As mentioned earlier, I didn’t get to actually see the Trier Karneval parade – I got there just a few minutes after it ended. Instead, I got to see (and walk through) a town square full of this stuff. Apparently, part of the tradition is throwing all the trash on the ground. Amazingly, they had it all cleaned up and looking German again within just a few hours.

I’m listening to Haydn’s Symphony Number 94 in G major (out of I don’t know how many, but at least 104 and that’s a lot of symphonies), performed by the Academy of Ancient Music, as I write this. I borrowed it from the library and imported it into iTunes. Very pleasant – not too heavy but sufficiently complex for good listening.

A few words on some recent books. Eniac was truly enjoyable. There’s enough technical depth for a savvy reader to understand how the world’s first digital computer was designed and put together, but not so much that a non-savvy reader’s head would swim. Explanations are clear and concise. More importantly, though, the story isn’t really as much a book about a computer as it is a book about the fascinating people who designed and built the thing, their efforts in getting it built, their frustrations at seeing their invention co-opted by others, and their inability to turn their invention into a viable business. I was fascinated by Eckert‘s and Mauchly‘s faults along with their genius, and really came to feel like I knew them, along with the fascinating people around them. The author’s viewpoint that they were continually ripped off by people with questionable motives comes through, but it’s a useful counterpoint to the many other published accounts of computing’s early days that discount E&M’s contributions. All in all, it’s a good, quick read (228 pages with extensive footnotes and bibliographic references) that should fascinate computer enthusiasts (link alert – I got a 95) and human-interest lovers alike. I recommend it.

A few weeks ago, I started Shut Up, He Explained, by Ring Lardner. It’s a collection of Lardner’s short humor, edited by Babette Rosmond and Henry Morgan. I’m most of the way through the first story, and I must say that I’m not really enjoying it. I worked on it for a few days and then put it down about two weeks ago and haven’t been able to get myself to pick it back up. Maybe I should just skip to the second story and see if it is better than the first.

The other one I’m reading right now is Where Wizards Stay Up Late, by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon. It’s about the development of computer networking in the 70s. As with Eniac, it’s more about personalities than technical content, which is just fine. History is about people, not things, after all. I get more of a feeling with this one, though, that the authors don’t really understand the science. Still, it’s worth a look.

Actually, there are a few electronic books I’ve been reading too. I just finished re-reading My Man Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. As with all his other work, it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s a riot from the first page to the last. Wodehouse is able to make upper-class English twits not only sympathetic, but positively loveable. Highly recommended – read anything by Wodehouse you can get your hands on. And it’s free! Check out Gutenberg (link alert – scroll way down to find the right guy).

My trip to the Cape has moved up by a day, so I’m now leaving on Monday morning. It’s too bad, but the Paris trip’s delay has given me back six more days this month, so I guess I don’t mind spending one more day in Florida. Our spacecraft couldn’t be shipped on the 8th because of a conflict with another spacecraft, so we moved our shipment up by a day. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and getting the spacecraft launched.

I am absolutely committed to having some lame version of the book club up before the weekend is over. It will probably just be a list of recently-read, currently-in-progress, and future-reading-list books over there on the right, but it will at least be something. Have a great weekend.

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