Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ho Hum

Savage Continent tells the story of Europe after the end of World War II. This book for me is well written but gave me no new insights into the subject. Why the book is well set out I quite often found myself skipping over sections. With that in mind I would recommend this book for someone new to the subject matter as it does give a good overview.

As one would expect this book is filled with some rather disturbing scenes of the violence that swept across Europe in the wake of the war. I found that this was not balanced by some of the positive aspects and stories from this period. As an avid World War II buff I admit that this period of time was just as violent as the actual war, but this was just one aspect of the period. This book did not paint the complete picture of post war Europe and that for me stopped this book from being a 5 star read.

3.5 Stars



Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Am I Really Born To Run?

I picked this book up on sale on as the cover grabbed my interest. I would like to point out that I have never had much interest in running for the sake of running. For me running was something I used to do on the rugby or soccer field. I went into this book expecting an interesting adventure travel read based around running.

As this book went along I found myself looking at my lifestyle and re-evaluating my anti-running stance. This book tells the story of one man quest to find a tribe of legendary Mexican runners. Along the way we are introduced to a cast of colourful characters that are all connected through their love of ultra-running. It talks about how the human body is designed for running, and how before the advent of sneakers planter factitious and other running ailments were none existent. It introduces the reader to the world of ultra-running. Before reading this book I had no idea of what ultra-running was and by its end I was on the hunt for more books on the subject.

This book as a story is a ripping read that is highly entertaining and is full of characters larger than life. On a personal level it has gave me a desire to do what the human body is designed for and that is to run. Time will see if it this desire ends up being a flash in the pan or leads to a life of running.
5 Stars

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Time to Zip Up

It was a long way up for the humble zipper, the mechanical wonder that has kept so much in our lives 'together.' On its way up the zipper has passed through the hands of several dedicated inventors, none convinced the general public to accept the zipper as part of everyday costume. The magazine and fashion industry made the novel zipper the popular item it is today, but it happened nearly eighty years after the zipper's first appearance.
Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an 'Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.' Perhaps it was the success of the sewing machine, which caused Elias not to pursue marketing his clothing closure. As a result, Howe missed his chance to become the recognized 'Father of the Zip.'
Forty-four years later, Mr. Whitcomb Judson (who also invented the 'Pneumatic Streer Railway'') marketed a 'Clasp Locker' a device similar to the 1851 Howe patent. Being first to market gave Whitcomb the credit of being the 'Inventor of the Zipper', However, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper. The Chicago inventor's 'Clasp Locker' was a complicated hook-and-eye shoe fastener. Together with businessman Colonel Lewis Walker, Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker had its public debut at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and met with little commercial success.

Whitcomb Judson's Clasp Locker
Illustration: Whitcomb Judson's clasp locker
Swedish-born (who later immigrated to Canada), Gideon Sundback, an electrical engineer, was hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company. Good design skills and a marriage to the plant-manager's daughter Elvira Aronson led Sundback to the position of head designer at Universal. He was responsible for improving the far from perfect 'Judson C-curity Fastener.' Unfortunately, Sundback's wife died in 1911. The grieving husband busied himself at the design table and by December of 1913, he had designed the modern zipper.
Gideon Sundback increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, had two facing-rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. The patent for the 'Separable Fastener' was issued in 1917. Sundback also created the manufacturing machine for the new zipper. The 'S-L' or scrapless machine took a special Y-shaped wire and cut scoops from it, then punched the scoop dimple and nib, and clamped each scoop on a cloth tape to produce a continuous zipper chain. Within the first year of operation, Sundback's zipper-making machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The popular 'zipper' name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, when they decided to use Gideon's fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes and renamed the device the zipper, the name that lasted. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments.
In the 1930's, a sales campaign began for children's clothing featuring zippers. The campaign praised zippers for promoting self-reliance in young children by making it possible for them to dress in self-help clothing. The zipper beat the button in the 1937 in the "Battle of the Fly," when French fashion designers raved over zippers in men's trousers. Esquire magazine declared the zipper the "Newest Tailoring Idea for Men" and among the zippered fly's many virtues was that it would exclude "The Possibility of Unintentional and Embarrassing Disarray." Obviously, the new zippered trouser owners had not yet discovered the experience of forgetting to zip-up.
The next big boost for the zipper came when zippers could open on both ends, as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere, in clothing, luggage and leather goods and countless other objects. Thousands of zipper miles produced daily, meet the needs of consumers, thanks to the early efforts of the many famous zipper inventors.
Original 1917 Patent

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Great Piece Of Writing

This debut novel is great solid read that engages the reader from the get go. The Atlantis Gene manages to pull together several themes into a tight and solid narrative. The plot is well constructed and unravels at nice pace that keeps you intrigued throughout the story.

