Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Sep 2019

I recently imported my old reviews from Goodreads into this blog as posts. These days I generally prefer just writing my book reviews here anyway, so I will likely stop using Goodreads as a service completely. To facilitate tracking of my read/unread books (and perhaps to inspire me to read more, as I really should), I’ve published an old file which I’ve been using as a sort of “to-read” list since 2010.

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Aug 2019

I forget where I got this book recommendation from, but it did go on sale for Kindle a while back so I got a copy. The full title is “Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World”. Summary: I really like this book, though I think it falls short in providing concrete steps for how to get from where we are to the idealized utopia he presents. Still, in this world of ever-increasing bad news and crises, the optimism of this book is a welcome respite.

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May 2019

After a much-maligned eighth and final season, HBO’s Game of Thrones is done. Unmarked spoilers follow. The eighth season was so notoriously bad, we got petitions asking for rewrites. Here’s how I explained it to a friend after the notorious episode 5: It’s not about characters being killed, it’s about bad writing because they’re cramming. The writers were determined to finish the show in 2 smaller seasons so they’re skipping a lot of necessary character development and characters just do stupid things because the plot demands it.

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Continuing with the Wheel of Time re-read! I devoured Eye of the World much more quickly than I expected, finishing the book in less than 3 days. It helps that I had already read it before of course, but I think there’s also a part of me that enjoys escaping into this fantasy world when the real world outlook seems dire. Anyway, the book shows a lot of Tolkien-esque plot influence, especially near the start: Some kids from a backwater village are visited by a magic user and after some troubles are forced on the run from black riders?

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Since I was going to be taking a long trip in a month, I was looking for some books to read on the plane and in airports and whatnot while waiting. I settled on a re-read of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, a pretty good time for it since by next year we may have a TV series from Amazon (hopefully better than Game of Thrones). Side note: Wheel of Time is also why I’m not optimistic that GRRM can finish ASoIaF in just two more books - Jordan took forever and died before he could finish WoT and even Sanderson who took over needed an additional three books to finish the saga.

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Jan 2019

Between the ages of 10-12, my reading diet consisted almost exclusively of the teenage-targetted detective series The Hardy Boys. For me, the term invokes the names Frank and Joe before the Matt and Jeff of WWE fame. We had a fairly wide collection of the blue-hardcovered books of those days. And I believe I made the effort to read every single book in that particular series, through borrowing and such. I think I was successful, but I can’t be sure.

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I pass by the Quezon City Hall every so often, and I’ve always been curious about the QC public library they have there. It got a bit of press a while back about how it was a nice place to hang out (for a government institution at least), so I had a todo list item about checking it out. Well, last week I did! I passed by on a weekday afternoon about 4pm after running some errands.

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I don’t know much about this Konmari thing. I think it’s been around for a while, but got a boost recently due to a Netflix special. I think I agree with it in principle, or at least what I know of it from secondary social media commentary. Minimalism is a worthwhile goal, and so is getting rid of things that do nothing for you other than take up space. Some people aren’t reacting well to the idea of throwing away books though:

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New year’s resolutions are hard to maintain, so much so that people will make jokes about opening a gym that only runs during January, since most gym NYRs run out of steam by then. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve found regarding acquiring new behaviors comes from the first motivational books I ever read - The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino, which for some reason we had a copy of in our house when I was young.

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Dec 2018

The other day I was passing through the QC memorial circle (as is my wont) and I decided to walk around the tiangge/flea market that’s often there. It seemd larger than usual that day, so I figured I should finally take a look. And in the process I remembered what I dislike about local flea markets: 90% of the stalls are selling some form of clothes (which I have no interest in browsing - maybe if these stalls sold something my size for once!

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Nov 2018

Shogun was the first novel I ever read outside of required school readings and it remains one of favorites to this day after many rereadings. It had it all – the age of exploration, religious conflict, language barriers, duty, honor, love, betrayal, war, sacrifice, samurai, ninjas, guns, cannons, etc and it still influences my thinking to this day. One of my favorite quotes from this book: Toranaga: “Tsukku-san says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago.

