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2016/2015 : 2 Years in Reading

December 26, 2016

Every year, I post a list of all the books I’ve read the previous year. Although these posts receive little fanfare or repeat traffic, I enjoy doing them for myself. Those interested can also read 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

2015, unfortunately, was more video games and less reading, so I ended up skipping that year. I’ll be posting both 2015 and 2016 in separate spaces below.

I’m also posting this a little early…I may finish another book, but it’s unlikely.

One of the great things about Goodreads is the ability to sort books into virtual shelves. This allows me to list books that are of professional interest on my LinkedIn account. You can take a look at my Computers and Business, Design, Fiction, Photography, Poetry, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror shelves, along with my Most Read Authors list.

This was also the first year I started seriously using my Kobo Touch for reading, and about a dozen or so titles below were read digitally.

The books – 2015

  • Saladin Ahmed. Engraved on the Eye.
  • Alain Badiou and Peter Engelmann (interviewer). Philosophy and the Idea of Communism.
  • Mike Barlow. When Hardware Meets Software.
  • Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist. The Age of Earthquakes.
  • Leigh Brackett. The Coming of the Terrans.
  • Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Coversations. (The Last Interview)
  • Brassaï. Brassaï. (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  • Patricia Briggs. Night Broken. (Mercy Thompson)
  • Jim Butcher. Skin Game. (The Dresden Files)
  • Adrienne Clarkson. Belonging. (Massey Lectures)
  • Wim Crouwel and Jan Van Toorn. The Debate.
  • William C. Dietz. Mass Effect: Deception. (Mass Effect)
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kyrik Fights the Demon World. (Kyrik)
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kyrik and the Lost Queen. (Kyrik)
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kyrik: Warlock Warrior. (Kyrik)
  • Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman. Hurry Up and Wait.
  • Jim C. Hines. Codex Born. (Magic ex Libris)
  • Jim C. Hines. Libriomancer. (Magic ex Libris)
  • Jens Hoffman. Curating From A to Z.
  • Robert E. Howard. Conan the Barbarian. (Conan)
  • Robert E. Howard. Kull. (Baen Robert E. Howard Library)
  • Robert E. Howard. Marchers of Valhalla.
  • Richard Kadrey. Killing Pretty. (Sandman Slim)
  • Drew Karpyshyn. Mass Effect: Ascension. (Mass Effect)
  • Drew Karpyshyn. Mass Effect: Retribution. (Mass Effect)
  • Chip Kidd. Judge This.
  • Marius Kociejowski. The Pebble Chance.
  • C. M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril. Gunner Cade.
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Last Interview and Other Coversations. (The Last Interview)
  • Joe McKinney. Mutated. (Dead World)
  • Kieran Shea. Koko Takes a Holiday. (Koko)
  • Kieran Shea. Koko The Mighty. (Koko)
  • Charles Stross. Saturn’s Children.
  • Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut: The Last Interview and Other Coversations. (The Last Interview)
  • Simone Weil. On the Abolition of all Political Parties.
  • Chuck Wendig. The Cormorant. (Miriam Black)

The books – 2016

  • Peter Adamson. Philosophy in the Islamic World.
  • Tony Allen. Typewriter: The History – The Machines – The Writers.
  • Anonymous. Camera Work.
  • Anonymous and Henry R. Martin (illustrator). Comic Epitaphs from the Very Best Old Graveyards.
  • Anonymous and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). The ABC of Chafing Dish Cookery.
  • J.G. Ballard. Running Wild.
  • Edna Beilenson and Vee Guthrie (illustrator). Festive Cookies.
  • Edna Beilenson and Vee Guthrie (illustrator). Holiday Party Casseroles.
  • Edna Beilenson and Vee Guthrie (illustrator). Holiday Punches: Party Bowls and Soft Drinks.
  • Edna Beilenson and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). The ABC of Canapes.
  • Edna Beilenson and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). The ABC of Cheese Cookery.
  • Edna Beilenson and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). The Merrie Christmas Cookbook.
  • Edna Beilenson and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). The Merrie Christmas Drink Book.
  • Leigh Brackett. Black Amazon of Mars.
  • Leigh Brackett. The Nemesis from Terra.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley. Endless Voyage.
  • Patricia Briggs. Dead Heat.
  • Ryan Britt. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read.
  • Ingrid Burrington. Networks of New York.
  • Dan Cederholm. Sass for Web Designers.
  • James Cornell. Catastrophe Calamity & Cataclysm.
  • Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick: The Last Interview and Other Coversations.
  • Peter Driben. 1000 Pin-Up Girls.
  • Nora Ephron. Nora Ephron: The Last Interview and Other Coversations.
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse.
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kothar and the Wizard Slayer.
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kothar of the Magic Sword.
  • Gardner F. Fox. Kothar: Barbarian Swordsman.
  • Patty Hahne. The Pocket Guide to Prepping Supplies.
  • Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway: The Last Interview and Other Coversations.
  • Carl Hiaasen. Team Rodent.
  • Jim C. Hines. Goblin Hero.
  • Jim C. Hines. Goblin Quest.
  • Jim C. Hines. Unbound.
  • Kristin Hostetter. The 10 Essentials of Outdoor Gear.
  • Robert E. Howard. Solomon Kane.
  • Robert E. Howard. Swords of Shahrazar.
  • Jane Jacobs. Jane Jacobs: The Last Interview and Other Coversations.
  • Richard Kadrey. The Perdition Score.
  • Brendan Leonard. Peak Bagging.
  • Tim Lewens. The Meaning of Science.
  • Justin Lichter. Ultralight Survival Kit.
  • David Mason (editor). Why Booksellers Die Broke.
  • Joe McKinney. Dead City.
  • Joe McKinney. The Dead Won’t Die.
  • P. B. Medawar. Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought.
  • Anaïs Nin. In Favor of the Sensitive Man.
  • Steve Perry and Stephani Perry. Aliens vs. Predator: Prey.
  • Lou Reed. Lou Reed: The Last Interview and Other Coversations.
  • Marc Riboud. Marc Riboud.
  • Arthur Rimbaud. Illuminations.
  • Jon Ronson. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
  • Carlo Rovelli. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.
  • Roy Scranton. Learning To Die in the Anthropocene.
  • Suzanne Swedo. Wilderness Survival: Staying Alive Until Help Arrives.
  • Chuck Wendig. Zeroes.
  • Robert Moore Williams. Jongor Fights Back.
  • Howard Zimmerman (editor). Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Weird Inventions and Discoveries (100th Anniversary Edition).
  • Henk van Rensbergen. Abandoned Places.


As per previous years, here are all the subjects I have in my personal database, and how they reflected in this year’s reading.

A new category this year is Everyday Carry, as I try to up my EDC game.

Subject 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total
Fantasy 6 17 9 33 14 13 11 11 114
Science Fiction 9 0 15 25 12 4 8 5 78
Photography 13 29 6 4 1 2 1 3 59
Poetry 14 10 7 6 2 2 0 1 42
Politics 17 2 6 5 5 1 2 0 38
Philosophy 11 9 4 4 2 2 1 1 34
Fiction 4 10 3 0 7 2 0 1 27
Computers 1 3 4 3 2 11 1 2 27
Essays 1 6 7 1 4 2 3 2 26
Interview 7 2 3 1 2 1 3 5 24
Book Arts 7 2 5 2 2 0 0 2 20
Business 5 3 4 2 3 1 0 1 19
Horror 0 0 0 0 5 8 3 3 19
Literary Criticism 8 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 14
Cooking 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 8 12
Art 3 0 2 2 1 1 1 1 11
Games 0 0 0 0 3 7 0 0 10
Religion 4 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 9
Design 0 1 1 0 4 1 2 0 9
Biography 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 7
Sociology 0 4 1 0 0 1 0 1 7
Science 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 4 7
Comics 0 0 4 0 2 0 0 0 6
Memoir 3 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 5
Quotations 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 5
Everyday Carry 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 5
Travel 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4
History 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 4
Psychology 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Architecture 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 3
Film 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Sports 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
Music 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2
Childrens 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Drama 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Humor 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Mystery 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Military 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Writing 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Unsorted 1 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 117 131 93 96 75 60 36 59 667


A few new authors on the most-read list, as well.

Author 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total
Robert E. Howard 0 0 0 19 9 6 3 2 39
Lord Dunsany 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 13
Gardner F. Fox 0 0 0 3 3 0 3 4 13
Jim Butcher 4 1 1 4 1 0 1 0 12
Terry Eagleton 2 5 1 2 1 0 0 0 11
Anonymous 2 4 1 0 0 0 0 3 10
Richard Kadrey 0 0 0 0 4 3 1 1 9
Patricia Briggs 2 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
Andre Norton 0 1 6 0 0 0 0 0 7
Leigh Brackett 0 0 0 4 1 0 1 2 7
Edna Beilenson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 7
A. E. van Vogt 0 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 6
Chuck Wendig 0 0 0 0 0 4 1 1 6
Isaac Asimov 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
Steven Brust 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
Edgar Rice Burroughs 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 5
Clifford D. Simak 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 5
John Berger 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 5
Henry Kuttner 0 0 0 3 1 1 0 0 5
A. Lee Martinez 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 5
Jim C. Hines 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 5
Robert Adams 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 4
Irving Layton 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 4
Simon Critchley 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 4
J. F. Rivkin 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 4
John Scalzi 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 4
Joe McKinney 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 3

A book of lists

April 9, 2015

About 5 years ago, I started to collect and sift through a bunch of literary awards, focusing on science fiction, fantasy, and horror. It slowly grew to incorporate children’s lit, mystery, and even some mainstream literary awards.

I’ve stalled out about a dozen times in the last 5 years, going strong for a week, then leaving it for months.

Finally, I decided if I didn’t publish it, it would be consigned to the dustbin of unfinished projects, and I already have too much stuff in there already.

So, now you can get it on Github. I’ve chosen Github because it allows me to tinker with the project whenever I like, and I don’t have to worry about various hosting services complaining about file types, etc. Just click into the /epub/ folder, select view raw, and you’ll get the final file.

Why epub?

I’ve wanted to learn more about epub for awhile. The HTML files are all hand-written, but the epub file is compiled by Sigil, a great open-source app for epub authoring.

Why awards?

Hey, I love lists. There are some great awards sites out there, but all of them list awards individually…you can’t see who won all the Hugo, Nebula and Booker awards in one consolidated list. Now you can.

The introduction of the book goes into a little more detail about the selection process, and what’s in there.

If you have links to other resources on the web, leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you. Additionally, I want to hear about your experiences with the file on various e-readers. Unfortunately, I only have 1 Kobo, and don’t have the cash to flip for the dozen other popular readers out there.

Happy reading!

2014: A Year in Reading

January 2, 2015

Every year, I post a list of all the books I’ve read the previous year. Although these posts receive little fanfare or repeat traffic, I enjoy doing them for myself. Those interested can also read 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

One of the great things about Goodreads is the ability to sort books into virtual shelves. This allows me to list books that are of professional interest on my LinkedIn account. You can take a look at my Computers and Business, Design, Fiction, Photography, Poetry, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror shelves, along with my Most Read Authors list.

This was also the first year I started seriously using my Kobo Touch for reading, and about a dozen or so titles below were read digitally.

The books

Arranged in alphabetical order, with series or imprints in parantheses.

Monte Beauchamp. Popular Skullture.

A great collection of vintage pulp, paperbacks and comic books featuring the skull motif. A great companion to some of the recent art books featuring art from the period.

Ken Binmore. Game Theory. (A Very Short Introduction)

Not very satisfying. This moved so quickly through subjects that is was difficult to follow the arguments.

Werner Bishcof. Werner Bishcof. (Thames & Hudson Photofile)

Jorge Luis Borges. Jorge Luis Borges: The Last Interview & Other Conversations. (The Last Interview)

The core of this book is an interview with Richard Burgin that really shines. Borges is one of the great conversationalists, and the whole book is suffused with his wit and almost encyclopedic knowledge. Highly recommended, and one of the stand-outs from The Last Interview series.

Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman. The Dude and the Zen Master.

I really wanted to like this one, but I couldn’t really get into it. It kinda fell back into a lot of wrote and basic notions of zen, and the anecdotes didn’t really ring true. While both Bridges and Glassman are truly great men, there wasn’t much in the way of new thinking on zen here.

Patricia Briggs. Frost Burned. (Mercy Thompson)

This has always been a well-paced series of quick but durable reads, but the latest installment picks up the pace and gives you a great story. Briggs has kept the series and the characters evolving, and Frost Burned ups the ante while giving Mercy a bigger role. Many favorite characters from past books return, and while the end isn’t in sight, I’m beginning to sense the series is over the half-way mark. Great urban fantasy with few off-key notes.

Warren Ellis. Gun Machine.

Ellis’ penchant for inventive profanity and truly bizarre characters is in full display here, but the story doesn’t deliver on its promise. A quick, entertaining read, nonetheless.

Nick Farwell. Minecraft: Redstone Handbook.

A sequel to the Beginner’s Handbook, this is all about Redstone and it’s various uses. Still too slight to be really useful, it nonetheless complements the first book well.

Brad Frost. Atomic Design.

Robert E. Howard. Beyond the Black River. (The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard)

More blood and guts from Howard, with many long Conan stories. The pace is swift, the action bloody and intense, but you’ll have to slog through the prejudices of an earlier age in spots.

Robert E. Howard. Conan: People of the Black Circle. (Conan)

A collection of classic Conan stories.

Robert E. Howard. People of the Dark. (The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard)

This series was issued twice, once in paperback and once in trade, both by different publishers who changed the order of the stories. This is the paperback issue, containing many classic Howard tales at his peak, all from Weird Tales magazine. This is why Howard is considered the founder of sword-and-sorcery, and one of the kings of the pulps. Non-stop action and chills. Plus, Conan!

Robert E. Howard. Skull-Face.

Aside from the notable title story, this is a collection of mostly pulp stories with the same villain, modeled after Fu Manchu. It’s not the greatest collection of Howard stories, but filled with action, nonetheless.

Robert E. Howard. The Road to Azrael.

Straight historical adventures from the author of Conan. Dry in many spots, this isn’t his best fiction. The pace is solid, but it’s missing some of the flair of the Conan/Kull tales. Not the best place to start with Howard.

Robert E. Howard. The She Devil.

Believe it or not, this is Howard’s porn. Most of the stories were originally featured in Spicy-Adventure Stories, a saucy pulp rag back in the 1930’s. While there’s no real porn in these, the stories have a breakneck pace. Fair warning: the treatment of women in these stories is horrible, with a lot of rape and torture. Indicative of it’s day, it isn’t easy reading now.

Foster Huntington. The Burning House.

This started as a blog and eventually became a book. Contributors were asked a question: if your house was on fire, what would you grab on the way out? The answers range the gamut of human emotions, needs, and wants. A truly international book with contributors from almost every continent and walk of life, I loved it. Every answer was subjective, and some of the photos will choke you up.

Alex Irvine. Marvel Vehicles: Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual. (Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual)

This isn’t as satisfying as Eliot Brown’s Handbook of the Marvel Universe work, but it has a lot of colourful anecdotes, and covers more recent vehicles. While it doesn’t provide any type of detail, it’s still a fun book.

K. W. Jeter. Real Dangerous Girl.

This was a dud for me. It took way too long to get started, and I couldn’t find a likable character. Your mileage may vary.

Richard Kadrey. Devil in the Dollhouse. (Sandman Slim)

A short story set in between novels, this is a ‘lost’ story of Stark in hell. Great, quick read.

Richard Kadrey. Kill City Blues. (Sandman Slim)

Sandman Slim’s growing up. While this book had it’s characteristic noir violence and dark humor, the characters are beginning to move away from the ‘shoot first and just keep shooting’ attitude that permeates the previous books. The stakes are raised, but so are the heroes. Kadrey is starting the set-up for the final run of the series (imho), and it sound like Slim is going to go out dragging half of hell with him.

Richard Kadrey. The Getaway God. (Sandman Slim)

It’s hard not to look at this as the end of the series. It’s definitely the end of the first arc of the Sandman Slim saga, if more books are forthcoming. I’m not sure if it’s the best ending, but it is epic and satisfying, nonetheless. Most of the plot lines are tied up, with a few loose dangling threads to push a new arc forward. Kadrey’s signature horror, black humor, and endlessly inventive profanity are on full display here.

Paul Krugman, George Papandreou, Newt Gingrich and Arthur B. Laffer. Should We Tax the Rich More?: The Munk Debate on Economic Inequality. (Munk Debates)

An engaging debate regarding the state of income inequality, Krugman/Papandreou arguing for more taxation and Gingrich/Laffer arguing for less. I’m biased in favor of Krugman’s arguments, but both sides came out swinging.

Henry Kuttner. The Mask of Circe.

A sci-fi re-imagining of the legend of Jason. Surprisingly good mix of time travel, genetic memory, alternate dimensions, and romance.

Tim Leong. Super Graphic.

A book of infographics covering comic books. If you’re familiar with the source material, the book is a lot of fun. However, many of the graphics are played for jokes alone. Based on a series of blog postings, I was hoping the book would have less obviously joke charts, and more based around actual data collection. While it’s a fun read, it didn’t add any more substance than the blog postings.

