Most Secret War by R. V. Jones

Filed under:History — posted by Randolph on July 12, 2017 @ 3:23 pm


Most Secret War by R. V. Jones

Dr. Jones was a physicist who, when WWII began, was thrown into the role of scientific intelligence. The book chronicles his experiences during the war, detailing how he learned and analyzed the German capabilities and how he figured out how to counter them. There is some surprising guesswork and counterintelligence that made the book interesting.

It also delves into the relationship between him, Churchill, and various other organizations. These involved some politics and infighting, even during wartime.

After the war, Dr. Jones had the opportunity to interview some of the top Germans working with radar. He throws in their perspectives and ideas from time-to-time giving interesting new perspectives on the war.

Heart of the Machine by Richard Yonck

Filed under:Science,Technical — posted by Randolph on June 2, 2017 @ 2:34 pm


Heart of the Machine by Richard Yonck

Computers and robots that can respond to us on an emotional level are already among us, although at a primitive level. This books explores the logical extensions of that technology, looking at the good and the bad. The technology is not waiting for a moral analysis, nor even public awareness. It is being rolled out to benefit whichever company develops it.

Over the next couple of decades, these technologies will become part of our everyday lives. From the handheld assistants that can respond to the needs of our moods to salesbots that can exploit your weaknesses in order to make a sale. And there will be the inevitable exploit from hackers seeking to take advantage of weaknesses, ignorance, or just software bugs.

Each chapter begins with a short scenario that demonstrates use of some aspect of the technology. Then he delves into that technology and take the reader into new ideas and new frontiers.

Overall, I found the book enlightening. Not only is it a good read, I encourage people to read it just to prepare themselves for the future. Whether his ideas will come to fruition, or some other variants, it is already on its way.

The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

Filed under:Adventure,Mystery,Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on May 19, 2017 @ 4:16 pm


The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

This books is a follow-on to Dream Park. In this, the Dream Park business is running a new simulation, an end-of-the world scenario with mythological connections. But things are going on behind the scenes. When a player dies before it should be possible, an investigation begins turning up murder and conspiracy – and a return character operating under an alias and with a hidden past.

The dream story is interesting. It was well-researched and involves some Inuit history and mythology, and we see the players drawn into an interesting culture.

However, I didn’t feel the story was as good as the previous one. The characters are a bit shallow, which is moderately typical for Niven. But the story is very creative, which is also typical. In the end, I didn’t feel as if everything was adequately explained, such as the code modifications which had to get around security and have a very good understanding of their technology. The mystery player seemed to be far to uninteresting in the end, she had a lot of potential and should have been more complex. With the weak ending and the lack of character development I can’t recommend this book.

Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on April 28, 2017 @ 3:09 pm


Bloodline by Claudia Gray

This is a story of Princess Leia’s political life. The New Republic is facing new threats from within, the Centrists, a political party wanting to increase control over the galaxy in the name of preserving peace, have created a new role of First Senator. This person has much increased power and my be one step away from another emperor.

In addition to the political issue, Leia is investigating an underground military buildup. But no one believes it is possible. With the help of a Centrist, Ransom Casterfo, they travel across the galaxy to try to find proof of the existence of this army.

I found Ransom to be an interesting and complex character. On his first meeting with Leia, he comes across as an Empire apologist. This created a lot of tension between them. Yet his complexities reveal another side to him which warrants sympathy.

I listed to the audio version of this book. I found January LaVoy to be a good reader, and Random House has done a good job in the production. They have provided good background sounds that really enhance the book experience.

even though neither the political situation nor the military situation reach resolution, the book has good characters and interesting situations. It calls for a sequel.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2017 @ 3:06 pm


Gateway by Frederik Pohl

This story tells about exploration, about the fear and wonder of it. It is told in first person, and we deal with his anxieties, passions and fears. The protagonist, Robinette “Bob” Broadhead, won a lottery, enough to got to Gateway and become a prospector. Gateway is an asteroid with Heechee ships, ships capable of faster-than-light travel.  The Heechee disappeared millions of years ago leaving, besides just their ships, valuable artifacts scattered about the universe. People risk their lives to find these artifacts on the possibility of achieving financial independence.

There are only a few key characters besides the main character, most of these have very little development. The exceptions are Gelle-Klara Moynlin, Dane Metchnikov who are important to Bob and are key to his character development and his psychosis.

