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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: A Fighting Chance

A Fighting Chance is Elizabeth Warren's account of her life, from her humble beginnings to becoming a Harvard Professor and then United States Senator. The cynical would consider this the start of her bid for the 2016 presidential nomination, much like The Audacity of Hope was for Obama.

Here's the thing: I'm an unabashed Elizabeth Warren fan, ever since she wrote The Two Income Trap with her daughter. I would support her nomination for presidency, and I certainly think that she's a far better choice than Clinton would be, and I voted for Clinton during the primaries in 2008.

The book's well-written, as you would expect from a Harvard Professor. My wife, who doesn't usually read books that I checkout from the library, picked it up and kept reading despite herself. Warren is funny, self-deprecating, intelligent, and very good at writing for a general audience. For instance, she mentions how she won the home economics prize in high school, but leaves out the process she went through to get tenure. The latter would have been more interesting to me, but much less interesting for the general public.

The book also covers her work on the TARP oversight panel as well as all the hidden games that went on with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These were by far the most interesting parts of the book to me, exposing how bank lobbyists succeed in getting what's good for the financial industry passed by congress again and again, while ignoring the needs of people who aren't as well heeled. She estimates the amount of money the banks spent opposing first the CFPB, and then scuttling her appointment as the director at well over $500M, or half a billion. If it is true that you can best judge a person by the qualities of her enemies, then Elizabeth Warren is truly one of the best people you'll find anywhere.

The last third of the book is about her own run for senate, and while interesting, it's all relatively recent news, so you might already know it. In any case, it is fun to relive that election especially with Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" shenanigans. I definitely hope the GOP keep up the good work on that front this November.

Anyway, it's a surprisingly fun read, well written, humble, and very much worth your time. Elizabeth Warren for president!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Frozen Planet

I picked up Frozen Planet because there was a deal, and someone told me that his kid couldn't stop watching it. As a parent, you never get to watch anything from start to finish, unless it's Blue's Clues, Curious George, or a video of trains, so I was intrigued by the idea that I could actually watch a BBC Nature Program with Bowen.

I'd love to say that Bowen watched all the episodes from start to finish with fascination, but the reality was, he fixated quickly on polar nears, and only wanted to watch the parts about Polar Bears. There's several very cute sequences where the mommy polar bear is leading her two cubs to the frozen ice, and Bowen asked, "Where's daddy polar bear?"

Series like Frozen Planet or Planet Earth frequently get mentioned as "nature porn." This utterly demeans the people who work on these shows, because not only are these shows much much harder to shoot than porn and require a much tougher budget, but the education value and the entertainment value is much denser. As a nature photographer, I'm far more appreciative of the effort it takes to capture the footage found in these shows than most people, and on top of that, video is an order of magnitude harder to capture and edit than even photographs.

What I love about the series is that while it covers all the usual photogenic species like Killer Whales, Polar Bears, Seals, and Penguins, it also doesn't neglect the less photogenic species like the 14 year Wolly bear moths. Many of the capture is done using time lapse photography and looks beautiful. The series also doesn't shy away from predator violence, though the cuts do frequently come after the prey is taken down and before the dining. It certainly wasn't overtly distressful to my toddler to watch those.

The last two episodes of the show cover people's lifestyles on the poles of the planet, as well as the impact humanity is having on the frigid landscape. Unfortunately, the BBC succumbs to their national origins and strongly depicts the British expeditions to the South Pole while sidelining Amundsen's and Nansen's much more successful bids.

Nevertheless, for sheer breath-taking beauty and amazing footage (the footage of baby cubs in a den with the mother blew me away), this is definitely a series to buy and watch in Blu-Ray 1080p video. Do not compromise on video quality. This is what you bought a high definition set for, and there's no reason to settle for less.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: God of War 3

If you're an old fogie like me and grew up with D&D in the mid-80s, you'll remember the publication (or your discovery) of Deities and Demigods. Now, purportedly the purpose of listing all the deities is to provide the DM with background for the mythos behind his game, rather than providing the deities as monsters to kill. But if so, why provide stats?

