Current Reading: 1491

I’m about 200 pages into 1491, a new book by Charles Mann about the civilizations of the Americas before the Europeans and European diseases came in.  The book is very interesting for

  • its discussion of the Indian tribes in New England and how their conflicts played into the hands of the English

  • the history of an advanced society in Norte Chico, just north of Lima, Peru, dating back to around 3500 B.C. and possibly earlier, all based on research from the last 30 years or so and much of it based on research from the 1990s

  • the texture of Indian life that comes through

  • the texture of the debates among scientists trying to piece together the histories of these almost-extinct cultures

  • lots of great maps, photos, and illustrations

Highly recommended to all residents of and visitors to the Americas.

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The disposable laptop

The disposable laptop computer is finally here:  IBM (Lenovo) Thinkpads are $600 with 3/4 GB of RAM, wireless networking, and a 14″ display.  I’ve always liked the Thinkpads because of the TrackPoint, the little red button in the middle of the keyboard, which I find much easier to use than the trackpads standard on most other laptops.  Thinkpads are also remarkably resistant to dropping and other abuse.  The only thing that one could say against this configuration is that it doesn’t include a CD/DVD burner.  So the price of a decent laptop is now converging with the price of an expensive cell phone.  I wrote about this possibility about one year ago:  Will people still want to pay $1000+ for a laptop that they will have to guard from theft and impact when they could just buy a Thinkpad for $600 now and replace it two years from now for $450?

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