Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Introducing the Hungry Monster Book Review

The Lazy Book Reviewer is pleased to announce a partnership with the Hungry Monster Book Review. Hungry and myself are going to be sharing our reviews across our sites. So please join me in welcoming Hungry and help feed the monster and enjoy the first review.

Sam Crane is an information speculator that arrives at the murder scene of a high society doctor, Xian Mako. His only clue is a pair of antique galvanic spectacles that the doctor was holding at the time he was killed. Sam investigates the homicide through a commercially dystopian future where advertisements are mandatory, planned obsolescence is ubiquitous, and augmented reality is the new craze. To solve the murder he must navigate through corporate bureaucracy that is, at best, overly litigious, and deadly at its worst. Sam finds that the doctor’s murder is only a small cog in a much larger machine that Sam has only glimpsed the shadow of. He must step further into the augmented reality trend and go to the cutting edge of corporate advertisements to unravel a mystery that threatens to simultaneously make everyone’s life better and turn them into slaves for marketing companies.
The book depicts a neo-noir dystopian San Francisco in which technology and marketing has invaded everyday life. A new form of marketing has emerged called Oversight which overlays an augmented reality on top of everything you see. It’s manufactured by a powerful mega-corporation, but is sought after by terrorists and government agencies alike for nefarious purposes. The book describes a beautifully bleak future with details I never thought of; “He stumbles into the shower, but the water is off again. Retribution by City Water, no doubt, for buying the basic service package without the pipe-security upgrade.” Sam has a virtual assistant that helps him access the internet along with other things, but she also schedules advertisements based on where he’s going and what he’s doing so that the advertisements he passes on the street are completely personalized. Which is cool, but what makes it scary is that it’s almost mandatory, to the point where he has to pay sponsors for quiet time where he receives no advertisements at all. This leads to amusingly appropriate advertisements later in the novel when Sam is running for his life from people that want to kill him and then is shown advertisements for running shoes. It’s the small details that really sell the authenticity of the world, like clothes that last a certain amount of time before they disintegrate and you have to buy new ones; capturing the epitome of planned obsolescence. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, although I found Sam’s character dry at times, the world is meticulously created and the ideas that are presented are entertainingly thought provoking. It’s a murder mystery story at its core, but the story regularly detours into commentary on socialism and commercialism that doesn’t do much to move the story along. The story is well written with language often becoming poetic before coming back to being candid and incisive. This was a short novel that hit all the right notes for me. There are eight fairly long chapters, but it feels like no words are wasted to create a world that resonates with the style of Blade Runner and the world building of Neromancer.
4 Stars

Monday, 28 September 2015

Time Has Not Been Kind

Currently Reading

I do love a good story based around a Nuclear War, especially one written during the Cold War. Maybe I should go and see shrink about this, but there is nothing like a book written during the paranoia and fear of the Cold War. So it was with great anticipation I opened this NY best seller written in the mid 80's.

I tried very hard to get into this tale of a limited Nuclear exchange between the USA and USSR but to no avail. The narrative is very promising with two Journalist traveling across the Poss War US to report on the new reality left in it's wake. The book never seems to hit it's stride as it ambles it's way though the pages. I can see how in the midst of the Cold War this book could have had a real impact to the reader. It goes into great details on the effect of the EMP's and the expanding death and destruction the Soviet strike brings. The numbers of deaths alone mentioned in this book would have many falling to the floor in the fetal position.
The picture painted in this book would have scared the crap out of me back in the day. But alas in the light of our Modern Society this fear and paranoia does not translate at all. Unlike some of its contemporaries Warday fails to capture the spirit of the times.

2 Stars

Thursday, 24 September 2015

History of Bubble Wrap

I though it was time for the return of "History of Everyday Items".

Today I found out bubble wrap was originally designed to be used as wallpaper.
Bubble Wrap was invented by two engineers Al Fielding and Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes in Hawthorne, N.J. in 1957.  The two were not, however, trying to make a product to be used as packaging material. Rather, they were trying to create a textured wallpaper.  They started out by sealing two shower curtains together in such a way that it would capture air bubbles which would make the textured appearance for their wallpaper.  Needless to say, this wallpaper idea didn’t sell too well.

Not to be deterred, they then set about finding another use for their product.  The alternate use they came up with was to use it as greenhouse insulation.  While bubble wrap by itself does create somewhat of an insulating effect, this idea didn’t pan out popularly either.

It was three years after the initial creation of Bubble Wrap that Frederick W. Bowers, a marketer at Sealed Air, which makes Bubble Wrap, finally came up with the perfect use for their product.  On October the 5, 1959, IBM announced their new 1401 variable word length computer.  Bowers got the idea that Bubble Wrap could be used as a good packaging material to protect the computer while it was being shipped.  He then pitched the idea to IBM and demonstrated Bubble Wrap’s protective abilities.  His demonstration went over well and IBM began purchasing Bubble Wrap to protect their 1401 and other fragile product they sold and shipped.

From those humble beginnings, the company has grown to annual sales of around $4 billion with a net profit of around $255 million.  For reference, about 10% of Sealed Air’s revenue comes from Bubble Wrap, so around $400 million worth of Bubble Wrap is sold annually.

Bonus Facts:
  • One common misconception about Bubble Wrap is that it is created using machinery that inflates and then seals each and every bubble.  In fact, it’s made by trapping air bubbles in between two sheets of plastic as they are heated and passed between rollers.
  • In its lifetime, the IBM managed to sell or lease about double the number of 1401’s it projected, a whopping 10,000 units, 5,000 of which were sold or leased in its first five weeks on the market.  This might not sound like much, but by the mid-1960s about half of all the computers in the world were the IBM 1401. This computer leased for $2,500 a month (about $18,000 a month today).
  • One of the more interesting aspects of the 1401 was that it was a decimal based computer, rather than binary like most all computers today.
  • One of the downsides to Bubble Wrap has always been how much space it takes up during shipping and storage, for customers who are just buying the Bubble Wrap.  In order to get around this problem, one of the dreams of the original inventors was that they’d some day be able to create a Bubble Wrap that customers could self inflate, as needed.  So that when they purchased it from the manufacturer, it could be shipped as thin flat sheets of plastic, without the bubbles.  Once they assigned some engineers to the problem in the early 1990s, it took about a decade to finally work out the kinks, but Sealed Air now offers such a Bubble Wrap product.  The method they came up with was to extrude tiny pellets of polyethylene into sheets, which are then heated.  The tiny beads of polyethylene then flatten to form extremely strong polymer sheets with rows of un-inflated bubbles which are connected in lines.  Customers can then lease a special machine ($500 per year) from Sealed Air which connect to one end of the sheets and inflate all the lines and then seal off the opening.
  • This new customer inflatable Bubble Wrap is about 40 times cheaper than the traditional bubble wrap in terms of shipping costs to the customers buying the Bubble Wrap.
  • You can tell if some of the Bubble Wrap you have uses these inflatable Bubble Wrap sheets if you can’t pop individual bubbles on the sheets.  Popping one bubble will just pop all the bubbles on a line.
  • While originally being used primarily for packaging for electronics equipment, today the vast majority of Bubble Wrap made is used for food packaging.
  • Sealed Air continually does extreme demonstrations showing how much better Bubble Wrap performs at protecting fragile items. In one such demonstration, they dropped an 815 pound pumpkin from a height of 35 feet onto layers of Bubble Wrap.  The pumpkin survived the fall without a scratch.
  • Among its many uses, Bubble Wrap can be used as a cheap burglar alarm  by placing large bubbled bubble wrap on the floor in front of your door.  Another zany use, used by teenage girls the word over, is as a good stuffing for one’s bra. ;-)
  • The amount of Bubble Wrap produced by Sealed Air annually is enough to wrap the entire Earth (at the equator) with Bubble Wrap about ten times.
  • One major competitor to Bubble Wrap in the packaging industry popped up around five years after Bubble Wrap, “packing peanuts”.  These are typically made from pure polystyrene resin.
  • The color of packaging peanuts usually indicates what it is exactly made of.  Green, for instance, indicates that it’s made from recycled polystyrene.  Pink means that it is an anti-static version of packaging peanuts.  White means that it’s at least 70% virgin polystyrene resin.
  • A new kind of packaging peanut has come on the market in the last couple decades which is actually edible.  These are made from organic based materials, such as corn starch, rather than petroleum based.  They are also completely biodegradable and can’t retain an electrostatic charge, which can be useful in shipping electronics equipment.

Sourced at: Today I Found Out

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Excellent Science Fiction Read

This book has attracted a mix bagged in reviews of late but for me it was an easy 5 Stars. There was nothing I did not like about this great Sci-Fi read.
From the opening pages I was pulled hopelessly into the story like a spec of dust into a black hole. The basic story line is familiar, we bunch of misfits that end up saving humanity. But it is the details of the narrative and the great character development that engages your interest at a high level. It is a well paced book that keeps you turning the pages with much enthusiasm.
At the end of the day Ark Royal delivers a cracker of a story that keeps you reading way past that point you promised yourself you would turn of the light and get some sleep. I am looking forward to the next read in the series and hope the entertainment continues.
5 Stars

Sunday, 13 September 2015

King Strikes Again

This book is an excellent and enthralling read but I would expect no less from Stephen King. I am very much a Johnny come lately with Mr King avoiding his books for years for a reason I can no longer remember. But as they say there is no time like the present and this book has only added to my desire to read more.
Mr Mercedes delivers a great character driven narrative that has you on the edge of your seat as you taken on a reckless thrill ride. This is my third King novel and it was not what I was expecting. This godfather of Horror has delivered a first class Thriller that is both familiar and unpredictable. This is what I think really drives this book. Just as you get comfortable and think you have grasp of the books directions you are thrown a curve-ball that makes you pay attention.
Overall this book is a top notch read from cover to cover. It will entertain even the most discerning reader so pick up a copy and get reading.
4 Stars

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Important Piece of Work

KL delivers an exhaustive study of Nazi Germanys concentration camp system that is easily accessible by the reader. This highly examined part of the Third Reich gets a refreshing coat of paint with some great research and insights by those who survived, worked and died in these pieces of hell on earth.

The author takes great care in giving the reader a very rounded view of these camps from all angles. His extensive research for this book shows in every nook and cranny as he weaves together a narrative that chills you to the bone.

As holocaust books go this is up there as one of the best as the author paints a comprehensive picture of this low point in human history. But the most important part of this book for me is that he has given the dead a voice and in that he has let them live on in the readers memory.
5 Stars

Friday, 4 September 2015

Normal Services to Resume Soon

Hi all you may have noticed it has become a bit quite around here lately. This is due to the Lazy Book Reviewer being very busy with my job that pays the bills. But rest assured the great book reviews will be resuming very soon!!!