Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Knowing the Ropes: A Sailor's Guide to Selecting, Rigging, and Handling Lines Abroad

Knowing the Ropes: A Sailor's Guide to Selecting, Rigging, and Handling Lines Abroad
Knowing the Ropes: A Sailor's Guide to Selecting, Rigging, and Handling Lines Abroad by Roger C. Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Plenty of great ideas in this book make it a useful read for boaters of any stripe, large or small, motor or sail powered. There are useful ideas here for amateur riggers as well. Perhaps the only negative comment I might have, and it's a weak one, is that some of the knots and hitches used with the rigging ideas are a bit dated. Knot tyers have come up with more secure, stronger alternatives. However, sailors tend to stick with what experience has taught them. The author has put the knots presented to the test in his own sailing experience, and they've proven themselves adequate to the tasks he's set. So, if it ain't broke, don't go trying to fix it. Maybe something might snap. It's no big deal, however, to substitute a different knot or hitch to one of the author's setups, if you've learned an interesting and perhaps innovative alternative.

This book as lasting value, and I'm sure I'll be going back to it again and again.

A quick aside about a gentlemen the author mentioned several times in this book: A few years ago, I knew nothing of knots and ropework, and happened to travel through the charming seaside town of Port Townsend, WA during a festival while on vacation. It's too bad I hadn't yet heard of the man, master rigger Brion Toss, who the author holds in high esteem. Brion's rigging business is located there, and I missed a chance to stop in and watch a seasoned professional at work!

I'd like to visit the town again, and when I do, I'll be by to see that knot tying celebrity.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: 1984: And Related Readings

1984: And Related Readings
1984: And Related Readings by George Orwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Because they so neatly did my thinking for me, I'm selecting two popular user reviews to represent my opinions with a correlation above 90%:


and Pro:

The book is still relevant today, as the demonstrated by the pro review's advanced setting. The warnings are timeless; a free civil society is always at risk from a number of malignancies. Ideas and culture keep them in check, but what can happen if these mechanisms are subverted?

What do you do when you've drafted a brilliant essay on political theory and realize its only hope of having an impact is through the widest possible exposure? Novelize it, and cross your fingers. If it goes viral, you have an audience and now your work is immortal.

As described in the con review, this novel is pretty "meh", not poor, but not great. I found the ending thoroughly lacking in power, and wondered if something important had happened, or not. Like Winston, at the end I found myself questioning the reality of the novel's events. Was is comfortable endgame existence at his sinecure all just a simulation? What's really motivating his sudden love for BB at the victory announcement? To use a piece of Brit slang, the end seemed bodged on. I found it difficult to integrate the experiences from the moment Winston and Julia are raided, clear to the end of the book, with what had taken place in the book up to that point. At the moment of the raid, I see this novel as having many possible alternatives, some of which might have made it a superior work of fiction while leaving the underlying political message unaffected.

Perhaps I have just not thought things through completely (I am a rather concrete and pragmatic thinker, abstractions can sometimes escape me). Although in Winston's hands in the form of "Goldstein's" book, he never gets to read the part where central secret, the primary motivation for the construction of this pointless society was revealed. Society fell down a developmental cul-de-sac, and we're never shown how that happened, or why the power structure felt it was a great idea as they led the world toward it.

For all I understand, the whole shebang happened inside the Matrix. How else do you explain "agent" O'Brien?

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