Saturday, 12 April 2014

History Does Not Get Any Better Than This

Paul Ham keeps pumping out great book after great book. His talent in bringing history alive on the page is evident in 1914 again. With the 100 year anniversary of the start of the Great War upon us this book gives us an insight into the people and the world in which they lived.

1914 does not try to shed new light onto the start of the war but what it does is to give us a look into a world on the cusp of change and its masters that thirsted for war. We see that the Great War was not triggered by the assignation of Franz Ferdinand as popularly believed, but instead it was a combination of numerous factors. Much of this book is taken up with giving the reader a great sense of the people and politics of the time, as well as the key events leading up to the outbreak of war.

What I liked about this book is that it tries to view the road to war through the eyes of the people and doctrine of the time.  This book for me is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the causes and opening months of the war to end all wars.

5 Stars, LBR Tick of Approval

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

What Will You Do When The World Ends

The Perseid Collapse follows on from Konkoly's excellent book the Jakarta Pandemic and like the previous book it a fantastic read from start to finish. His second book is set six years after the flu pandemic that bought the USA and the world to its knees. The world is finally back to normal what else can go wrong?

This story kicks into top gear fairly quickly with our heroes being thrown into a world of chaos. This is caused by an unexplained EMP blast and Tsunami that destroys large parts of the USA. It is put down as a meteor strike but the author gives us enough information to know otherwise. It is into this world our heroes are yet again thrown. Learning much from the previous disaster they put their plans into action. This book is an action packed thriller, in which they come face to face with the dark side of humanity as they race to save family living in Boston.

As a post-apocalyptic novel this book ticks all the boxes and manages to deliver a fresh fast paced narrative with well thought out and written characters. For me the true test of how good a book of this genre is comes down to how paranoid it makes me. This book had me looking around seeing how well prepared I will be if the end of the world comes and it is not looking good. I look forward with great excitement to the next novel in this series.

4.5 Stars


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The History of Monopoly

Monopoly was first marketed on a broad scale by Parker Brothers on November 5, 1935..Today, an estimated 500 million players from around the globe have been mesmerized by the Monopoly game since its creation. It remains a classic, passed down from generation to generation, making it the world's most popular game.
Although Monopoly is frequently said to have been invented by Charles Darrow in 1935, its origins actually go back to when Lizzie Magie, patented 748,626 (US) issued January 5, 1904, a game called "The Landlord's Game" with the object of demonstrating how rents enrich property owners and impoverish tenants. She knew that some people can find it hard to understand why this happens and what might be done about it and she thought that if Georgist ideas (that is, a supporter of political economist Henry George), were put into the concrete form of a game, they might be easier to demonstrate.
 This original game was enjoyable but although patented it was not taken up by a manufacturer until 1910 when it was published in the US by the Economic Game Company of New York. Apart from commercial distribution, it spread by word of mouth and was played in slightly variant home-made versions over the years by Quakers, Georgists, university students and others who became aware of it. As it spread, its rules were changed, most notably in dropping the second phase of the game during which a Land tax was introduced to replace the other taxes, and the shortened game became known as "Auction Monopoly".
It was often localized; the original fanciful property names being replaced by street names from the cities where the players lived. By the late 1920s it was known as just plain "Monopoly" and was played very much as it is now. One version of the game, commonly played in the Philadelphia area, had Atlantic City street name. In 1929 Ruth Hoskins began playing Monopoly in Indianapolis with her brother James and his friend Robert Frost "Pete" Daggett Jr., who was a friend of Dan Layman.
 In 1933, Charles B. Darrow played a game on oil cloth on his kitchen table, fell in love with the game's exciting promise of fame and fortune. He played "Monopoly" at home with his family and friends. But others soon heard of the game and ordered sets of their own. Later that year Charles Darrow patented and sold copies of the game as his personal invention. Darrow went to work, making hand-made copies of Monopoly and selling them for $4.00 apiece.
When demand for the game grew beyond his ability to fill orders, he brought the game to Parker Brothers who first rejected it on the basis there were 52 design errors. Undaunted, Darrow continued to produce handmade editions on his own and was highly successful. Parker Brothers caught wind of the success and decided to buy the rights to the game. In 1935, owned by Parker Brothers, the Monopoly® game became America's best selling game. Parker Brothers subsequently decided to pay off Magie, and others who had copyrighted commercial variants of the game, in order to have legitimate, undisputed rights to the game, and promoted Darrow as its sole inventor.
After buying up Lizzie Magie's patent for $500 and no royalties, Parker Brothers marketed a few hundred sets of The Landlord's Game and then buried it forever. Then it turned to a more dangerous flaw in the plans to rescue the firm with Monopoly: "A game surprisingly similar to Darrow's and known as Monopoly was played on homemade boards in the DKE house at Williams College in 1927 et seq. It developed in Reading, Pa., much earlier than that.
 "Almost exactly this same game as played at Williams was put on the market in Indianapolis early in 1932 through L. S. Ayres & Co. The name was changed to Finance for trademark reasons. Dan Layman's predecessor Finance. That cost more money: $10,000. But none of it went to Layman. A victim of the Great Depression, broke and desperate for money, he had sold his interest in Finance to a small games manufacturer, David W. Knapp, for $200.
Once Finance was wrapped up, Parker Brothers turned to another Monopoly-like game called "Inflation," manufactured by a Texan named Rudy Copeland. Early in 1936 Parker Brothers sued Copeland for patent infringement. Copeland countersued, charging that Darrow's and therefore Parker Brothers' patent on Monopoly was invalid. If the details forming the basis for that charge had become public knowledge, Parker Brothers might never have gone to reap a fortune from Monopoly. But Parker settled the lawsuit immediately by paying Copeland $10,000 to surrender his rights and keep his mouth shut.
 Decades later, when they attempted to suppress publication of a game called Anti-Monopoly, designed by Ralph Anspach, the trademark suit went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1983, and the court found in favor of Anspach because Darrow did not actually invent the game.
There is no accounting for the unrivaled devotion that the Monopoly game has garnered over the past sixty years. Some say it is the chance to build a fortune, take a risk, make an acquisition. Others insist it is the drama of competition. Edward P. Parker, former president of Parker Brothers suggested that the magic of the game Monopoly is "clobbering your best friend without doing any damage."

