Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

Books

Playing with Library Designs

I had been using Chief Architect’s Home Designer Suite 2015 to do my house models to play around with furniture layouts and the like, but found it too limiting. The Pro version would probably be better, but I’m not going to shell out $495 to help figure out where to put my couch.

So I tried out Google’s Sketchup program and, after a relatively short learning curve, started making some models and had a go at creating a design for my library. I took the measurements from our actual Architect’s drawings and built the "room" and then went from there.

I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to play out. This was just a first draft of a design and it’s all kind of rough, but SketchupSketchup made is really easy to visualize how things would look and how the colors would work together. Here are a few pictures of my first go-round (more pictures after the break). Click on any of them to get a larger view.

Library Design 001-06

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Review: Zombie Fallout

Zombie Fallout Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Before I get started, I should admit that I could only make it halfway through this book because it was so bad, so I’m only reviewing the first half. However, I doubt the second half could have done anything to redeem what I’d already endured.

I really can’t understand all the good reviews of this book. The writing was horrible… inconsistent, juvenile in many cases, and packed full of grammatical errors. There were cultural references that were simply wrong… saying that the American Express motto was “Don’t go anywhere without it.” Really?

The author scattered in a selection of big words every now and then that were completely out of character with the rest of the writing. They weren’t unknown words (like “lugubrious”), but it made it appear as though he was stuck for a word and quickly thumbed through a thesaurus to grab a flashy adjective. It was simply distracting.

The main character was, in turn, smart then stupid then brave then a coward then loving then antagonistic… no consistency. The wife has absolutely no good qualities. It was just bad, bad, bad.

The writing aside, even the zombie part of the story didn’t make sense. One hour after things went spiraling into zombie apocalypse, there were rotting, maggot-ridden corpses? How does that work? The main character, even though he supposedly knew about zombies (from fiction) and had been sort of looking forward to the zombie apocalypse, didn’t seem to know to shoot them in the head. Wait… actually, he did mention that you needed to destroy the brain, but then he would waste entire clips of M16 ammo spraying the body of a single zombie… without killing it.

It was hard enough to stomach the bad writing and really bad characterizations, but then showing no respect for the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief took it over the top and into the land of discarded books.

I tried, though. I really tried.

Re-captioning old children’s books, FTW!

I think the devil does it.

Review: The Magicians

The Magicians The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Magicians is an absolutely wonderful book that un-selfconciously references Harry Potter, Narnia, Tolkien, and other fantasy works somehow without being plagiaristic at all. The main characters are wonderfully developed… distinctively different people who complement each other and keep the story racing along without a single dull moment.

Grossman ties the entire book together with articulate grace, weaving seemingly insignificant events at the beginning of the book into key points of the entire over-arching storyline. The Magicians is a truly satisfying read that left me wanting more.

View all my reviews

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne weaves a great story, interspersed with somewhat tedious observations about geology, paleontology, and evolution (thought not nearly as tedious as the repetitive classifications of aquatic life found in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). The characters are interesting, though the narrator (who is the nephew of the intrepid professor) tends to be whiny and overly dramatic (read “drama queen”) about the perils they are facing, sometimes to the chagrin of his uncle.

I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, and the book should properly be re-titled Journey a Small Percentage of the Way to the Center of the Earth but the story was entertaining, nevertheless. Verne is great at weaving stories in a way that makes it easy for you to imagine being in them yourself, and Journey is no exception.

I listened to the unabridged audio version of the book read by Tim Curry (making the book all the better, in my opinion!).

View all my reviews

Review: Footfall

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Footfall by Larry Niven
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was perhaps the most tedious science fiction book I’ve ever read… or listened to (I had the audio book). The book had way too many “main” characters, most of whom had no bearing on the outcome of the book. Some seemed completely pointless. The alien names were unnecessarily complex and having a section of the book describing their language and its construction seemed self indulgent (of the authors) and tedious.

The book suffered from a lack of coherent story line, uninteresting characters, pointless dialogue, and unbelievable events. The premise was interesting (alien invasion), but the execution was poor.

I give it two stars only because the narrator of the audio book (MacLeod Andrews) was simply spectacular. His narration was the reason I was able to suffer through the book to the (disappointing) ending.

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Seriously, guys? Swords would be less painful.

Boromir and Aragorn have a poetry-based pissing contest…

“Then let us start as soon as it is light tomorrow, if we can,” said Boromir. “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.”

“True!” said Aragorn, loosening his sword in its sheath. “But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.”

That’s an actual quote from The Lord of the Rings (a bit before the fellowship enters Moria). I kid you not.

It’s like Dr. Seuss briefly took over for Tolkien. WTF.

I made my d20 saving throw

Saving throw vs... Megan is reading the first book in the Warrior Series, a fantasy series about clans of cat warriors, and I asked her if, when she finished the first book, she was going to start the second one right away or if she was going to read one of the new Bella Sara horse books she just got.

She said, “I already started one of the Bella Sara books. I’m dual-wielding books.”

[…]

I’m so proud.

My daughter is awesome!

This evening, I was waiting for my new laptop to get through all its updates and my wife and I were watching NCIS while waiting, which allowed my eight-year-old daughter to stay up a little later than usual because… you know… we didn’t want to miss any of the NCIS episode to go tuck her in and I needed to be there to click “Next” on my laptop. Priorities.

While my daughter was, in turn, waiting for my wife and I to finish our important “tasks,” she grabbed some paper and colored pencils and wrote and illustrated a four-page book. Though the book doesn’t show off her graphic artistry (she can do much better), when I read the book, I was delighted… and proud. Here’s the book (click to embiggen).

Title Page
page01
Page 1
page02
Page 2
page03
Page 3
page04

Now, of course she doesn’t know everything, but if you’re going to learn everything, history and science are pretty good starting points. This creation of hers happened without any prompting on my part tonight, so I was especially pleased that she felt it was a cool enough topic to illustrate… in the 10 or 15 minutes she was waiting! She read it to me and my laptop and NCIS got ignored from that point.

I think my laptop is still prompting me to click “Next.”

15 Book Meme

I read about this a couple times already, but just saw it recently on (((Billy’s))) site and I figured I’d go along with it. Here’s the scoop.

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

So here’s my list. I came up with the list in short order, but took some time to fill out the descriptions and the reasons for the picks.

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
    This was the first real science fiction book that pulled me into its world. I read and re-read it countless times, soaking up the bits of "wisdom" before each chapter as if they were universal truths being surreptitiously revealed to me.
  2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Not much to say here except that LOTR is obviously the foundational work for fantasy and, other than skimming over the elvish songs when I read it (!!!), I savor every word.
  3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
    I forget how I heard about this book (Quality Paperback Book Club?), but it’s become one of my all time favorite trilogies. The world is fantastic. The characters are wonderful. The uniqueness is stunning. The message is delectable.
  4. Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
    This book is significant for me not because of all the content (it’s a big collection of essays, the title essay being just one of many), but because it was the first book I ever bought that had to do with my newly-realized atheism around age 13.
  5. Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
    This book was the perfect recipe to quench my thirst for epic fantasy after reading Lord of the Rings. Though much lighter in tone, the world and the mythology that Brooks created was still captivating and enticing.
  6. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    When I was a kid, this was my favorite book and it was the first time I ever memorized a book cover to cover. Max was awesome and brave and cool… and just a little bit bad.
  7. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
    Dinosaurs are cool… but dead. Who wouldn’t love to see an actual Jurassic Park with real dinosaurs in their "natural" habitat. Crichton sucked me in and had me on the edge of my seat with his tale of science gone amuck. I saw the movie first, then read the book, and when I saw the movie a second time, I realized how vivid Crichton’s prose was. I kept expecting to see scenes in the movie that I "remembered" from the first viewing, but were only scenes in my imagination, created by his words.
  8. The Stand by Stephen King
    This was a great post-apocalyptic yarn with really creepy parts (going through the corpse-filled Lincoln Tunnel in pitch blackness, anyone?). This cemented Stephen King onto my list as a great writer.
  9. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
    This was my first book by Harlan Ellison and I now have a shelf full of his works. Shatterday is a collection of short stories and it was the first short story collection that I ever read, in order, non-stop from cover to cover. Ellison is a master and is my all-time favorite author.
  10. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    As a science fiction fan, I was intrigued by the time travel aspect of this book. As it turns out, it’s not really science fiction, but is truly a love story… done in a way that makes time travel seem not just plausible, but catastrophically inconvenient… and sad… and happy… and scary.
  11. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
    This book just wowed me. Golden draws you into a Geisha’s life with such intricate detail while making you empathize with the character’s tragic situation with every bone of your body. His prose makes you feel like you’re inside a fantasy world, not a historical one.
  12. Cyborg by Martin Caiden
    This is the book that was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man with Lee Majors, though there were significant differences. Cyborg was a gritty action novel of "science," intrigue, spies, and politics… and it was way better than the TV show.
  13. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
    An epic Heinlein tale, Stranger was so sweeping that I don’t remember many of the details, but a few of them have stuck with me my entire life. It’s on a list of "read ’em again" books.
  14. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
    My mother introduced me to this book as it was a favorite of hers growing up. This wonderful tale of a young boy’s search to find and rescue a baby dragon on the Wild Island… a dragon that he learned about from an old alley cat. With wonderful talking animals, colorful characters, and a great happy ending, this is a terrific book that I passed on to my daughter.
  15. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
    I don’t remember the whole story of this book, but I remember it was my inspiration for how to survive when I ran away from home at age 12. I planned on living in the woods and surviving by using many of the techniques described in this book… though I ended up returning home the next day when I couldn’t get a fire started and got really, really homesick.

There’s my list. I could have added a few others, but those were the first ones that came to mind.