There is a lot going on in this book and the author does a masterful job of keeping the flow of the story going. Numerous sub-plots and characters all slowly weave together to create a rich tapestery of action and intrigue. As mentioned earlier in this review it is melding of varied themes such as the origin of man, mystisim, Science Fiction and a secret world order that make this book stand out from the crowd.
4.5 Stars

Friday, 18 April 2014

Don't Waste Your Time

I held high hopes for this book but alas I was dissapointed. For me the story of how the diary was discovered was more intersting than the diary itself. Yes it does provide a brief snaphot into the life of a French soldier at the opening of the Great War. But it lacked  details and this left me  not feeling connected are caring about the soldier. The artwork that accompanyies the diary  is drab and unisnpiring. I am sorry to say that the book to me felt like it was trying to cash in on the centenary of World War I.

2 Stars

Kingdom Of The Dead

Kingdom of the Dead: The zombie apocalypse like you’ve never seen it before. The plague destroyed nine-tenths of the population, and the dead refuse to rot. The survivors learn that each and every one of them carries a death sentence: the virus circulating in their very bloodstreams. Just how far will one scientist go – how many people’s lives will he destroy in his quest to save the human race? The fates of several worlds hang in the balance.

It had only been a week after the twins’ thirteenth birthday party when the whole world had gone to complete shit. At first, both Mortimer and Daniel had thought that witnessing the dead coming back to life and eating folks was probably the most awesome thing ever to happen in their lives. Seeing all those zombies killing people on the nightly news was far better than anything that their video games could have come up with.

Their excitement took a serious blow when the news hit the Internet that a select few were turning without getting bitten. The fear became more profound when these select few began growing daily. When the outbreak reached their hometown, their terror increased exponentially.

Will the twins and their older brother, Martin, survive? Will they learn the truth about the infection that decimated the world’s population, and their role in saving the human race?

“Every single one of those things is a chemical disaster. As long as the zombies still shuffle about, their bodies stay together. It’s only when the things are truly dead when the fun and games begin. Their flesh is nothing more than a foul concoction of highly toxic and corrosive chemicals.” Tony looked at his wife. “How on earth do you dispose of countless millions of corpses that refuse to rot?”
Tony must battle to find the answers before time runs out for all of them.

Even after four long, miserable years, Kenny’s mind and body wouldn’t allow him to forget his impossible resurrection. Of all the millions of souls the plague of death had taken, Kenny believed that only he had risen with his humanity hanging by a thread.
Right now, his thread had frayed to the point of snapping. If he didn’t get his injection, Kenny’s joints would stiffen and the cold would grip his body, and this time the sickness would not release him. He’d be dead for sure this time. After that, there would be no stopping that urge to bite into sweet human meat.
4 Stars

Review from the Bookie Monster

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The History of the Traffic Light

You see them hanging around, here and there. They’re everywhere, part of the landscape, it seems but you never really pay close attention to them until you blow through a red one.
Traffic lights. Webster’s defines them as “a set of automatically operated colored lights, typically red, amber, and green, for controlling traffic at road intersections and crosswalks.”
Without traffic lights, urban life would be a lot more chaotic than it is. No doubt bloodier, too.
Roman MilestoneRoman MilestoneTraffic lights as regulators of traffic flow evolved from road signs – those ubiquitous objects on the side of roads that provide essential, often useful, and frequently annoying information. Road signs, of course, came on the scene sometime after the development of roadways, which developed to accommodate vehicular and military traffic.
The oldest constructed roads known are stone paved streets at Ur, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present day Iraq, and date to around 4000 BC. All of our traffic signs trace their origins to Roman milestones. As the name suggests, these were usually large stone columns placed at intervals of one mile (occasionally portions of a mile) and contained directions and the distance remaining to Rome; the origin of the old saying “All roads lead to home.”
In the middle ages, road signs evolved into multidirectional indicators that directed travelers to distant villages and towns, and sometimes included distances to specific destinations. Automobile traffic signs began appearing on roadsides not long after the introduction and proliferation of the automobile.
The red, green, and amber colors used by traffic signals are nature-based and have evolved from nautical right-of-way, and railroad usage.
Almost from the very beginning, Red has been the color of choice for “Stop.” Red, the color of blood, is considered a hot, or “dangerous” color. It elevates blood pressure, and heightens nervous tension. The shade of red used in most traffic signals contains orange hues to improve its visibility by individuals with vision issues, such as color blindness.
On a color wheel, Green is the polar opposite of red, and a seemingly natural choice for “Go.” Green is a calming and welcoming, and hence, inviting color. According to some sources, the use of green as a “go” signal for car traffic is a carryover from railroads, which adopted the color because white light was not sufficiently discernible during daylight hours. Like red, the color green in most traffic signals is enhanced. It includes some blue for the benefit of colorblind individuals.
Yellow, or amber, the color of “Caution,”is the most visible color in the spectrum. It can be seen from the greatest distance.

