Posts Tagged ‘books’
Ray Bradbury had an amazing way at predicting the future (or was he merely observing the present) in Farenheit 451 (of which I’m currently reading):
Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of the state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information.
This statement describes the exact way our culture is today. We’re more concerned with Seinfeld trivia rather than the political issues surrounding our everyday lives. Its because we can feign intellectualism by quoting The Simpsons or spouting on and on about the life and times of Kevin Bacon. Today’s intellect is not about education or social justice — its about trivial knowledge that makes us believe we’re cultured.
Bradbury wrote these words almost 56 years ago and it has sadly come to fruition. I admit that I am susceptible to the trivial; I find it easy to learn and I have a knack for remembering it fluidly. But Bradbury’s words make me want to lessen how much time I focus on the these ‘facts’ and try to focus on more important things.
So, recently I began reading the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and its protagonist got me thinking about some career ideas. The main character, Dexter, is a blood splatter pattern analyst. I’ve been intrigued by blood splatter but haven’t had the chance to study it in a course yet (I will this summer in my Crime Scene Investigation course though). But this book made me investigate it a little further.
One thing I learned is that it is one of the few specialties (other than accident reconstruction and ballistics) in forensic science that uses a lot of math and physics. This made me happy to learn because I’ve been struggling with the idea of just giving up my math and physics background for forensic science. But now that I have learned about this career path, I’ve been seriously considering going for it once I graduate.
So I did a little research and in order to become a blood splatter pattern analyst, you’ve got to first start off as a general crime scene investigator. Once you do that, you can begin taking specialized day courses at different police colleges and seminars during the year. Once you go through the courses, you can get your certification (through the IABPA), and then you can work on getting a job as a blood splatter pattern analyst.
So this week I finished reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. This was my second time through the book and I have to say it is worth it. For those who aren’t in the know, Ender’s Game is set in the far future when mankind has already been through two space wars with an alien species known as the Buggers. It is worried that the Buggers will make a third invasion soon, so possible future commanders are being trained and prepared as early as 6 years old. This book follows the story of one particular future genius, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. The book follows his training through what is called “Battle School.” The school is a training ground to get children into the mindset of war. Ender has many troubles through Battle School, but ultimately proves the genius he is and gets the respect he deserves, despite his age.
The one thing about Ender’s Game that I love is how these “children” act. They aren’t children. They never have been. They’ve been born and bred to become killing machines. They don’t know what its like to go outside and play. They only know how to fight wars and win. This image of a humanity that is so desperate to survive a future alien invasion that it will sacrifice the minds and innocence of children is haunting.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the sub-plot involving Ender’s older siblings, Valentine and Peter. Both of these siblings are just as smart as Ender, yet they were not chosen for Battle School. But while Ender is training to become a commander of a star-fleet, Valentine and Peter decide to change the course of world politics. They do so by becoming two political writers known as Demosthenes (Valentine) and Locke (Peter). Through their writings, published anonymously on the Internet, they slowly change the course of politics on Earth. This portion of the book sent chills down my spine since this book was written in the 1980s, before the Internet and blogging were prevalent. I think Orson Scott Card has a good eye for what can happen in the future, lets just hope that it isn’t all true.
Today, Cheri and I went on our first Geocaching excursion. For those who don’t know, Geocaching is like a world-wide treasure hunt. People will place caches in different locations, record the location’s coordinates, and publish the coordinates on a geocaching website (such as www.geocaching.com) Then people who visit the website can enter their location to get the coordinates of caches close to them. Then you can use your GPS device to locate the cache. Most caches have a logbook and some kind of treasure. The logbook contains notes from everyone who has visited that cache. The treasure can be any range of small trinkets. The main rule of caches is that if you take something, make sure you leave something. That way the cache always has something in it other than the logbook.
The cache we found today was in a wooded area near a park not to far from our apartment. I got the coordinates from Geocaching.com, and placed them in my new Garmin eTrex GPS device my parents got me for Christmas. Then it told me where to go to find it. It was really fun trying to figure out where it was. We eventually found it in a hollowed out tree trunk. It was a camouflage ammunition box. This particular cache was a book-crossing cache. In this cache people take and leave books to pass around. So the cache had about four books in there, plus the logbook. We didn’t take any of the books, because we didn’t bring any to leave, but we still signed the logbook. After that, we placed the cache back where we found it for the next visitors.
This was a very fun activity and Cheri and I look forward to doing it again. There are plenty of items hidden around the area we live, so we don’t even have to go far to find treasure! I feel like a 21st century pirate!
Today I listed a number of my physics textbooks for sale on Half.com. I guess I just realized today that I’ll probably never need textbooks about quantum mechanics, mathematical methods, analytical mechanics, or linear algebra ever again. Its kind of depressing to a certain extent. I mean I spent five years of my life devoted to physics, and now I’m more or less leaving it behind. And I know that five years is only a small fraction of the rest of the life I will live, but I just feel a certain connection to the subject. I prided myself with the fact that I majored in physics. I loved the reactions I would get. The pleas from people to help them with their introductory physics courses or math classes. The inherent geekiness that went along with being a physics major. I just tended to identify a large part of myself with being a physics geek. And not one of those geeks that follow physics superficially by reading books by Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene but actually being a physicist-in-training. Not only did I know about the subjects studied in physics, but I knew how it all worked mathematically as well.
It makes me look to the future as my graduate school adventure in Forensic Science is about to begin. Will I become a Forensic Science geek as well? Will I learn jokes that only forensic scientists will get? Will I buy forensic science t-shirts to display proudly my degree program as I trot around campus? Will I make friends with fellow geeks who are proud of what they study?
I sure hope so. Otherwise it will be a slow two years.
Technorati: graduate school, forensic science, physics, books, science
Recently I’ve gotten addicted to rating items on Amazon.com. This is a part of my goal to “improve” my recommendations. But I have been having some issues with this system.
If I give a book, DVD, or CD a high rating, then it’ll spit out recommendations for books by the same author, movies by the same director, or CDs by the same artist. Now I understand that their logic for this is that, “Hey, if he loved that one Kelly Clarkson album, then surely he’ll love every other album made by an American Idol contestant plus any other pop music!” This, thankfully, is not the case.
Surprisingly, I like “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson. But that doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to go out and buy Carrie Underwood’s, Bo Bice’s and Clay Aiken’s albums.
On the same course, I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Kurt Vonnegut’s books . And now because of that, Amazon feels that I need to have every book written by him. Now I’m sure some may argue that Amazon got this one right, but I don’t really feel that way.
The main thing that irks me about it is that I know that I like Kurt Vonnegut, and I’m sure that I would love every one of his books. But why can’t it take that logical step and recommend something else? Who knows, I guess it has to do with the algorithm it uses. Until they fix that, I’ll continue telling it that I’m not interested in Britney Spears’ oeuvre.
Technorati: kelly clarkson, kurt vonnegut, vonnegut, music, books, amazon.com