Eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates. The Dalai Lama. Pope Francis. These are just some of many who support an initiative to #HelpAfricanAlbinos. In many countries, people with albinism are discriminated against, harassed, and persecuted. There is too little understanding and too much false information.
Then She was Born is an attempt to spread awareness of the problem using a fictional account of a girl, Adimu, who is born in a village. We see her struggle for survival against powerful superstition and tradition. Using information taken from the accounts of many African albinos, the story is gripping, moving, and also a call to action. The book was originally written and published in Italian by Cristiano Gentili as Ombra Bianca and has been masterfully translated into English for the reviewed edition by Lori Hetherington. The story is engaging, with characters that are relatable and deep.
Prior to reading this book, I had heard passing mentions, but had no real knowledge of the issue. This is a work of fiction, but it is based on real events and there are real lives at stake. I will share this book with anyone among my friends who will read it and I recommend it highly to those who are not local to me.
Illustrators generally get paid to work on projects. This means taking someone else’s vision, story, or text and bringing it to life in pictures. Doing so requires special talent as the illustrator must listen to and absorb someone else’s ideas before creating their accompanying artwork. Mark Crilley is a talented and experienced illustrator who got the chance to find out what would happen if he pitched a book that contained illustrations that didn’t follow a specific theme, a book about illustrations without being a how-to book, a book about the art. We all benefit because Watson-Guptill Publications accepted that proposal.
The book is arranged in five sections, an organizational scheme that seems likely to have been imposed after most of the illustrations were created. The sections each contain a set of illustrations that fit a general theme, grouping together sketches and full-color illustrations of characters, Japan, science fiction, conceptual art, and styleplay. Each illustration includes interesting comments from Crilley describing the art. These sometimes focus on the craft of creating the piece, sometimes on a thought or experience that influenced the image or sparked its creation. Occasionally there is a cool “Your Turn” tip connected to an illustration to help the reader think about ways to enhance their own creations.
This is a fun, interesting, enjoyable, and inspiring book that makes me want to walk away from my computer and pick up some art supplies.
I enjoy graphic adaptations of classic novels and short stories. Admittedly, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. This is an instance of the adaptation working, very well.
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The authorized Graphic Adaptation is a lovely and perfectly horrifying adaptation of the 1948 short story. The book was scripted and illustrated by Jackson’s grandson, Miles Hyman. Hyman does an excellent job of staying true to the original feel of the story with haunting, deep images that evoke genuine emotion. The words on each page are sparse, letting the artwork communicate much of the story. This is a wonderful use of a different medium to project the same message and creepiness of the original and required true translation skills. Hyman succeeds. There is a rhythm here that is controlled and which builds from mysterious to worrisome to absolutely horrifying. Fantastically done! If you enjoy the genre, this is worth your time.
I’ve seen this coming and I agree with it in principle. From a practical standpoint, it won’t affect me greatly as my review queue is down to only one book and I’ve not been requesting nor receiving books to review for a while.
I will continue to review stuff I buy, both here and on Amazon, when I find something really exciting. I may still review free books on this blog, and as always, if I am reviewing a book that I received for free, I will put this note at the end of the review: Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the publisher as a review copy.
UPDATE October 18, 2017: I have learned that my understanding of Amazon’s policy was stricter than what Amazon intended. The Community Guidelines state it more clearly in the Promotions and Commercial Solicitations section: “Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.” So, I again feel free to post reviews on Amazon for materials I received for free, provided I am not required to do so and the provider has not acted in a way that attempts to influence the review.
I was privileged to again lead the team that updated The Official Ubuntu Book for this ninth edition. The book continues to serve as a quality introduction for newcomers to Ubuntu, both the software and the community that surrounds it.
Starting today, I’m very excited to be working as a technical writer for Canonical. It is a thrill to be able to earn money while learning and writing about something that I am already passionate about: Ubuntu.
Some readers of my blog may not know this: Canonical is the company that provides support and resources to help the open source community make Ubuntu and promote its use across a multitude of devices and use cases.
I don’t think I have mentioned my YouTube channel on this blog. It is time. I recorded a couple covers of Blind Willie Johnson songs this week as my most recent contributions. In this video, I mention a really cool collection of covers that I supported on Kickstarter a few years back that was released just recently. Check it out with this song, the links I provide from it, and please know you are invited to also check out any of the songs I have recorded. (I also take requests from time to time, although there is a queue and it takes me time to learn songs I don’t already know…)
Fighting Shadows is set in Morocco. It is a fictional account that tells the story of one young man’s attempt to find justice after receiving a brutal beating during a political protest. Set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring throughout North Africa, the book attempts to demonstrate in narrative some of the reasons why the uprising never took hold to the point of revolution or civil war, like happened other countries such as Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt.
