Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Origins Of Humpty Dumpty

Time to introduce a new thread to the Lazy Book Reviewer. This one will be taking a look at the origins of some classic Nursery Ryhmes. The story behind a lot of these are far from friendly. So to kick it off we will have a look at Humpty Dumpty.
The imagery of Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. This has given rise to various, but inaccurate, theories surrounding the identity of Humpty Dumpty. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the 'Alice through the looking glass' novel by Lewis Carroll. However, Humpty Dumpty was not a person pilloried in the famous rhyme!
 The History and Origins of the Rhyme
Humpty Dumpty was in fact believed to be a large cannon! It was used during the English Civil War (1642 - 1649) in the Siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 - 27 Aug 1648). Colchester was strongly fortified by the Royalists and was laid to siege by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads). In 1648 the town of Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. Standing immediately adjacent the city wall, was St Mary's Church. A huge cannon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall next to St Mary's Church. The historical events detailing the siege of Colchester are well documented - references to the cannon (Humpty Dumpty) are as follows:
  • June 15th 1648 - St Mary's Church is fortified and a large cannon is placed on the roof which was fired by ‘One-Eyed Jack Thompson'
  • July 14th / July 15th 1648 - The Royalist fort within the walls at St Mary's church is blown to pieces and their main cannon battery ( Humpty Dumpty) is destroyed.
  • August 28th 1648 - The Royalists lay down their arms, open the gates of Colchester and surrender to the Parliamentarians
A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, 'all the King's men' attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. However, because the cannon , or Humpty Dumpty, was so heavy ' All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again!' This had a drastic consequence for the Royalists as the strategically important town of Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks. Earliest traceable publication 1810.

Sourced at Nursery Rhymes Origins and Lyrics

Friday, 29 November 2013

A Bit Disappointed

I have been hanging out to read this novel for ages and have to say I was a tad disappointed. The Remaining is a decent enough novel but does not stand out in the crowded market of Post-Apocalypse novels.
The plot shows a lot of promise that was never fully explored. The characters are likable and believable but it is in the details that the book disappointed. For example when the characters are suffering from dehydration they go to a creek and wash some gore off them. The question I ask is why no one bothered to drink from this water if they were so thirsty. This may be me nit-picking but it is the little thing that makes a good story great.
This series has got a lot of positive hype and reviews. With this in mind I am willing to give the series the benefit of doubt and give the next book a read. Fingers crossed the little things are all good.
3 Stars

Monday, 25 November 2013

A Promosing New Series

There is lot to like about the Technomancer. It's one of those books that keep you guessing what is just over on the next page. As a first book in a series it does a great job in introducing the reader to the characters and the nature of the story. I loved how the story developed and changed your perspective on things as it moved along.
For me though it took a little bit longer than I liked to be pulled into the story. The opening of the book and the introduction main character made it a bit hard for me to bond with him. But once I did I was rewarded with a great piece of Science Fiction writing. I definitely will be back for more.
3 Stars


Friday, 22 November 2013

One For The Comic Book Geeks

Villan's Sidekick by Stephen T Brophy

As a former comic boy geek I loved this book. The author puts a human face to the faceless goons always getting smashed by the good guys. This is no mean feat since this particular goon is huge with a Gatling gun for an arm and a metal jaw. As novella's go this one is up there with some of the best, as it packs a lot of plot in only 77 pages.

The author does a great job bringing the excitement of comics onto the pages of a novella. The characters are vibrant and the plot ticks along at a furious pace.

3.5 Stars

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Published in 1932 Still Relevant Today

Age has not taken the shine of this classic dystopian novel. I was very surprised when half way through reading this book I found it was first published in 1932. The book reads like a modern day novel with many of the concepts raised by this book still very relevant. His foresight is astounding I mean there is not much a jump from his bottle babies to that of "Test Tube" babied of today. I found myself wondering what Aldous would think of the designer baby debate going on at the moment. 

Apart from the timeliness of this book he delivers a captivating story. There is no skull skulduggery, romance of mystery to drive along the narrative. What we get instead is a great study of the human condition and what happens when two separate ways of living come together.  A fantastic reality that is brought to life within the pages of this book.  I for one would not mind living in this reality, only if I was an Alpha or a Beta at least. How have I made it to this point in my life without hearing of this book before, I hang my head in shame.

4.5 Stars

About the Author

Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through his novels and essays Huxley functioned as an examiner and sometimes critic of social mores, norms and ideals. Huxley was a humanist but was also interested towards the end of his life in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. By the end of his life Huxley was considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of the highest rank.

Monday, 18 November 2013

History of the MP3

Growing up as a teenager I always used to carry around heaps of tapes and numerous batteries in my backpack, to ensure I was always wired for sound. As an adult I am always amazed at how much music I can now carry around in a small device. I mean it is ridiculous amount have music I carry with me and all without having to worry about changing batteries. What do I have to thank me or this? The good old MP3.

How Invented the MP3

The German company Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft developed MP3 technology and now licenses the patent rights to the audio compression technology - United States Patent 5,579,430 for a "digital encoding process". The inventors named on the MP3 patent are Bernhard Grill, Karl-Heinz Brandenburg, Thomas Sporer, Bernd Kurten, and Ernst Eberlein.

In 1987, the prestigious Fraunhofer Institut Integrierte Schaltungen research center (part of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft) began researching high quality, low bit-rate audio coding, a project named EUREKA project EU147, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB).

Dieter Seitzer and Karlheinz Brandenburg
Two names are mentioned most frequently in connection with the development of MP3. The Fraunhofer Institut was helped with their audio coding by Dieter Seitzer, a professor at the University of Erlangen. Dieter Seitzer had been working on the quality transfer of music over a standard phone line. The Fraunhofer research was led by Karlheinz Brandenburg often called the "father of MP3". Karlheinz Brandenburg was a specialist in mathematics and electronics and had been researching methods of compressing music since 1977. In an interview with Intel, Karlheinz Brandenburg described how MP3 took several years to fully develop and almost failed. Brandenburg stated "In 1991, the project almost died. During modification tests, the encoding simply did not want to work properly. Two days before submission of the first version of the MP3 codec, we found the compiler error."

What is MP3
MP3 stands for MPEG Audio Layer III and it is a standard for audio compression that makes any music file smaller with little or no loss of sound quality. MP3 is part of MPEG, an acronym for Motion Pictures Expert Group, a family of standards for displaying video and audio using lossy compression. Standards set by the Industry Standards Organization or ISO, beginning in 1992 with the MPEG-1 standard. MPEG-1 is a video compression standard with low bandwidth. The high bandwidth audio and video compression standard of MPEG-2 followed and was good enough to use with DVD technology. MPEG Layer III or MP3 involves only audio compression.

Timeline - History of MP3
1987 - The Fraunhofer Institut in Germany began research code-named EUREKA project EU147, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB).
January 1988 - Moving Picture Experts Group or MPEG was established as a subcommittee of the International Standards Organization/International Electrotechnical Commission or ISO/IEC.
April 1989 - Fraunhofer received a German patent for MP3.
1992 - Fraunhofer's and Dieter Seitzer’s audio coding algorithm was integrated into MPEG-1.
1993 - MPEG-1 standard published.
1994 - MPEG-2 developed and published a year later.
November 26, 1996 - United States patent issued for MP3.
September 1998 - Fraunhofer started to enforce their patent rights. All developers of MP3 encoders or rippers and decoders/players now have to pay a licensing fee to Fraunhofer.
February 1999 - A record company called SubPop is the first to distribute music tracks in the MP3 format.
1999 - Portable MP3 players appear.

What Can MP3 Do
Fraunhofer Gesellschaft has this to say about MP3:"Without Data reduction, digital audio signals typically consist of 16 bit samples recorded at a sampling rate more than twice the actual audio bandwidth (e.g. 44.1 kHz for Compact Discs). So you end up with more than 1.400 Mbit to represent just one second of stereo music in CD quality. By using MPEG audio coding, you may shrink down the original sound data from a CD by a factor of 12, without losing sound quality."

