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The Cat Speaks
Miss Kitty's Words of Wisdom
Matrix prequel? Don't bother! 
5th-Jul-2003 09:15 am
I stayed up all night reading The Matrix: Computations, by the Watchkowskii Brothers (Golub and Van Loan, aka Click and Clack). I heard that a lot of people thought the second movie was too slow and had "too many words". I can only assume that people who said that went home and washed their minds out with Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, something by Long Dong Silver, or maybe a round or two of golf on the PC. Obviousy, I'm not a part of that crowd. I liked The Hours, even, so I hope you understand what I mean when I say that The Matrix: Computations was all words and almost no action.

With nearly 700 pages, I expected there to be some good gun battles or car chases or fist fights. I expected to read something about how the Matrix started or have a young Oracle steal a few scenes. After about 500 pages, I have to admit that my expectations dropped. I would have been happy to have read some dialogue. What were the Watachowski Brothers thinking? If you don't believe me, here is a sample. I randomly pulled it from page 449.
These connections to the symmetric eigenproblem allow us to adapt the mathematical and algorithmic developments of the previous sections to the singular value problem. Good references for this section include Lawson and Hanson (1974) and Stewart and Sun (1990).

See, this is just talking down to the reader. If you make a clever reference, and I don't think they did, you don't tell the reader "I just made a clever reference. Go look it up right now so you can appreciate how smart and erugated we are." This happens on pretty much every page, and then every so often they have a page or three of references for that section!

You have to trust me when I say it gets worse. It's even lacking the philosophy that The Matrix is known for. Sure, they talk about "efficiency" and "communications cost" and "theory", but it's just not up to the usual Watchedpotski level. Plus, the last 60 pages
are nothing but shameless name dropping. I guess they thought that people like Aki Bjork (singer), Jim Demmel (inventor of a kind of drill and other useful tools) , and John Wilkinson (inventor of polynomials) would lend some of their cool to the story, but it was too little, too late.

I can't believe this came from Johns Hopkins Press. They are reputable publishers, and I can't imagine that they would want a stinker like this with their name on it. I'm also angry at the SIAM Review. I'm part Siamese, and I think running the academic journal for the breed carries a pretty heavy responsibility. Shame on you, SIAM Journal!

All things considered, this is a book that I won't even sit on. I'll probably still try other Wachkerenski books, movies, and food products, though.

5th-Jul-2003 09:39 pm (UTC)
So you can get this "liquid monkey" in a store? If it comes in a barrel, it must come from Costco or something like that. Can you get a smaller can of it? If I don't like it, I don't want a whole barrel sitting around until it goes bad.
5th-Jul-2003 09:54 pm (UTC)
Actually I liquify my own monkeys, with a home monkey liquification kit. The trick is to spoon in a cup or so of good quality ice cream, 'cos it makes them happy.

Pretty much if you want fun in a barrel you have to put it there yourself. Nothing in this world is prebarrelled. Except for things that are.

Ooh, I just had an idea, you could toss in some squids as well, and get tentacular liquid monkeys! Ooh ooh!
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