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Tickling Myself

June 29, 2010

I have, I admit, serial obsessions. My home is filled to the brim (92 bookcases last count) with books highlighting the nature these serial obsessions have taken over the decades. My bedroom is where most of the fiction is (18 bookcases). The bright boy’s room (7 bookcases) holds the science fiction and fantasy (not counting 14 shelves of Star Trek in the dining room). The main rooms of the house hold hundreds of textbooks and scholarly works from all the disciplines. Greek and Roman history, philosophy, and literature? Check. Egyptian history? Yup. Civil War? A couple of shelves (I was a history minor). Science, from biology, microbiology, immunology, genetics, biochemistry, through medical and nursing texts? You betcha. Lots of stuff on space, on quantum theory? You know it. Religions? Two bookcases. Psychology out the wazoo. Archeology, anthropology, philosophy, mythology all well represented in my shelves.

 I haven’t read everything, I freely admit; my obsessions tend to wane before I’ve gone through all the books I’ve procured. I eventually get around to them, and no interest, once satiated, is ever truly abandoned. I dabble, I dip my toe back in, but my obsessions are just that: often all-consuming. The longest obsessions, though, have been psychology and autism (and these show no signs of abating). Well, to be fair, literature is the longest running obsession, but I’m more interested in critical thinking and writing than I am in dissecting literary works (and even then it’s always been about figuring out the author more than the characters).

I know, you’re wondering how and what tickled me. I love, adore, and relish textbooks and nonfiction. So, when it was time to take the kids out to swim today, I picked up a couple books to take with me (yeah, I don’t do one book–I read dozens at a time). I’m sitting on the bench, watching the girls swim and I pick up one of the books to read, one I just recently got, one from an obsession that was in full force in 1997-1998 (yeah, I can tell you exactly when I was into each particular subject, too).

Oh, wow, you think. Right? I’ve read  just about every book Hawking’s put out. I won’t pretend I understood everything, nor even suggest I have any level of expertise, but I soaked up every book I could get on astronomy. I still pick up textbooks and works on astronomy when I run across them.

I open the book, eager to read, and I get to this (I admit, not far):

I busted out laughing here, in part because of The Big Bang Theory, and well, because who wouldn’t expect a “basic knowledge of general relativity and quantum theory”?  And well, that obsession was 13 years ago; I found myself wondering just how much I retain, and I’m pretty sure Hawking’s assuming more basic knowledge than many would have.

Here’s the relevant bit of The Big Bang Theory:

I chuckled and kept reading.  I figured, hey, we’ll just have to see.

I liked that bit, since it applies to other areas of obsessive interest to me, so I’m sharing it. Did I mention I really like Hawking’s work?

And then I sat the book down by the other one to watch my girls swim for a minute. I looked down at the two books after a few minutes and I really started laughing when I looked down at the two books I’d picked up from my current reading stack.

And then I wisely picked up the Johansen. Reading “technical lectures” while watching your children swim is probably not the best reading material choice to keep one eye on the kids. Johansen’s isn’t quite as absorbing and doesn’t require a basic knowledge of quantum theory, but she’s action-packed and easier to put down (some will laugh here and say I have that backwards). Of course, she doesn’t have the cool graphics that Hawking provides, but well, it is summer. 🙂


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