Monday, 16 October 2000

Invention by design, The last continent

Listening to:

Mahler, symphony no. 2 Resurrection.

Just read:

Henry Petroski, Invention by design.

I finished this on Saturday morning. It’s an enjoyable read. I think I found the chapters on the bigger engineering projects more interesting than the earlier ones (the discussions of paper-clips, pencils and zips). After this mundane (though still interesting enough, in its way) start, Petroski talks about the Boeing 777, sewage systems, bridges and buildings.

These accounts of big projects are interesting because they give the reader a glimpse into a world that is normally hidden from view. The only real time that Petroski touches on software engineering (so-called) is to discuss the famous disaster of the Denver airport baggage handling system.

It’s nice to read a book by someone with a home-page.

Terry Pratchett, The last continent.

I also read this over the weekend. It was an enjoyable, light read, and the fact that it was set in Australia was a good source of jokes. This is in contrast to Pratchett's book with the pseudo-Chinese setting, Interesting times, which I just felt was offensive, with poor jokes.

The plot in The last continent is thin. It’s not entirely spelt out what is really going on with the lack of rain etc, and Pratchett’s plots all too often have people “warping the structure of time and space” as it is. His novels featuring the Ankh-Morpork Watch tend to have better plots, but even some of these have the “whole worlds are at risk” plot-lines that grow a bit wearying after a while.

Now reading:

Jan Swafford, Brahms. I started this on Sunday morning, and read a biggish chunk of it in one session. I generally like biographies, and this one isn’t going to be an exception. It’s illuminating about a man whose music I admire. More as I read more. There’s an interesting review of this book and a response to the review in the NYRB.