Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion by Professor Bill Messenger

Filed under:History,Technical — posted by Randolph on July 21, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion by Professor Bill Messenger

This is one of the Great Courses CD sets covering the history of Jazz. It is a good history starting from Cakewalks, an early black form of music combining some African and some European elements. This grew to Ragtime, and ultimately to a variety of forms of Jazz.

One CD is devoted to each style. The discussion covers how it evolved, what elements are unique and what characterizes the style, and how it came to be replaced. There are many music samples and the speaker includes comments on music theory.

The series is full of information and very enjoyable. And it goes fast.

Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle

Filed under:Technical — posted by Randolph on October 28, 2012 @ 9:45 am

Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle

I am a fan of Scrum, I’ve seen it work and it can benefit most development processes. But this book did not enhance my understanding nor do I believe it would encourage anyone to use the process. It comes across as a big advertisement, the author glosses over problems, he points to advantages that are not unique to Scrum, and generally fails to provide any concrete examples of why I should use Scrum.

The book does a good job of describing Scrum, its components, and to provide a basis for using the process. This is covered in the first 1/3 of the book. I believe that most readers should stop at this point. The rest of the book explains why Scrum works, its value, and advanced topics. But these aren’t convincing and I don’t see a real correlation to Scrum.

Then there are the contradictions.

The authors explain how having a technical writer on the team can relieve the developers of writing the documentation – which is required for the sprint delivery, and how including a tester so the developers don’t have to test their own code. Yet, two paragraphs later he talks about people being interchangeable, “Scrum avoids people who refuse to code”, there are no titles, no exceptions. And in one of his case studies he mentions the advantage he gained by putting off documentation until later in the project.

Later in the book, a case study talks about a design architect who is referred to as female in one sentence and male in the next. An earlier case study talked about an architect who left the project due to lack of control, and how not having an architect was a bonus for Scrum.

They mention the value of getting engineers into “flow”. Yet also insists that engineers work in bullpens, and that the lack of conversation indicates a poorly working team. They seem to believe that getting into the zone is free. In a later study, he talks about the advantage of having engineers in adjacent cubicles so that they only need to stand and talk over the cubicle wall.

Other suggestions include deferring peer reviews until after a sprint – “they have nothing to do with completing the project.”

Even the cover tie-in feels weak. (I have the cover with the psychology test where you identify colors of text indicating names of different colors.) He uses this text to illustrate the need for a team to focus. That consumes about 1.5 pages.

Apparently, applying Scrum practices to writing this book failed. They could have used a good editor and some better reviewers. They often aren’t clear on what practices are really important to Scrum. If I hadn’t practiced Scrum, this book would not help move me toward trying or even supporting the practice.

The Law of Superheroes by James Daily, Ryan Davidson

Filed under:Technical — posted by Randolph on September 26, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

The Law of Superheroes by James Daily, Ryan Davidson

The Law of Superheroes is a primer on law. Although it mostly applies to US law, it does touch on international law. The book uses comic book events involving superheroes to discuss points of law, providing an interesting and memorable framework for the discussions.

The authors, James Daily and Ryan Davidson, are lawyers and comic book nerds. They started a blog, Law and the Multiverse (at http://lawandthemultiverse.com), which grew and eventually encouraged the authors to write this book.

The first chapter starts with the constitution. It addresses issues such as testimony in costume, identity, psychic powers and addresses the first, fifth, and fourteenth amendments in a little more detail. It then moves into registration, civil rights, immortals, powers as weapons, and government power.

In a similar vein, other chapters address criminal law and procedures, evidence, and tort. Then moves into business law, contracts, administrative laws and intellectual property laws. And finally addressing travel, immigration, international law and non-human intelligence.

The authors are able to make each topic interesting weaving in comic stories and include a few comic excerpts that are discussed in the text, making this an enjoyable book to read.

My complaints are few, some of the comic images were a bit blurry and difficult to read. Some topics seem to be addressed too lightly, but this is just a primer. If you’ve any interest in the law, this is a good book. If you don’t, it still provides basic information you should be familiar with.

Imagination and Meaning in Calvin and Hobbes by Jamey Heit

Filed under:Humor,Philosophy,Technical — posted by Randolph on September 20, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

Imagination and Meaning in Calvin and Hobbes
by Jamey Heit

This book is an analysis of the Calivin and Hobbes comic strip through the eyes of philosophy. In some ways it reminds me of the popular culture and philosophy series, but here the focus is on building a better understanding the comic rather than philosophy, philosophy is the tool for the understanding.

At first glance, the book does remind me of more traditional philosophy books. It has a smaller font, dense pages with few breaks, and a serious list of footnotes. On starting to read it the same impression continued, high information density and heavy at times. Sometimes it became difficult to follow, but the focus on the comic brought recurring themes of humor.

Difficult as it may have been, I never considered giving up. The book reveals a lot of information about the comics, calling on specific themes and even individual strips to support its arguments. While reading the book, I gained insights in to the strips, and a great desire to reread the series with my new understanding.

Watterson drew heavily on philosophers for his inspiration, from the very name of the strip and characters. The book discusses themes and how they relate to philosophy, from flying dinosaurs, Spaceman Spiff, Calvin as god of his snow creatures, and Hobbes appears real to the reader so long as an adult isn’t in the strip.

