Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe

Author: Randall Munroe
Title:What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Publication Info: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

This book contains the sentence: “Aroldis Chapman could probably throw a golf ball about sixteen giraffes high.” That alone makes it worth reading. The creator of the webcomic xkcd, Randall Munroe uses math and science to investigate cornball questions from his readers.  If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a baseball were pitched at the speed of light, what would happen if every person in the world jumped at the same place at the same time (say, Rhode Island), or what place on earth would allow for the longest free fall, this book is for you.  In addition to Munroe’s humorous, but mathematically explicit, explanations there are plenty of whimsical illustrations.  There are also a series of questions too weird and worrying for even Munroe to answer.
Favorite Passages:

Our plastic will become shredded and buried, and perhaps some microbes will learn to digest it, but in all likelihood, a million years from now, an out-of-place layer of processed hydrocarbons—transformed fragments of our shampoo bottles and shopping bags—will serve as a chemical monument to civilization.


If humans escape the solar system and outlive the Sun, our descendants may someday live on one of these planets. Atoms from Times Square, cycled through the heart of the Sun, will form our new bodies. One day, either we will all be dead, or we will all be New Yorkers.


So we shouldn’t worry too much about when computers will catch up with us in complexity. After all, we’ve caught up to ants, and they don’t seem too concerned. Sure, we seem like we’ve taken over the planet, but if I had to bet on which one of us would still be around in a million years—primates, computers, or ants—I know who I’d pick.


if an astronaut on the ISS listens to “I’m Gonna Be,” in the time between the first beat of the song and the final lines . . .  . . . they will have traveled just about exactly 1000 miles.


Rule of thumb: One person per square meter is a light crowd, four people per square meter is a mosh pit.


Al Worden, the Apollo 15 command module pilot, even enjoyed the experience. There’s a thing about being alone and there’s a thing about being lonely, and they’re two different things. I was alone but I was not lonely. My background was as a fighter pilot in the air force, then as a test pilot—and that was mostly in fighter airplanes—so I was very used to being by myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t have to talk to Dave and Jim any more . . . On the backside of the Moon, I didn’t even have to talk to Houston and that was the best part of the flight. Introverts understand; the loneliest human in history was just happy to have a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Recommended books: 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks, What’s next? : dispatches on the future of science : original essays from a new generation of scientists by Max Brockman, and Feynman by Jim Ottiavani
Rating: ****

Book Review: Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket

Author: Lemony Snicket
TitleShouldn’t You Be In School?
Narrator: Liam Aiken
Publication Info: [New York] : Hachette Audio, 2014.

Other Books Read By Same Author:


The third novel in the All the Wrong Questions series reaches a turning point in the overarching story, and contains a lot of surprises.  I like this novel particularly because the many supporting characters introduced over the course of the series come together as a team.  Even S. Theodora Markson gets a turn to break away from her arrogant mien and general incompetence.  While the themes in this novel are dark – children are essentially held in prison and drugged with laudanum, for starters – there’s an optimism that stands out among Snicket books, and satisfying twist at the conclusion.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket

AuthorLemony Snicket
TitleWhen Did You See Her Last?
Narrator: Liam Aiken
Publication Info: [New York] : Hachette Audio, [2013]
Other Books Read By Same Author:


The second installment of All the Wrong Questions picks up in Stain’d-by-the-Sea with Lemony Snicket investigating a missing person’s case, putatively with the help of his chaperon S. Theodora Markson.  It continues to be a whimsical mix of mystery novel and humor.  One thing that stands out is that other than Snicket as narrator, the major characters in this novel are all women, which is a refreshing change.  I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

AuthorLemony Snicket
TitleWho Could That Be at This Hour?
Narrator:  Liam Aiken
Publication Info: 9781619695375
Other Books Read By Same Author:


Daniel Handler under his nom-de-plume Lemony Snicket narrated the trials and travails of the Baudelaire children in a A Series of Unfortunate Events.  In this series, All the Wrong Questions, Lemony Snicket tells “his own” story of how as a teenager he became involved in a secret organization, was assigned to the worst chaperon, and begins his first assignment in the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea.  The book reads as a pastiche of classic children’s adventures and noir detective stories with memorable characters, a lot of humor, and puzzles to solve.  It’s a good start to the series and I look forward to reading more.
Rating: ***

Hipsters Go Berserk

With apologies to Sandra Boynton on her birthday, here is a parody of a her classic picture book Hippos Go Berserk that I felt compelled to write.  I originally posted this on Facebook and several of my friends contributed, including: Steve W., Susan L., Christine R., Edward H., Chris D., Debbie W., Sid S., and Carolyn G.  I don’t have the skill to add illustrations to the text, but if you’re interested in drawing it up, have at it.  Just give credit where credit is due.


One hipster, all alone, texts two hipsters on an iPhone.

Three hipsters at the door, bring DVDs of mumblecore.

Four hipsters in fedoras sardonically talk about their auras.

Five hipsters with ironic facial hair wear bow ties and rock their flair.

Six hipsters pedal fixies while wearing tweed caps.

Seven hipsters sneak in some Pabst.

Eight hipsters with white girl dreads, proudly display their artisanal breads.

Nine hipsters get down and pretend to twerk.



All through the hipster night, hipsters dance to Times New Viking,
but at the hipster break of day they seek tunes more to their liking.


Nine hipsters amble out the door making their way to a vinyl record store.

Eight hipsters then head west to make it to Coachella ahead of the rest.

Seven other hipsters thought it was best to head instead to SXSW.

Leaving behind six hipsters wearing skinny jeans that are quite distressed.

Five hipsters prepare for their northward treks by donning pairs of horn-rimmed specs.

Four hipsters move to a transitional ‘hood, avoiding Wal-Mart like no one else could.

Three hipsters, as was their wont, designed websites in a quirky, homemade font.

Two hipsters get their kicks applying filters to all their pics.

One hipster, alone once more, thinks all those hipsters were such a bore.

Vote for Beavy

Vote for Beavy

If I only I’d seen this sign before Election Day.

Book Review: The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

AuthorJasper Fforde
TitleThe Song of the Quarkbeast
Publication Info: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (2011)

The second book in the Kazam series returns to Hereford where dictatorial King Snodd IV is looking to corner the market on magic.  The only person who can stop him appears to be Jennifer Strange, the orphan teenager who manages employment for a house of sorcerers.  In typical Fforde fashion, humorous and quirky events intertwine to bring this story to an entertaining resolution.  I look forward to reading more about Jennifer and her companions in future installments.

Rating: ***


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