Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nothing to Fear

by Jackie French Koller

This is a tale set in 1932, during the Great Depression. Danny Garvey is 13, the son of Irish immigrants, living in New York City. His father has been out of work for a while and, in desperation, decides to go on the road to look for work. Danny is left to face the day to day struggles of life, along with his mother and baby sister (And neighbors and friends and classmates....) as they long for his father's return by Christmas. My main complaint with the story is that the author pulls in too many elements of the poverty of the Great Depression. Through some of the supporting characters Danny gets a glimpse of a Hooverville, the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, begging, scamming, theft, welfare and the like. Maybe people really did experience that much in their individual lives, but I'm skeptical. Still it was an engaging and enjoyable read. The characters may be a bit flat, but the good guys are charismatic and the love they exude seems genuine. And if that doesn't make for good reading, what does?

Check it out!
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

From Colonies to Country

by Joy Hakim

Volume three of A History of US covers the Revolutionary War and the subsequent establishment of the federal government. Ah, what can I say? It's interesting reading, as I've come to expect from the series. But it's also reminiscent of a fan magazine--or website, in this here 21st Century. Ms. Hakim seems to gush on and on about the founders and the documents they created. She doesn't ignore their faults, as that would counter her ongoing equal rights agenda, but she does her best to excuse them. Of course, the problem is that when I encounter such partisan propaganda, I tend to start pulling the other way. So by the end of the book, I was in no mood to cut Jefferson and the rest of those durn Virginians any slack. Even if they do write good rhetoric.

Aw, check it out anyway.
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL® and Apache

by Julie C. Meloni

I didn't. I mean, I might have, if I had actually bought the book rather than borrowing it from the library, but I'm not that interested in PHP, et al. All I had in mind to do was set up a database that would list all of the fonts my employer owns along with a graphic displaying each one and maybe a list of descriptor tags. That way, the next time I'm called upon to design something for one of our clients, I don't have to spend an hour looking through our entire font catalogue. But, alas, there's no way the company's going to buy a copy of FileMaker Pro just for my convenience, so I thought maybe I could avail myself to some of that great open source software that's out there. I heard the name MySQL bandied about more than once and ended up downloading that only to discover that I had a whole lot to learn. Hence my interest in this book. The drawback is that I have MySQL loaded at work, while the book (along with the time to read it) is at home. Such is my rationalization for only skimming the book. And now it's time to return the tome to the library. So what can I say? It seems to be a well written book and I did pick up a bit of learnin' about PHP and this whole database thing. But I was not a dedicated enough student to truly teach myself anything. May you fare better in your own quest for knowledge.

I didn't read it! How can I rate it?
LibraryThing link

Friday, August 15, 2008

Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

My daughter has shamed me a bit in recent months. She's been on a Shakespeare kick--purchasing his works here and there from book sales and the like. Me, I've read a couple of plays and seen one or two others on television. I've never got around to reading these treasures of English literature. It was this shame, and the need to find a book that would fit in my lunch box, that led me to check out Shakespeare's Macbeth. 'Tis the tale of a Scottish thane or chieftain who, tempted by a cryptic prophecy, murders his king and tries to cover it up. There is much bloodshed and guilt, all set in iambic pentameter. The story was enjoyable enough, though I have to confess, I read through the synopsis before attempting to tackle the 17th Century English. (This, the Oxford School Shakespeare edition, is chock full of notes to help us poor students along in our studies.) Reading it spoiled the drama, but also helped me follow the story. So anyway, now my own guilt has been assuaged--for the nonce--and I can get back to reading more modern fluff. I don't think the child has procured a copy of Othello yet, anyway.

You must check it out--it's a requirement.
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Red Lightning

by John Varley

This one's a sequel to Red Thunder, the story of how good, ol' American ingenuity beat the Chinese to Mars. (Well, okay, it was American ingenuity backed by the nigh magical invention of an idiot savant.) It's some twenty years later and two of those first humans on Mars have settled onto the Red Planet. They run a hotel. Humanity is reaching for the stars, while the less adventurous settle for an interplanetary vacation. The story, however, really doesn't deal with that. The focus of Red Lightning is Earth. Earth has just suffered a great disaster--an object travelling at near light speed has skipped off the northern Atlantic Ocean and kicked up the most devastating tsunami the planet has ever seen. We're then privy to the adventures of the Garcia-Strickland clan as they deal with the disaster and its repercussions. Some of the latter are expected, some are, well, going off on a tangent. It doesn't make for great literature--it is a sequel, after all--but it's enjoyable enough.

It's very good waiting room material.
LibraryThing link

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How the States Got Their Shapes

by Mark Stein

Here's an intriguing book of trivia--a tome of a very specific historical niche. Have you ever looked at a state map and wondered why the border runs like it does? No? Er, well, trust me, there are weirdoes like me who love maps and sit and gaze upon all the little quirks and details. And there are some, like me, who have wondered why the heck Michigan has an upper peninsula or why Utah has that notch. Such secrets are revealed in this book, as the logic (or politics) behind each twist and turn of the borders of the United States are recounted. On one hand it was interesting. I didn't realize all the finagling that went into our borders. I was shocked to find out that folks attempted to solve some border disputes with guns--after we had become a country. However, for all the moments of interest, there were moments of tedium as well. Each state has its own chapter and as such you get some repetition. After all, once you explain the borders of say, Idaho, you've suddenly got a preview of the stories of the surrounding states. Needless to say, reading the story of Wyoming, was less than fascinating. Still, it's an excellent book to fill ten minutes in a waiting room or something.

LibraryThing link

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