Book Queue

In the queue, or done, or nearly so:

Larry Niven and Brenda Cooper, Building Harlequin’s Moon. I’d written off Niven when Ringworld Engineers came out in the early 80s (I read that, and couldn’t believe how bad it was). I don’t know how much is Cooper and how much is Niven, but this is the most enjoyable Niven I’ve read in twenty-plus years. 50pp from the end I can smell the coffee; it’s not going to get wrapped up, and we’ll see another book to actually finish things (I could be wrong). This wouldn’t necessarily be bad.

Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas. 50pp in, very well written, fascinating characters set in the Pacific Northwest. Will probably finish this book next.

Neal Stephenson, The Confusion. 250pp in, I can say that this moves along a lot quicker than the first book in the Baroque Cycle. There’s about a hundred pages involving a pretty satisfying “caper” of Half-Cocked Jack’s, and even the financial aspects of things are interesting this time around. I keep wanting to dig up my old textbooks on French history, so this can’t be too bad.

Advanced Renderman. I’ve yet to actually do any serious twiddling around with RenderMan, and I’ve probably had this book for a couple of years. Despite the word “Advanced” in the title, it’s pretty easy to understand, and there are a bunch of really good tutorials and SigGraph courses available from renderman.org. Recommended.

Beginning CSS (Wrox Press). Finally took a few hours to whip through what seemed like a pretty decent book on CSS; nowhere near as arbitrary or convoluted as I thought it was going to be.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction, 21st Annual Collection. Included Vinge’s The Cookie Monster (which wasn’t that good, but I did want to re-read it), and the simply dazzling Out in the Night (which gave me a couple of nightmares, I think). A pretty good collection.

Charles Stross, The Hidden Family. Second volume of a probable series of four (or ten! — read his blog entry on a cold-hearted approach writing fantasy); neatly wraps things up the way that The Guns of Avalon wrapped stuff up for the first Amber books. Neatly done and entertaining, if a little predictable, can’t wait for July’s Accelerando….

TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki looks . . . interesting. Link.

A rather electric Wiki. Not quite sure I like it yet. Cross between a blog and a wiki. Rather eye-poppingly strange the first time you click on a couple of links.

Oh yes, and it’s wholly self-contained. Very disturbing.

Boot this

Everybody and his brother are doing linux boot disks; here’s an index of them. Link.

This one is interesting; it contains a bunch of LISP environments and some books on LISP, including Paul Graham’s On Lisp. Link On today’s $300 cheapo box, this CD probably outperforms an MIT LISP machine by a factor of ten or a hundred.

SW6

‘Sith didn’t suck. Well, there were sucky bits, but on the whole it was pretty good.

I’m still upset that Jar Jar didn’t get knifed in the Senate, though. By everyone. “Wait, I want to use some lightning on him,” orders Palpatine. “Sorry,” says Yoda, “His ass I whupped.”

Contextual, well, context

Let’s just say that working on “abs” and “apps” has a completely different meaning when you’re talking about an 8 month old boy.

Okay, he *is* heavy. But it’s fun to hear him start to babble, a little like the “ab ba pa ka te ya we wa” stuff in Snow Crash.

Last night, the up-arrow key on my wife’s Dell laptop popped off. From several incidents with the cat I’ve achieved mastery of reinstalling the ordinary size keys on these keyboards (tools: tweezers, magnifying glass, lots of patience), but the smaller arrow key nearly vanquished me. First, the fiddly little plastic bits are way smaller than the nail on my pinky, and they have little plastic nubs that have to fit just so. Second, the fiddly bits are themselves springs, and as you pry them into place with the tweezers they have a tendency to leap, flea-like, literally yards onto the similarly-colored carpet, perilously close to the cat. Finally, there is no documentation, no figures to help you out, you just have to try a bunch of orientations until things fit.

Sproing! No, that is not a bug. Please don’t eat it…

Most irritating thing: That an expensive (okay, not that expensive) laptop can be brought to its knees by a fiddly plastic thing whose production cost is probably less than a penny.

SW6

Off to see Star Wars this morning. My employer handed me the ticket, so I assume it’s okay to go.

Top things I’d pay to see, tho –

– Jar-Jar binks dies in very messy slow motion. (“Hey, you in the projection booth! Back that up again and slooow crank it!”)

– Mace Windu muttering “I hate my goddamned name. Where does he come up with all these stupid names? I thought he studied mythology or something?”

– Just like there’s a planet full of lava, and a planet of water, and a planet where they apparently only do politics, have there be a planet of Knee-walking Demonic Purple Turtle-men. Planets are big. Why pigeonhole or stereotype them?

More code quality

Joel Spolsky has some things to say on the clarity of code. He makes a good point: Consistent style leads to code where it is more likely that you will spot wrong things (or at least, suspicious ones). He also makes some interesting points about type safety and the true motiviation behind Hungarian.

More gorp on how impossible exception handling is (link).

And those damned macros that jump all over the place. Bad news. (I used to like them. I got better).

Ajax

A nice essay on Ajax web applications (via kottke.org).

His introductory paragraph says it for me. Basically, all this pain and suffering is because browsers are designed very poorly for running applications. Most of the web is still like a smart 3270 terminal (okay, it can display pretty colors), and you can bolt Javascript in (as long as you don’t care about debugging). It’s hard to feel good about things like this, when we could have known better and done a better job ten years ago.

But it’s a good article. Have fun debugging the async message race conditions in Javascript.