New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on February 26, 2021 @ 4:58 pm

This book tells the story of several people inhabiting a skyscraper in New York City in the year 2140. Global warming has raised the ocean level to the point of flooding lower-elevation buildings in the city. Some people live below the high-tide level. Below sea level in poorer sections of town.

One plot line involves elderly man who studies old maps and two young boys. The man believes he’s discovered the location of an old shipwreck that had been carrying gold. The two boys take it on themselves to look for it.

Two hackers trying to unbalance the current government, which has become more oppressive and has concentrated money and power in smaller numbers. They have created some code to disrupt Wall Street. This is the underlying theme of the book, money is the main social problem and bringing down the finial system is a way to free it.

The building janitor lives, by choice in an under-high-tide apartment. He seems to be part of the story mainly to explain some features of the technology and find tools.

A reality tv start who lives aloft in a large balloon is trying to save endangered species. A couple of other characters who’s main purpose is to provide ideas and access to equipment.

The story is told as an adventure story. It ultimately brings all the characters together to focus on changing the world. I found the book a little preachy at times. I think Kim Stanley Robinson has better books, but this one is good.

How Did You Paint That?: 100 Ways to Paint Seascapes, Rivers & Lakes

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on February 19, 2021 @ 2:39 am

This book is part of a series that promises to explain the inspiration, interpretation, design and process for creating a painting. Unfortunately it doesn’t really deliver that. Each of these categories is only allotted about two dozen words or less. There isn’t enough to get value from the text.

Each page contains 1 painting taking up about half the page allong with the authors text on the subject and a diagram of the paints/pencils/pastels or whatever he used in the process. Too much is allocated to his tools and far too little on all other aspects of the art.

The book does have some good values. As a picture book, there are 100 nice photos. Each done by a different author in a different style. The art is reproduced well. I think the book would have been better as a picture book with a little information about the painting.

Another nice feature is that most artists have a listed link to a webpage, so it’s easy to find more information about the artist and his other works.

he Highwayman by Craig Johnson

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on January 29, 2021 @ 6:30 am

This was my first Craig Johnson novel. This story is half mystery-half ghost story.

In the story, a policewoman receives radio signals from an officer. in distress from 30 years in the past. With her sanity in question, Walt Longmire investigates while keeping an open mind, and the radio signals seem related to missing money from the time of the distress signal.

The story involves well-developed characters that come to life in the story.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on January 26, 2021 @ 4:12 pm

This books doesn’t seem up to his normal standards, but still is interesting and insightful. It isn’t so much about interacting with strangers but about the assumptions we make when dealing with strangers. It also delves into the damage such assumptions can cause when dealing with people are cultures we aren’t familiar with. It goes into many case studies about people in different situations where seemingly innocent assumptions lead to grave errors, some of these involve drunkenness and sexual assault.

The stories include some of national interest and how government organizations can be deceived through these same assumptions, some involving the FBI and CIA dealing with spying.

Malcolm Gladwell seems to wander at times and the book feels a bit disconnected. There are no suggestions for improvement, he offers no guidelines. Just warnings and stories. Still, the book is interesting and enjoyable.

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.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace