‘What Have You Been Reading?’

One of the first delightful surprises I had while living in Korea was learning that the Korean equivalent of ‘what’s up?’ is ‘밥 먹었어요?’, which translates to either ‘have you eaten?’ or ‘have you had any rice?’. It’s been decades since the tiger economies went hungry, but this linguistic fossil remains from an age when the most important thing you could know about a person’s well being was whether or not they’d had food that day.

Perhaps instead of ‘how’s it going?’ we should start conversations with ‘what have you been reading?’ or ‘what are you learning?’. This would bias interactions toward focusing on the efforts a person is making to improve the scope and precision of their knowledge. Because a person will eventually have to give an account of their gnostic enterprises they might be more motivated to have an interesting reply. That means more reading, more learning, and more conversations about reading and learning.

After that we start implementing the John Waters’ strategy of not sleeping with people who don’t have books in their homes. If a person has time to bone but not to read then maybe a little celibacy will afford them the opportunity to right the unconscionable inversion of their priorities.

A Bookish Review of 2017

Counting books I’m currently in the middle of I have read 75 books this year.

A few of these are children’s books in Russian and German so if we subtract those out it’s ~70.

This includes three trilogies (Ramez Naam’s ‘Nexus’, Hannu Rajaniemi’s ‘Jean Le Flambeur’, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Mars’), and one pentagy (George R. R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’).

Six titles were from the ‘Very Short Introduction’ series (Postmodernism, Logic, Mathematics, Relativity, Plants, Stem Cells) which, despite their lilliputian profiles on the bookshelf do pack a lot of punch.

I got through several textbooks, of which the most difficult was “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach”. This was also the most difficult book overall, though Bob Murphy’s “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and New Deal” was a definite contender, as it is a complete statement of the Austrian view on the origins of the great depression.

Jeffrey Biles’s “Mages Must Fall” was the only title written by a personal friend: an athletic little fantasy book which stood up admirably to some of the other titanic volumes in the list.

My science fiction reading was mostly standard fare: Robert Heinlein (“Farmers in the Sky”), Neal Stephenson (“Anathem”, “King of the Vagabonds”, “Snow Crash”, “Cryptonomicon”). But I also deliberately made a point to engage with authors with whom I was unfamiliar, like Ben Bova (“As On A Darkling Plain”) and James Blish (“Titans’ Daughter”).

Ayn Rand made five appearances: I read three of her four fiction works (“The Fountainhead”, “Atlas Shrugged”, “Anthem”) and the compelling defence of her economics called “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”, which also featured a cameo essay by future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Anne C. Heller’s biography of her did a great job of neutrally exploring the brilliant, profoundly controversial figure.

In economics I also read Murray Rothbard (“For a New Liberty”), Alex Epstein (“The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”), F.A. Hayek (“The Fatal Conceit”), and Thomas Sowell (“Intellectuals In Society”), this last of which might’ve been my favorite. Besides this I also read a history of the Austrian School and a towering, 1000-page biography of Ludwig Von Mises which did a lot to flesh out my view of the man.

There were two pop business books (“Abundance”, “Bold”) by Peter Diamandis and Stephen Koettler which I liked more than I thought I would, and Winnifred Gallagher’s “Rapt” was a pop psychology book that easily bests anything put out by Malcolm Gladwell.

I had hoped to make it to 100, to include works in Korean/Spanish/French, and to have gotten in another textbook or two, but considering that I also published my own book (“The STEMpunk Project”) and had a baby, this isn’t too bad.

HAPPY READING IN 2018!

Critique My Russian!

One of my ancillary goals for 2016 is to learn some Russian. I haven’t set any specific objectives because, next to my day job and The STEMpunk project Russian is a very minor pursuit. It would be cool, however, to maybe record a five minute conversation with a native speaker near the end of the year and maybe take a standardized test like the Common European Framework for Languages.

Anyway, I finally got around to recording and subtitling a video of myself speaking almost all the Russian sentences I’ve learned up to this point, and would love any feedback from knowledgeable Russian speakers.