Saturday, May 16, 2020

Version 3.2 of UNUM is now available for downloading. Version 3.2 incorporates the Unicode 13.0.0 standard, released on March 10th, 2020. The update to Unicode adds support for four scripts for languages, additional CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) symbols, 55 new emoji, and symbols from legacy computer and teletext systems and Creative Commons licenses. There are a total of 143,859 characters in 13.0.0, of which 5930 are new since 12.1.0. (UNUM also supports an additional 65 ASCII control characters, which are not assigned graphic code points in the Unicode database.) This is an incremental update to Unicode. There are...

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

I have just posted version 2.1 of the ISBNiser utility and ISBNquest Web resource. These are utilities which validate, inter-convert, and properly format all varieties of International Standard Book Number (ISBN) specifications. Both utilities have been updated to use the most recent version of the ISBN Range database (Wed, 6 May 2020 14:51:46 CEST), replacing the October 2018 version previously used. The range database is used to parse ISBNs into their components (Prefix, Registration group, Registrant, Publication, and Checksum) and used by these tools to re-format ISBNs with the correct punctuation. ISBNquest has been updated to use the new Amazon...

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

When I began the Fourmilab Reading List in January 2001, it was just that: a list of every book I'd read, updated as I finished books, without any commentary other than, perhaps, availability information and sources for out-of-print works or those from publishers not available through Amazon.com. As the 2000s progressed, I began to add remarks about many of the books, originally limited to one paragraph, but eventually as the years wore on, expanding to full-blown reviews, some sprawling to four thousand words or more and using the book as the starting point for an extended discussion on topics related...

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Schlichter, Kurt. Collapse. El Segundo, CA: Kurt Schlichter, 2019. ISBN 978-1-7341993-0-7. In his 2016 novel People's Republic (November 2018), the author describes North America in the early 2030s, a decade after the present Cold Civil War turned hot and the United States split into the People's Republic of North America (PRNA) on the coasts and the upper Midwest, with the rest continuing to call itself the United States, its capital now in Dallas, purging itself of the “progressive” corruption which was now unleashed without limits in the PRNA. In that book we met Kelly Turnbull, retired from the military and veteran...

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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Ryan, Craig. Sonic Wind. New York: Livewright Publishing, 2018. ISBN 978-0-631-49191-0. Prior to the 1920s, most aircraft pilots had no means of escape in case of mechanical failure or accident. During World War I, one out of every eight combat pilots was shot down or killed in a crash. Germany experimented with cumbersome parachutes stored in bags in a compartment behind the pilot, but these often failed to deploy properly if the plane was in a spin or became tangled in the aircraft structure after deployment. Still, they did save the lives of a number of German pilots. (On the...

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Version 3.1 of UNUM is now available for downloading. Version 3.1 incorporates the Unicode 12.1.0 standard, released on May 7th, 2019. Since the Unicode 11.0.0 standard supported by UNUM 3.0, a total of 555 new characters have been added, for a total of 137,929 characters. Unicode 12.0.0 added support for 4 new scripts (for a total of 150) and 61 new emoji characters. Unicode 12.1.0 added the single character U+32FF, the Japanese character for the Reiwa era. (In addition to the standard Unicode characters, UNUM also supports an additional 65 ASCII control characters, which are not assigned graphic code points...

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Virk, Rizwan. The Simulation Hypothesis. Cambridge, MA: Bayview Books, 2019. ISBN 978-0-9830569-0-4. Before electronic computers had actually been built, Alan Turing mathematically proved a fundamental and profound property of them which has been exploited in innumerable ways as they developed and became central to many of our technologies and social interactions. A computer of sufficient complexity, which is, in fact, not very complex at all, can simulate any other computer or, in fact, any deterministic physical process whatsoever, as long as it is understood sufficiently to model in computer code and the system being modelled does not exceed the capacity...

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Wood, Fenton. The City of Illusions. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2019. ASIN B082692JTX. This is the fourth short novel/novella (148 pages) in the author's Yankee Republic series. I described the first, Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves (May 2019), as “utterly charming”, and the second, Five Million Watts (June 2019), “enchanting”. The third, The Tower of the Bear (October 2019), takes Philo from the depths of the ocean to the Great Tree in the exotic West. Here, the story continues as Philo reaches the Tree, meets its Guardian, “the largest, ugliest, and smelliest bear” he has ever seen, not to mention the most voluble...

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Here are my picks for the best books of 2019, fiction and nonfiction. These aren't the best books published this year, but rather the best I've read in the last twelve months. The winner in both categories is barely distinguished from the pack, and the runners up are all worthy of reading. Runners up appear in alphabetical order by their author's surname. Each title is linked to my review of the book. Fiction: Winner: The Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation by Travis J. I. Corcoran I am jointly choosing these two novels as fiction books of the...

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Andrew, Christopher and Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield. New York: Basic Books, 1999. ISBN 978-0-465-00312-9. Vasili Mitrokhin joined the Soviet intelligence service as a foreign intelligence officer in 1948, at a time when the MGB (later to become the KGB) and the GRU were unified into a single service called the Committee of Information. By the time he was sent to his first posting abroad in 1952, the two services had split and Mitrokhin stayed with the MGB. Mitrokhin's career began in the paranoia of the final days of Stalin's regime, when foreign intelligence officers were sent on...

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Page, Joseph T., II. Vandenberg Air Force Base. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4671-3209-1. Prior to World War II, the sleepy rural part of the southern California coast between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo was best known as the location where, in September 1923, despite a lighthouse having been in operation at Arguello Point since 1901, the U.S. Navy suffered its worst peacetime disaster, when seven destroyers, travelling at 20 knots, ran aground at Honda Point, resulting in the loss of all seven ships and the deaths of 23 crewmembers. In the 1930s, following additional wrecks in the...

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Taloni, John. The Compleat Martian Invasion. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2016. ASIN B01HLTZ7MS. A number of years have elapsed since the Martian Invasion chronicled by H.G. Wells in The War of the Worlds. The damage inflicted on the Earth was severe, and the protracted process of recovery, begun in the British Empire in the last years of Queen Victoria's reign, now continues under Queen Louise, Victoria's sixth child and eldest surviving heir after the catastrophe of the invasion. Just as Earth is beginning to return to normalcy, another crisis has emerged. John Bedford, who had retreated into an opium haze...

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Walton, David. Three Laws Lethal. Jersey City, NJ: Pyr, 2019. ISBN 978-1-63388-560-8. In the near future, autonomous vehicles, “autocars”, are available from a number of major automobile manufacturers. The self-driving capability, while not infallible, has been approved by regulatory authorities after having demonstrated that it is, on average, safer than the population of human drivers on the road and not subject to human frailties such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, while tired, or distracted by others in the car or electronic gadgets. While self-driving remains a luxury feature with which a minority of cars on the...

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dutton, Edward. How to Judge People by What they Look Like. Oulu, Finland: Thomas Edward Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1-9770-6797-5. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote, People say sometimes that Beauty is only superficial. That may be so. But at least it is not as superficial as Thought. To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. From childhood, however, we have been exhorted not to judge people by their appearances. In Skin in the Game (August 2019), Nassim Nicholas Taleb advises choosing the surgeon who “doesn't look like...

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Carroll, Michael. Europa's Lost Expedition. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2017. ISBN 978-3-319-43158-1. In the epoch in which this story is set the expansion of the human presence into the solar system was well advanced, with large settlements on the Moon and Mars, exploitation of the abundant resources in the main asteroid belt, and research outposts in exotic environments such as Jupiter's enigmatic moon Europa, when civilisation on Earth was consumed, as so often seems to happen when too many primates who evolved to live in small bands are packed into a limited space, by a global conflict which the survivors,...

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