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So... what are you reading right now?


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The Year of the Metal Rat has brought with it greed and self-preservation. The Everlasting Empire is dying, eaten up from within, and the young upstarts Britain and Russia are circling like carrion-birds, for crows of every nation are equally black. The peasant-sect of the Righteous Harmonious Fists attacks all foreign devils.


In the capital, the ancient heart of the Empire, the Europeans are besieged by the Dragon Empress’ army and the blood of a thousand Christian converts runs in the gutters. When there is War in Heaven, there is War in the Land.


A dagger can be concealed in a smile and this House of Paradox smiles often. Its servant here carries grief like dead petals in her hands and wakes the ancient spirits. Their anger makes the sky weep blood, and we shall all pay dearly for her trespass. This is the fourth original Faction Paradox novel.



Set (chiefly) in Beijing around the time of the Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901), Mags L. Halliday's Warring States is at once highly polished and annoyingly flawed.


Highly polished in that its characters, plot, research and writing are all of a very high calibre; flawed in that it's research is unremitting and at times unexplained (what, precisely, do the terms kau fu and ngoi po mean?), and that the plot's ultimate resolution feels much too easily stated for a book with so much in common with, and such an interest in, puzzle-boxes.


The book also threatens to drown the unfamiliar in Faction Paradox lore, but perhaps a bit less htan in most book series - helpfully, brief synopses of relevant information are woven into the narrative.


And, despite my criticisms, what a narrative it is. Rich description of 1900s Beijing (Peking, shurely? Not knowing much about China, I'm not sure - the rest of Halliday's research looks pretty well rock-solid) mingles with carefully drawn characters, who almost spring off the page with their strength, and detailed though never pedantic fight-sequences.


I have no idea how much the book borrows from the tropes of Chinese film or literature, or Hollywood faux-Orientalism, at any rate, so much of this book may have been clichéd as sin, but it certainly didn't feel that way to me.


That said, the basics of the plot, at first, look thoroughly banal: two people, for differing reasons, seeking an object of power for different purposes. Classic Macguffin, right? The way Halliday handles and uses this, however, was ingenious, although it took a bit of thinking after reading the book to work out quite how it all fit together. The plot is like the very best kind of science fiction: vast, mind-boggling, ingenious and without a hole in site.


I was going to say I felt the book gave too much away about what it was about. On reflexion, it's not so much that too much is given away in the end pages, but what is given away. The mechanics of the end are only hinted at, while the purposes are given explicit detailing. Perhaps that's a matter of taste, though.


The book contrasts interestingly with This Town..., which I mentioned earlier in this thread, in that while the former was as times more essay than novel, this novel seems uninterested in weighty questions and far more concerned with telling a damn good story well. It feels a little thinner as a result, but that's no bad thing, necessarily. Where This Town... drowned the reader, Warring States allows them, for the most part, to waft on a lake of deceptively smoothe writing. It's not ground-breaking, but it doesn't need to be - it's a fun, well-drawn adventure.

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I hope I'm doing this right. lol


The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter


Bound by the demon of Doubt, Sabin unintentionally destroys even the most confident of lovers. So the immortal warrior spends his time on the battlefield instead of the bedroom, victory his only concern…until he meets Gwendolyn the Timid. One taste of the beautiful redhead, and he craves more.


Gwen, an immortal herself, always thought she'd fall for a kind human who wouldn't rouse her darker side. But when Sabin frees her from prison, battling their enemies for the claim to Pandora's box turns out to be nothing compared to the battle Sabin and Gwen will wage against love.


MacBeth by William Shakespeare

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Hurston


(the last two are for school xD)

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I'm on the last book of The Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore.


Salvatore's characters are great. In all the DnD classes, Cleric would seem the least likely to be a titular character, in my opinion, but it works wonderfully. Cadderly Bonaduce is just as enjoyable to read about as Drizzt.

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Currently I dabbled in Convergence Cultures by Henry Jenkins and now I am reading The Infidel's Guide to Understanding the Koran. This book was a courtesy of my grandparents and I suspect my grandpa in particular. I do believe that one must look at all sides before making a decision but this book is too much. Frankly I have a WTF look all the time I read it.

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I'm reading a fantastic little book called Renaissance Figures of Speech. Its a collection of essays on rhetoric in Early Modern England, each (on the whole surprisingly lively) essay focuses on a particular trope, be it syncrisis, metalepsis, or hysteron proteron and, by placing it in its cultural context, attempts to restore its significance and power. Given how sceptical our Coleridge-dominated imaginations (we all, more or less, share his assertion that a work of literature has to be organic in nature, expressing some sort of aspect of a poet's mind or soul) can be of overly ornate writing, anything which can help to exhume the Renaissance respect for artifice is incredibly important.


When Shakespeare's Henry IV threatens to "rather be myself, / Mighty and to be feared" he has no intention of being himself: he is simply switching one mask for another. The act of being oneself is the act of rhetorically simulating a personality. The layering of personae (Henry IV and Henry IV's "self") confuses mimesis (who's doing the simulating? Shakespeare? The Actor? Henry IV? Henry IV's "self"?), draws attention to the artifice, and what seems a simple phrase has become something which underlines larger cultural concerns about the nature of kingship: a theme which runs throughout the play. So... yeah.

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Made a trip to the library today to pick up some books to help me further understand some of the great minds I've been reading about in history class. Those are Plato's Republic, Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy, Homer's The Iliad, And a book that include several works by Plato, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus. And Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing for my fiction reading.


I've got a lot to read and right now I'm starting with The Divine Comedy. I may not read all three stories, but hopefully I'll get to read most of it.

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Most of these I have not done--or shall we say not to a tee as described by the article. Still I find these to be of interesting and pleasant reading.


The Amateur Scientist columns I have obtained on home built lasers from earlier days of Scientific American. Sure people make these things now more moderm, somewhat, but I love the fabulous detailed descriptions and explanations--makes it more fun to read than a technical book at times. Even though the information in some of these pamphlets dates back to 1964. I have articles on the following lasers/packets:


"How a persevering amateur can construct a Gas laser in the home"

Original gas laser using Helium Neon (HeNe) had been developed for amateur level/skill construction. What makes this so much more interesting is:

1) how you yourself get to construct the discharge tube by glass blowing and working, and the importance of the work of Sir (David?) Brewster in optics as you have to incorporate it for maximum efficiency of the optics in your system using Brewster angle windows at both ends.

2) making your own vacuum system and mercury manometer--this alone is a science in itself

3) making the support frame for the assembly of the entire thing--a good exercise in machine shop fabrications

4) Intricacies of every aspect of making one of these things work I.E. Considerations for the power supply and whether or not to operate it high or low frequency as well as AC or DC (I always thought beforehand that gas lasers were DC), perfecting the gas mixture for lasing, creating "Getters" as purging elements to excise contaminants in the operation setup, the shop cleanliness practices, and final alignment of the resonator mirrors.

Also, for anyone who knows about laser resonators, you know that the pair of facing mirrors for the resonator must be as perfectly close to parallel as possible--you must use special mounts to put the HeNe laser mirrors into in order to achieve this perfection.

This laser outputs an orange-red beam @ 6328 Angstroms or ~633 nanometers.


"How to construct an Argon Gas laser with outputs at several wavelengths"

Very similar design to the above, this article teaches you how to build a (very crude) argon gas laser. Except the gas system has more requirements, the mirror mounts and adjustments are a little more sophisticated.


Lastly you have a similar power supply but what is different is the gas requires a much higher initial voltage potential to start the breakdown into ionization. In this particular case it utilizes an RF (Radio Frequency) field via an "Oudin coil" like the kind used to test glass parts of vacuum systems for leaks. This means it creates the high potential field around the tube and ignites the gas without any physical contact whatsoever. Similarly to some strobe lights where you see the small thin wire around the lamp itself. Since I think this acts like a sensor (it's a parasitic oscillator of the main filter capacitor, yes a simple inductor-capacitor oscillator) it probably cuts off when the main sustaining discharge levels take over.


This "ancient" design, I am not sure in what way it would self destruct because there are so many ways. Off hand, I'd say compromised seals of the electrodes if not outright discoloration and deformation due to overheating making it unusable. Another one is ablation of miniature irregularities that may be present on a microscopic level inside the tube. The arc will chew and drill away at it until the tube has been compromised and you have a leak.


A side word if you think you can keep up with relatively minor comparisons between different Argon laser power supplies:

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This is a very simple, but inefficient design and it condemns the life of the discharge to being very short. Argon/Krypon ion discharge is some of the most, shall we say, finicky to maintain because the electrical characteristics of these gasses tends to cause some other real problems if not regulated, watched and controlled properly. I could go on all day about filter requirements of a more adequate power supply. So essentially it develops some erratic destructive behavior without proper regulation.


Also most other modern designs would use a direct injection method using the leads of the tube and an ignition circuit in parallel to the main sustaining discharge supply output with its own sense circuitry to stop the striking arc--and in some cases also a simmer supply to keep the arc from extinguishing and requiring a re-ignition discharge.


One advantage the former has over the latter is that with induction an ignition discharge is far less destructive (little to no sputter of electrodes to damage them and also contaminate the inside of the chamber), however this method will never ever be as efficient as direct injection. Also, argon gas lasers actually only require a 120Hz frequency at about 100VDC which you practically could get out of wall current--the icky part is (as I alluded to) the filtering and regulation required to make sure the discharge doesn't go erratic.

Lastly, the most fun part is by different current input levels, you can control the (color) frequency of the output. It has green, cyan, blue, indigo and violet discharge outputs.




Right now I don't feel like giving detailed reports of the next 3 laser data packets but I'll give you a preview of what's coming up next:


A homemade Mercury-Vapor Ion laser that emits both green and Red-Orange

The first gaseous ion vapor laser that has an unusual characteristic of simultaneous emission of two different wavelengths.


"An unusual kind of gas laser that puts out pulses in the Ultraviolet"

(My senior project in high school! :D) This is by far the simplest laser project of the bunch and requires nothing fancy, but its design can be a pain if certain considerations are not taken.


"A Carbon Dioxide laser is constructed by a High School Student in California"

A high power output infrared laser outputting several watts that can burn and cut many materials. I'm actually working on a similar but much more modern design--admittedly more cookbook style with much of it already pre-made because I'd like something more powerful and more useful than just for display. However the principle is much the same. :dev9:

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