Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, March 2011
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King, American
- Comic-book mind-candy. Very nice art and a promising story which would have been better if sentiment had been more ruthlessly repressed.
- Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler, Mysterius the Unfathomable
- Comic-book mind-candy. I will never look at Dr. Seuss in quite the same
- Colin de la
Higuera, Grammatical Inference: Learning Automata and
- The best, and perhaps even the only, available textbook
on grammatical inference.
Unlike statistical language modeling, where we just aim at getting good
probability estimates and the like, and where students are well-served by books
like Charniak and Manning and Schutze, the goal
here is, more ambitiously, to recover the language as such, or perhaps even a
particular grammatical representation of the language. (Probabilistic finite
state machines, on which de la Higuera has written some important papers, are
however discussed at some length.) While this goes back almost as far as the
study of formal languages as such, this is the best attempt I've seen at
drawing the various scattered literatures together into a graspable shape. In
principle the book is self-contained, given basic competence in computer
science (not programming!), but some acquaintance with formal languages and
automata, at the Lewis and Papadimitriou or Hopcroft and Ullman level
would be a good idea.
- There are an annoying number of typos, which unfortunately I did not note
as I went along. Despite them, I now find myself entertaining fantasies of
teaching a seminar on grammatical inference.
- Disclaimer: I reviewed a partial draft manuscript for the
publisher in 2007, and they sent me a free copy of the book when it came
- Jennifer Crusie, Maybe This Time
- Picked up
Walton's recommendation Enjoyable, though I had more trouble accepting the
romance working as depicted than I did accepting the ghosts.
- Mind-candy. I like the idea of terraforming by using retroviruses to
re-work the planet's native metabolic pathways, but the time-scale seems unduly
- Chad Orzel, How to Teach Physics to Your Dog
- If you
Worlds, Many Treats", you will like this; and I dare say if not, then not.
As one would guess from the blog post, this is very nice popular science
writing: clear, correct, gently funny, and informed by Orzel's experience as an
experimental physicist. (Speaking as a recovering theoretical physicist, I
appreciate this.) I even learned from it: quantum "teleportation" experiments
had never made a lot of sense to me before. ("State duplication" might be a
better name...) Strongly recommended, even for cat people.
- Disclaimer: Chad's an occasional correspondent.
- [With abundant thanks to "Uncle Jan" for this!]
- Lauren Willig, The Orchid Affair
- Kat Richardson, Labyrinth
Face at the Window
- Mind-candy in long-running series. [[Back-linkage]] Both the Graves and
the Richardson are a lot darker than previous installments.
- Edited to add: Sequel to The Orchid Affair.
Ruins: Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region
- Photographs, almost entirely in monochrome, of abandoned industrial and
institutional edifices in Pennsylvania and New York. Short essays by others on
the historical context introduces each section of photographs --- which are the
main source of interest here. These get their interest, I think, from the
contrast between the composition and the content. The latter is, of course,
abandonment and decay: these are places from which the world has moved on, and
O'Boyle shows them as they peel, rust and crumble. But the composition
containing them is elegant and geometrical; many of them bring to mind
Renaissance studies in perspective and ideal form, especially with their
vertical grids. The human figure is totally absent. (Unlike
studies in perspective and grids.) What now-lost civilization, one is left
wondering, built these enigmatic structures scattered across eastern North
America? Surely not the degraded and disorganized people found wandering in
- (The introduction by Geoff Manaugh is recycled BLDGBLOG entries, which is
not a bad thing unless one's been re-reading Manaugh.)
- Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher
through LibraryThing's "early
- W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk [Free Gutenberg versions]
- What could I possibly add to all that has been said about this book
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
The Pleasures of Detection;
The Beloved Republic;
Enigmas of Chance;
Posted by crshalizi at March 31, 2011 23:59 | permanent link