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Oct 2018

I’ve had a copy of this book for quite a while now, but for some reason only got around to starting on it three days ago. It’s not a particularly long book, but I pretty much devoured it in twenty four hours.Mandatory screenshot of old-school Doom The book traces the paths of the lives of John Romero and John Carmack – two legends of the software development world that changed PC gaming forever.

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I realise it’s a bit weird for me to be reviewing a marketing book, given my self-proclaimed aversion to marketing and sales. A while back I wrote a review for Tim Ferris’ book Tribe of Mentors on this blog, and for some reason someone decided to contact me citing this review and asked if I would review this other book and they would give me a complimentary copy. This was something new to me, so I thought I’d try it out!

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Jun 2018

This book was on sale on Amazon Kindle a while back, I figured I’d give it a whirl. Some years ago I had read one of the author’s previous books, The Four Hour Workweek, and I wasn’t too impressed. It was interesting at least, but a lot of the advice seemed either difficult to apply to my personal situation or involved doing stuff I wasn’t really interested in (i.e. sales and marketing and whatnot).

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Mar 2018

11/22/63 by Stephen King My rating: 5 of 5 stars This was my first Stephen King book outside the Dark Tower series. Before reading the Dark Tower, I had pegged King as a writer of “scary” books because of his early works, and I wasn’t too interested. This book is none of that. It’s a nice, informative, well-written time travel story that wraps up nicely. I actually had no idea it was a time travel story when I started reading (you’d think the title would have given that away.

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Aug 2017

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson My rating: 4 of 5 stars It was ok. Some tropes turned around. Kind of frustrating how a lot of stuff just dragged out until the end. The identify of the Hero of Ages pretty much given away early on by the flavor text at the start of each chapter. I finished it in two sittings so that’s something View all my reviews
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The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson My rating: 4 of 5 stars I finished Well of Ascension only two days after finishing The Final Empire. I think I enjoyed it a bit less than the first book - mainly because there’s a lot of self-doubt here among the protagonists, a lot of paragraphs of “why am i doing this? I’m not good enough, etc”. The plot also takes longer to solidify.

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The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson My rating: 5 of 5 stars Great book. The story’s pace was a bit slow at first as Sanderson was doing his excellent worldbuilding and introducing us to the magic system in his world (he’s good at that sort of thing!), but it picks up about a third of the way through. A lot of the plot twists and character developments are handled very well.

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Mar 2017

The Dance of the Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity by Scott Berkun My rating: 4 of 5 stars Scott Berkun’s latest book is short but pretty sweet. Irreverent and insightful, a great read for anyone looking to jump into creative endeavors! View all my reviews
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Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn My rating: 4 of 5 stars I realize that the Thrawn trilogy is no longer canon, what with The Force Awakens and all. But I remember reading an interview with Zahn in Inquest Magazine a lifetime ago and how his trilogy was one of the best parts of the extended universe so when I found a used copy I picked it up. The story is pretty good, taking place 5 years after Jedi, and explores what happens to the galaxy and the efforts of the Empire remnants to mount a comeback.

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Feb 2017

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell My rating: 4 of 5 stars I don’t even know when I started reading this, I’ve had a bookmark in it for maybe three or four years now. It’s a collection of Gladwell’s articles from the New Yorker, so that’s to be expected - not exactly designed to be consumed all in one sitting. The book is Gladwell’s usual mix of anecdotes spun into pop psychology and meant to make you ask questions or suggest some insight about this or that.

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Jan 2017

The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien My rating: 5 of 5 stars Starting the year off right with some Tolkien. The book is unapologetic about how it drags both unsuspecting Bilbo and the reader down a long adventure that includes a lot of singing and being captured and being almost eaten. I’m not sure how they managed to stretch it into three movies though, the book isn’t particularly long.

