Bad Dogs Have More Fun

(Warning: I read the Brazilian Portuguese translated edition, so some of my points my be valid only on that.)

“Marley & Me.” A lot of people read it an liked it. I did. And, when I saw that my parents send me another book by John Grogan about dogs, I thought “Yay! Another dog book!” Too bad I was wrong.

The book is a collection of some stories posted by Grogan in his column in the newspapers. All them about dogs? No, just about three, one being the last chapter of “Marley & Me”, which brings the question of “Why such title, then?” Well, one of the stories is named “Bad Dogs Have More Fun.” And that’s it. It’s not even a good story and not the first story in the book. So, the answer of that question is: “To make this book sell, as people will think is another funny book about dogs.”

Let’s skip this issue and move forward. Are the columns good, anyway? The answer is: they are just a little bit below average. I read better columns every day on the “Sydney Morning Herald”, to be completely honest with you. There is this small infomercial about a place which sells wigs and other stuff to women with cancer (with full address and all), there is a nicely written column were the author post a nice “farewell” to his dog (which you already read in “Marley & Me”); a questioning about stereotypes when the author gives a poor woman a ride to the city… And then we have the mediocre pride to the flag column which almost made me puke. Honestly. I read half of it and skipped for the next one, ’cause I couldn’t stand so much brain-dead-mentality on it.

There is a nice picture that Grogan inadvertently writes about the American society. First, we have this sickly “OH MY GOD! I JUST LOVE MY FLAG! I WANT TO MAKE LOVE WITH IT IN FRONT OF MY KIDS TO PROVE MY LOVE FOR IT!” column and than another one saying “Yeah, I was in the airport and the officers used an anal probe on me, but that’s good, ’cause we are fighting terrorism” followed by, some columns later (which means some weeks later in real life), another one say “They anally probe me again. I wonder if that’s really necessary.” I mean, you can see, clearly, this man, which absolutely, blindly loves his country, start questioning the government politics about the whole fight against terrorism.

Also, Grogan shows his point of view of his best-seller book (no, I won’t type the title for a third time, you guys are probably going sick with it already.) To him, he is the main character in that book, not his dog. Now, if you read the book (yes, you do. If you don’t, go read it when you finish reading this), you’ll see that Marley is the main character. It’s not a book about Grogan and his dog, it’s a book about a Dog and its family. You know when the first Batman movie show up and people said that the real main character in the movie was The Joker, not Batman? So yeah, Gorgan is Batman.

Let me finish this saying some words about the translated version: it sucks. Donkey balls. One thing is when the written word is translated and you lose some information; another thing is when you lose information because the translator decides to use some liberties. I hate when that happens. The most common ones if when the author tries to describe some distance using two cities in their country; usually bad translators will translate not just the words, but also replace cities for some local ones (and it doesn’t even matter if they are big ones; sometimes they are known only by the translator). Same goes with food: instead of keeping the authors national dish, the translator decides to replace it with some local (to him/her) food. Both happen. Worst, the translator decided to translate even cities names. And, at some points, reading it made me feel like I was reading some 13-year-old girl book, with some cutesy-cutesy words.

Starship Troopers

Robert A. Heinlein wrote a book about the army of the future. It became a movie, which everyone says it is crap, which I can’t agree: it had explosions, it has nice CGIs and it had Dina Meyer, although she died in the middle of the movie. Anyway, I like the movie, so why not read the book?

And, as any book adaptation to the silver screen, some bits are completely lost: half of the book is about the training days, and the whole book is about Rico’s point-of-view of the war and the military life. In a way, the first half of the book looks a lot like things Skippy can’t do, while the rest looks a lot more about Heinlein views of the political affairs. And that’s something I really hate on fiction books. Like when Victor Hugo decided that he should tell how great Napoleon was, losing just one battle because his commanders didn’t saw a hole in the battle field, right in the middle of “Les Miserables”. The point is not “author putting his point of view in a fiction book”, but “author putting his point of view in a fiction book when such PoV doesn’t change shit in the history”. In the case of Heinlein, he filled the book with discussions about how the military would be better voters, how the politics finally worked (in his universe) when the military where above the civilians and such, hidden in discussions in “History and Moral Philosophy” classes (which the narrator has to go twice in the book). Remove such pieces and you lose nothing about the story itself.

