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Just Finished Reading: Magic Street #books

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Magic Street

Magic Street is another book which came from the rescued book stack. I’ve know Orson Scott Card for some time, although I have never read Enders Game, and had always wanted to read something of his. So when this literally landed in my lap I was happy to say the least.

Having not read anything by Card before I can’t tell you whether Magic Street is indicative of Card’s style. I was pleasantly surprised by the book. As you may know I don’t usually go for fantasy, I mostly enjoy hardcore science fiction. The story centers round the boy Mack Street, who is different from other boys, sweet and a little strange. The story is inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A nice weird story.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

July 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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Just Finished Reading: The Dispossessed #books

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The Dispossessed

Another book rescued from a second hand store. The Dispossessed is an absolutely brilliant book, I hadn’t previously read anything by Ursula le Guin and would certainly read another book by this author.

An Utopian society develops after a self imposed exile on a moon. As with the socialist experience on our Earth the Utopian society keeps itself in line by social pressure and an interventionist attitude of the local organization. With in the confines of this society a physicist reads papers being send from the home planet and dreams of been able to go to the mother planet and communicate with it’s scientists fractured by borders, capitalism and wars.

The lunar society as initially described sounds great, the book can be said to have some elements in common with the submission to Utopia that characterizes Logan’s Run.

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

July 1, 2011 at 7:20 am

Just Finished Reading: The Vanished Man #books

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I recently walked into a second hand book store and reconnected with one of my favourite crime novelists, Jeffery Deaver. Deaver is a writer who has had many careers and the experience which comes with the different perspectives in live. This is probably what makes it possible for him to write thrillers with plot twists which are unexpected slight of hand, rather than deus ex machina. My favourite character is Lincoln Rhyme, and the best book of the series is certainly The Vanished Man.

The unsub – unknown subject – is a world class illusionist who initially runs circles round the police and Rhyme. And although Deaver uses similar plot mechanisms in each of his books, they are subtly different each time to account for the differences in the Conjurer and the other unsubs.

I am quite probably influenced by my love of magic, misdirection, smoke and mirrors. And I read this book with rapture. A great book.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

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Just Finished Reading: My Horizontal Life

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Would you expect me to read My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler? I didn’t. Sometimes books are thrust upon me and I browse a number of pages, put it down browse another couple of pages and get sucked into the narrative. And the narrative is not what you would expect.

The story is actually quite uneventful compared to what I usually read. It’s certainly not just a collection of one night stands as suggested. It’s also a collection of almost one night stands where the protagonist’s journey leads to escapes from potential mates apartments for completely superficial reasons. and the only true love that is found in the book is the love of alcoholic beverages.

Even the family is not spared with a misogynistic father who allows his incestuous feeling to shine through, a Jewish mother who can only be an exaggerated version and a sister who feels rejected and rejects the families religion. And the protagonist who seems to do everything to annoy her father, including dating black men and bringing a gay pill-popping lush to her sister’s wedding.

It will probably not make you smarter, and it’s still hilarious!

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 22, 2011 at 10:16 am

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Just Finished Reading: The Internet is a Playground #books

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I advised The Internet is a Playground to a close friend, and he thought it was brilliant. I also think David Thorne is hilarious and have read most of the posts, if not all, on 27b/6. Which is why I thought I would love this book, I was sadly mistaken. Thorne is brilliant, and although his anecdotes and mail exchanges are hysterical the first time and amusing the next many loose a lot in the retelling. There are some obvious exceptions to this, but I was saddened by the lack of much new material.

Thorne manages to turn most of his personal attacks on people in to humorous anecdotes, turning round the impositions people put on him against the person. Whether it is making graphics, a poster for a missing cat or selling him a pair of bad gloves. Even attacks on him for being petty, bigoted or lazy are turned round against the attackers showing that their attacks stem from their own interpretation. I’d even go so far as to say that their dislike of Thorne stems from a dislike of aspects of themselves.

I would certainly recommend this book to somebody who has not read the posts on his website. I must say that while reading the book my girlfriend asked me to stop laughing multiple times, and left the house. I think she’s jealous of my relationship with David Thorne.

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 19, 2011 at 10:43 am

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Just Finished Reading: Flash Forward #books

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Flashforward

I saw the TV series Flash Forward before I got to read the book Flashforward by Robert Sawyer, I was lucky to receive the book in a box of books which were being thrown out during a move. I thought the TV series was very good, albeit US centric, the book is more Eurocentric and focuses on the Large Hadron Collider. A bizarre twist on the fears that gripped the world during the run up to the LHC being turned on.

Every man, woman and child on the world is suddenly knocked unconscious by an “accident” in the LHC, which causes everybody to have a vivid dream of the future. Many die due to accidents. The scientists at the LHC try to discover what happened, and whether it can happen again.

Naturally the premise and the science in the book are charmingly flawed in some ways, the TV series has the advantage that it aims at the lowest common denominator in terms of the science, a mistake or leap of faith that the book needs to make. Not that it detracts from the book, which is intelligently written and contains a level of humour and speculation which can be expected from a book.

I have read nothing else from Sawyer, based on this book I compare him quite favourably to Michael Crichton.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 17, 2011 at 9:00 am

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Just Finished Reading: “The Lucifer Effect” #books

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I’ve been reading Philip Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, a book which contains a details description of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and an explanation of the dangers which exist in a system where there are roles which create an expectation of certain behaviours there is a likelihood that these behaviours will be expressed. It leads me to believe that there are Nash Equilibria here, looking at the SPE it is clear that it coordination game in which the Guard and the Prisoner should adopt the same or corresponding strategies to achieve the highest pay-off.

I was amused to not see a reference to Game Theory in Zimbardo’s book, as the Prisoners Dilemma is the most “fundamental problem in game theory that demonstrates why two people might not cooperate even if it is in both their best interests to do so.”[1] The Prisoners Dilemma is a game with cooperation being a strictly dominated strategy – dominated by abuse in the SPE game – this doesn’t entirely translate to the SPE. The Guard does better than the Prisoner in most strategies both, although cooperation strictly dominates all other strategies.

The influence of role on the game is clear from the experiment, and many other examples, this means that role-based actions will influence strategy, this could be called a role-based strategy. The role-based strategy does not necessarily correspond with an optimal strategy, the fable of the the scorpion and the frog is an instance of choosing a strictly dominated role-based strategy.

Good read, food for thought.

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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