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wiredweird "wiredweird" (Earth, or somewhere nearby)

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The Nothing that Is: A Natural History of Zero
The Nothing that Is: A Natural History of Zero
by Robert Kaplan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.91
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars What is nothing?, June 16 2004
It may be hard see the problem now, but the concept of zero was a tough one for people to accept. How can I do anything with something that is, by definition, not something?
This is a history of zero, the mathematical concept. As with most great ideas, it had no real beginning. Instead, Kaplan presents a patchwork where parts of the concept appeared, traveled, vanished, merged, and re-emerged many times. Persia, India, Greece - all have some claim to some part of zero's heritage. Europe was the latecomer, accepting zero only after declaring it the work of the devil or the devil himself!
There is no, or almost no math here. That shows remarkable restraint on Kaplan's part, since he clearly knows the mathematical history at least as well as the social history presented here. The low-math style keep the tone light, and makes it easy to appreciate Kaplan's far-ranging and amusing style. In fact, a few of the very last chapters are so far-ranging and draw so many distant analogies that they contain near-zero amounts of zero itself. That isn't a problem, though, since Kaplan's whirlwind tour of history, astronomy, literature, theology, and more is entertaining by itself.
It's a fun read and full of amusing facts, but comes across a bit 'lite'. Kaplan is explicit: weaving a whole historical cloth from these many threads would be demanding enough to kill the pleasure of the story. Academic rigor is clearly a choice open to Kaplan, and he declined.
This is a good beach book for anyone, but especially if your tan usually comes from the glow of a CRT.

Art Restoration: The Culture, the Business and the Scandal
Art Restoration: The Culture, the Business and the Scandal
by James Beck
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from CDN$ 13.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Michealangelo was murdered --, June 15 2004
-- some time in the 1980s. At least, his work on the Sistine Chapel was murdered, the way Beck and Daley describe it.
On a technical level, this book is outstanding. Beck starts with a few hard, historical facts. First is that fresco has two forms. "Fresco buono" embedded pigment in wet plaster; it was always rushed by the drying plaster and limited in color by plaster's harsh chemistry. "Freso secco" was paint with animal glue binder, painted over dry plaster or buone. It gave plenty of opportunity for layers of subtle, painterly effects and for use of fragile colors. The second historical fact is that plaster dries in minutes or hours, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel took years. Beck offers volumes more historical data, but it's clear that a lot more than drying plaster went on.
The so-called conservators of the Sistine Chapel insisted that the organic layer over the plaster was not Michaelangelo's work. When they cleaned the ceiling, they scrubbed it down to raw plaster, the fresco buono. Any secco work literally went down the drain with the wash water. Beck argues, very convincingly, that all of the subtlety and all that made Michaelangelo's work unique went with it.
Beck offers many more examples of harsh, even destructive treatments of historical art treasures. That brings us to the book's second level, the social one. It opens the book with Beck under fire in four separate lawsuits in Italy. The case in point was his report of a disastrous treatment of a sculpture about which he had unique knowledge and insight. The plaintiff in all four cases was the conservator who had done the job, supposedly defending his personal honor, his profession, and perhaps all of Italy against any slight by a mere expert.
If it weren't for the facts laid out, this would look like some weird conspiracy theory. As it is, Beck (and now artwatchinternational.org) is a voice that speaks for paintings and sculptures that can not speak for themselves, and can not plead for themselves against the solvents and scalpels of the "cleaners."
This book very clearly describes the threat to our legacy of artworks, and the wall of silence around those who present the threat. It is chilling.

Marbled Designs: A Complete Guide to Fifty-Five Elegant Patterns
Marbled Designs: A Complete Guide to Fifty-Five Elegant Patterns
by Patty Schleicher
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 75.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not the first book., June 14 2004
This is a catalog of patterns for marbled papers, including many traditional and some modern patterns. It certainly isn't exhaustive, but contains may brilliant examples to work from.
The real value of this book is in the patterns if shows, not just the figures but some very striking color combinations. Each page gives instructions, in a highly condensed format, for recreating the pattern on your own.
This is not an introduction to marbling, though. It gives very little description of materials, tools, and basic methods. You should already have some experience at marbling before you pick this up. Beginners should look elsewhere and practice a bit before looking for inspiration here.
This book isn't for the pro or for the just-starting. It might make a good second book for an amateur crafter, though.

