Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Iliad, Tourmaline, Chaotic Dynamical Systems, How to Read the Bible

Wow! I was thinking that it's been a while since I wrote something in this blog, but had no idea it had been more than a month... Time flies when you're engaged, I suppose. You'd think that in a month, I'd have a fair amount to write about, but, sadly, no. Engagement also eats up a lot of reading time.

So... in the last month, I decided, for about the 10th time to try read Devaney's "Chaotic Dynamical Systems." And, for the 10th time, failed miserably for lack of real analysis skills. So, I looked on Amazon, and, lo & behold, he's written a book aimed more at undergrads ("A First Course in Chaotic Dynamical Systems"), with a lot more details filled in. I must say, I'm having a blast, stretching my mind with mathematics in a way that I just haven't done in the past several years. The book is engaging (for a math book), and relatively friendly to the non-math-major, at least so far (about halfway in).

I also read Park's follow-up to A Princess in Roumania, titled the Tourmaline. It's an interesting world that he's created, in which Roumania is a medium-size power, and Germany and Turkey are the major powers. Park does a great job filling in the details just fast enough so that you stay oriented, but slowly enough that you feel like you're learning it with the characters, and you always feel that there's a lot you don't know yet.

I read more of the Iliad, but nothing deep to say there.

I'm in the middle of Kugel's How to Read the Bible. I'm finding it fascinating, but I'm not sure how well it hangs together as a book, rather than a disparate collection of chapters. Each chapter (other than the first) follows a similar schema: recount a bible story, then talk about the view of the ancient interpreters, then how modern scholars view the same story. (E.g. the old view of the Babel story is that it's about mankind over-reaching, trying to get disobey God's will, and being punished. The more modern view is that it's an etiological tale, to explain the origin of Babylonian ziggurats, why Jews don't build them, and the origin of the many different languages in the world.) Great stuff. But every so often, he throws in a comment that implies that he's building a structure around the questions of faith in the Bible, given modern knowledge of its development, and I think he's not really getting there -- the book wouldn't be significantly different if you read the chapters in random order. However, I'm only halfway through, so we'll see how it progresses.

I've given up on the Three Kingdoms. Maybe someday I'll give it a try again, but the repetitiveness just got to me in the end.