·    Over 200 million games have been sold worldwide. More than five billion little green houses have been "built" since 1935.
·    A set made by Alfred Dunhill, with gold houses and silver hotels, sold for $25,000.
·    The longest game in history lasted 70 straight days.
·    In its current and well-known incarnation, the Monopoly game is so firmly capitalist that it was once banned in Russia and China and is still outlawed in North Korea and Cuba.
·    In 1970, a few years after Charles Darrow's death, Atlantic City erected a commemorative plaque in his honour. It stands on the Boardwalk, near the juncture of Park Place.
·    Sometimes, circumstances call for a special MONOPOLY® set to be used. The students of Juniata College in Huntington, PA had a "big idea" in the spring of 1987 and turned part of their campus into a MONOPOLY® board larger than a city block. Giant foam rubber cubes were used for dice, and bicycle messengers with walkie-talkies kept players informed of their moves.
·    In 1978, Neiman Marcus demonstrated its good taste by offering a $600 full-size chocolate MONOPOLY® game in its Christmas catalogue. Requests came pouring in from chocolate and game lovers alike. And in 1991, the Franklin Mint issued a collectible MONOPOLY® game selling for $550 that included gold and silver pieces.

Sourced at Idea Finders

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A Good Start

This year is shaping up as the year of the short story with another great read under the belt. As prequels go this book delivers a tale that wets ones appetite for more. In this tale we are introduced to a futuristic world which has been devastated by a nuclear war. We find our hero sitting in a cell awaiting his fate in the isolated community of Red Denver. This book tells the story of how he got there and what he has to face to survive.

By the end of this short story you have a good sense of the world it is set in and what makes our hero tick. The story by itself is entertaining if not a tad cliché but that is not bad thing as it is a story that is very well told.

3.5 Stars

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Destined To Become A Classic

The SIN of Addison Hall is a breath of fresh air in the crowded Dystopian genre. The reader is taken in to a world preoccupied with beauty so much that your looks determine your place in society. The citizens are placed in a caste based on their looks from the cursed to the blessed. Your caste determines every aspect of your life from the food you can eat to the jobs you can undertake.

It is in this world we meet our hero of sorts Addison Hall. Addison is a member of the second lowest caste the Burdened. This Burdened bumbles from day to day suffering the injustices of his caste. One day he learns that his caste is set for extermination, as the leadership blames them and the cursed for the society’s woes. Sound familiar? Well it should as this a leaf out of the Third Reich’s book. As a WWII geek I loved how the author uses mistakes of our past to link us to his created world. It goes so far that the people in power are called Face-ist instead of Fascist, a fact that gave me a great chuckle.

This book does not follow your traditional narrative but this is what gives the book its freshness. The characters are well developed and have many a flaw that ingratiates them to the reader. Never has self-depreciation been used so well in a book. The end of the book is truly amazing and leaves many questions unanswered. Usually this annoys me as a ploy by the author to ensure you buy their next book. But in the SINS of Addison Hall this is a very fitting end to the book and leaves you pondering the question of what entail true happiness. Well done Mr Onorato on a stellar début I see big things in your future, maybe a bit of Botox may smooth the way.
5 Stars

LBR Tick Of Approval

Monday, 24 March 2014

Why Cashews Are Not Sold In Their Shells

Cashews are a member of the same family as poison ivy, Anacardiaceae. Like poison ivy and many other members of the Family, part of the cashew plant contains an oily chemical called urushiol, which is a strong irritant for most people and can even be fatal for some if ingested.

In cashews, the urushiol is found not only in the leaves, but also in a layer of oil between the shell and the cashew seed. Needless to say, shelling cashews is something that needs to be done very carefully and not by consumers.

Despite the need for care in shelling cashews, it’s still often done by hand, much to the chagrin of the workers involved, particularly in poorer nations where safety equipment is often lacking.

From the above, you might be wondering why you can purchase raw cashews. It turns out, even so-called “raw” cashews are not actually raw. Eating true raw, unprocessed cashew seeds would result in you ingesting some of this urushiol, which, as mentioned, can potentially be fatal. Thus, the seeds must either be roasted at high temperatures to destroy the offending oil or, in the case of “raw” cashews, usually steamed and/or boiled in oils.

Sourced at Today I Found Out

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Fascinating Anthology

Not one to normally read Anthologies I found myself strangely attracted to this collection of stories. The authors have delivered five great tales all based in a world they all had a hand in making. This book is very much a concept driven book in which the authors clearly articulate their goal and theme of the book. Each story builds on and around the others taking the reader on a tour of this new world.

The stories in this book revolve around a future society. It is a society where whole cities survive in of the grid. Where secret worlds live within others cities and some cities can form and disappear within a day. Each story is unique but as pointed out earlier they all entwine together to deliver a vision of our possible future.

Another aspect of the book which I liked was how the project leader John Scalzi gives us insight to the creative process and collaboration behind its creation. Overall I found each read entertaining and hope that some of these stories are followed up into more substantial bodies of work. So do yourself a favour and have a look at what this anthology has to offer.

4.5 Stars