EndNote #2

This is a reminder to me. Please ignore.

The other weeks I wrote this post. I noted that the recommended solution threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Here I just note that the error that comes up when converting to unformatted citations was overcome by running the conversion on the whole document (Ctrl-A then run the command) and then after it threw the error finding where it had got up to, highlighting unconverted entries one by one and converting individually (or a paragraph at a time), and then trying the whole document conversation again. One of the entries must have been the troublesome one, because after doing this a couple of times the process made no errors and converted the whole document. So the problem appeared to be a field or a bit of formatting created by EndNote itself, though it is possible there was a custom style that EndNote did not like and by selecting just the citation it was able to cope.

Now, something I like about EndNote: An easy way to put special characters into entries is to copy them from Word and paste into EndNote. For example, most bibliography styles recommend using an en rule (–) (often called en dash) to give a range, as in a page range like 234–312. If you stick an en dash into the page range in EndNote, it does make its way into the formatted bibliography. A simple thing, but a good thing.

No news.

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Hurin — heavy going

Children of Hurin

J R R Tolkien

I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in my early teens and enjoyed them well enough. I read The Silmarillion a few years later, and actually quite liked it, in a funny way. I mean, if approached as a novel it is not really adequate; but then by modern standards many long narratives are not really novels in the sense of being a story of evolution of character, or at least a character with a problem to solve. As pseudomythology, The Silmarillion is an interesting exercise. Creation myth, evil coming into the world, fate and doom, etc. I quite liked Melkor/Morgoth as a mythological figure. Driven to take part in creation but limited to a subservient role by the deity, he decided he needed his own world to rule. And though in the end defeated, his influence could never be eradicated. As he poured his spite and lies into the world, he became less, more limited, more worthy of scorn himself. Turning the world dark cost him his own substance yet meant that the world could never be free of his shadow. It’s a neat idea, well implemented.

So in that great battle of mere Men and Elves against the he who had been the right hand of the creator, there were, the prefatory material tels us, three key tales that Tolkien wanted to flesh out. This is the one that he came closest to finishing and thus the one tht allowed itself to be shaped into a coherent volume without the need for new text. And because Tolkien is a name to conjure with, and to sell many book, here we have Children of Hurin.

It is really the tragedy of Turin, son of Hurin. Powerful, impetuous, he fights and flees and fights and flees and where’er he goes Morgoth’s hordes follow and wreak destruction, such that Turin is like a plague, bringing disaster upon whoever helps him.

It’s all very high and mighty and mythic. But it is also more like a ‘normal’ story than The Silmarillion — it’s more like a novel. And weirdly that (for me) makes it less successful than The Silmarillion (caveat — I was young when I read the latter, and perhaps less critical). It makes no sense to judge The Silmarillion as a novel, but Hurin is a novel, yet the plot is like a Greek myth, the hero more like Beowulf, and the result is a weird clashing. Turin is so stupid! He is this great fighter who eggs on his supporters to fight Morgoth and so brings them destruction, and then he utterly fails to learn anything from this. In a myth, that might work, when everything is seen from a distance, like chess pieces viewed from above. But in a novel we expect at least  some kind of  sense from our actors, so his behaviour just fails to ring true and so undermines the whole story; we have grandeur, but no sense. “Who is carrying the idiot ball this week?” 

When reading The Iliad, an adjustment modern readers have to make is that the players do emphatically not rise and fall based on their own strengths as people. They rise and fall based on who is favoured by the gods, which can make the plot seem arbitrary and lacking in internal motivation. It is a fundamental split from what we have come to expect in our fiction since probably the 18th century at least. Hurin needs to be read in a similar way, at least that’s what I found; I had to make a conscious effort to not expect what I usually expect from a novel. (What do I implicitly expect? A person has a problem, external or internal, and makes attempts to solve it/overcome it/avoid it. These attempts at least seem reasonable to the reader or seem like the kinds of things the protagonist would actually do given their character. A skillful writer can make the protagonist very different from the reader and yet still reasonable to the reader. ) 

Turin never becomes enough of a character for me to see his actions as reasonable in his terms, yet behaves irrationally in my terms. I think that’s why the book ultimately was unsatisfactory. The book is interesting if Tolkien’s world is interesting. It is not at all bereft of grandeur and striking images, notably the battle with Glaurung. Worth a read for the fan of fantasy, but it must be recognised that it is closer in tone to The Silmarillion than to The Lord of the Rings.

 

Enough.

Step-by-step install for Slitaz Linux rolling release on VirtualBox — pretty straightforward

Slitaz is a compact Linux distribution that hits a pretty solid sweet spot between efficiency and functionality. That makes it an excellent candidate for a small-footprint install inside a virtualisation environment for when you need a little bit of Linux to get a few jobs done.

For us English speakers, it lives at http://www.slitaz.org/en/

It comes in two styles — conventional stable releases, and a rolling release that is a little more up to date but might also be a little less stable. I decided to look at the rolling release. Downloaded from here — install image only about 45 MB! http://mirror.slitaz.org/iso/rolling/slitaz-rolling.iso

So began by starting VirtualBox and creating a new machine. (New; Name: Slitaz rolling Type: Linux 32-bit; other.

RAM: 256 MB

Create HD

Type: VDI, Dynamically allocated

Size: 8 GB

OK, went into:
System → Processor → enable PAE/NX

Inserted the iso using the Storage menu

Double clicked to boot

Booted Slitaz Live (first entry on list of boot options)

Waited and eventually (host is not a fast machine) got desktop

Applications → System Tools → GParted

root password is ‘root’

Device → Create partition table → MSDOS

Right clicked on unallocated space and created 1024 MB swap

Then made the rest ext4 Linux (I called it Slitaz)

‘Applied operations’

Waited till competed and exited GParted

System tools → Slitaz installer

Clicked ‘Install Slitaz’

Already done partitioning, so ‘Continue installation’

Selected ‘Install Slitaz to partition’ /dev/sda2

Set root password

Set up a user

Checked ‘Install bootloader’ then click ‘Proceed to Slitaz installation’

Nothing happened…? Waited quite a while. Clicked ‘Back to installer page’

Clicked ‘Install’ again

This time executed GParted from the menu, in case the installer ‘needed to know’ it had been executed

So opened then exited GParted, then continued with installation

Told it to format /dev/sda2 as ext4 (just to give it something to do)

Clicked ‘Proceed’ again; waited a really long time

Install proceeded — possibly I should just have waited longer the first time…

Chuntered away and then exited abruptly, leaving me with the desktop

Applications → Logout → Shut down

Interesting; VirtualBox manager noted machine as ‘Aborted’…?

Removed iso from virtual drive in the Storage menu of VB manager, then booted the VM

No luck; maybe install was incomplete?

Put iso file back in and repeat steps above (no need to repartition) but waited longer for each step to complete

Did not run GParted again, just clicked through, did not format partition

This time, the installer did not quit early, but finished and gave me an ‘Installation complete, you can now restart’ option

Clicked that option but then powered down after it started to reboot off the livedisc. Removed the iso and booted

logged in a normal user. No worries

Got TazPkg windows about recharging package lists; said OK

Typed root password; let it run then clicked ‘Check for upgrades’ — should not be many, it’s a rolling release. Came up with about 9 packages.

Clicked ‘Toggle all’ and ‘Install’ and watched it run.

Except for installer dropping out the once as noted above (and it might have been me do something odd…) install was very easy; only complexity was the need to run GParted yourself (no ‘auto partition’ option), but GParted is pretty easy to use.

———————————————–
Next, dkms, linux headers, guest additions…

Searched for dkms in TazPanel and it was there. Excellent. Checked the box for install. Searched for ‘headers’ and found ‘linux-module-headers’, so checked that for install. Then installed. Watched it do dependency tracking and then start installing. Very nifty.

Went to ‘Devices’ menu at top of VM and put in the Guest Additions image. In xterm on the guest, typed ‘su’ and logged in as root, then

cd /media/cdrom

And ran the VBoxLinuxAdditions.run script; it would not go! Permission issues, even though I was root.

Dunno why… as root, copied the file off to /home/username/ (username is the name of the user I created in the install — replace with your username) then

$chmod +xw VBoxLinusAdditions.run

and then ran it from there. It ran, but gave an error: ‘failed to set up vboxadd…’ but then I relaised I had not rebooted (installing dkms needs it, I think) and tried again.

This time, I logged in as root when I got the GUI login prompt, rather than using su.

Opened xterm, cd to cdrom, tried to run ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run but again failed. Still would not run from /media/cdrom, but the file I copied over to the hard drive worked fine, and guest additions were installed.

Success!

OK, shared folders.

Rebooted guest, logged in as user (not root), opened a term, created a folder called sharetaz inside my /home/username directory. chmod 777 on the directory

chmod 777 sharetaz

(This is not good for security on a shared machine. There are better ways; though this is quick and easy, and reasonable in the context of a VM that one user is running when logged into their own desktop.)

On host, I decided to share my /home/username/Work folder, so just left that alone.

At top of running guest, clicked: Devices → Shared Folders → Shared Folders Settings → Add Folder Icon’ (i.e., clicked the folder plus a plus sign icon on the right).

Selected the folder on the host (easiest to use the pull down menu to select ‘Other’ and then browse). Selected ‘Make permanent’ and ‘Automount’; why not.

Gave it the name ‘Work’ as an identifier for the next step. Then saved and ok and exited from the setting dialogues.

In xterm on the guest:

su
typed root password
Then:

mount -t vboxsf -o uid=$UID,gid=$(id -g) Work /home/username/sharetaz

Failed; I checked outputs of ‘echo $UID’ and ‘echo id -g’, and both seem kind of empty. So got those values manually.

id -u username gives 1000
id -g username gives 1000

(remember, username is your username — darren, smith, whatever) so ran (still as root)

mount -t vboxsf -o uid=1000,gid=1000 Work /home/username/sharetaz

then exited su

then cd into sharetaz, and yep, there were the files in Work on the host.

Made a small file

vi textfile.txt

added some content, saved, could I see it on the host?

Yep, plus could edit file on host or guest. Looks like done!

I put the mount command in a small script which I can run as a superuser or via sudo (when I install sudo) when I need it. There are ways to mount the automatically on boot, but I can’t be bothered.

When I reboot, the share folder is empty. If I open a term window I can type

su
root password
/path/to/mount_share
exit

and there it is.

Done.

EndNote shenanigans; solution as bad as the problem

Had to update a reference list in Word using EndNote. Was much more work than it should have been.

First, turned off Track Changes (you never know what it’s going to mess with).

In Endnote Tab in Word, to update bibliography, first needed to convert all citations to unformatted, by Ctrl-A then select EndNote Tab, Convert Citations and Bibliography and then Convert to Unformatted.

Then tried to Update Citations and Bibliography – errors. ‘Update failed’.

Then accepted all changes that included citations (you never know).

Tried to recreate bibliography.

Update failed.

Then made sure all citations were not already superscript (who knows with EndNote?).

Still fell over when ‘updating in-text citations’.

OK, redid Convert to Unformatted: ‘Command failed’.

But they all seemed to be converted.

OK, pasted in original reference list from source document and tried to rerun Update.

‘Command failed’.

Apparently, there can be funny fields hidden in a Word document that can cause this error. So… went to http://endnote.com/kb/81143 which basically says
(1) Back-up your file (2) Convert to unformatted citations (3) Ctrl-A Ctrl-6 (Ctrl-6 unlinks fields, so this so-called solution can damage your document!!!)

Make sure all citations were converted to unformatted before running this! Otherwise, the field-stripping (Ctrl-6) will turn the formatted EndNote cross references into plain text!

Now, did work in that it fixed the EndNote problem – so problem fixed but … since it unlinks fields, it turned the ToC into a box of plain text and turned a whole lot of URLs distributed throughout the document into plain text. So it is a broken solution that only works at the expense of more manual work to then fix the collateral damage.

But it will have to do.

So, steps to update the references when using EndNote:

  1. Unformat citations
  2. Strip out the codes that case errors
  3. Format the references
  4. Fix all the damage done by step 2.
  5. Wish you were still working in a field that used BibTeX.

 

BibTeX.

 

Firefox opens the wrong file browser (file associations in Linux)

So I wanted to look at where Firefox stores my passwords and stuff. Following the instructions at https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/profiles-where-firefox-stores-user-data#w_how-do-i-find-my-profile. Going direct to the files did work, but… if I followed the instructions:

mozthen Firefox opened Audacious, a program for playing audio. There’s no mention of Audacious in the list of applications under Preferences. So this is looks like a silly bug that should have been fixed ages ago (I am running Firefox Quantum 57.0.4, 64-bit). I fixed it by uninstalling Audacious — Firefox then defaulted to Dolphin — but that’s not a good solution. If I reinstall Audacious… the problem comes back. It’s not Firefox’s fault, it’s a more Linux-y thing.

One suggested fix is to find and edit mimeapps.lst (at least for gnome and gnome-related). It might be, in order of precedence (ie highest up list will be the one that has the effect):

~/.config/mimeapps.list 	
/etc/xdg/mimeapps.list 	
~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list 	
/usr/local/share/applications/mimeapps.list
/usr/share/applications/mimeapps.list

So I found

~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list

and removed all entries with ‘audacity’ in them. In fact, that file was the only one populated. Then I logged out of my account, logged back in and tried it out…did not help.

Then I typed:

$ cat /usr/share/applications/mimeinfo.cache | grep  inode/directory

inode/directory=audacious.desktop;kde4-dolphin.desktop;kde4-gwenview.desktop;nautilus.desktop;

OK, so audacious is there and dolphin, which is what Firefox used when when Audacious was uninstalled, is next. So I sudo edit the file and comment out the line and replace it with a new one without audacious. In fact, I actually want nautilus so I reorder the line completely.

inode/directory=nautilus.desktop;kde4-dolphin.desktop;

But I think the MOST IMPORTANT thing was this:

sudo vim /usr/share/applications/audacious.desktop

And the last line of the file is:

MimeType=application/ogg;application/x-cue;application/x-ogg;application/xspf+xml;audio/midi;audio/mp3;audio/mpeg;audio/mpegurl;audio/ogg;audio/prs.sid;audio/x-flac;audio/x-it;audio/x-mod;audio/x-mp3;audio/x-mpeg;audio/x-mpegurl;audio/x-ms-wma;audio/x-musepack;audio/x-s3m;audio/x-scpls;audio/x-stm;audio/x-vorbis+ogg;audio/x-wav;audio/x-xm;inode/directory;x-content/audio-cdda;

So this is saying what MIME types Audacious is allowed to be thought of as opening — and one is inode/directory. So I remove it.

Now, test Firefox: BINGO!

So there you go, I’m sure no surprise to many, but this seems to work. Key files are the .desktop files, and the trick is that for some types of content Firefox uses them, not some inbuilt database of application associations, despite having such a list in its help. I edited system-wide desktop files, but you might have local versions, so check locally as well.

Sorted…

Dirty Work indeed (an album a ‘week’ #18, I think)

Dirty Work is not a highly regarded Stones album. In fact, it often comes at the very bottom of rankings of Stones albums. Not entirely unfairly.

On the other hand, it does have its (perhaps quirky) fans – for one, eminent music writer, Robert Christgau. And, I would submit, he’s right. Now, big caveat; a considerable fraction of the interest the album accrues only counts if you are a Stones fan. Considered purely on its musical merits (as of course it should be), it is clearly nowhere near the top of the Stones‘ list of achievements. What is interesting, and what Christgau puts his finger on, is that it is the last album the Stones did before they became a nostalgia act — and I say that as someone who saw them on the Voodoo Lounge tour and really likes Blue & Lonesome. Steel Wheels, the next record, was a conscious regrouping and consolidation, partly no doubt brought on by the poor commercial and critical reception Dirty Work got (at least by Stones standards). The Stones needed a success if they were to remain a going concern. Steel Wheels clearly evolved out of Dirty Work, but it has an air of calculation that is pronounced, even by the standards of the Stones, a band known for calculation and cynicism. (Which is not to say Steel Wheels does not have its own charms.) Dirty Work, by contrast, has an air of anger and desperation, which is about as genuine a reflection of where they were at as the Stones ever committed to vinyl — and where they were at was pretty damned messy. The film clip to ‘One hit (to the body)’ shows Jagger and Richards kicking and glaring at each other. The songs have titles like ‘One hit (to the body)’, ‘Fight’, ‘Had it with you’ and ‘Dirty work’. Even the artwork is nasty.

<img class="wp-image-3822 size-large" src="https://darrengoossens.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/dwcover.jpeg?w=519" alt="Cassette inlay card from Dirty Work. Pretty dirty itself.” width=”519″ height=”173″ /> Cassette inlay card from Dirty Work. Pretty dirty itself.

So all this is fascinating if you’re into the band. The lyrics of ‘Hold back’, a churning, booming rock number lacking great riffs or a great tune, read exactly like Jagger justifying his studio excursions outside the band (his She’s the Boss came out a year or two before Dirty Work, and Primitive Cool about as much later). ‘If you don’t take chances you won’t make advances’ he yells. ‘Grab opportunity while you’re alive … it’s do or dare … trust your gut reaction.’ It’s Jagger explaining why he went outside the band. ‘Fight’ begins ‘Gonna pulp you to a mass of bruises‘ then gets even angrier. ‘Had it with you’ sounds like Keith complaining back at Mick, who’s always ‘shouting out instructions‘, while on ‘Dirty work’ (the song), Mick points out that for a large fraction of the 70s Keith was a passenger while Mick kept the show on the road (‘Living high sitting in the sun, sit on your ass till your work is done…’).

So, great material for the Stones’ group therapy sessions, but what about the tracks themselves? Well, the lyrics having an agenda does help propel the songs, but it is true that the tunes and riffs are weak. ‘One hit’ brings in Jimmy Page to provide the solo (what does that tell us about Ronnie?) and works well as a a latter day Stones rocker. Indeed, its rather a blueprint for Stones rockers ever since. We get ‘Harlem shuffle’ and ‘Too rude’ — 2 covers in 10 tracks; no Stones studio effort had two covers since the much longer Exile … well, I must confess I like ‘em (only one of ’em’s rock’n’roll). ‘Shuffle’ drives along nicely and doesn’t outstay its welcome, and ‘Too rude’ offers a nice change from the growling, thudding rock songs around it — it’s a growling, thudding reggae number. ‘Fight’ is competent. ‘Dirty work’ is ok, but makes a song out of fewer musical ideas than the Stones used to throw away in an outro. ‘Had it with you’ is the same, but the honking guitars, tighter song structure and Charlie’s drumming drive it nicely. On a good album it would be a little, pleasant diversion. On this one, it’s one of the better songs (if only for the focussed lyrics and concision).

The album highlight, for me, is ‘Sleep tonight’, Keith’s closing ballad. Piano-based, lyrically ambivalent but generous, it’s one of those songs that seem to get labelled ‘deep album cuts‘. Keith’s ‘All about you’ (off Emotional Rescue) and ‘How can I stop’ (Bridges to Babylon) are high points on those records. They bring a bit of heart and a change of pace. Even on a strong album, one that does not get dismissed out of hand, ‘Sleep tonight’ would be in the top couple of tracks. Here, it is probably the outstanding composition (as distinct from bunch of riffs) on the record. Maybe it’s for Anita Pallenberg, I don’t know; but it’s a lovely track. I like ‘One hit’ and ‘Sleep tonight’ better than anything on Undercover, the preceding album, and I find myself listening to this record more often than Steel Wheels or Voodoo Lounge, both far more commercially and critically successful works.

Amidst the desperation and anger and threats, there’s a glimpse of something real and human that all too often the Stones, especially Jagger with his cliché-ridden lyrics, fail to approach.

Plus, it ends with a little of Ian Stewart’s boogie woogie piano. I like that too. Next I’m gonna get Boogie 4 Stu.

Ends.

StrucFact or whatever it is called

Wrote a crude program to calculate X-ray, neutron and neutron magnetic diffraction scattering factors.

Introduction

StrucFact or StrucFact.exe is a crude program to calculate expected intensities for neutron diffraction (magnetic and nuclear) and X-ray diffraction (in the version from 2013). It is distributed as source code because any serious user will likely need to modify the source to make sensible use of it. It’s mathematics is essentially taken from Neutron Diffraction by George Bacon and H. M. Rietveld J. Appl. Cryst. (1969) 2 65-71 (see also here), and its mandate is limited; its job is to calculate F2 for neutron scattering for arbitrary cells, magnetic or nuclear, and more recently for X-ray diffraction.

It is `developed’ solely on an `as needed’ basis, which means I add `features’ when I need them to solve some problem I am working on. The inverted commas may seem gratuitous, but they are not!

I am sure there are better tools out there for everything that this program does, and I advise against using it. There should be a README.TXT and the code itself distributed with this file.

Please Note

1. It does not work for incommensurates (unless you want to define an enormous cell).

2. It treats every cell as P1 (i.e. you have to give it all atoms explicitly).

3. The nuclear and magnetic cells must be the same size, which means that if one is bigger than the other (usually magnetic bigger than nuclear) you have to put the atoms from the smaller cell into the bigger, including inserting all redundant copies of atoms.

4. No corrections for intensities (e.g. not even Lorentz), no B-factors beyond the isotropic.

In other words, it is remarkably limited. Why anyone would want to use it I do not know when FullProf and GSAS and the like are around. Having said that, it is quite simple (in the sense that everything has to be done explicitly, so it is laborious but not as conceptually demanding) compared to such programs, and the (minimally tested) code is here available.

2 Compiling

This is Fortran90 code that does not need any extra libraries. gfortran is to be preferred.

Non-static binary:

gfortran -o StrucFact.exe strucfact.f90

Please report errors in the code to /dev/null, although if desperate you can email me.

Download from http://djg.altervista.org/downloads/StrucFact_Files.tar.gz or http://djg.altervista.org/downloads/StrucFact_Files.zip. There’s a PDF inside the archive that gives more info.

Meh.

Windows programs from the command line…

This is simple but I like it. A bit old school, which suits me.

First, I created a ‘bin’ directory. Well, first first I opened a command line prompt;

C:\ cd Users\username

C:\Users\username> md bin

cd bin

C:\Users\username\bin>

Then I opened Windows menu and selected my login icon and selected ‘Change account settings’:

In the ‘Find a setting’ search box, searched for ‘env’ — this gives environment variables, including the path. Selected ‘Edit environment variables for your account’ — this does not need admin account.

Selected ‘Path’ and clicked ‘Edit’, then ‘New’ then added ‘c:\users\username\bin” to the list of directories in the path. Then clicked ‘OK’ and exited from all dialogs.

Opened a command window and typed ‘path’ and verified that the new directory was at the end of the path.

Now, found the location of the three executables I wanted to access from the command line — winword.exe, excel.exe and acrord32.exe. Your paths may not be the same as those shown below. Then I put them in little batch files that were stored in the new bin directory. Batch files are word.bat, exel.bat and acrobat.bat. They look like this:

excel.bat:

REM Batch file to open excel; note that space between /t and %1 is essential!
REM also, will not work if whole path including excel.exe is quoted as a single string.
start /b c:\"Program Files (x86)"\"Microsoft Office"\root\Office16\excel.EXE /t %1

word.bat

REM Batch file to open word; note that space between /t and %1 is optional!
start /b c:\"Program Files (x86)"\"Microsoft Office"\root\Office16\WINWORD.EXE /t %1

acrobat.bat

REM Batch file to open acrobat reader
start /b "c:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat Reader DC\Reader\AcroRd32.exe" %1

Now, these are very simple; they only take one command line argument — the file to be opened. This is 80:20 rule stuff! The Windows ‘start’ command lets me start the application using the /b flag which is like an & on a Unix command — it gives me back the command line prompt once the program starts running. Note how paths are quoted — start messes with the /t switch on Excel and Word if the whole path including the exe file name is quoted, so it has to be quoted in bits.

To use them, I just type a command (batch file name) plus the file I want to open. For example

C:\>acrobat h:\MyDocs\9780170409063_Sample_Chapter.pdf

And I get:

cli2.png

where you can see that I have got the command line back and my file has been opened in an existing session of Acrord32. Note that I have not put ‘echo off’ or anything in these batch files, so they echo the command to the screen. I quite like seeing what’s going on ‘under the bonnet’, but a prefatory ‘@echo off’ at the start of each batch file will make them run silently.

Windows CLI

The Balloon Factory — a travel book

The Balloon Factory by Alexander Frater

The cover says ‘the story of the men who built Britain’s first flying machines’ but what it really is is ‘The story of the author’s journey to go to places related to the men who built Britain’s first flying machines’. There is a lot of the author in this book. Now, if you like the author to take centre stage and tell us about his own flying lessons and about how he went to Africa (or whatever) and the interesting chap he had lunch with while researching this book, then that suits fine. It’s a bit like those nature documentaries where we mostly see the presenter talking about their efforts to find the animal, rather than the animal itself.

Cover of <i>The Balloon Factory</i> by Alexander Frater.

Cover of The Balloon Factory by Alexander Frater.

The book contains some stuff about Sam Cody, De Havilland and Sir George Cayley, and J. W. Dunne who made strange but effective aeroplanes and An Experiment with Time. It is written with great fluency and charm, and does indeed contain some interesting information. Perhaps because written by a travel writer, it does not spend too much time on the technical aspects but tells the human stories of its protagonists, and they are an interesting bunch. On the other hand, it is far from comprehensive — there were many significant figures (the Short brothers, for example) who get very little attention. The author has been captured by a couple of personalities, mainly Cody who seems to occupy fully half the book, and so the picture is skewed and highly personal.

Despite the title, there is very little in it on balloons. Just FYI.

Conclusion: If you like a congenial host getting between you and the material and telling you his story as well as the story of his subject, this is a very pleasant read. If you prefer a book to focus on the subject rather than the teller, this may not suit. It is not a bad book, but it may not be what you expect.

 

What you expect.

Physics in Focus — a new text for Year 11 science

I am now a textbook author! Well, one chapter out of fourteen… it’s a team effort. It’s a new Year 11 physics book for New South Wales, launched now for use in 2018; I have a couple of chapters in the Year 12 book, due out for 2019.

This book is Physics in Focus from Cengage. Here is the link to it:

https://cengage.com.au/product/division/secondary/title/physics-in-focus-year-11-student-book-with-4/isbn/9780170409063

And sample chapter (pdf).

And here is the cover.

The cover of <I>Physics in Focus</I> for year 11 students. My first textbook!

The cover of Physics in Focus for year 11 students. My first textbook!

There’s a big difference between knowing the physics and writing about it. One of the main things that I had to get used to was the constraints imposed by the curriculum. It is set at a high level and we work against specific dot points, which reduces scope for initiative but provides certainty and structure, and makes sure the book meets the needs to the teachers who are tasked with delivering that curriculum. The other thing was thinking about the language — it has to suit the audience. The kinds of sentences found in a scientific paper just don’t meet the criteria for clarity, simplicity and reading ease.

I’m waiting for my author’s copy to arrive in the post. Maybe I should get together a shelf of stuff instead of putting it in the cardboard box with my handful of other publications.

Maybe.