tekmujeta med sabo, kateri bo pogoltnil več ljudi (druge živali verjetno ne poznajo te dileme; si predstavljaš medveda, ki bi si poleg svojega brloga opremil še dva vikenda v drugih gozdovih?), oziroma kot dve željeni stanji, dva atraktorja, ki k sebi vlečeta različne ljudi. Ali se strinjaš, da če pogledava značilne poteze, potem vzhodna filozofija teži naravnost k biti, stanje nirvane naj bi bilo prav to, "da človek popolnoma je", osvobojen vse navlake; kakšen tip zahodnega načina življenja pa teži na drugo stran k imeti. Vmes si predstavljaj enega občutljivega posameznika. Kako ubog je ta človek, ko ga nategujejo na obe strani, da mu bodo vsak čas okončine izstopile iz sklepov.

Slika zgoraj kaže rešitvi Lorenzovega sistema, dve trajektoriji, ki sprva začneta blizu vsaksebi, a ju tok časa razdruži, tako da se kmalu nahajata povsem drugje. (Začeli sta ob istem času na skoraj istem mestu. Ravno ta "skoraj" je vzrok razhajanju. Od tu spelje pot k determinističnemu kaosu, če koga zanima.)
Slika spodaj kaže isti rešitvi za daljši čas. Lorenzov sistem je primer čudnega atraktorja, matematične beštije, za katero je značilno sedlo - to je tista stvar vmes, ki razkači slogo bližnjih trajektorij. (Nenadoma se počutim kot na prepihu.)

> torek, marec 07, 2006
> komentarjev: 3

Herman Hesse: Stepni volk

Štarta mesec marec, Bo sestradan seže po Stepnem volku, svoji ljubezni Jo pa v Anglijo pošlje e-kartico:

Pred leti jo je namreč nahecal, nečakinjo Jo, da so skupaj še z njenim bratcem Ko tri godzile podobno kot tiste tri pošasti Bo, Na in Ro, ki pojejo iz reklame za šampon BoNaRo. Zato so zdaj vsi ... vse bolj samozavestne. Kaj se bo zgodilo, ko bosta Jo in Ko spoznala, da le nista godzili, je drugo vprašanje. Res je kruto to odraščanje, a ni, ko je pravljico treba treščiti ob steno, se vam ne zdi? Upajmo, da njiju ne bo bolelo tako, kot boli Boja.
Zgodba s kartico se tu ne konča. Z Jo jo je prebrala njena mama, ki ji je potem v nekaj dneh uspelo informirati ožje sorodstvo, da je Bo jokal ob knjigi, ob knjigi! Kam pa je prišel ta svet, da bo Bo, že velik fant, jokal ob knjigi. Mi ne moremo več, zakaj bi njemu pustili?

Stepni volk je samec, ki si izbere samoto. Hoče biti neodvisen od vseh spon življenja. Od sveta, ki ga ne priznava, zahteva neodvisnost. Prav, pa mu jo dajmo, so rekli ljudje, dajmu mu to neodvisnost. Pa so mu jo dali. A volk, ki zdaj postane stepni, tudi kot sam ni vesel. Neodvisnen začne gniti pri svežem životu. Volk se je uštel, kot so se ušteli mnogi pred njim, ki so si želeli nekaj bolj kot vse na svetu, pa niso točno vedeli, kaj jih čaka. Neodvisnost ni tako udobna, kot se zdi na prvi pogled. Neodvisen človek hitro oveni. Pač mora biti odvisen od dela za nekoga, svoje življenje mora posvetiti nečemu. Je to stepni volk spoznal prepozno; je želja zanj zdaj že usoda?

Do zdaj je Bo trčil ob dve Hessejevi knjigi, poleg Volka še ob Siddharto. Obakrat se je v njem vzdignil občutek usodnosti. Obe se mu zdita ultimativni, kot nekakšna priročnika: Siddharta za askezo, Stepni volk za samost. Že od nekdaj se je samozadovoljeval z askezo in samostjo. Morda se komu to sploh ne zdi mogoče. Vendar naj ga na tem mestu podprem in povem: da je mogoče, in da naj čevlje sodi le kopitar. On bi dejal (seveda bo tako rekel), da je prav, da je takšen in ne drugačen kot tak, kakršen je. Če ga svet sili v nekaj, pa se on vda, ni vesel. Stepnih volkov se ne sili, oni se silijo sami.
Tako sta mu obe Hessejevi, Siddharta in Stepni volk blizu, kot je sploh lahko človeku blizu knjiga.

Na koncu mi je povedal le še to, da se mu je zgodilo nekaj, kar se mu ni zgodilo še nikoli prej, in kar si ni mogel misliti, da se mu bo sploh kdaj zgodilo. Knjige se je ustrašil! Zato ga je strah več povedati o njej, svojem doživljanju. Baje je spisal "cel" roman, pa se ga ne upa pokazati, še enkrat prebrati. Knjiga ga je dobro popisala.


> sobota, marec 04, 2006
> komentarjev: 5

... kako do ene knjige?

To vprašanje je butasto. Knjig je namreč kot listja in trave. Urednica Lilit! Imam odgovor na tvoje vprašanje: "Koliko je knjig?" Kot listja in trave. Bo vredu?

Morda je na mestu drugačno vprašanje, na primer: "Zakaj ne bi prebrali tiste knjige tamle", ipd. Dajmo, priznajmo, da za nebranje ni krivo pomankanje knjig, temveč druge stvari, na primer pomankanje motivacije ali nezmožnost kombiniranja branja z drugimi, življensko pomembnejšimi opravili, kot je pranje cot. Prav, kakšni ne znajo niti dobro brati. Lahko razumem, da jim je branje v muko. Ampak cote, cote moramo prati vsi. Eni jih peremo s kislim obrazom, drugi z bolj kislim. Zopet razumem, da se marsikomu ne dá brati.

Če se tebi dá brati, me čudi, kako da ne prideš do kakšne knjige. Moja hiša jih je polna. Potem:

- So tu knjižnice, vsako mesto jih je polno. Nova Gorica ima eno zelo veliko in lepo. Ljubljana ima prijetne knjižnice, moja lokalna, Prežihov Voranc, ima celo več enot, tista glavna ob Tržaški cesti je sploh imenitna. V knjižnico torej!
- So tu še knjigarne. Ne vem, koliko časa bodo še tu, vendar zazdaj so še. Vse so fajn: Konzorcij Mladinske knjige ob Nami, pa Vale-Novak ob slaščičarni Zvezda in tisti v City Parku v BTC, in še pa še, vse to le v Ljubljani. Resda je nova knjiga draga, vendar ne vsaka neupravičeno.
- So tu še spletne knjigarne. Teh je kot listja in trave. (Zanimivo! Sem rekel, da je že knjig kot listja in trave. - Kako je lahko knjigarn enako mnogo, boš porekel? Saj veš, knjige se tiskajo v več izvodih ... Resneje: gre za dve primerljivi količini, namreč števni neskončnosti, pač alef nič.) Tudi mi imamo spletne knjigarne. Cajtng bukla, to je tisti naš brezplačni cajtng o dobrih knjigah in multimediji, v svoji zadnji (6.) številki predstavi slovenske spletne knjigarne, ki so vsaka zase malo drugačna: Cangura.com (4,200+ naslovov!), emka.si (Mladinska knjiga), Učila (20% popust) in Prešernova družba. Ampak to je morda samo konec konice nohta vseh svetovnih. Teh je res veliko. Jih sploh ne bom našteval. Ena je Amazon.com (s podružnicami v Kanadi, Angliji, Nemčiji, Franciji in na Japonskem ter Kitajskem), s katero sem do zdaj že kar nekajkrat posloval. Vedno sem bil zadovoljen nad nakupom in dostavo.
- So tu še masovne časopisne akcije kot na primer Delovi Vrhunci stoletja, za katere pa imam nehote občutek (miss Nadezhda bi po angl. rekla sneaking suspicion), da si je vse tiste knjige marsikdo omislil, a le malokdo tudi prebral. No, nekaj jih knjige gotovo še namerava prebrati. To je lepa misel.
- Je tu še BookCrossing.com, nekakšna spletna komuna entuzijastičnega izmenjavanja knjig. Več o njej gotovo še napišem, ker je prav neverjetno kul, če pomislim.
- So tu še zvočnice. Pogruntavščina audio knjig je prišla med nas. Dobili smo novo lepo besedo, že to je kul.
- So tu še elektronske knjige, angl. e-books. Te se dá kupit ... dá se jih tudi ukrast ... bi za pokušino ukradli Lord of Light Rogerja Zelaznyja? - Čisto morda najboboljšo znastveno fantastično knjigo vseh časov in jezikov. - Mislim, da je najboljša.
- Je tu še malo morje ... kot listja in trave drugih možnosti, kako do knjig. Treba je samo eno pravo (aha, ne prvo!) vzeti v roke in brati. - In iti do zadnje vrstice, še to.

Alef nič!

... your thickest?

This posts of mine aren't that bad, when I come to think about, but they surely become good whenever master ill-advised leaves a comment, although his lasts steer a bit, in a direction I can't understand.
He did it again.
Not only that he beat me at the "pissing" contest, he also informed us of two really huge books, Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom, and GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali (Champion's Edition), a monstrous 60 kg and 1.5 x 1.1 m, and 35 kg respectively.
Will anybody care to fund me 15,000$ on my next Amazon shopping spree?

Written before, on February 27:

Which was the fattest book you have ever read, or - if you don't read fat books - held in your hands, or - if you are a bit weak - merely touched, or seen?

For me myself it was Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science. The book has all the details one never finds in any other book, on the page just before the back cover: 1280 pages; 583,313 words (main text: 227,580, notes: 283,751); 2,799,438 characters; 973 illustrations; 1350 notes; 796 Mathematica programs; 14,967 entries, and so on.
Cool! Now don't get me wrong: I am not bragging about reading it, I think Stephen Wolfram somehow brags about writing it himself. But he has delivered perfection, as usual, so it's ok for him to brag about that. If you have something to brag about, do it! I won't put you down.

Also deserved to be mentioned, and following on Wolfram's tail:
- Pot samouresničevanja by Janez Rugelj (hardcover, 1217 pages),
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (paperback, one volume edition with the index and appendices, 1150 pages),
- The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose (hardcover, 1111 pages).

And here is also one special book, The Earth from the Air by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, that hasn't got that many pages (464), but it's unusually large: 37 x 29 cm, and quite heavy (2.5 kg), and it's an earthshattering beauty for that matter, - really, it tries to kill you by asphyxiation, so be careful when you read it.

Have I read these books? Sure I have, what else would I be doing?

Beat me if you can.