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Dec 2016

Nov 2016

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman My rating: 3 of 5 stars Pros: - I liked having the bear back - Diamond-legged creatures with wheels! - An honest effort to tie up all the loose ends and give each character decent endings - A decent read, at least Cons: - allegories aren’t very subtle - people get miraculously redeemed, even Mrs Coulter who was such a great villain - build up of Asriel’s awesome plan to take the War to Heaven only to find out he didn’t really know what he was doing until he found out he had to somehow help two kids find their pets

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The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman My rating: 3 of 5 stars Well, the knife may be subtle, but the allegories are not. I can see why some religious folk might find the trilogy’s themes controversial, but as far as I can see they’re still just fantasy stories. We’ll see how things ramp up in the last book. I kind of miss that bear though. View all my reviews
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Oct 2016

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman My rating: 5 of 5 stars Well, the book started off a bit slow, with the protag meandering about while the author did his worldbuilding and all, but the pace picked up quickly after the first third or so of the book; I finished the rest of it one sitting I don’t see anything too Church-controversial yet, though I’m told it becomes more obvious by the third book.

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Aug 2016

Hyperion by Dan Simmons My rating: 4 of 5 stars I randomly decided to start reading a new book the other day and picked up Hyperion completely blind. I knew it was sci-fi, but that was about it And it turned out to be some really good sci-fi too. Simmons introduces new concepts and the history of his universe and human society quickly and unapologetically. Even the prologue bandies around the terms Hegemony and Ouster with little explanation save what we can glean from context.

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Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett My rating: 4 of 5 stars I bought a used copy of this book a while back and finally decided to read it, it wasn’t particularly long. I’d found however, that I’d already read it before lol. Anyway, I still managed to read through it a second time, it was pretty good. I like the Discworld books, they’re ridiculous, popcorn fantasy reads, and this one was no exception.

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The Trading Code by Jason Cam My rating: 4 of 5 stars Pretty informative and helpful stuff for beginners to stock trading, although I reckon it will still take time and experience to get the hang of stock trading. I was interested in the math so I’m happy that the book discussed the formulas for most of the indicators used (with the exception of the ADX) View all my reviews
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Jun 2016

May 2016

The Making of Karateka by Jordan Mechner My rating: 4 of 5 stars The book is literally a collection of journal entries detailing young Jordan Mechner’s days as a university student at Yale at the same time working on what would be his first published game. I found it both inspiring (though some might consider me the wrong age to be inspired by it) and amusing as a look into the life of a young man in the early 80s.

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Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds by Scott Berkun My rating: 4 of 5 stars I’ve been following and reading Scott Berkun’s blog on and off for the past 5 years or so, so I already have a passing familiarity with this work. Mindfire collects some of the best essays from his blog into an easy-to-read format that you can digest in one-to-two sittings. Berkun writes about a number of diverse topics such as how to think critically and how to interact with other people and how to spend your attention.

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Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut My rating: 5 of 5 stars Cat’s Cradle is only the second Vonnegut book I’ve read, after Slaughterhouse Five. I find myself fascinated with how he unveils his narrative in short, seemingly disconnected bursts, something much more obvious in this book. Like S5, CC’s plot starts close to normal ordinary fiction and ends in a completely different place that’s strictly in the realm of sci-fi. A great read, and very easy too given the structure of ridiculously short chapters View all my reviews
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Apr 2016

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger My rating: 2 of 5 stars This book was painful to read really. I might have received it better had I read it when I was younger, but reading it now, Holden just feels like this whiny entitled angry kid that has no idea what he’s doing or how the world works. The story doesn’t really go anywhere interesting; I understand that it’s not that kind of book, but what it is doesn’t really appeal to me too much.

