Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review: what I was reading this year ...

2008-07-06-dscn4792So, lots of screen reading what with Flipboard on the iPad and HuffPost on the Android phone; and then throw in news feeds from TechCrunch, Mashable, Silicone Alley Insider, The Long Now Foundation, Memex 1.1, and lots of words were consumed.

Oh, and yes, I tried to keep up with some magazines, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Wired, and The Atlantic (mostly in print, but also on the iPad).

But from the world of books (aka "the stuff between two pieces of cardboard" - though this year I actually read all my books on a Kindle), here was my 2012:
  • Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum
  • Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five or the Children's Crusade
  • Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird
I started off the year by reviewing the horrors of WW II. These re-reads of three novels, from much different perspectives and styles, provide a good overview of the evils of warfare in any time or place. Inspiration came from the recent release of The Tin Drum in a new translation that was as full and rich as Ralph Mannheim's.

David Weinberger, Too Big to Know
Weinberger hits a home run with his newest book; clearly he holds the top spot of  "philosopher of the networked age.

Charles Dickens, Hard Times
It's Dickens/ bi-centenary and I wanted to fit in a few of his novels; this was the first one I'd every read (back in 1981?), and still one of my favorites.

William Spaniel, Game Theory 101
Still digesting and browsing through this one.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Palm Sunday
It was also a bit of a Vonnegut year; A good autobiographical collection of essays.

Anthony Burgess, 1985
Burgess can please or annoy, this was pleasing.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Galapagos
First time read of this novel for my Vonnegut year.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
More re-reads of Dickens.

Ray Bradbury, "The Playground"
An old story, just released in eBook form.

Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
Saw this book somewhere in social media and it sounded intriguing. A mystery involving book scanning, Aldus Manutius, a strange cult of booksellers all mix into a fun little romp.

Nick Cole, The Old Man and the Wasteland
A discovery in the Kindle Singles shop; very good post-apocalyptic story meets Hemingway.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods
An amazing work. Perhaps one of the best books of the past 20 years. Gaiman transcends any type of genre you may want to pigeonhole him into to create a truly great novel of America.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Cat's Cradle
More re-reads of  Vonnegut.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
More re-reads of Dickens for the Christmas season.

Robin Sloan, Annabel Scheme
Needed to read this first work, more of a novella, by Sloan after enjoying Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore.

Hugh Howey, Wool Omnibus Edition (volumes 1-5)
Saw my colleague @Bathlander mention this on Twitter and picked it up for the Kindle. Self-published, it is a brilliant work of science fiction/futurism set in a world where the population lives in a giant silo that is sunk Over 150 stories into the earth. An earth where no one goes outside except those who break the rule of thinking about the outside and are sent with "wool" to clean the sensors that give the silo-dwellers a view of the bleak landscape ... and then die.

Charles Dickens, The Chimes
More re-reads of Dickens for the Christmas season.

Three shelves of books

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 in review: new music I was listening to

Top TunesWell, I don't think I'll be getting any 2012 albums before the end of the year, so ... here are the (new) albums and songs that I was listening to in 2012:
  • Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (by far the album with the longest title! Nice "comeback" set from Fiona).
  • The Beach Boys, That's Why God Made Radio (Wow, this was just such a great album).
  • Bob Dylan, Tempest (Dylan just keeps cranking out new classics in the 21st century, "Duquesne Whistle" was fabulous; I was less impressed by "Tempest" than the critics)
  • Aimee Mann, Charmer (Aimee gets all pop-y with some real "charmers")
  • Rush, Clockwork Angels (a simply amazing album, the best by Rush in years; probably the set of songs I listened to most this year; "Caravan" is great)
  • Smashing Pumpkins, Oceania (post-grunge for the 21st century as Bill Corrigan returns to form)
  • Patti Smith, Banga (very good album that is highlighted by the stunning and epic, "Constantine's Dream")
  • Ringo Starr, Ringo 2012 (Ringo puts out yet another pleasant set of tunes)
  • Sufjan Stevens, Silver & Gold (another set of Christmas songs by Stevens; the standout is "Christmas Unicorn"
  • The Wallflowers, Glad All Over (very good album by the reunited Wallflowers; standout song is the opener, "Hospital for Sinners"; also includes some collaborations with Mick Jones, of The Clash)
  • Neil Young, Americana (critically mixed reception for this set, but I thought it worked well as a warm up for ...)
  • Neil Young, Psychedelic Pill (... which was released just a few months later; with one song nearly as long as Ringo 2012, NY stretches the bounds of "album")
  • Adele, "Skyfall" (Best Bond theme in years)
  • The Rolling Stones, "Doom and Gloom" (great classic riffing single from the Stone's greatest hits package)
Thanks to my middle-schooler, I also get to hear various pop tunes:
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"
  • PSY, "Gangnam Style"
  • Flo Rida (and Sia), "Wild Ones"
  • Wanted, "Glad you Came"
  • One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful"
  • Bridgit Mendler, "Ready or Not"
  • Taylor Swift, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
  • Maroon 5, "Payphone"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Smithsonian Libraries from Panama to Cambridge, Mass.

STRI Library, Panama
This year (2012), I had the opportunity to visit the extremities of libraries at the Smithsonian. Now the majority of the library facilities for the Smithsonian are in the greater Washington, DC area and under the administration of the centralized Smithsonian Libraries. The one exception to this is the John G. Wolbach Library, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics located on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, MA.

I started off 2012 with a visit to the most distant Smithsonian Libraries' location, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Library (STRI Library), also known as the Earl Silas Tupper Library in Tropical Biology. I went to Panama on other business (related to the Biodiversity Heritage Library) but was also able to spend some time with the staff in the library (photo set of trip here).

CfA Library
Later in the year, September, I was in Cambridge on yet more BHL business, and took the chance to visit the John G. Wolbach Library, which I hadn't been to since the early 1990s. There's a whole new and vibrant staff there and I hope I'll be visiting more often.

Of course I regularly visited the nearby libraries at the Natural History museum (NH Main, Botany, Anthropology, Cullman Rare Book collection), and the others on or near the National Mall: American History, Research Annex, National Zoo, American Art/Portrait Gallery, Freer-Sackler, Hirshhorn, Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, African Art, Air & Space, and the National Postal Museum. I didn't get a chance this year to visit Anacostia, National Museum of the American Indian, Museum Support Center, or the Environmental Research Center. Maybe next year!

CHM Library
But that does leave one more, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Library in New York City which I did get to twice this year!

List of Smithsonian Libraries

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mary Todd Lincoln!

2011.01.16-IMG_1572Mary Todd Lincoln was born on this date in 1818.

And yes, I always think of her as "Mary Todd Lincoln" (henceforward "MTL"). And why is that you ask? Well, in 8th grade (that would be 1974ish) we had an assignment to write on a first lady. And I chose MTL. I think the length was to be around 1,000 words and I was having a time stretching that ... but, not if every time you mentioned MTL, you called her Mary Todd Lincoln each time (that's three words!).

And so that's why whenever I think of MTL, it's always three words!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That would be 455 or even 4,829 to you Base 10 folk

2012.12.12 Dodo
... or even 332,150 or perhaps 3,520,796

Or maybe more accurately, 5.5.5.

Happy 12.12.12 or 2012.12.12 or 2012.12.12:12:12!

Sadly, this is our last number pattern like this for a long time (you know, 10.10.10, 11.11.11).

I can't even quite come up with another interesting pattern for a long long long time ... Any suggestions?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Buddha at the moment of victory, bhumisparsha-mudra, Bodhi Day

2012.11.24-IMG_7003Today is the marking of Bodhi Day, the day on which the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautauma (Shakyamuni) experienced enlightenment.

I found this depiction of Buddah, "Buddha at the Moment of Enlightenment" (Thai, 15th century) at the Walters Art Museum, parked directly below a brightly lit EXIT sign to be particularly interesting as Buddha sits in the bhumisparsha-mudra posture (touching the earth to call witness to his enlightenment). So, one might say that he is ready to take his EXIT from this world.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Two dodos walk into iTunesU ...

When I was visiting the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology the other day, I came across a new dodo figurine (left) that, of course, I had to add to my collection.

Here the new dodo is making friends with the older one while they converse about the Extinct Species collection from the Biodiversity Heritage Library on iTunesU