Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Numbers, numbers, everywhere

Like someone I know, I too am a little disappointed in the low amount of reading I do. (Unlike said someone, I don't think 15 books in half a year is "far too few." But maybe my judgment is clouded because my mind is "rotting in the abscesses of illiteracy" more so than said individual.) So, I've determined that I want to read more -- and not just fiction, though that can be a fun experience. I want to learn, and to "better myself," whatever that entails. To this end, I've determined that I will read at least one non-fiction book per month every other month. (No need to set the bar excessively high. I'd hate to fail and be consequently turned off to reading. Like exercise.)

I determined that I should stick to my interests. For example, last year, I read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and I really enjoyed it. So I began by perusing the physics section of the local ginormous chain book store/music store/movie store/coffee house. (Unofficial slogan: "Consoooom. Get hyped up. Repeat.") I browsed the titles and was a little overwhelmed. There were books on topics I had never heard of. I was looking for something that would be similar to Hawking's book, but focused more narrowly on a single topic, like quantum physics or string theory. Not finding the perfect book, I next wandered over to the astronomy aisle. This search was more directed, but still time-consuming. Eventually I found a book on binocular stargazing, a hobby I'm taking up. But I would classify that book as more of a guide than a non-fiction book. So I still didn't have a book to fit my demanding criteria.

Then it happened, by total chance. On the way out of the science section and towards the checkout counters, my eyes inadvertently scanned over the mathematics section, specifically a bookcase that was parallel to the aisle, while all the others are perpendicular. And I saw what I immediately knew would be my first book: The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS: Solving Crime with Mathematics. The book is co-authored by NPR's 'Math Guy' and the math consultant for Numb3rs. I've only read three chapters of the book thus far, but it's very interesting, even if you're not a math geek. (In fact, it's geared towards the layperson, so math geeks might find the book less interesting than the average person would.) It describes the background of the methods Charlie (the mathematician on the show) uses: who developed them, how they work, and how they've been put to use to catch or prosecute criminals.

Anyway, you can see I'm excited about reading again. And now, some numbers of my own:

5 - Ideal number of words in the title of a CNN news feed item. This leads to some difficult-to-comprehend headlines in the name of brevity. An example: "Sardinia row as trash ship docks." That's one extra word, and I still don't understand it. Is the city rowing a small boat? Or are they engaged in a quarrel?

3 - Number of thermometers in my living room. (One is on my digital clock. The other two are Galileo thermometers, which are awesome.)

76 - Degrees Fahrenheit my thermometers read at which I stop shivering in my apartment. (They can't all be reading higher than the actual temperature, can they?)

65 - Dollar amount Verizon tried to overcharge me on my first internet bill. Did they hope I wouldn't notice?

60 - Minutes spent getting Verizon to give me a credit to my bill. (Apparently they can't revise their bills?) I hate calling customer service. From any company.

1 - Number of tasks I had at work a a weeks ago.

0 - Number of tasks I have at work now.

2 - Number of changes in ownership of my employer in the past 3 years.

92 M - Dollars being paid out (from stock shares) to employees' 401K plans due to the most recent acquisition of the company. (Even though the amount per employee is calculated from his time with the company, making my amount small, my estimated amount is still enough to make me glad I was hired before the buy-out.)

33 - Days since my last blog entry. (Sorry. (I'm assuming you read this blog because you like it and/or me.))

4 - Days this entry has been written but unreleased because it's only "nearly complete." It's still not complete in my mind, but whatever. I'm done with worrying about making it perfect. If I have other things to say, I'll revisit them in other entries.

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