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A Long Time Until Now (Temporal Displacement Series Book 1)
A Long Time Until Now (Temporal Displacement Series Book 1)
Price: $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars dominated by rapid technology changes, June 30, 2015
Many commented favourably on this book. I try to add something new. The basic plot of a group of contemporary humans thrust into a more primitive arena has been well fleshed out by others. Like Pournelle in his Janissary series, Steven Stirling with his Nantucket books and of course Eric Flint with Grantville. I am only looking at plots where more than one person from our time goes awry. Sorry Lord Kalvan! And I equate scenarios where the humans go back in time or go back into a different dimension (Nantucket and Grantville) with the humans going to another planet (Janissary). Of these books, Janissary is actually the closest to Williamson, depicting US mercenaries plonked unceremoniously elsewhere.

All the books have the character effectively go to societies centuries if not millennia behind the contemporaries. But what is contemporary? Ironically you can trawl the books to see how relatively short time spans in that meaning gave different consequences once the humans were in exile. Janissary was written and set in the late 70s. In once scene, Rick Galloway, the mercenary leader, uses his calculator to write down the log tables, before the batteries run out. He does not have a solar powered calculator, because those did not become common till the 80s. And he and his men have no portable computers, of course.

Forward to Stirling's Nantucket. Written in the mid 90s and set in 1998. Now the narrative talks of Internet withdrawal, of those who could not longer get fixes from being on the Internet. There are workstations, carefully mothballed and brought out only for special uses, like running CAD packages.

Flint's Grantville hails from the noughties onwards. Now cellphones make their appearance, including on the cover of one novel.

Finally we get to this book. Set in 2012 and 15 000 years hence. All the soldiers have their own laptops it seems, along with portable music players and cellphones. These recur in many scenes. Strikingly, they do not do much writing on paper, because they have so little of it. Instead they plan on their computers, using Powerpoint and other software packages common to us. A scenario that shows an original take quite separate from those of earlier works.

The irony is how a comparative study across novels shows that the short time spans between their writings translates into plot consequences even after being transported centuries or more. Reflecting the rapid technology changes we've experienced.


Dart Cookbook
Dart Cookbook
by Ivo Balbaert
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.49
28 used & new from $40.49

4.0 out of 5 stars ample examples, June 12, 2015
This review is from: Dart Cookbook (Paperback)
The unified aspect of Dart is its raison d'etre, of course, if you have heard of Dart before. One nice aspect of this book is how it gives many recipes for common problems you are likely to meet in the course of learning or applying Dart. Not surprisingly, since Google originated Dart, there are deep connections to the Google Chrome browser. For some of you, that will be another reason to delve into this book carefully.

The chapter on Web applications is the best way to see how Dart and Chrome can be integrated easily. More broadly, this and other chapters give links to further documentation online. Where you might get other apps whose source code is accessible; letting you extend them as good learning exercises. Another plus is the use of examples involving WebSockets. The latter let you make web pages that are far more interactive than traditional HTML pages.

Experience with data formatted in JSON would help in the web server side discussions. Nothing really hard about this in any event.


The Savior (Raj Whitehall Book 10)
The Savior (Raj Whitehall Book 10)
Price: $6.99

2.0 out of 5 stars mistake in first combat scene, May 30, 2015
This book starts badly. The first combat scene, in the first chapter, has a huge flaw. Abel Dashian, the hero, has his squad of troops ambushed by a group of attackers firing arrows. He takes 3 of his men and goes around the attackers. So now they are behind the attackers, who are all aiming at the larger group of Abel's troops. He shouts, not whispers, "Fire". He fires a pistol and his men fire muskets at the attackers. 3 attackers are killed. Abel and his men charge the attackers with bayonets on their rifles. (Abel was also carrying a rifle.) The book describes how he skewers an attacker who is the closest to him and his men, AND who is facing the main group of Abel's men. Next, an attacker shouts to his combrades, "turn around".

The bayoneting of an attacker in his back by Abel is flawed. The attackers would have to be deaf not to hear the 4 firearms go off. But suppose they were. When 3 of them were hit in the back by the bullets, and killed, the survivors would surely have noticed. They would have seen and heard this. Especially because they were firing arrows. Their bows (arbalasts) are silent compared to guns. Many would have immediately turned around. This would have been far quicker than the time it took for Abel and his men to run at them. Abel should not have been able to bayonet anyone in the back.

Such a gaping error ruined the entire book for me. If you doubt the above, try reading the first chapter slowly.

How Daniel made this error is troubling, and points to the second rate nature of the book. I enjoyed the earlier books cowritten by S M Stirling. In those, Stirling did most of the writing, while Drake supplied the plot outline. The battle scenes were graphic and interesting and the plots moved along. In this book, Daniel is responsible for the writing. Stirling would never have committed such a flaw. Ditto for Drake, for the books where he was the only author.

There are around 27 earlier reviews. None apparently read carefully.

I concur with other reviewers who found the plot plodding. The jarring back and forth in time was badly done. And overall, things moved too slowly. Daniel spends much time in the jumping back in time to before the main plot thread, to build background about the characters. But awkwardly done.

One minor aspect that is interesting is an unavoidable comparison with David Weber's Safehold series. Those depict a civilisation at roughly the same level as this book. With a dictatorial theocracy that halts all progress, on pain of terrible penalties. The Temple uses a leftover supercomputer. Sound familiar? The twist in the current book is that the hero works for the theocracy.


Jumper
Jumper
DVD ~ Hayden Christensen
Price: $5.47
300 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars wrong sided car in Japan, May 17, 2015
This review is from: Jumper (DVD)
I read the book first and yes, this movie has little overlap as others have complained. Still a nice effort worth seeing.

However one thing that spoilt the film for me was the scene where the 2 male stars drive through a Japanese city (Tokyo?) in a European car. The car is meant for driving on the right side of the road. But in Japan they like UK drive on the left! If you look at the background, you can see the traffic is moving on the left.

Now you might say it's a European car so it should be as shown in the film. But no. Japan like UK requires imports to be adapted for left side driving. The scenes of closeup of the driver and passenger talking to each other have the background traffic dubbed in. I am guessing that to US watchers, this could completely pass them by. Everything seems as it should for the closeups. Better would have been the use of a left sided car. If nothing else, it subtly emphasises that they are indeed in a different country. It is obvious with the Asian backdrop; but tweaking it via a correct car gives an authentic nuance. Especially because the driver is British, so he indeed is used to that driving.


Water Culture in South Asia
Water Culture in South Asia
by Shameem Akhter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.99
19 used & new from $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars huge arsenic problem, May 16, 2015
Bangladesh certainly does not lack for water. In fact, if you look at a topographical map, too much of the country is barely above sea level. The book explores what the consequences of this have been over much of recent history, with a focus on the present situation. So the first chapters delve into the traditions and attitudes engendered. You can appreciate how the culture revolves around the great rivers.

More topically, an entire chapter is devoted to the notorious recent problem of arsenic in the water supply. Drillings for fresh water in several parts of the country produced water that was apparently drinkable, but with concentrations of arsenic far above WHO maximum standards. To a good extent, as you read this, there is now much awareness both in Bangladesh and outside. With NGOs and the government itself devoting massive resources to overcome the problem.

A longer term problem looms. If global warming takes effect in the rest of this century, sea levels will rise. First, due to the increasing overall temperatures, which causes the ocean to expand. Second, with more liquid water in the ocean as some icecaps melt. Perhaps 100 million in the country could be exposed to flooding and storms in a way that makes Hurricane Katrina in 2005 look milquetoast.


A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War
A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War
by Ronald K. Fierstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.44
58 used & new from $18.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars inventors - protect your rights, May 12, 2015
A few hours ago, I heard the author speak at UCLA on his book. As an inventor I found the talk fascinating for its account of a landmark trial. Many times the author referred us to his book. But if his talk was any indicator, you should follow the advice. The emphasis was on you as an inventor being sure to protect your rights. Cover (that is, try to patent) all variants of your invention.

Even if you only plan on developing one of these. The case he cited was Polaroid versus Kodak. Where Polaroid had patents on 2 ways to do instant photos. It followed one to produce its cameras. But Kodak in playing catch up went with the other. Even though the latter was also clearly protected by Polaroid. The damages awarded after 10 years of trial were almost $1 billion in 1987 dollars. Which adjusted for inflation is still the highest in these infringement cases.

The author pointed out an irony. Polaroid had initially offered to settle for a 5% royalty. Had Kodak accepted, its cost would have been far less. But there were externalities - Kodak regarded Polaroid as a brash intruder, and not as a peer let alone a superior in instant film. The author also remarked that at an earlier talk in another city on this book, the judge at that trial showed up! Now rather elderly. But still an active judge. She spoke to him afterwards. She said that during the trial, she never understood why Kodak had not settled. Now years later, the book cleared it up for her.


Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion
Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion
by Jean Louis Bobin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $61.89
43 used & new from $53.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars quick tour of the topic, April 10, 2015
The title is an aspiration more than an achievable result. But that is the aim of the author and so too of you the reader. To made controllable fusion a reality. The book is rather slender. Bobin gives a presentation that focuses on the key physics of plasma. You get an appreciation of the intricacies involved.

The book is suitable for an undergraduate majoring in physics or engineering who has enough technical background to follow the narrative.

If this does pique your interest, then certainly you should turn to other lengthier texts that give a deeper discussion. However, the list price of $68 seems a little steep.


Jurassic City
Jurassic City
DVD ~ Ray Wise
Price: $7.50
35 used & new from $7.16

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars low budget, April 9, 2015
This review is from: Jurassic City (DVD)
The actors often seem goofy; but perhaps that is the point. The initial scene of a hapless security guard confronting a dinosaur sets the tone for the entire movie. The most puzzling aspect is why regular automatic weapons seem to have no effect on the animals. They are still blood and flesh, but bullets seem to bounce off the hide. Must be real tough I suppose.

For those of you who live in Los Angeles, you might find some locations in the movie familiar; apart of course from the obvious famous shots of the skyline. As an example, there is one clip at the start depicting a large cube of an office building. Used to be a Sears store in Alhambra, near Valley Blvd.


TD-V26 Portable Mini Digital Speaker with Micro SD / TF / USB /FM - Silver
TD-V26 Portable Mini Digital Speaker with Micro SD / TF / USB /FM - Silver
Offered by smartshoponline
Price: $5.93
15 used & new from $0.92

3.0 out of 5 stars plastic over the control panel easily scratched, April 5, 2015
Nice design, with a solid metal frame. But one problem is the thin transparent plastic coating over the control panel. The button I use the most is the power button. What happens is that the plastic around the button gets easily scratched. Everything still works, but just a little disfiguring.


Castaway Planet (Boundary)
Castaway Planet (Boundary)
by Eric Flint
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.34
77 used & new from $10.65

4.0 out of 5 stars our common heritage, March 16, 2015
Sure, you would likely read this book for fun, especially if you liked the authors' earlier works. Ditto then for this story. But en passant you can actually learn something about our history. The antecedants are acknowledged at the start - Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe. Remember in those how the castaways foraged in the remnants of their technology, to survive and climb upwards to what a level of civilisation that they had known?

This book is a space age take on that plot. Luckily, the authors restrained themselves from a deux ex machina. They restrict their protagonists from having too much of grand future tech. There is a deliberate minimalist construct. Instead, the players recreate arduous tasks from the early epochs of humanity. Searching and making clay and quicklime [the latter from calcium carbonate deposits]. And instead of having ready made metal containers, they made do with shells of dead animals. Tanning hides with urine. Woodworking with no metal tools. Carpentry readers might ache in the absence of even a set of simple saws, planes and files.

Maybe you can appreciate how far we climbed.


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