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on January 25, 2000
PING! The magic duck!
Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.
The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).
The title character -- er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear.
If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is the book. I can't recommend it for most managers, as the technical aspects may be too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.
Problems With This Book
As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults. There is no index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command line options well enough, some review of them seems to be in order. Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.
But even with these problems, The Story About Ping has earned a place on my bookshelf, right between Stevens' Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, and my dog-eared copy of Dante's seminal work on MS Windows, Inferno. Who can read that passage on the Windows API ("Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous, So that by fixing on its depths my sight -- Nothing whatever I discerned therein."), without shaking their head with deep understanding. But I digress.
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on July 24, 2000
Like many of the reviewers, this is a book I loved as a child and that I've returned to now that I'm a parent. While it has a moral--that many times, simply accepting an umpleasant consequence is better than trying to avoid it--it's not preachy about it. In fact, what's really nice about the storyis that it's not Ping's fault that he will be the last duck to board the boat (and thus get a whack upon his back). His head was below the water at the time, and he couldn't have heard the boat master's call. I think this is what gave me a thrill as a boy. I knew that the world wasn't fair and that sometimes punishments were unjust. This is what made me identify with Ping.
And the book really taps into a young child's fears. I remember being thrilled that Ping ran away instead of accepting his punishment--what small child hasn't fantasized about running away? And I remember thinking how terrifying to wake up and find that you were totally lost in the wide world--what child's greatest fear isn't that sort of separation?
I think that's the greatest thing about this story. It's not a tidy, pat treatment of issues like children's anxieties or the value of accepting the consequences of your actions. Rather, it's a tale that provokes imagination--that taps into those fears and ideas without simplifying them. And there are too few books that do this well.
Incidentally, in terms of age, I've just begun reading this book to my four year old, and I think that's been a good age for him to start appreciating it. But I can imagine a much older child enjoying it as well.
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on November 30, 2003
When I was a kid growing up in the south, I used to read this book over and over. That was in the 1960's, when the Chinese, who's side we were on during the war, were a people we were supposed to hate, and the Japanese, who we hated during the war, were a people we were supposed to like. Nevermind all those reruns of anti Japanese war movies that were still playing on TV at the time.
The wise-eyed boat, the fishing birds with the rings around their necks, the boy with the wacky hairdo and peculiar barrel tied to his back. The hand-made wicker basket and complete absence of anything material or useless.
It humanized Asians for me in a way that was not only healthy, but induced a curiosity of the region and its peoples that I have still yet to satisfy, even after living for 18 years of my adult life in Northeast Asia. (Maybe I'm still running away from that dreaded spank!)
Every time I see those Peking ducks strung up in those shop windows in Hongkong I can't help but think of Ping and his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins.
Read Ping to your kids. It just might change their lives!!
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on February 22, 2005
Well this book certainly dated itself when it mentioned the word "spank". It is amazing to me how people take something like that and instantly start twisting and turning the words around to make it sound so horrible. Ping was not beaten in this book. Yes he got a tiny tap on the rear as a reminder that he needs to be punctual and quick when it is time to get going. Otherwise he may get left behind on the big, scary Yangtze river. yes he did almost end up as someone else's lunch. However, i see this as a springboard for many coversation starters with your child i.e.: the eating of ducks in China, the danger of running away from your problems, and of course the kindness of the boy who releases Ping, saving him from his fate. If you are looking to spare your children any sort of scary, uncomfortable situation possible then stay clear of this book and pretty much all other books for that matter. However if you are seeking a book that will create plenty of opportunities for conversations about the consequences of actions then you may like this classic story about little Ping. The illustrations are warm and clear. They look like colored pencil was used. And last but not least, the Chinese people in the story were certainly NOT portrayed in a negative light. But leave it to our society to cry "racism!" at almost any depiction of another culture... sheesh!!
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on December 7, 2009
I loved this book when I was a kid. My mom used to read it to me because she loved it when she was a kid. And I read it to my daughter. I've read some reviews that it is racist and gives a horrible message but to me it was just a story about a duck. I could go on and on about my own dissection of people's worst fears of not being politically correct enough for this world, but that would take too long and require far too many links to references on art and culture in the 1930's. In short, if the story had taken place in the American South for example, the child would've been plump and pure white with bright red cheeks and looked like an exaggeration of a stereotypical character. If it had been the Midwest the child would've had a piece hay sticking out of his mouth most likely. But god forbid the characters be non-white, then the drawings should not be child-like carictures but should've been exact, representatives portraits (a mindset that belittles other races by the way by saying that they are not as strong as us so we can't draw them in the same exagerated style we would draw us). Also, I'm sorry it offends people, but that is how it was for fishing folk on the Yangkzee River in those days with the birds with bands around their necks and ducks getting slapped across the back once in awhile. I doubt I would wack my ducks across the back with a stick even though I loved that book. And I did not grow up with this horrible sense of being trapped by a communist, abusive regime just because I had this book read to me. I really think people need to take a deep breath and relax and if this book doesn't interest them then move on. It really does not need to be so controversial.
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VINE VOICEon June 16, 2003
Others have written regarding content; I am simply alerting people that this edition (ISBN 0448421658) was more cheaply made than I expected; the cover is simply folded over (no glue). I doubt it will hold up to much use.
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on April 14, 1999
Am I the only child in America who was terrified by The Story About Ping? From the Wise Eyed Boat, whose stern and piercing gaze seemed darkly malevolent, to the crowded Yangtze, the illustrations spoke of an incomprehensible and hostile world. Punishment was certain; even if every duck behaved perfectly, someone was certain to get spanked. And the building tension as the sun moved closer and closer to the horizon still has the power to raise a chill. I understand that my reaction to the book is extreme, but if your child is prone to guilt, read The Runaway Bunny instead!
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on February 23, 2009
THE STORY ABOUT PING also left a lasting impression on me. It was one of my favorite childhood books and I loved reading it to my children and grandsons who still enjoy it. Memories of the book motivated me to make two trips as an adult to China where I sailed on the Yangtze and Li Rivers. On the Li I saw people fishing with cormorants and using boats similar to those depicted in the book's simple but beautiful illustrations. For those who are appalled by what they see as "abuse", the swat on the back was to make sure the ducks returned quickly to the boat when called so that they wouldn't end up in someone's soup. I got the point as a child. So did my children and grandchildren and no one was traumatized.
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on March 20, 2006
[...] Anyway, "The Story About Ping" is about a family of ducks that live on a wise-eyed boat on the Yangtze river in China. One of them is fluffy, small and yellow and is named Ping. The ducks were let out of the boat everyday to fish for little things to eat. Ping always tries to make sure he's not last to get back on the boat because "last one there is a spanked duck!" One day, Ping's family got on the boat first. Ping really didn't want to be spanked so he didn't come to the boat that night. Ping has an adventure, and you could guess he came back to the boat next night, late or not. This book is exciting and Ping looks cute! You'll probably love Ping's adventures as much as I do! Oh, and did you notice that the author's last name, Flack, rhymes with quack? Signed, StoryMaker. "Gotta trust the kid's review!"
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on June 27, 2006
I remember reading this story over and over at my grandmother's home when I was a little girl. I was so thrilled that I could share this story with my own two little girls! They thought it was neat to see what "Mommy" liked when she was their ages!
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