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review 2019-06-16 11:29
A must for researchers and a fascinating book for anybody interested in the topic.
The Sniper Encyclopaedia: An A–Z Guide to World Sniping - John Walter

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback review copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Let me be clear about this: I know next to nothing about weapons in general, and I only know about snipers and their weapons of choice what I’ve picked up in TV series and documentaries, movies, and books. So this is not an expert’s review, rather the opposite.

You’ll probably ask why I was interested in this boo. Partly, because I’ve watched movies and news items about snipers (both modern and historical), and it’s impossible not to recall certain events and think about the people and the weapons behind them. Also, because I’m a writer, and I know how important it is to have reliable sources to research topics we want to write about. I’m also a translator, and after dedicating a fair amount of my time to working on books by other writers, I’ve discovered how complicated it can be to find the right word or term to refer to an object or device you know little about, and how complex it can get to describe an action that might come natural to an expert on the field, but is anything but for somebody totally new to it. Of course, you also have to think that not all readers are going to be experts either. How do you explain something that you don’t understand yourself? After trying to make sure a fight scene in a petrol tanker sounded accurate without having any idea what it looks like inside, I can tell you it’s not easy.

So, beyond my personal curiosity, (and yes, I must confess I’ve always wondered about the kind of training and personality required for somebody to be able to focus on such a task and not think… well, you know what I mean), I thought this sounded like a great resource for researchers and writers, and the reviews from people who knew about the subject reassured me that it wouldn’t disappoint.

And it didn’t. The book is fascinating and, as you can imagine, packed with information. The author explains his methodology, and clearly states that although he has tried to include as much information as possible, the sheer numbers of people and weapons made it necessary to scale down the size of the project. The availability of data was another difficulty. The book refers mostly to USA, UK, German and Russian snipers, and mostly those in the military (Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper credited with somewhere between 505 and 542 kills, depending on the sources, and who proved to be a nightmare for the Russians, who called him ‘the White Ghost’, is also included, and his memoir, called The White Sniper, sounds fascinating, I must say) and/or security forces, and Walter explains that in some cases (for example when having to choose weapons and manufacturers), his personal taste has played a part. He has also included more detailed entries about snipers whose biographies have been published, as people can easily access more information. (There have been, and are, many snippers in the armies of other countries, but their details are not available to outside researchers).

The author includes a page on bibliography and sources, dividing it into general studies, genealogical details, weapons and equipment, and tactics and training. Those include online resources and books that will delight people keen on digging deeper into the topic.

The encyclopaedia is, of course, organized in alphabetic order and full of illustrations, mostly photographs, but also drawings with details of sights and weapons. There are also lists of snipers, some about specific conflicts (WWI, for example), or even battles (Leningrad snipers is one of those), but also lists of male and female top snipers (they are both Russians, as it seems the Russian army uses snipers far more than any others). As an outsider it is a bit strange to think of what these numbers actually mean (the top male “scorer” has over 700 “scores”) and reading this book one’s mind boggles at times. I was fascinated, at the same time, by the female snippers, their pictures, and their stories. Among them, one that will stay with me is the story of Nataliya, or Natasha, Kovshova who fought during WWII and died with Mariya Polivanova after being badly injured, by pulling the pin of a grenade and taking some of the enemies with them. They were made Heroes of the Soviet Union posthumously and, although it seems there have been some questions as to what exactly happened, the basic facts are correct.

As I said, there is especial attention given to snipers who have written books about their experiences or have had books written about them, and that makes this encyclopaedia interesting to those trying to explore or find personal accounts on the topic, as it provides biographical information and also information about the content of the book, if available in English. As the back cover summarises, this book includes: 750 standard entries, 100 extended features and ‘top 20’ lists, over 400 biographies and 200 illustrations, and I recommend it to anybody who wants to gain a solid basis in the knowledge about sniping, the people involved and their weapons. Another great book by Pen & Sword.

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review 2017-05-03 03:56
Kitten Coloring, A realistic picture reference book for adults by Jasmine Taylor
Kitten Coloring: A Realistic Picture Ref... Kitten Coloring: A Realistic Picture Reference Book for Adults - Jasmine Taylor Kitten Coloring, A realistic picture reference book for adults by Jasmine Taylor is a book of photographs of kittens. It is designed to accompany the paperback version of this book. There are links for some of the photos that can be printed. I gave it three stars. I received a complimentary Kindle copy in an Amazon promotion. That did not change my opinion for this review. Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Kitten-Coloring-Realistic-Picture-Reference-ebook/dp/B06XSZSRMF
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text 2016-03-12 22:41
Videogame I Fell Into Which Only Has the Vaguest of Book Reference

It's weird how sometimes the right media will pop into your hands at the right moment. Until I can manage to concentrate and read again - which will hopefully happen by my flight tomorrow - videogames are helping keep my mind out of the dark. And randomly Stardew Valley (Steam link) has been helpful for that.


If you liked Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, you'll apparently have a good idea of what this game is - I've never played either. But every review begins with that comparison so I'm tossing that out first. I was actually drawn to the game because I read about the developer creating it by himself - the art, the music, everything - over the course of 4 years. He refused to put it into early access on Steam and only released it when it was complete.


An interview with the developer where he talks about this, and a review:


Interview: What's Next for Stardew Valley

PC Gamer


Stardew Valley review: A pastoral, contemporary escape

Ars Technica


I watched a little of someone playing it on youtube and figured it'd hit the mmo-love I have for wandering around looking at and gathering stuff - and it was under $15 so I hopped in. And I love that I can go all hyper farmer or just focus on getting syrup from the maple trees and go mining (and fighting monsters in the mine). Or do both. You can woo and marry npcs (and it doesn't matter what gender you or they are) - or just make friends with everyone. There are little stories here and there and conversations - nothing Bioware depth, but often up for interpretation that makes them different from many games I've played. (I'm purposely being vague because some people really hate spoilers.) And there's random weirdness, like the meteorites that fall on your farm sometimes (and are full of nice useful minerals). Or the wizard that's one of your neighbors. Or figuring out that you can grow a giant pumpkin. (Again, not spoiling some of the weirdness.)


What's funny is that I'm usually a graphics snob and have stayed away from pixely art in games like this. Mainly because back in ye olden days I had an Atari and then a long dry spell where I didn't have any other tech to play videogames on - so retro gaming graphics are something I don't long to revisit. But the content in this, and the ability to plan my gardens - it's somehow a nice and calming thing. (Also I have no fear of reading the wiki all the time if I have questions. Which has helped a lot at times.) And there are multiple areas I still haven't unlocked. It's been good to lose hours in here.


Extremely vague bookish thing: when it rains you'll every now and then see some worms wiggling in a small area on the ground. If you dig with your hoe you can usually find clay there, and sometimes other items. Well, it was somewhat surprising to find that sometimes library books would pop up. They then magically teleport themselves back into the library, and when you next visit you can read the contents. (I am such a sucker for reading books in games. These are extremely brief and nothing to gush over, just mildly fun.) I still haven't figured out how the worms have appropriated these missing library books - or alternately who's been burying them around town. The library also has a museum that you can donate artifacts to and help them rebuild their collection. (And get goodies for so many things donated.)


Meanwhile the dude running the library never has asked why the books have dirt in them. I mean, they must have some grime after being dug out of a hole full of worms, right?


Later: It occurs to me that I should add - if you get immersed and lose time in simulation type games like this you should definitely keep an eye on your clock. It's also kind of addictive. On the plus side it's easily paused, there are no microtransactions, and there's no way you have to play or things you're forced to do.


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review 2014-01-04 23:23
The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame: Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity
The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame: Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity - Michael Camille

bookshelves: published-2007, summer-2013, e-book, under-20, nonfiction, paris, france, art-forms, architecture, history, medieval5c-16c, reference-book, cults-societies-brotherhoods, ghosties-ghoulies, gothic, anti-semitic, mythology, philosophy, racism

Read from July 25 to 26, 2013

Opening: There are many churches dedicated to Notre Dame but only one Notre-Dame de Paris. Located on the east end of the Île-de-la-Cité, the cathedral is the spiritual and geographic center not only of Paris, but of the whole of France. Built between 1163 and 1250, it remains one of the first and most innovative Gothic structures in Europe.

Le Stryge: the unique and the single most memorable creation of the nineteenth-century restorer and architectural theorist Viollet-le-Duc. Though not a gargoyle in the proper sense of the term (since he does not serve as a drainpipe) he has nonetheless become the very essence of gargoyleness, the quintessence of the modern idea of the medieval.

Charles Méryon Le Stryge.

Gargoyles remove 'all the body, filth, and foulness that is ejected from the edifice'

'Romanesque architecture died. . . . From now on, the cathedral itself, formerly so dogmatic an edifice, was invaded by the bourgeoisie, by the commons, by liberty; it escaped from the priest and came under the sway of the artist. The artist built to his own fancy. Farewell mystery, myth and law. Now it was fantasy and caprice. . . . The book of architecture no longer belonged to the priesthood, to religion and to Rome; it belonged to the imagination, to poetry and to the people. . . . Now architects took unimaginable liberties, even towards the Church. Monks and nuns coupled shamefully on capitals, as
in the Hall of Chimneys in the Palais de Justice in Paris. The story of Noah was carved in full, as beneath the great portal of Bourges. A bacchic monk with asses’ ears and glass in hand laughed a whole community to scorn, as above the lavabo in the Abbey of Boscherville. At that time, the thought that was inscribed in stone enjoyed a pivilege entirely comparable to our present freedom of the press. This was the freedom of architecture.'
Victor Hugo

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review 2013-10-17 20:28
Review: A Dictionary of Literary Terms by J. A. Cuddon
A Dictionary of Literary Terms - J.A. Cuddon

Added Oct 13, 2014: This was originally something I was going to return to and finish, but that was back before this book was packed up into storage. And the annoying part is that what I was dying to post quotes from was the part on pornography, which had all sorts of fun examples from historic texts (many of which would seem wildly tame now).


Anyway, if you ever bump into this book, buy it if you're an English major because even if you don't have a concrete purpose for any of the information in your various classes and papers, you will definitely enjoy poking around in here. And if you're not an English major take a look anyway - you might find enough to convince you to read more. Especially if you love discovering new words and their origins.




These two similar words also seemed vaguely seasonal, though not exactly in the definition (nothing scary or spooky here):


ghostword (p. 286): A term invented by W. W. Skeat, the great 19th c. editor of medieval texts, to describe words which have no real existence. Such spurious words are often the result of inadvertent errors made by copyists, printers and editors. [wikipedia - which gives examples]


phantom word (p. 503): A word that exists through the error of a scribe, printer or lexicographer, or merely through some corruptive influence. Examples are: willy-nilly for will he? nill he?; whatnot; dacious for audacious; obstropolous for obstreperous; brecksus for breakfast. Bacon and eggs and ham and eggs are inclined to appear on European menus as bekendecks and hemenex, and in other variations.


Randomly the words bekendecks and hemenex don't seem to occur often - that I could dig up via google anyway.


Seasonal link I bumped into: World Wide Words on Ghoulies and Ghosties

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