The world’s very first traffic light was installed for the benefit of pedestrians, not traffic and was inspired by the 1102 fatalities and 1334 injuries documented on London roads in 1866. Invented by John Peake Knight (1828-1886), a railway engineer from Nottingham, the signal was installed at the busy intersection of Great George and Bridge Streets near Parliament in London on December 10, 1868. It was based on railway signals then in use, and manufactured by Saxby and Farmer, a leading railway signal manufacturer. Mounted on a tall pillar, it featured three semaphore arms provided with red and green gas lamps for nighttime use, and was operated by a police constable. It was an instant success.
Unfortunately, the signal was destroyed just over three weeks later, on January 2, 1869, by an explosion caused by a leaky gas valve that resulted in the death of the police officer operating the device. Knight’s signal was declared a public safety hazard and ordered removed. It would be another 60 years, 1929, before an electrified variation of Knight’s traffic signal would be reintroduced to London streets.
The next chapter in the development of the traffic light took place in Chicago in 1910, when Earnest Sirrine introduced what is believed to be the first automatically controlled traffic signal. The device used two separate display arms that rotated on an axis between two fixed positions. The display arms were arranged as a cross with one display continually offset from the other by 90-degrees. In place of red and green lights, Sirrine’s “street traffic system” used the non-illuminated words“stop” and “proceed.”
Two years later, Lester Farnsworth Wire (1887-1958) – a detective with the Salt Lake City Police Department – invented a traffic light that used red and green lights. It was powered from overhead trolley wires. The following year, 1913, James Hogue received a patent for a manually controlled red and green-lighted traffic signal that was installed in 1914 at 105th Street and Euclid in Cleveland. Its big advantage lay with the ability of police and/or fire personnel to adjust the rhythm of operation as necessary in the event of emergency.
William Ghiglieri of San Francisco received a patent on May 1, 1917 for the first automatically operated traffic signal employing red and green colored lights that included an option to allow manual operation. Then in 1920, Detroit cop William Potts (1883-1947) invented electrically powered, hanging, automatic traffic lights to control four-way intersections. Potts signals were the first to include amber “caution” lights and were installed at several busy intersections along Woodward Avenue, still the Motor City’s main drag.
In 1923, Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr. (1877-1963) – the inventor of a “respiratory protective hood” that was the forerunner of the gas mask, and the first African-American to own an automobile in Cleveland OH – received a patent for a reliable and inexpensive manually operated signal. Shortly after being awarded the patent, Morgan sold his rights to General Electric for $40,000 (currently the equivalent of more than a half-million dollars). GE used the patent for protection in a failed effort to establish a traffic light monopoly.
Meanwhile around this time in Detroit, the home of Henry Ford and the Model-T, the first traffic tower in the US was installed at the intersection of Woodward and Michigan Avenues in 1917. As they began being used in other cities, the towers assumed a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but were generally big, tall, right in the middle of all the traffic action, and therefore, VERY visible. These traffic controlling structures were often manned, but not necessarily so, and were available with or without traffic lights.
Laying claim to the world’s oldest operating traffic light is the city of Ashville OH. The light in question controlled traffic from its installation at the corner of Main and Long Streets for about 50 years. Designed by Ashville resident Teddy Boor, the signal featured a slowly rotating hand that swept across the face of each light to let drivers know how much time remained before a light change. The signal was ordered removed in 1982 by the Ohio Department of Transportation, which ordered the then village to replace it with a standard traffic light.
While it is no longer controlling car traffic, the light is still operating, and directing foot traffic inside the Ashville Museum, where it is the most popular exhibit. According to officials, “there is plenty of foot traffic.” The light has also been featured on Oprah and An American Moment With James Earl Jones

 Sourced at

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