Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Reading II

On May 24, at the beginning of the third week of my summer vacation, I wrote about some books I had started reading at the beginning of the summer. As expected, I have read a few more. Here are three more highlights from my Summer 2009 Reading List.

The Confessions of St. Augustine
I have two reasons for picking this famous work up, and both reasons presented themselves in pairs. I have two friends who mentioned that they were reading Confessions this summer, and I have two classes this fall in which it is quite likely that I will have to read at least parts of Confessions. I am glad I started it this summer: it is not the easiest book to read.

British History for Dummies
Seán Lang
I will probably be going to London next summer with Arts in London, the Conservatory’s biannual study abroad program. I have always had a moderate interest in the United Kingdom, so this summer I finally got around to getting my bearings on the place. This particular book is a through if lengthy survey of the history of the region of the world that is the modern-day United Kingdom.

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
Daniel J. Levitin
I borrowed this book from a friend at school near the end of the spring semester (I happened to be in his room while he was packing and he offered it to me while clearing his bookshelves), but it took the recommendation of another friend for me to start reading it. This book discusses music (both listening and performing) from the perspectives of neurobiology and psychology. I took a survey course in psychology in high school, so it has been interesting to see some of those ideas applied to my major field of study.

As you can tell from this post and from the May 24 post, I have not read much fiction this summer. I actually just realized that myself when writing this post. Thinking back, I realized that the only substantial works of fiction I have read besides Follett’s Pillars of the Earth (mentioned on May 24) are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in preparation for seeing the movie of the same name and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because it was sitting next to the former on my shelf. (Both authors are British, incidentally.) The small amount of fiction on my reading list might be proof that I should not be an English major.

I have no problem with fiction, of course, and certainly not the masterpieces of English-language literature (my high school English classes were all a challenge for me but in retrospect I can see that I learned a lot) – living with an English major for a year may have had something to do with that. I guess I just have the kind of mind that leans toward nonfiction. Perhaps now that I have identified it, I can make a more active effort to pursue fiction in my leisure reading.

So, there you have it – part two of a summary of my summer leisure reading. It is interesting to note that with the exception of the two Harry Potter novels, none of books I have mentioned in these two posts are books that I actually own. So the library was definitely a good invention.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Defense of Public Transportation

In the two-plus decades I have been part of this world, I have ridden in a number of private vehicles. The first family car I remember is a 1989 Volvo, and my parents currently own a 2003 Toyota Matrix. I have also been a passenger (and sometimes even a driver) of my friends’ assorted cars and similar vehicles. I have ridden in limousines and even a jaguar. Cars are a worthy invention.

But I have no desire to own a car. I feel that, for where I see myself in my early adulthood, the costs outweigh the benefits. I dislike the thought of scraping together money to initially buy a car, and then the regular expenditures for gas, repairs, parking, and insurance.

Instead, I would rather avail myself of public transportation. I consider it to be an essential industry. And thankfully, even mid-range municipalities have such an industry to some degree. A major metropolis like Chicago, where if I have my way I will end up after college, has an equally massive public transportation system.

My personal favorite elements of Chicago’s public transportation system are the Chicago Transit Authority’s rapid transit system and Metra commuter rail. The former provides quick access between most major points in the city itself and several of its closest suburbs (I use it mostly to get from Oak Park to downtown); the latter provides regular access from the city to epicenters within the six-county area (I use it mostly for transit between Wheaton and Oak Park or Chicago). It is all really quite simple. Get on, take a seat, and get off. It provides a handy opportunity to catch up on some reading, too.

In my adult life, I would much rather spend a few hundred dollars a month on public transportation than probably a thousand dollars a month on the costs of owning a car. Public transportation may not take you from portal to portal, but a few blocks’ walk on either end is an easy way to get a bit of exercise.

This is Rubio, over and out.