Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hidden Harmonies - Robert and Ellen Kaplan

Sub-title:  The Live and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem

This is a different read.  Two mathematicians trace the history of the discovery and proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem - the one the scarecrow quotes in the Wizard of Oz when he gets his brain:
"The square of the hypotenuse of an isosceles [sic right angled] triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides"
That quote was about the extent of my knowledge of the theorem.  This book provided a delightful and quixotic look at its evolution and application throughout history.  I admit I skimmed the proofs and my eyes glazed in parts.  I felt I was listening to a discussion by two experts on a topic I barely understand and yet enjoy their enthusiasm for the subject.

They quote Georg Christoph Lichtenberg "What you have been obliged in discover by yourself leave a path in your mind which you can use again when the need arises."


On math as a craft:

"Should you conclude that so much doggedness, wedded to such inspiration, is beyond your wildest dreams, remember that what you've followed here is the tidied remainder of who knows how many lively conversations -- and conversation among practitioners as devoted to their craft as are cooks to theirs." 

Published:  2011  Read:  November 2017  Genre: Non-fiction, mathematics

A Fall of Marigolds - Susan Meissner

This book is a joy to read.  The story of two lives scarred by tragedy intersecting across decades.
A young mother working in a fabric store in modern day New York seeks a particular design she saw years ago.  A nurse on Ellis Island helps a widowed immigrant back to health.  These two characters lives come together over time to tell stories of great loss and how we react to it and eventually move on. 

Some quotes:

"Kindness is always motivated by something nobler than just a desire to be kind.  I had a wounded heart.  Like his.  That is what I had."
"I want to be able to remember and have it not hurt. I think it's possible to remember someone you loved and lost and feel blessed that you knew them, even for just a short time, without it hurting."

"The person who completes your life is not so much the person who shares all the years of your existence, but rather the person who made you life worth living, not matter how long or short a time you were given to spend with them." 

"...a strange but welcome ache for the loss of my island fell over me: the ache of losing something that is comfortable only because it is familiar, not dear." 

"Perhaps you are thinking, as I once did, that love is too precarious to want to lavish it again on another.  I want you to know that love is not a person.  It is not of this earth at all.   It wasn't until now that I realized I had mistakenly come to believe that love came from a place inside me and therefore I had to protect that place.  It comes from heaven.  It is given to us not to hold on to or hide from but to give away."

Published:  2014  Read: November 2017  Genre: Fiction

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sisters in Law - Linda Hirshman

Subtitle: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World

Reading the story of the first two women supreme court justices reawakened the feminist history I lived and embraced for life in the 1970s.  These two very different women finally brought a female perspective to the court.  The stories of their treatment and experiences is fascinating.  I was surprised at O'Connor's pragmatic conservatism and cheered Ginsburg's consistent push for change.  I discovered a lot about the operation of the Supreme Court and how its members function in getting their job done and relating to their colleagues.  Great read.

Published:  2015 (hardback)  Read: October 2017  Genre: History, biography

The Wave - Susan Casey

An adventure reporter follows the men who seek out the largest waves in the world to surf them.  On the way she explains the science of large waves and the havoc they have reeked on ships and human beings over time.  Got me to watch the videos of the surfers and made me a little leery of ocean travel!

Published: 2010      Read: August 2017   Genre: Non-fiction, adventure