Realized I really hate blogging, so I thought I’d take a shortcut and do shorter writeups in a single post.
Combinatorial Logic & Functional Programming: An Introduction to Functional Programming Through Lambda Calculus
The first third was the best – a mind-spinning look at stuff like the formal specification of recursion using lambda calculus. Love it. This was my primary interest in grad school, and the work I do today still dabbles in elements of this. The middle third was a too-basic look at the definition of data structures and related algorithms using recursive functions, and the final third was the implementation of the middle third’s content in ML and LISP.
Productivity: Getting Things Done
This was a reread from years ago. At that time, the main thing I picked up was on the collection piece – for about a decade now, I have always carried a Moleskine Cahier & Pentel Twist-Erase in my shirt pocket. I haven’t quite gotten to Inbox Zero, but I have a processing process. Pretty close to the “mind like water” state. Also, I have taken select group projects and moved them to a Next Action approach (which is easy to do when you don’t have a lot of time for development – one flaw with this approach is that you risk not identifying enough work to keep folks busy). The main thing I’ve gotten from this reread is a need to focus on organization and review – I need to keep dormant items off of my main task list and put them in a place where I can effectively review them periodically. Steps are already in motion!
Pragmatic Bookshelf: The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development
A minor problem with this book is that the author too often draws analogies to his career as a jazz musician. I do not think that that background is meaningful to readers. Analogies are best used to connect the familiar with the unfamiliar, and he’s working backwards here. A major problem with this book is that it shifts all over the place, from folks who come to work just not giving a damn (who likely aren’t reading this book in the first place!) to folks trying to land new jobs via self-promotion (the recent Career Tools podcast “Bad Career Advice: Start a Blog” – shares my take on it). There are a lot of good truths here that will take honest introspection to get the most out of, and even where the chapters ring false, there is good stuff in the exercises at the end of each one to really push oneself.
Victorian Gothic Novels: The Monk
Really bad guy who does really bad things to really good people gets his comeuppance: Straight-up justice porn. But of course I love the dialog of the era, and this one had an interesting story-within-a-story narrative structure. As pointed out in the introduction, the book has actual supernatural elements whereas most books of the time hinge on misinterpretations and wild imaginations.
Wonderland Quartet: A Garden of Earthly Delights
A story of a girl from a family of migrant farmhands who strives to do something different with her life. Not wanting to spoil the book, I’ll just say that it seems that the main theme is “having” versus “doing” with respect to The American Dream; not entirely “money can’t buy happiness”, but along those lines. I didn’t care for the book much – although it certainly is effective in creating vivid settings – but that final paragraph rang out to the Sylvia Plath fan in me and is making me reconsider the whole book.
Elmore Leonard: The Bounty Hunters
A reread from last year. My words from then (which still hold): “Westerns are great. Elmore Leonard is great. Didn’t know he started his career out by writing westerns… but this one is as bad-ass as you would expect the pairing to be. It was a helluva page-turner. The plot – a stud and his homies try to play several groups of villainous characters against each other – seems like something Tarantino could work with. I hope the category remains this engaging, and I’m curious to see whether he evolves to introduce an anti-hero element to his protagonists.”
Wonder Woman [The New 52]: Blood
This take really milks the Greek Mythology angle, taking a very Sandman-like approach to the collection of various gods. It was interesting – I really like the takes on Hades and Poseidon – but the story didn’t really pull me in and it had the typical comic book way-of-speaking – heavy on repartee – that I cannot stand.