March 28, 2010

Anne Steelyard, Barbara Hambly

I'd like to love this, but I don't. The title character is between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones in both era and temperament, and it's aiming for Terry and the Pirates glamour and adventure, but it's a little too predictable. Also, I find too many of the drawings are off around the eyes; the characters aren't looking where I think they're meant to be looking, which is distracting.

Still, if you like this sort of thing, here's a lot of it.

Find in a Library: Anne Steelyard

Posted by clew at 10:15 PM

The Map that Changed the World, Simon Winchester

William Smith was a working man, a largely self-taught surveyor in the enclosures-and-canals era of England. He could not, therefore, travel around the world like Charles Darwin and spend decades afterwards thinking about what he saw; but he was intensely attentive to the rocks his mines and canals cut through, and the fossils in them, so much so that he invented stratigraphy, the science of understanding geology by looking at the layers rocks are laid in. He was most professionally interested in knowing where coal was likely to be, and where canals wouldn't leak.

England seems to be a pretty good place to do this, but still: most people didn't cotton on. No-one else thought of mapping the geology of Britain, the whole thing!, by dint of travelling across just about all of it personally, taking notes and samples. Several people admired the map that resulted enough to plagiarize it, though; because Smith was not gentle, and not suave, he had a long bad stretch of life in which no-one arranged reward or payment or even interesting work for him. (He gets a patron before he dies, though.) Grand formal English science was half built on excluding outsiders (n.b.; how did Humphry Davy wedge himself in? Faint ties to gentility and friends in the Friends, looks like).

Find in a Library: The Map that Changed the World

Posted by clew at 10:07 PM

March 21, 2010

507 Mechanical Movements: Mechanisms and Devices. Henry T. Brown

This has been reprinted for about a hundred years now, and it needs a rebirth as a catalogue of existing plans for whichever 3D printers or material-removing equivalents become popular. We could index them not just by the proper name of the gear or linkage but by the action it effects and the problem it's meant to avoid.

Not that I'm going to do it, lazy lazy, but I look forward to the news.

Update, after poking around: there's a lovely but purely 2D physics program, Phun or Algodoo, that lets you design and operate 2D linkages and gears, and I've read that one can take screenshots of that and export to svg and cut the 2D parts at, e.g., Ponoko. Makerbot's Thingiverse is a catalogue of 3D parts, including gears and linkages, which is where I'd put the 507 devices. Boy, does this seem to me to call for a formal and considered hierarchy as well as a folksonomy.

Find in a Library: 507 Mechanical Movements (That only links to one particular edition; check your libraries for the title.)

Posted by clew at 11:19 AM

March 06, 2010

The Air We Breathe, Andrea Barrett

The air we breathe can be as warm and unconsidered as family love, or carry a disease as subtle as distrust, or waft outright poison like betrayal.

Find in a Library: The Air we Breathe

Posted by clew at 05:05 PM

London in Chains, Gillian Bradshaw

*Pots* of fun; a bildungsroman in which a young woman deals with family tragedy, civil war, political plotting, and sexism by dauntlessly becoming a printer. Also, romance!

Find in a Library: London in Chains

Posted by clew at 04:49 PM

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

This is America. People do whatever the fuck they feel like doing, you got a problem with that? Because they have a right to. And because they have guns and no one can fucking stop them. As a result, this country has one of the worst economies in the world. When it gets down to it -- talking trade balances here -- once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here -- once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel -- once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani bricklayer would consider to be prosperity

I had forgotten how specific to America and free trade that jeremiad was. No-one can tell us what to do, so we hang separately rather than together, literally losing much of the nation to extraterritorial franchises like the English compounds in China before the Opium Wars.

Find in a Library: Snow Crash

Posted by clew at 04:44 PM
« February 2010 | Main | May 2010 »