All in all, the book is very easy to read, although some situations are hard to believe, even in the future.

Ender’s Game

For about a month, “Ender’s Game” (ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31378-4; ISBN-10: 0-765-31738-9) sit on my desk. For a month, I just read a few lines of the introduction (not the story itself) and dropped the book. Then, last week, I decided it was time to finish reading it so I could put it away.

And then I got into the story of it. And I couldn’t drop the book anymore. For those unaware of the plot, it is the story about gifted kids and a race of bugs who want to destroy Earth. One of these kids is Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who is believed by the army to be the most capable commander to defeat the buggers. The whole story surround Ender’s training, mental breakdown, hopes, dreams, and so on.

Orson Scott Card writes a big introduction, trying to explain his point of view about gifted kids. And, for some reason, after reading the book, it feels more like a excuse than an explanation. Several dialogs between such kids feel like 30 years old talking and not something coming from 6 year olds; it may be Card’s vision, but it doesn’t look real. Also, all characters have a flat personality, which is exposed right in the beginning of the book and never change, even in a space of several years. Card points that Asimov “Foundation” series influenced him when he was writing this book, but you really miss Asimov’s way of showing someone personality: bits and pieces there, where you need to read the whole book to finally understand his/her way of thinking.

One good point about the book is that is pretty easy to read. There are a lot of action happening in zero-g but is pretty easy to understand what is going on, which is the complete opposite of “Neuromancer” (which I simply decided it wasn’t worth trying to figure out what William Gibson was trying to explain.)

Mergulhando no Python (”Dive Into Python”)

I just finished reading “Mergulhando no Python”, the translated and printed version of “Dive Into Python“. Not that I’m a newbie when dealing with Python, but there is always some tricks you don’t know or just forget. And that’s something the book is really good at. Well, not only that. If you are a newbie, you could learn how Python works just reading the book.

The organization of the book is quite good too. The author don’t rush into explanations and don’t show things that weren’t mentioned before. And, when it does, he really takes the time to explain what that means.

Since I’m not a newbie, there were some things I already knew, but there were some that I didn’t knew or never realized. Like Python introspection (getattr, hasattr functions), which I never realized. Also, every interesting block of code have a note explaining some trick behind it. And the author really explains what he is doing when it doesn’t make sense doing the way he did (for the sake of teaching). Even more, a chapter about Performance Tuning have several explanations of the Python internals and how to code having that in mind.

For people who code or want to learn how to code using Python, that’s the book. The only missing bit (in my opinion) is some general explanation about Python eggs (the Python packages).

Geek += 1

I just increased my geekness a few weeks ago when I completed “Neuromancer“, Willian Gibson most famous work.

Now, I couldn’t read it without seeing the main character (Chase) as the main character of “Hackers”. Actually, Neuromancer really looks like a clash between “Hackers” and “Bladerunner”. Add a little bit of “Matrix” and “I want to be John Malcowich” and there you have it.

There are some pieces around the end, when you have people in zero-g in an acid trip that you can’t really understand what is going on. Other than that, the story moves nicely. But I wouldn’t recomend it, as the confusing parts took a great deal of the climax of the book.

