Archive for November, 2002

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Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

In books read on November 27, 2002

This one is definitely not a book for the squeamish. There's blood, guts and post mortems all over the shop and some of it is the type of thing that I need to read with my eyes closed.

Underneath all the icky stuff - because of all the icky stuff - there's a pretty good story about killings and rapes in small town Georgia (though Georgia's idea of a small town and mine seem to be different in size, this seemed like a rather large town to me). This is the first in the series and Slaughter (great name for a crime writer I think, she couldn't have gone in for cozies could she?) introduces an interesting cast. I'm interested to see how many of the main characters play a big role in book two because some of them barely make it out of book one. This is, for a large part, a story based in the characters pasts and I think it's told very well. For a first book the clues are obscured rather well. I was racing through pages to get past the squeamish stuff and it did help that I wasn't stopping to think too much about the little details as they came along.

On the whole though it's a good book, the violence is central to the plot and not just thrown in for effect, I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Purchased on 2nd November 2002.

4 copies of this book are available on BookMooch.

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The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine

In books read on November 25, 2002

Vine seems to have changed her tune a bit over the years since she parted company with her alter ego Ruth Rendell. I'm not finding her books as spookily creepy these days but they are still very good. In fact I think this is probably my favourite story of hers.

Blood is the overarching theme of this novel in several ways. The narrator Martin Nanther, 4th Lord Nanther is losing his heriditary seat in the House of Lords reforms. He's also writing the biography of his great grandfather Henry, the 1st Lord Nanther who was a doctor specialising in diseases of the blood especially haemophilia. Henry received his baronetcy from Victoria, he was one of the royal physicans. The biographical research involves searching out his blood relatives from his family tree. His wife Jude is also suffering from miscarriage after miscarriage. Occassionally I found the continual theme of blood a bit icky and would have preferred that they'd stuck with describing things through the means of genes rather than the nineteenth century descriptions of blood but it's not that sqeamish a book.

As with the last Vine I read (The Brimstone Wedding) I thought that there was scarcely any mystery here, Martin might not see what's going on but it's pretty obvious to the reader. There's a huge cast of occassional characters and the family trees in the front of the book help to keep them straight. I thought Vine did a good job of making the book so populated and yet tractable. Personally I found the story fascinating, the plot's long and tangled but not opaque and the mostly present tense writing isn't obtrusive as it sometimes can be (it took me a long time to even notice it). Definitely a really good book but one so out of genre that I'd hesitate to recommend it.

Purchased on 20th November 2002.

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Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

In books read on November 23, 2002

This is the second in a series of mysteries featuring Myron Bolitar, a sports agent and it's hard to know what to make of it as it's part decent and realistic mystery and part comic book hero takes on the world. Myron is a larger than life character who has been on the verge of being a star basketball player, he then became a federal agent, has a law degree and is a member of the New York bar. That's on top of being a sports agent representing superstar sportsmen. I like him and find him an oddly believable kind of superhero. I find his sidekick Win to be too much to take however. Win's also a superhero of his own, a star financial manager, ace martial arts expert, good at everykind of sport and pretty much doubles as a hit man on the side. (Oh and there's also Myron's girlfriend Jessica who I see in my mind's eye as Jessica Rabbit from Who Killed Roger Rabbit?, I definitely have a strong association between this book and cartoons.)

But really I shouldn't take these people too seriously, they are superhero like but with a dose of the everyday in there too, and I like Coben's writing and find it flows very well. I enjoyed this more than I remember enjoying the first in the series, probably because I know tennis, which the story revolves around, better than most sports. I guessed the solution to the mystery pretty early in this one but as is usually the case when my detective skills work I enjoy watching how the author gets the characters there too.

Fun stuff and a less mindless read than I've made it out to be.

Purchased on 15th November 2002.

3 copies of this book are available on BookMooch.

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know your geography

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2002

if there was any space left on the page it’d be easy to subtitle the national geographic-roper 2002 global geographic literacy survey
(enough of a mouthful by itself i think) as “ooh, look at those dumb americans”
but i’m sorry to say that britons do just about as badly. i do have to wonder
what rock the 42% of young americans who couldn’t figure out that the taliban
and al qaeda were based in afghanistan have been hiding under. at least
only 16% of young britons didn’t know that.

i agree with kevan
that an abstract notion of geography is good enough for most purposes and
there are a few countries in the survey that i wouldn’t have pinpointed correctly
if i hadn’t have had a limited number of choices to choose between (i imagine
the original survey takers had to pick off the whole map). as is usual with
any survey i have complaints about the results and want more information.
so 80% of americans don’t know which country iraq is in, we’ve no way of
knowing how many of them knew more or less where it was but couldn’t pinpoint
the exact right bit of land.

another complaint is with the conclusion that

Americans who reported that they accessed the Internet within the last 30 days scored 65 percent higher than those who did not.

as i would expect to find that this has more to do with the education
levels of people who use the internet than the internet itself. though to
be fair to national geographic they don’t start screaming that this means
the internet makes you brighter as lesser publications might.

my overall feeling from the bits of the survey i saw was that sweden
and canada had the most geographically literate populations but the conclusions
say that canada did badly and that germans and italians were up there with
the swedes.

the bit that’s really thrown me is wondering what the cultural differences
are that make mexican’s really bad at figuring out which way is west!

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all squished up

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2002

i looked at gzip compressing webpages aeons back (that’s zipping pages
up on the server and sending smaller files to the user who’s browser then
unzips them with the user noticing no difference apart from faster downloads)
and all i remember is that it seemed too complicated at the time. either
i was completely wrong or the world has become much simpler. if you’re writing
php pages stick this

<?php
ob_start("ob_gzhandler");
?>

at the top of your pages and watch your bandwidth tumble. you can check if your pages are already gzipped using leknor.com‘s checker. loquax‘s bandwidth is now looking so 1999. joy. if our isp had ever actually charged us for excess bandwidth i’d have discovered this trick a long time ago.

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Hook by CJ Songer

In books read on November 21, 2002

I'm afraid this book got on the wrong end of the several books recently that I've slogged through without enjoying very much and it hit the wall. I enjoyed Bait more than most people I know and thought that both Meg's character and the writing style had potential. But after about 60 or 70 pages of this book I decided Meg's paranoia was getting a bit much for me and gave up.

Purchased on 20th May 2002.

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new door

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2002

mark pilgrim’s new door
is a nifty tool to find yourself something new and interesting to read on
the web. use it on your own weblog or one you enjoy reading to find some
new sites to read.

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Echoes of Lies by Jo Bannister

In books read on November 20, 2002

I really enjoyed Jo Bannister's Castlemere series but I had a few reservations about trying other books by her in case I didn't find them as interesting or gripping. I think I was wrong to be worried but I still didn't like this as much as I do the Castlemere series.

This book is about what happens after Brodie Farrell, who runs a service called Looking for Something?, finds a conman for one of his victims but then discovers that the "conman" has been all but murdered afterwards. Missing persons aren't really Brodie's line of work, she spends more time finding matching glasses, lost ponies and first editions. As I expect from Bannister the characters were wonderful and the plot a bit over the top but basically sound. I enjoyed the seaside setting. I think the plot got lost a bit towards the end and wondered why things were getting dragged out for so long. There are a couple of decent twists near the end but they went on for longer than I felt that they should have done which made them seem less twist-like.

Basically a pretty good book though not as good as the Castlemere books and it doesn't put me off trying more of the non-Castlemere books.

Purchased on 15th November 2002.

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fiddly things

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2002

i’m filing this paper sculpture under “things i found on the internet that looked pretty cool and i couldn’t resist trying that very second but i proved to not have enough coordination to finish off”.

i am however exceedingly pleased with my first attempt at an origami box (pdf) from origami.com which worked out pretty well and has sent my mind spinning off into fun christmas pressie ideas and a use for a shop full of interesting looking paper i saw recently that i couldn’t think of a good enough reason to raid at the time.

[paper sculpture found via sylloge]

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salisbury

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2002

at salisbury cathedral

here are some more pics taken last august, these are mostly of the cathedral in salisbury:

Salisbury is one of the finest medieval cathedrals in Britain. Started in 1220 it was completed by 1258, with the Spire, the tallest in England (123m/404ft) added a generation later.

i don’t think we did much but wander about and take the odd pic in salisbury. we got the worst service ever at pizza express (i knew we should’ve gone to the pizza hut down the road where my sister used to work). only in salisbury, i’ve always had pretty good service at every other pizza express. and i ranted at the time about our horrible hotel in salisbury. it’s a nice place but we got lousy service one way or another.


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