Friday, June 24, 2011

Kate recommends "The Most Human Human" by Brian Christian

Cover image
The Most Human Human is not only a great intro to some of the amazing things happening in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field, it's also a wonderful exploration into what it means to be human. It begins by explaining the Turing Test, a classic assessment of AI projects which gauges just how close a robot is to seeming human, and uses that as a jumping off point for the wide array of subjects to come. In explaining the challenges behind developing a human-like computer program, the author touches on subjects like Speed Dating, virtual Chess, and how to tell if you're chatting with a person or a computer. He also discusses how, in the digital age of texting and twitter, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern between man and machine. The writing style reminds me of a cross between Malcom Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman, as it references all kinds of pop culture and familiar examples, and includes loads of funny and anecdotal footnotes. Don't be intimidated by the subject matter; this book never gets overly technical or boring! Recommended for Adults and Teens.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tracy recommends "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" by Jacqueline Kelly

Cover image

Calpurnia Tate lives in Fentress, Texas in 1899. She is the only girl in the middle of 6 brothers, right in the middle. Her brothers are named for famous Texans, except for Harry, he was named for an uncle with no heirs. She is not interested in any of the domestic sciences she is supposed to learn, knitting, needlework, or cooking to name a few. Calpurnia wants to be a scientist. Her Grandfather helps her learn the scientific method of observing, collecting data and recording their results. This book has a Little House on the Prairie or All of a Kind Family feel. Calpurnia’s Grandfather is a mystery. His ongoing quest is to create a potable drink from pecans, of which they have an abundance of. He spends most of his time in his lab or his library and is very unapproachable. Calpurnia’s relationship with her Grandfather begins when she wants to know how come there are small green grasshoppers and large yellow ones. Her grandfather tells her that she is smart enough to figure it out for herself, and when she does come back with the answer. Thus begins Calpurnia’s journal of observations. This is a happy book with a lot of life’s struggles for a young girl trying to find her place in the world.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lisa recommends "Food Network Magazine"

This father’s day, my family is doing something fun to celebrate. We all took our copy of the June 2011 Food Network magazine and each picked out a recipe. (As we are all adults and there are a lot of us, this works for our family.) On Sunday we will all bring our dishes together to have a fabulous buffet of different items to try out. One sister is making pasta salad and another is making the drink. My brother is bringing grilled peppers and I am making a dessert called Cone-oli (like a cannoli, but in ice cream sugar cones). My parents are grilling the steaks. So if you are looking for a new way to try out fabulous recipes, I highly recommend getting your family or friends together and doing something similar. It is great fun!

Please note: Magazines are not holdable and the current issue can’t be checked out. All previous issues can be taken home for 3 weeks at a time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gretchen recommends "Bird Cloud"

Having enjoyed Close Range: Wyoming Stories, I was eager to read the author’s recently published biography. Annie Proulx, author of the popular Brokeback Mountain has written an unusual memoir. Bird Cloud is the name she gave to the nature preserve property she purchased for building her dream home. In the construction process, Proulx discovers in her wry storytelling that things don’t always go quite as planned, but despite her misgivings about her intended sanctuary, the book is filled with lyrical descriptions of her enjoyment of the bountiful natural world and the inscrutable activities of the wildlife around her property. Her memoir is in part a natural history lesson about Wyoming, but in larger part a tribute to the importance of finding a place that feels like home. Suitable for an adult audience.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beth recommends: "Fuzzy Nation"

I always enjoy reading and recommending books that fall into the category : “science fiction for people who don’t read science fiction”. Actually, there are so many wonderful books on that shelf – and I hope if you “don’t read science fiction” you will have a chance to discover them some day. To that end – I recommend Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi. Jack Holloway, an independent contractor mining on the planet Zarathustra discovers two things – an incredibly valuable seam of a rare gemstone, and a possibly human-like (sentient) species that would definitely get in the way of Zaracorp’s mission to strip the planet of anything of value. This is a well-told tale, with characters the reader can care about, plot twists, and even some courtroom drama. I found Scalzi’s take on the contact between two species to be entertaining and thought-provoking.

Recommended for Adult and Young Adult