Okay, so I have been working on Krita with some little concentration. That doesn’t mean that I don’t read myself to sleep with a book. It just means that I forget to blog about my reading on Fading Memories. Which is rather a pity, since logging notes about books read so I could refresh my memory was rather the raison d’etre of Fading Memories. But what with Krita, blosxom’s quite unsatisfactory search function (don’t know why I still keep that plugin around, it doesn’t do anything useful), blosxom’s rather unsatisfactory habit of showing everything in a subcategory and all subcategories blow that and the incidence of blogspamming, I didn’t get around to it. However, in the expectation of the possibility that I might find better blogging software, here’s a long list of short book notes…

De Wortels van het Christendom, by Michael Walsh

Mwah. Not a good book, really. The man is rather prejudiced, and does not back his claims up by means of references. Also rather given to presenting hoary chestnuts as frightful new discoveries that will finally show people where they are wrong. Not my kind of book.

Something Fresh, by P.G. Wodehouse

The first ‘Blandings’ novel. Lord Emsworth actually shows some determination and acuity; Freddy is more silly than he was ever after, but the hero and heroine are great. And a nice glimpse of life downstairs, plus all the trademark Wodehouse mastery of the English language.

Koning Hollewijn — de Flutters, de Lorrocraat, Het Dubbele Leven, by Marten Toonder

A chance remark by Brian Scott on rasfc made me realize with a shock that I didn’t have any Koning Hollewijn books. These are bandes dessinees of a special kind. Originally newspaper comics, each page consists of a strip of three small cartoons, with a lot of text underneath. The books are delightfully sharp, sometimes degenerating into cynicism. But, well, geef mij maar zuurtjes.

Der Zauberlehrling, Erich Kästner

A bit harder to read than either Krabat or Meine freie deutsche Jugend, but still quite good fun. I must admit I was wrong all along the book in my deductions about baron Lamotte…

Mandarijn in Europa, by Zeng Jize

I thought I had written about this book before, but apparently not. Anyway, Zeng Jize, the son of the famous Zeng Guofan, was one of the first Chinese mandarins sent on a diplomatic mission to Europe. His observations of European culture are interesting both because they are so very much the observations of an outsider, and because they are so intelligent. Zeng Jize was doubtless an exceptional man, and I am very glad I’ve got this translation of part of his diary. One phrase will always remain with me:

From the fact that no western man has ever seen a unicorn we cannot draw the conclusion that such animals do not exist.

The Grand Tour, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Finally! The sequel to Sorcery and Cecilia. We immediately bought the hard-back. Despite the title, it’s not really about a Grand Tour, but rather about Kate & Cecy’s honeymoon in Europe, which becomes a bit of a busman’s honeymoon when they get tangled up in a dastardly plot that leads linea recta to Rome, where it becomes apparent that the authors have read their Frazer.

Actually, most of the book is well-researched, from travel conditions in Europe just after the Napoleonic wars to the geography of Italy. The odds and ends about magic are also more believable than either in Mairelon
the Magician
or in A Scholar of Magics, both set in a roughly similar version of Europe.

It’s not deep, of course, just plain, harmless fun with some knowledge thrown in. Perhaps the protagonists have it too easy — but that’s refreshing, for a change.

The Green Gene, by Peter Dickinson

Yes, very clever. Let’s make the blacks green, put the setting in England and show the action through the eyes of an Indian engineer. That’ll show the idiocy of apartheid. Apart from not being very clever, and not very engagingly written, the book does not once succeed in either making me suspend my disbelief or making me care about greens, saxons or the main character. In the end, despite the worthy political message, the book is a mess.

Green for Danger, by Christianna Brand

Set in WW II, “Green for Danger” is half mystery, half hospital drama, with a touch of romance. Failed to grip, I’m afraid, and I skipped a lot. I’m surprised to see it’s still in print, but there you are. There must be a market for reprints of old Penguin mystery novels. Probably people without access to a second-hand bookshop.

HTTP, The Definitive Guide, by David Gourly and Brian Totty

Suffering from the trademark O’Reilly jocosity that’s often mistaken for a light touch, this book is still a useful guide to a subject that’s more complex than it’s often taken for. Glad we’ve got this book at Tryllian, it’s tremendously useful.

Inside Java 2 Platform Security: Architecture, API Design, and Implementation (2nd Edition), by Li Gong, Gary Ellison and Mary Dageforde

All the necessary information, honestly presented — the authors, despite having worked on the implementation don’t beef at admitting where they made mistakes — concisely written in a clear style. Good, clear typography, too.

Building Web Services with Java, by Steve Graham et. al.

Okay. Web Services are an overrated mess. I despise the word ‘bloated’, because it’s so often bandied about by knowlessmen who wouldn’t know a bit from a byte but still feel entitled to moan and whine about all the megabytes nowadays software take without in the least being aware of how bad software used to be in the eighties. But with web services, design-by-committee has delivered a truly horrendous mess. Good grief, would you believe it: TCP/IP over soap over http over TCP…

But I have to know a bit about this stuff, and as books on the subject go, this one isn’t too bad. It’s completely yawn-inducing, the examples are inane, the use-cases unbelievable and the general writing lacks any sense of conciseness and precision, but, hey, that only shows the authors have internalized their subject.

And now back to my regularly scheduled bout of Krita hacking. Time to separate interface and implementation of the tile manager. A word to the wise: always code to the interface, never to the implementation, and let a facade create objects through a factory. Thus having achieved decoupling, refactoring becomes easier and nibbana is attained.