Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Review: Three Crooked Kings

March 12, 2013

I must confess to reading this book rather quickly over two nights, so I’m sure some nuances were missed.

Like a lot of Australians, and presumably Queenslanders, I do have a bit of an unhealthy interest in our criminal past. I think I was in grade six when some of the Fitzgerald inquiry was finishing up (or recommendations being handed down, or some such) and getting interested then. Personally, I make a lot of use of our Joh given right to mix metaphors.

Overall I was disappointed by the book. There’s clearly a lot of research gone into it, which is great, and the narrative ties it together reasonably well. There are editing issues and some ham fisted attempts at pop psychology. A glossary for all the colloquialisms would have been useful. The worst thing for me though, is that the main interviewee, Lewis, comes out with nary a red cross against his name. Time and time again Lewis is implicated in the skulduggery of the time, but he denies the worst of it at every turn.

I feel I can’t quite call the book a whitewashing of Lewis’s history yet, as there’s still another half to go, Lewis may well let it all out then and redeem himself. But I also feel the author has let us down by not digging deeper on Lewis. Maybe that was part of the interview deal; or maybe Lewis still has powerful friends.

On a matter that I really should disclose, it appears that family members are named in the book, in none too good a light.


Advantages of electronic books

December 20, 2009

I’ve seen quite a bit of stuff lately dissing ereaders and ebooks and claiming that there is no way that this new newfangled technology would ever be embraced and that it was preposterous to call it a revolution.

Electronic books and their readers are a revolution, get used to it.

If the current crop of display technology is a little slow and dodgy, that will improve, and you won’t have to buy your library again. If the first breakout product is riddled with DRM, the followers will go DRM free as a point of difference (which has already started to happen).

There are numerous advantages to ebooks over paper books:


All my books could fit on a couple of memory sticks. holy smokes. Moving house will be a gazillion times easier. I can have all my books with me at work, at home, and on the bus. and at conferences. and everywhere. holy smokes.


I can keep multiple copies of my books spread around different places. This will keep me happy.

smaller carbon footprint

Not chopping down trees, not using nasty inks, not shipping books from the other side of the world


The ability to do a text search of all my technical books. Or even my science fiction books. holy smokes. Just finding the book I’m after at the moment is difficult, let alone finding a particular part of the text.


I don’t want my tiny little corner of the earth completely taken up with bookshelves.


September 25, 2008

or why things don’t fall down – J.E Gordon

This lovely little book explains material and structural engineering with a very low maths content. The writing is personal and uses many anecdotes.

It is somewhat surprising to see so many examples of biomimicry in a book written well before the concept was large enough to receive its own label. The author praises feathers, trees, skeletons and similar throughout.

I’ve always been drawn to structures, photographically speaking, as the repeating structural elements have always had a calming, soothing, reassuring effect on me. The author really opened my eyes to the intrinsic properties of strength in many basic materials.

After building up the readers first principle knowledge of materials highly engineered structures are covered in great detail.

A really good book for the layman interested in learning more.

Conjure 2006

April 19, 2006

Over long easter weekend I attended the 45th National Science Fiction Convention. Overall, I was quite impressed by the con, but there were still a few annoyances, otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging..

Most of the panels were excellent value, with lots of industry people spilling the beans. Kim Wilkins, Aussie horror author, was just divine; I’m thinking of reading some of her stuff based solely on her stage presence.

It was a tad disapointing when panel chairs didn’t show up, but the panelists usually went on to give great sessions. What was more annoying was a biased chair: Cory Doctorow of boingboing fame chairing a copyleft vs copyright panel was never going to give both sides a fair hearing.

The “what’s new in science this year” seminar was let down by a lot of time being spent on intelligent design.

There’s a large intersection of geekdom between the science fiction world and the OSS world. The obvious difference though is the gender balance, something like 60/40 towards women. I might start writing more.

The funniest session was actually sponsored by my current employer, readings of old work by Aussie authors that are now stored in the Fryer Library.

I met a lot of interesting people (and a cute one too) and just generally had a good time. Thanks to Felicity for dragging me to the masquerade ball, which was good fun.

Tenth Annual Aurealis Awards

February 26, 2006

I attended the speculative fiction awards ceremony last night, it was a good bit of fun, interesting to be surrounded by so many authors.

It’s also Pulp Fiction’s tenth birthday.

The Maths Gene, Keith Devlin

February 26, 2006

This book lays down an argument trying to show that the same evolutinary path that led to langauage also gave rise to our mathematical ability. Given that, even now, we don’t really know how the brain works, and that there’s no possibility for a fossil record, I find all these thought experiments fascinating.

Devlin’s argument is much more coherent than Andrew Parker’s, and his writing still is less academic and more approachable.

Overall, I’m quite attracted to parts of Devlin’s arguments and am happy to have spent the time on this thought provocing book.

Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds

February 12, 2006

A split time-line space opera, in which Alastair attempts to tie together an alternative, pre-computer earth with an advanced nanotech based society.

It does work quite well in parts, each side of the time-line drawn realistically, but it almost seems as though Alastair is more comfortable with the old word than the new sometimes.

A little bit of an obvious finish did slightly spoil the book, but overall it is quite good.

The Gap series, by Stephen Donaldson.

May 12, 2005

I’ve never been able to finish any Thomas Covenent books, they’re too angsty for me. The Gap series is just as full of pain and angst, but instead of being focused on one person, all the major players have problems, and separate motivations. I love the second guessing that everyone does about other peoples motivations.

As far as tech goes, it’s quite reasonable and interesting. Angus the cyborg is just plain cool.

There were times where I put the book down in disgust at the prattling on, but the underlying plot was more than enough to keep me coming back for more.

The Korean War, by Brian Catchpole

February 23, 2005

A fairly easy to read account of the war, from the lead up, through the initial stages against North Korean troops, through to the stalemate with China, and finally to where we are today. The book covers many facets, politics, military, the UN involvement, the world wide approach to the war.

There’s not enough information on the North Korean/Chinese/Russian side of things, but obviously primary documents would be nearly impossible to obtain.

Well worth reading.

Europe, A History, by Norman Davies.

January 16, 2005

After literally years of piecemeal reading, I’ve finally finished this history. `From the ice age to the atomic age’ is the best description I’ve read of its coverage.

The writing style is interesting, a little dry in the main text, but very human in the tables which litter each chapter.

It’s the sort of book that I’ll have to read a few times over my life to truly appreciate.