Wednesday, February 25, 2009

[books] A Study In Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This remains one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes novelistas - its very obvious why Sir ACD's work became so popular - edge of the seat who-dun-it and the greater story is really the backstory behind the story. Really good stuff; if you have never read any Sherlock Holmes, this is the book to start with (and its free!!!!)

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[books] The Gods Of Mars

The Gods of Mars (Barsoom, Book 2) The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pulp fiction at its best - beautiful princesses that need to be rescued from monsters or monstrous people, ridiculous amounts of gore, great acts of bravery and a hero (the only earthman on mars) who is far superior to the rest of the martians - this book has it all. Good to read for pure, mind numbing entertainment but don't expect to derive any long enduring benefits or deep thoughts from this one.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

iMovie '09 / Full Switzerland Video

I finally got my hands on iMovie '09, thanks to Andy and the Lattners. I used it to produce the following video.

o I like the cheesy project wide transitions and themes you can apply.
o It seems less buggy than iMovie '08
o The slow motion is pretty cool - once you find it.

o Still VERY buggy. I had to retranscode my video several times before iMovie didn't insert periods of black frames or get stuck for several minutes. My theory is that iMovie does not deal well with b-frames in a clip that point to i-frames outside the clip. When this happens, iMovie freaks out and inserts a long period of black or just freezes on the last i-frame. Either way, it blows. My workaround was to "convert" each clip where this was happening - and that seemed to solve the problem.
o Their "large" is too small to qualify for youtube HD - which means that this video is only available in HQ. Annoying when your source material is definitely HD. I think I can get around this; more experimentation to follow.
o No good audio editing. Lots of people on the interwebs have posted about this and they're mostly right.
o Did I mention that it was very buggy?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting, translated, swedish fiction. The subject matter is rather dark and I don't regularly read detective novels anymore, so in some sense this was a welcome change, but it also reminded me of why I gave up on this genre. The writing (or the translation) is interesting - its very to the point, matter-of-fact sort of narration. It gives the book a very wierd feel - almost like you are reading a scientific paper or something but with a murder mystery and lots of sex. Very strange. Its got a bit of computer hackery thrown in - quite funny if you know what he's talking about and what can be actually done and which parts are written with a rather liberal literary license. All in all, a "Borrow" at best, good for quick reading on a plane or something but not worth your valuable dollars (or francs, as the case may be).

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Flumserberg, Switzerland

[edit] Go to the video at YouTube and hit the play in HD if you want the primo quality stuff.

Going up the lift at Flums. The morning was really nice above the cloud cover; then the clouds came up and spoiled it all :(

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gang Leader For a Day

[update: s/Gag/Gang/]

Gang Leader for a Day Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you were ever a fan of The Wire (and who isn't) - this is a book for you. I picked up this book by accident - Indian dude on the cover, catchy title and I have read Freakonomics and really enjoyed the analysis of how gangs worked; quite enough for me to pick up the book and start reading in the bookstore.

I didn't really buy the book the first time around - just put it on my list of "should read later" books. I was delighted to find it in the library and picked it up on my way to board a long flight. This turned out to be a *great* idea: the book is really hard to put down, the tales of life in the Chicago projects is so gripping - its this unreal world that is only miles away from the really rich parts - and did I mention that it is absolutely unreal?

Venkatesh is (or was at the time of writing) a grad student at the U. of C. and as one of his early projects had to go survey people in the chicago projects. The crazy thing is that he actually did it - he went into the projects to these scary looking black guys and asked them "How does it feel to be poor: a)Very angry b)Somewhat angry c)Neutral d)Not Bad" (The question is mine - I made it up, but the original survey was not that far off). After the scary black dudes with guns stop laughing, they think that Venkatesh is a member of a rival latino gang and want to kill him until the boss steps in and lets Venkatesh in (sort of). What starts here blossoms into this 4+ year friendship between Venkatesh and J.T. that gives him unrivalled access to members of the Black Kings (various names are changed for anonymity, I'm just using the same names used in the book) including several years worth of detailed accounting data about all the gangs activities. This later formed the basis of Venkatesh's collaboration with Stephen Levitt (of Freakonomics fame).

The book is at once a portrayal of life in the american ghetto and an account of Venkatesh's personal story as he comes to grips with what he's doing and what his project has evolved into. The decisions that he has to make - is he a neutral, like a journalist? Should he help the man who just got shot? Should he buy food for the kids who don't have money to eat because the mom spent it on crack? He brings to the surface the real underbelly of America's capitalist machine - the people that society forgot and would rather not be reminded of.

All in all, an excellent book. Fast, easy read (the prose is easy, not the subject matter). Buy / borrow it today.

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