February 27, 2004

Potlatch day 1

I walked into the con suite at my first science fiction convention, Potlatch 13 and, probably predictably, the second person I saw was Anita Rowland who very nicely welcomed me to the room and took good care of my newbie self.

The very first person I saw was Ursula K. Le Guin! Oh my. Unaccountably, she is not 8 feet tall. Oh my. It's a wonder I could speak when I saw Anita a few moments later.

The 21st century introvert's way of dealing with large social situations is to fire up the laptop with WiFi and start blogging while trying to melt into the background as much as possible, so that's what I did.

The evening's session was entitled "Terrascaping Jane's Head" I presume since the moderator's name was Jane. The idea was to share books that changed your head; books after reading which you were never the same or the world was never the same. I tried to catch them all, so since I've got this big list I may as well stick it in here. Just what I needed, more good books to read.

I actually went prepared with a thing, but I wasn't brave enough to speak up. It's a brief section from a Delany book, either Heavenly Breakfast or The Motion of Light in Water, I can't remember which. In it, young Chip is walking up a trail with a companion who points out a waterfall off the trail. Chip only sees the bushes that surround the trail until his companion shows him to focus past the bushes and assemble a picture from the bits making it through the interstitial spaces between the leaves. This idea of focusing past the confusion of nearby detail has resonated for me not only in similar visual situations, but also in dealing with information rich environments of other kinds. (I was actually even reminded of it tonight since the blinds were closed in the room we were in, but I could see the monorail go by through the little spaces that remain open with closed mini-blinds. I'm not sure what it says about this group that they were perfectly happy to sit talking about books in a room with the blinds drawn hiding an excellent view of the Space Needle and other portions of the Seattle skyline. I'm sure it was just too bright earlier in the day and no one thought to open the blinds once it got dark.)

Anyway, here's all the other cool stuff in the order people people mentioned it with a gloss on their comments when I was able to capture them. I'll hide it behind a cut tag here so this doesn't run on to pages for any of my readers who aren't interested (though I can't imagine who that might be ;-).

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of ViolenceAlice Miller
Adventures In Time and SpaceRaymond J Healy and J Francis McComas
The Elements of Style Strunk & White
Elements of Programming Style P. J. Plaugher
Dhalgren Samuel R. Delany repeat readings over the course of years showed her "how many different ways the same words can be read" and changed her view of SF from being fiction about what can happen, to being about "how can people treat each other"
The Book of Marvels: The Occident and The Orient Richard Halliburton
Art Worlds Howard S. Becker art is something created by all the people who contribute to the materials and creation, purchase, etc. (Sociology)
The File Serge Lang
Rats, Lice, and History Hans Zinsser
Economics Paul Samuelson
Gödel, Escher, Bach Douglas R. Hofstadter
none Not a book, but the act of learning to program in Lisp
What Is Calculus About? W. W. Sawyer brought in response to someone (I think it was Vonda McIntyre) talking about the act of learning calculus
none the act of learning any new language (this was Ursula Le Guin, so I suspect she meant human, not computer languanges.)
Tigana Guy Gavriel Kay
Never Done: a History of American housework Susan Strasser
Bright Earth Philip Ball where color comes from and how it fits in sociologically
The Shockwave Rider John Brunner This is the book that Potlatch 13 is shaping all of its programming around...
Ubik Phillip K. Dick
none not a book, but a sign on a jar full of crucifixes reading "Souvenirs of the crucifiction of Jesus Christ"
none another non-book, the statement "Money is a process, not a thing."
The Logic of Scientific Discovery Karl Popper how you test whether a discovery is science or not (if you can't find a way to disprove it it's not science)
The Open Society and Its Enemies Karl Popper how terrible Plato's ideas were
none a child's question of "Who was the first bank robber?"
Fooled By Randomness: the hidden role of chance in the markets and in life Nassim Taleb are you good or are you lucky?
A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander Architecture is like a language with its finite number of words, but infinite number of sentences. Good and bad architecture isn't just a factor of aesthetics.
Some Calculus Text Serge Lang ruined her ability to do math
The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkein First time found fiction could completely dominate his life
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes Amin Maalouf
none the world map with South at the top
the Magic Eye books stuff that looks like it might be stereo pairs sometimes will resolve if viewed that way
King Hereafter Dorothy Dunnett beautiful love story that wasn't cliche, felt real, with caring, political necessity "mature love story"
Wonderful Life Stephen Jay Gould don't completely understand what evolution means until read this (complete importance of contingency and chance)
Astronomy Fred Hoyle hoyle also writes SF so the combo of science and SF potential made him her hero
Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs
Fables for our Time James Thurber
Anything Can Happen George Papashvily Georgian sword maker immigrant to America
Mimsy Were the Borogoves Louis Padgett
25 Modern Short Stories Phil Stong
Pilgrimage to Earth Robert Sheckley
I, Governor of California... Upton Sinclair subtitled "And How I Ended Poverty, a true story of the future" suggester commented that Heinlein's "new" book put Sinclair's utopian socialism into context of modern America
The Voice of the Dolphins Leo Szilard getting stuff done with science instead of politics
The West Wing long setup describing how it was about a president who could ask for several opinions on an issue and then make a decision based on them instead of doing whatever he damn pleases. The suggester didn't mention his title until someone asked. This seemed like a calculated gesture, but I could be wrong.
Joan of Arc didn't catch, which doesn't help... told through the words of Joan or people who knew her (made how she could be important real, how much her ideas were common sense/20th century thoughts, first peasant teenage girl we know about
The Dispossessed: an ambiguous utopia Ursula K. Le Guin specifically for the meaning behind the subtitle. Suggester was mad about the current reprint leaving off the subtitle. Ms. Le Guin just shrugged.
Big Business a film of Laurel & Hardy metaphor for what's wrong with our country
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Thomas S. Kuhn before reading this, suggester thought science was totally objective
Annals of the Former World John McPhee omnibus of Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising From the Plains, and Assembling California
Chaos James Gleick
Posted by jeffy at February 27, 2004 08:29 PM

This is really cool! Thanks.

Posted by: Luke at March 2, 2004 12:35 AM
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