Maigret loses his temper by Georges Simenon

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on January 12, 2021 @ 4:01 pm

This is my first Maigret novel and I found it enjoyable. Although there are a number of suggestions that I’m missing some elements of his character development. For one, he is working on a drinking problem. Further, the relationship with his wife suggests prior development.

In this novel, Maigret is investigating the. death of a nightclub owner. His was found two days after his death in a public place, someone killed him, kept the body and then moved it.

The deceased took an effort to remain above-board. He is clean to a whistle, family members are readily ruled out. Other related figures include other nightclub owners, a possible mob connection and his lawyer. The killer’s motive leads to Maigret losing his temper!

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on January 7, 2021 @ 12:36 pm

This is the first in a series by Martha Wells. The book has won numerous awards including a Hugo and Nebula.

Murderbot is a self-given name of a security robot. It is a hybrid of cloned organic and inorganic parts that include weapons, armor and communications equipment. He has no sexuality. And the story is told in first person from his point of view. His internal dialog feels alien.

This one had a problem with its control module and was able to bypass it, giving it a certain amount of autonomy.

The story involves a science team surveying the flora and fauna on a planet. When they discover parts of the maps of the world are blank, they investigate, to discover another team that was killed by their security bots.

The planet was home to a dead civilization, someone wants to keep that secret, profits provide the motive. Murderbot comes up with a plan to keep the scientists alive, who purchase his contract and give him his freedom.

The story is short, well-told, and not predictable. It makes the me look forward to the next book.

The Thoughtless Design of Everyday Things

Filed under:Technical — posted by Randolph on January 4, 2021 @ 6:51 pm

by Karl Wiegers, PhD

This is an excellent and humorous guide to design principles. It is filled with examples of both good and failed design in things we use every day. Karl presents almost 500 design practices with a good discussion and examples in products. He then provides 70 design lessons.

I’ve always thought Karl a very readable writer who makes lessons easy to understand and to remember. This should be a must-read for anyone in product design, whether technical or not.

Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories, 12 authors

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 28, 2020 @ 11:51 am

This is a story from each of the first 12 doctors, one story for each. Each story is written by a different author in a different style. It isn’t readily clear which doctor is represented by what story, some are obvious. It seems they are in chronological order.

I felt that each story is too independent, it might have been nice if something tied them together more.

Some of the stories are good, some are weak. Overall, they are enjoyable.

Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy with Dr. David K. Johnson

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on December 14, 2020 @ 5:14 pm

This is a lecture series by The Great Courses. It uses science fiction, specifically science fiction movies, to illustrate philosophical concepts. In 24 lectures, he discusses science fiction movies and how the relate to ideas in philosophy.

In each lecture, Dr. Johnson asks you to watch a movie. Then in the next lecture he discusses the movie and ties it in to philosophy.

The movies selected are enjoyable for the most part and offer interesting ideas to consider. These include Inception, The Matrix, The Adjustment Bureau, Arrival and such. He also covers Star Trek and Doctor Who. He ends with 2001 and a discussion of Nietzche, comparing the star child at the end to the idea of the ├╝bermensch.

Composition by David Friend

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on December 4, 2020 @ 11:59 am
Composition by David Friend

Composition discusses some of the finer points of painting composition not well understood by casual artists. Most sections consist of two parts. The first is a light introduction to the section’s topic and includes exercises. The second section (usually) takes a famous painting and compares it to an initial sketch. The pair demonstrate the section’s topic and the artist’s solution to the problem.

The book is well done and very informative. My only issues is that some of the exercises can take several days and makes the book more of a workshop than just a read. I wasn’t prepared for that and ended up skipping or rushing the exercises. If you go in with the time and preparation, the book would probably be a good workshop. Even without taking the exercises as seriously as I should, I found the book very informative and useful.

Hashi: The Bridges Puzzle by Alastair Chisholm

Filed under:Games and Puzzles,Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on October 13, 2020 @ 3:54 pm

Hashi are puzzles where you need to form connections between all the bubbles on a page. Each bubble shows the total number of connections to that bubble and no two bubbles can share more than two connections. Then, all connections are simple orthogonal.

I found the puzzles a lot of fun. It is engaging enough to keep you occupied and the complexity seems right. Except for the simple introductory puzzles, they can be solved in less than about 20 minutes.

The one problem I felt, was they did not get more complex. The puzzles are rated delicious (fairly trivial), pernicious, malicious and vicious. But other than the delicious puzzles being trivial, the others did not get more difficult. They increased in size which provided more places to make an error, but they did not require more thought or problem solving.

They are fun. Now that I’ve solved the book, I don’t feel I need more of them, unless they can truly become more difficult.

No Plot? No Problem! by Christ Baty

Filed under:Art,Writing — posted by Randolph on September 26, 2020 @ 8:31 am

This book walks a writer through the process of participating in the National Novel Writing Month each November. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month.

The book does deliver on its promise. It discusses the process of getting started, strategies and psychology of each week, and a winding-down process when done. Each chapter includes a key take-away recap.

The book has a lot of good points and uses her style of humor to help drive them home. She uses stories of several past participants to illustrate her points, and adds inspirational quotes from a number of participants in the key chapters. However, the humor is used to excess, even getting a bit old at times, and the points are few. With fewer than 200 pages, there isn’t a lot of content in the book.

The book is an easy read, it is enjoyable and the points it makes are good. I believe it should make more points and fewer jokes.

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

Filed under:History,Sports — posted by Randolph on August 11, 2020 @ 4:58 pm

This book discusses the history of football (Am. soccer) through different cultures, following major figures and how they affected the game’s strategies. To that end, it certainly delivered what it promised, but I found it a bit lacking.

There are a lot of people discussed that I found it difficult to keep track of. Maybe in the U.S., we aren’t exposed to these people. At each evolutionary phase of the game, you have one or two significant people as the proponent of change, one or more opposing it, and any number of players on both sides of the pitch. For me, this made it a bit difficult to follow.

The book has a lot of images of the pitch of various games, identifying the players on both sides. Some of them are even diagramed suggesting strategies or tactics involved. This was a big selling point of the book for me, but the discussion never references the diagrams. It discusses the players, and you can figure out which image is involved, but it does not use the diagrams to further the discussion and understanding. Second, the diagrams are often a few pages removed from the discussion, so it requires flipping back and forth a lot. The diagrams on the different images are never referenced, so they only raise questions that are never answered.

I did not find the book particularly bad, just disappointing. If you have an interesting in football’s history, you will probably enjoy the book. Otherwise, I’m sure there are better available.

Creating Celtic Animal Designs by Cari Buziak

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on July 10, 2020 @ 7:40 am

This book give basic instruction on the design of Celtic knots containing animals. It describes a few of the traditional animals, the symbols used and how the elements are put together. Then it discusses new animal designs using the same style.

Overall, the book is nice and has clear instructions. I felt that there was a lot of wasted space and duplicate material. The book is small, 122 pages, so it feels like they were just trying to fill it out.

For each animal discussed, the book contains a section on creating the animal, then a section on including that in a full pattern. The second part varies very little from animal to animal and could have been a more general section in itself.

Overall, I am happy with the book. It has some very nice pictures of the author’s knots. I did get it well-discounted and might have been frustrated paying the $16.95 cover price.


next page


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace