Let’s be real. Most books (and web sites) providing instructions for building projects with an Adruino assume the reader is just starting out in this arena of Maker-World. That is probably a reasonable assumption, but it also means that those of us who seek an Arduino guide that provides more advanced work are out of luck. Arduino for Arduinians fills that void. I highly recommend this rich, detailed, and extensive treatment of Arduino makery.
Arduino for Arduinians is suitably named, as it provides guidance and a beyond-the-basics level, for folks who have already been bitten by the Arduino bug, and can already tell the difference between a CAN Bus and an RS232, or Charlieplexing and ATtiny microcontrollers. In fact, one of my favorite applications laid out in this book is using the CAN bus interface to diagnose why the dashboard “transmission fault” light won’t go off on my friend’s Land Rover.
Arduino for Arduinians covers I2C bus devices, interfacing with or emulating the action of keyboards and similar devicese, some inexpensive but advanced Bluetooth mojo, and working with higher than novice-level voltages and currents. Be careful though.
You should know the basics of how Arduinos work (I recommend Arduino Workshop to get that if you don’t have it already). You should be able to read standard circuit diagrams. You should be familiar with Sketch and the Arduino IDE. Also, you will need parts. Helpfully, Arduino for Arduinians has a web site (see the inside of the book) with the Sketch related software, and yu can find in the intro a suggestion as to where to get parts (but you can get these parts lots of places, including Amazon.
The Author, John Boxall,is a master projecteer, and author of several Maker-supportive books in multiple languages.
Evangeline Reed was a woman with some seriously disturbing secrets, at least one of which threatened to sideline her in a quest to put to rest a decades old and still ongoing crime. Jess Lourey, the author who created Reed and put her in the new novel “The Taken Ones,” continues in her own ongoing and highly successful quest to lure various facies of her readers’ limbic systems into a dark room and her her way with them.
Evangeline’s childhood was a horror, a horror that seems to have given her a gift, and a drive, that she would eventually put to use as a Minneapolis homicide cop to save lives, and to help snatch others from their own horrors. Known in adulthood as Van, detective Reed required the trust and goodwill of her partner to literally turn her nightmares into evidence, and procure extremely unlikely legal convictions. But that partner was now gone, and Van Reed was now barely holding on to her job as a cold case investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, her drive and her apparently preternatural evil detector now untethered.
There is an abyss, and Jess Lourey knows where it is. The Taken Ones, a complex mystery-adventure with a terrifying antagonist, a really annoying boss, a close-in set of very sympathetic compatriots, and a real jerk-face of a rival, implores the reader to visit multiple abysses, which may or may not (no spoilers) be linked in interesting ways.
Agent Harry Steinbeck, straight laced, well bred, and very put together forensic scientist is now the closest thing to a partner to Van. He seems to know more than he lets on. The years 1980 and 2022 bookend the activities of a spooky, demented, and highly unusual taker-killer. The four decade gap in time allows Lourey to create complex and interesting then-and-now type characters that seem to appear in many of her books.
You should read several of Lourey’s books, many of which are organized in series. The Taken Ones sports the subtitle “A Reed and Steinbeck Thriller.” We can rightfully assume that this is the first in a series, and it looks like it is going to be an excellent ride. I strongly recommend you pick up The Taken Ones as soon as it is available (pre-order here), then wait impatiently with the rest of us for the second Reed and Steinbeck to come out. In the meantime, read Lourey’s breakthrough book “Unspeakable Things,” her latest and highly acclaimed “The Quarry Girls,” and one of my favorites “Bloodline.”
The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey* is a literary thriller set in late 1970s Paynesville, Minnesota. To cut to the quick: I’m strongly recommending that you read this book.
Minnesota has an interesting relationship with “caves” and tunnels. Our downtowns have flying tunnels connecting the upper floors (third or fourth, usually) of skyscrapers. There are “caves” going under Saint Paul along the Mississippi river, some converted into tourist destinations, others sealed off because they are dangerous. Most or all of those are mines, not caves, but somehow our news media and other spokes-entities of our local culture have decided that a major human-made landscape feature that kills children will be dubbed natural. If you want more detail on that, put a note on a post-it to remind yourself to look it up at a later time. Closer to Minneapolis, and, really, beneath Minneapolis, is a network of natural caves. Actually, these natural caves are in many parts of the state. They would be better known were it not for the last glaciation, which covered much of our landscape with a very thick layer of till, temporarily (in geological time) obliviating the sinkholes that make up much of our karstic terrain. This is why we have very few home-swallong sink holes, even though we should have many.
Among all the tunnels and caves, some of the most interesting are to be found in Panville, Minnesota, which happens to be near where Jess Lourey lived as a kid. Panville, a neighborhood of Saint Cloud, was founded by a guy who seems to have been the Elon Musk of his day, sort of, by the name of Samuel Pandolfo. Pandolfo build an automotive factory, and an adjoining factory town with several dozen diverse homes. Pandolfo came up from Mississippi to Minnesota, so naturally, when he got a look at the climate, he freaked, and built tunnels connecting the factory town’s homes to the factory, in order to keep his workers at work and alive. He probably dind’t need to, they would have walked, but he was from a much warmer clime, so what did he know? Anyway, the Pan Motor Company’s cars never made much of a splash, and Pandolfo ended up in Leavenworth which at least is in warmer Kansas. But the tunnels, and the homes, remained. And the whole thing is a little spooky.
Enough about tunnels Let’s talk about serial killers. See the chart.
We’ve had a lot of serial killers in the US (check Wikipedia if you don’t believe me) but there seems to have been an extra large number in the 1960s and 1970s. Note that the rapid fall off on this chart probably reflects the fact that serial killers tend to remain active for decades before they are discovered and popped into the Table of Known Serial Killers in Wikipedia. But the 1980s looks like a real drop off, and I think it is safe to say that the American Serial Killer had a bloody golden age in the 1960s and 1970s. And, a few of them, at least, were operating in the general vicinity of Jess Payne’s childhood, both in time and in space.
So, what do you get when you add together a creepy old factory town with creepy tunnels, a plethora of mad men who abduct, rape, and kill, some nearby quarries, and a highly talented and experienced writer who is, by the way, actively and successfully experimenting with using writing to heal and understand childhood fear and adult angst about, well, serial killers and tunnels and stuff?
Quarry Girls hase one of the best ever opening sentences at one end of the book, and a tear jerking final chapter. It is filled in between with a tightly structured story with characters that grab you by the limbic system, draw you in, and keep you there until you finish the story and order another one by the same author. In my fiction reviews, I rarely discuss the story itself. Let’s face it. If you are reading this, you are one of my trusted and trusting readers. Just go read the book.
I should tell you right now that I was drawn into the Lourey sphere of literature when I came across an earlier book, “Bloodline” This is a story set in a similar environment, central Minnesota (for reference, dead in the middle of Michele Bachmann’s old Congressional District, so you know it is going to be a little creepy). Also, in a similar older period. I sense that Lourey sets her stories in an earlier decade in part because the things that make Minnesota Minnesota were less adulterated by the outside world in those earlier times. (There are other reasons as well, having to do with her personal history, as stated by the author herself.) Bloodline is a creepy story about some creepy people, and a lovable but still a little creepy protagonist. I loved it, and it made me look for more, and that is how I eventually came across the author’s most recent book, Quarry Girls. Meanwhile there is another book that I’ve not read, and frankly I’m a little scared to. I have some of my own emotional baggage that is threatened with exposure from the story presented in Jess Lourey’s breakthrough novel, Unspeakable Things. I am going to read it, though. Fortunately on-line therapy has become readily available an doesn’t cost that much.
(OK, OK, I admit: I’m teasing the author here a little. I’ve got an unspeakable story, but it isn’t really that debilitating. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy the book. I’ll tell you about it after I read it.)
So, go start reading Jess Loury’s books, and report back!
The Secret Syllabus, A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of College Success* by Jay Phelan and Terry Burnham is an unconventional yet science-based analysis of what a student entering college should do, to make that endeavor worthwhile. It is entirely counter-intuitive, and even shocking. Phelan and Burnham toss the usual advice into the garbage heap, and replace it with an entirely new mythology of how one should think about, and try to achieve, success in college.
And I’m sure this is excellent advice.
I’ve been advisor to college students, directed an admissions program, and I tutor college bound high school kids, so I know something of what I speak. I found the approach taken in this recently published book to be refreshing and very much on the money. I also know Phelan and Burnham pretty well. Jay Phelan and I taught together at Harvard for years, and I was one of Terry Burnham’s PhD thesis readers. I’ve been waiting for years for them to write this book, and now that they’ve done it, I’m very happy to recommend it.
The perspective Phelan and Burnham take is in part anthropological, in part rational-economic theory based, but mostly just plain creative and innovative. How to study. How to study a language. How to be job-marketable. How to have an effective plan for your college major and coursework, instead of the usual bone-headed plan everyone else has (and so often fails at). How to get a mentor and develop a productive relationship with them. This series of dependent clauses may not make great sentences but they accurately describe what you will get out of this book.
As with their earlier work (this is not their first book), Phelan and Burnham have their magic fingers on the pulse of current culture, and fold this into an engaging and humorous writing style. I know that these two authors have been through a lot, and they’ve turned their long and diverse experience into valuable advice.
If you have a kid heading for college, or even one who has been there for a year or so, just give them this book. If you are an advisor, counselor, or just the sort of prof or high school teacher that students look to for guidance, read this book, it will make you look wise. If you are a first or second year college student and want your instructors to be more helpful to you, and want to feel better about the choices you are making, put this book on your must-have list and actually read it when you cop a copy of it.
This is actually a really fun family read, coffee table in format, and I promise, it will be on my coffee table through the holiday seasons. I suppose it is a kids book, but my kid can have it when I’m done with it.
This dictionary has some helpful front matter to assist in understanding, learning, and pronouncing hard words.
The illustrations are charming and helpful. The definitions are engaging and accurate.
Jane Solomon is a lexicographer based in Oakland, California. She spends her days writing definitions and working on various projects for different dictionaries and reference sites. She was at Dictionary.com for seven years, and she’s also worked on projects for Oxford, Cambridge, HarperCollins, Scholastic, Thinkmap, and K Dictionaries. She’s a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, the group that decides what new emoji pop up on our devices. She has a twin sister who is also a lexicographer. Louise Lockhart has illustrated about one gazijllian excellent children’s books.
When I was a kid, I had an encyclopedia of animals. I cherished it, read it several times. For a long time, until I was in middle school, I knew more about animals than anyone else I knew because I had read that book. I also used it as a jumping off point to learn more about each type of animal, looking them up in the two general encyclopedias we had in the house, taking notes, drawing pictures, all of it. That one single book probably is the reason that I went in certain academic directions. In fact, I had flashbacks to the pages on the leopard and the Cape buffalo while poking around actual wild leopards and Cape buffalo in Africa.
There have been a lot of encyclopedias of animals in print, and now there is a new kid on the block, and it is probably the one you should get for your emerging naturalist. Encyclopedia of Animals by Jules Howard, illustrated by Jarom Vogel*, covers 300 species. Unlike my old volume, which only had large mammals and a snake or two, this volume gives a much more uniform treatment of “animal” with roughly equal treatment for six Classes. The book uses bleed-tags to quickly find the inverts, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals.
There are over 500 illustrations across 192 nicely laid out pages, interesting facts about each animal exemplar, including Latin binomial.
It is hard to define the age range for this book. Adults will find it useful as a reference. Kids from about 3rd grade and up will browse it. It aligns with the kinds of science taught in fifth grade and up (10-11 years old.) A middle school science teacher will want this handy in the classroom library.
Jules Howard is science writer and presenter, regularly contributing to The Guardian and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Jarom Vogel is an illustrator, designer and digital artist.
An odd group of adults, including Mr. Benedict, his two live-in assistants, and his usually not at home spy, contrive to attract and collect an odd group of children, each with a unique and stunning set of abilities, in order to enlist them in a dangerous and critically important adventure. Then they do that again and again several times until there are four volumes of this engaging, must read story.
I would argue that The Mysterious Benedict Society series is Harry Potter level YA lit.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Steward is an award winning young adult mystery series dating to the last half of the 2010s.
The process of introducing the characters and the story settings results in a hilarious first third of the first book in the series, then it settles down a bit. The side-plot twist found in the first volume (no spoilers) is one of the most gut-wrenching I’ve ever read, as in my gut is wrenched because I’m laughing so hard. The plots are good and quirky and the the characters are quirky good.
Oddly, the books teach that families can be made up of people that are not really related, and that at the same time some of the most closely related people can be so opposite that one can embody true good and one can embody true evil. There is nothing too edgy here for kids, the only lower limit on age is the complexity of the plots. There are very vague generic parallels to the Harry Potter series, in that unrelated kids become thick as thieves, and do battle against a powerful enemy who seems to not be defeated again and again. Unlike Harry Potter the characters don’t really age through a long period of time, though there is definitely growth and development. Then suddenly they are adults in the last book.
A key feature of the stories is the frequent need to solve puzzles or interpret vague clues in order to save someone, get away from the bad guys, etc. One of the characters is extremely good at figuring out riddles. Another has a didactic memory and reads a lot, so he simply knows everything, at a factual level. Another character exhibits stunning physicality for a kid, and will climb to the top of a building or through a series of vents to discover the answer to a question while the other kids are busy thinking it through. The fourth kid’s main super power is to be very whining and complaining, and she is also unnaturally clumsy. These features end up being startlingly important, though it takes a while to figure out how. The four children survive and solve the mysteries they are faced with by being different, each contributing something unique to the problem, while the Mysterious Mr. Benedict himself seems to have the big picture in mind, but not in control, the whole time.
The story is laid out in four books following the same main characters. Then, there is a prequel that explores the origin of the main adult character (Mr. Benedict himself). A sixth book is a collection of puzzles and fun activities that are inspired by the riddle and mystery based nature of the books themselves.
I’ll also mention that there is yet another book not in the same series but with a similar look and feel (but I have not yet read it) by the same author. I’ll include it in the list below.
You can get a a boxed set of these books (as far as I know in paperback) but that won’t include the quiz book. I found a very good used copy of each of the books in hardcover. If you know a family with kids between 8 and 14 (roughly) who don’t have these books, this is an excellent Covid-era bunch of reading for a holiday gift. Start it in mid January, finish them all, then go get your Covid vaccination!
Superlative: The Biology of Extremes is almost as extreme, or shall we say, hopeful, in its marketing-cover claims as the animals discussed are outlandish. If the cure for cancer was going to be found in a shark, we would have already found it. But despite what the book promises on its cover, Matthew D. LaPlante’s book is a detailed, engaging, and informative look at ongoing and recent scientific research from the perspective of an experienced journalist.
There are three categories of science book authors: Scientists, who write the best ones most of the time, science-steeped (often trained-as-scientists) science writers, who can write some pretty good books, and journalists who delve into the science and sometimes write amazing books, other times write books that are good books but not necessarily good science books. Superlative: The Biology of Extremes is in the higher end of the last category. It is about the scientists, the teams, the work more than the cells and polymers.
Also, LaPlante has another set of credentials: He is deeply, severely, hated by Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Oh, also, the book is at present deeply on sale.
This is a series of essays by biologist Chrisiane Nusslein-Volhard, engagingly and skillfully illustrated by Suse Grutzmacher (and translated by Jonathan Howard) about the aesthetic sense talked about by Darwin, its evolution, distribution, function, meaning, across animals. The essays take a Tinbergian approach to explore most aspects of how thinks look or are looked at, how paterns, colors, and other features play ar ole in sexual selection, and how the underlying genetic connect to these important surface features, allowing us to understand the phylogeny of this physical-behavioral nexus. This is the scientist talking about the science. The book itself is also a bit unusual, as it is designed to fit comfortably in a pocket or purse. Take it to the dentist office or hair stylist! (When the Pandemic is over.)
