Latest reviews

4 stars
Las Palmas vegan fine dining

La Hierba Luisa serves all vegan traditional starters, main courses and desserts. The tastes are good and expressive, if you want something outside of boring fast food. The food is not fast in literal sense either, if you are in a hurry. As you might expect the presentation is also quite good outside of the taste. We had only time to eat here twice, which is not nearly enough to go through the whole menu, there are always daily specials outside of the menu of about 10 main courses and 10 starters and desserts.

You can get good service in English here and the menu has English descriptions.

5 stars
Vegan fast food and delicious desserts

Bioloco serves several delicious hamburgers and salads and a few typical side dishes like french fries and fried onions. The hamburgers are very good, but lack a bit in variety. I tried only a couple of the salads and they were good as well.

Outside of main courses you can get smoothies, coffee and several dessert options. There was also a small selection of local Drago craft beers.

If you get a hamburger and a side dish, you won’t stay hungry, especially the dessert portions are huge even, when sharing.

The restaurant has English menus and you can get good service in English.

5 stars
Excellent food  ja

The karaage (fried tofu) tastes amazing, and the sauces are perfect. The food also came extremely fast. The staff (2 people) started to have some problems when the place became more crowded, but everything else about this place, including the ambiance, totally makes up for it.

4 stars
Great service, but should have an API  de

This free review service looks very promissing, but apparently it lacks an API (application programming interface). So other services have to invent the wheel again and implement their own review system, which is a bit sad. 🤷

4 stars
A planetarium in book form

Back in 1977, Powers of Ten awed many children and adults alike with a presentation of our scientific understanding of the universe at different orders of magnitude, zooming out from a couple on a picnic blanket to the observable universe, then zooming back in, all the way down to the level of the hypothesized activity inside a single proton. (You can view the 9 minute film on YouTube.)

Astronomer Caleb Scharf’s book The Zoomable Universe updates this approach to our current understanding of the universe, aided by modernized visuals created by illustrator Ron Miller and a graphic design firm.

The book doesn’t start the journey on a picnic blanket, but at an order of magnitude of 10^27 meters—the “diameter of the cosmic horizon”—and ends at 10^-35 meters, the Plack length. At each order of magnitude, Scharf attempts to bring out astonishing facts, while narrating the journey in a conversational style.

Full-page photographs, computer renderings and information graphics support each section of the book. Their quality and aesthetic style are somewhat inconsistent throughout the book, ranging from pretty basic computer renderings of imaginary planets to detailed and striking illustrations like the one below.

Illustration of the different forces at work on planet Earth. (Credit: Caleb Scharf / Ron Miller / SW Infographics. Fair use.)

Scharf’s text is informative, but it’s in the nature of a book like this to provide limited depth on any one topic. The objective here is to create a sense of wonder, and a high level understanding of how the universe operates at different scales. In that sense, the book functions as a kind of paper planetarium.

To Scharf’s credit, he does not shy away from attempting to explain the weird and wonderful world of the subatomic, and the book’s illustration of the famous double-slit experiment and the different interpretations of its results is especially lucid.

The book concludes with a notes section that is very much worth reading, giving additional background on the thinking that went into each section, and pointing to books, papers and websites for further exploration. I give the author high marks for this approach: notes don’t have to be boring!

While I found much of the material in The Zoomable Universe quite familiar, I still appreciated its thoughtful organization and the engaging presentation. I would recommend the book especially for younger readers, or those seeking to re-engage with astronomy, physics and biology (perhaps after a less than stellar experience learning about those subjects in school).

5 stars
Kindling a joyful connection with nature through art and poetry

I’ll be honest with you: I rarely enjoy poetry; for the most part, it creates in me only the “feeling that I should be feeling something”. It’s a different story when poetry is set to song or to beautiful illustrations. Perhaps other readers create their own mental melodies when they read mere words; I require the assist.

With The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris have created something even I can appreciate: a book that, through poetry and gorgeous art, invites a profound re-connection with nature.

The premise of the book is that words that refer to the natural world—words like “adder”, “conker”, “otter” and “wren”—are slowly disappearing from the language of children. And surely for many children growing up today, especially in urban environments, this is very true.

To restore these words—and the connection with nature they represent—to our lives, the book invites us to summon nature by reading out acrostic spells. Each poem is set alongside a beautiful full-page illustration showing the subject (e.g., a dandelion plant) in isolation; turn the page, and you’ll discover a two-page watercolor showing the subject again, now within nature. The spell for “bramble” begins as follows:

Bramble is on the march again,

Rolling and arching along the hedges

into parks on the city edges

All streets are suddenly thick with briar:

cars snarled fast, business over.

Moths have come in their millions,

drawn to the thorns. The air flutters.

This spell is then followed by an immersive illustration, making the most of the book’s large (27.7 cm x 37.6 cm) format:

Illustration of bramble, from The Lost Words. (Credit: Jackie Morris. Fair use.)

The Lost Words is not a science book; it does not provide explanation or context. In the beauty of its spells and illustrations, it builds something arguably even more important: the emotional foundation for our interest in nature. We will fail to conserve what we do not care about.

There is no doubt that Morris and Macfarlane have created a masterpiece, a timeless work that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is a book of few words, and it invites meditative reflection more than reading. I expect to pick it up again when it’s too cold and rainy outside to take a walk, but I still long to kindle my memory of the beauty of the natural world.

Minifree: GNU+Linux+Libreboot laptops
5 stars
Great products, great service

I ordered an X200 Thinkpad from MiniFree in Jan 2019. Minifree is one of the very few companies selling truly free (as in freedom) laptops, including bios (thanks to the Libreboot project) & drivers.

