Category Archives: Books

Make Your Own Pixel Art

Spread the love

First, what is “pixel art?”

Is that just art that is rendered in raster? Not exactly. Pixel art is the sort of art you draw for digital cartoons or similar things. The skills and tools of making pixel art would apply to designing icons or logos used in electronic products as well.

To demonstrate what pixel art is, I’m including a few examples from the newly published Make Your Own Pixel Art: Create Graphics for Games, Animations, and More! by Jennifer Dawe and Matthew Humphries.

This book will give you an introduction to the tricks of the trade of making technologically simply but artistically potent drawings, including ways to animate them.

The non-OpenSource (boo) software that is used throughout the book is not expensive and is easy to use, and yes, OpenSource alternatives are suggested and briefly discussed. The book relies on Aseprite and Pro Motion, with GraphcsGale (Windows only, boo) being a free alternative.

Techniques covered include shading, texture, proper use of color, motion and animation, and making things look sentient. Apparently, you can make money doing this sort of thing! This book is probably a good investment, at the very least to see if you have the talent and interest.

Author Jennifer Dawe is an animator and character designer who has been a professional pixel artist for the past 15 years. Author Matthew Humphries is Senior Editor at PCMag.com and a professional game designer.


Spread the love

Little Myth on the Prairie

Spread the love

I have been slowly and steadily working on a project that involves an old topic of interest: the dynamic changes in society, economy, and settlement pattern as Euro-Americans ensnared the middle and western parts of the continent in their material and political net of civilization, sometimes known as the Westward Expansion. And for this reason, I came across a book, a NYT Book Review “Best Ten” for 2017, of interest, that happens also to be on sale cheap in Kindle format.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser.

As pointed out in a review by Patricia Nelson Limerick, the exploitation and eastward shipping, for profit, of bison hides and precious metals (and everything in between) was not the only gig in the west. The story itself, the stories of pioneering, gun fighting, Indian, er, relations, and everything else, collected in situ and refined through the myth-mills of the publishing industry, amounted to a significant and valuable commodity. One of the most productive ore lodes of daring narrative in the plains and midwest was the one tapped by Laura Ingalls Wilder via the Little House series, and other tales. Also, her daughter was in on it.

Prairie Fires pulls back the switch-grass curtain. To quote from PNL’s review:

Rendering this biography as effective at racking nerves as it is at provoking thought, the story of Wilder’s emergence as a major sculptor of American identity pushes far past the usual boundaries of probability and plausibility. For anyone who has drifted into thinking of Wilder’s “Little House” books as relics of a distant and irrelevant past, reading “Prairie Fires” will provide a lasting cure. Just as effectively, for readers with a pre-existing condition of enthusiasm for western American history and literature, this book will refresh and revitalize interpretations that may be ready for some rattling. Meanwhile, “Little House” devotees will appreciate the extraordinary care and energy Fraser brings to uncovering the details of a life that has been expertly veiled by myth. Perhaps most valuable, “Prairie Fires” demonstrates a style of exploration and deliberation that offers a welcome point of orientation for all Americans dismayed by the embattled state of truth in these days of polarization.

-Patricia Nelson Limerick, review, The New York Times

Check it out!


Spread the love

Tolkien, The Movie

Spread the love

I’ve been reading Huxley (9) LOTR. The other day we got through Gandalf’s long soliloquy on his problems in Isengard, and Huxley went more or less off to sleep. Later, I heard him singing from the bedroom, “Frodo and Bilbo sitting in a tree … K I S S I N G.”

Anyway, vaguely apropos of that, there is this:

Should be interesting and, of course, highly controversial, as are all things LOTR.


Spread the love

The Umbrella Academy

Spread the love

How can you not love a TV series where the most together character in the room is a chimpanzee that can talk.

I recommend the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, and I hope Netflix does not do to this what they did to the Marvel shows they recently created, which was to sell them to a different pay to stream network that I do not subscribe to.

The Umbrella Academy is based on a set of graphic novels. There are multiple versions, but this is a suggested in-order set to look at if it interests you.

Number 1: The Apocalypse Suite, which includes numbers 1 through 5,thought this volume goes through number 6 and has other material in it:

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1

Number 2: Dallas. Yes, there is a Kennedy connection.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas

Number 3: Hotel Oblivion.

The Umbrella Academy Volume 3: Hotel Oblivion


Spread the love

Book Note: Preet Bharara Doing Justice

Spread the love

This is available for pre-order and it is probably going to be great. I’ve not seen it, but Bharara was a highly accomplished SDNY prosecutor and here he is writing about that role. This isn’t about the Trump Crime Family prosecutions and investigations, as so many books these days are, but this may be an important book to read to understand the bigger picture. Thought you’d like to know about it.

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law

Preet Bharara has spent much of his life examining our legal system, pushing to make it better, and prosecuting those looking to subvert it. Bharara believes in our system and knows it must be protected, but to do so, we must also acknowledge and allow for flaws in the system and in human nature.
The book is divided into four sections: Inquiry, Accusation, Judgment and Punishment. He shows why each step of this process is crucial to the legal system, but he also shows how we all need to think about each stage of the process to achieve truth and justice in our daily lives.
Bharara uses anecdotes and case histories from his legal career–the successes as well as the failures–to illustrate the realities of the legal system, and the consequences of taking action (and in some cases, not taking action, which can be just as essential when trying to achieve a just result).
Much of what Bharara discusses is inspiring–it gives us hope that rational and objective fact-based thinking, combined with compassion, can truly lead us on a path toward truth and justice. Some of what he writes about will be controversial and cause much discussion. Ultimately, it is a thought-provoking, entertaining book about the need to find the humanity in our legal system–and in our society.

