[personal profile] jtniehof
These things sit around in draft form far too long. You can tell I was sick a lot in March. The Grey King, Silver on the Tree, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Chaos:Making a New Science, Network Security Through Data Analysis, Spice and Wolf 11 and 12, Matplotlib for Python Developers, The First Three Minutes, How to Write A Lot, The Last Three Minutes, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, Flag, Testament of Sister New Devil, Sailor Moon, Rumbling Hearts / Kiminozo, Akatsuki no Yona, Saekano, ALDNOAH.ZERO, Bicentennial Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Last Man on Earth, Shin Sekai Yori manga 5-7.

The Grey King (Susan Cooper) (reread): After I complained about the insignificance of the link to the past, this volume strengthens it dramatically. Otherwise it's a bit weak, probably the weakest of the bunch. Partly I'm turned off by the Newbery Medal: not the medal itself, but the book got it for (the link is a spoiler) the usual reason.

Silver on the Tree (Susan Cooper) (reread): This installment in particular, and I think the series in general, is good but not necessarily memorable: little sticks out. So even though it was a fine read and I enjoyed picking it up each time, it has slipped away as it did the first time I read the series.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston) (reread): It has been a long time, and fortunately my high school marginalia are now illegible and incapable of embarassing. I can only describe this book as "rich": every scene is strongly felt in the moment so it pulls me along as a reader, even if it's not packed with "sense vocabulary".I feel poorly equipped to comment on its controversial nature. Certainly as an easy book for a white man to read, it can be limited as an agent of change: comforting the comfortable. The surrounding material in this edition provides some context for the controversy; there has been perhaps some shift in emphasis from common strategy to individual lived experiences that made this book more palatable than it was at first writing.

Chaos:Making a New Science (James Gleick) (reread): I wish, wish, wish historians of science would stop worshiping at the feet of Kuhn. Everything turns into this story of "the establishment didn't believe this obviously correct new work and persecuted the person who presented it." It's just so simplistic. If you can read around the beating up on strawman science, it's a fairly interesting history (although a little too wordy). A bit more technical depth would have made it a lot more interesting, perhaps at the cost of alienating half the audience. It's also gotten very dated: on the one hand chaos theory hasn't proven to be the grand independent science of universal truths, on the other hand a lot of the techniques and principles have been integrated into the mainstream. I trolled the references list for papers and that may prove the most useful part of this reread.

Network Security Through Data Analysis (Michael S. Collins): Exactly what it says on the tin: for those concerned with the effective security-oriented monitoring of a network, not just a host or two. Goes well beyond the usual recommended software, describing tools and techniques for building a monitoring system tuned to the needs of a network and organization. Highly recommended if you're in that situation; for those responsible for a handful of hosts or without the FTEs to spend on proactive security, this is probably well out of scope.

Spice and Wolf 11 (Isuna Hasekura): I must have read this in the last round of Spice and Wolf but forgot to write it up. Two more shorts, one more novella-length. An ongoing style issue grates on me more and more, particularly badly in the first short. I can't tell if it's the original writing style, the translation, or (more likely) the difficulty of translating what's intended as a very subtle style. Regardless, the dialogue is full of dancing around topics and implying rather than stating, both in personal conversations and the, shall we say, "brainteasers" set up in the plot. The narration, then, rather than giving the poor reader some hint, just waxes eloquent about what subtle conversations these are. Argh. Pet peeve aside, these are pretty enjoyable, in the vein of what I've come to expect. I rather liked the last entry although it's hardly a happy ending, since it gave a great insight on the character of an antagonist from the last few novels.

Spice and Wolf 12 (Isuna Hasekura): Back to the main storyline (at its usual glacial pace), and a nicely put-together story with the politics and economics and a little mystery to solve, all as we've come to expect when this series is going strong. (Besides getting some snow physics wrong.) I still find the Holo/Lawrence relationship more irritating than intriguing, but had a great time with this one.

Matplotlib for Python Developers (Sandro Tosi): Hands-down the best part of this book is the details on embedding matplotlib into desktop and web applications. The introductory material to matplotlib itself is adequate for getting pointed in the right direction, but lacks detail for any customization or complexity, leaving one to the mercies of the (uneven) official documentation. There are also a few points of outright confusion (the example code and text contradict each other on units for polar plots.)

The First Three Minutes (Steven Weinberg) (reread): It's been a long time since the last read, and I understood so much more this time, even without any more particle physics background. (Quite some distance from my field.) I did wish for a little more scientific detail; I'm starting to be spoiled for popular-level science writing, I guess. This is beautifully, brilliantly clear, and as far as I know the basics of Big Bang nucleosynthesis are still accurate (at this level of detail). I do wish for a full revision, properly integrating inflation and the possibilities of quark-gluon plasma, since the age shows despite the afterword's sketch of "progress since". Unfortunately that would also bring it further from Weinberg's core competencies.

How to Write A Lot (Paul J. Silva): I can summarize the entire book as "sit down and bang your mitts against the keyboard", but this slim volume sets out a comprehensive system for making that happen. Anybody who writes for a living needs to read this book. It is a hard-nosed practical work on simple mechanics that manages to be inspiring.

