I ordered Practical Common
Lisp but it’s somewhere between here and the USPS distribution center
in New Jersey. Also wandering out of the swamps of Jersey, is my copy
of Mark Jason Dominus’s long-awaited Perl book,
Higher-order Perl and- having
nothing to do with programming- a copy of Jane and Michael Stern’s revised
edition of Roadfood.
Finished [Gladwell’s Blink](http://www.lonsteins.com/archives/2005/02/21/long-weekend-reading/). I read a substantial portion of this before, I believe, excerpted in the New Yorker. It was entertaining and chock full of the cleverly presented annecdotes he’s known for. Other than his coining a phrase (“thin-slicing”), it’s fluff. I wonder if he didn’t start with the material for other articles and later try to draw a thesis out of it.
Started [The Scheme Programming Language](http://isbn.nu/0262541483/) by R. Kent Dybvig.
I finished reading [Descartes Baby](http://isbn.nu/046500783X) by Paul Bloom today. An overview of cognitive development and human nature that a layman can understand. His ruminations on perception, cognition, altruism, morality, good and evil, disgust and dualism were engaging but he falls short when he tries to consider “Gods, Souls and Science” in one brief chapter. I was surprised to read that some theories that I’d been exposed to, particularly those of Piaget, were largely proven false. I’d love to dive into the extensive bibliography but short of taking a Master of Science in Psychology, I know I probably won’t.
Stacked on the table are:
- [America: A Citizen’s Guide To Democracy Inaction](http://isbn.nu/0446532681) from The Daily Show and Jon Stewart. Bought this before the election and I keep picking it up, reading a little of it, snickering and putting it down for other books.
- [Blink](http://isbn.nu/0316172324) by Malcolm Gladwell. I read the cover flap and a random passage and I’m already dubious, but his writing was interesting in the New Yorker and the book has good buzz.
- [9/11 Commission Report](http://isbn.nu/0393326713). I’ve had this waiting for me since July but I can’t get past the cover.
Now here are two books with nothing more in common than the printed word:
- [Dark Star by Alan Furst](http://isbn.nu/0312928459). A great espionage story set in 1937 Europe. Very atmospheric and remarkably realistic but I felt a little cheated by the unlikely tidying up, in near monologue, of the background story by the German spymaster Von Polanyi.
- [Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott](http://isbn.nu/044990928X). A daily journal of her first year as a mother, it is funny, angry, witty, desperate, hopeful and a sometimes painfully intimate account of just how very badly damaged the author is. Still, I loved reading it.
I felt that my lack of experience with Lisp and Scheme was worth remedying so I picked up cheaply a used copy of Simply Scheme by Brian Harvey & Matthew Wright. It’s a bit elementary but it is intended for liberal arts majors and those who find they need a bridge to SCIP.
An annoying quirk of the book is the authors’ decision to use a nonstandard library of their own creation to hide the “complexity” of Scheme. I picked up copies of simply.scm and functions.scm from ftp://anarres.cs.berkeley.edu/pub/scheme/.
Unfortunately, I’m temporarily stalled. I intended to work with SCSH, the scheme shell as a shell in Emacs, and I may, but have to work out the library dependencies and possibly language features. PLT’s DrScheme might work but also has problems with the original library. This version of the library at UChicago is supposedly adapted for DrScheme but it looks like I need to remove the redefinitions of some built-in functions.
Recently finished two entirely unrelated books:
- [Salt](http://isbn.nu/0142001619) by Mark Kurlansky. The book is equal parts of political and
social history and seasoned with period recipes and text on other bits of culinaria. A good read.
- [Fear of Physics](http://isbn.nu/0465057454) by Lawrence M. Krauss. Despite the fact that I paid little to no attention to physics in High School and college, I do have an interest in
the subject matter so when I saw this at a used book shop I snapped it up. It is an entertaining and approachable layman’s introduction to topics such as general relativity, the expansion of the universe, subatomic particles and symmetry.