The story begins on that fateful day, February 20, 2011, starting with Farid and his participation in a protest in the town of Sefrou. The reader is taken on a journey that touches on the delicate balance of power in a country that rails against a history of control and abuse of power by the government while also fearing the rise of Islamist fundamentalism should that power be toppled.
The novel ably and clearly demonstrates the fear many citizens feel, whether their fear is centered on the local police, on the national security forces, or on the government’s secret forces. The book describes problems with bribery and corruption, but it also describes good people standing up and trying to fight against it. The real question is how effective those fights are or can be. This book does not give a definitive answer, but does an excellent job of asking questions that should be asked.
I have written a small amount; about these issues in the past, but not much. I lived in Morocco for 7 years and hope to visit again. I have friends who live there, a few expats and far more Moroccan people. I have no interest in stirring up trouble for myself or for them. At the same time, if we don’t question what we see and ask questions about what could be done, nothing can ever improve, in Morocco or anywhere else.
Fighting Shadows does not prescribe a specific remedy, but does a very good job of illuminating the problems that exist. Anyone interested in the politics and people of the region will find that the book helps frame questions that need to be worked through as Morocco and the Moroccan people look toward the future. Will the future be based in fear, whether fear of the Makhzen or of the Ikhwan, or will the future be ruled by hope, and if so, hope in what?
Note: this is a self-published book. Often, I find that self-published books deserve closer scrutiny than manuscripts that have gone through the more rigorous editorial and publication process with a publishing house. It is because I found this book to NOT have most of the common weaknesses of self-published books that I decided to post about it. My guess is that the only reason that a large publisher wouldn’t print this is because they may have felt the market was too small for the book to earn out. The content is of high enough quality to deserve your consideration.
No disclosure needed. I bought this book and thought it was worth sharing with you.
I like Python. I like its internal consistency. I like its design that all but ensures there is one right way to write almost anything and that any good Python programmer can figure that way out and use it. I have reviewed several Python-focused books and expect to do so in the future. So, this review will not be about the language itself, but about how well each of the two books included cover the language and provide interesting use cases.
Learn to Program with Minecraft: Transform Your World with the Power of Python presents a fun use case with Python. It covers how to install Minecraft, Python, Java, the Minecraft API, and a single-player Minecraft server called Spigot to allow you to take advantage of Python to do things to your Minecraft world. One thing to note is that installation is only covered on Windows and Mac OSX. The book also covers using the IDLE editor with Python, the Python shell, and all the basics of the language within the book-long use case of making modifications and improvements to your Minecraft world. Topics covered include variables, expressions, operators and basic mathematics, strings, booleans, if/then/else statements, loops, functions, lists and dictionaries, files and modules, and the basics of object-oriented programming. Good stuff. The text is presented with full-color examples and beautiful graphics throughout. The writing is clear and easy to follow.
Python Crash Course takes a different tack. The audience is similar, mainly young people who are just starting their coding journey. However, the approach is more generic in application and perhaps more detailed in what it covers. As with the other book, the examples are project-based, but not focused on interacting with one specific software product. You get all the same basics as the other book, but with extended coverage (to be fair, it has nearly double the page count). The projects in this book are interesting and cover a broader set of topics: you get multiple chapters each covering one game project, one data visualization project, and one web application. I also like that in this book Linux is covered alongside Windows and Mac OSX, although the Linux install examples use APT, wish presumes the use of Debian or Ubuntu or another Debian-derivative. Not a problem for me, but I would have liked to seen that called out.
I liked both of these books. If I was focused only on interacting with Minecraft and modifying my game, the first would be my preference. For all other use cases involving learning Python, the second book is superior and the one I recommend.
Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the publisher as a review copy.
The Slashdot Effect isn’t what it used to be (or maybe I’m not terribly interesting…possible). This blog was linked to from the beginning of an article a couple days ago. On Thursday, this blog had 178 views. On January 26, 2009, we had 7,120 views, which is the highest number recorded since I switched to WordPress and my stats were reset, mostly because StumbleUpon listed this post. Before that, back in 2008 we had more than 20,000 visitors in one day when I posted this.