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Mar. 11th, 2005

To update on my reading progress (because there's not a whole hell of a lot to do on Cape Cod in the winter except read and websurf), I started Cryptonomicon a few days ago. I'm fascinated, but it certainly won't be a quick read. It's 900+ pages contain small, closely-spaced print and is jam-packed with information. I was fascinated by the math discussion early on, but lamented the fact that I've forgotten just about all my calculus and haven't read enough to know much about Gödel and Turing's theories (despite having a (mostly unread) copy of Carl Boyer's A History of Mathematics on my bookshelf).

And last night I also started Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge. I read the title story. I think I'll read a story every day or three and read from the Stephenson the rest of the time, and that will give me plenty of time to finish the O'Connor in time for book club on April 2. If I finish her stories early enough, I may proceed to The Violent Bear It Away or Wise Blood, or maybe change authors and go with Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, although reading two techno-centered sci-fi thrillers at the same time might not be a good idea. If I'm going to read a few things at once, contrast is a good thing.

Read any good books lately? Any recommendations?


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 11th, 2005 11:09 pm (UTC)
My generation of fans disliked the descriptor sci-fi, preferring the term science fiction. This was in the era when stereo was replacing high-fi. High-fi had been much hyped because to get good reproduction you needed heavy transformers to feed the inefficient speakers and you needed the quietest vacuum tubes for low noise, accurate reproduction of sounds. The large transformers were necessary because vacuum tubes operated at high voltage and low current, the opposite of what the speakers needed. Stereo, with its high current, low voltage transistors, didn't carry all of that baggage.

Sci-fi / high-fi was the old way with all of the baggage.

Now, of course, only a few surviving old-timers know "sci-fi" reflected "the deprecated old way" ... or why. Nobody else cares.
Mar. 12th, 2005 06:46 am (UTC)
My generation is one that abbreviates a lot (e.g., lol, roflmao, fwiw). I knew that some people objected to usage of sci-fi instead of science fiction, but I also knew that such objections are not very widespread. I'm fairly lazy, and "sci-fi" saves me a few keystrokes.
Mar. 12th, 2005 11:37 am (UTC)
Your generation? The really annoying acronyms and abbreviations were generated by WWII. Your examples really are acronyms, too, not abbreviations.

By the way, thinking back, I probably should have said "hi-fi" instead of "high-fi".

Science fiction fans were a small, dedicated group before their literature was discovered by the mainstream. They had been the objects of disdain, their reading material called "pulp" because it was lumped with the not too dissimilar horror genre, both being printed in off-sized magazines that didn't have glossy paper. Once discovered, they found their material reclassified as sci-fi by outsiders. Much resentment was expressed. Their private little domain had been taken over by a much larger group who didn't understand their traditions.

English is malleable. As long as there is a high expectation of being understood, almost anything goes in informal communications. The most popular inventions will ultimately become part of the language, no matter how annoying purists find them. The use of abbreviations and shortcuts is a sign of intelligence; those of lesser intellect tend to make their words longer, rather than shorter: usage for use, for example. Subpopulations develop jargon, which sometimes leaks back into the mainstream and becomes standard, often with a new meaning: 'hacker' has been criminalized as well as having its meaning subverted, a hack originally being a non-standard, often creative, method for solving a problem.

Likewise, there is little wrong with being lazy (except in your thinking processes).
Mar. 12th, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Abbreviations
I don't know that sci-fi has become mainstream. It's still a fairly small subset of the (literate) population that reads it, and it's still often looked down on with disdain by those who don't read it. There's not a lot of difference except that there's a lot more of it in print and a more rigorous taxonomy of sub-genres.

BTW, hacker is slowly regaining it's proper place in our lexicon.
Mar. 13th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Abbreviations
Compared to where it was, it has become accepted by those who previously restricted themselves to mainstream or literate. This is indicated by the increases in market, both sales and per-word payment.
Mar. 12th, 2005 08:03 am (UTC)
But now, in the age of WiFi, nobody can be bothered to "waste" the extra characters or syllables required to write or say "science fiction".
Mar. 12th, 2005 08:05 am (UTC)
Oh, and I should add, for anyone who doesn't know: I'm closer to am0's age than spwebdesign's.
Mar. 12th, 2005 11:57 am (UTC)
And what, exactly, is WiFi? It refers to wireless access and almost everybody knows what it is, but the abbreviation entered popular use without many being aware of what it abbreviated.

The same is true for "DVD", abbreviation remaining long after the original abbreviated phrase was forgotten. Now, who is going to guess that "HVD", the new technology coming out, stands for "Holographic Versatile Disk"? Yet they'll guess that it resembles CDs and DVDs.

Who remembers, apart from you and me, that IBM was once called International Business Machines? Or that BASIC started as the Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code?

Some real crimes get committed in the process of finding shortcuts. Nobody would say "Linus Torvald's UNIX work-alike", though that is what Linux is (or was, originally). Combining the start of somebody's name with the tail end of an acronym nobody knows the originating phrase of shouldn't be considered a valid way to form new words, but the name 'Linux' is here to stay.

We aren't just avoiding waste of time and effort, the acronyms take on lives of their own, independent of the phrases that spawned them.
Mar. 12th, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Abbreviations
Well, I really only chose WiFi because it rhymes with sci-fi.
Mar. 12th, 2005 04:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Abbreviations
It was a good choice: hi-fi, WiFi, sci-fi. Semper Fi?
Mar. 12th, 2005 09:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Abbreviations
Who remembers, apart from you and me, that IBM was once called International Business Machines?

Plenty of people.
Mar. 13th, 2005 08:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Abbreviations
Plenty, to the extent that if you say "IBM was once called International Business Machines," they will say "Yeah, I knew that". If you don't remind them, though, they will use 'IBM' without thinking of the longer version.

How many, though, can tell you what 'DVD' stands for, much less what it stood for originally? Or what 'HVD' stands for?

The acronym, in each case, has entered our language while what the acronym stood for has not necessarily followed it.
Mar. 12th, 2005 07:16 am (UTC)
I read a lot of children's fiction. I love the way the plots tend towards the strange and fantastic and I particularly like when the stories are illustrated.

If you're interested in opera, you should definitely check out the coffeetable book of Maurice Sendak's work that came out last year. I never realized what insane talent he had until I looked at his set designs. The pictures are gorgeous and the descriptions of how he went about the logistics of setting these things up is more interesting than you might think.

Fiction that I've read most recently (and liked) would be Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (again, more of the uber-fantastic), Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Blankets by Craig Thompson. The last one is a graphic novel. It only took a day to read but the story was very deep and the illustrations were breathtaking.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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