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27 Responses

  1. Michael Cain says:

    I’m slogging my way through the final book of Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy (four book series in paperback). I’m not particularly enamored of it, but have too much time invested not to finish. I’m reading a pirated copy on my old Nook — although I could borrow a hardcover copy from my local library — which raises a couple of tangential questions.

    I’m finally thinking seriously about replacing the Nook with an inexpensive 7″ tablet. Anyone have any recommendations for such a device that pleasantly surprised them as to value? The Nexus 7 has been well-recommended by some of my acquaintances, but only in the form of “my friend loves their Nexus 7”. No one I know seems to actually own one.

    One of the projects that I keep restarting every year or so is a DIY book scanner based on a digital camera and a bunch of software post-processing. At some point we’ll move into a smaller place, and I don’t want to have to leave books behind. The first time I started my intent was to have a production chain all the way from image to OCR to epub format. Lately I’ve been thinking that image compression has gotten good enough and hard disks so big that I could just stop at images. Thoughts?Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Images means no search, which is one of my favorite things about e-books. (“Where did that character come from?”)Report

      • Search is en excellent point. Perhaps I’ll think in terms of two separate processes — one to capture images and take care of all the associated problems (uniform brightness, flattening, deskewing, the stuff that interferes with OCR), and then a second one at some point to do the OCR (and things like recognizing chapter breaks, etc).Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Michael Cain says:

      As OCR’s gotten better and the error rate has dropped, the few remaining errors are even more aggravating. Your own time is worth something. Schilling’s point is well-taken, what’s the point of an e-book if you can’t search it?

      So I just finished built a set of bookshelves for Just Me. Unpacked a great plastic container full of her paperbacks onto them. A few of them are interesting, the rest are of the sort which won’t ever be read again. Solution: put most them into those gigantor cat litter tubs and put them under the basement couch.

      I’ve been stoutly resisting the urge to get a tablet.

      Tad Williams’ Otherland is the greatest set of novels of its type.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I’ve been stoutly resisting the urge to get a tablet.

        So have I, in hopes that I could get suitable technology to replace the black notebook full of half-sized paper that I’ve carried around for 35+ years. The biggest hurdle is I/O suitable for math notes in my cramped little handwriting. I have no hope for handwriting recognition (my wife’s description of it is “Your handwriting gives the appearance of great neatness, but no one but you has a prayer of figuring out what the tidy squiggles actually say“). Of late, I’ve been thinking in terms of some way to carry a tablet inside the black notebook along with blank paper, and just taking pictures of the paper at the end of the day.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Heh. I’ve been carrying a leather folder with A4 graph paper for somewhat longer. Years ago, at Panasonic, we had the coolest white board. We’d write on it, then press a button. The surface would go round the two rollers at either end, producing a lovely paper copy come spooling out the bottom.

        I use my phone all the time to photograph white boards.

        What mathematicians need is a better front-end for TeX, or maybe Wolfram can give us a better interface to Mathematica. Wouldn’t that be great?Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to BlaiseP says:

        What mathematicians need is a better front-end for TeX, or maybe Wolfram can give us a better interface to Mathematica. Wouldn’t that be great?

        It would. During my infrequent bouts of teaching, I point out repeatedly to the students that notation matters. Ditto on those occasions when I reviewed journal papers for the IEEE. Clumsy notation disappears over the decades/centuries, replaced by things that can be written quickly and clearly. Math flows down the page the way that it does for good reasons. I’d love to have an input device that takes my math — which is much more clearly written than my text — and let TeX or Mathematica render it beautifully. But almost by definition, a “better” front-end is going to read conventional notation. Of course, such in input device would let me write my indecipherable text and capture it as an image that I, at least, could read.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Been thinking about this ever since I wrote the comment. The most obvious interface would drive Mathematica with speech-to-text.

        Set Options
        first argument Plot,
        second argument Display function element identity.
        close Plot.
        next line
        declare variable p equals Plot
        first argument cosine argument three mult x
        second argument
        open curly
        three args
        first arg x second arg 0 third arg pi
        close curly
        close plot
        next line
        first argument variable p dot epsilon
        second argument
        variable p
        close export.
        next line

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Michael Cain says:

      “I’m slogging my way through the final book of Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy (four book series in paperback). ”

      We library literalists really need to organize to take back the word “trilogy.”Report

    • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Uggh, those books.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:


    How does that work, 13 anti-neutrons?Report

  3. Mike Schilling says:

    Books are a tough racket these days, what with the competition from Amazon, the other online merchants, and torrents. The kids like to go to bookstores, so we’ll go when they’re home, but otherwise I haven’t been to one for years. My purchases are all from online sources. (I’m glad my friend the bookseller who got us into the Neil Gaiman signing isn’t reading this.)Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    I just got the Goldfinch by Donna Tart.Report

  5. Burt Likko says:

    Longtime readers of this blog will be glad to know that I’m reading a book about the development of the steamship trade in early nineteenth-century America.Report

  6. Maribou says:

    I’m reading The Trials of Renegade X and Stay, Illusion! and Tales for Canterbury and some other things.