First off, I want to highlight that my order got shipped very quickly – on the same day the payment was received. Communication from beginning to end was also very good, always clear, on time and professional. The parcel arrived in just a few days even though I am located in a different country. The items – the laptop and its docking station – were both very carefully packaged.

Even though it’s a reconditioned item, the laptop looks almost new and performance is good. It was usable right away since it comes installed with Trisquel, a very easy-to-use GNU/Linux distribution approved by the Free Software Foundation – no installation or configuration needed.

One of the things that I especially liked is the hardware kill switch for wifi/bluetooth. Also the docking station includes an optical DVD/CD drive, something that has almost disappeared nowadays but that I still need from time to time.

I am very satisfied with the products and the service. I will definitely buy from Minifree again!

3 stars
Loosely organized introduction to DNA and its role in exploring humanity's heritage

At the end of Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, we find an interview with the author. In it, he explains his writing process:

This may sound incredibly pretentious, but I write, and it only becomes clear to me what the point is about three quarters of the way through any particular section. (…) Fiction writers sometimes say that they don’t know what their characters are going to do next, and they are surprised when it happens. I feel like that sometimes in my writing.

It doesn’t sound pretentious to me, it’s just not a coherent way to organize history, especially not a project as ambitious as the one Rutherford is ostensibly attempting (the subtitle promises “The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes”).

What this book delivers is, instead, the following:

  • an overview of how our hard-won ability to sequence the DNA of the living and the long-dead has given us new insights into the history of early humans, including the inter-breeding of Homo sapiens with Neanderthals and of Neanderthals with Denisovans;

  • examples of anthropological and cross-disciplinary research projects utilizing DNA, with a somewhat parochial emphasis on British examples such as the People of the British Isles research project, and the discovery and DNA analysis of Richard III;

  • arguments on the limitations of DNA research, especially at the individual level, and about the pseudoscience of racial divisions;

  • a discussion of historical and ongoing evolution of humans;

  • a fair bit of griping about misrepresentations of science by media, corporations, and assorted charlatans, some sniping at creationists, and a bit more inside knowledge about Adam Rutherford himself than most readers are likely to require.

Rutherford is a geneticist and a presenter of science documentaries; he views himself as a storyteller, and if what you’re looking for is a casual, conversational and occasionally funny read about the (more or less) current state of genetics, as well as some solid debunking of racist nonsense, this is a fine book.

It is not, however, a well-organized history of humankind “retold through our genes”, nor is the writing so consistently good and entertaining to make up for this lack of organization. 3 out of 5 stars—there was enough new science for me to not give up on the book, but I would only recommend it with reservations.

5 stars
Imperfect but beautiful interactive story that advances the point-and-click adventure genre

Broken Age is a game that helped define the Kickstarter era by raising a record-breaking $3.45M in independent funding. Much of that support can be attributed to the love many now adult gamers still have for classic point-and-click adventure games that project instigator Tim Schafer worked on in the 1990s (Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, and others). Inevitably, a fair amount of Kickstarter drama followed which overshadows many reviews you’ll find online.

This review is written from the perspective of a point and click adventure fan who played the game well after its original release—I bought it for less than $5 during Gog’s winter sale. As of this writing, it’s back at $15, but you can wishlist the game to be alerted when the price comes down. It’s available for many platforms, including Linux and the Nintendo Switch.

Broken Age follows in the tradition of the genre, but unlike other entrants like Thimbleweed Park (review), it eschews pixel art in favor of a more modern look and feel. The world of Broken Age is beautifully drawn and animated, and none other than Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) lends his voice to one of the two lead characters, Shay.

The story is told from the perspective of Shay and Vella, who live very different lives. Shay lives on a spaceship whose computer coddles and infantilizes him. Meanwhile, Vella is a young girl apparently destined to be sacrificed to a horrific monster in a ceremony called the “Maiden’s Feast”, which is meant to prevent the monster from destroying the whole town.

During dialog sections, the game zooms in on the character who’s speaking. Key characters are voiced by well-known actors like Elijah Wood and Wil Wheaton. (Credit: DoubleFine. Fair use.)

As the player, you can switch between the two characters, and you will eventually learn how Shay’s and Vella’s lives are connected. The story is told with a lot of humor, and the full-screen art and professional voice acting create an immersive feel. The game respects the Fourth Wall and avoids gaming humor, instead inviting you to focus fully on the story.

The controls are simple—you can access your inventory at the bottom of the screen when needed, and click items or characters to interact with them—but that doesn’t mean that the game is too easy. The puzzles get progressively more difficult, and for the most part, they do make sense: pay attention to what characters are saying and what you’re seeing on the screen, and you can figure things out.

This changes towards the end of the game, when some very tricky puzzles depend on illogical knowledge-sharing between the two characters, and the characters’ goals become confused and confusing. In short, the ending of the game feels a bit rushed and underwhelming, which is a shame because the overall story is both clever and interesting.

Regardless, this is a game with a lot of heart that advances the genre rather than just wallowing in nostalgia. It’s great fun to explore its worlds, interact with the quirky characters, and unravel the central mysteries of the story. I reached for a walkthrough during the frustrating parts, and overall got more than 10 hours worth of fun out of my $5 investment.

4.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up because the good parts are really good, and the game represents a step forward for the point-and-click genre, especially in its art direction.

5 stars
The hub for Prusa related fixes and mods

The place to go to find Prusa mods and the people who made them. Everybody is generally helpful and willing to answer questions.

Hub for several mods for the i3 MK3 including the Bear project and skelestruder.

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