A. Lee Martinez. A Nameless Witch.

Understated humor, a great heroine, and a love story with a twist. Martinez’s twists on traditional fantasy tropes is fresh and unique, and his interest in characters over the mechanics of magic keeps the story moving. Not a fully-realized world, but there’s enough here to keep the story coherent.

A. Lee Martinez. Chasing the Moon.

This one didn’t ring true for me. The humor and characterization was there, but the story didn’t really convince me. An important part of fantasy is keeping the rules of your made-up world consistent, and that didn’t seem to happen here. I also think the book was a little overloaded with too much cast and too much strangeness for the sake of strangeness. Martinez is a great author, but you’d be better to pick up his other books before this.

A. Lee Martinez. Gil’s All Fright Diner.

A great read, funny as hell. It’s difficult to describe this one without spoilers, but if you like urban fantasy, this is a must-read.

A. Lee Martinez. In the Company of Ogres.

Martinez continually roots for the underdog, and Never Dead Ned is a true underdog. The twists and turns are not exactly new, but Martinez gives them all a fresh take. All the characters are fully fleshed out, and the constant bickering camaraderie is reminiscent of an old episode of M*A*S*H. It’s a good book.

A. Lee Martinez. Too Many Curses.

This is a good book, but there are a few false notes. Making the heroine the housekeeping kobold kept the story anchored. The humor is understated, and Nessy will grow on you.

Joe McKinney. Plague of the Undead.

On the surface, it’s just another zombie novel. But under the hood, McKinney relies on his real-world work in disaster mitigation and police training to deliver a realistic survival tale. On top of that, he adds some science-fiction notes to what is essentially, an action novel. It’s a quick read with a solid ending.

Rod McKuen. Seasons in the Sun.

I’ve seen McKuen poetry books in used bookstores for decades, and finally I had to pick a few up to satisfy my curiosity. This is sort of like reading a Hallmark version of Bukowski…not quite raw enough, but the honesty is there. There honestly isn’t enough here of quality to justify a full paperback.

Rod McKuen. Too Many Midnights.

Probably the last McKuen I’ll be slogging through. While there’s a degree of honesty here, not enough poems rise to the quality level needed to carry a full book.

Shawn Micallef. The Trouble with Brunch.

A series of inter-connected essays examining class from the perspective of brunch. I’m not sure if there’s much to see here. Micallef raises some interesting points, but the book only skims the surface; there isn’t any deep insight here.

Megan Miller. Minecraft Hacks.

Another beginner’s book. I’m addicted. This is about the same as most other books on the subject, but you’ll find the screenshots badly reproduced, and the recipes aren’t shown, only described. Like many other Minecraft books, this one is a few versions behind the game. Depending on what you want out the game, this may or may not be for you.

Megan Miller. Minecraft Hacks: Master Builder.

These are quick reads. If you don’t have any other Minecraft books to rely on, then it’s ok. But I’m not sure the brevity justifies the price tag.

Stephanie Milton. Minecraft: Combat Handbook.

Continuing Mojang’s series of tutorials on all things Minecraft. I typically give these books a low review because they are very slight. But this is intentional, as they are meant for a younger audience. The combat book focuses on mobs and pvp, and covers the basics well.

Matthew Needler and Phil Southam. Minecraft: Construction Handbook.

If you buy only one of the Mojang Minecraft strategy guides, this is the one. Covers a wide variety of structures, from simple to advanced. It doesn’t provide every single step required, but a good overview is provided with variations. Everyone playing survival will need to build multiple shelters, and this lets you do it in style.

Andrew O’Brien. Little Book of Video Games.

Stay away. While some of it is well-written, it’s full of typos, bad formatting and the like. Obviously a first effort with little to no quality control.

Dylan Richard. Learning from First Responders: When Your Systems Have to Work.

Ben Robinson and Marcus Riley. U.S.S. Enterprise: Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual. (Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual)

Not as in-depth as Okuda and Sternbach’s original guide to the Enterprise-D, but it covers all Star Trek ships that had the name. It’s a fun book, and stands as a good companion to the original.

Richard Rosenbaum. Raise Some Shell.

A good history of the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomenon, from the very beginning to the present day. The author is an unabashed fan, and his personal asides can be both annoying and charming. For both die-hard fans and those wondering what all the fuss is about.

Douglas Rushkoff. Program or be Programmed.

While this is a good general discussion of computer trends and literacy, it left me a little cold. While I think he has a generally good handle on his topic, I think he’s wrong about many specific points. Rushkoff is rooted in the computer culture that matured on the west coast long before the home computer revolution really took off, and that culture is reflected here as what computer culture ought to be everywhere, which it isn’t. I think it’s worth a read as a general introduction, but I wouldn’t stop here. There’s a worthwhile list of references at the end that helps round out the book.

Maurice Nathan Saatchi. Brutal Simplicity of Thought.

Not very useful. Supposedly a training manual for Saatchi employees, it said virtually nothing, and most of the insights were very tired retreads of folk knowledge and various maxims. Don’t waste time on this one.

Safari Content Team. .NET Bibliography.

Safari Content Team. Coding Bibliography.

Safari Content Team. Linux Bibliography.

Safari Content Team. Microsoft Enterprise Bibliography.

Safari Content Team. Software Testing Bibliography.

John Scalzi. Redshirts.

I don’t know what to say, other than, for me, this was pretty bad. It’s well-written, and the plot moves along, but it just left me cold. While the general premise is good, it just didn’t hold my interest. Your mileage may vary.

Will Shetterly. Cats Have No Lord.

Respectable fantasy fare. The characters are vivid, but the plot is sluggish and the locale a little cut-and-paste. Read it for the characters. This is connected to The Tangled Lands, which I believe is a odd type of sequel.

Will Shetterly. How to Make a Social Justice Warrior: On Identitarianism, Intersectionality, Mobbing, Racefail, and Failfans 2005-2014.

I had mixed feelings going through this. Shetterly doesn’t shy away from his own mistakes, noting his biases and what he feels he’s done wrong. He also blasts away at many people, without holding back. Having missed most of the events he describes, it’s difficult to know who’s right or wrong. But he makes a convincing, articulate argument for why the social justice movement is failing to bridge divides and present a cohesive counterpoint to the right. You will walk away loving or hating it, but you will be forced to think.

Simon St.Laurent. The Web Platform: Building a Solid Stack of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Dennis Stone. A Life at the Airport: A Heathrow Photographer.

A collection of celebrity shots with commentary. There are some great shots, and some bad ones. The commentary by Stone on his process and years at the airport elevate this from being simply a collection of newspaper headline shots to something interesting.

Mandi Walls. Building a DevOps Culture.

Chuck Wendig. Blackbirds. (Miriam Black)

I’m not quite sure what to make of this one. Miriam is a foul-mouthed young psychic trying desperately to avoid her power, seeing the death of everyone she touches. Revealing the rest of the book is too many spoilers, but if you like Kadrey, you’ll probably like this. It’s a fast read, but I found it didn’t quite end as well as I would have liked.

Chuck Wendig. Mockingbird. (Miriam Black)

The second book in the series starts to bring the central character into focus, but still leaves a lot to be desired. I will probably read the third book, to complete it, but the pace is slow. There are a lot of good ideas in here, but the Mookie Pearl books are by far the superior series by Wendig.

Chuck Wendig. The Blue Blazes. (Mookie Pearl)

Hard-boiled prose, a convincing world, and full-realized characters combine in this explosive fantasy noir. Think Sin City meets Harry Dresden. This was hard to put down.

Chuck Wendig. Unclean Spirits. (Gods and Monsters)

Wendig wrote this as part of a shared world series, and the lack of commitment shows. Everything is there, but somehow nothing really clicks into the sharp focus you get with the Mookie Pearl or Miriam Black series. Many others have noted that the concept (every god there ever was exists and they’re fighting a secret war in the present) is a bit tired at this point. This is for completists only.

Adam Wiggins. The Twelve-Factor App.

Slavoj Žižek. Žižek’s Jokes.

A hodge-podge of humor quotes from various published and non-published works. It’s lop-sided, and doesn’t show off Zizek to his advantage. Too many of the jokes required a set-up that wasn’t printed in the book for lack of space. Not really worth it, despite there being a few choice zingers.


As per previous years, here are all the subjects I have in my personal database, and how they reflected in this year’s reading.

Subject 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Total
Fantasy 6 17 9 33 14 13 92
Science Fiction 9 0 15 25 12 4 65
Photography 13 29 6 4 1 2 55
Poetry 14 10 7 6 2 2 41
Politics 17 2 6 5 5 1 36
Philosophy 11 9 4 4 2 2 32
Fiction 4 10 3 0 7 2 26
Computers 1 3 4 3 2 11 24
Essays 1 6 7 1 4 2 21
Book Arts 7 2 5 2 2 0 18
Business 5 3 4 2 3 1 18
Interview 7 2 3 1 2 1 16
Literary Criticism 8 1 4 1 0 0 14
Horror 0 0 0 0 5 8 13
Games 0 0 0 0 3 7 10
Religion 4 3 1 0 1 0 9
Art 3 0 2 2 1 1 9
Biography 3 2 2 0 0 0 7
Design 0 1 1 0 4 1 7
Comics 0 0 4 0 2 0 6
Sociology 0 4 1 0 0 1 6
Memoir 3 0 0 1 0 1 5
Cooking 3 1 0 0 0 0 4
Quotations 1 1 2 0 0 0 4
Travel 3 0 0 1 0 0 4
Psychology 2 1 0 0 0 0 3
Architecture 0 0 1 2 0 0 3
Science 1 0 0 1 1 0 3
Film 1 1 0 0 0 0 2
Sports 0 1 1 0 0 0 2
History 1 0 0 0 1 0 2
Music 1 0 0 0 1 0 2
Childrens 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Drama 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Humor 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Mystery 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
Military 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Writing 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Unsorted 1 6 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 117 131 93 96 75 60 572


A few new authors on the most-read list, as well.

Author 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Total
Robert E. Howard 0 0 0 19 9 6 34
Lord Dunsany 13 0 0 0 0 0 13
Terry Eagleton 2 5 1 2 1 0 11
Jim Butcher 4 1 1 4 1 0 11
Anonymous 2 4 1 0 0 0 7
Andre Norton 0 1 6 0 0 0 7
Richard Kadrey 0 0 0 0 4 3 7
A. E. van Vogt 0 0 6 0 0 0 6
Gardner F. Fox 0 0 0 3 3 0 6
Patricia Briggs 2 0 1 1 1 1 6
Isaac Asimov 0 5 0 0 0 0 5
Leigh Brackett 0 0 0 4 1 0 5
Steven Brust 1 4 0 0 0 0 5
Edgar Rice Burroughs 0 0 0 5 0 0 5
Clifford D. Simak 0 1 2 2 0 0 5
John Berger 2 2 0 0 1 0 5
Henry Kuttner 0 0 0 3 1 1 5
A. Lee Martinez 0 0 0 0 0 5 5
Robert Adams 1 1 1 1 0 0 4
Irving Layton 0 0 2 2 0 0 4
Simon Critchley 0 2 0 2 0 0 4
J. F. Rivkin 0 0 0 2 2 0 4
John Scalzi 0 0 0 0 3 1 4
Chuck Wendig 0 0 0 0 0 4 4

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

December 15, 2014

Last-minute shopping? I can’t say this is a gift guide for everyone, but every year I offer up a little list of things I think are cool. Most are books. I can’t lay claim to all of these being recent, but they are to my taste.