If you read a lot of books about cosmology and the universe, you will not find much new in this book, but you will find newways to think about all that old stuff. If you really do have a newtheory of everything, this book will give you some useful advice on how to buy your ticket into the physics game. Like, that you have to make sure your theory of everything works in a way that does not result in the night sky being as bright as the day sky, or makes light do something it does not do, and so on. Also, do not use many different TYPEFACES AND all caps in your write-up.
Interestingly, one of the things the actual-cosmologists-authors do NOT say is something I often hear from pro-physicists about TOE-pushers. They don’t say “if you don’t have a mathematical formula for your theory, it isn’t a theory.” I hear that all the time and I always thought there was something wrong with that. Seems to me that a totally wrong mathematical theory is too much of a likelihood.
The best overview of this book, which you SHOULD read, is from the authors themselves who made a video talking about the book. Here:
It is an interesting idea, taking a classic work and rewriting it for a modern audience, with adjustments. I took on the task of doing this with a Lovecraft tale a few years ago. I’m still working on it. I wanted to eliminate the racism and the misogyny, and I did. But that helped reveal the fact that the story itself was more of an interesting treatment than a fully formed story, so my work has expanded considerably.
Award winning author Angela McAllister did the opposite with Charles Dickens. Instead of expanding, the stories in A World Full of Dickens Stories by re-written by McAllister and illustrated by Jannicke Hansen distills, or in literary terms, digessts, Dicken’s classics, including Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Hard Times, A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby and A Tale of Two Cities.
How does it come out? Pretty good, given that giant novels summarized tend to try up or lose power. The stories are still good stories, and the writing is good, so the short stories convey the sense Dickens was going for, and the reader learns what these classics are about. The reading level is rated at 9-11. I agree with the low end of the range just because littler kids tend to like sillier stories. I would not put the upper end at 11; older kids and adults can enjoy these stories as well. But the combination of writing and illustrations are designed to be read to 8 year olds and read back (like David Copperfield reading to Peggotty at older ages.
The book itself is large format and very well designed and printed.
To give you an idea of what the book looks like, here’s a typical page layout:
A World Full of Dickens Stories is a good book to get, an would make a very presentable gift to a ready kid or a family with children in that age range, or any adult who happens to be a major Dickens fan.
Sometimes it is because my glasses are dirty. Sometimes it is a sundog, or a light pillar, or, if I happen to be near an exploding volcano….
Nature’s Light Spectacular: 12 stunning scenes of Earth’s greatest shows, written by Katy Flint and illustrated by Cornelia Li is a top notch earth and science book across a very wide age range, but classed as a 4-8 year old book. This book sits across that divide of read to vs. read by, and I think it is a great read-by (the kid) book for up to 10 or 11 years old.*
There is a story that pulls it all together, about two young explorers who improbably encounter several different light phenomena in nature, some common like sun dogs, some much less common, like the waterfall of fire at Yosemite National Park. Each two page layout demonstrates the phenomenon, with additional graphics and well written text to explain the science behind it. The format is large and guess what: The book glows in the dark.
Good science, good teaching, good book. The glowing in the dark part is not the reason you want this book, but you do want this book if you have a kid in elementary school.
What is a regular expression? We can talk about that in detail some other time. Briefly, it is a string of symbols that is designed to match a specified set of symbols, or a range of a set of symbols, in a larger body or stream of text. For example, if you pass a stream of information (say, all your emails) through a filter with the regular expression:
then any part of that stream of information that looks like a phone number (not using parens), such as 636-555-3226, will be isolated.
The new edition includes pattern matching with regular expressions, input validation, reading and writing files, organizing files, web scraping, manipulating Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets, PDF and Word documents, CSV and JSON files, email, images, and automating your keyboard and mouse.
The great benefit of a book like this is that you learn Python (the first part of the book gives you all you need to know to program in Python) in the context of things you actually want to do with Python. If you are interested in learning Python, or coding in general, this can be your first book.
The book is well done, as all in this series are, and fun. There are strong on line resources including all the code, and that information is regularly updated. Generally, “No Starch” press books are great, and this is one of those!
