I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison’s blog about software, marketing, politics, photography and time lapse.

Reviews and links for October 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

4/5

It's a homage to the 80s and early computer games set in the ultimate MMORPG of the future. What's not to love?

 

Links

- The Important Field from xkcd.com (Snort).

- Girls equal in throne succession from BBC News - Home (Not really the main inequality of a monarchy...).

- Delta-P from xkcd.com (:)).

- On Tea from Boing Boing (Damned right).

- New Data API Around NASA Data Sets from API Evangelist - Blog (NASA data #API :) #todo @myEN).

- (title unknown) from riot right clit click (The only #SF residents who follow the MUNI front door only rule).

- Royal succession changes proposed from BBC News - Home (Simon Cowell to have final say).

- Ben & Jerry's taste for protest from BBC News - Home (Brave Brand Stand).

- Subscription Service For Kids Activities Kiwi Crate Raises $2 Million from TechCrunch (If they're still going in a couple of years...).

- Eternal Flame from xkcd.com (Nice Jobs tribute from XKCD).

Reviews and links for August 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

RESTful .NET by Jon Flanders

4/5

Great coverage of exposing and consuming a RESTful service using WCF. Note that you'll need the services of a good WCF book, this builds on existing WCF expertise and doesn't try that hard to bring you up to speed. Which isn't a bad thing, it keeps the book relatively short and focused. I'll be referring back to this one often.

 

Rule 34 by Charles Stross

4/5

Stross flips out concepts in a sentence that many SciFi authors would build an entire book around. It's a near-future police procedural set in Edinburgh. Twisted, tongue-in-cheek, profane and most excellent. The only miss is the assumption that people will use Wave in the near-future, let alone now. It's the first book of his that I've read... will be seeking out more soon.

 

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick

4/5

Epic. A must read for cybernauts who may have forgotten their roots. Good for anyone else interested in what information actually is, and how pervasive information theory has become.

 

Links

- Password Strength from xkcd.com (Read this now, then change your passwords!).

- Baby sex blood tests 'accurate' from BBC News - Home (Bad news for girls...).

- Are your genes somebody else's property? from All Salon (More patent stupidity, this time genes (@myEV)).

- IE users have lower IQ says study from BBC News - Home (Highest IQ? Telnet to port 80 directly).

Reviews and links for July 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

4/5

Jon Ronson just has an incredible knack of getting crazy people to talk to him. In The Psychopath Test he mixes with Scientologists, CEOs, psychopaths and psychopath hunters. The book is both funny and very disturbing. There's the theory that a significant proportion of CEOs and politicians are successful because they are psychopaths. There's the somewhat arbitrary checklist that is used to diagnose a psychopath and the impossible situation of trying to prove that you're sane once you've been committed. And there's the profit seeking alliance between drug companies and psychologists that Ronson claims has led to over *three million* children being diagnosed as bipolar in the US when quite possibly none of them are.

 

One Day by David Nicholls

3/5

A sharply observed romance spanning the 80s, 90s and 00s. Initial lust turns to friendship, hatred, some more friendship and finally love. Decent enough read.

 

Links

- Why do so many people online hate "The Smurfs"? from All Salon (Because so many people IRL do).

- Spotify sued over music streaming from BBC News - Home (Trolls with a feeble looking patent. Sigh.).

- Judge blocks circumcision ban bid from BBC News - Home (Then under what theory is female circumcision banned?).

- Is monogamy essential to democracy? from All Salon (No, you're thinking of mahogany).

- We could have had the Moon, instead we get Afghanistan from jwz (Actually nearly three moons...).

- Medical Examiner: Bullet That Killed Kenneth Harding Not From Police from KQED News Fix (Will the protesters turn out for some community service this weekend then?).

- Standards from xkcd.com (Guilty).

- Government 'to back badger cull' from BBC News - Home ('badger' is a British euphemism for 'tabloid journalist').

- The Brain on Trial from jwz (Not guilty by reason of finely tuned initial conditions).

- Unusual toilets from Boing Boing (They missed the pop up toilets from Reading.).

Reviews and links for June 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

5/5

A new must have parenting book. The giant pangolins of Madagascar are inspired, move over Eric Carle. The only problem with the book is that as soon as Kate can read I'm going to have to permanently worry about where this is hidden...

 

Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4) by Kate Atkinson

4/5

Better than When Will There Be Good News although no less depressing. Jackson Brodie (curiously now on Twitter as @JacksonBrodie) is back at the center of the action, investigating the origins of a woman in New Zealand who was adopted under mysterious circumstances. Needless to say it wasn't a harmless mix up. Typically discursive and character rich. Humorous with a black, black heart.

 

Links

- Robot Armpit Prototype from jwz (At last!).

- Scottish domain name bid launched from BBC News - Home (.scot is silly though, should nab .off which could power the economy post independence...).

- Parents 'influence teen drinking' from BBC News - Home (Funny how that works both ways ;)).

- Heat and light from BBC News - Home (Will a drop in solar activity counter global warming? Apparently not enough).