Well, let’s see what I will find next to improve my geekness…

[And “Geek += 1” ’cause that’s one of the books listed on Top 20 Geek Novels]

Hunting high and low

Last time I changed jobs, “Stratovarius – Hunting High and Low” kept playing in my head over and over again. And now again. So…

I feel the wind in my hair
And it’s whispering, telling me things
Of the storm that is gathering near
Full of power I’m spreading my wings

Now I’m leaving my worries behind
Feel the freedom of body and mind
I am starting my journey, I’m drifting away with the wind
I go

I am Hunting High and Low
Diving from the sky above
Looking for, more and more, once again
I’m Hunting High and Low
Sometimes I may win sometimes I’ll lose
It’s just a game that I play

After the storm there’s a calm
Through the clouds shines a ray of the sun
I am carried from all of my harm
There is no one that I can’t outrun

Now I’m leaving my worries behind
Feel the freedom of body and mind
I am starting my journey, I’m drifting away with the wind
I go

I am Hunting High and Low
Diving from the sky above
Looking for, more and more, once again
I’m Hunting High and Low
Sometimes I may win sometimes I’ll lose
It’s just a game that I play


Am I a geek?

Of the top 20 geek novels, I’ve read only 4, but I’ve read the top 2 (and the other 2 are between the top 8), so… what is my geek score?

[I’ve read: “The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and you can give me extra points for reading all the books), “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and, of course, “I, Robot” and “Foundation”]

Edit 1: some other stuff to read when I get some time (stolen directly from the Slashdot discussion):

  • The whole “Ringworld” series by Larry Niven
  • Something from Ursula LeGuin
  • All the Discworld stories by Terry Pratchett (The Colour of Magic is the first book)
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (yeah, the book — everyone says it is better than the movie and, as I liked the movie…)
  • Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan

As the list by The Guardian, this list is completely unscientific; just some names I heard before and never got enough time to go after them.

Edit 2: just in case The Guardian decides do remove the article…

  • The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four — George Orwell
  • Brave New World — Aldous Huxley
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — Philip Dick
  • Neuromancer — William Gibson
  • Dune — Frank Herbert
  • I, Robot — Isaac Asimov
  • Foundation — Isaac Asimov
  • The Colour of Magic — Terry Pratchett
  • Microserfs — Douglas Coupland
  • Snow Crash — Neal Stephenson
  • Watchmen — Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  • Cryptonomicon — Neal Stephenson
  • Consider Phlebas — Iain M Banks
  • Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein
  • The Man in the High Castle — Philip K Dick
  • American Gods — Neil Gaiman
  • The Diamond Age — Neal Stephenson
  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy — Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
  • Trouble with Lichen – John Wyndham

Star Trek: Articles of the Federation

“Star Trek: Articles of the Federation” (ISBN 1-4165-0015-4) is a book that tries to bring something different to the Star Trek universe: instead of going in exploration missions, going where no man has gone before (boldly), the book focuses on the matters of the management of the Federation and its 150+ members (each one representing one race).

Although it should be a book about politics, there is nothing about politics in it: all matters are solved always in the right way, without forcing anyone to do the wrong just to get favors. Well, somewhat it fit in the society of the Star Trek universe but it doesn’t feel right. I don’t think people would change THAT much, politics even less.

Anyway, a good book to read, even without all the action it is somewhat expected from the Star Trek universe.

Star Trek: S.C.E. (Book One)

Just recently the Star Trek franchise isn’t going well. For a long time, it is the first time that there isn’t one Star Trek series running on TV. But it is not for the lack of trying.

“Star Trek: S.C.E., book One” (ISBN 0-7434-3996-1) tries to define a new series, but went only on book form (at least, at this time). The story goes following the “da Vinci” crew, formed mostly by engineers, able to solve any mystery and fix any device. The link to another series is, obviously, La Forge, as he is the main engineer of Enterprise.

The book is good, following the Star Trek philosophy quite closely. You can almost see the series when reading it, so it doesn’t feel out of place. The first book has four stories: “The Belly Of The Beast”, where the S.C.E. team has to find out why a huge ship is attacking a colony; “Fatal Error” follows a story about a society so dependent on a computer and what happens when this computer is infected with a virus; “Hard Crash” deals with lost, as a ship with emotions start attacking a colony without reason; “Interphase: Book One” is the cliff-hanger for “S.C.E., book two”, bringing the old Defiant back to the Star Trek universe (as did happen in the original Star Trek and Star Trek: Enterprise), where the S.C.E. team from da Vinci tries to take the ship out of the spatial rift.