Book reviews for July 2016

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7) by Charles Stross

The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7) by Charles Stross

4/5

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma Cline

3/5

OK, but lots of foreshadowing, not much shadow.

 

Methyl L-α-aspartyl-L-fucking-phenylalaninate

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Methyl L-α-aspartyl-L-fucking-phenylalaninate

Every time I go back to the UK now I experience some sort of culture shock. A couple of years ago it was the matryoshka of Marks & Spencers. This trip, post-Brexit, I was expecting a J.G. Ballard style post-apocalyptic wasteland. But it was even worse - it's nearly impossible to buy tonic water without sweetener.

I'm unlucky (or maybe lucky) enough to be sensitive to aspartame and anything made with the stuff tastes foul to me. I can no longer have a gin and tonic in a pub because the full-fat tonic is as tainted as the diet stuff. It's not just tonic water, many other drinks are laced with the stuff. And kids in the UK now live on Fruit Shoots which are short on fruit and long on chemical warfare.

Is this some sneaky anti-obesity move I haven't read about? More likely the vile artificial stuff is just cheaper than actual sugar and it's a cost saving measure.

Oh, and I saw a crew of motorway workers washing traffic cones. In the rain.

Book reviews for June 2016

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
The Night Stalker (DCI Erika Foster, #2) by Robert Bryndza

The Night Stalker (DCI Erika Foster, #2) by Robert Bryndza

4/5

Decent police thriller, a notch up from the first in the series I thought. I'll buy the next one.

 

Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers by Ian Stewart

Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers by Ian Stewart

4/5

A tour of mathematics through the device of looking at what's interesting about different numbers. Brought back all sorts of things I learned in school and university that are now slowly fading again.

 

The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster, #1) by Robert Bryndza

The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster, #1) by Robert Bryndza

3/5

Bit linear but fun.

 

Bredo

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bredo

If David Cameron really cares about the future of the UK he needs to call an election instead of handing the reins over to (presumably) Boris in a few months.

A party which campaigned on a platform of ignoring the referendum and sticking with the EU would have a legitimate mandate to do just that. Especially if they bring back the good Miliband.

I can't think of anything else that works.

News: Brexit: British clubs could suffer in transfer window, warns sports expert

Brexit: British clubs could suffer in transfer window, warns sports expert

If only this had been made clear before the vote. FFS.

West Portal Timelapse of Timelapses

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

West Portal Timelapse of Timelapses

This is the third and strangest video in my series of timelapses from West Portal, San Francisco.

Each frame is a single-frame timelapse where each vertical line is from a different time of day. 4,320 photos go into each frame over 24 hours. The video covers 366 days (from June 21, 2015 to June 20, 2016 - summer solstice to summer solstice) so 1,581,120 photos total. For the video I also generated a ten frame fade between each SFTL shot to try and make the whole thing a little more comprehensible.

Photos were captured using a Google Apps Script that I wrote to pull frames from a Nest Cam / DropCam to Google Drive and then downloaded and processed around once a week for the past year.

Music is Erratic Revenge by JukeDeck.

I have one more coming...

(Previously, Previously)

Summer Solstice 2016 in Catfood Earth

Summer Solstice 2016 in Catfood Earth

It's the start of Summer (or Winter in the Southern Hemisphere). Unusually for June it even feels like Summer in San Francisco today. Rendered in Catfood Earth (Windows, Android).

(Previously, Previously, Previously)

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar

California and San Francisco June 2016 Propositions

State

50: Yes - makes it harder so suspend a legislator but provides a more impactful sanction when this does happen. I don't think legislators should be suspended unless the circumstances are extreme. 

San Francisco

A: Yes - mostly hospital and fire station upgrades.

B: No - I like parks, but the city should decide how much to allocate to them. I generally don't like measures that carve out specific areas for funding.

C: I have no idea. Abstain. I don't have the time to untangle this one.

D: Yes, clearly more oversight of lethal force by SFPD is needed.

E: Yes, brings San Francisco sick leave in line with State rules.

AA: No, regressive per-parcel tax. Should be funded in a better way.

(Previously)

Book reviews for May 2016

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt

When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt

3/5

I didn't realize this was just a collection of blog posts! There are some good ones for sure (my favorite is the evisceration of Good to Great for the exact same reasons that I hate that book). But it's just some blog posts and they're mostly too short and not fleshed out.

 

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins

2/5

I'm not really sure what the point of this book is. I guess Dawkins is trying to bring people round to believing in science and so the main device used in the book is to mock religions and myths for a while before sketching in a light summary (very light for the non-Biology sections) of some area of science. If you're in it for the science then you're going to be mostly disappointing. If you're not of a scientific bent then you're going to be alienated by the heavy handed myth bashing and so I don't think you're going to be in a positive frame of mind to listen to what Dawkins has to say when you get the science bit. Not recommended for either audience.

 

Three Tales from the Laundry Files by Charles Stross

Three Tales from the Laundry Files by Charles Stross

3/5

 

The Mind Club by Daniel M. Wegner

The Mind Club by Daniel M. Wegner

3/5

The central theme of this book is some research about how people feel about different kinds of minds. At it's heart it's a Harvard Business Review style quadrant analysis with the two dimensions being doing and feeling (and doers doing things to feelers). This isn't nearly as interesting (or difficult) as actually trying to understand different minds. This is touched on briefly and mainly via that experiment where people report that they made a decision half a second after their body started doing the thing that they decided to do. Which is fascinating and hard to explain but it's only really a detour here. The meat of the book is how people feel about dogs and dead people and gods. There are some interesting anecdotes and the book is saved by the good humor and gentle snarkiness of at least one of the authors.