MP3 Players
In the early 1990s, Frauenhofer developed the first, however, unsuccessful MP3 player. In 1997, developer Tomislav Uzelac of Advanced Multimedia Products invented the AMP MP3 Playback Engine, the first successful MP3 player. Two university students, Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev ported AMP to Windows and created Winamp. In 1998, Winamp became a free MP3 music player boosting the success of MP3. No licensing fees are required to use an MP3 player.

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Masterfully Delivered Epic

This book is a sweeping epic tale that comes on relentlessly like waves crashing against the base of a cliff. The authors apocalyptic vision is masterfully delivered and at times left me gasping for air. The story is well structured and covers a large period of time and change extremely well.

Not normally a lover of the vampire genre the author has delivered a well thought out and different slant on this genre. There is so much that I love about this book that it is hard to convey how much I enjoyed this book in a review. As I sit here thinking about the book more and more scenes and characters keep popping into my head. This in itself is a great reflection of the power of this story.

5 BIG Stars

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Safran Delivers a Different Kind of True Crime Book

It is fair to say John Safran likes stirring the pot. So it was with excited anticipation I opened his book. Instead of Safrans usual style he has delivered a surprisingly mature book. This book delivers two stories in one and this makes for some interesting reading. The first story is that of a White Supremacist that the author had some fun with in of his documentary series. This guy has been murdered so Safron travels to Mississippi to follow up the story. The other part of this book is about what he goes through in order to get the information to write the book.

I loved his interaction with the murderer and his method to do so, but this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I work in a prison. This book gives a great snapshot into what goes on in the big Sippi and I found myself captivated by the stories of the main players in this real life saga. This book does seem to get bogged down in too much detail at times and this is why I have given it the 3 stars. Overall though I strongly suggest anyone with a passing interest to give this book a read. It is a refreshingly new style of crime writing.

3.5 Stars

Sunday, 10 November 2013

ORBS Ticks All The Boxes

ORBS is a fast moving captivating Sc-Fi thriller. The science of the book has obviously been well researched and this adds to the enjoyment of the read. This book makes the Green House effect look like a storm in a tea cup. The characters are well developed and this pulls you into the story even more. I especially love the "blue orbs" they are one of the most bad ass and scariest things around. ORBS delivers yet another enthralling read from this major new talent and has me salivating for more. This book has received my vote in the Goodreads Best of 2013  for best Sci-Fi book.

5 Stars

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A Great Series

Mark Tufo delivers another memorable book in his Zombie Fallout series. But for me this book did not pack the punch of the first two in the series. Saying the author still had me laughing out loud as a hero Michael Talbot battles his way through yet more hoards of Zombie. All the cast of characters are there from Henry the flatulent dog to his arch nemesis Eliza.

Why there is a lot to like about this book it just missed the mark with me. I still remain a loyal Tufo fan and look forward to devouring the next book in the series. I hope he can forgive me for this 3 star review.

3 Stars

Monday, 4 November 2013

The History of the Yo-Yo

It is believed that the yo-yo most likely originated in China. The first historical mention of the yo-yo, however, was from Greece in the year 500 B.C. These ancient toys were made out of wood, metal, or painted terra cotta disks and called just that, a disc. It was customary, when a child turned of age, to offer toys of their youth to certain gods. Due to the fragile nature of the material, it is presumed that the disks made of terra cotta (clay) were used for this purpose rather than for actual play. A vase painting from this time period shows a Greek youth playing with a yo-yo. Such vases, as well as an actual terra cotta disk can be found in the National Museum of Athens, Greece.  Even in ancient Egyptian temples, drawings of objects have been seen in the shape of yo-yos.

Historical records indicate that 16th century hunters in the Philippines hid up in trees and used a rock tied to a long cord, up to 20 feet in length, to throw at wild animals beneath them. The weapon was able to be pulled up and thrown back down for multiple attempts at the prey. This gave rise to the widespread idea that the practice was the true forerunner of the yo-yo, but this is a stretch of imagination and has no real basis in fact. It is extremely likely, however, that the yo-yo did travel from China not only to Greece, but also to the Philippines, where the yo-yo is known to have been a popular toy for children over a very long period of time.

The next historically dated mention of the yo-yo is a box from India made in the year 1765. This miniature box was hand-painted with the picture of a girl in a red dress playing with her yo-yo. Within the next 25 years, the yo-yo traveled from the Orient to Europe, specifically to the aristocracy (upper class) of Scotland and France and on to England. As it traveled, it became known by a variety of names.

In France, a painting dated to 1789 shows the 4 year-old, future King Louis XVII holding his l’emigrette. It was during this time of the French Revolution and the “Reign of Terror,” that many of the French aristocracy were forced to flee to Paris, Germany and across other borders when their style of life was threatened by the peasant uprisings, taking their popular yo-yos made of glass and ivory with them. L’emigrette is a French term meaning to ‘leave the country.’ Another nickname for the yo-yo at this time was de Coblenz, which was a city to which many French fled. These names reflect an important historical connection between the toy and the French Revolution.

The yo-yo’s value as a stress reliever is also seen through history. While being a fashionable toy for the French nobility, those less fortunate are said to have played with their emigrettes to reduce the understandable tension of their one-way trip to the guillotine. Dating through the 1780’s, there are drawings of General Lafayette and others with their troops flinging their yo-yos. The yo-yo arrived in Paris in 1791 as it spread through France and was called the “joujou de Normandie.” Some believe that this term may reflect possible roots for the modern American name of “yo-yo.” High interest in the toy continued as evidenced by the famous French playwright, Beaumarchais, in his treatment of “The Marriage of Figaro” in 1792. There is a scene where the nervous Figaro enters and conveys his tension, not by the conventional wringing of his hands, but playing with his emigrette! When asked what the emigrette is good for, Figaro responds, “It is a noble toy, which dispels the fatigue of thinking.” Even on June 18, 1815, at the famous Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon and his army are known to have been seen relaxing with their yo-yos before battle.

The yo-yo craze traveled throughout Europe to England by way of Scotland and France. The English used the French word bandalore and the term quiz to identify the toy. In 1791, a print was circulated of the Prince of Wales, future George IV, whirling his bandalore. Because of the toy’s popularity as well as the prince’s power to sell, the toy also became known as the Prince of Wales’ toy and soon became a toy that any person of fashion had to own. The toy’s ongoing popularity in England is shown as late as 1862 when an illustration appeared showing two young lads terrifying an older woman with their quizzes.

The first recorded reference to any type of yo-yo in the United States was in 1866 when two men from Ohio received a patent for an invention called “an improved bandalore,” in that it was rim weighted. One year later, a German immigrant named Charles Kirchof patented and manufactured the return wheel. From then until 1911, although various patents were awarded in the United States related to the yo-yo, nothing notable occurred. In 1916, the Scientific American Supplement published an article titled “Filipino Toys” which showed it and named it a yo-yo. This was explained by some as the Filipino word for “come-come” or “to return.” Significant events were soon to happen in the United States. Meanwhile, back in the Philippines, the natives were becoming experts at making and using the toy. They became excellent wood carvers of the yo-yo and playing with a yo-yo, beginning early in childhood, became a national pastime. Not surprisingly, it was from here that the yo-yo as we know it today was truly introduced into the United States. In the 1920s, a man named Pedro Flores brought the first Filipino yo-yo to the U.S. and in 1928, began a yo-yo company by the same name in California.

These yo-yos were hand-carved from a single piece of wood. The yo-yo was unique because it was the first yo-yo that did not have the string tied to the axle. Instead, the string was looped around the axle, allowing the yo-yo to spin or “sleep” at the end of the string. This concept is at the heart of yo-yoing today. Rather than being able to only go up and down, the yo-yo was now capable of doing an infinite number of tricks.

In 1928 or 1929, a businessman named Donald F. Duncan Sr. saw his first Flores yo-yo while he was in San Francisco. He saw the potential of the toy as he witnessed the crowd that Pedro was able to draw by doing a few tricks. He purchased not only the idea of the yo-yo, but the Pedro Flores company itself. And, as they say, “the rest is history.”

