In Association with

Who am I?

You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.

Blogs I read

Directories on this blog


Recent posts

Sat, 31 May 2003

Shadow Puppets, by Orson Scott Card
I loved the original Ender's Game series, so this re-examination of the universe bothers me. This is the third book in the series (Ender's Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon were the first two) detailing what happens on Earth after Ender leaves, when all of his fellow "soldiers" battle it out for control of Earth. The geopolitical ideas are somewhat interesting, but the characterization is really lacking. I'm glad I borrowed it from the library rather than buying.

posted at: 09:46 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/scifi | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal

Gearheads, by Brad Stone
Subtitled "The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports", this book takes a look at the rise of Robot Wars, Battlebots, and the several other TV shows associated with robotic warfare. It's interesting to me as somebody who watched a lot of these things develop from afar, from being a fan of SRL to cheering my friends on at MIT's 2.70 contest to seeing the first article about Robot Wars in Wired magazine, back in 1994, featuring a tank-like robot with a chainsaw on top. Stone does a good job of interviewing all the people associated with the rise of robotic sports, and detailing the various legal shenanigans that eventually sucked many of them in.

posted at: 09:42 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/fun | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal

The Getaway Man, by Andrew Vachss
I really like most of Andrew Vachss's work, especially the Burke series, so I had to buy this. It's a throwback noir novel, in a style appropriate to the 1930's or so. What's interesting is that the protagonist, Eddie, is a pretty simple fellow, as opposed to the street intelligence of Burke. Eddie gets caught up in schemes beyond his comprehension, but concentrates on doing his job as the driver, and ignoring what he doesn't understand. Eventually, he gets caught too deep, and has to make some choices of his own. I wouldn't say it's Vachss's best work, but it's definitely interesting.

posted at: 09:27 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/general | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal

How The Mind Works, by Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker, a professor in the cognitive science department at MIT, is best known for his theories of language acquisition, as described in his book The Language Instinct. In this book, he takes a swing at the larger problem of how the mind works. His thesis, in his words: "The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life, in particular, understanding and outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants, and other people." (p.21) He examines each of the problems that parts of our brain were designed to solve, from vision to emotions to social relationships, and theorizes about why certain algorithms were developed by natural selection. It's a somewhat reductionist approach, and he freely admits that he has no answer to some of the harder questions, like where consciousness, or sentience, comes from. But it is an interesting attempt to break down some of the mind's behaviors into understandable chunks. I didn't really get any sense of "aha!" from reading this, but there were lots of small-scale points to ponder.

posted at: 09:21 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/general | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal