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Erika Rice Scherpelz
Nerd, crafter, software engineer.
Nerd, crafter, software engineer.

Erika's posts

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Makeing Software: What Really Works, and Why We Believe It, 3/5

Like many collections of works, the quality in this volume varied. I only remember one of the articles being particularly bad. A worthwhile number stand out as good.

The first four articles cover how to read software engineering research. I wish that I had read it in grad school. If you find yourself reading academic papers in computer science, it's worth reading these four articles.

The rest of the articles cover research about different areas of software engineering. If you're like me, your opinion of each article will be partially influenced by its quality and partially influenced by your interest in the topic. That said, there was a general pattern that the essays that tried to very narrowly investigate whether or not some piece of common sense wisdom were supported by evidence were, simultaneously, the best research, in terms of not overreaching, and the worst reading. :-)

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On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 4/5

Wilder's short diary was exceeded in length by her daughter's setting for the book, but it was interesting reading some of Wilder's early writings from well before she was known for her Little House books or even as a local article author. The style is spare, but you do see glimmer's of Wilder's style.

Note that this is 4 stars for those interested in Wilder as an author. Those who just want more Little House will be better served by reading Little House on Rocky Ridge which contains a fictionalized version of this same material and is more of a story.

The child: Daddy draw your [my] bath?

My child might be exposed to some odd influences. Mainly me.

There's a genre of Fast Company article that drives me batty: the headline is generally something like "Why X isn't everything it's thought to be" and then goes on to describe why X isn't the only skill you need, why it isn't the perfect solution to every problem, etc. Not only do these articles never contain a useful critique of X, they argue against a strawman version of it. More often than not, I'm pretty certain that they haven't even read a full explanation of X — just put something together from the popular impression of it. It's annoying. 

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2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 7: Minimalsim – Monotone Landscape

When I looked out the window this morning and saw the clear sky and slightly fog obscured mountains, I knew I had to capture this image. So I ran out without my coat or shoes -- maybe not the best decision :-)

I wish I'd decreased the ISO; the fog and misty clouds turned out a bit noisy, but I'm happy with the nature-as-a-gradient effect from the sky, mountains, and trees.

#photochallenge #photochallenge2017


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What I liked about this shot for this challenge was getting enough detail in the light colored rock without making the grass look too dark and dull. In shots which were less exposed the rock looked a bit nicer, but the shot as a whole was dull. Using the histogram helped me hit a good balance.

1/640s, f/4.3, ISO 400

#photochallenge2017 #photochallenge

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Last book review for today!

The Ineritance by Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb, 3/5

Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm are the pen names of Margaret Lindholm. As Hobb/Lindholm notes in the introduction to the book, she writes under both names because the two authors have very distinct styles, and she feels she has more freedom to let each of those styles develop under different personas.

This is the first time stories from both personas have been brought into a single collection. It was interesting, because reading the stories from both authors did help to highlight the similarities and differences between them. Both authors are willing to delve into more challenging emotions and relationships, but they write different types of stories in different worlds.

Hence the mixed rating. Lindholm's stories were gritty urban fanstasy in contemporary settings. Hobb's stories were standard fantasy, set in the same Realms of the Elderlings universe as most of her novels. I very much enjoyed the Hobb stories, for the same reasons I enjoyed the novels in the same universe: fantasy with good stories and rich characters.

The Lindholm stories were more challenging. I won't say that I disliked them, but reading about abused children and hard-up adults -- all of the stories had at least one of those -- is not what I want when I read fantasy. That said, I suspect if I had known what to expect going in, I might have enjoyed it more, so I am open to reading some of Lindholm's novels.

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The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis, 3/5

I wanted to love this book, and not just because the author is another Erika-with-a-k.

The central premise is that children learn best through interacting with their environment through play. We should not push preschool and kindergarten age children into dictated, dully academic materials. We should give children rich environments where they can be guided at their own pace, not lead, through whatever catches their fancy.

This book advocates for finding a happy medium between highly structured environments and completely chaotic ones. Children need the freedom to explore an environment that has been structured for development and adults who can help them when they get stuck. This doesn't require fancy teaching packages. The most important thing is having teachers who are willing to let the students have some control over the curriculum who at the same time can direct the flow of their interests into productive channels. What this requires is the activity most important to early childhood learning: conversation (not dictation).

In addition to emphasizing relationships and environment, Christakis also discusses the importance of helping children develop emotional intelligence: self-control, interacting with others, understanding their own emotions, etc. These skills provide a better foundation for learning standard pre-academic skills like letter recognition or having specific vocabulary. (And, as the author points out, a rich learning environment does better at both skill sets than an environment that focuses on the pre-academic skills in a sterile, boring way.)

What keeps me from rating this book higher, however, is that it sometimes ranting and rambling. The author made good use of research findings and anecdotes, but occasionally would go off on some particular aspect of early childhood education in a way that was neither useful nor well founded. The chapters tended to be repetitive, making the key points about environment, relationships, slowing down, and conversation over and over again through slightly different lenses.

Overall, a good read, but it probably would have been even better with a third less pages.

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Archangel by Marguerite Reed, 3/5

This book had an intriguing plot and interesting characters, especially the main characters, but it also had a number of first-time-novelist rough edges. In particular, without giving spoilers, the plot arc was fairly dependent on the main character refusing to listen to a piece of information that was dangled in front of her the whole time. To balance that, there were many things I enjoyed, including having a main character who was a mother (although reading about memories of giving birth near the time I should have been birthing my lost little girl was more than I could really handle, especially while sitting in an airport). The book opened more plot doors than it had time to close, but that's something I am willing to forgive in the first of a series.

I saw strong resemblances between this and The Dispossessed. Not direct borrowing, but more a general sense that Reed wanted to explore some of the same ideas Le Guin explored in that book in a different setting.

All in all, I'm cautiously optimistic for the release of the second novel.

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Book 2 of 5 from my travel reading

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett, 3/5

Not the best of the Discworld books, but still an entertaining read. Plus, since I got it while visiting friends in Melbourne, I have the proper version, with the "u" in colour. :-)

One thing that's interesting about this book is that while it's a continuous narrative, it's really structured as several shorter stories, each with their own prologue and main text.
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