- High court spurns atheist's 'under God' challenge from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Pretty feeble arguments for why the phrase isn't discriminatory...).

- Sarah Palin on Paul Revere from Boing Boing (Got to love the Paul Revere head slap).

Reviews and links for May 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

3/5

The first couple of chapters are hilarious and then it's a solid, sprawling family drama with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. I just couldn't click with any of the characters and ultimately didn't care how things turned out for any of them.

 

Links

- S.F. bus driver marks 40 years behind the wheel from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (A career spanning nearly three blocks of Mission ;)).

- Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Need to stage an addiction to emergency powers intervention...).

- Sarkozy questions 'neutral' net from BBC News - Home (Right, because someone might see a photo of someone in a burqa).

- Many baby items found to contain toxic chemicals from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Goes up to 100% once baby has actually used them.).

- Preview Coming Bay Bridge Road Change With New App from KQED News Fix (Android users smart enough to drive without an app preview...).

- In 3D - ants as you have never seen them before from BBC News - Home (Um, no. Unless you're a cyclops this is exactly how you see ants.).

- Magna Carta: Live! from KQED News Fix (Should really go and see this...).

- Police called as dog bites voters from BBC News - Home (It's a case of 'first past the pug').

- Photo: Obama and National Security team during Osama kill operation from Boing Boing (That looks like one lame situation room.).

Reviews and links for April 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Zero Day by Mark Russinovich

2/5

Promising start, Mark 'system internals' Russinovich certainly knows his stuff and the initial computer forensics are bang on. Sadly it descends into a pedestrian chase thriller and the malware takes a back seat to cookie cutter Arab terrorists.

 

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

5/5

An education on many different species of parallel universes: in space, in time, in dimensions, in simulations and more. Interesting detours into the current state of cosmology and quantum theory and much discussion on the nature of science when exploring realms that may forever be closed to observation (although it's surprising how many of the parallel universes may leave some detectable footprint in ours, or be conclusively ruled out by future experiments). Fascinating and very well written.

 

Links

- SF Chronicle video prompts White House threat from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Petty. What did you just say about having more important things to do? #Obama).

- Mayor Ed Lee Opposed to Shark Fin Ban from KQED News Fix (Boo temporary Mayor!).

- Reserve marine life 'flourishing' from BBC News - Home (Are scallops in some sense not wildlife?).

- Homes' solar panels often boost values from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Yippee! That was my theory when we did it...).

- Bernalwood’s Wild Kingdom, or How To Deal Unwanted Guests from Bernalwood (It's like Cloverfield in a garage!).

Reviews and links for March 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids by Tom Hodgkinson

3/5

It could have been a great one page idle book - leave the kids alone more. But I guess that wouldn't fly with the publisher so it's more of a manifesto for a more traditional childhood - four hour school day, build things from wood, raise and eat your own pigs. Possibly idyllic but far from idle. Also, Hodgkinson denounces computers yet the book wants you to visit its blog. Entertaining and occasionally inspirational nonetheless.

 

The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle

2/5

Derivative, and requires batteries which is the last thing you need with a book. I think Carle phoned this one in. Actually, it's like when thriller writers get too famous and farm the hard work out. It reads like an "Eric Carle's" or "Eric Carle with Grant Blackwood" kind of book. Introduces a small range of insects but manages to use "whirred" twice. Has Mosquitoes out at night rather than being a dawn/dusk phenomenon. The only saving grace is the unexpected twist with the Luna Moth.

 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

4/5

It's a geeky, Hispanic coming of age / family history epic. To read it you need some Spanish, some knowledge of the Dominican Republic (rather distractingly sketched in via footnotes - I wish Díaz had included an appendix instead) and to have read a lot of SciFi.

 

Links

- EU envoy defends Bahrain police from BBC News - Home (How do we fire Robert Cooper? Seriously, how is a sniper and 'accident'?).

- Obama's war tent from BBC News - Home (Surely he's just doing that to screw with Gaddafi?).

- Radiation Chart from xkcd (Radiation perspective...).

- Are cloth seats a public health hazard? Possibly. from Boing Boing (Of course. And which Muppet decided to carpet BART?).

- Chrysler Tells It How It Is from Failblog After Dark (It looks real - someone got fired for tweeting this).

- VIDEO: Murakami's book on silver screen from BBC News - Home (I hope they didn't screw it up...).

- Facebook adds suicide help system from BBC News - Home (Also needed, a 'net' underneath the wall.).

- What should you do if a cash machine overpays? from BBC News - Home (Really BBC, you needed to crowd source this one?).

- Herpetology from xkcd.com ('herpetology is a silly field').

- Dear Oprah: Some thoughts on your credibility. from Boing Boing (In her defense, she has a lot more hours to fill these days...).

Reviews and links for February 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Agents of Treachery: Never Before Published Spy Fiction from Today's Most Exciting Writers by Otto Penzler

3/5

A good mix of spy stories set everywhere from WWII to Somali pirates.

