September 2005
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Month September 2005

Autumn in Seattle

Well, autumn is finally here. The cold rain and heavy clouds this morning signal the change, but I see real confirmation out my window, as I sit here relaxing in the late afternoon sun: Husky game traffic inches slowly down Banner Way northward. It’s sunny out this afternoon, affording me a chance to walk Greenlake and get some exercise, but otherwise it’s been a lazy Saturday full of projects long-neglected over a busy summer. I’m about halfway done with Stephenson’s second volume of the Baroque Cycle, so I imagine I won’t have much to write about there until next week (these books are massive. It’s really incredible to imagine that he wrote all three longhand with various fountain pens. I can barely write a note nowadays before my hand cramps up, although my “typing tendons” are in remarkable shape).

School will be starting at the University soon, and as I do every year, I wish I were back on campus, with the smell of the books in the library and the dust of chalkboards. Perhaps someday. In the meantime, this Stephenson tome isn’t going to read itself…

Book #47: Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver, Vol. I of the Baroque Cycle

I just finished “Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1)”, by Neal Stephenson. What an incredible read. I was hooked in by the seventeenth century origins of modern physics, and quickly became riveted by Stephenson’s fictionalized (but historical) account of the origins of much of our modern world: limited government, modern financial markets, and (some measure) of religious tolerance. I’m pretty amazed at how fast 913 pages flashed by, as I begin “The Confusion : Volume Two of The Baroque Cycle (P.S.)”. The “familial” resemblance with “Cryptonomicon” is apparent but never heavy-handed; the Waterhouse family and the mysterious Enoch Root add greatly to the story but do not result in fantasy or butchered history. Fans of “Cryptonomicon” should dive in and wallow around a bit in the Baroque Cycle, as should those interested in the origins of modern science, political economy, and philosophy. Enough for now, I’ve got two volumes to go.

Other reading has been sparse and mostly technical lately, as I digest “Agile Web Development with Rails (The Facets of Ruby Series)”, which is a terrific book documenting a terrific web framework. A colleague and former coworker, Scott Laird, is pretty much a Rails expert, and is a major contributor (verging on co-author) of the Typo weblog system. He’s also looking for a new gig which will let him focus on Ruby and Rails development in Seattle, so if you know anybody who’s seeking a Ruby and Rails expert, point them at Scott’s blog!

On the non-fiction front, I’ve been reading most journal articles lately, as a follwup to Michael Sandel. I’ll be turning my attention to some evolutionary theory in coming days and weeks, and I’m still feeling like it’s time to re-read Karl Polanyi’s classic “The Great Transformation”. I read this, or parts of it, in graduate school a long time ago, but for different purposes and with much less background than I have today. I found a used copy which wasn’t trashed with underlining or highlighting (one of my pet peeves with books!), unlike the nasty old paperback copy I bought from the University Book Store several decades ago…