Without further ado:

Alfred Stieglitz: Camera Work

This brings together highlights from the entire run of Stieglitz’s legendary magazine Camera Work, one of the first North American periodicals to feature photography in any way.

Was Superman A Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent?: And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia!

Brian Cronin writes a regular blog on why comics developed the way they did, and both these books expand heavily on the same theme. These are a comic trivia-lovers dream.

Star Wars Costumes by Brandon Alinger
A coffee-table sized portfolio of the original trilogy’s costumes, in their full glory.

Geek-Art: An Anthology: Art, Design, Illustration & Pop Culture by Thomas Olivri
Another oversized-tome of creators re-interpreting geek culture in many different forms.

A Philosophy Of Walking by Frederic Gros
I haven’t read this yet, but I’m an avid walker, and the book jacket blurb is enticing.

Radio Benjamin by Walter Benjamin
We’ve had a flood of newly-translated Benjamin over the last 2 decades, and this is a transcript of his radio work in Germany.

Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship by Adrienne Clarkson
The latest Massey Lecture by one of our more distinguished former Governor-Generals of Canada. I’m half-way through this, and like all Massey’s, it doesn’t disappoint.

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws For The Internet Age by Cory Doctorow
I will say up-front that I’m not a fan of Doctorow. I doubt I’ll agree with very much in this book, but he at least is sane and hasn’t drunk the dot-com kool-aid like many others who weigh in on copyright and new economic models.

Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
Probably the most entertaining food blog currently in existence. Healthy food with attitude.

Cool Beer Labels: The Best Art & Design From Breweries Around The World by Daniel Bellon, Steven Speeg
A wonderful picture book of craft and small brewery labels from around the world. Great design, and great beer.

Camera Crazy by Buzz Poole, Christopher D. Salyers
A fun book of toy cameras, old and new. Quite a few of these are used by professionals daily.

The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo
This is a beautiful hardcover from Dark Horse featuring artists from around the world interpreting Stan Sakai’s rabbit ronin. Usagi Yojimbo has consistently been a high-quality comic for the last 30 years, and proceeds from the book will help defray medical costs of the Sakai family.

First Contact

May 1, 2014

Wil Wheaton has a new network show coming out, and he did a blog post asking for audience participation. Record a “first contact” story…your first encounter with a celeb you really wanted to meet, with the best stories being animated and presented on the show.

Well, I don’t quite have a story that I can say is completely true…at least, my memory is a little fuzzy on the details. But here it is (with a few sidebars on what may not be up to snuff).

Around 12-14 years ago, Kevin Smith came to FanExpo, right around his run on Daredevil. I was in line waiting patiently for signatures. Suddenly, I felt a tugging on my lower pants leg. I looked down, and found myself looking at an older woman less than three feet tall. She said hi, and we started to chat.

Smith’s line was separated from the con floor by make-shift curtains, behind which were more celebs meeting fans. Many were Star Wars actors. This woman motioned to the curtain at some point and said “I’m with them”. I realized at this point that I was probably speaking to the wife of Kenny Baker (this is a point I never got clear…Warwick Davis was also there, so it could have been his wife…or just a friend or other relation of either). I was having a conversation with R2-D2’s wife (maybe). How cool is that?

It became very clear that this woman (who was nice and a great conversationalist) had never been to a con before, and was baffled by the entire experience. We ended up chatting about what was going on, cosplay, various things that happen on a con floor. My immediate impressions of her: very conservative, and not a deep fan of sci-fi. Fair play to that…it’s not for everyone, and these were first impressions of someone I’d known for five minutes.

At one point, we started talking about Kevin Smith, and she asked me to describe what he did. Given my impressions, I really didn’t want to talk about Smith’s, how shall we say, ‘unique’ brand of humor.

Karma must hate me. At that moment, everyone in the line shifted to one side just as she looked up the aisle to see Smith…who was in the middle of signing a young lady’s exposed breast. I knew, of course, that somehow I would end up getting blamed for this.

This, of course, summed up Smith’s oeuvre better than I ever could…all with a few swipes of a Sharpie.

The woman I was talking to walked back behind the curtain.

There you have it, Wil. Star Wars, comic books, boobs. What more could you possibly want?

Naming Code

January 28, 2014

There are a bunch of programming books that have dramatically effected how I write, organize, and maintain code, whether it’s an HTML template, a Javascript file, XML, Freemarker, PHP…anything I’ve been asked to use or fiddled with on my own.

I rarely think of myself as a programmer or an engineer, because most of the day-to-day activities in user interface “programming” largely consists of integrating the efforts of many different people and disciplines: graphic design, back-end applications, templates, information architecture, accessibility, internationalization, optimization, editorial guidelines…making a user interface involves a lot of cross-discipline work and ‘soft’ skills. This is generally how I’ve positioned myself over the years…as a generalist that specializes in communicating between the many different groups that come to the table to build a site, and integrating that in a way that benefits the client.

But you didn’t come here to read my LinkedIn mission statement. Let’s get back to it.

Both the Pragmatic Programmer and Code Complete are must-reads, although I’ll admit that Code Complete is so massive it may take a few tries to get all the way through (I read the first edition and that’s what I’ve linked to, but there’s a second edition out now). Seriously, you can kill small animals with this thing…it’s ideal for home defense.

One of the better books I’ve read, and one I keep coming back to over and over, is The Elements of Java Style, a collaborative effort by a group of coders that worked at Rogue Wave Software. Several permutations of those authors, in conjunction with a few new faces, have released similar versions for both C++ and C#. All the books are issued by Cambridge University Press, and all are awesome.

I don’t know much about Java, let me say that right off the bat. And most of the latter half of the book is advanced topics that only make sense for folks programming in Java. But the first half discusses code formatting, documentation style, and naming conventions that I’ve taken to heart over the years, and anyone who’s seen my CSS or Javascript will recognize this book’s influence on how I name things.

