Review: The Beekeeper by Juliet Moore

First the good news: the story is - for the most part - very fluid and consistent, the characters quite well developed.
Its a good, relatively fast read book that I would recommend to anyone as an entertainment read. Don't expect deeply twisted plotlines, just enjoy.

The negative side is twofold. For one thing, the book seems to be financed by advertising. I've never read a book that has so many references to real-life products and brands - this one is chuck full of them. Perhaps that is the new model of Kindle publishing: give away the book and finance it by "commercials" that are part of the story. I found it a bit annoying, to be quite honest - I'd prefer to pay for a novel and not be inundated by advertising.
The second issue is one of continuity - there were several pretty serious errors as the book went on. To me, this was more of a "whoops, someone didn't pay attention". As an author myself, I know how difficult it is to catch this type of error if you don't have a professional editor going through the text for you. Perhaps the result of self-publishing will be to get book updates as errors are removed, much like software updates...

Again, quite a good read for entertainment purposes, some interesting facts about beekeeping. I'll be looking for the next Elizabeth Stratton story to come out.

Here is the Amazon link:

Review: Death of a Maid: A Hamish Macbeth Murder Mystery *

I’m a big fan of Amazon’s 0,99€ Kindle daily special, and I’ve bough quite a few Kindle books this way.

One of them was
Death of a Maid: A Hamish Macbeth Murder Mystery, mainly because of the many relatively good reviews and the sheer number of times a Hamish Macbeth mystery has been on the daily special.

The author of these books is a well-established british writer, Marion Chesney, who writes under the pseudonym “M.C. Beaton”. Now there are several reasons for an established author to use a pseudonym - even Steven King uses at least one. The prime reason is likely to keep their real name “in the clear” for more serious work - much like many major product brands will also sell white-label items cheaper, to keep their well-established brand from being cannibalized.

In the case of the Hamish Macbeth series - at least this one book that I’ve read in the series - I have a different theory: seeing the sheer number of books that Mrs. Chesney has written (78 as per the Wikipedia site), I personally believe she is paying creative writing students to write the books for her, perhaps by a general plot outline she sets forth.

Whatever the case - and perhaps all her books are like this one, in which case my theory would pop like a soap bubble - the book was a real chore to read.

The language is excessively simplistic, with the exception of a word in every hundred that you absolutely need to look up, because it just isn’t in regular use anymore (some - according to the Kindle English language dictionary haven’t been in use for a couple of 100 years).

Scenes are hardly detailed at all, the book seems to consist of 90% dialog (of the kind described) and 10% repeated descriptions of the countryside, the car PC Hamish drives, his animals, etc. The story gets ridiculous at times (as in not believable at all) with incredible coincidences thrown in to - at least it appears as such to me - pull the poor writer out of the corner they’ve texted themselves into. As a side note, the editor probably felt as much pain as I did reading it, as I noticed a major continuity error (hint: PC Hamish goes out in Snowshoes to see a “client” and, after an encounter that couldn’t have taken more than a minute - would one hike for half an hour for that? - , went back in his vehicle).

I certainly can’t recommend this book - to anyone. Not even if all you’re looking for is a fast, easy read at the beach. Because it just isn’t a book to relax to, but for all the wrong reasons.

You can also find my review on Amazon here.

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Right off the bat (no pun intended), let me tell you that The Dark Knight Rises, which I saw in the theater last night, wasn’t a film I would rate five stars out of five. If that is going to upset you, then stop reading now, please.

In short: absolutely formula, no depth to most of the characters (least of all, Mr. Wayne), incredibly predictable, totally overdone special effects. And last but not least: a scene completely and absolutely stolen from Dan Brown’s
Angels and Demons.

Still reading?

I’m a Trekkie of the first hour (well, maybe the fourth hour) - in other words, I was exposed to Star Trek at an early age, when Captain Kirk and Spock roamed the universe. In a sense, the Star Trek of the 60’s is the baseline for me in regards to action and special effects.

Another series that is certainly highly influential on me in that regard (albeit at a somewhat later age) is Dr. Who with Tom Baker. if I try to discount the bias that forms in every human being through influence (positive or negative) in childhood, I think it is safe to say that both of these TV programs had a lot of thought and energy put into making this “right” - at least as right as was possible in the days before software-generated special effects.

And because those special effects were so awful (yet ingenious, such as zooming in on a glass plate on black velvet and sprinkled with salt to generate the famous “warp 10” of the Enterprise), the story could only succeed with, well, the story!

Imagine, if you will, The Dark Knight Rises with 60’s or 70’s special effects. The story would fall apart. What might have worked in a comic book format (using the imagination of the reader to generate all the moving frames between two printed ones) certainly only works in Film by replacing those imagined frames by celluloid (yea yea, I know, it’s digital now) ones, taking from the viewer the last remaining chore - imagining.

For anyone that prefers reading books with mostly text to comics and that expects a decent storyline in a movie, I really recommend you use the ticket money to pick up a decent novel.

End of quality Journalism at Scientific American?

Wow, have a look at this article by Scientific American regarding advancement in electric-powered aircraft.

I held SciAm in quite high regard as to their journalistic quality, so I hope this is a one-off.

A couple of comments:

1) The picture in the sidebar doesn’t show an “unmanned aerial vehicle” but rather a two-seater, electric sailplane with both seats filled. These are actually becoming halfway common at airshows in Germany.

2) The article indicates that the term “passenger miles per gallon” means that it is “the fuel efficiency divided by the number of passengers.” Far from it - fuel efficiency is measured in miles per gallon, so passenger miles per gallon would be fuel efficiency multiplied by the number of passengers. Ya don’t even need 12th grade math to understand that…

3) the article furthermore describes the use of electric engines as a possible alternative to using the jets to provide the propulsion for taxiing while on the ground. A comparison is made between a jet airliner using “5 megawatts of energy” as compared to an electric drive system that only uses 2 (yep - TWO!) kilowatts.

Folks, my minivan needs 85kW to accelerate its 3,000+ lbs halfway decently (faster than a tractor)… you’re trying to tell me that a 2 kW motor would be able to move an Airbus 320 at ANY speed down the taxiway? An Airbus A320 weighs in at a peak start weight of 78 metric tons!

Its beside the fact that fitting any sort of drive system to wheels that spend their time either supporting those 78 tons or residing in an unheated compartment at up to -50°C, with occasional blasts of fun while taking massive impact force during landing. Probably not an environment you want to be installing somewhat sensitive drivetrain components in.

Also, to take the same A320 as a reference: it burns 2,700kg of fuel per hour at full blast. The fuel, Jet-A, is nearly identical to Diesel fuel, so we can take that to calculate energy content. Diesel contains about 43 MJ of usable energy per kg. One kW-hour = 3,6 · 106 Joule, so per kg, Diesel would then contain about 12 kW-hours per kg.
The burn rate is then 32.400 kW during full travel speed (probably 80% of full thrust?).

Where on earth did the 5 Megawatts come from? That is the power generated by the first civil-use nuclear power plant in Obinsk (1954) at peak output!

Unfortunately, one has to be a registered member of to leave a comment (which is probably the reason there are - to date - only two comments, and both completely irrelevant to the article).

Subsequently, I’ve been forced to put this in my blog and tweet it to the world.

Hillbilly Speed Bump

“without words”