Marbling Techniques: How to Create Traditional and Contemporary Designs on Paper and Fabric
Marbling Techniques: How to Create Traditional and Contemporary Designs on Paper and Fabric
by Wendy Addison Medeiros
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 38.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical and readable, June 14 2004
This is a great introduction to paper marbling - the technique that produces those wonderful swirls, feathery patterns, and colored speckles on paper.
The book is divided very roughly into three parts. The first gives clear recipes and techniques for preparing the marbling media and paints, for choosing and preparing the paper or fabric, and for creating the patterns. The authors are sensitive to the needs of the home crafter, and generally avoid exotic materials and tools. The second part of the book is a visual catalog of marbled patterns with directions for making them yourself. The final section of the book suggests uses for the marbled paper or fabric - boxes, books, and lots of other applications.
This is a how-to book, so leaves without discussion of some topics. There's not a lot of historical discussion, even though marbling has been used for hundreds of years. It doesn't cover more advanced applications, including marbling the edges a book's block of pages. This is for the starting crafter, though, not for professionals or academicians.
This is an enjoyable intro to a very enjoyable craft. If you want to get started in marbling, I'd suggest starting here.

The Time Machine (Widescreen)
The Time Machine (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Guy Pearce
Offered by SURPLUSDVD NEW YORK
Price: CDN$ 7.52
14 used & new from CDN$ 4.01

3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but is it really Welles?, June 14 2004
This is watchable action/adventure, with competent acting and effects. It just never rises past the ordinary, though. Also, though I haven't read Welles' original in some time, I have doubts about its faithfulness to the original.
The plot is simple enough. Brilliant but obsessed scientist suffers a terrible loss, then creates the time machine to go back and recover what was lost. When that doesn't work, he skips forward through time, and an accident lands him in the distant futre. Mankind has split into two subspecies, the peaceful, pastoral Eloi and the vicious (and a little more technologically oriented) Morlocks. Our hero saves the world and lives happily every after. [Vague, I know, but I prefer to avoid spoilers.]
The steam-punk look of the time machine is well done. The look of the Eloi village is distinctive, but very reminiscent of the Myst games. There was interesting continuity of the traveler's steps into the future, including the one character that reappears in different eons.
A few things left me confused, though. The Morlocks use blowguns with some vile mix in the darts. As near as I can tell, though, the only effect of a dart is to leave a black stain - I never did see toxic effects in the people hit by them. Also, a relatively small nuclear blast was enough to break up the moon. Huh? You don't need to be a physicist here. Some of those lunar craters came from meteor impacts that released the energy of nuclear blasts, big ones, and the moon held up just fine. Breaking up the moon would mean overcoming the gravitational attraction that holds all the pieces together. No human bomb is anywhere near that energy range.
It's a decent enough way to kill an evening. Just be sure you want it dead.

Guidebook on Molecular Modeling in Drug Design
Guidebook on Molecular Modeling in Drug Design
by N. Claude Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 152.34
19 used & new from CDN$ 5.41

3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's for the specialist, or was, June 12 2004
This book is structured as set of monographs by different authors, apparently invited specifically for this book. That's a format with strengths but also some serious weaknesses.
First, the strengths. The seven chapters, plus a glossary chapter, cover a fair bit of ground. The chapter on computation hardware and graphics started aging the day it was written, but the other chapters all offer insights. The topics are varied, and include basics of docking, a nice intro to crystallization and crystallography, a description of the approval process and the team required, and a description of several trails from target molecule and native ligand to serious drug candidate. The glossary is worthwhile, and could have been expanded well beyond its 19 pages.
The weakness of this format is that, although each chapter contains introductory material, the book as a whole is not written at the introductory level. It's not quite a text, more like seven unrelated chapters flying in close formation. No one, clear underlying pattern unifies the different piece. Maybe there is a pattern, but the reader must know it already. But in that case, would the reader really need the introductions? Also, the glossary was written without respect to the other chapters so isn't really a glossary of the book that contains it.
Finally, I have to point out that this book's copyright date of 1996 makes it a bit old, by the standards of the field.
There are a number of interesting facts to be had here. They are all isolated points, though. The reader must already have a pretty good idea of the whole picture that these points fit into.

The Nude Figure: A Visual Reference for the Artist
The Nude Figure: A Visual Reference for the Artist
by Mark Edward Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.16
36 used & new from CDN$ 4.53

3.0 out of 5 stars Only ordinary, June 11 2004
The one thing this book contributes is variety, at least a little. As pointed out elsewhere, the models are all young. Still, there are a few different men and women with interesting differences between them. The fact of having a pregnant model at all is distinctive - pregnancy could be a topic for a whole pose book itself. Blacks, Asians, New World faces and others are also conspicuous by their absence, but that's true of most other pose books as well.
This book has some value, but isn't the hardest-working book on the shelf.

