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

Reviews and links for August 2010

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

4/5

It's Mary Roach, so no surprise that her book on space focused on how hard it is to take a crap (in space), how much engineering goes into disposing of crap (in space), and practical uses for crap on a Mars mission (including making it into radiation shielding tiles and reprocessing it into crap burgers). You'd think this book would be NASA's worst nightmare, but it's actually humanizing as well as fascinating. If you're a Roach fan you'll love it. If you haven't had the pleasure then this is a great place to start.

 

The Lion by Nelson DeMille

2/5

This sequel to The Lion's Game is disappointingly flat - Corey and Assad are fated to meet for a final confrontation and they do but after an initial sky diving sequence nothing really happens. There's very little tension, no plot, no struggles or setbacks for the hero or villain. DeMille really phoned this one in.

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium, #3) by Stieg Larsson

3/5

The second and third books could be just one (very) long book. Nest kicks off where Fire ended and slows the tempo down a bit, although not to the glacial pace of Tattoo. It's a fitting ending to the tale of Salandar, if a bit drawn out in the final sequence. Of course, a must read if you've ploughed through the first two.

 

Links

- What do new passports say about the UK? from BBC News - Home (At least it still "requires" other countries to let us pass without let or hindrance, unlike the less forceful US passport...).

- General Motors in huge share sale from BBC News - Home (It really doesn't seem quite right to call it an 'initial' public offering.).

- Record broken for number of 'pirates' in one place from BBC News - Home (Um, is that just because the Guinness people are afraid of going to Somalia?).

- Sandwich Monday: 'The Breakfast Club' Edition from NPR Blogs: Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! (Sandwich Monday is now funnier than the actual show.).

Reviews and links for May 2010

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston

4/5

Over 30 interviews with tech company founders ranging from Ray Ozzie and Mitch Kapor to James Hong of "Hot or Not". The interview with Philip Greenspun of ArsDigital is very raw and very amusing. Joel Spolsky's advice is "So quit your day job. Have one other founder, at least. I'd sat that's the minimum bar to getting anywhere." - well, that plus have a hit blog read by developers and then sell tools for developers. Diverse, inconclusive but fascinating.

 

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2) by Stieg Larsson

4/5

Picks up the pace from the first book in the trilogy. Looking forward to the third, which comes out in the US in a couple of weeks.

 

Links

- Let’s Get Small from I, Cringely (Way to kick Zuckerberg while he's down...).

- Fewer women get mammograms after program cuts from SFGate: Top News Stories (Nice one CA. I bet treating undetected and uninsured breast cancer will be a bunch cheaper :().

- Church warns cell scientists not to play God from All Salon (Surprise surprise. Correction, so far we have Evolution and Venter...).

- Cordoba scandal from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Really, shocked? Not been reading the news much then...).

- Toddlers who lie will do better, research suggests from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Fair disclosure - the research was conducted by lying toddlers...).

- Calif sea lion shot in face has new home from SFGate: Top News Stories (Getting shot is bad enough... Six Flags is torture.).

- Fresh BA strike dates announced from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Hopefully they'll correspond with large plumes of ash.).

- Fan updating David Lynch's "Dune" with modern FX from Boing Boing (You're making it worse. Stop.).

- Neanderthal genes 'survive in us' from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Um, the surprise would be if this wasn't the case.).

- Terry Pratchett: Doctor Who isn't science fiction from Boing Boing (Shouldn't think of it as one show. It's more of a framework for different authors to create plot around - some are very hard SciFi and some are very silly.).

Reviews and links for March 2010

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

3/5

Classic Hornby. It's fairly close to High Fidelity with it's themes of love and music obsession-ism and so feels slightly too comfortable but certainly worth a read if you're a fan. 3/24/2010 2:00:00 AM

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) by Stieg Larsson

3/5

Slow, but highly atmospheric mystery. The first half of the book is dedicated to setting the scene and then the pieces start to fit into place like a glacier melting. The pace makes the occasional punctuation of extreme sexual violence all the more shocking. Fun enough, so I'll probably read the rest of the trilogy and try to catch the film (which has to be a profoundly truncated version).3/22/2010 2:00:00 AM

 

Practical WPF Charts and Graphics by Jack Xu

4/5

Be aware that this book is 90% code, 5% mathematics and 5% explanation. This isn't a criticism, Dr. Xu builds up a complete charting library that includes 2D, WPF 3D and manual 3D methods. The mathematics covers the theory and practice of 2D and 3D transforms as well as techniques for smoothing, interpolating and trending data. It's a fast read to get a sense of the content and then a great reference work to dip back into as needed. 3/14/2010 3:00:00 AM

 

C# Design and Development: Expert One on One by John Paul Mueller

1/5

This book is just atrocious. Each section sells itself as providing all the information you need about a certain topic, then provides trivial and often incorrect or at least highly subjective details. A couple of examples:

The chapter on error handling makes the point that you should catch the most specific Exception possible, but then goes on to demonstrate catching a FormatException, a DivideByZero exception and then just System.Exception. The whole point is to avoid catching Exceptions that you can't handle. There's a legitimate debate here between trying to plaster up the cracks with general catches and letting the application die with a useful stack, however this book doesn't discuss it. There's also very brief coverage of creating your own derived Exception but it doesn't touch on serialization.

Serializing an XML file is somehow included in the section on "Special Coding Methodologies", and labors over calling both .Flush() and .Close() on a StreamWriter. Despite the fact that you only need to call Close(), and that StreamWriter is IDisposable and so a using statement is really the way forward for this example.

I could go on, but won't. Avoid. 3/8/2010 2:00:00 AM

 

Links

- Dorothy Erskine Park Exists from Spots Unknown (Must go find this park.).

- Casttoo from jwz (I want to break my arm again...).

- Woman murdered over Facebook photo from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Somehow I don't think the photo being on Facebook was the important part of the story...).

- Petition against Pope's UK visit from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (A better petition would be to get the Pope and Dawkins together on Question Time.).

- 'Heart risk' at football stadiums from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Surprisingly few are equipped to remove gall stones as well.).

- Postal Service's emerging model: Never on Saturday from SFGate: Top News Stories (How about once a week. While you're at it recycle the junk at the post office and don't bother hauling it out for delivery.).