Slash different.

Wednesday reading — April Fools

Okay, though, seriously. I have been reading books and I don't intend to get rid of them.

What I've been reading

I reread Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Blinking Eye. I had only read this book once before, and on reread it is much odder than I remember. It opens with Trixie helping this distressed Mexican woman find her flight at JFK, and in return the woman gives her a straw purse and a warning. To me, it seems like it should follow that the straw purse should somehow a.) be the cause of the woman's problems and b.) transfer those problems to Trixie, hence the need for the warning. Instead, the warning turns out to be an eerily accurate (yet too vague to have any useful predictive power) description of a completely unrelated mystery, which violates my genre expectations for these books. The warning is in rhyming Spanish which is, of course, translated into rhyming English, but given that Miss Trask spends a half an hour over her translation instead of just reeling it off, driving Trixie crazy with impatience in the process, I'm totally fine with the idea that she put in the extra effort to do a rhyming translation because Miss Trask is just that awesome.

I liked the characters from The Happy Valley Mystery, which was one of my favorite Trixie books as a kid, so I thought it would be fun to see them again, but really they don't end up doing much except being an appreciative audience as the Bob-Whites show off New York. All of them know all about New York now, which is not unreasonable given where Sleepyside is located, but there's never been any indication of them having this familiarity before. Dan, of course, knows the most about New York. I think this is the only book besides The Black Jacket Mystery where Dan is a distinctive presence who is relevant to the plot. I liked all the NYC tourist stuff; it reminded me of the Baby-sitters Club books where they went to New York, only several decades earlier and with a lot more fangirling of the United Nations. No one has ever been more excited about the United Nations. Ban Ki-moon is less into the United Nations than the Bob-Whites are.

I read The Taint of Midas, the second Hermes Diaktoros mystery. I definitely see why reviewers compare him to Poirot, and it's not just because of his avoirdupois. (Incidentally, I do find it annoying that he is virtually always referred to in the narration as "the fat man," but at least that is his one and only epithet. You never need to wonder about how many people are involved in a given scene.)

I read Becoming Steve Jobs, which is the Steve Jobs biography that people who knew Steve Jobs actually like. It has a more particular and interesting perspective than the official Isaacson biography: the author knew him as a journalist and a friend from the early days of NeXT to his death, so his most vivid, first-hand experiences with Jobs pick up right around where, as far as I could tell, the quality of the Isaacson biography dropped significantly. I haven't read his Benjamin Franklin biography, but I know a lot of people were quite impressed with it, including Steve Jobs, obviously. Writing about Franklin, he would have had a lot more secondary sources to draw upon. I thought his take on the the early life and founding of Apple through when Jobs was forced out was fine, but that was already the best-documented portion of Jobs's life, and indeed, people who are more familiar with that body of literature than I complained that Isaacson cribbed from it in way that was pretty lacking in added value, but at least it made a decent read. In addition to the author's own perspective, he got quotes from a lot of the people who weren't thrilled with Isaacson's take and wanted to put something else out there, so that's interesting and often entertaining. My favorite bit is his first-hand account of the shooting of the photograph in this icon. Also all the quotes from Bill Gates are gold. His perspective is completely orthagonal to everyone else's and also he's kind of funny about it.

For a tech journalist, though, his take on no-Flash-on-the-iPhone seems kind of perverse. He seems fixated on the idea that it was revenge for Adobe developing Photoshop for Windows back in the day, and I don't doubt that Steve Jobs, grudge-holder extraordinaire, gloated at Adobe's declining fortunes, but mobile Flash was never going to happen. They tried to make it happen on Android and it crashed and burned spectacularly. Flash is still a kind of resource-hungry disaster on regular computers, and it's actually improved in the last couple of years. There are plenty of examples of Steve Jobs sticking it to someone for some perceived slight for decades in this very book, and conversely plenty of examples of him nixing something that was near and dear to someone that he cared deeply about. There's no reason to act like mobile Flash could have happened. It was never going to happen.

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