Anyway, God of War 3 does something very similar to Deities and Demigods. Many of the deities from the Greek mythos are lovingly brought to life and animated on a computer, precisely so you can hack and slash at them and kill them. The protagonist, Kratos, is amazingly one note, alternately growling and grunting, though he does get more than a few lines. In any case, you wouldn't be playing God of War (any of the series) for the story. It's a bare skeleton on which to hang set-pieces.

The mode of play in God of War is the brawler. You have a choice of 4 primary weapons with which to beat up your opponents. I write these words casually, but having played Devil May Cry, I'm amazed at how much more accessible God of War is. The controls are just right, and the complexity of the game is such that even a neophyte can pick this up and play. The same could not be said of Devil May Cry, which I gave up on pretty quickly.

I've come to the conclusion that the Sony LA studios (which includes Santa Monica as well as Naughty Dog) are delivering video games as an experience, rather than the "we'll make tough games" which is what my impression of the older-style video games are. The difficult part of doing these types of game well is pacing, variety, and player experience management. If you get pacing wrong, the game doesn't flow and feel like a cinematic experience. If you concentrate too much on one type of game play, then the game feels repetitive, and again doesn't feel cinematic. If you make the game so hard that the player dies often, then you frequently break flow for the player, and the game no longer provides a roller-coaster ride experience. That Sony Santa Monica and Naughty Dog both manage to deliver these experiences consistently is the main reason I think Sony's stock is under-rated.

What sort of variety does God of War grant you, other than the basic brawling game play? To begin with, the game grants you several set pieces that give you scale. It opens with a fight sequence on the back of a Titan, and the camera pans, zooms in and out all throughout the experience, which is exciting, cinematic, and very satisfying to play through. Not all the boss fights are so dramatic, but by and large they are very well done. The game provides several mini games in the form of finishing moves that are guided by Quick-Time events. These are much hated by game journalists and reviewers, but God of War does them correctly, and actually enjoyed them, as opposed to the ones found in Tomb Raider. And yes, there's a sex QTE mini-game (the camera pans away, so even though it's a rated M game, it doesn't venture into interactive porn). The environmental puzzles provided by the game are also fun, and interesting enough, scaling from the trivial to the intensely difficult by the end of the game. Finally, there are also several flight sequences where you navigate an asteroid field as the Millennium Falcon. Oops. Wait, no, Kratos sprouts wings and has to fly through obstacles. These aren't as much fun, but they do break up the sequences nicely.

The cut scenes are rendered beautifully and look like they're rendered by the game engine. So much so that during the first flight sequence I thought I was in a cut-scene rather than in-game, and died because I didn't realize I could control the character!

 What are my criticisms of the game? Well, it's rated M, which means lots of blood and gore. Definitely not for the pre-teen. The finale fight was kinda anti-climatic, after everything you'd been through. The story, as previously mentioned, serves merely as a justification for killing everything in sight. The use of Greek mythos, however, is fairly true to the source, though unfortunately with the M rating, you couldn't really use this game to introduce your child to it.

All in all, I think it's a fun game, though not for the faint of heart. I enjoyed it. For me, it came just a notch below the Tomb Raider Reboot, and just above Drake's Fortune. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vitamin D, Sunscreen, and Race

On my first bike tour, I went to Washington State, intending to cycle down to California. All through the tour through the rainy state, I got jokes about the weather, like "This isn't tan, this is rust!" But one piece of advice that came through consistently was the need to wear sunscreen. I even got advice such as, "You can get sun-burned even on a cloudy day in Washington." My recent review of Solbar SPF 30 sunscreen drew similar comments such as, "You need to reapply sunscreen no matter what."

Here's the deal. I'm Asian in origin, and was born and grew up in South East Asia. Most advice about sunscreen is based on research on white people. So very little of it applies if you're not white! For instance, when UK researchers exposed a group of South Asians to varying amounts of UV equivalent to peak summer sun exposure in Manchester UK, they concluded:
The authors noted that in this follow-up study, even with a three-fold increase in UV exposure, those of South Asian ethnicity are not able to make sufficient vitamin D at northern latitudes wearing casual clothing. Those receiving the larger doses of UV radiation were left with an average vitamin D blood level of only 15 ng/mL.
In case you're wondering, you're supposed to get 30ng/ml blood level to have "sufficient" vitamin D, and there's evidence that more is better, by quite a bit!