By the way, for those who enjoyed this movie and/or book, Preet Bharara is the real life person of one of the key characters in it.


Spread the love

JK Rowling Book Cheap

Spread the love

Cormoran Strike is author Robert Galbraith’s fictional character, a UK Military Police veteran now eking out a living as a private eye. He works with an assistant who some would mistakenly regard as totally out of her league in the hard boiled noir world of private detecting. (But they would be wrong.) Each of the stories about Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott is set in a different subworld of Great Britain, including London’s version of Hollywood, and the world of writers and agents. The stories are fiendishly clever, the bad guys cleverly fiendish, and the protagonists compelling and disarming. I very strongly recommend reading all of them.

Author Robert Galbraith is, of course, JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and a few other books.

At this moment, the first of the books is on sale cheap (just under 4 bucks) in Kindle form. You should read The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1).

Then, not on sale at this time but for your information, read:

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike Book 3)

Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel)


Spread the love

A Guide To Using Command Line Tools

Spread the love

There are a lot of books out there to help you learn command line tools, and of course, they mostly cover the same things because there is a fixed number of things you need to learn to get started down this interesting and powerful path.

Small, Sharp, Software Tools: Harness the Combinatoric Power of Command-Line Tools and Utilities by Brian P. Hogan is the latest iteration (not quite in press yet but any second now) of one such book.

I really like Hogan’s book. Here’s what you need to know about it.

First, and this will only matter to some but is important, the book does cover using CLI tools across platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows) in the sense that it helps get you set up to use the bash command line system on all three.

Second, this book is does a much better than average job as a tutorial, rather than just as a reference manual, than most other books I’ve seen. You can work from start to finish, with zero knowledge at the start, follow the examples (using the provided files that you are guided to download using command line tools!) and become proficient very comfortably and reasonably quickly. The topic are organized in such a way that you can probably skip chapters that interest you less (but don’t skip the first few).

Third, the book does give interesting esoteric details here and there, but the author seems not compelled to obsessively fill your brain with entirely useless knowledge such as how many arguments the POSIX standard hypothetically allows on a command line (is it 512 or 640? No one seems to remember) as some other books do.

I found Small, Sharp, Software Tools a very comfortable, straight forward, well organized, accurate read from Pragmatic.


Spread the love

Math Adventures with Python

Spread the love

Complex numbers, working with oscillations (trigonometry), using Turtles to draw, some basic algebra, my favorite, Cellular Automata, and more, are covered in Math Adventures with Python: An Illustrated Guide to Exploring Math with Code by Peter Farrell. Farrell is a math and computer science teacher who is interested in math education and using technology in learning. Continue reading Math Adventures with Python


Spread the love

Serious Python Programming

Spread the love

Julien Danjou’s Serious Python: Black-Belt Advice on Deployment, Scalability, Testing, and More is serious.

This book takes Python programming well beyond casual programming, and beyond the use of Python as a glorified scripting language to access statistical or graphics tools, etc. This is level one or even level two material. If you are writing software to distribute to others, handling time zones, want to optimize code, or experiment with different programming paradigms (i.e. functional programming, generating code, etc.) then you will find Serious Python informative and interesting. Multi-threading, optimization, scaling, methods and decorators, and integration with relational databases are also covered. (A decorator is a function that “decorates,” or changes or expands, a function without motifying i.) The material is carefully and richly explored, and the writing is clear and concise. Continue reading Serious Python Programming


Spread the love

Minecraft Blockopedia

Spread the love

Minecraft is probably the most creative video game out there, not in the sense that its creators are creative, but rather, that it is all about creating things, and this is done by constructing novelty out of a relatively simple set of primitives. But to do so, the player needs to know about the building blocks of Minedraft, such as Lava, Fencing, Redstone, Levers, various chest and chest related things, and so on.

The Blockopedia in use.
Yes, you (or your child) can learn as you go playing the game, watch a few YouTube videos, etc. But if we want to fully enjoy and integrate the Minecraft experience, and help that child (or you?) get in some more reading time, there must be books. For example, the Minecraft: Blockopedia by Alex Wiltshire. Continue reading Minecraft Blockopedia


Spread the love

Time itself as a resource that drives evolution

Spread the love

Many of the key revolutions, or at least, overhauls, in biological thinking have come as a result of the broad realization that a thentofore identified variable is not simply background, but central and causative.

I’m sure everyone always thought, since first recognized, that if genes are important than good genes would be good. Great, even. But it took a while for Amotz Zahavi and some others to insert good genes into Darwin’s sexual selection as the cause of sometimes wild elaboration of traits, not a female aesthetic or mere runaway selection. Continue reading Time itself as a resource that drives evolution


Spread the love

Minecraft Handbooks

Spread the love

First, if you don’t know, Minecraft is a computer game in which you, the protagonist, exist as a sort of sprite with a hammer out in front of you. As you move across the landscape (or through the air or water) you can whack at things and your hammer will destroy them, or y our hammer will make things, or change things. And it is often not a hammer you wield, but perhaps a shovel or some other tool. Meanwhile, you come to possess things, often by mining them, and these things can be crafted together of you do it right, to make unique things.

The visuals are highly pixelated, in that everything is a three dimensional square block. Like this: Continue reading Minecraft Handbooks


Spread the love

Making Raspberry Pi Robots

Spread the love

At the core of this post is a review of a new book, Learn Robotics with Raspberry Pi: Build and Code Your Own Moving, Sensing, Thinking Robots. I recommend it as a great above-basic level introduction to building a standard robot, learning a bit about the Linux operating system, learning to program in Python, and learning some basic electronics. However, I want to frame this review in a bit more context which I think will chase some readers away from this book while at the same time making others drool. But don’t drool on the electronics. Continue reading Making Raspberry Pi Robots


Spread the love