Monday, February 19, 2018

Street Smart by Samuel L. Schwartz - Book Report #219

This is the kind of real-world stuff a enjoy.

City planning, traffic, pedestrian alternatives, mass transportation ...

These are the kinds of things that Samuel Schwartz dealt with as New York city's First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer from 1986-1990.

He even coined the term Gridlock and is also known as Gridlock Sam.

I found his insights in traffic management completely fascinating and found the book compelling.  It made me look at my own city of Edmonton, Alberta with new eyes.

If there is one lesson proven throughout the book it is that traffic need not flow.  PEOPLE need space to walk and experience the environment outside of an automobile.  It is very good for business.

Recommended.


Samuel L Schwartz

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Past Blogs - February 18 to February 24


What I Read - 2010
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2011
Reviewed in 2013
Reviewed in 2014
Reviewed in 2015
Reviewed in 2015
Reviewed in 2017

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Roguelike by Marc Laidlaw

What at terrific romp!

We all know what it's like to work through a game hundreds of times to get to the end.  This was exactly that.

Here we read the results of many attempts of a first person shooter to save the emperor.  The game is actually a training simulator.

When the end is reached the reward is not what you'd expect.

Fun.

Marc Laidlaw's website - http://www.marclaidlaw.com/

Marc Laidlaw

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Past Blogs - Week of February 11 to February 17

Reviewed in 2017

Reviewed in 2016

Reviewed in 2016

Reviewed in 2015

Reviewed in 2014
Reviewed in 2013

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Relive Box by T. C. Boyle

Oh, my. What a good story.

Not because it’s uplifting, it dives deeply into obsession and addiction. 

But it goes to illustrate how any kind of  addictive compulsion can destroy lives. 

A single father is trying to cope with his compulsive use of a technology that allows him to access past memories and relive any moment he chooses.  

The danger with the tech is that people can get sucked in to reliving the past to the exclusion of the here and now. 

The father is deplorable in his struggle with the tech. He was completely unlikeable but the story was so well written I could not put it down. 

Terrific, disturbing stuff. 

T.C. Boyle's website - https://www.tcboyle.com/

TC Boyle

Monday, February 5, 2018

Our Choice by Al Gore - Book Report #218

Finally.  A climate change book with actual hope for the future.

Don't get me wrong, I was still immensely depressed reading the thing.  But with every bad thing Gore talks about he also shows the way out.  The hardest thing to realise is just how entrenched our way of life is.  How our economy is based on extraction, destruction and pollution.

But it can all be fixed.  My god!  The opportunity to reinvent our way of life is right in front of us.  It is all low-hanging fruit.

The book opened my eyes to the difficulties of making change but I can still exert influence in the consumer choices I make every day.  As an example, if people start buying electric cars, manufacturers will begin to build them.   But what of the electricity from the coal-fired power plants?  Well that's another story altogether isn't it?  Those utilities have influence in the government and their profits are based on a pollution model.  That's where putting a price on pollution (a carbon tax) comes into play.  A big reason we pollute is because it is free to do so.

The amount of jobs we could create, building an economy that is in tune with our environment, is staggering to consider.

This was a wonderful book and I am very glad I had the opportunity to engage with it.

Al Gore's website - https://www.algore.com/

Al Gore

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Past Blogs - Week of February 4 to February 10

The trouble with blogs is that older posts get buried as new ones are published.  In an effort to keep the reviews relevant I will dig into the past and provide quick links to those reviews that could be forgotten otherwise.  Just click the book covers to be taken to the reviews.

Reviewed in 2012

Reviewed in 2013
Reviewed in 2014
Reviewed in 2015
Reviewed in 2016

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley

This was an alright story. A play on the theory that we are all living inside a simulation.

If that’s true then why should we remain in the “real” world full of dullness, poverty and pain. Why not live in a computer game filled with adventure, mystery and clarity?

Like I said, it was alright. It landed a bit flat but that’s okay too. 

David Barr Kirtley's website - https://davidbarrkirtley.com/


David Barr Kirtley

Monday, January 29, 2018

Alone Against the North by Adam Shoalts - Book Report #217

Oh my goodness, this is the kind of book an armchair traveler enjoys - one that explores lands the reader would never consider exploring.

I kept asking myself what the hell Shoalts was thinking. The crazy muskeg swamps of the James Bay watershed are unexplored for a reason - they are nearly uninhabitable. 

But that’s what makes the book so interesting, Adam Shoalts is driven by a desire to fill in the small parts of the map that are still blank. And God bless him for it. 

But, to be honest, I felt the man needed to get his head examined for all the chances he took by himself.  

I feared for his safety, even though he lived to write the book.   The chances he took could have made his biography end with the scentence, “... never to be seen again.”

It truly was a terrific book that I highly recommend. 

Thanks to Adam for taking the journey - so I don’t have to.

Adam Shoalts' website - http://adamshoalts.com/

Adam Shoalts

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

< end game > by Chris Avellone

I don't know what to think of this story.

I enjoyed the text-based game play of it.  It read as if the reader is playing the game, typing the commands into the computer.

It soon becomes a game-within-a-game story but somehow the end just was not satisfying for me.  There is something missing and I can't quite put my finger on it.

It was well done but just did not work for me.


Chris Avellone's Wiki page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Avellone

Chris Avellone

Monday, January 22, 2018

Trading In Danger by Elizabeth Moon - Book Report #216

Now this is what I am talking about!

Humans, in space, trying to make a living, making mistakes, dealing with competitors, bureaucrats, the outbreak of war, ship repairs, mercenaries, mutinies, murder, running out of fuel, running out of money ...

Yup.  People being people.  In space.

Ky Vatta is the daughter of a vast family-run interstellar shipping company who breaks with family tradition and joins the military instead of the business.

She is thrown out of her unit and discharged under a cloud of controversy and dishonour.  The family takes her in and givers her a simple job to get out of the limelight and time to recover from the blow.

But the character traits that lead her into the military compel her to deviate from the plan of taking an old freighter to the scrap yard and she tries to use the opportunity to earn enough money to repair the ship and go into business for herself.

But the galaxy of other humans have plans of their own that conflict with hers.

It was terrific fun and I love this kind of SF, where being is space is no different to humans than being at sea. 

Elizabeth Moon has a terrific way of just making the character believable.  Ky Vatta makes all kinds of decisions that just make sense - they are logical.  I especially loved the moment in the book where Ky has an epiphany and decides that doing what is expected is exactly what got her into trouble (Other than the original decision to deviate from the flight path that is.) and starts making decisions instead of following orders from everybody who feels they have the right to tell her what to do.

Terrific.

Elizabeth Moon's website - http://www.elizabethmoon.com/

Elizabeth Moon

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Outliers by Nicole Feldringer

I liked this story.

What happens when a smart, dedicated gamer plays a game meant to help crunch data to model global warming weather patterns?

When a flaw in the game is discovered we get to see how game design is affected by political desire.

I believe the story gives us a glimpse into the machinations of political influence of what we hear in the media about the Climate Change.

Nicole Feldringer's webpage - http://www.nicofeld.com/

Nicole Feldringer

Monday, January 15, 2018

PostCapitalism by Paul Mason - Book Report #215

I had a difficult time with this book.

It was mostly me, I just could not penetrate Mason's writing.  I found myself reading a passage and having to re-read it again to understand what he was saying.  It was like that for most of the book.

The subtitle was certainly a bit misleading - A Guide to Our Future it hardly was.  3/4 of the book was spent on describing capitalism's long history.  Over and over again the author would take us on a tour of the past.

Finally, in the last section, he began to apply theory to a new economic model.  It is interesting to contemplate the effect the digital realm is having on the economy.  It was also a challenge to imagine how a society would work without money.  Try it.  Every single aspect of our way of life relies on it.  It's like water.  We need it.

I found the book a difficult read but that has only spurred me on to wanting to learn more about it.  It is a curious notion to think that we are in the first decades of this very transformation.  Like everything else, I believe a solution will be found.  You have to believe that otherwise living is just too bleak.

I am not so sure I would recommend this book as I had such a difficult time with it.  But, without it, I wouldn't know where else to look to try to get a better understanding of a world without money.

I a search for more understanding on the subject I found The Postcapitalist Future website.  Try reading the manifesto first and see if that sparks any new insights.  -  http://postcapfuture.com/manifesto/

Paul Mason's website - http://www.paulmasonnews.com/

Paul Mason

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

REAL by Django Wexler

This was a cool, dark story.

A mysterious person goes looking for a recluse game designer who helped create one of the most addictive and believable games. 

The game has a deadly quality that the designer investigated and tried to correct. But then other powers worked against him. 

Once the narrator finds the designer the truth is revealed. 

I loved the dark quality of the city and found the writing captivating. 

It was another terrific entry in what is becoming a favourite anthology of mine. 

Django Wexler's website - http://djangowexler.com/

Django Wexler

Monday, January 8, 2018

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein - Book Report #214

Here is another terrifying book that may well make you throw up your hands in the hopelessness of it all.  Humanity is polluting itself right out of existence and it seems there is no way to stop ourselves.

But Klein pulls back, just in time, at the very end of the book, to show us that there is a way out, that things can be done and there is a strong grass-roots movement underfoot that can lead us out of our mess.

Klein is a heavy-handed author but she does do her job by injecting some balance into her book.  Nothing frustrates me more than an author that will only write about the problems without offering solutions as inspiration to make things better.  Klein at least makes an attempt to show us alternatives.

One thing she touched on that caught my attention is the notion that there is a way of life that does not involve capitalism.  Post-capitalism, because it's such a new idea that capitalism's replacement has no name and barley a framework.  But if you can imagine a society without money, then you can see where this kind of structure could lead us out of our current mindset of resource based extraction economies.

It was one of those moments where an author gave me an entire new avenue of thinking that I find intriguing.

I do recommend the book but, be warned, it can be a bit of a slog.

Naomi Klein's website - http://www.naomiklein.org/main




Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Survival Horror by Seanan McGuire

At first I groaned when I began the story.  I am no fan of fantasy, magic and weird creatures.  I am never in the mood.  Although I like science fiction, and you can certainly see the parallels, I at least enjoy "plausible" SF.

A couple teenagers are in the basement reading comics and installing a new computer game.  Once loaded all the lights go out and the evil magic begins.  The my groaning began.

But there was always a line of humour in it that kept me reading.

I certainly enjoyed how, when the parents got involved, everything got mundane and still quite funny.

It was a good story because the twist ending worked well for me.

Seanan McGuire's website - http://www.seananmcguire.com/




Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Years Resolution


Normally I look at my reading accomplishments and just want to read more.

This year, my challenge to myself is to read books that I actually own.

Most of my reading has been through the Edmonton Public Library.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I am, what is charitably called, a bibliophile.  I buy books and simply shelve them.  I love books and want them around me but there is always something I don't own that I am interested in reading and the library enables me to do so.

But I have so many books that I have been forced to box up most of them and store them in the basement, and yet I keep buying more.

So this year the only books I will enjoy from the library are audio books, which I listen to while delivering the mail.

My books deserve my attention and this is the year I will make a dent in them.

Not a bad goal, eh?

My idea of heaven.

Below are pictures from my basement of shelves and boxes packed with books I have not read.  My house should look like the image above but, since it doesn't, I have to start unpacking and read, read, read.