OK you think, that's Manchester England, not exactly famous for sunny times. But what about California? Surely you get sufficient sun exposure in California, right? Well, no. Not if you take the usual advice and wear sunscreen. In 2006, my doctor checked for vitamin D in my blood and concluded that I was suffering from vitamin D deficiency. This was despite being a cyclist and spending tons of time outside. The culprit: sunscreen. I took vitamin D supplements and stopped using sunscreen in the morning and evening hours.

OK, what if you're from more northern parts of the continent? My wife, who's northern Chinese and very pale, was also diagnosed last year with vitamin D deficiency. The same study concludes:
Based on the studies by these authors it will be difficult, if not impossible, for those with darker skin to achieve a natural vitamin D level from sun exposure alone, particularly if they do not commit to getting full-body sun exposure.
 So no, if you're Asian, or basically any color except white, ask your doctor for a vitamin D check the next time you have an annual. I bet you'll be shocked at the results. And no, if you're Asian you cannot possibly get sun burn on a cloudy day. No way, no how. That's white person talk.

Finally, if you're a whitey, you might want to take Mike Samuel's advice from the 2007 tour:
If you're the only fair-skinned whitey in the group, carry the sunscreen

Monday, June 09, 2014

Review: Sailing a Serious Ocean

Sailing a Serious Ocean is John Kretschmer's memoir about 30 years of sailing as a delivery boat captain and off-shore passage instructor. Along the way, Kretschmer tries to teach about not just passage making, but also how to evaluate and buy a boat for such an adventure, what to do when the ocean becomes "serious", and recommends other books for deeper reading about storm tactics and so forth. But the real reason to buy and read this book is the stories, because while Kretschmer's an experienced sailor and probably a good instructor, he's a lousy technical writer.

Every chapter of the book's anchored by one or several anecdotes or stories. These are really exciting and impressive. When you set out specifically to teach off-shore passage making, your intention is to expose your crew mates (and yourself) to heavy weather sailing. The net result is that you're intentionally making poor sailing decisions like leaving port as a storm is starting. While Krestchmer doesn't go out of the way to tell you how harrowing the passage is, the events that happen tell the story. In every case, there's at least one incident which causes a flooded cockpit. In some cases, the hatch into the cabin was left open so the living space gets a deluge of water as well. (Kretschmer provides good reason as to why this was the case, so he's not entirely an incompetent skipper)

In one story, he tells of a daughter whose father is swept off the boat by a massive wave, and she can do nothing but watch as he drowns as she is unable to pull him back aboard. With reasonable humility, Kretschmer observes that he was more lucky than good: the other boat simply was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It's clear that Kreschmer has been everywhere, though this book focuses mostly on the Atlantic with a side-helping of the Mediterranean. While I'm unfamiliar with the Atlantic, I have sailed the Mediterranean, and I agree with his observations that you either get too little wind or too much wind, with nothing in between.

There's a significant bit of sailboat philosphy in the book, as Kretschmer tries to justify his love of off-shore passage making, which he knows is dangerous. Some of it is related to sailing:

Fear leads to inaction and then finally to panic, and that’s a deadly course to follow. The majority of sailing disasters result from boats and crews taking passive approaches to storm conditions. Staying engaged with the boat and the situation is the single most important heavy-weather tactic. You made the decision to go to sea and you own your decision. It’s your storm and you have to deal with it. You can’t just push the reset button.(Loc 2989-93)
Some of it is related to life, and why he deliberately chose a "career" that's fundamentally kept him relatively poor financially but rich in experience:

And time, the most precious commodity of all, far more valuable than gold, has been devalued as people are forced to squander it in a terribly backward equation—trading it for money. Just how crazy is that? Who, when their allotment of time is all but spent, would not trade every bit of gold for just a fraction more time?(Loc. 1755-57)
Kretschmer does note (and it's something that I've observed as well), that outdoor life and experience makes us all equal and honest. When you're on a sailboat with gale force winds coming down on you, it doesn't matter what your credentials or job title is, your life is on the line just as well as anybody else's is on the boat. You can't politically-maneuver out of storms, nor can you bluff your way down a mountain on a twisty windy descent. You either have the skills, mind-set, and ability to do so, or you don't. That's why those of us who regularly do outdoor activities have a more trusting and open mind-set than those who don't: when you regularly face natural disasters, more people are willing to help you with no agenda than when you're in the office facing the next performance review, and that can't help but spill over into the rest of your life as well.

The weakest part of the book is on the technical side. Kretschmer tries to teach you what kind of features to look for in a boat with blue-water aspirations, but with his many years of experience and hanging out with people familiar with technical jargon, he's not only unable to explain things clearly, he fails to start with engineering principles behind blue-water sailboats. For instance, he talks about how pretty a boat should look with its line and beam, but doesn't explain that a wide boat with spacious living quarters wouldn't handle well in a storm because the high waterline would provide too big a surface area for wind to catch and thereby hinder control in high winds. Instead, he praises the Contessa 32 as a submarine with a mast attached, leaving the reader to extract the principle of boat design from that metaphor.

Here's what I was able to extract from the book in that respect: you want a boat with the rudder amid-ships rather than at the end of the boat like performance cruisers have. The reason is when the boat's being pitched in steep seas, you'll end up with the rudder out of the water, which means you can't steer at precisely the most important time when steering is important. You want a boat with multiple sail plans, so sloops and cutters aren't that great, since roller furling head sails aren't very good when in a storm: chafing at the furling line could easily unfurl the sail at just the wrong time, and stay sails that are heavy and hank on are actually more reliable. Finally, you want as low a waterline as you can find to reduce windage. He claims that design is more important than construction, but really should have emphasized that design and construction are both incredibly important.

My biggest criticism of the book as such is that it appears Kretschmer has no experience sailing Catamarans, so he doesn't address that important topic. He also doesn't provide references to other books that would cover that gap. He addresses storm tactics in a fine and reasonable fashion, but again,  those are mostly restricted to the boats he's delivered and owned. The diagrams in the book are nice, but of course, next to useless on the Kindle version. (He does explain the The Perfect Storm was riddled with technical inaccuracies and was written by a landlubber, but fails to provide explanations of how you could tell)

All in all, the book's a fun read and enjoyable even if you're not a sailor, or even if you have no intention of ever making an off-shore passage. And if you do intend to make an off-shore passage, booking a passage with Kretschmer is probably a must-do.

My one caveat with this book is that if you do intend to make an off-shore passage at some point, by no means should you allow your spouse to read this book. You will absolutely not be allowed to go if that happens!


Friday, June 06, 2014

Review: Michelin Pro Race 3 Tire

The problem with reviewing bicycle tires is that they take a long time to wear out. For instance, after my review of the terrible Continental Gatorskin tires, it took at least another 4,000 miles to wear out my current stock and then another 2000 miles to wear out the replacement Michelin Pro Race 3 tire at my current riding rate. The net result is that in between Michelin retired the Pro Race 3 and has now introduced the Pro Race 4. If you think my tire wear rate seems excessively long, I weigh about 150 pounds, ride lots of hills, and ride 700x25mm tires, which are about 10% wider than the usual 700x23mm tires in use. As with all tires, the place to buy them is one of the UK vendors like Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles. All these vendors take US dollars, offer free shipping to the US, and charge much less than US vendors, beating even Amazon most of the time.

The Pro Race 3 is a folding kevlar bead tire, which means that they're significantly lighter than the Gatorskins they replaced. Those were 300g, while the Pro Race 3s are  245g. That loss of 18% weight is significant, and noticeable. The tires are stiff when first installed, requiring the use of a tire jack to get them mounted, but after you've ridden them for a while, they loosen up and can be mounted with just your hands. Interestingly enough, the Pro Race 4s are 215g per tire at the same nominal width, but apparently measure wider. That could mean that the Pro Race 4s could be better for touring.

These tires use a silica based compound rather than carbon black in order to get them in pretty colors to match your bike. The problem with silica rather than carbon black is two fold. First, the tires don't wear as long. While I could get 4000 miles per tire out of the Gatorskins, there's no way I exceeded 2000 miles in the Pro Race 3s. Note that I ride my tires in all conditions and nearly every ride has an off-road component, so if you're a road only rider, you might get better wear rates. On a long bike tour, however, you might have to rotate your tires to avoid riding into the treads, or carry a spare, which is a good idea anyway.

The other problem with silica is wet traction. Living in California, I don't see a lot of rain, but having tested them in wet conditions, I don't think the loss of traction is significant to most riders. I don't push my tires that hard any more though, since loss of traction does lead to loss of skin.

The tires don't puncture significantly more than the Gatorskins, but more importantly, they also don't wear out on the sidewalls the way the Gatorskin does. Now you might argue that's because they only stay on the bike for half as long, but while I've observed any number of Continental tire blowouts (some of which led to hospitalization), I've yet to observe a single Michelin tire blowout. I consider the Michelins much safer for a normal rider who doesn't push traction limits in wet conditions than any Continental tire.

Of course, they're not perfect. If I had a choice, I'd love to see a return of the 1990s Michelin Hi-lite Comps using a carbon black tread, and priced at $13 per tire. (I'd also love to be able to ride like I was 35 again as well :-) Those days aren't ever coming back, though, so for now I'm happy to stick with the Michelins for the forseeable future, especially now that I have a cheapish source for them.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Review: Solbar SPF 30 Sunscreen

If you're a cyclist and out in the sun all day, you have to use sunscreen, especially in the summer. If you frequently ride on dirt roads, then the usual greasy stuff just isn't going to work for you. The grease attracts dirt and dust, and you pretty much end up covered all over with dust and mud. Which does make for effective sunscreen, but feels icky. It doesn't look that great either.

For years, I used Quest Products' Lifeguard Sunscreen. Unfortunately, they seemed to have been discontinued. That product had other issues (such as precipitating when it's cold), but it was never greasy, SPF 15, and worked great. You just had to apply it a few times a day.

In my search for a replacement product, I came across Solbar. It's also alcohol based, but is a gel rather than a liquid. It doesn't seem to depend on the alcohol evaporating after application, but I can confirm it is indeed grease free. I took it out for a 3.5 hour ride, including a dusty dirt path, and did not get covered in dust.

The big con is that it's expensive. Amazon sells it for around $11 for a 4oz bottle, and I have yet to find a cheaper source for it. Then again, it's SPF 30, so I think I can get away with applying it only once a day, so it probably evens out. Recommended.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Review: All Joy and No Fun

One of the most useful tools in your problem-solving tool-set is "inversion." You take a problem an invert it, and sometimes that yields unusually interesting and creative solutions. Jennifer Senior has taken the normal parenting book and inverted it, and the result is All Joy and No Fun. Not only is it a rolicking fun read, it also provides insight and viewpoints that no other parenting book has provided. If you're reading this and a busy parent, just skip the rest of the review and buy it and read it. It is that good.

The usual parenting book focuses on what you, the parent, can do to best optimize your child's growth. All Joy and No Fun instead looks at the impact children have on their parents. The resulting insight is not only interesting, it is useful. For instance, in Chapter 2, Senior describes a couple where the man secretly sleep trains his youngest child without telling his wife. She accuses him of not doing the parenting work, but rather than admit that he's sleep training his child on the side, he'd rather let her think he's lazy. That kind of dynamic happen frequently, but this was the first parenting book I've seen to acknowledge and recognize it. Being that Senior is a woman, you'd expect her to take the woman's side in this, but instead, she points out that the French also enforce strict boundaries on their children, which makes the parents happier, less conflict prone and as a result is also better for the children:
since few American women have French mothers sitting around their homes, ready to show them the way, they may do better to take their cues from a model that's more readily available: the good fathers they know. Who may in fact be their own husbands. Because odds are, these men have something valuable to teach. (pg. 92)
The book acknowledges that parenting is not liable to bring you happiness. She talks to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who wrote Flow)  who points out that you can only enter Flow when you have autonomy and control. Well, when parenting, you definitely don't have autonomy, and anyone attempting to control a toddler soon discovers the futility of that measure. (Senior quotes a study where psychologically healthy kindergarteners only listen to their mothers 55% of the time --- not a good recipe for happiness pg. 69) Since Flow is the most enduring form of happiness, parenting is a good way of eliminating the major source of happiness from your life. No wonder my mom was so cranky when I was growing up.

