Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Cancer Chronicles

Review at

Please update your bookmarks/blogrolls! :) 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Follow me to!

....and we're live! ReadingFreely's home is now,  which is where you should be reading this if all went according to plan. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

What Einstein Told His Cook

What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained
© 2002  Richard Wolke
369 pages

What did Einstein tell his cook?  ..I still don’t know. I have learned, however, that it is possible to make a jello out of champagne;  that concrete sidewalks, even during  a Houston summer,  are unlikely to warm up to the precise temperature needed to fry an egg;    why bottled Coca-Colas can go flat, despite being sealed (the plastic allows Co2 to escape);  and why carmelized onions are called that when they’re fried into delicious brownness.  What Einstein Told His Cook consists wholly of question-and-answer, the question being those lobbed at the author.    The format reminded me strongly of Ask a Science Teacher, but with an adult audience.  In that book, the Q and A was relieved every so often with DYI science experiments; here, variety is added with interesting recipes, including one for champagne jello.  The author brings a strong sense of humor to the table, and is writing for a completely lay audience - -though he does have more technical explanations in parentheses, for readers who have a little more background reading pop science books.   Although not as substantive as I’d hoped,  What Einstein Told His Cook is nonetheless completely entertaining, and there’s more than enough chemistry here to make it a serious read, too.  There is an book on the complete science of booking, but it’s a thousand page mammoth called The Food Lab. I didn'’t know it existed until it appeared on a friend of mine’s wedding registry.  

Prepare to Meet Thy Doom

Prepare to  Meet Thy Doom: And Other True Gaming Stories
© 2015 David Kushner
 ~ 5 hours, read by Wil Wheaton

Masters of Doom enthralled me, covering the genesis of modern  PC gaming through its history of id software.   Prepare to Meet Thy Doom is an oddly-titled follow-up that is less a work in itself, and more a collection of articles that are generally related to PC gaming. I say generally, because there’s  pieces here on competitive chess, NeoPets, and bot-augmented online poker.   The more kosher offerings include a follow-up piece on id software,  as well as articles on Spore, Second Life,  and the GTA series.     Drawing on interviews with  designer icons like John Romero and Will Wright,   Kushner’s pieces often dwell on how PC games are continuing  to push the developmental envelope – becoming more complex forms of entertainment, as they allow players to make their own experience. In Spore, for instance, there’s no static content to begin with:  every bit of the animal and civilization that evolve are cobbled and produced by the player..   Rockstar Games is particularly notable for innovation: its latest games, GTA V and Red Dead Redemption II, are less games than ten hour cinematic experiences in which the player is driving the story. The game’s  lead character grows throughout, shaped by the player’s decisions.   

Those who are passionate PC gamers may find this of interest. Given that I effectively got it for free (Audible promotion), I can scarcely complain about it – especially since Wil Wheaton’s  narration was, as usual,  excellent.  The narrator is largely responsible for my having experienced this book at all, given its slimness and the reviews griping about the lack of  more substantial content.   As much as I liked Masters of Doom,     Prepare To Meet isn’t a stellar followup.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Exciting news!

By July 9th,  Reading Freely should be available at the domain I purchased a few months back,     The transition will mark a big change here, as I plan on redirecting site traffic from to the "new" site, which is actually my Wordpress backup in the event that Google turns to evil.  I update the backup periodically every month or so, and will do so again when I've posted this.    Once we're live,  people can still comment without registration -- we'll have to see how Wordpress handles the bots --  and  there will be no advertisements.    Wordpress has been paid off, so it should be free of that kind of intrusion.  Personally, I'm excited about the jump, though I've a bit of work to do beforehand,  as the Wordpress site will be expanding from simply being a backup to having its own content -- and not just book  reviews, as in January I mentioned I'm wanting to include a bit of writing about the pursuit of a meaningful life, as I used to in college when I was trying to figure everything out.  I think I've got a better handle on the basics these days, but the world is constantly changing and merits investigation as to how we adapt.   We're not finished here yet -- there will be reviews posted before it all goes live, I'm sure -- but I will post additional updates as the day grows near.

Top Ten Childhood Favorites

Today the Artsy Reader Girl's topic is.... top ten childhood favorites!

I didn't realize this before, but boy howdy did I read a lot of science fiction as a kid.

1. The Henry Huggins/Beezus and Ramona books. Beverly Cleary was my first 'favorite author'. I think I began with a book about Ribsy getting lost.  I was nuts for dogs as a boy, and I think I read everything my library had after that.

2. The Boxcar Children.  Introduced to me through a scholastic book fair,  I found both the initial book -- about four orphans doing a My Side of the Mountain type thing in the woods, using an abandoned boxcar as their home -- and the mystery series that Warren later developed of interest.  The series got a little odder after the...fourteenth one, I think? That's when the children suddenly reverted to their early ages and were then stuck like that as the decades rolled on, so whoever followed Warren could just write mystery after mystery without having to fuss with age drama.

3. Bruce Coville's SF,  namely the series that grew off of Aliens Ate My Homework! One of the sequels was The Search for Snout.    Want to guess what that was based off of?   Conville's worlds were bizaare to me in a fun way at that age.

4. Goosebumps, Goosebumps, GOOSEBUMPS!   Everyone at school read these, but I had the plots and front-cover taglines memorized. There's a lot you can do as a kid when you don't have TV.  I started with Let's Get Invisible,  in which turning on a mirror's lamp seems to make persons in front of the mirror invisible.   Stine was known for his end-chapter twists, but especially his end of book twists.  The Monster Blood and Haunted Mask series are probably the most memorable, but no one can forget Slappy!

5. ST TNG: Starfleet Academy.  These novels were stories about the TNG crew when they were younger. Meant for junior readers, they and the adult novels were my primary exposure to Star Trek as a kid.  I saw the show for the first time when I dislocated my elbow and was in traction for three weeks, but since we didn't have a television I just read the books. A little later on we did have a television -- local stations only --  so I was able to watch Deep Space Nine, mostly as it aired.

6. Wishbone
Um...mysteries solved by a dog?  A dog recreating old novels? I can't actually remember despite having a shelf full at some time.

That's all the series I can remember from childhood. If we count middle school and beyond, then OF COURSE we'd mention...

7. California Diaries.     I mention this series a lot, and last year I did a full post on them.  Suffice it to a school in fictional Palo City, California, children are required to maintain journals. The series follows a year at the school, experienced through the lives of five kids -- four  eighth grade girls and one 10th grade guy -- who all have their personal drama, in addition to the stuff that happens to them.

8. Animorphs.  Another series I loved, this one had the added appeal of rebellion: my parents didn't like the idea of them, so I came up with ways of buying the books without their knowing,  and traded paperbacks  so I could read more without having to buy more.   I also managed to buy a couple of VHSes when the shows became a series, but those were much harder to enjoy without parental knowledge. I think I had to watch them early in the morning when my mom was at yardsales.

9. Roswell High.   I've also given Roswell High its own post,  and like California Diaries it gets mentioned incessantly.

10. Fear Street. My sister collected these, and I don't know if my parents knew what they were about. For a sheltered kid, I wound up reading an awful lot of grisly murder stories thanks to this series.  Oddly, they inspired me to write fiction of my own -- stuff in the same genre, mostly monster, slasher, and ghosts.   The only one I remember clearly involved a monstrous spider living in a swamp.

Countdown.   I'd like to read this series again, actually: it was the most 'mature' series I read in my youth, following the aftermath of all the adults and kids turning into buttles of goo when the new millenium began.'s a world run by teenagers, who have to rebuild society and figure out WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED.

Progress report

Well, dear readers, we’re sixth months in to 2019, and that’s a good time to do a little check up on my challengs. 

First up,  Science!    For the past few years I’ve organized my science reading into diverse categories to stay out of my well-established biology/anthropology rut.   I’m doing well, with six categories fulfilled, one extra, and two other categories set with planned reads.    Right on target,  though one of the six has a review waiting.

Next...the Classics Club, or more specifically my ambition to read twenty of my remaining 21 books this year. April was a dead loss,  as Red Dead Redemption II  claimed all of my time: not only did I not read any classics that month, but I read very little altogether.     June...well, I’m still working on June. I’m halfway through two Hemingway novels, Catch 22 being unavailable.  (Also: I  dislike Catch 22. I’ve tried it at least two times in the last three years...)   I’ll get through them. Grapes of Wrath, July’s designated read, should be much easier: I’ve already read it once and know the story.   My copy of the book is the same I had in September 2001, when our English class discussion of the novel  was interrupted by breaking news in New York.  

And finally, the TBR of Doom:  I’ve read four books from it this year, so that’s subpar. I did strike quite a few books from the list when  I gave them to Goodwill, though, so I’ve made progress regardless.  

  I’d also planned to do an interesting “American Summer” series that focused on odd bits of American culture – the rise of distinctly American-Chinese food, the role of the Catholic church in the frontier period,   odds and ends like this – but I’ve imposed a moratorium on myself as far as buying books goes*, so...that’ll keep.  I’d like a few more in the set, anyway. 

 All told, I’d give myself a B-.  

*BookBubs discounts excepting. I'm never too scrupulous to pass by a $1 book.