The Figure in Motion
The Figure in Motion
by Thomas Easley
Edition: Paperback
11 used & new from CDN$ 5.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More artists should use this, June 11 2004
This review is from: The Figure in Motion (Paperback)
Do it yourself: just jump. You're almost certain to feel different body masses shifting with the motion. Moving figures really are different.
That's why this book is so valuable. Every image is dynamic and unstable, impossible as static poses. But that's true even of someone walking - it's a sequence of unstable positions.
The poses are all vivid and dynamic. The models are chosen to show not only the movement, but the shifts of body masses, tension of muscles, and play of hair, all things that contribute to the dynamics. The large majority of photos are of women - several different ones, and the variety is worthwhile. In this case, the male minority makes some sense. Most men have more lean mass than women do, so women tend to display more shifts of mass when in motion. There are a few male figures, though, and a few images with infants or more than one model.
This book really does show possibilities that other pose books don't, and that even live models can't. If you ever draw figure, this book will be very useful.

Atlas of Foreshortening: The Human Figure in Deep Perspective
Atlas of Foreshortening: The Human Figure in Deep Perspective
by John Cody
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 37.61
22 used & new from CDN$ 37.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful, June 11 2004
There are lots of visual reference books out there. It would be easy to populate a bookshelf with them. After a while, though, they start to look the same.
Not this one. Heavily foreshortened poses are the hardest (for me at least), so this book devotes itself to genuinely distinctive views. It may sound like distorion to describe an arm or leg as being a third length of the other. In fact, it is distorion if they are the same length, when viewed from some angles.
This book gives an uncommon perspective - it has earned its place on my shelves.
[review of first edition]

UML Components: A Simple Process for Specifying Component-Based Software
UML Components: A Simple Process for Specifying Component-Based Software
by John Cheesman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 37.59
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Clearest description so far, June 10 2004
If you had trouble using the UML to handle component systems, there's a good reason for it. The UML is so broad, has so many parts, and has so exponentially many combinations that fitting it to any one discipline is a job for experts.
Here is the book by the experts. This starts with the basics. First, they say what they mean by a component - valuable, because authors all differ. Then they cover a few of the development basics, including project management and requirements. This really isn't a process book, though, so those topics get just enough discussion for the rest to make sense.
The real meat of the book starts in Ch.3, "Applying UML." That opens the topic that this book is really about, and gives a quick review of the kinds of UML diagrams used. Ch.5-6 look a lot like traditional OO analysis, not surprising because OO is the implementation mechanism for any modern component mechanism. Also, like OO, component systems emphasize bundling of data with operations. In fact, the experienced OO developer should pay more attention to the differences between OO and component analysis than the similarities. Whether your development involves components or not, you'll still find a detailed case study of the UML applied to a realistic sample design. In particular, the many different roles of interfaces apply as well to OO software as to components.
Ch. 7 goes into the real detail, esp. use of the Object Constraint Language (OCL) for interface specification. This is Meyer's "design by contract" specification technique, cast into UML/OCL terms. Although the material is good, I came away with mixed feelings about it.
On one hand, the material involves a very high level of detail, possibly enough to put some readers off. "Design by contract" is a descendant of mathematical proof of program correctness. It's a whole new aspect of programming, with a whole new set of thought processes involved and a whole new set of problems to get lost in. My experience of typical production programmers is that the contracts will probably end up a) vacuously general, or b) a never-ending mesh of inconsistencies, or c) ignored. I like contracts, and I like formal specification of behavior, I just don't see that the average practitioner is ready for it.
On the other hand, I found some maddening omissions. The authors repeatedly warn that aggregation has subtle semantic implications, that collections need special attention, and so on. They don't say what the problems are, though, or give pointers to readings that can be accessed readily.
The authors note that CASE tools of the day are not ready for such broad, intensive use of detailed UML features. Worse, some UML features are mis-supported, and the user may have to fight the tools to get the results desired. That's fair; if anything, I appreciate the honesty. UML as a whole is too big, and its usage is evolving too rapidly for the tools to catch up. The best UML-related writings today, this included, describe usages that ought to work but, in commercial reality, don't.
There is one peculiarity here that I never figured out. The UML is a standard from the Object Management Group (omg.org). So is CORBA, with its component model. Why, then, did the authors address COM+ and EJB components but not CORBA? Maybe the CORBA model isn't mature enough, but I really don't know.
This the best, maybe the only book that pays serious attention to component software in UML terms.

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