Mstation Book Reviews
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Mon, 24 Mar 2008


Crowell, Morimura, Tokyo: city on the edge, Asia 2000

Possibly not in print anymore but an interesting wander through various aspects of Tokyo and the Japanese from a slightly jaded viewpoint.

The book actually starts out by discussing disasters - great fires and earthquakes and the subway terrorist attack and then goes on to look at everything from super-organised dating, to eating and art. Well, that will be that 'edge' thing.

It's quite a slim book so sometimes it feels a bit like a list but there are, nevertheless, quite a few interesting snippets that you won't find elsewhere, for those interested in Tokyo.

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Make: the book

Various, The Best of Make, O'Reilly

In the past we've looked at a few issues of Make magazine. They're always fun and usually there's one or two projects we wouldn't mind having a try at.

The Best Of has 75 projects culled from the past and there are quite a few fun ones there. There's even a music section with projects like making a cereal box amp or a cigar box guitar. Another has you fiddling with the circuits of old battery-powered synths to create new sounds.

Our favorite of the bigger projects was a complete wind generated electricity outfit - propeller, stand, generator, circuits, as well as a lot of helpful safety and other pointers.

This brings us to the whole attitude of the thing - You Can Do It! Don't let other people convince you that you're ignorant and powerless.

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Conscience of a Liberal

Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal: reclaiming America from the Right, Allen Lane

Princeton economist Paul Krugman has a few cogent words to say about the USA and the soon to be departing George W. Bush along with the anti-social members of his group. Inequality, woeful social services, cronyism, corruption, dishonesty - all these and more make up a picture comparable to the 1920's.

Krugman spends some time looking at how it all came to be, and along the way shows how the US health system came to be the way it is, and who wants to keep it that way (Southern conservatives for one, drug companies for two, and health insurance companies to make up the triad).

But it looks like America is finally waking up so perhaps there were will be a happy ending yet.

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Food book!

James and Kay Salter, Life is Meals: a food lover's book of days, Knopf

A book of days for food with unrelated different entries for each day of the year and mostly with an historical reference. If you are a foodie or even a little above the level of the eating Macdonalds walking down the street people then, if you are given to use words like "lovely!" or "delightful", you will use them for this book.

The whole thing has been lovingly put together with little anecdotes, factlets, ideas, and lore. I suppose the idea is that you'd consult it on a daily basis but I gobbled it up and will keep it by my bedside for a while and dip into it randomly.

Where else, under one cover, can you simultaneously discover Duma's salad dressing recipe and which Chateau d'Yqem to order if you've just won the lottery (the 1975)? (Baron K)

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Anthony T. Holdener III, Ajax: the definitive guide, O'Reilly

If your eyes have begun to glaze over at the mention of Web 2.0 by the money, money crowd then you're in good company but that's because the money, money crowd rarely have an interesting idea of their own rather than Web 2.0 being boring. The idea is basically Web Applications - full scale programs like word processors that will run in your browser.

Java was supposed to do this kind of thing but there was the JVM to be dealt with and also the whole program needed to be downloaded before anything would happen. It was all quite slow.

Ajax is what's happening now and the key to the success of the whole thing is the asynchronous nature of its communication with the server - in other words, little segments of a webpage can be updated - the whole page doesn't have to be reloaded for every new piece of information.

This book is not only the definitive guide to Ajax, it is also a pretty good guide to web technology right now, in terms of browsers, standards, and scripting languages.

The 957 pages with index start off with this background material and proceeds into issues such as planning and accessibility, functionality, and the rest, and then gets on with various examples of how to do things. All in all, the word 'definitive' is aptly used in the title.

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