The Last Three Minutes (Paul Davies) (reread): Less interesting this time around; the details of and support for scientific theory are mainly brushed aside in favor of very tenuously connected speculation. It also seems, oddly, more dated than Weinberg. Still a useful read for those interested in scientific eschatology, both the broad strokes ("Forever is a Long Time" is the strongest chapter) and some odd little corners.

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (James Finn Garner): It's hard to tell which way the satire gun is pointed here: is this an exposé of the genuinely terrible attitudes that underlie our children's stories, or is it hand-wringing over a strawman of "political correctness" that ruins everything? I'll admit that regardless it's funny, but I couldn't describe why, or if I should feel uncomfortable finding it funny (actually was uncomfortable about half the time.)

Flag: Clearly a Takahashi Ryousuke series, with strong echoes of Gasaraki, but a firmer resolution than either Gasaraki or Votoms. It is quite slow, with a story that evolves rather than jumping through progressive revelations. The visual style (entirely through viewfinders of some sort) will probably put some off; I managed to adjust. The bare plot is sufficiently interesting, but the choice of the journalist POV raises questions about the line between reporting the news and making the news. The setting is clearly a fictionalized Tibet; the theme is clearly applicable to Iraq.

Testament of Sister New Devil: I initially passed based on the premise, then with all the good buzz figured I'd give it a shot (five episodes, even.) It started out terribly but took an interesting turn near the end of the first episode...basically, they've seen DxD and YuSibu. There were bits of interesting going on, but insufficient to be worth the few minutes of really rapey bits every episode.

Sailor Moon (as in, just Sailor Moon, no letters or crystals): Having never watched (so I have to be filled in on the dub references from my viewing companion), this is quite the experience in cultural history. For one, wow there's no budget here. I know, early 90's TV anime isn't aging well, but we're also watching Ranma and it's looking better! It's also really hard to take seriously, or rather very easy to mock, since it is just so painfully earnest -- of course, also one of its strengths. Despite the formulaic feel, they manage just the right combination of repetition and varying the theme (to then repeat the new themet).

Rumbling Hearts / Kiminozo: Common for dating sim protagonists, Takayuki is short on personality and any interests outside of the girls (who each do have a few points of character). The situation drives the melodrama, rather than any feeling for the characters in particular. And if you're into unabashed melodrama, this delivers. It is paced extremely well, with a good balance between current events and flashback fill-in. The resolution's a bit wobbly (I think they tried too hard to delay the final switch onto one girl's ending) but still hits an emotional punch in the last few minutes. It's a solidly put-together dating sim heart-wrencher: if that's a genre you like, it should work, but it doesn't transcend the genre.

Akatsuki no Yona: Obviously a Pierrot show, in the vein of Juuni Kokki and particularly Fushigi Yuugi, this nicely tickled that part of my fancy: very pretty, great scenery, some fantasy red meat. Bordering on too slow: we never catch back up to the end of episode 1, spending the time instead on Yona's personal development. Given the rushed final episode, I'm guessing they were hoping for more and got caught flat-footed.

Saekano: Although never quite returning to the comic heights of the prologue episode, darn funny throughout. Despite the labels slapped on her, Megumi turns into a pretty interesting character -- if you're a fan of Kasumi's unflappability in Ranma, you'll like Megumi. This one, again, ended in the middle, looking like they either really expected more or were planning to shove us off to the novels all along. I'm not sure how well the novels would work, though; the visuals were a pretty good chunk of the show.

ALDNOAH.ZERO: Marty Stu and another kid have a dick-waving competition that fuels an interplanetary war. Supposed to be a great interpersonal rivalry set against the backdrop of massive forces colliding, and fails. The music is great and it's pretty, but slogging through the whole thing was a waste.

Bicentennial Man: I like Robin Williams and Sam Neill, very nice casting and delivery. The feel of the novella was well captured by the first half of the film, but by the conclusion the movie was out in the weeds in a way that I think undermined the whole premise.

Guardians of the Galaxy: I had some fun, yet not the wild wonderful ride I'd come to expect from the buzz. I appreciated, as has been said, that it was played a little less seriously and a little more for fun than the other Marvelverse movies, but as a result I didn't feel engaged at Big Important Moments. It didn't help that the universe was thrown at the audience in one big lump so I didn't particularly care about what we were defending by the end -- and weren't they just the bad guys thirty minutes back? The nuances of morality just didn't come through. Finally, it's all going to tie into the next Avengers. Since we've given up on SHIELD as a stinker, and they've made it clear you have to watch everything in exactly the correct order, my willingness to put in the effort is pretty well shot.

The Last Man on Earth: Fine premise that degenerated into being all about Phil trying to get laid, after burning all the funny in the first episode. It doesn't help that none of the characters (except the wiffle ball) have any redeeming qualities or interest, to a level that makes me more annoyed with the writers than the characters. So, over the shoulder after three and a half episodes.

Shin Sekai Yori manga 5-7: I picked a bad breaking point, since 4-7 are one continuous story. It's a bit hard to follow at times, with flashbacks and flash-sideways and characters that look similar to each other, but are each drawn somewhat differently in different light. In the end, the tone slid from moral ambiguity into downright repulsiveness. (This includes the yuri elements, which descended into statutory.) People talk about the anime being very different, so maybe I'll check it out. (The manga supposedly tracks the novel closely.)

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