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HTML5 Graphing And Data Visualization Cookbook by Ben Fhala

HTML5 Graphing And Data Visualization Cookbook

HTML5 Graphing And Data Visualization Cookbook

I don’t have any projects requiring graphing active web pages, and don’t foresee any future projects, but the topic is interesting to me, so I got this free book from the publisher and read through most of it. HTML 5 has added the Canvas element(s) and it also allows one to generate: static graphics, animations, and dynamic graphics (using JavaScript).

It’s not a book for beginners but I was able to follow along. Knowing that Fhala had all the code available for download was a comforting thought. He goes into a lot of detail but doesn’t repeat too often. At times I thought I would never re-invent the wheel like he had. So it was nice to read the latter chapters on Google’s Visualization toolkit, Google Maps, and InfoVis.

Fhala introduces Canvas with a number of recipes or projects such as creating flags of various counties. He goes from simple to more and more complex. Fhala covers drawing Bezier curves and shadows; hitting the highlights of what Canvas can do for the developer.

I grew up using Flash but lost interest in it. Web designers also have SVG to perform similar tasks. SVG creates vector elements, and now we have Canvas to generate bitmap images. I wish there had been a Reference section in the book, although I’m not sure how I would have formatted it.

346 pages

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Batboy by Matthew McGough

Bat Boy

In 1991, 16 year old Matthew McGough took a long shot and wrote 15 letters to George Steinbrenner and other members of the New York Yankees management.  It paid off big when the following spring, he was sitting in the dugout at Yankee Stadium as it’s newest batboy.  McGough’s memoir is filled with all the exciting memories that most boys only dream of – and also shares many stories that helped to shape him into the man he is today.

There’s so much to love about this book.  It’s interesting, funny and a great coming of age story.  I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005
269 pages

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The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

The House At Riverton

Kate Morton’s debut novel, The House at Riverton, is a gothic mystery set in England between the world wars.  The main character, Grace Bradley, is a servant in the house, and the story of what happened to the Hartford family’s daughters is told through her eyes.  Within this novel we see things changing:  the struggles of the landed gentry, technological innovation, old traditions going by the wayside, and changes for women including their roles in society.  All this comes to a head as Grace and the Hartford women make decisions that will affect their lives forever.

While I’ve enjoyed Morton other books, this one was kind of a sleeper for me.  It was very slow for me to get into, the characters seemed distant, and the story didn’t draw me in as much as I would have liked.  But it was a first novel.  We already know Morton has grown as an author.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2007
473 pages

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The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

The Last Pilot

The book opens in 1947, when Jim Harrison, a test-pilot for the Air Force, is on his way to breaking the sound barrier.  The novel continues to chronicle Harrison’s life (and more specifically his marriage) with the background of the newly burgeoning space program. All the NASA greats are featured in this book, and author Johncock did get me excited about it with his fascinating descriptions of a pilot’s life in the initial pages.  However, Harrison’s personal life took over and my interest in this novel went down the drain the same time Jim Harrison’s marriage did.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2015
298 pages

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The Caves of Perigord by Martin Walker

The Caves Of Perigord

When the book opens, Lydia Dean, receives a rare walk-in client to the London auction house in which she works.  Major Phillip Manners presents a piece of rock with a painting of a bull on it, they both understand this work is likely 12,000 years old and from the Lascaux region of France.  Dean lets Major Manners know that the work will have to go back to France, but once authenticated, it is possible a “thank you” in the form of a monetary gift might come from a grateful country to him.  Overnight, however, the rock is stolen, and now there are two mysteries to solve:  1) is this rock from the Caves of Perigord in Lascaux and 2) who stole the rock and how do they get it back.

What follows is a fascinating thriller told in three separate time narratives.  The first is the present day, with Lydia Dean and Major Manners playing detective in France.  The second takes us all the way back to the prehistoric man, when we find out how the painting came to be.  Lastly, we are transported to France during World War II, where Major Manners’ father works with the French Resistance to defeat the Germans, and where he originally finds and pockets and rock.

It was an interesting story, but the World War II sections seemed to be pretty dry.  I’m not sure why they seemed the least interesting to me, because I greatly enjoy World War II narratives, but there it is.  So I’m knocking off a half star for that.

3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2002
378 pages

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Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys

Who would have thought going digital would have allowed stock market traders more opportunities to scam the investors? In Flash Boys, Michael Lewis manages to explain how High Frequency Traders (HFT) used the advantage of speed to basically conduct a form of insider trading, and make billions off US Stock Market trades.

There were a couple of things that really struck me about this story.  First, it was fascinating that the majority of the traders had no idea how the technology worked or how it could benefit or hurt them and their clients.  Second, when many in the banking houses found out about the scam, they were actually outraged, but by this time, the HFT had incentivized making their dark pools available to them, and they couldn’t see that giving up those profits would actually be better off for them in the long run.  Third was the impact of government on these scams.  The reason HFT were able to scam the system was because of SEC regulations.  At one point, Lewis shows how each regulation was put in place to solve the corruption caused by a previous regulation, and this went all the way back to the 1800’s.  Fourth, it was fairly obvious how self-regulating was far better for the financial houses because they could easily fix the problems themselves, and also because they had more eyes to point out the problems.  Today, most of the scammers were actually former government employees, who felt it was their right to go out and make millions on Wall Street after doing their government stint.  They had no loyalty to the banking houses and no loyalty to their customers.  And since their friends were the government cronies still at the SEC, nothing was likely to change, since they preferred to keep a system that would benefit themselves in the long run.

Even if you thought a book about finance and technology couldn’t possibly interest you, let me assure you that Michael Lewis presents this narrative better than most nail-biting crime novels.  I felt like I was suffering from Flash Boys addiction while reading this.  I was so absorbed in this page-turner, I would get upset when I had to put it down. Needless to say, my family had to eat out a few times while I was reading, because there was no way I was going to put it down to make dinner.  This was a fantastic work of non-fiction.  I definitely plan on reading more by this author!

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2015
320 pages

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