Saturday, March 22, 2008

I've been running into quite a few free online games lately that serve as good time wasters. Here are a few of the ones I've played:

Desktop Tower Defense
Ballistic Wars

My personal favourite is Arcane - it's more of a full fledged game, very atmospheric, with a fun, spooky little story.
A few minutes ago, I finished Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, his first foray into the young adult fantasy market.

Un Lun Dun centers around two girls who travel into an alternate London and into a confrontation with malevolent pollution. It's a good book, but substantially different from his previous works due to being targetted for the young adult market. His other books, one of which I wrote about here, are very dark with a lot of sexual and grotesque imagery and violent action. Un Lun Dun is more in the Harry Potter vein, but with more word games since a lot of the people and places encountered are based on twisted versions of real things. For example, they visit Webminster abbey and have to deal with Binjas, trash bins with martial arts skills.

It's nice to see an author I like try something different and do it so well.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yesterday I finished Not Even Wrong by Peter Woit, another book about the problems with string theory. I discussed another book that came out around the same time, Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics, here).

They are both worthy attempts at bringing attention to the state of particle physics, but Smolin's is the better book. It's more clearly and concisely written, and better organized. He also does a better job of explaining why string theory was seen as a viable and important idea to work on, which also helps explain why a lot of physicists are un-willing to give up on it.

Woit's book is better at going into some of the mathematical details behind the theories. For the layman, I would recommend reading Smolin's book first. If you are still interested, and want to get more of the details without trying to jump in to the actual papers, then read Not Even Wrong.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I just finished Spook Country by William Gibson, sort of a sequel to Pattern Recognition (which I discussed here).

I liked Spook Country less than Pattern Recognition. It's not really a sequel, but it does have a few characters in common. The new book is harder to get into the last one. The chapters rotate between three different characters -One of them is interesting, another isn't, and the third is hard to get a handle on, particularly in the brief opening chapters of the book.

By the end, they mostly tie together but the book lacks any real resolution. Since it deals with spies, some ambiguity makes sense but not only isn't it clear for most of the book who various people are working for, what they are trying to do or why they are doing it, but it is never really resolved. By the end, we learn a little more about what some of the people are doing, but not who they really are, their motives or the final outcomes of their schemes. It's not a bad ride, but with very little payoff at the end.