I would like to have seen at least sidebars on manipulating things using Libreoffice software, but note that the book focuses on documents, and OpenSource software does work with normal Excel and Word documents, so it is there.
The second edition adds a new chapter on input validation. The Gmail and Google Sheets sections, and the information on CSV files is also new. I plan on using the software tips and tricks to develop my own highly specialized and targeted search software. I’m often looking for files that have specific extensions, and certain kinds of content, in certain locations. Just the ability to hard-wire where to search for files will save me a lot of time and trouble.
Author Al Sweigart is a professional software developer who teaches programming to kids and adults, and who is author of Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python, Cracking Codes with Python, and Coding with Minecraft, all of which are quite nice. We need a new edition of Coding with Minecraft, by the way, that looks at a wider range of coding options and keeps up with the major advances in that software environment! So, get to work, Al!
It is said that scientists are lousy at communication, lousy at telling everyone else about their science, in understandable and compelling terms.
This is of course absurd. There are tens of millions of scientists, and dozens of them are really excellent communicators!
Among the many sciences, there is a science of science communication. It overlaps, unironically, with the science of conspiracy ideation, and borrows a great deal from the broader communication fields.
One of the leading science communicators of the day is cognitive scientist John Cook. John is at George Mason University. He is so tightly linked to the founding and development of the Skeptical Science project that “Skeptical Science” is the name of his Wikipedia entry. This binds John and his mission to a lot of us. Where we once might have said, “I am Spartacus,” we now say, “I am Skeptical. Science!” For John, it is just “I am SkepticalScience.”
Cook is likely known to you for the Consensus project. There were two main projects, a few years back, in which scientist attempted to measure the degree of consensus over the idea that anthropocentric climate change is real. (It is real, and the consensus is near 100% in both peer reviewed literature and the conclusions of actual scientists.) John and his colleagues did one of those, and beyond that, widely promoted the results so that everyone knows about it.
Like I said above, there are tens of millions of scientists. Developing and disseminating the results of consensus research in climate scientist was equivalent to being the only guy sticking your head up out of the trench in that movie, 1917. Science deniers, both avocational and bought-and-paid-for, got all over cook like skin on a grape. Didn’t phase him, though. He continued to develop a series of new projects including a massive online course (Making Sense of Climate Science Denial), an artificial intelligence system for detecting fake science, and most recently, the Cranky Uncle project.
I don’t have a cranky uncle anymore (he died). But I do have a lot of neighbors who like to write in ALL CAPS. They show up when I give a talk on climate change, and they bring their conspiracy theories, logical fallacies, cherry picked “facts”, absurd expectations, and references to fake research done by fake experts. It is a lot to deal with. But now, I can use the Lewis Black technique for dealing with evolution deniers, but instead of pulling out a trilobite, holding it up and saying “Fossil!” I can pull out a copy of Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change and say “Oh yeah? Imma look up what you just said in this BOOK!” or words to that effect.
Rachel Maddow is the Charles Darwin of Cable News.
Darwin’s most important unsung contribution to science (even more important than his monograph on earthworms) was to figure out how to most effectively put together multiple sources into a single argument — combining description, explanation, and theory — of a complex phenomenon in nature. His first major work, on coral reefs, brought together historical and anecdotal information, prior observation and theory from earlier researchers, his own direct observations of many kinds of reefs, quasi experimental work in the field, and a good measure of deductive thinking. It took a while for this standard to emerge, but eventually it did, and this approach was to become the normal way to write a PhD thesis or major monograph in science.
Take any major modern news theme. Deutsche Bank. Trump-Nato-Putin. Election tampering. Go to the standard news sources and you’ll find Chuck Todd following the path of “both sides have a point.” Fox News will be mixing conspiracy theory and right wing talking points. The most respected mainstream news anchors, Lester Holt, Christiane Amanpour, or Brian Williams perhaps, will be giving a fair airing of the facts but moving quickly from story to story. Dig deeper, and find Chris Hayes with sharp analysis, Joy Reid contextualizing stories with social justice, and Lawrence O’Donnell applying his well earned in the trenches biker wisdom.