Which is, finally, what I want to discuss.

Naming conventions can truly make or break projects or teams. As someone who’s suffered through a half-dozen ASP Classic projects, all written in Hungarian Notation, VB style, I can tell you that not standardizing on something that makes sense for the whole organization can be disastrous. I’m going to wait for all the Hungarian enthusiasts to stop throwing strFruit at the monitor before we continue.

While I’m not going to copy verbatim what’s said in The Elements of Java Style, I’m going to share my interpretation of it here.

Classes/Superclasses/Modules: written in UpperCamelCase.

Methods/Functions/Subroutines: written in regularCamelCase.

Constants: All UPPERCASE.

Hashes/Dictionaries/Arrays/Collections: regularCamelCase.

All other variable types: regularCamelCase.

There’s two sets of extra distinctions. The first is that classes are nouns and methods are verbs. The second is that arrays are plural and variables that can only contain a single value (strings, numbers, boolean) are singular.

So, a really simple (useless except for demonstration purposes, actually) Javascript object would look like this:

AcmeWidget = ( function() {
	var acmeHammer = '',
	    acmeNails = [],
	    COYOTE = "Wily";

	dieDieDie = function() {
	    //TODO: obviously doomed-to-fail
	    //nefariously nefarious plan
	    //written entirely in regular expressions

The Javascript notation and formatting isn’t really relevant here. It’s how the names of the parts read. Making classes nouns and methods verbs make them easily distinguishable, even without the added capital letter in the front. You immediately know that a variable contains a collection because it’s pluralized. Constants are rarely an issue for me because I rarely use languages that have them, but once you’ve established the convention in a language that doesn’t support them, people can tell which variables they shouldn’t mess with.

The beauty of these conventions is that they don’t make any assumptions about the problem you’re trying to solve. You can use them to build a Javascript carousel or a heart monitor. The conventions make no assumptions about your problem domain, making them endlessly re-usable.

The best thing for me? A simple restriction to make them usable with CSS classes and id’s (no punctuation, can’t start with a number) makes the scheme easily extendable to CSS. Combine that with the fact that these conventions work in most server languages, and you only need to standardize on a single naming convention.

The Elements of Java Style goes on to make a few more suggestions, like standardizing on the names of throwaway variables (i, j, k, etc) and standard prefixes for methods that do the same thing (get/set/is). Most of these come from the Sun Java Style Guide now maintained by Oracle, and are part of the style guides for many other languages. Incorporating them shouldn’t be much of a problem, as they’ve entered programming folklore for the most part, anyway.

I’d suggest trying them for your next project, whether you’re writing in a procedural or OO language, writing CSS or Javascript. It does take a bit of time to get used to, but I love the flexibility and clarity I get from a few easily-remembered rules. They make reading the code I write a breeze when I come back to it weeks or months later.

Setting up a work box

January 10, 2014

I was recently awarded a brand-new laptop at work (yay!), which I now have to setup and migrate all my crap to (boo!). Of course, if you work in web development for even a few years, you have to go through this ritual at least once, if not more. I’ve been doing it for 18 years. I like to believe my box set-up kung fu is strong.

I’ve written a similar entry for a friend who doesn’t program, but needed software advice for his recently-purchased Windows laptop a while back. It lists a lot of software I wouldn’t install on a work box, but are great for home use. This is years old now, but I’d recommend many of the same programs today.

Of course, for programmers (even us webmonkeys), box set-up is Personal. Everyone does it differently. People will disown you for doing things a particular way. So, please be gentle in the comments section if you choose to tell me How Utterly Wrong I Truly Am.

Makin’ bacon

When I sign an employment contract, I believe there’s a tacit agreement in place: the employer has a reasonable right to assume that I will accept and use the software and hardware purchased for me to produce web sites or applications in return for money, and that I’ll use them responsibly and adhere to coding guidelines, no matter how much I may disagree with them personally. While I can make suggestions, the employer is paying me to do things their way. I’ve come across a lot of programmers who feel differently, but I just don’t believe this is professional conduct.

In my almost two decades doing webmonkey stuff, I’ve switched from Mac to PC at least half a dozen times. I’ve been given desktops and laptops. I spent a year on Mac System 7. Strangely, I’ve never had to use a Linux or Unix box at work. I’ve had tons of very disagreeable software rammed down my throat (I’m looking at you, Visual SourceSafe).

I’m not suggesting blind obedience, here. You do have the right to champion change and ask for things you’d like. You also have the right to ask about hardware/software during the interview. But, after you’ve signed the contract, you shouldn’t go rogue.

The zen of set-up

After doing dozens of set-ups, both at home and in the office, I’ve pared back my software needs dramatically. I try to do the minimum necessary for doing any type of productive work in a vanilla, generic setting, and only install additional stuff for the needs of each project.

So, the list below is pretty lame. It’s really designed for flexibility.

Write once, run everywhere

Just like the Java folks, I’ve come to embrace a couple of simple philosophies for software I rely on to pay my bills:

  • I prefer software that runs on all three major platforms (win, mac, linux)
  • I prefer free as in beer, as well as free as in freedom, in that order
  • I prefer hardware that can run as many operating systems as possible, either in dual-boot or virtualization
  • I prefer hardware that travels well

There are many outstanding software products that only work on one operating system, and using these can be a major productivity improvement. But I’ve been in situations where the shop I work for suddenly changes direction and forces the whole dev team to switch platforms. And then I’m stuck, learning a new tool, while deadlines don’t change. That’s bullshit. I want to learn a tool once, and have it work everywhere. The only thing I want to re-learn when I hot-swap an OS is the idiosyncrasies of that OS.

