The God Particle, Ringworld, and Red Mars

I’m not supposed to be “working” on this at the moment, so I’m not going to make much of a blog post about it.

I made an effort to try out my rules today — a 7:00 PM hockey game required me to leave work at 6:00, and because it was our final playoff game, we had a celebration afterward. I opted to stay and celebrate, but that meant I didn’t get home until just now.

Still, I read 40 pages of The God Particle earlier today, and the remaining 25ish pages of yesterday’s Ringworld. I’m reading some more of Red Mars before I go to sleep, just because it’s damn interesting.

To conclude, doing the best I can to fit reading into smaller moments is helpful, and I’ve got way less stress thinking “It’s 12:30 and I have 70 pages to read!” — I didn’t get them done earlier. Try harder tomorrow!

In Other News

I spent many of my spare moments today (and yesterday) thinking about math and physics problems. I’m playing with ellipses a bit before I try to write a planetary orbit simulator, and I’m going to use that simulator to show off some math I did yesterday to make a program that calculates how large of a Ringworld we could make with the material inside the Earth. It turns out: pretty big! 1000km across by 500m deep, at roughly the same orbit as the earth. (I believe; I might be misremembering the results)

For simplification, I used our greatest distance from the sun as the radius of an imaginary “circular” orbit, and then I used the volume of the earth with the earth’s radius found on wikipedia. From there, you could supply a depth and it would tell you the width, or vice versa. Depth is the distance below your feet if you’re standing on the inner side, and width is the direction of each of your fingers, when standing on the inside looking along the ring.

I’m hoping that, eventually, I’ll have a javascript solar system model where you can click planets to change source materials (maybe allowing multiple selection) and then render an arbitrary ringworld with that volume of material, and you’d be able to play with its width or depth via sliders or something. That’ll take me some time and figuring, but it would be pretty cool to have!

The God Particle pp. 314-354, Buddhism Plain & Simple pp. 55-95, Ringworld pp. 244-284, Red Mars pp. 63-108

Good news and bad news. First the bad: It’s 11:32 PM, yuck! Now the good: I read 80 pages (40 of god particle, 40 of red mars) earlier today, so I only have 80 left (ringworld and buddhism: plain and simple). Already quite tired! Gonna get to Ringworld now.

I got through ten pages of Ringworld before I fell asleep.

I think that I’ve been saying “don’t start past eleven PM”, thinking that means I can do 50% before eleven, and 50% after. A better rule might be “be done before eleven PM”.

Another trend I’m noticing: when I’m sitting on my bed (or couch) trying to work, I fall asleep. It’s that simple. When I’m at work, or in the subway, or at a coffee shop, or on a bench or a sidewalk, I get my work done. For future reference in all endeavours, I need to keep myself away from my house if I’m going to be awake.

This poses a little bit of a problem. Where should a person be if not in their home, when doing personal work? I don’t want to “hang out” in the subway. There are no coffee shops open at 11 PM nearby that would allow me to sit in them reading. And staying at work extra late every night isn’t healthy either.

Aha! I made the mistake of forgetting my information about “when I work” when considering “where I work”. I should not be working at 11 PM. So that means I could be at the office, or at a coffee shop, or on my way home in the subway. Rather than looking for a 3 hour chunk of time to do all of my work in one spot, things have a far better chance of working out if I try to use (and if necessary, try to make) spare moments in which to work throughout the day.

Perhaps a pomodoro-like technique would help with this. For every X minutes of one task, stop and do Y minutes of another, and then take a short break from work all together. Today seems like a perfect time to try it, because I’ve got floor hockey and a season’s-over celebration this evening when I’d normally try to stuff all of my work.

I think I can synthesize this into 2 rules:

1) There is no work allowed after 11 PM, so be finished by then.
2) Don’t leave work for huge blocks of time. Devote some piece of every hour to your goal.

Let’s see how we fare today!

The God Particle pp. 274-314, Buddhism Plain & Simple pp. 15-55, Ringworld pp. 204-244, Red Mars pp. 63-63

It’s nearly that time again! Today’s actually even worse.

It’s 10:42 PM, and I’m just about to head home. I’ve got a real, full 140 pages to read tonight and I won’t begin until I’m home, which means around 11:15, and also that there’s a higher chance I’ll fall asleep instead of finish. Good luck, me.

I’m finally home and settled in enough to read. It’s so windy and amazing outside! The bad news is that it’s 11:37. Reading time! God Particle first, because it’s the hardest. I paused to set up a playlist and that took five minutes somehow. 11:42!

Oh my gosh. This is why I’m learning to speed read. I just finished 40 pages of The God Particle, and it’s 1:33 AM. I did nothing but read continuously for 110 minutes — that’s 165 seconds per page. At about 440 words per page, that’s .375 seconds per word, or 2.67 words per second; 160 words per minute. Enough berating myself for reading slowly: why did this happen?  Well, I’m very darn tired. This book also hit its most interesting parts! Lederman is talking about the formation of the standard model now, which he played some parts in. He’s talked about Feynman a bit, and he’s generally discussing quarks and how they were discovered and why they were proposed. It’s very cool — but I just read it instead of scanning over it!

