Archive for November, 2008

La Divina Commedia

November 29th, 2008

La Divina Commedia is another simple ebook application for the iPhone. Like Shakespeare, it provides free access to a classic read in its original language.

An attractive screen greets the reader:

Appropriately, it’s Domenico di Michelino‘s painting, Dante e suo poema (“Dante and his poem”).

Navigation is simple and straightforward, and mirrors the division of The Divine Comedy. Choose a canticle—Inferno, Purgatorio, or Paradiso—to get to Canto I of that section of the poem. Within each canto, scroll up and down (using default iphone behavior—there are no options or settings). Use arrow keys at the top right to get to the next (or previous) canto in the same section.

An info screen, accessible from the cover screen, gives credits:

If you ignore scrolling, that’s 102 screens!

App name: La Divina Commedia [appstore]
Maker: Stefano Sanna
Cost: free
Bugs: none found
Quirks: To navigate to a canto, you must scroll through the previous cantos; there’s no. Dante scholars often prefer to treat the first canto as introductory, and not part of the Purgatorio, making each canticle a neat 33 cantos. While scrolling follows iphone conventions, there is no scrolling; that limits the usability, especially if the font size doesn’t suit.
Features: A solid, free text of Dante’s famous work.
Other reviews: See comments at

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Two short stories, with thanks to Baen

November 28th, 2008

It’s refreshing to find stories on the web. Thanks to Baen’s great collection of sf online (and via wikipedia), I was able to read two short stories online recently. No tracking down anthologies!

Both are stories of the conflict of humans and technology, and I recommend them both. They’re very different, and I don’t know if it’s the difference of a decade, or just happenstance, that humans get the upperhand in one case, and technology dominates in the other.

I discovered A Logic Named Joe from an article about the semantic web, from Issue 4 (September/October 2008), page 23 [PDF] of Talis’ Nodalities.

Folk singer and filk singer Kathy Mar recommended The Cold Equations during an interview [at 3:59 of my interview, MP3]. Kathy also mentions that there’s a song based on the short story. Know any more? The closest song that I can find is really pretty different.

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Leah B. Allen: A Woman in Astronomy

November 1st, 2008

I made Leah Allen a wikipedia page after skimming a 1908 San Francisco Call.

“Halley’s Comet after 75 years rushes Earthward again” shares page 2 of the Sunday August 23, 1908 San Francisco Call with “Fattening Properties of the Potato”. The article starts by discussing E.E. Barnard‘s ambitions for photographing Halley’s Comet. The second half of the article announces the appointment of Leah B. Allen to the post of Carnegie assistant at the Lick observatory. The Brown graduate, who later became professor of astronomy at Hood College, is described as “a pretty Providence girl” who “always sailed her own sailboat” and “has a delightful personality”.

100 years ago, such a description raised no eyebrows. What shocks me is that the article was written by another woman, Mary Proctor, who wrote popular books about astronomy. It’s hard to imagine what life as a woman in astronomy was like, in the early 1900’s.

Especially since women were not particularly new to the field: Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) is generally known as the first professional woman astronomer in the United States.

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