I support open-source as a concept, and think the movement has come a long way in the last decade. Generally, open-source has made the software landscape better, and you should consider donating time or money to these amazing individuals. But, in a work environment constrained by budgets, the price tag of software is more important to me than it’s philosophical openness. For instance, Komodo is a great editor, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. But it’s price tag for the full IDE with source-control support built-in disqualifies me from asking my boss for it. Not when I can get a roughly analogous feature-set from Aptana/Eclipse for free. I want every conversation I have with my boss about budgets to count.

The move towards a mobile-first web means that testing, even if you’re building brochure-ware, has to happen on all three environments, and you need emulator support. The web development community has also embraced Unix/Linux-centric command-line toolsets to automate a lot of workflow and deployment tasks. Having a machine that runs all operating systems in either dual-boot or virtualization is a must-have. You’ll encounter shops that buy separate machines for each developer. Buying a single machine with a lot of horsepower is a better investment in the long-term. If the developer cares for it, it will last longer and cost less than two mediocre machines.

Employers are now much more open to tele-commuting, and many employers expect employees to present at or attend conferences. In addition, work/life balance is a hot topic, and many employers are more flexible about extended periods of working from home or on the road. A laptop makes the most sense in this scenario, even if desktops can deliver more power.

Webmonkeys only, please

A lot of the above won’t make sense in a variety of more traditional software approaches, where dedicated toolsets and more powerful hardware are needed. And that’s fine. I write HTML/CSS/Javascript/XML all day. I’m not compiling the latest EA game. You can get laptops with more than enough power to do webmonkey stuff. Granted, keeping them optimized can be a challenge, but that’s where individual choices matter.

Is he ever going to talk about software?

Ok, ok! Don’t get your IDE in a knot!

But first, my hardware choice (drumroll, please): a Mac laptop. Given the decision matrix I outlined above, a Mactop is the best current choice. I’ve seen devs produce hackintosh’s, but this is just too much damn work. I ask for as much RAM as I think I can get away with. I’m not as worried about the HDD…you can dump Windows and a Linux distro on even a meager hard drive without much effort.

In terms of software, this is the basic list I would have on a thumb drive if I was walking cold into a contract position at Webmonkey Corporation X.

Adobe CS isn’t on that list because there’s no way I can afford any of it. This is something I expect every employer to make available to developers. We have to cut graphics ourselves. Often, during refactoring, we’ll cut the same images over and over again, just a little bit differently each time. The back and forth with a designer will cost the company more than just buying the damn thing for everyone. Remember when I said I want every discussion surrounding software budgets with my boss to count? Adobe CS is why.

I use Aptana because a lot of shops are still running SVN, and Aptana is a solid IDE and SVN browser rolled into one, OS-agnostic, and free as in beer. I haven’t tried Git support in Aptana yet, because I haven’t worked for anyone that required it. If it’s as smooth as Aptana’s SVN support, I expect this to be my editor for awhile.

If I have the choice between Office or LibreOffice, I’ll pick Office. Web development is a multidisciplinary field, and I have to be able to read business docs with proper formatting intact. LibreOffice is the best alternative if you can’t get Office.

I’ve used Fusion in the past, but VirtualBox is what I run now for Windows and Linux images. I always install an image of Linux Mint with the MATE desktop. It’s a little lighter than Ubuntu, and the Mac Terminal has some missing features. Mint gives me the ability to run a Linux distro without a lot of overhead. The free Windows distro’s on Microsoft’s site are ok, but I prefer a licensed copy. You never know when MS’s altruism will go away.

I install all the browsers, generally with no extensions except for Firefox, which I still use for primary development. I know most devs prefer Chrome cuz it’s faster, but I prefer Firefox because it’s a little behind the curve in terms of standards support. If it works there, it should work in Webkit, and then I only have to worry about IE. I used to download Amaya because it had support for more obscure specs, but I haven’t for awhile.

My can’t live without extensions for Firefox are Firebug with Yslow, the Web Developer Toolbar, and User Agent Switcher.

The Web Accessibility Toolbar for IE is another must-have. Not only for accessibility. This is one of the better dev tools for IE, even with the stuff built-in to IE 8+.

And, of course, I install Flash and Acrobat plug-ins.

I only run a few utilities. 7-Zip will open archives that even time forgot. Ditto for video with VLC. CCleaner is the best de-crudder for Windows, and there’s a Mac version as well. While I would prefer never to FTP files in development, it comes up, and Filezilla works.

Portable Apps for everything else! The only Windows-specific app on the list, I have it installed on a thumb drive with a big list of ‘just-in-case’ software, so I’m never caught up short with weird requests. Transferring it to a Windows image is child’s play. It’s also easy to migrate to something like Google Drive. I also download the OpenDisc ISO for Windows as a back-up. While I try to never use these things, I’ve received enough oddball requests to know that I don’t want to be searching for weird freeware to meet a deadline.

On a Mac, I make sub-folders inside Applications to install my stuff. That way, I don’t have an endlessly long list when I use the drop-down, and I can find it quickly when I need to dust off the machine and hand it back.

What? No command-line doohickeys? But…

Yeah, I know. I’m a GUI kid. I don’t go out of my way to create a personalized space in Terminal, and everyone’s production and development environment is different. I’ve done projects that had ASP Classic, .Net, PHP, RoR, Perl, and a dozen other home-baked stacks on the server. Hell, one project had a TCL back-end. Yeah…TCL! I don’t want to walk in and spend hours or days tinkering with Terminal only to be told that there’s a bunch of pre-baked tools to use with it.

In general, I won’t install Putty if I’m working on a Mac, because I’ll use OS X as my primary development environment, and Windows for testing only.

Everything else the boss pays for

The above is really, really lean, intentionally so. With the above, you can sit down and be productive pretty quickly if you’re only updating user interface code. Getting up to speed on specific CMS, database, and other middleware stuff is going to require you to talk to your project lead, and install that as required. I don’t want my basic set-up taking up so much space and resources that I can’t do that, or it gets in the way. Every project has a different tech stack. I want my box lean for that.

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