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Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman My rating: 5 of 5 stars After reading this book, I’m quite envious of Feynman’s life haha. He’s lived a very interesting life and the stories are told with a general down-to-earth tone despite the fact that he often has to explain the math and theoretical physics which may be less accessible for laymen. For science-oriented people, this may be one of the best biographies to read View all my reviews
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A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’ve restarted reading this book (and the original) a few times since I was still in school. In fact, when I opened my iBooks copy that I’ve left alone over the past few years, it was at around halfway through. I started over again and managed to finish it this time. Not sure why I had trouble finishing it before, it’s a fairly short book and the subject matter is interesting to anyone who has even a passing interest in science.

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Mar 2016

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville My rating: 3 of 5 stars Perdido Street Station is a difficult book to read, which is why it took me a lot of time to get through it (and this was my second attempt too! I had to restart because I did not even get very far the last time and did not retain anything). Not because the plot is convoluted or anything like that.

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John Dies at the End by David Wong My rating: 3 of 5 stars 2016 book #12: John Dies at the End by David Wong. This book is all kinds of weird. It’s a bit like the author tried to think of as many weird things as he possible could then ties them together with an impossible plot that he doesn’t even fully resolved. It’s like the author was on crack while he was writing most of this (apt, since he’s apparently and editor at cracked.

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The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss My rating: 3 of 5 stars 2016 Book #11: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Pros: - useful tips on reducing unnecessary work, remote working, automation, travel tips, etc Cons: - not for anyone who dislikes lying to people or some other form of “salesmanship” - not for anyone who doesn’t have an idea for something to sell that can be easily mass-manufactured and distributed to the potential buyers

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Feb 2016

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond My rating: 3 of 5 stars 2016 Book #10: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. I actually started this a few years back, thought I’d actually get around to finish it. The book is an analysis of history, of what geographical advantages certain civilizations had that allowed them to triumph over others. He presents a lot of interesting topics covering linguistics, animal/plant domestication and food production that may explain these differences.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling My rating: 5 of 5 stars 2016 Book #8: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Someone had already spoiled me ahead of time about the death at the end of this book, although I hadn’t known when it would happen. But it started to become obvious as the book went on, so I wasn’t too surprised by the end. This book fleshes out the back story of the series’ villain Voldemort and finally tries to make Draco Malfoy do something of consequence.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling My rating: 5 of 5 stars 2016 Book #9: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The book starts off with a lot of action before settling into a phase where the three protagonists wander around a lot and sleep in tents and finally into a big showdown at Hogwarts with virtually every character in the series showing up for one big brawl.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling My rating: 3 of 5 stars This is a long book, roughly three times as long as the first Harry Potter book was. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so painful to read. Harry here is like a completely different character compared to the previous books, he’s irritable and whiny and keeps worrying about how other people aren’t treating him well.

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Triumph of the Darksword by Margaret Weis My rating: 3 of 5 stars I read the first two books of this trilogy back in high school, and I recently decided to get a used copy from Amazon. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to dive into the third book without having to re-read the first two, with a general recollection of the events from the first book still intact.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling My rating: 5 of 5 stars The series started off a with rather straightforward stories that made obvious that JK Rowling was new to this business at the time, but Prisoner of Azkaban kicks off the world-building to a larger degree. Many elements of the world are expanded upon and added to and by now we get a better sense of the sort of wonders the world of Harry Potter represents.

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Jan 2016

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling My rating: 4 of 5 stars I had next to no Harry Potter knowledge before reading this book, save what I read in passing on the internets. Yup, I haven’t seen the movies either. Finished reading this in under 3 hours; I had been told ahead of time that it was a light read and that I can confirm. A welcome respite from the last book I read, this book has a straightforward plot, nothing too deep here, it’s very much meant for kids/young adults.

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Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson My rating: 5 of 5 stars The first book I read for 2016 was Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson second book of the Stormlight Archive. It’s a huge book, and the first half took me more or less three weeks to slog through (I started it in late December), but by the time I got to the middle of the book, a lot of exciting things were happening and my pace improved considerably.

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Roy Tang is a:

roytang.net is a personal site, an E/N site, and kind of a commonplace book; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.