My two issues with the book is that I would have liked some comics included to help break up the book’s text, and having just finished it, I’m already having trouble remembering many portions of it due to its heavy content.

I do recommend the book for anyone who has enjoyed the comic and has any interest in philosophy. I’m going to reread the comics, and my try tacking the book for a second time, some day…

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish

Filed under:Technical,Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on July 18, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One  by Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish presents the readers with a variety of sentences and an analysis of their content. In each case, he discusses word choice, meanings conveyed, flow, and probably some stuff I’ve forgotten. His intent is to enable the reader to understand the value in the sentences, recognize different structural forms, and, if not to write better sentences, then to appreciate a well-written sentence.

The book has three sections. The first presents key sentences, and he analyzes their form. Then provides new sentences using the same to show their presentation forms and what they convey.

The second portion discusses first and last sentences. It discusses how first sentences set the stage for the rest of the story, and how last sentences create (sometimes) closure.

The last section lost me a bit. Supposedly it discusses self-referential sentences, but maybe I didn’t quite get it.

Stanley makes very good use of examples from famous pieces of literature. It is an easy read with good information.

Business Rule Concepts by Ronald G. Ross

Filed under:Technical — posted by Randolph on April 11, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

http://www.librarything.com/work/1364716/72242712

Business Rule Concepts by Ronald G. Ross
This book provides a good introduction to business rules and their management. It covers the material in a good manner for those unfamiliar with the issues, introducing language, governance, knowledge management, and related material in an easy-to-understand manner. It is a quick read, but probably boring to those familiar with the territory.

The author compares business rules and management to the human body. The analogy works ok, but he only introduces concepts that way, mostly early in the book. It seems odd to focus so much on that point with the cover.

101 Theory Drive by Terry McDermott

Filed under:History,Science,Technical — posted by Randolph on April 1, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

101 Theory Drive by Terry McDermott
101 Theory Drive is the story of Dr. Gary S. Lynch’s work in his quest for understanding the mechanism of memory in the brain. In his quest, he uncovers mechanisms for remembering, and for not remembering, and uncovers a mechanism leading to a theory for consciousness. The title refers to the address of his lab, in a business park across from the University of California at Irvine.

The book does a good job of describing the history of the work, the people involved, and building a character for Dr. Lynch. There is a lot of technical detail presented and the mechanisms uncovered are understandable if you can follow the physiology. There are only three (or four?) diagrams charting elements of neurons and their parts and a glossary of terms. The most difficult part of the book is understanding the details so as to understand the research. I tired of referring back to the images, and suspect the details won’t be retained long.

Much of the story feels like a science book, there isn’t a lot to keep the reader excited or involved. But for its 260+ pages, it was a relatively fast read.

The book does have good information, but it would help to know something about neuron details before starting. I suspect there is a better book out there somewhere.

How Music Works by John Powell

Filed under:Art,Technical — posted by Randolph on March 27, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

How Music Works by John Powell
This book is a technical book about music, how it works and what it is.  It discusses the physics of music in very non-technical and easy-to-understand terms.  It also covers some of the history, and why things are the way they are.
According to the author, the target audience is everyone, whether a neophyte to music or an aficionado.  I disagree with this assessment.  I found the book interesting, but low in information density and primarily of use to those who haven’t studied much music.

The book does cover all the major details of music.  I also felt the author does a good job of making it understandable. Even though I have studied music, I felt John Powell helped me solidify my understanding of a number of topics.

John Powell also interjects his humor into the book, making it more palatable for those who already know the information he is covering.  However, I felt he went overboard and could have used a lot less.  At times, it got rather old.

Due to the low density of information, the book is a fairly fast read without sacrificing the ability to retain information.

The book also includes a CD.  The CD contains sound tracks that compare different elements of music.  For instance, one of the tracks compares and discusses the sound from a guitar string played from different positions, focusing on the quality and timbre of the sound.  The CD is short, but has a few interesting elements to it.  You will probably listen to it once and forget about it.

If you don’t know much about music, this book would probably be a good place to start.  Otherwise, I don’t think it provides much value.

CMMI: Improving Software and Systems Development Processes Using Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI-DEV) by Ralf Kneuper

Filed under:Technical — posted by Randolph on May 5, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

CMMI: Improving Software and Systems Development Processes Using Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI-DEV) by Ralf KneuperThis is one of the few technical books that I’ve read cover-to-cover, so will be included in this list. The book provides good coverage of the individual version of the CMM.

The Map of Innovation: Creating Something Out of Nothing by Kevin O’Connor

Filed under:Technical — posted by Randolph on April 17, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

The Map of Innovation: Creating Something Out of Nothing by Kevin O'ConnorI was a little disappointed, as I felt it was not about innovation as much as a business primer. The aspects regarding innovation were less than I had found from other sources, although he found a good way to deal with it on his terms.

As a primer for starting and managing your own business, this seems a good primer. It covers a lot of material at a good level for someone new to the game. Given his approach to the innovation side, I have to wonder how much is left out. It has plenty of anecdotes from his experiences, both good and bad, that help drive his points home. I have to wonder how much of his success is due to the general economic climate of the 90s, as the book did not convince me that he had anything special.

The book is interesting, and I would consider it a valuable read for anyone trying to start his own business without having an MBA.



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace