The following are mini-reviews of books I read in 2007.
Also see the full index of books I've read.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Sleuth of St. James's Square
"Tales of hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier".
(Never caught my interest, so I didn't finish reading it.)
The official book site—Underground: Hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier—with reviews, ordering information, and links to free downloads of the book.
Project Gutenberg has the eBook in additional formats: Underground
Project Gutenberg eBook: Bleak House
Fitz Hugh Ludlow eBooks are available at Project Gutenberg Australia (public domain in Australia).
Project Gutenberg eBooks:
At the time I'm writing this, the author is looking for a publisher; meanwhile the 300-page book can be downloaded for free in PDF format at the official book site. To avoid spoilers, be sure to read the book before visiting the book's blog!
I used Xpdf's
pdftotext program to extract the text and then
to create a plain copy of the book readable on my old Palm Pilot M105.
An excellent book, but I got sidetracked by Forth, so I didn't finish reading it.
Also see the book's web page, which includes an errata sheet, answers to selected exercises, and links to other ML resources.
Project Gutenberg eBook: Half A Chance
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Loudwater Mystery
James Hilton eBooks are available at Project Gutenberg Australia (public domain in Australia).
(Never finished this, but I do want to get back to it eventually.)
Thomas Wolfe eBooks are available at Project Gutenberg Australia (public domain in Australia).
Halfway through Dr. Ullman's Elements of ML Programming (above), I got FizzBuzzed - in Forth no less (comp.lang.forth thread)! As a result, I was sidetracked into brushing up on my Ficl Network Commands and reading numerous articles about Forth—and this excellent (unpublished?) book. I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around the subtleties of CREATE ... DOES>; everyone uses the definition of CONSTANT as an example, but some of the compile-time (or perhaps the parse-time) aspects of CREATE are not clear to me—yet!
A pre-publication copy of the book can be downloaded in PDF format (190+ pages) from MPE Forth's "Books on Forth page.
After reading Stephen Pelc's book above, I still had some questions about
DOES> and a search on the web quickly
found Marcel Hendrix's free,
on-line, ANSified version of Leo Brodie's classic, but now out of print,
Starting Forth. I began by printing out selected chapters
and ended up reading most of the book. It answered my questions and taught
me even more, especially thanks to the many colorful pictures and diagrams
that illustrate the internal workings of the Forth compiler and interpreter.
Chapter 5, "The Philosophy of Fixed Point", has this fascinating, "Handy Table of Rational Approximations to Various Constants":
|π = 3.141…
|355 / 113
|8.5 x 10-8
|π = 3.141...
|1068966896 / 340262731
|1.0 x 10-20
|√2 = 1.414...
|19601 / 13860
|1.5 x 10-9
|3√2 = 1.732...
|18817 / 10864
|1.1 x 10-9
|e = 2.718...
|28667 / 10564
|5.5 x 10-9
|√10 = 3.162...
|22936 / 7253
|5.7 x 10-9
|12√2 = 1.059...
|26797 / 25293
|1.0 x 10-9
|log(2) / 1.6384 = 0.183...
|2040 / 11103
|1.1 x 10-8
|ln(2) / 16.384 = 0.042...
|485 / 11464
|1.0 x 10-7
I'm not sure what some of the constants are used for, but 12√2 is used to determine note frequencies in music. Going up an octave doubles the frequency, so the 12 half-steps in between are obtained by multiplying by 12√2. For example, given A-440, multiplying 440 Hz by 12√2 gives the frequency, 466 Hz (rounded down), of the note one half-step up, A♯/B♭. And so on. (Interestingly, the frequency of the A above middle C has varied throughout history, only becoming standardized at 440 Hz in the twentieth century.)
Shamelessly stolen from my very own The Wit and Wisdom of George Eliot? No, but I was surprised not to see any quotes from The Impressions of Theophrastus Such and the title of the book is entirely accurate in that very little of Eliot's wit is on display. Ignore my rant, however! Aside from wishing Engle had included more of Eliot's humorous quotes, I found the book to be a very enjoyable and rewarding browse.
The book begins with a brief but excellent biography of George Eliot. Much of it I knew from other longer biographies, but I was fascinated to learn that there was actually some rhyme and reason behind the evolution of her name from Mary Anne Evans to Mary Ann Evans to Marian Evans. (Maybe the other biographies mentioned it, but it never sank in.) The numerous quotes that make up the bulk of the book are helpfully categorized by subject.
Oops! I took a look at the title page and found that the full title of the book is The Wisdom of George Eliot: Wit and Reflection from the Writings of the Great Victorian Novelist, Marian Evans, Known to the World As George Eliot. More wit in the next edition please!
Project Gutenberg eBook: Stories by English Authors: Africa
The classic book that every person in a software development environment should read.
One of the authors' final pieces of advice is to not "wrestle the bull" when pursuing change in the workplace:
In one interview, a reporter asked El Cordobes what regular exercises he did to stay fit enough for the ardors of bullfighting.
"Yes. You know, jogging or weight lifting to maintain your physical condition."
"There is something you don't understand, my friend. I don't wrestle the bull."
Also see the publisher's page.
A New York murder mystery moves out west to a land of cowboys, gold mines, treachery, and Mexican bandits.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Strange Case of Cavendish
I re-read this classic children's book and John Mortimer's Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders while trying to decide what to read next after The Strange Case of Cavendish (above).
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Mark of Cain
"... Your chances are ... aw- ... fully ... good!" I had been reading this book for about a week before the Johnny Mathis song popped into my head and I realized where the title came from—I'm not too quick on the uptake!
Also see The Math Circle.
I'm of two minds about Dinah Mulock Craik. On the one hand, some of her novels actually tell very interesting stories. On the other hand, she didn't quite achieve the consistency of writing genius that I, at least, see in George Eliot's novels. And some of Craik's very interesting stories—The Laurel Bush, for instance—are overloaded with brief but too frequent discourses on the proper role of women, not as the weaker sex, but as the subservient sex.
Sally Mitchell's scholarly but readable Dinah Mulock Craik, originally published in 1983, is available on-line. Chapter 7, "Dinah Craik and the Feminine Tradition", examines the relationship between Craik and Eliot.
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Laurel Bush
According to Mappa.Mundi Magazine, "[Marshall T.] Rose lives with internetworking technologies, as a theorist, implementor, and agent provocateur." In other words, he has designed, implemented, and evangelized many internet protocols and technologies, including SNMP, the subject of The Simple Book. This edition was published in 1994 and, a few years later, I picked up a copy for $6 from the bargain shelf in a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Dr. Rose is an excellent writer and presents SNMP clearly—with a touch of humor and occasional attitude—from the high-level management concepts down to the low-level implementation details. In frequent "soapbox" asides, he delves into the politics of developing the SNMP standards. Many of the digressions target OSI (Wikipedia); readers too young to remember OSI's failed attempt to become the internetworking standard in the early 1990's may wish to peruse the Wikipedia article.
At the author's website: plot summary and extract (no spoiler).
This book was quite good as French history, but less than convincing when presenting Jacquard's mechanical loom as the basis for all of modern computing.
A fascinating look at the development of the compass and especially at the elimination of errors in compasses (which are affected by any iron around them). The latter attempt has not been successful, as I found when reading a recent article in a small-boating magazine about tweaking your compass. It's a wonder sailors ever got where they were hoping to get in pre-GPS days.
Project Gutenberg eBook: Riders of the Silences
(This book never caught my interest and I finally laid it aside.)
Project Gutenberg eBook: Overdue: The Story of a Missing Ship
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Voice on the Wire
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Ghost Ship: A Mystery of the Sea
A story, published in 1870, about a lightship (floating lighthouse) on the dangerous Goodwin Sands (Wikipedia) in England. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the Sands were a "major plot point" in Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I haven't read in years (and which is much better than and bears almost no relation to the Dick Van Dyke movie).
Project Gutenberg eBook: The Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands
Pi is a boy whose father owns a zoo in India. For various reasons, the father packs up the zoo and the family sails for Canada. Unfortunately, the ship sinks a few days out with all hands lost except for Pi, who is stranded in a lifeboat with some animals, most notably a tiger. The tiger eventually eats the other animals, but maintains an uneasy peace with Pi. This book is a must-read, not just because it is well-written and a good story, but because it is so out-of-the-ordinary!
Project Gutenberg eBook: Moll Flanders
My favorite Hardy book after I first read it thirty years ago, but not quite so much now. As always with Hardy novels, life goes from middling to bad to worse ... and then even worser!
Project Gutenberg eBook: Jude the Obscure
A jumbled history of ECT, chronologically speaking, but nevertheless a heavily footnoted book well worth reading (if you're interested in the subject), even by the layman.
Project Gutenberg eBook: Salthaven
Practical Press full text on-line: The Captains