Preparing for Future Learn: “Big Data: Measuring and Predicting Human Behaviour”

I’ve signed up for my first Future Learn online course – Big Data: Measuring and Predicting Human Behaviour – which starts in late April 2015.

The people running the course recommend watching a playlist of TED Talks called “Making sense of too much data” before the course starts.  Here a couple of my favourites (found on YouTube):

Hans Rosling – The best stats you’ve ever seen:

Shyam Sankar – The rise of human-computer cooperation:

I recommend watching all the talks and can’t wait for the course to start…

Winter (A Berlin Family 1899 – 1945): “The Fourth Book of the Trilogy”


I’ve started reading Len Deighton’s “Winter: A Berlin Famiy 1899 – 1945″ to get more background to the Bernard Samson trilogies “Game, Set and Match” and “Hook, Line and Sinker”.  It takes me time to sit down and read a book – hence my liking for audiobooks – so don’t expect a review any time soon, but I noticed this description on the inside front cover:

The Fourth Book of the Trilogy:

Readers of Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match trilogy (set in the 1980s) will be pleased to discover in Winter some people they know already such as Lisl Henning, the hotel proprietor and her bridge partner Lothar Koch.  Here too are friends and relatives: Werner Volkmann’s father and Bernard Samson’s father both play important parts in the story, so does Bret Rensselaer’s step-father.  Readers will recognise many other old friends from the previous stories and see why Winter is indeed the fourth book of the trilogy.

Ideally this book should be read between the two trilogies…

Also see:

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “London Match” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Spy Hook” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Len Deighton books

• Harper Collins: Len Deighton audiobooks

TED Talk: What if 3D printing was 100x faster?

A couple of years ago I went to the first Mini Maker Faire in Edinburgh with my daughter.  One of the things we saw was a 3D printer in action. I described the process as “good to see, but pretty boring to watch“.

This recent TED talk shows what can be done now by taking a new approach and imagines what advances could come from 3D printers that could go up to 100x faster than those at present.

Hugely impressive and potentially world changing…


Mini review: “Spy Hook” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)


This book begins the second of Len Deighton’s trilogies featuring weathered English spy Bernard Samson, set a few years after the end of the Game, Set and Match series.

If you are looking for an action-packed thriller then you may well be disappointed.  In fact the whole story is a bit of a contrived disappointment.  The main aims of this book are to introduce one new big idea and leave readers with a cliff-hanger ending.  It achieves both but does so in a way that is laboured – it is guilty of introducing a few unnecessary characters and then using them to excess.  Even this relatively short book seems drawn out.

This is very much a continuation of the story that came before, in particular Bernard’s home life and – most interesting of all – a small delve into the Winter family history.  These are relatives of Lisl Hennig, the (now very) old owner of the Berlin hotel where Bernard grew up.  They seem to have strong connections to Bernard’s father.  Are there some dirty secrets that Bernard doesn’t know – or does not want to acknowledge?  The question now begs itself: can we rely on Bernard to tell us the whole story?

There is another book by Deighton that was published between the two trilogies – Winter: A Berlin Family 1899-1945.   It is a long time since I read it but it was truly brilliant.  It serves as a fictional history of a Germany family in the first half of the 20th century, including a believable, fascinating look at the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.  It also gives a lot of background to the whole Bernard Samson story.   If you are really committed to this series, it would be best to read it before you start this Hook, Line and Sinker set.  Unfortunately I cannot find any indication that the book will be released in audiobook format.

The next book in the series, Spy Line, chronologically brings us to the end of the story (so far).  But there is still much more to learn.  I can’t wait…

Also see…

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “London Match” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Len Deighton books (including my original review of Spy Hook)

• Harper Collins: Len Deighton audiobooks

Mini review: “The Million-Dollar Wound” by Max Allan Collins (audiobook version)


This is the third part of the “Frank Nitti” trilogy that kicked off the long series of books featuring Chicago PI Nate Heller.  This time he has just returned from military service in the Battle of Guadalcanal, which took place just under a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The feel of this book is different to the first two – more serious, more plot heavy.  Nate is not the same upon his return from war – harder, aged.  He is now 36 years old with an expanding business.  His close friend Barney Ross, ex-World champion boxer, has packed in his gloves.  Both are scarred by their war experiences.

The structure of this book is also different to those that came before.  There are flashbacks and shifts back in time – not the straight-forward linear storytelling of the earlier books.  For example, once we have the first Guadalcanal section we then go back to the late 1930s and some of Heller’s earlier cases.  Off to Hollywood for a touch of glamour – things get very entangled and it seems like everyone wants a slice of Nate.

Of the three books in the trilogy, this is the one I like the best but also the one that I was most nervous about reading.  I like the Heller of the first two books and was afraid that a war-scarred Nate would take the character too much into darker territory.  In the end, the changes are subtle and lend additional depth to the main characters.  This bodes well for future books, and I will be back for more.


• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “True Detective” by Max Allan Collins (audiobook version) (Book one in the series)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “True Crime” by Max Allan Collins (audiobook version) (Book two in the series)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: Chicago Lightning – The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories