Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hopefully this kills the idea

FIA publishes analysis on medals system. Here's the key piece of analysis.
Fourteen World Championship battles would have been shorter (1955, 1970, 1978, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004).

Eight World Championship battles would have lasted longer (1973, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2005).

In terms of World Championship final race showdowns, there would have been five lost (1955, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000) but six gained (1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991 and 2005).
So in other words we would lose several last race showdowns and the championship would have been concluded earlier more times than it would have been extended. So if the idea is to make the season longer it won't work. A stupid stupid idea!

Daniel Radcliffe's stunt double 'paralysed'

Some sad news from the Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows set. David Holmes Radcliffe's stunt double was paralyzed when caught in an explosion during filming. We can only hope that this is temporary. From the Daily Mail.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Working the Wheel by Martin Brundle

Working the Wheel by Martin Brundle a trac guide/biography written by the ITV F1 commentator. The major F1 tracks are covered as well as one or two major European circuits. Admittedly I found Brundle's commentary frequently annoying so I wasn't expecting much but, I was pleasantly surprised. The trac discussions are insightful. Anecdotes both from his career and from the history of the races are liberally sprinkled in.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Farthing by Jo Walton

Farthing by Jo Walton alternate history murder mystery where the British made peace with the Nazis. A member of the government is murdered at a country estate. They just happen to be holding a dinner party with a Jewish banker in attendance. There's a dual narrative from the perspectives of the investigator and the banker's wife. I quite enjoyed this the characterization is good and the plot doesn't get bogged down. There are two other books in a series. I'll be ordering them soon. One minor irritation is an inordinate amount of the characters turn out to be homosexuals definitely more than the 10% of the population usually quoted.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Best Friend I Ever Had by David Nuffer

The Best Friend I Ever Had by David Nuffer is a collection of anecdotes from friends of Ernest Hemingway. The author who admits to an obsession with Hemingway travels from Cuba to the inland northwest to talk to those who knew Hemingway and sites of interest. Nuffer Spends much of the book debunking various academics theories about Hemingway. I'm not up on Hemingway controversies so I can't really speak to those but, they were still interesting. There's also quite a bit on his suicide.


Note: this was provided for review purposes by a PR outfit.

So why fix it now?

Editorial row engulfs Wikipedia

Monday, January 26, 2009

Elisha's Bones by Don Hoesel

Elisha's Bones by Don Hoesel the hero of the novel an archaeologist searches for the remains of a person from the Old Testament that is believed to have healing powers. He is sent on this mission by a wealthy businessman but finds himself threatened both by his goons and the organization that protects the bones. This is my first experience with modern Christian fiction. I have to say that I was quite impressed. I was worried that there would be a constant theological discussion but there wasn't. The characters do occasionally start talking about god at seemingly random times but it's not that frequent.


Note:This book was provided through Librarything's early reviewer.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 by Paul Fussell

The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 by Paul Fussell is a short book that tries to distill the experience of the average American soldier in the Normandy campaign. Fussell argues that sentimentality has grown up around the campaign. Not sure I buy this myself but, whatever.

So what we get is a gritty look at infantry fighting. It's based around a handful of accounts some of which are pretty standard for the campaign. There are one or two completely new sources which was nice. I could see giving this book to someone who didn't know much about the soldiers experience but, for someone like me who's done quite a bit of reading it didn't really add much.


Day one

So far so good.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Chris Matthews needs to go away now. Chia pet WTF?

Quotation [occasional]

"Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents."
- President Barack Obama

Monday, January 19, 2009

Last full day

Last full day of the Bush presidency. Almost over. Thank goodness!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic by Maurice Meisner

Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic by Maurice Meisner is a history of China from 1949 through the 1990s. This is the third edition which has corrections and has been expanded. Meisner is "sympathetic" to the Marxist dream of the Chinese communist party. This does not mean that he is unwilling to criticize. Much of the book is taken up with the personality of Mao and his various attempts to create the revolution. Interestingly after the seizure of power this meant that he was fighting with other sections of the party.

This is a nice history that is surprisingly readable. I don't know much about this era of Chinese history so I found it useful. I did once take a university class on Chinese and Japanese history unfortunately both the professor and textbook put me to sleep. So I now have a grounding at least.


Added books to the TBR pile

Nothing although I ordered some.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Need deadlines

Funny how all my life at least since kindergarten has been spent trying to meet deadlines of one sort or another. Without them getting motivated to actually do work is surprisingly difficult.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ricardo Montalban dies at 88

Very sad news, I remember him from Star Trek mostly. Interesting how the article doesn't mention that at all.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blood Harvest by Brant Randall

Blood Harvest by Brant Randall is a mystery novel and historical fiction. The point of view shifts between multiple characters as they react to an attempted murder trial in the northeastern US in 1929. KKK members, bootleggers, politicians and a veteran of the Civil War narrate the tale. At a church function a 13 year old girl is discovered fooling around in some bushes. Her relatives throw her suitor off of a nearby bridge. The Klan becomes involved since he is from Southern Europe and is therefore not considered white. The idea itself is an interesting one.

The problem is the execution. The characters come off as satire. We have all sorts of stereotypes here from the not so innocent girl to the scheming lawyer. The book also concludes on the strange note the narrative wanders into fantasy Territory with sections from the point of view of a police dog and Crow. I'm not really sure what to make of that.

Not recommended.

Note: this was provided for review purposes by a PR outfit.

Let's give him a big round of applause

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde this is the 4th book in the Thursday Next humorous fantasy series. How to describe the plot without giving too much away? Thursday is tired of her life policing novels so she goes back to the real world 1988 England. This England is an alternate history where the Crimean War continued for over a century. Thursday is trying to get her husband back who was erased from the timeline in an earlier installment. Along the way she has to deal with Hamlet, an assassin, a stocker and a violent game of croquet.

The jokes come fast and furious in this book. The pace has actually increased over the earlier books. He's almost trying to do too much now. There are so many subplots going at one time it can be hard to keep everything straight. I still enjoy the humor but I hope he slows down a little bit in future. The ending looks like it could have served as an ending for the series, the major plot points are wrapped up. However there is a 5th book which was released last year. I'll be ordering that soon.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell

Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell is probably the most "popular" of the novel's of Littell that I have read. There are very few literary flourishes. I wonder if there was a tight deadline or if he was otherwise distracted with something else. There are two narrative threads. Parsifal a Soviet agent assassinates people inside the United States. He discovers that after the Cold War he is actually being directed by a rogue CIA outfit. Finn a drifter troubled by his experiences in the First Gulf War finds his way to an Indian tribe whose casino is being shaken down to fund the same group. Parsifal is instructed to get rid of Finn but, they decide to work together.

I liked the characterization, I've said it before I will again, Littell is expert at the telling detail. The characters seem to be real even when there talents are a little out of the ordinary. Parsifal's super sensitive nose for instance.

Highly recommended!

The Battle for History: Re-fighting World War Two by John Keegan

The Battle for History: Re-fighting World War Two by John Keegan is a short bibliographic essay providing some suggestions for reading on the Second World War, included is some acerbic commentary by Keegan. For the most part the list consists of reasonably popular titles. I'm pretty sure everything with the possible exceptions of the official histories and economic history books can be found in any half decent public library. This is definitely for the amateur in the field.

I do have a very big problem with Keegan flogging two of David Irving's books [including the infamous Hitler's War]. Keegan does mention that Irving's holocaust denial is nuts and that Irving has "far right views". What irks me here is that if Irving gets the holocaust wrong it puts into question everything else he has written. In fact there have been frequent charges of falsification of sources, selective editing of quotes and other highly questionable activities. This is not a recent phenomenon, it goes all the way back to Irving's first book on the Dresden bombing. These questions have been raised both in academic journals and in public settings such as the New York Times. It troubles me that Keegan is ignorant of these charges or doesn't seem to care. After all Keegan is being put forward here as an expert on the Second World War and it's historiography.

Not recommended.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Deathly Hallows to 7 on LibraryThing

One of the metrix I've been keeping track of since the release of Deathly Hallows was how long it would take for it to reach the 7 position on LibraryThing's top books list. I just noticed that it has reached that level. It took about 1 1/2 years. The number of copies is larger than The Da Vinci Code. Harry Potter books now hold the top seven positions. The series is out of order.

Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black

Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black considering that I received this for Christmas and started reading it Christmas night probably says something about me. This is Black's views on religion and religious belief. I was mildly surprised to find out that he isn't actually an atheist he just has major issues with organized religion.

Most of the book is biographical discussing his childhood as Jewish, his falling out with the religion. There is a hilarious section on a Bar Mitzvah for a dog. From that point he moved on to various forms of Eastern mysticism. He does believe in a higher power for example he felt something when his brother passed away. He discusses his belief in psychics. There is a long winded testimonial of a friend of a friend who claims to have psychic ability.

There are some thematic chapters of him riffing on religions including Catholics, Evangelicals and a rather nervous discussion of Islam. The section on TV evangelists is probably the funniest part of the book.

The final section is a off-Broadway play he performed with one of the guys from the TV show Perfect Strangers. He freely admits that the critics hated it and I have to say they had a point. If you take the standard TV evangelist spiel and replace "Jesus" with "comedy" you'll get the idea.

If you go into this looking for something more akin to his standup routine it will be disappointing but if looking for a description of one person's faith then it is good.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Quotation [occasional]

But for inspired badness, this recent "photograph"* by Annie Leibovitz for the Lavazza calendar has it all: a pandering (unto capitulation) to empty style; excessive color which is nevertheless unattractive; an attractive model who is also unattractive (though she got legs! But what the hell is with that expression?); a really woeful idea (Romulus and Remus and their wolf-mother—oh, please) that nevertheless doesn't even work; heavyhanded overproduction; no trace of irony; a blatantly fake background that doesn't even try to match the studio-shot foreground; a baby butt, for that touch of smack-you-with-a-dead-fish cuteness; campy makeup, kitschy hair; and, to top it all off, a hilariously incongruous product placement like an embarrassing pimple.
- Mike

Yes I'm alive

Well I survived the upgrade. The less said about it the better. I posted my best of O8 list yesterday. It's probably the latest of anyone I follow. Hope you enjoyed it. I should be getting back to writing reviews in the next couple of days. The latest Louis Black is up for tomorrow.