Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop

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Adobe Software Needed…

Posted 14 November, 2007 at 10:53pm by Michael Chu

So, I've been seriously contemplating getting started on the fabled Cooking For Engineers cookbook. With the limited amount of free time I have while working on Fanpop, Cooking For Engineers, and other projects, I imagine the project will take about a year to complete. I plan on doing design, layout, and writing myself so it has the same feel as the website (and hopefully higher quality).

I've worked with Adobe software extensively in the past, but over the years I haven't spent any money on upgrades. My only software that is up to date is currently Lightroom for managing my photography workflow. I have a copy of PageMaker 7, but I'm hoping that I won't have to use that to layout an entire book. I've been playing around with the trial version of Adobe InDesign CS3 and I find it quite usable and familiar (I've used FrameMaker extensively and some PageMaker and Illustrator). What I really need is a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Standard and I was wondering if anyone who works at Adobe could possibly get me a discount. You'll get an acknowledgment in the book - I promise…

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Adobe Software Needed…

Dan Brown - the salt that I pour on my open wounds

Posted 15 August, 2007 at 5:48pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Books) 2 comments

I don't know why I read and listen to Dan Brown books. I think part of it is the fomulaic nature of the books (starts with a death written in an odd and mysterious fashion, middle is a protagonist caught outside of his or her element but is incredibly brilliant in their new awkward role, and ends with a grand conspiracy being exposed) and the other part is how utterly ridiculous his props are. I say "props" because that's what they are - it's usually some object or device in the book that is designed to make the reader feel like the story is told by a technothriller author (as if Dan Brown were Tom Clancy) but end up fanciful and childish. He starts off his stories with "these things are true" to make you assume that the fake stuff is too… but come on! He always dives into what sounds like a technical description of what a theory is or how something works and then manages to get it slightly (or sometimes totally) wrong. It's like reading an article written by some guy who only read the Cliff's Notes to Popular Science who is trying to pass it off as having decent source material.

Why do I keep reading his books? Probably for the same reason why people pick at scabs and squeeze pimples… I just can't help it (and there's part of me that takes enjoyment out of being annoyed by some part of his stories).

Books - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Posted 24 July, 2007 at 5:41am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Books) 3 comments

This seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series has been one of the most anticipated novels in recent years. You can't help but feel sorry for any storyteller who is under this much pressure to please her audience and yet tell a rich story. As a reader of Harry Potter books, I've invested the last nine years in the world and approached the final novel with some anxiety. Would Rowling's vision of how the story should end match my ideas? It turns out, I got lucky. Every major plot point that I predicted (it was actually more like I longed for) played itself out in the story. At times the progression irked me, was there nothing new? But the details are a pleasure to discover, for I hadn't thought at all about the details or logistics of how the events would come about and clearly Rowling did. She did an amazing job at providing believable motivation for the characters as well as tying details from previous books (and, yes, I looked up the relevant sections of the previous novels while reading this one) together into a cohesive seven part story that has been building up to this point. After the first pass (which is where I am now, having just finished the book), I can't think of anything that doesn't work - it fits perfectly.

The final book is not without its blemishes and the series is not the best series ever written (although its fan-base seems to suggest otherwise), but it is a strong story with strong themes of honor and duty dosed with a touch of melancholy. The familiar characters have all grown another year and you can't help but fell like they are close friends or misguided youths who hopefully can be redeemed. A veil of doubt hovers over the entire story, which like the others is told from a third person limited omniscient point of view following Harry, as the most one sided characters (ones that are entirely good or entirely bad) begin to reveal more human complexities to Harry. This book, unlike the first five (the sixth was quite excellent as well), really makes the main characters into living, thinking, and feeling people. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a wonderful read and, as the final book the Harry Potter series, really makes the whole series worth it. I can now recommend without reservation that you pick up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone and read it (as well as the others) if you haven't done so already.

The spoiler-free review ends here. Everything after the jump is going to probably have spoilers.
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Books - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Books - His Dark Materials 3: The Amber Spyglass

Posted 19 July, 2007 at 9:26pm by Michael Chu
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It's actually been over a month since I finished this book, but I had some major issues with it and couldn't bear to finish the review until now. Spoilers follow the jump, so don't click more if you don't want to read some of them.

In this conclusion to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, Will and Lyra continue their travels between the worlds. Lyra, who is prophesied to be the faciliatator of a new era (Eve reincarnated), unknowingly begins to fulfill her destiny with the help of most of the characters from the first two books.
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Books - His Dark Materials 3: The Amber Spyglass

Books - The Hedge Knight

Posted 29 May, 2007 at 2:17am by Michael Chu
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The Hedge Knight by George R. R. Martin takes place in the same world as his hugely popular A Song of Ice and Fire series. Specifically, the events in the book focus in on a tournament set in Ashford (somewhat near Highgarden in the south of Westeros) about 90 years prior to A Song of Ice and Fire. The events follow a Dunk, hedge knight (a knight not sworn to a lord who is so poor that he is said to sleep in the hedges), who decides to enter a tournament in the hopes to win just one round in order to get a little money to survive.
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Books - The Hedge Knight

Books - His Dark Materials 2: The Subtle Knife

Posted 23 May, 2007 at 12:30am by Michael Chu
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In this second part of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, a new major character is introduced (Will Parry) who is from our world and wanders into the new world that Lyra entered at the end of the first book. Other favorite characters from The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) return like Serafina Pekkala and Lee Scoresby as the narration follows their stories as well as those of Will and Lyra.
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Books - His Dark Materials 2: The Subtle Knife

Non-American Novels and Name Changes

Posted 3 May, 2007 at 10:37pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Books) 6 comments

So, I was thinking, why do they keep altering the names of novels when they publish them here in the United States? They don't do it all the time, but I don't necessarily understand when they choose to. The two main examples on my mind are Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone which was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone and His Dark Materials 1: Northern Lights which carries the name His Dark Materials 1: The Golden Compass. The Harry Potter example never made sense to me - what's a sorceror's stone? I understand most young readers won't know what a philosopher's stone is/was but at least it's a term that has been historically used and has some meaning. Sorceror's stone doesn't mean anything. I guess I can understand why the Northen Lights was renamed because the other two books have titles that are objects that can be held while the Northen Lights is a bit vague and may sound like a science book.

Books - His Dark Materials 1: The Golden Compass / Northern Lights

Posted 2 May, 2007 at 6:05pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Books) 1 comment

I finished listening to the first His Dark Materials book by Philip Pullman called The Golden Compass here in the U.S. and Northern Lights everywhere else. I listen to a lot of books on tape (actually CD and MP3's on CD) as I drive. I also read paper books (you just can't beat the feel of paper between your fingers as you flip pages). In any case, I listened to The Golden Compass which is one of the best produced audio books I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.
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Books - His Dark Materials 1: The Golden Compass / Northern Lights

Food Book Titles

Posted 28 April, 2007 at 8:29pm by Michael Chu

What's with the titles of these food books? One of the books that I'm reading right now and the previous two food books I finished reading have incredibly long names. Well, actually, they have fairly short names with incredibly long subtitles. For example, the book I'm reading now is titled Educating Peter: How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert. The previous food books I read were Toast: The Story of a Young Boy's Hunger (okay, that one's not bad) and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. As I understand it, this is an old trick in the book publishing business that's becoming popular again (especially with non-fiction books). It's sort of a book world's version of search engine optimization. By adding a descriptive subtitle, it helps in two main ways: it explains the purpose of the book to the casual browser and it provides keywords that will pull up the book in a title search. Because the descriptive subtitle is so long and complex, the author usually chooses a simple main title of one or two words that are easy to remember.

If I came out with a Cooking For Engineers book, I wonder what the title/subtitle would be. Anyone have any ideas?

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