Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Light Reading

I was in Naples FL from February 4 to February 27. It rained twice. It was cool (overnight low 45 degrees, high of 66) 1 day. Other than that, 2 weeks of highs around 83-84, which are actually a little hot, and 1 week of highs in the upper 70s, which are perfect. You leave all the doors open, mild breezes move the air, perfect. Plus green and colorful flowers everywhere. Very hard to come home to gray and white and more snow and ice.

I also really miss the exercise opportunities that I have down there. The biking is weird -- mostly bike lanes on 4 and 6 lane highways -- but I still got to bike 9 times for 430 miles total, an average of 47.7 miles. That puts me on the bike 3-4 hours, and that seems to put too much stress on my hands. I still have some numbness in the ring and pinky fingers on both hands. I was biking with a guy on one of the "leaning on your forearms on the handlebar pads" bikes, he said that bike totally fixed the hand thing for him. So I'm going to look into getting that type of bike.

I also walked 10 times for 50 miles. The default walks in the community there wind up at around 4.5 miles, so I've come up with some more convoluted routes that get up to 6-7 miles. At the end I was also stopping by the exercise room towards the end of the walk and doing arm and torso work.

Well, that pretty much seemed like a vacation, so I decided to reread "The Great Book of Amber", by Roger Zelazny. This is the 10 Amber novels, which were all around 200 pages and published from 1970 to 1991, in 1 book. There are actually 2 stories of 5 books each, the 1st of the older generation doing a "Game of Thrones" thing and vying for the "King of the Multiverse" job, the 2nd of the next generation vying for the "King of Primordial Chaos" job. They are very quick reads. I like the 1st 5 better. I liked these a lot back in the day, they were pretty good on the reread. The 1st one was funny, hippy slang ("I couldn't dig what he was talking about") definitely jarring and gave some chuckles.

Then at the recommendation of my brother the author, I read "Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths", by Nancy Marie Brown (2012). This was a biography of Snorri Snurluson, an Icelander of the early 13th century. Snorri was responsible for the creation of the Eddas, which are our major source of Norse myths, which I have always loved. Iceland at the time was independent -- it came under Norwegian rule later in the 13th century. If you weren't a mighty warrior, you could get by on being a mighty poet (called a skald), which describes Snorri. Snorri eventually became the most powerful man in Iceland, before his allies and in-laws betrayed him and he was killed.

I think the most interesting thing about this to me was how many of my favorite stories were apparently not passed down from older stories but were instead created whole cloth by Snorri. 1 example is the 1 where Thor and Loki visit the giant after spending the night in his glove and their young male companion races Thought, Loki has an eating contest with Fire, and Thor wrestles Old Age.

This was an interesting and a quick read, and puts me up to 3 biographies that I can remember reading in my life. The other 2 were Albert Einstein and Harpo Marx.

I am 6 lectures and quizzes into the online course I'm taking at coursera on "The Age of Sustainable Development". I skim or read the recommended reading materials, which takes 2-3 hours. I then watch the lecture, which are up to around 1 hour 40 minutes. I then take the quiz with the help of the PDF of the lecture, which takes around 5 minutes. It's getting a little boring, but maybe the slower rate of information transfer will help it stick. Around 1/3 of the quiz questions involve looking stuff up in online databases and doing some easy math, which I guess is an OK thing. It doesn't seem like I'm really learning much new stuff, but getting a lot of this knowledge in the framework of a course again will probably help it to stick.

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