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The Outsider

The Outsider

Chris Culver

2013


The blurb on the cover describes the protagonist as "the most fascinating detective in the history of crime fiction," which is itself an overstatement of almost criminal proportions.

The story revolves around a criminal case with problematic evidence. So far, so ordinary. The characters however are without exception stereotypes. Even though the main character, Ash Rashid, is given colour by being a Muslim in the American mid-West, he's a stereotypical Muslim: struggling with drink, worrying about missed prayers, staunchly supported by a more observant wife, and so forth. Along the way we meet the decent-but-too-hard prosecutor, the scheming crime boss who helps justice while pursuing his own agenda, the self-interested politician -- should I go on?

1/5. Finished 26 January 2014.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There

Sinclair McKay

2010


I may be being a bit harsh on this book, which makes a decent attempt at filling in the social history of one of the greatest contributors to wartime victory: but it felt like it missed almost all the excitement and significance of Bletchley Park and failed to really dig into the characters of those involved, despite extensive interviews. At the very least it might motivate one to read Alan Turing: The Enigma or one of the other histories or memoires that have come out in the past few years.

2/5. Finished 12 January 2014.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

First SleepySketch release

Happy 2014! We're particularly happy to be making the first release of the SleepySketch library for writing low-power Arduino sketches.

SleepySketch changes the way you write Arduino sketches by letting the library, rather than the main body of the sketch, decide when to run code. The sketch stays asleep as much as possible, with the Arduino placed into a low-power state to preserve battery.

This is a first release of SleepySketch, for comments. It provides a sketch framework, a basic sleep manager, and an example "blinkenlights" demonstration to show how the system fits together. Future releases will provide more flexible sleep management and support for component-level power management for common components like Xbee radios.

You can download SleepySketch v. 0.1 from here.

The Ascent of Man

The Ascent of Man

Jacob Bronowski

1973


Often described as one of the classics of our times, this is a book of essays charting the various stages in the author's conception of the intellectual evolution of humanity. In a sense it should be compared to Civilisation, Kenneth Clarke's history of art: a personal selection of important events.

Bronowski's is a selection few would argue with, but he adds interest through his own personal acquaintanceship with some of the characters involved: Einstein, Born, and (most interestingly) von Neumann. His take on early history had probably been overtaken by some of modern anthropology, but his analysis of the industrial revolution is fascinating, as is his central thesis that the main agent of progress is simply the desire of the craftsman to improve his craft, beyond any real pressure for improvement coming from outside.

3/5. Finished 05 January 2014.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

Frank Dik├Âtter

2013


Not an easy read, but a compelling overview of the Chinese revolution and the ways in which the Communists seized power. It focuses almost entirely on the Chinese perspective where it might have been interesting to have some foreign perspectives as well; in a similar vein, a more in-depth coverage of the impact of the Korean war might have made the relationship with the outside world more clear. Or perhaps that's partially the point: the revolution cut China off from the world to the extent that there was no relationship of any great degree.

What comes across most strongly is the wasted lives, the ways in which the Communist party was willing to ignore (if not destroy) the talents of its people for reasons of pure ideology -- something the Cambodians were to do, altogether more violently, a few decades later. It's a tribute to the resilience of the Chinese people that the country has managed to survive the experience and re-engage with the world again, but the scars are sure to linger for many years to come.

4/5. Finished 09 December 2013.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)