 

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

3/5

Five short stories, all lightly interconnected and all about music and some sort of personal transition. Engaging characters, sharp prose and a very funny turkey scene.

 

Terminal World (Gollancz S.F.) by Alastair Reynolds

2/5

Promising start, but then sags badly and ends inconclusively. Which makes me concerned that there might be a sequel or even a trilogy in the works. It's the first Reynolds book that I haven't liked - more blimp opera than space opera with a passive, repetitive protagonist.

 

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson

4/5

An interesting mediation on belief, that boils down to how normal it seems for a minister to not believe in God, and then how extraordinary for the same minister to believe to have met The Devil.

 

Links

- What happens when you stick your head in a particle accelerator from Boing Boing (I used to have nightmares about this while commuting on 280).

- Rolls-Royce to show electric car from BBC News - Home (It can travel a foot between recharges...).

- England reading test to include non-words from BBC News - Home (This really seems very silly).

- What do you put in nine bins? from BBC News - Home (One of them is just for cats.).

- Fan held over 'air crash mockery' from BBC News - Home (Bad taste, but should you really be arrested for causing 'alarm or distress'?).

- Keen On… MIT Professor Says Robotic Moment Has Arrived, And We Are Toast (TCTV) from TechCrunch (Bollocks. Or rather, replace robot with dog or cat and get the same result.).

- Tarmac lorry sheds its load on M3 from BBC News - Home (Sounds like one hell of a speed bump.).

- Playmobil Stop Motion Joy Division from Boing Boing (I'm hoping this is a whole YouTube genre...).

- After Failing To Get Hacked Last Year, Google Paying For Chrome To Be In Pwn2Own 2011 from TechCrunch (If you're still not using Chrome this should provide some inspiration to make the switch. There's really nothing better, other than telneting to port 80.).

Reviews and links for January 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big City Backyard into a Farm by Manny Howard

4/5

Alternatively funny and painful. Manny Howard is clearly not cut out to be a farmer but he battles through problems that seem to be mostly of his creation and manages to feed himself briefly from his back garden. Given he's doing this with a largish plot of land and an expense account it's a warning to anyone with urban agriculture ambitions. The death toll on the farm is pretty extreme - not the necessary slaughter of chickens for food but the number of avoidable accidents that border on abuse. Am now even more inspired to leave farming to the professionals...

 

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris

4/5

Wind in the Willows Gone Wild.

It's nothing like his normal experience-mining, but hilarious none the less. Dark, grotesque fairy tails mixing the worst of animal and human behavior together.

 

Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

5/5

After the mediocre FBI books this is a breath of fresh air. A man wakes up on a mysterious ship, supposedly on a slower than light mission to colonize a far off planet. But something has gone horribly wrong. Bear is channeling J.G. Ballard here, Hull Zero Three is mysterious and surreal and eventually haunting. It's hard SciFi with just enough horror (reminiscent of Pandorum and Moon, but much richer than either film). I think it's probably the best novel he's written, and I nearly missed it after assuming he'd gone soft with Quantico.

 

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie #3) by Kate Atkinson

4/5

Bit of a rhetorical question in the title, good news is pretty thin on the ground in this brooding third outing for Jackson Brodie. Very good, but need something light now...

 

Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher Series #15) by Lee Child

3/5

The biggest hobo is back, and faced with by far the nastiest baddies in the series so far. It's the typical small town with a dark shadow setup and you know there's only one man for the job. Reacher has it a bit too easy in this installment. Child sets up some fearsome opponents but then knocks them down almost as an afterthought. While billed as a sequel to 61 Hours (also published in 2010) Worth Dying For stands alone with only a small nod to the bind Reacher found himself in at the end of the last book.

 

Zero History (Bigend, #3) by William Gibson

5/5

Excellent.

 

Links

- Microsoft warns on browser flaw from BBC News - Home (Main flaw would be still using IE...).

- Turning body heat into energy from BBC News - Home (Isn't it already energy?).

Reviews and links for December 2010

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Don't Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards by P.J. O'Rourke

2/5

P.J. O'Rourke is hilarious when given something to react against. His Driving Like Crazy anthology last year was superb. Sadly this latest tome is closer to the dire CEO of the Sofa... It's just conservative talking points and cheap shots at the lefties. Not even funny cheap shots or it would be worth reading. Ironically in one chapter O'Rourke reviews recent left and right wing books and chides them for the same mindless behavior. Disappointing.

 

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

5/5

Back to a classic, grand-scale Culture novel and I think one of the best yet. Banks manages to zoom from funny to tragic, from space opera to personal vendetta. It makes me want to go back and read all the Culture novels again to freshen up the various references. Must read if you like Banks or SciFi.

 

Links

- Microsoft warns on IE browser bug from BBC News - Home (Microsoft recommends using the 'Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 2.0' ... I'd suggest switching to Chrome.).

- Microsoft Allen's case dismissed from BBC News - Home (It's a temporary win, but please patent terrorists everywhere fuck off and find something productive to do with your life.).

- Dirk Gently BBC trailer from Boing Boing (Yes, please BBC America!).