Vorg books blog
|The Gaurdien Project|
| Is this a ploy to get geeks to watch sports?|
At least The Canadian looks cooler than The Canuck.
| Funky 3D book sculpting|
There was a Japanese dude who did this with Magic cards years ago.
|One Less Thing to Carry|
| Ok, I'm officially having a nerdgasm.|
Readdle is a website that will store uploaded text files in a variety of formats and re-display them to you in the browser.
Why would you want to do this? Well, I recently got my grubby little mitts on an iPod Touch (I have to admit, it's been life altering) which comes with a web browser. So:
1) Make account on Readdle.
2) Grab any books from Project Gutenburg.
3) Upload them to your readdle account.
4) Login to the website via the Touch.
5) Choose a book.
6) Start Music.
7) Sit on bus and read. (Once the page is rendered, you no longer need to maintain the wi-fi connection.)
8) Achieve nerdvana.
|The Public Library and Filesharing|
I'm continuing to get good use out of the awesome Vancouver Public Library. Pictured above is the Joe Fortes Branch, one of the two locations near me.
It's easy to see the benefits of a library system. It spreads culture throughout the populace with a low barrier. Having a wide variety of materials available is good for everyone. So how is this different from online file sharing? It's a tricky question.
|2006 Book Review|
| At the start of 2006 I decided to keep a log of all the book I read. Through the year I knocked down a total of 22 books. Oddly enough, more then half of those were back in last January (a month of rain wherein I first joined the awesome Vancouver public library). Out of the 22, I had only read 1 before, and non-coincidentally I'm rating it at the very top. Here are my top 5 books from 2006:|
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A Heinlein
This is currently my favorite book of all time. I strongly suggest you read it.
The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Flatlander - Larry Niven
In A Sunburned Country - Bill Bryson
Mount Appetite - Bill Gaston
The full list comes after the jump, with small descriptions...
|One Book, One Internet|
| I think the idea behind One Book, One Vancouver is great. It's "a book club for the entire city". I'm hereby expanding it to be One Book, One Internet, so everyone can play along. All you have to do is read the book.|
The book that has been selected is There is a Season, the memoir of Patrick Lane. I requested the next available copy be sent to my local library using the funtastic VPL online system. It doesn't seem like my regular fare, but I shall read it when it comes.
After a spate of heavy reading in Jan/Feb I haven't finished any books in the last 2 months. I got stalled half way through The Corrections by the crazy scat visions and haven't been able to get back on the reading wagon since. One Book, One Internet to the rescue!
|Read all over|
| Good used book website for Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria & Toronto|
|Red China Blues and Opposing Revisionist History|
| Today I took out Red China Blues by Jan Wong from the westmount library, and I've read about three quarters of it already. It's the story of Wong's life starting from when she travels to China as a Mao enthused radical in the 70's, and stretches through her disillusionment with the Chinese system of the time and her eventual return as a reporter years later. It's a captivating tale, and has also helped fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge about China's modern history. I haven't finished it yet, but I can already recommend it.|
The first-hand account of the June 4th, 1989 Tiananmen Square Protest/Massacre was particularly chilling. This BBC article (and the video that accompanies it) published right afterwards provides an account of the governments military attack on the civilian populace. The wikipedia provides more extensive background on the events.
What particularly upsets me is that even now, over 15 years later, the Chinese government refuses to own up to the truth of what happened that day. China also censors the news available to its citizens, including the 'great firewall of China' that blocks numerous internet sites. I'll bet that the links in this post won't work in China. Maybe this post won't even show up there, it's pretty easy to detect "Tiananmen+Square+Massacre" in content. Only unofficial accounts would use the word massacre, of course. I can only imagine what the official version of events taught in China is. Maybe it isn't even mentioned in history classes.
I think that we should do everything we can to ensure that the entire people of the world have access to a truthful account of history. The internet was supposed to help do that, but China maintains a tight control over the contents that enter their networks. I think that Canada and all other countries should continue to push China (and any other countries that censor and/or revise their history) as much as possible to admit the truth.
|Cyberpunk review: Project Maldon and Virtual Light|
| My ransacking of the Westmount library sci-fi section continues with 2 cyberpunk novels.|
The first was Project Maldon by author Chris Atack. The plot focuses on a guy who suspects the AI he's working for has gone outside of her expected behaviour and become rogue. This is an interesting subject, but I was disappointed with how the book dealt with it. The build-up to the suspicion is non-existant really. He starts out believing it from very near the start and this continues until it's resolved at the very end. The story also deals with the project (Maldon) that the guy's working on, which is to help rebuild Upper Canada (Ontario) after it has been shattered by a global economic collapse and war with Quebec. The book succeeds in creating an interesting future society in which to set itself, and I got fully absorbed into Atack's Post Millennium culture. Even more so since a large portion is based in Toronto where I grew up. All in all it delivers a mixed bag: an interesting read, but not excellent. (The internet actually seems to have the first three chapters available free if you want them.)
The second book I read was Virtual Light by William Gibson, often called the founding father of cyberpunk. I'm a fan of Gibson's style, having read Neuromancer and Count Zero in the past and enjoyed both. This book was no different. The tale starts out as a series of disjointed vignettes jumping between characters as the surrounding society is fleshed out. Eventually they meet up and a story comes out. It's pretty simple when it comes down to it: a pair of glasses get stolen and the owners are trying to get them back. The book shines by focusing more on the society (set in SoCal and NoCal - what used to be California) and how people fit into the culture. The plotline is mostly a vehicle to show off the settings.
If you're a fan of Gibson's work then you'll probably like Virtual Light. If you're never read anything of his then I urge you to do so immediately. It's probably best to start out with his first (and most famous) book Neuromancer and take it from there. If anyone in Montreal has Mona Lisa Overdrive or any other Gibson books that I haven't mentioned I'd like to borrow them. Reading this one has merely whet my appetite for more.
|2 almost forgotten books|
| Back when I was traveling in March I read 2 books that I never got around to writing about here. Now I shall resolve this outstanding issue:|
Journey by James A. Michener is a fantastic book. It tells the tale of 5 British (1 is actually Irish) adventurers who embark on a quest in the midst of the 1897 Yukon goldrush. I was very much drawn in to the characters and their story. It's not that long of a book (compared to some of his other works), but I thought it was solid throughout. Previously I read Michener's epic novel Space which was also amazing. I highly recommend him as an author.
On the other hand, The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling was a supreme disappointment. The premise is interesting; Babbage's counting machine (aka the computer) comes to a working state in Victorian era Europe. This brings some interesting possibilities, but the story and characters are flat as a board. Stay away from this book.
These 2 books are #9 and 10 for me in 2005. Since I read them in the start of March I haven't read anything else. I'm hoping to take a trip to the westmount library soon and get back into the reading habit.
|Iain M. Banks - Consider Phlebas|
| A little while ago my friend Sean recommended that I check out the works of the Scottish author Iain M. Banks. I noticed a large section of them in a used bookshop when I was looking for some reading material for my flight from Glasgow to Vancouver (and then to San Francisco the next day). I bought the first science-fiction book that he wrote: Consider Phlebas.|
The book contains some interesting elements, but in full I didn't really think it was put together all that well. Most of the main characters were well fleshed out, but there was also a few chapters about some random person on a world millions of light-years away that didn't really concern the story. I suppose it was trying to set up some background - but it just seemed like wasted space to me. Likewise, the main plot of the book was interesting, but it was filled with lengthy detours that didn't really seem to add as much as they took away.
The universe the book is set in is pretty interesting. It's a galaxy where the inhabitants are very technically accomplished. One of the main societies is "The Culture", which seems to be a communist/hedonist success story. Their means of production (using sentient machinery) is more then enough to fit the needs (and wants) of everyone - so everyone gets whatever they desire. The novel wasn't set in Culture space though, so this interesting society wasn't fully developed in this book. He has a bunch of other Culture books, and I would give Banks a second chance if I found one of them.
|4 more books|
| I'm back in Edinburgh now. Until thursday that is, when I fly back over the ocean to go to San Francisco (for GDC) and then home.|
I wrote some notes about my travels in France, and took a bunch of pictures. Hopefully I will post some of that later (it's on my laptop - and not with me right now). In the meantime I shall continue the posting of books that I have read. I had some long train (and 1 bus) rides, so I took the time to read. There isn't a huge selection of English language books in France, but the ones they have are good, so it worked out well.
Generation X is the one Douglas Coupland book that I missed when I read through all his other books a few years ago. So I was pleased to find it. Not all of his books are great, but I think that this is one of his best. It's a tale of angst among some members of generation X and their return to cheaply-paid no responsibility service jobs as an escape. They live in neighbouring bungalows and pass the time telling fantastic stories. I'm not really the target market (heehee) but it's a fun read.
PS: Girlfriend in a Coma is the Douglas Coupland book that I liked the most. Go and read it if you haven't - it's fantastic.
I had never heard of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, but the loads of good review snippets on it along with the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction caused me to buy it. It tells the story of 2 comic book authors in the midst of World War 2. One of them has escaped from Nazi-controlled Prague, but his Jewish family remain. Through comic books they try to fight against Hitler and get on with their lives. It's hard for me to give a good description, but I thought this book was amazing. I started reading it one night in my hotel, and it kept me up until late the next few nights. I highly recommend it.
Drop City by T. C. Boyle is a book set in the seventies about a hippie commune and its inhabitants. At first it's set in California, but after some problems with the government they get evicted. Someone's uncle has an abandoned cabin in the wilderness of Alaska, and they decide to move the commune there. The story focuses on a few main characters and the differing personalities really come out well. Throughout the novel the happy commune feel has some rough patches and the Alaskan end result is very different from the start. I enjoyed Drop City a lot, and I would recommend it to anyone who has some hippie in them, or enjoys the culture =).
The cheapest way to get from London to Edinburgh (if you haven't booked in advance) is to take a bus (through Glasgow). It takes about 10 hours and I took the time to read Deadkidsongs by Toby Litt. My aunt in London gave me this book (in a trade for Generation X) and it worked out well. The novel tells the story of four boys in a small town in England during the cold war. They form themselves into Gang and play at fighting the Ruskies. Different parts of the story are told in the third person and from each of the boy's points of view. It works really well to detail the social relationship between them. Things end up getting a little out of control in the end, and my attention was held until the close. An enjoyable read, although probably not as much for girls.
So there you have it: 4 books, all of them quite good. The end.
|Book #3: An amber-eyed amnesiac|
| I enjoy reading sci-fi/fantasy books quite a lot. I have found that the best way to aquire them (other then a library) is in used book stores, where they are cheap and plentiful (assuming you're in the right store). Since I haven't heard of most of these books, I like to buy unknown books by authors that I know and/or like. This is how I aquired City Of Illusions by Ursula K Le Guin.|
It was a small book, so I took it with me traveling. It was an enjoyable read - the story and main character got me into the world. The ending was a little sudden, but all in all I 'd say it was a fine book.
|Book #2 of 2005|
| For christmas my mom gave me the book Whale Music by Paul Quarrington. I took it with me to europe because it was lightweight and the description on the back made me interested.|
I started reading it last week and was quickly caught up. It has fun characters and keeps you interested. The plot itself contains very little action (until the end), but the story is interspersed with myriad flashback/memories that liven things up and develope the characters even more.
I was always eager to pick it back up and continue reading, so I unreservedly give it 2 thumbs up. Check the link above for some alternate covers including some nudity!
|Book #1 of 2005|
| I have decided to keep a record of all the books I read. Partly to see how many books I read in a year, and partly becuase I can =).|
So then, I just finished the first book I have read in 2005. It was The Truth About Markets, by the economist John Kay. I noticed the title sitting in the bookshelf in the guestroom where I am staying, and picked it up to investigate. It sucked me in, and over the past few days I sped through it.
It's a pretty expansive look at economics. Why rich nations are rich, why capatalism beat communism, etc. While it did get pretty dense in places, all in all it was an interesting and informative read.
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