Sunday, January 20, 2013

Einstein's Refrigerator

I started this blog when I joined a 52 Books in 52 Weeks group on Ravelry.  25 years ago, I decided I was reading too many 'books without words' (as my parents called my science and engineering textbooks) and started keeping a list of the 'books with words' I read, with a goal of reading at least 52 each year.  I read at least 60-70 (and sometimes more than 90) every year I wasn't a student until 2003.  That's when I started my current 50+ hour job, but I managed to keep my total over 52 until I bought my house and shortened my train ride by 8-10 minutes each way.  That doesn't sound like a lot, but (assuming I read during 3/4 of my train rides), it's well over an hour a week and perhaps 8-10 books per year.  More than that, it affects what I can read on my commute.  A few years ago, I tried reading The Brothers Karamazov, but by the time I got the names straight and read three or four pages, it was time to get off.   19 minutes from platform to platform is maybe 12-14 minutes of reading time, not always enough time to lose myself in a novel or to contemplate a more serious piece of non-fiction so I've started choosing less challenging books as "commute books."

Einstein's Refrigerator is the perfect commute book.  I bought it on my last trip to Daedalus because it looked interesting, and it was interesting in a completely non-challenging way.  It's a collection of blog entries by a high school teacher who's interested in the odder points of history.  Some of his essays covered familiar territory - I remember when Larry Walters took flight in his lawn chair and when Hedy Lamar's contribution radar technology became public, and Steve Silverman read the same book about the history of the zipper that I did (the few regular readers of this blog should know that I have odd tastes in non-fiction).  Others, like the titular refrigerator (designed to keep food cold but ultimately used for scientific purposes) and the day Niagara Falls ran dry were completely new to me.  Ultimately, though, the book is amusing but disposable.  It's not something I'd even consider reading again, but I recommend it to anyone who likes the side alleys of history.  If this appeals to you, tell me - I'll give you my copy.

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