Monday, April 30, 2012

In Pursuit of the Unknown, by Ian Stewart

The sub-title is "17 equations that changed the world."  I was very optimistic about Professor Stewart's book and really wanted it to be great.   Sadly, that was not to be.

Why not?   With few exceptions, Stewart failed to make the complex equations understandable.   It is pretty easy to explain Pythagora's theorem.   Logarithms too, although the author didn't do a great job.  By the time we got to Euler's formula for polyhedra, things were going downhill at an alarming rate.

In fairness, it isn't easy to explain all these equations in lay terms.   But also in fairness, that was Stewart's mission; the job he took on and he failed at it.

The good news:  some interesting commentary about the figures behind the equations.

Don't waste your time, though, unless you're extremely well grounded in mathematics.

ISBN 0465029736

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Professionals, by Owen Laukkanen

Mr. Laukkanen, in his first novel, has taken the title of top notch mystery writer.    It is clear that the two main characters of this book, FBI agent Carla Windemere and Minnesota state police investigator Kirk Stevens, will be the basis for a long series to come.

To avoid spoilers, I won't say much about the plot.   A group of young college grads, unable or unwilling to find "normal" jobs, take on small scale kidnapping as a career.   Things go wrong.   Police, and other bad guys, get involved.

The writing is great, plot is great, pacing is great.  I'm a big fan.

If you like mysteries, you'll want to read this book.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow

This is the go to book on the topic.   Its breadth is amazing:  from understanding how chickens communicate (and differentiating between different sounds) to how best to kill and pluck a meat bird.  It is a phenomenal reference.

If anything, it provides a bit too much information:  if you're considering some egg layers but read this book first, you might reconsider, just because you'll learn about all the little details.   In that regard, it is like reading too much about what might happen during pregnancy:  at some point, you get a head ache.

Having said that, this is worth having as a reference for anyone with chickens, and is an interesting read even if you're fowl-free.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Keeping a Family Cow, by Joann Grohman

If you have any interest in having your own dairy cow, this is the go to book.   You will have to endure a bit of proselytizing for the concept of humans drinking cow milk up front.   By the way, I don't drink milk.   Mostly because I stopped nursing a very long time ago and continuing to do so, even with another species' milk -- or especially with another species' milk -- would at best make no sense and at worst be just gross.

But I am interested in homesteading and in the general topic of having a household cow.   For that, this book is superb.   It covers everything from nutrition to behavior, and the author just drips with credibility from her personal experiences.

Certainly if you do drink cow's milk, and you want to avoid steroids, chemicals and who knows what sort of living conditions your source experiences, having your own dairy cow seems a great alternative.

You will, however, have to wake up to milk every single morning.  Even if it is raining, you had a bit to drink the night before, and you just want to stay in bed.   That laziness, that lack of discipline, is perhaps the most significant reason for me to forgo home grown dairy products.