The author does a good job of describing life in a low-gravity asteroid, I found the descriptions interesting and insightful, although I think he missed a point or two. 🙂 Moving a heavy object would be very difficult, it may not have weight, but it’s inertia would be greater than the friction you would have with the floor. It recurred during the fight scene, it seems like it would be very difficult to maintain footing while struggling with someone. The problem did not detract from the book.

The story unravels along with a parallel path in the future where Bob is seeing a robot shrink, Sigfrid. These sessions provide a harbinger of events to come, but they aren’t very clear. At first, they seemed unimportant, but they help develop both Bob’s character and build to the climax. I found Sigfrid very interesting, even though a very flat character. Bob’s actions later in the book reinforce that Sigrid isn’t an individual, but he seems to walk a line between human and robot.

There are also one-page entries that help build an image of life on Gateway. These include classified ads, personal communications, rule and contracts.

Overall, I found the book very enjoyable and difficult to put down. There is something looming around the corner that needs resolving. The final revelation is unique and thought-provoking.

Impressionist Painting for the Landscape: Secrets for Successful Oil Painting by Cindy Salaski

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on April 11, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

Impressionist Painting for the Landscape: Secrets for Successful Oil Painting by Cindy Salaski

The book got off to a weak start for me. When describing materials, he describes what he has and insists it is the BEST available. He doesn’t give adequate information as to why it is the best and what you can do if his choice isn’t available or is too expensive for the reader. This doesn’t address why the best wouldn’t change over time. Everything he has is the best.

The book got a lot better when he got down to painting techniques and composition. However, the authors didn’t really address impressionism very much. The book includes some step-by-step painting examples, again, there is a discussion of techniques, but not as to why they would support an impressionistic feel.

There are a lot of references at the bottom of alternate pages to a website for additional material. This is just a blatant attempt to get you to a website to view ads. the extra materials consist of two pages, one of very basic suggestions already covered in the book, the second page is a nice painting with a few words about its composition. This could have been included on one page in the book. Instead there are three pages about the two authors and two pages that are selling a video.

The book does have value, don’t expect to come through it with any understanding of impressionism and you can enjoy it.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

Filed under:Philosophy,self-help — posted by Randolph on April 5, 2017 @ 3:27 pm


Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

This book is slow and I find the author demeaning. He isn’t teaching about how to improve your skills, it is more about choice architecture. It itself, that could be interesting, but the author is ‘nudging’ the reader toward libertarian paternalism. He starts arguments with ‘givens’ that the reader is supposed to accept, and I couldn’t accept them. He draws conclusions about medical care and retirement with his socio-political views that I don’t agree with.

He talks down to the reader, it felt like a waste of time. I will not finish this book.

Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy,Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on April 1, 2017 @ 2:23 pm


Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

This books is set earlier than some of the recent books, following Myth Directions. In this adventure, Skeeve gets hold of a treasure map that leads to a golden cow. At the thought of treasure, Aahz loses his senses, with Tananda, they begin a grand adventure. .

Only, the map is magical and changes as the proceed. They meet some odd characters, some peculiar dimensions. Meeting vegetarian cowboys, odd cattle, and redundant towns on their way to find gold, they face odd obstacles and find humorous solutions.

Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 31, 2017 @ 4:05 pm


Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

This is a small collection of short stories about the Jedi Knights in the age before the movies. These are stories of adventure of young jedi facing their first conflicts. I listened to the audio version of the book.

Unfortunately, the dialog is pretty bad. The characterization of the young Jedi is weak and poorly written. The author explains thing to the reader by using ignorance, often in the jedi, who do know know some of the basics in how the force works. I suspect the reader knows far more than the young jedi.

Art Techniques for Line & Wash by Paul Taggart

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on March 17, 2017 @ 9:44 am

Art Techniques for Line & Wash by Paul Taggart

This book looks at the quality of line and different washes, comparing different media and styles to generate lines. Then looking at different media for the washes including watercolor, ink and acrylic.

It includes media that serve both purposes, such as watercolor pencils, non-waterproof inks and washes over pastel.

I didn’t feel the book had a lot to offer, but it is a quick and easy read and has nice art. I think there are better books to learn about line quality from.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace