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Obsolete Body / Suspensions / Stelarc
Obsolete Body / Suspensions / Stelarc
by James D. Paffrath
Edition: Paperback
9 used & new from $200.00

4.0 out of 5 stars noted performance artist, July 19, 2014
He is an Australian performance artist, who has been doing innovative acts since the 1980s. His works often explore the boundary between human and machine. For example, he used to have an act where he had a mechanical third arm attached (non-surgically) to his torso.

Some of his other performances include running through plate glass, and dangling from the ceiling by many hooks through his skin.

He has exhibited in Japan and the United States, as well as in Australia.

In a way, he may have been still ahead of his time. The electromechanical state of the art was quite primitive when he began his works. Nowadays, much more is possible. Though of course what is currently doable will in turn seem backward in the next decades.


Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov
Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov
by Joseph E. Patrouch Jnr.
Edition: Hardcover
8 used & new from $20.00

4.0 out of 5 stars incisive analysis of Asimov, July 19, 2014
Patrouch's book is a comprehensive analysis of Asimov's science fiction writings, up to 1974. Sadly, the book is now out of print, both in hardcover and paperback formats. You'd have to chase it up in a public library.

He gives an incisive dissection of Asimov's novels and short stories. Fans of Asimov can get a deeper appreciation of his works. Of these, the Foundation Trilogy is one of the best known. Patrouch's remarks are revealing. He explains that Asimov routinely broke some of the guidelines of writing dramatic fiction. Like how there might be a buildup to a climatic scene. Then, in the next chapter, Asimov has characters talking about that scene in retrospect. Overall, it does work in the trilogy, in no small part because of the sheer grandeur and wide scope of the central idea of a fall and rise of galactic empires. But this indicates an enduring aspect of Asimov's later writings. For all his skill, he never really emphasised action scenes. Unlike Heinlein, Pournelle or Stirling, who would populate military science fiction.

Patrouch speculates on one point of logic. If the Seldon Plan is widely known by the people of the Second Foundation, wouldn't this knowledge cause them to act to invalidate the Plan? Asimov of course would have read Patrouch's book. In a novel written a few years later, Asimov has one of his characters offer a rejoinder. Pointing out that the logic of the Plan could still proceed, since the people would not know the actual mechanisms of psychohistory. If you had read that novel, without knowing of Patrouch, you might take that as just another piece of dialog. But to readers of Patrouch, it was a clear and convincing reply.

Patrouch also panned some of Asimov's juvenile SF. Those Lucky Starr stories. He points out that the first one is quite awkward. Sounds nothing more than a warmed over Lone Ranger episode. But that the later stories in the series actually improve, into interesting narratives.

While there have been biographies of Asimov, written years later, plus Asimov's autobiography, Patrouch's book still stands as an independent, detailed analysis of the science fiction. The Asimov biographies are more about his life, and do not furnish as indepth a look at the actual fiction.

I do not know if Patrouch is still writing, or that he is even alive. But Asimov continued to write more science fiction after 1974, up till 1990. And, Asimov expanded out the Foundation Trilogy into several other books. Sequels and prequels. It would be neat if Patrouch could in turn update this book, with commentaries on Asimov's later works.


Dr. 2 Issue 1
Dr. 2 Issue 1
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars enhance the Shanghai noir, July 13, 2014
This review is from: Dr. 2 Issue 1 (Kindle Edition)
I am reviewing a paperback edition. Most/all of the other reviews seem to refer to the Kindle digital version. I got my hardcopy free at a Poetic Review event in Chinatown Los Angeles in June 2014. Thanks!

The narrative is a dystopic view. Set in Shanghai, but not confined to it. A backdrop of news references trickles throughout the story, telling us of dire straits elsewhere in the world. The authors allude to a global recession brought on by a rampant capitalism. No doubt inspired by the recent and some would say ongoing Great Recession.

Whether you agree or not with this, the story still makes compelling attention. The minimalist nature of the drawings and dialog leave much (if not most) to your imagination. Fill in by necessity. This style perhaps would not appeal to those used to the much richer illustrasting content of conventional cartoon magazines. But it seems to enhance the Shanghai noir.


The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-1941
The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-1941
by Richard W. Longstreth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.29
37 used & new from $7.89

4.0 out of 5 stars precursors of modern commercial retail, July 11, 2014
The book looks at a hitherto neglected field of architecture. Commercial buildings, and particularly for Los Angeles up to 1941. Nothing in the book is about the grand artistic buildings most often admired. But instead at how the utilitarian needs of retail merged with the rise of the car. In Los Angeles, the easy mild climate led to innovations in what was called a drive-in. Which is not the drive in of later years for showing movies.

Instead, the drive-in was the mini-mall of its time. For a new mobile working and middle class to easily shop. The book has many photos of key buildings. The narrative explains how the drive-in was then succeeded by the supermarket. Fundamentally, by the 1940s, the new supermarkets were essentially the format we know them as today.

If you live in LA, you may especially find neat the descriptions in words and images of intersections and neighbourhoods. The photos of buildings are all accompanied with a remark as to whether the buildings are still extent.

There is a peccadillo. Many of the photos were taken by a person called "Dick" Wittington. But the photo credits keep repeating this, including his nickname. Tedious. Couldn't the author have shortened the credits, for clarity?


Wiley's English-Spanish Spanish-English Chemistry Dictionary
Wiley's English-Spanish Spanish-English Chemistry Dictionary
by Steven M. Kaplan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $55.69
40 used & new from $55.69

4.0 out of 5 stars obsolete entries for 'semi-conductor' etc, July 4, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A massive effort that can aid someone working in a Spanish and English chemistry context. I don't know Spanish. But I took chemistry as an undergrad. Neat how when I look at an English word listed here, its Spanish equivalent makes sense. And vice versa. In general, showing a common Latin root in the technical sphere.

Note also that it is not just single words that you can look up. Common chemistry phrases are listed as keys also.

What is strange is when I looked up English phrases related to semiconductor, I found entries for both 'semiconductor' and 'semi-conductor'. And for 'semiconductor laser' and 'semi-conductor laser'. Why list both with and without the hyphen? In English, the hyphen was largely discarded by the 1970s. It tends to appear only in articles prior.


Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 2- The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 2- The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988
by William H. Patterson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.81
52 used & new from $18.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars maybe Heinlein should have sued Gerrold, July 1, 2014
This volume has a stupendous amount of background on Heinlein and the science fiction culture he inhabited, and indeed helped craft. For this, you should be always grateful. We see that even for a successful writer, bills always loomed in an eternal treadmill.

What is neat is some flesh on the backstories of the stories. Like how Tunnel in the Sky was originally called School in the Sky. But Heinlein acceeded to an editor's request to amend the title because few students would buy the original title. There is also a neat and by now well known anecdote that the main character is a Negro !! Not in so many words, but if you parse the narrative carefully, this becomes clear. Heinlein's way of tweaking the system.

The paths of other major authors cross the pages. Apparently, one of the best known Star Trek episodes, The Trouble with Tribbles by David Gerrold, was a blatant imitation of an earlier Heinlein story. The biography says that Heinlein graciously declined to sue Gerrold, but makes clear that he had a strong case. What may grate is when Gerrold then goes on to exploit his Tribbles story with toy tribbles etc. In this, Heinlein comes off as perhaps a little too indulgent.

Another anecdote is about The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle. Perhaps their first major joint success. The book relates that they sent Heinlein a preprint. Which he then copiously critiqued, suggesting that they discard the first 30 pages or so and use a more gripping start to hold the reader's attention. Heinlein did commend that the Moties seemed like a genuinely alien race. He did not expect Niven and Pournelle to actually abide by his advice, based on his earlier extensive experience with other writers. But amazingly they did, to the extent of withdrawing their book from publication and doing a large rewrite.


Prezi Hotshot
Prezi Hotshot
by Hedwyg van Groenendaal
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.49
8 used & new from $40.49

4.0 out of 5 stars distinctive way of presenting a talk, June 25, 2014
This review is from: Prezi Hotshot (Paperback)
The tone (spirit) of this book differs markedly from that of other technical books I commonly get. The author uses a very informal means of introducing the topic. Which is appropriate because Prezi is a very distinctive way of visually presenting material, where the latter can be text or graphics. In general, as you can see from the book, the material will have many instances of both.

Prezi is shown as an infinite canvas. But you are advised to start by just focusing on 3 top level tasks - define the goal, message and audience. In itself, without recourse to using any computer package, thinking this way can be a great help when you start out and want to write down a talk that you will later give. Of course, this is not new to Prezi. Similar advice was available decades ago, when you might have had to do all this by hand, having no computer in sight.

In a way, this is the power of Prezi. It takes you back to essentials. The computer is just a secondary tool. But using Prezi arrays the top level ideas and the lower level topics into a spatial arrangement on the canvas that is quick to grasp.

A key aspect of Prezi is what they call frames. Where you can group the topics on the canvas into clusters. And then move these around, treating all the topics enclosed in a frame as one entity. This is a natural top down decomposition. Then when enough frames have been defined, you can make a path through these frames. The path is the presentation order.

Scattered throughout the narrative are good pieces of advice for presentations. Like 'avoid large blocks of text'. Use images if possible, to engage the audience. And if you use drawings, keep them simple.


NETGEAR N300 Wireless Mini USB Adapter (WNA3100M)
NETGEAR N300 Wireless Mini USB Adapter (WNA3100M)
Price: Click here to see our price
58 used & new from $19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars ok, but small antenna is really limiting, June 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It mostly works. But the fundamental limitation is the small size of the embedded antenna. When I use it in my laptop, and start moving away from a Wifi hotspot, the bandwidth can fall markedly. By comparison, an antenna embedded into the laptop can take advantage of the much larger size of the laptop.

The limitation is due to the basic physical properties of any antenna.

That said, maybe if your computer will be close to a hotspot, then this adapter may be suitable.


Learning Anime Studio
Learning Anime Studio
by Chad Troftgruben
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.49
18 used & new from $40.49

4.0 out of 5 stars for arbitrary styles of cartoons, June 20, 2014
This review is from: Learning Anime Studio (Paperback)
Don't take the 'anime' in the title too literally. It is not restricted to the anime style of cartoons from Japan. Rather, Anime Studio is a simple framework within which to draw most any style of cartoons. The book can be used as a guide for the rank beginner in the basics. From writing down a first draft, which the text warns you is likely to be terrible, to making a storyboard. And these days, to providing audio sound track if your characters will speak.

So it has to be noted that the cartoons here are typically not destined for celluloid, as in the 20th century. But more often meant for display in a web page. A major attraction is that the book shows how you as a beginner can affordably put together a professional looking composition.

Anime Studio is stuffed with many easily learnt tools accessed via a rich GUI. Drawing of figures has been made as simple as perhaps possible.

If you come from a background in graphics, especially with Photoshop, then many concepts will be familiar. Including the idea of layers. Anime Studio fully supports layers, with specialised tools like Transform Layer and Follow Path. Great time savers, and that is really what layering is all about.

But the most important aspect of Anime Studio might be bone animation. So instead of a character being a raw set of pixels, it is a set of graphics with an underlying skeleton. By manipulating its bones, you can rapidly and intuitively animate the character. Looks easy to use.


Twilio Cookbook Second Edition
Twilio Cookbook Second Edition
by Randy Stringer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $44.99
18 used & new from $44.99

4.0 out of 5 stars make a simple, cheap IVR system, June 15, 2014
Very neat that the book immediately commences with a non-trivial real world application of two factor authentication. Stringer shows the reader that a useful technique for verifying a user can be easily done with your website ringing her phone. The most important context is for purchasing, when actual money is meant to change hands. The source code is only a few pages and you should probably read it carefully to see how Twilio's libraries enable the entire operation. The point is that the example will present the user with a form on the browser where she types in a username and phone number, presumably of a cellphone though it could also be a nearby landline. The browser is assumed to be showing on her laptop or desktop. The example makes a one time password which is then sent as a text message to the phone. She reads it and then types it into the browser.

The second example of the first chapter is showing how to record a phone call. Where the recorded message can then be sent to an email address you designate. As with the first example, this leads to a foray into the Twilio Helper Library for PHP.

Later chapters give other examples of course. But Stringer made good and I am sure very deliberate choices in the opening chapter to grab your attention. The early examples will be a propos to many sysadmins and developers of commercial websites. Overall, you can use this book to make a rudimentary but practical IVR [Interactive Voice Response] system. Essentially free in terms of software running on generic hardware. Whereas if you bought a commercial IVR hardware package, the cost can easily run into thousands of dollars. Granted, the vendors of those will affirm that their systems offer more options. True. But if you only need the basics, this book and Twilio might suffice.


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