Title: A Colder Kind of Death
Author: Gail Bowen
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Reading period: 27–28 May, 2016
Joanna Kilbourn's husband, Ian, was senselessly murdered
along the Trans-Canada Highway six years ago.
Now the killer has been murdered in prison.
And his vile girlfriend, who was acquitted of Ian's murder, is making threats.
Then she's found dead, strangled by Joanna's scarf, and Joanna is the prime suspect.
Joanna, who is a quietly competent mother, professor, and political commentator,
starts digging and she finds things that alarm her about Ian's past,
things that she had missed in her fog of grief after his …continue.
I made a number of updates to the FlyingCloud Documentation tonight.
I hope to give a lightning talk about FlyingCloud
at PyCon on Monday evening or Tuesday morning,
and I put together some slides for that too.
We drove down to Portland, Oregon yesterday for PyCon.
No trip to Portland would be complete without a trip to Powell's bookstore.
I don't have much time this trip, but we did manage to spend an hour there last night,
before they closed at 11pm.
There's nothing like it in Seattle.
I like Elliott Bay Bookstore but it's a pale shadow of Powell's.
A long time ago, someone described Powell's to me as “the best bookstore in Seattle”—meaning that Seattleites who want to visit a world-class bookstore
have to visit Portland.
I got out lightly.
I spent only $85.
Title: Mars Crossing
Author: Geoffrey A. Landis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Keywords: hard sf
Reading period: 22–27 May, 2016
Five astronauts are stranded on Mars.
Their only hope is to find the vehicle of an earlier crew who died—but that ship is at the north pole and they're south of the equator.
And so they trek north across Mars.
They know that the other ship can't hold them all,
and some of them start dying along the way.
Landis is a NASA scientist who writes “hard science fiction”;
i.e., SF that's solidly based in science,
some of which is known for plodding writing and dull characters.
Landis's characters …continue.
Our poster designer sent me a PDF of this year's Bloomsday poster.
I thought the file was too large at 7.2MB and I wanted to reduce the file size
without significant loss of image quality.
I was unable to achieve this in Preview or Acrobat Reader,
but Ghostscript did the trick,
thanks to an answer on AskUbuntu:
gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \
-dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress -dNOPAUSE -dQUIET -dBATCH \
The results speak for themselves.
Crop of the Original PDF, size 7.2MB.
Crop of -dPDFSETTINGS=/screen. PDF size: 78KB
Crop of -dPDFSETTINGS=/ebook. PDF size: 234KB
Crop of -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress. PDF size: 1.75MB
The power suddenly went out at work today about 11:30am.
There was a technician who was running wires,
standing on a ladder next to us,
who disclaimed all responsibility.
Since the wires were Ethernet cables, we believed him.
It quickly became apparent that it was not just our office or even our building,
but many blocks of downtown Seattle that had lost power.
One person was trapped in the elevator in our old Pioneer Square building.
Within half an hour, everyone had left the office.
Although most of us have laptops,
no electricity meant no Internet.
I drifted up to Capitol Hill and spent the afternoon
working with two colleagues in a …continue.
I spent a couple of frustrating hours this evening
trying to figure out an easy way to deploy a Docker container on AWS.
I tried out the EC2 Container Service and got lost
in a sea of Clusters, Tasks, and Services.
I couldn't connect to the EC2 instance where my container supposedly lived.
I tried Elastic Beanstalk and gave up in exasperation.
When you create a new Docker environment,
there's no way to pull an existing image from an external repo
that I could see.
We have some tools for deploying a Docker image to Elastic Beanstalk,
but they were so cryptic that I didn't want to pursue that.
Eventually I …continue.
Toastmasters teaches three skillsets.
By far the best known is public speaking,
but evaluation and leadership are also valuable.
Learning to evaluate a speech teaches you to listen carefully
and to give useful feedback.
The Toastmasters' Sandwich is the best-known approach:
point out several things the speaker did well,
suggest some areas of improvement,
and conclude with more praise.
The evaluator benefits too from the evaluation,
as they hone their listening and critical skills
and as they learn to give helpful feedback.
The audience also benefits,
as they hear both the speech
and a measured response to the speech.
Outside of Toastmasters,
feedback is often negative and critical ("Here's how you're fucking up"),
which leads to demotivation …continue.
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Claremont Publishers
Reading period: 21 May, 2016
Nick Sandman earned a Victoria Cross in the Falklands
and spent a year relearning how to walk.
Now all he wants to do is to restore Sycorax, his beloved old boat.
But to afford that, he has to work for TV star Tony Bannister.
Bannister wants to win the St Pierre–Halifax race with Sandman's help
and he wants to make a documentary about Sandman,
neither of which Sandman wants.
Bannister's wife died sailing the previous year
and her wealthy father holds Bannister responsible.
Another of Cornwell's contemporary sailing thrillers,
which also holds up …continue.
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Reading period: 19–21 May, 2016
It's late 1990 and Saddam Hussein has just invaded Kuwait.
Paul Shanahan is an exiled Irish-American yacht delivery skipper.
He used to be a gunrunner for the IRA,
but rumors that he was a CIA agent have kept them at arms' length.
Now the IRA have engaged him to sail $5,000,000 in Libyan-supplied gold coins
across the Atlantic to buy 53 Stinger missiles.
It stinks but he can't say no.
And maybe he is the CIA agent that he's rumored to be.
Cornwell is best known as a writer of historical action …continue.