    Watching Luther Season 3, though I’m almost done, so after that it’ll be back to B5.Report

  7. KatherineMW says:

    Watching Firefly! Got it from the library to see if I like it enough for it to be worth downloading.

    It’s very good. It makes me understand why people are so disappointed with Agents of SHIELD (another “Joss Whedon show”, although in fact it’s made by his sister and brother-in-law) in comparison. The first episode does a good job of introducing the entire (quite large) cast as multifaceted characters and showing how they relate to each other, and the rest of the show continues their development quite well.

    I can certainly see the libertarian aspects of the show (aside from their treatment of River, the Alliance isn’t outright evil in the same way as the empires of your typical space opera, but the ‘good guys’ are still criminals; and there’s certainly deliberate messages about the apathy of centralized governments towards the well-being of individuals). On the other hand, you can’t really talk about a government’s actions “aside from” severe human rights violations (i.e. what they did to River) – it would be justified to resist them even if that was the only thing. The second episode is well-done in the interactions between the criminals (both the crew and the group who hires them), local justice system, and Alliance military, though I’m amused by Mal’s horror that crime often involves actions which are – shock! surprise! – highly unethical. Sorry if this departs a little too much from pop culture towards politics.

    I’m impressed with the level of both gender and racial diversity in the show – much better than your average TV program – though I’m disappointed so far at how little character development we’ve gotten of Zoe. She’s the second-in-command, but mostly she’s just…there. The character focus seems to have been on Mal, Inara, Simon, and River, plus one big episode for Jayne, and Kaylee and Book are good characters (in Kaylee’s case, I really like making the mechanic the heart of the team, because in Star Trek they’re generally characterized primarily as just “the mechanic”), but not a lot has been done with Zoe.

    I was worried about a degree of Confederate kitsch in the show, but so far aside from one line in the second episode (“we will rise again”, in reference to the Independent rebellion against the Alliance), there’s been nothing.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Zoe gets better treatment as the show goes on. By Serenity (have you seen Serenity yet?), your main gripes will be about Fox Programming Executives.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Jaybird says:

        I can understand why the show was cancelled despite being good. Star Trek wasn’t highly popular until after the original series had been cancelled, and afterwards (TNG onwards) was famous enough that people watching had a general idea of what was going on. Babylon 5 provided a summary of the context in its intro, for every episode. Firefly doesn’t do anything along those lines – it would be hard for people to start watching in the middle and have a good idea of what was going on. (“It’s in space, so why aren’t there aliens? Why is everything so old-west-y? Why is the crazy girl crazy?”) That makes it hard to build up viewership.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Jaybird says:

        The biggest reason it was hard to build up viewership is that Fox moved it around to a different timeslot almost every week. Cause, you know, that’s a really great move for a new show.Report

  8. KatherineMW says:

    Addition – favourite nearly-fell-out-of-my-seat-laughing line: “Well, my days of not taking you seriously have certainly reached a middle.” It’s got the be the only classic Firefly line that hasn’t been spoiled for me yet.Report

  9. Tod Kelly says:

    My reading log this week:

    Knee deep in Bill Bryson’s new book, One Summer: America, 1927. Finished Soon I Will Be Invincible. Started and finished the AMAZING Living In Faith, Dwelling by Doubt by the fabulous Kyle Cupp. (If you haven’t bought it yet, you should. It’s on Kindle.) Have just tiptoed into yet another reading of Summer of the Gods and Trials of the Monkey both, and have been reading many, many articles on beauty pageants in general and Mrs. America specifically. Have read an estimated one hundred gazillion emails helpfully letting me know that I am a mangina.

    My watching log:

    Not too much. A little World Series here, a Duck’s game there. Finished season one of Revolution and am almost caught up in season two. Watched the latest Homeland, and was surprised at how relieved I was that I don’t have to hate Saul anymore.Report

  10. Michael Cain says:

    I will admit that, knowing roughly where you live, I jumped to a conclusion about the “fire suppression theory” phrase that appeared on the main page teaser that was something different entirely. I don’t even want to think about what happens if they try a Halon dump big enough to knock down a wildfire of a few hundred acres :^)Report

  11. Reformed Republican says:

    Reading: about 2/3 of the way through Book 4 of The Wheel of Time. I also started reading Mike Carey’s Lucifer, and I am working through the 2nd volume.

    Watching: the Ricky Gervais comedy Derek is in Netflix, so I decided to check it out. It is a good show, though not as non-stop funny as The Office. It is set in a nursing home. The main characters are losers and outcasts of various types. Ricky’s character is very odd, possibly autistic. The one thing that I really like about this show is that it is “nice.” Many comedies are mean-spirited, and that is where much of the humor comes from. Derek is a bit more sentimental and sweet, which is a good change.

    Also, last night’s Hell in a Cell was firmly in the “meh” category.Report