Senior doesn't end her book when kids start elementary school. She covers the overscheduled elementary and junior high students and the uncertainty their parents feel as to how to go about educating their kids now that vocational training is no longer part of the vernacular of an upper middle-income household. Implicit in her chapter on this is what I consider one of the strongest criticism of current American culture as it is practiced in the suburbs: the disappearance of free time to practice and discover autonomy with friends, usually neighbors. As a result of this over-scheduling, there's no one in the neighborhood for children to spend free time with. Because every hour of their days are scheduled, school-age children have little control over their lives. Ironically, the easiest place to rediscover autonomy, creativity, socialization, and get positive feedback is in the virtual spaces like Minecraft, leading parents who hate video games to complain about how much time gets wasted in those virtual spaces. Of course, rather than ban video games, it rarely occurs to the American parent that granting kids outdoor time would be a better approach. Unfortunately, of course, this approach couldn't work unless everyone did it all at once, and in the age of super-competitive college admissions, good luck!

No book on parenting would be complete without discussing the dreaded teenage years. I enjoyed this chapter of the book, as more than anything else, it's a good guide to what to expect. In particular, Senior quotes studies reflecting that parents of the same gendered child gets hit the hardest at adolescence. Basically, everything that embarrassed you, caused you grief or regrets will surface when your child hits adolescence because via proxy, you get to relive all the problems you had when you were younger. This explains why parents want to control their teenagers: they wish them to avoid the mistakes they made, but of course, parents are usually out of touch with the state of the teen world by the time their kids become teenagers, which leads to a massive disconnect. The book provides an anecdote where one parent actively disparages Beyonce, but after a longer conversation with her daughter discovered that she thought that Beyonce was someone else, and was much mortified.

The book closes with a chapter on the meaning of being a parent. If parenting makes people so unhappy, why do they do it? Are people really that bound to tradition or peer pressure? Senior makes a point that meaning, purpose, and joy are separate from happiness. Happiness is a moment to moment thing, while purpose and joy take place over long periods of time. The research on happiness discusses the "Remembering Self" versus the "Present Self": the "Remembering Self" is what you feel upon reflection, as to whether all that hard work is worth it, and that's what people think of when they decide to become parents. This seems rather pat to me, since there must be parents who do regret raising children. I'm not sure it can be summed up that easily. In any case, I'd never tell people to have children: it's too deeply personal a choice for one person to be able to say much about another person's circumstances.

The biggest weakness of the book is that it frequently performs argument by anecdote. While the author provides plenty of references at the end of the book, it's hard to distinguish when she's quoting real research and when she's just providing opinions.

Nevertheless, this is a great book and I enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Video Games Review Index 2014

I've been playing enough games that it's worth while to have an index for my video game reviews.

In general, you'll find that my video game reviews tend towards positivity, just like my book reviews. The reason is that video games, much like long books, require so much time that if they're less than stellar I won't even bother to finish them, and as a result, I won't get around to writing a review. Another reason is that I stopped playing video games for so long that I now have an incredibly great backlog of games to play that are simply stellar. I'm having a much better video game year than a book year as a result! My lack of book reviews recently hasn't been because I've chosen to play video games instead, it's been because there's a complete shortage of good books!

In some cases, however, my view of a video game shifts after comparing it with other games. For instance, my view of The Last of Us has improved quite a bit after comparing it with say, Bioshock Infinite.

As with my book reviews. Expect me to pick top video games near the end of every year, and start a new index next year.

Update: 2014 Games of the Year have been chosen.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Review: Circle of Sorcerers

It's tough to find good fiction. It's even tougher to find good fiction in Amazon's list of free books. Add the fantasy genre to the mix and you're almost certainly going to be disappointed.

Brian Kitrell's Circle of Sorcerers is one such example. It's readable enough, with fairly transparent pose, but nothing scintillating. The plot conforms to Campbell's archetypes with dreary uniformity, but has no logic to it whatsoever. At least Ben Kenobi's death at the hands of Darth Vader has a good explanation, with Vader being a former student. The protagonist's mentor's death, however, feels like it was inserted to conform to the Campbell archetype.

As easy reading, the book's great. However, it's a lot like eating empty calories: when you're done you feel like you wasted your time. Fortunately, the book's free, so at least you haven't wasted your money.

Not recommended. Play a video game instead of reading this book.