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Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Blaze of Glory

Blaze of Glory
Why no real cover?

In the apocalyptic novel Blaze of Glory by Weston Ochse, the world is overrun by zombies an extraterrestial blob of slime martian invaders maggots, which are seemingly exterminating all of humanity. The story follows an unlikely group of survivors, who for all they know could be the last living people on earth! They stick together to push through, but the odds are against them.

As this summary of the plot might show, the story of this book is very, very generic. In the post scriptum of the book, the author notes that he wanted to write a story in the B-movie genre alongside of Tremors and The Blob, and if that was the goal, he succeeded well. Too well, for my taste: The book has pretty much no unique flavor, no surprises, nothing to set it apart from all the other stories in this genre. Which is sad, because the characters are somewhat likeable and the general writing style is mostly fast-paced and easy to read. Had the author done just a little bit to make the story stand out from the rest, this could have been a great book. But as is, it’s just one of many.

Unless you are a huge fan of b-movie apocalyptic worlds, I can’t recommend this book.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: Isaac Bell Adventures

Isaac Bell Adventures
Why no real cover?

In the adventure novel series Isaac Bell Adventures by Clive Cussler, the handsome detective Isaac Bell solves crimes at the beginning of the 20th century. Isaac is a banker’s son with great wealth, but prefers the thrill of detective work. His family’s wealth does help, though. Together with his sharp mind, he has become the top agent of the Van Dorn private investigation agency.

Adventure novels. A strikingly smart, handsome, good and friendly protagonist. A smart, corrupt, evil and cruel antagonist. Some beautiful women who madly fall in love with the protagonist. If you are by now feeling all sick and wonder why you’re reading this, this series is not for you. If you went “oh, sounds fun”, then you should look at Cussler’s books.

The Isaac Bell series combines Cussler’s adventure book style with the somewhat unusual time of the very beginning of the 20th century, which is a refreshing change and interesting to read.

My main gripe with adventure novels is the portrayal of women. The white knighting theme is pretty strong, and that generally requires a damsel in distress. I know from the Fargo adventures that Cussler can and does write strong female characters, though. In the first book of the series, The Chase, the two main women are surprisingly strong when you consider the time it is set in. I do hope this is the lower bar for the rest of the series, not the upper end.

So, if you like adventure novels, especially of the Cussler kind, and would like to read them in a refreshingly new setting, Isaac Bell might be of interest to you.

Buchrezension: Der sterbende König

Der sterbende König
Warum kein richtiges Cover?

Der historische Roman Der sterbende König von Bernard Cornwell beginnt am Ende des neunten Jahrhunderts, zu einer Zeit, als sich die Dänen überraschend ruhig verhalten. König Alfred liegt im Sterben und sein Nachfolger Edward ist in Skandale verwickelt. Trotz dieser günstigen Gelegenheit scheinen die Dänen nicht angreifen zu wollen. Der Frieden, den der Christengott verspricht, scheint wahr zu werden. Als Kriegsherr Uhtred zu einer Bündnisverhandlung mit einem benachbarten König entsendet wird, stellt er jedoch fest, dass der Schein trügt.

Die Uhtred-Saga von Bernard Cornwell ist eine meiner absoluten Lieblingsbuchreihen. Cornwells Schreibstil finde ich hier besser als in allen anderen seiner Bücher, und ich mag die meisten seiner Bücher. Zudem gefällt mir das Setting wirklich gut. Cornwell schafft es, eine historische Welt mit vielen kleinen Details und Hintergründen zum Leben zu erwecken, ohne sich von der spannenden Haupthandlung ablenken zu lassen. Der sterbende König ist vielleicht nicht der beste Band aus der Uhtred-Saga, aber das nimmt dem Buch keinerlei Faszination.

Für Freunde historischer Romane und natürlich Cornwell-Fans einfach ein muss.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Douglas Hofstadter: Person Paper on Purity in Language

I found this text originally on cs.virginia.edu, but it got removed from there (update: it appears to be back). To preserve this gem on the internet, I copied it here.

A Person Paper on Purity in Language

William Satire (alias Douglas R. Hofstadter)

From Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, by Douglas R. Hofstadter, Basic Books, 1985.
(Original web version: http://www.bloomington.in.us/~abangert/person.html)

It's high time someone blew the whistle on all the silly prattle about revamping our language to suit the purposes of certain political fanatics. You know what I'm talking about-those who accuse speakers of English of what they call "racism." This awkward neologism, constructed by analogy with the well-established term "sexism," does not sit well in the ears, if I may mix my metaphors. But let us grant that in our society there may be injustices here and there in the treatment of either race from time to time, and let us even grant these people their terms "racism" and "racist." How valid, however, are the claims of the self-proclaimed "black libbers," or "negrists"-those who would radically change our language in order to "liberate" us poor dupes from its supposed racist bias?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taxes Are Not Simply Passed On To The Consumer

A recurring argument in political discussions regarding taxes is that taxes on corporations, products, or resources are not really affecting the corporations, as they are simply passed on to the consumer. This argument is, in the extreme form, simply false and is based on a common misconception of how prices are formed.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Elections

Tuesday is the US election, and it’s all over the news here. Even though I do not get to vote, it’s an election that will affect the whole world. Including me. So I tried to keep updated on it to have a well-formed opinion.

That was surprisingly hard.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Emacs: Search for Symbol at Point

One thing I regularly do is to try and look for other occurrences of the symbol at point in my buffer. This can serve as a poor man’s way of finding the definition or callers of a function, or uses of a variable. It’s kind of annoying to do that in Emacs by default, sadly. The following code from my .emacs will enable the key shortcut C-d in isearch to yank the symbol at point into the search string. So C-s C-d will then start a search for that symbol, and already highlight it. Keep hitting C-s to move to further occurrences.