George V. Reilly

Review: The Hateful Eight

Title: The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Released: 2015
Keywords: western, mystery
Watched: 16 April, 2016

We saw the “roadshow” edition of The Hateful Eight at the Cinerama, projected in 70mm as Tarantino and God intended. The eight pro­tag­o­nists are all as hateful and violent as you would expect given the title and the director. Tarantino is incapable of making a film without gratuitous violence and gore, but neither can he make a film without memorable characters who eviscerate with dialog. He continues to deliver both.

During one long day, some years after the Civil War, eight characters find themselves trapped by a blizzard in a remote inn. Two are bounty hunters, another claims continue.

Review: The Locked Room

Title: The Locked Room
Author: Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Vintage
Copyright: 1973
Pages: 279
Keywords: mystery
Reading period: 8–12 April, 2016

In The Locked Room, Martin Beck, recovering from being shot, in­ves­ti­gates the death of a man, who has been found shot in a locked room with no gun. Meanwhile, some of his former colleagues, now serving on a special task force, are trying to deal with an epidemic of bank robberies. The latter is a comedy of errors, with the police con­sis­tent­ly messing up.

The authors are severely critical of the growth of Swedish police powers in the decade before this book was written. They also write harshly of the continue.

Review: A Stone of the Heart

Title: A Stone of the Heart
Author: John Brady
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Steerforth Press
Copyright: 1988
Pages: 256
Keywords: mystery
Reading period: 2–8 April, 2016

A student is found murdered on the grounds of Trinity College Dublin. Sergeant Matt Minogue, newly back on duty after serious injuries, in­ves­ti­gates and eventually finds links to the violence then roiling Northern Ireland.

A slow-moving but thoughtful police procedural. Minogue may be trau­ma­tized by earlier injuries, but he is not the cynical, hard-drinking policeman so typical of fiction, but rather a happily married father with a nose for the truth.

io.StringIO and UnicodeCSV DictWriter

I like to use io.StringIO rather than the older cStringIO.StringIO, as it’s Python 3–ready io.StringIO is also a context manager: if you use it in a with statement, the string buffer is au­to­mat­i­cal­ly closed as you go out of scope.

I tried using io.StringIO with unicodecsv, as I wanted to capture the CSV output into a string buffer for use with unit tests. unicodecsv is a drop-in re­place­ment for Python’s built-in csv module, which supports Unicode strings.

with io.StringIO() as csv_file:
    lines = csv_file.getvalue().split('\r\n')
    return lines[:-1]  # drop empty line after trailing \r\n

It failed horribly with TypeError: unicode argument expected, got 'str'.

I continue.

Review: Venetian Mask

Title: Venetian Mask
Author: Mickey Friedman
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright: 1988
Pages: 352
Keywords: mystery
Reading period: 27 March–2 April, 2016

Six people arrange to meet in Venice for Carnival, masked and costumed as their true selves. Not knowing how the others are costumed, each makes very dif­fer­en­t—and wrong—as­sump­tions. Brian, husband of Sally and lover of Jean-Pierre, is found dead. Surely one of the group is the killer. An effete local, Count Michele Zanon, takes an interest in the affair.

A strange novel whose plot hinges on mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, mistaken identities, and incorrect as­sump­tions, as the seven pro­tag­o­nists rush around Venice, seeking or hiding from each other.

Debunking Memes

Somedays on Facebook, it seems like I spend half my time being that guy, the killjoy who debunks the false memes. One that I’ve debunked many times in the last few weeks is the one that claims Sandra Day O’Connor called the GOP a group of "vile, petulant, hateful" ob­struc­tion­ists. Although I (and many of my friends) agree with that sentiment, O’Connor never said it. Snopes—as usual— is on the job and points out that the GOP Ob­struc­tion­ists meme is due to sloppy punc­tu­a­tion that then went viral.

In the last week, I’ve seen what purports to be a poster from a 1970s anti-drink driving campaign, often supposedly in Ireland, which says, “Driving? Don’t have that continue.

Tufte Makeover

I’ve long been a fan of Edward Tufte‘s work. I’m also a fan of old-style serif fonts, such as Bembo.

I happened across the R Studio Tufte Handout Style yesterday, and I was im­me­di­ate­ly struck by how much it resembles Tufte’s books. It uses Tufte CSS and the open-source Tufte Book Font. ETBook is a “computer version” of Bembo that Tufte con­struct­ed for the more recent editions of his books, sup­plant­i­ng the lead type of the earlier editions.

I’ve adapted this blog’s stylesheet to use ETBook and some of the other settings from tufte.css. It’s not completely faithful; e.g., headings are bold, not italic.

How have I never discovered before? It’s been around for 20 years and it seems to be an au­thor­i­ta­tive source on the sizes of all kinds of things: screw threads, shoe sizes, horse collars, cake pans, comas, chronolo­gies, gross national happiness, vehicle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion numbers, and much more. I discovered it when looking up penny nails.

Toastmasters Assistant Android App

I signed up for a three-part Android Study Jam organized by the Seattle Google Developer Group, at the behest of a colleague who is also one of the organizers. The last session takes place tomorrow morning.

I’ve built a little Android app that I call the Toast­mas­ters Assistant for the final project. It doesn’t do very much yet, except present some in­for­ma­tion about Toast­mas­ters meetings, roles, and speeches in an Ex­pand­ableListView. I have some ambitions to do more with it. Specif­i­cal­ly, I want to add a speech timer.

Review: National Sunday Law

Title: National Sunday Law
Author: A. Jan Marcussen
Rating: ☆
Publisher: Amazing Truth Pub­li­ca­tions
Copyright: 1988
Pages: 94
Keywords: delusional religious propaganda

We received an un­so­licit­ed copy of this ridiculous book in the mail. It drones on and on about Satan and his plans, bashing both Catholics and Protes­tants. Apparently, ‘Sunday worship is “the mark of the beast!”’. Who knew? Who cares.

I assumed that it’s from the Seventh Day Adventists, though I couldn’t confirm that from skimming it. However, Catholic Answers confirms my guess.

Best avoided, especially on Sundays.

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