After a long while of doing it and seeing my horrific time, I decided to keep going at a normal pace to see if my eyes would feel better than after speed reading. I can now safely report that they do not. It’s 1:42. Finished to page 246 of Ringworld at 2:16 AM – 34 minutes for 40 pages. Not great! I started off very fast, but slowed toward the end. In this passage, They came across the great floating tower, stayed in it, met some natives, got burned by their translator discs, found the enormous eye of god, and flew through it.

2:18 AM and starting Buddhism Plain and Simple. Finished at 2:33 — but I got next to zero comprehension out of it. I think my reading capacity is pretty much shot for the evening — a little over 120 pages down though! Sorry, Red Mars, I’ll get to you tomorrow.

The God Particle pp. 231-274, Time To Go House pp. 123-137, Ringworld 161-204, Red Mars pp. 23-63

It’s 11:00:30 PM, I’m sitting at work, it’s raining outside, and I have 160 pages to read.

Okay, not quite 160 — really just 133 pages. I’ll finish Time To Go House tonight. The key is speed reading. If I’m reading properly, I should be able to read the approximately 80,000 words in front of me (at a high count) in 80-100 minutes. It’s 11:03 – away I go.

11:23:40 and I just got to page 204 of Ringworld. Big arguments and starseed lures and evolutionary control! This is one of my favourite parts of the book. And the sunflowers got poor Speaker-to-animals. Everyone gets angry at Nessus because they figure out that the puppeteers interfered greatly in the evolution of humankind and the kzin. They all feel ashamed that they’d been so manipulated so easily, and through this passage, deal with it. Nessus is off on his own somewhere, terrified that they’ll all try to kill him over it, and Speaker-to-Animals gets seriously burned by an invasive strain of photoreflective sunflowers.

11:28 and it’s time to start the hardest bit of my reading: The God Particle. My eyes are already a little sore.  11:58 and I’m done – that’s definitely a harder read! Finished off to page 274. This was the continuation of the description of how particle accelerators operate, some design choices made in making them (electrons, protons, colliding beam, straight vs circular, etc) and then it became all about the discovery that symmetry is broken, with a thrilling blow-by-blow account, given by the author as an actor in the discovery. Pretty cool stuff.

Next up: finishing Time To Go House. It’s 12:03 and I’m off — only 17 pages to read. Done at 12:14. It got pretty preachy there for a bit about the Vietnam war, but I can’t really blame the author. I had a good nostalgia moment reading about the food along the side of the table, the mouse-dance, the stair game, and lining Smalleata’s house. I’m glad to have had a chance to re-read this, even at lightning pace.

Last but certainly not least: Red Mars. I haven’t read this before; it’s fiction and it seems reasonably dense, but I’m very strongly interested (and I read the first 25 pages a week or so ago, they were great). Hoping to get 40 pages done to take me to page 63, in the next 23 minutes or so (that’ll round it out at about 100 minutes with some breaks). Quick note a minute or two later: italicized text (which there’s a few pages of at the beginning of the chapter) is very hard to read quickly.

12:28 was when I started, and 1:18 is when I finished! It’s as I feared: this book is too interesting! I lapsed very seriously into slow reading — that’s 50 minutes on 40 pages, when it should have been 20. I had read 20 pages in about 15 minutes, so I wasn’t far off track at the start. Beyond it being interesting, it’s also late at night, and this was the tail end of the reading — as I know from last week, spreading the reading out (and doing it earlier in the day) is important.

Anyway. This was a step back in time to before the opening events of the book, describing the initial journey from earth to Mars. It’s touching on the politics, the people, religion, all sorts of things. I’m never sure I trust Kim Stanley Robinson’s descriptions of vast groups of people, but for the sake of fiction I can accept them. Provided I can speed it up a bit, this will be an interesting read. My only real complaints are the occasional burst of italics and some sections that seemed to regurgitate earlier points over and over. Lots of writers do that (I mean, hey, just read these blog posts), but I would expect it to get pruned by editors to the point that a reader wouldn’t notice it. Maybe it’s just because I’m purposely speed reading? Ha!

Good reading. Have to start before 11:00 PM tomorrow! Very, very glad I got back into the swing of read-and-blog, and accomplished near to my goal of 160 pages. All said and done, it took 140 minutes instead of 100, and I probably spent 20 minutes of that time writing / rubbing my eyes, so it wasn’t a bad effort.

Cottage Weekend!

This weekend I travelled to a muskoka campground along with most of my coworkers. We slept in cottages, kayaked, canoed, played sports, played poker, and had a lot of fun. I tried to do a tiny bit of reading, but the real world was just more compelling.

Personal highlights of the weekend were losing huge on a single hand of poker, lone canoeing around the t-shirt island, perfectly roasted marshmallows, and stopping to see some falls in Bracebridge.

Anyway, starting today I plan to read 40 pages of each of 4 books, every day.