Donald Duncan was an excellent businessman. He developed advertising campaigns and had demonstrators working for him in the U.S., as well as Western Europe. “Duncan Yo-Yo Professionals” traveled throughout the United States teaching and demonstrating yo-yo tricks and conducting contests in an effort to promote sales. Competition grew as other companies began to see the toy’s potential. In 1932, in an effort to protect his interest, Duncan filed for and was assigned a trademark for the word “yo-yo.” Not able to use the term “yo-yo,” competitors were forced to use terms like “come-back”, “return”, “returning top”, “whirl-a-gig”, and “twirler” for their versions of the toy.

In 1946, the Duncan Company moved to Luck, Wisconsin, which quickly became known as the “Yo-Yo Capital of the World” producing 3,600 yo-yos per hour. They produced the original maple wooden yo-yos using 1,000,000 board feet per year. In 1960, plastic yo-yos that we still see today began to be manufactured. Sales grew and grew. By 1962, the Duncan Company alone sold a record 45 million yo-yos in a country with only 40 million kids, and still could not keep up with the demand. High television advertising expenses and excessive expenses in overtime wages and materials to keep up with the demand hurt profits. There was also the continual legal expense in trying to hold onto the trademarked word “yo-yo.” Competitors fought hard to use it in describing their products. Finally, in 1965, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Duncan’s trademark for the word “yo-yo” was no good. The term yo-yo had become so widespread that it was now a permanent part of the language and it no longer only described the toy. It, in fact, WAS the toy.

Tragically, in November of 1965, the Duncan Company could hold on no longer and was forced into bankruptcy. Although pieces of equipment were auctioned off to various buyers, Flambeau Plastics Company purchased the most valuable asset, the “Duncan” name and the goodwill that came along with it. It is the Flambeau Plastics Company that manufactures and sells the eleven different models of Duncan yo-yos today. June 6 has been deemed National Yo-Yo Day in honor of Donald Duncan Sr.’s birthday and the phenomenal influence he had in the world of yo.

Trivia enthusiasts will enjoy noting that in 1968, Abbie Hoffman was cited for contempt of Congress for “walking the dog” in an effort to entertain the House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities that was investigating him and Richard Nixon made headlines when he yo-yoed on stage at the opening of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1974. The yo-yo is, indeed, universal.

In recent years, technology has affected a multitude of the products we use, and the seemingly simple yo-yo has been no exception. Beginning in the 1970s, yo-yo manufacturers, seeing the benefit of periphery weight distribution, began rim-weighting their products for a longer spin. In 1978, Tom Kuhn patented the “No Jive 3-in-1” yo-yo, the first take-apart by hand yo-yo and the first having a replaceable axle. In 1980, Michael Caffrey patented “The yo-yo with a Brain.” In addition to a free-spinning sleeve bearing for long spin times, “The Brain” has a centrifugal spring loaded clutch mechanism that causes an automatic return of the yo-yo to the hand when the rotational spin slows to a pre-determined rate. And by the 1990s, transaxle yo-yos were available with ball-bearing axles, increasing spin times once again.

But this is not quite the end of the story. On April 12, 1985, the yo-yo was first taken into space by NASA on the Space Shuttle Discovery as part of the Toys in Space project. A basic spinning yo-yo was used to see what effect microgravity would have on it. What they discovered was that a yo-yo could be released at slow speeds and gracefully move along the string. However, the yo-yo refused to “sleep.” Without the downward force of gravity, the yo-yo could not spin against the loop at the end of the string and so, rebounded up the string. It was also found that the yo-yo must be thrown, not dropped, as there was no gravity to pull it down. And on July 31, 1992, the yo-yo (an SB-2) again made its way into space, on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, this time for an educational video including slow-motion yo-ing.

Whether the yo-yo was a Chinese, Greek or Filipino invention or some combination is difficult to prove. By the same token, it is also difficult to say with certainty whether the toy spread from country to country or whether the same basic pattern for the toy appeared in completely different parts of the world for no obvious reason. We do know that its use as a toy around the world and throughout history is unmatched. And, although the yo-yo has gone through periods of hibernation in its trek through the ages, its popularity, just like the toy itself, always comes back.

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