- The Glass Cage, Nicholas Carr
- Armada, Ernest Cline
- The Internet is not the Answer, Andrew Keen
- Future Crimes, Marc Goodman
- Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, Ed Finn and Kathlyn Cramer
- Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistle-Blower, Spy, Gabriella Coleman
- The Age of Cryptocurrency, Paul Vigna
- Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
- Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
- The Story of Alice, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
- Surveillance after Snowden, Lyon
- No Future for You: Salvos from The Baffler, John Summers, ed.
- In Xanadu, William Dalrymple
- Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
- Countdown to Zeroday, Kim Zettler
- Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman
As Cohen’s work reminds us, printed books are mostly private pleasures, lonely ones even. Unlike so much media today, they don’t target, watch, or measure us; they don’t flatter us with personalized stories based on accumulated data profiles (not yet, at least). But even as this essentially analog quality has convinced us that novels are doomed to be political dead zones, it has become one of their newfound attractions. “If you’re reading this on a screen, fuck off,” goes Book of Numbers’ opening line.
It’s been a while since I published anything personal on here. Not that I ever really did that, but I’ve been having some blogging guilt lately. I present the following unorganized list of things going on which you may, or more likely may-not find interesting. I tend to get introspective around birthdays that are divisible by five. This is a complete random collection of items. You have been warned.
Building Open Source Hardware, by Alicia Gibb, is now available! I received my copy tonight and just by flipping through it I can tell it is an impressive collaborative effort that captures the zeitgeist of the OSHW movement. There are over 16 contributing authors who share their expertise in areas such as wearables, licensing, design, manufacturing, materials, and documentation. I’ll post a proper review once I’ve completed reading it.
I’m also proud to announce that a very small contribution of mine made it into this book. I wrote a brief essay of OSHW Security Do’s and Don’ts which unabashedly occupies Appendix B. There are no shocking revelations — just some good common sense practices.
If you are involved in any way with OSHW, you should like this book. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
My initial reaction to Banned Books Week, which is this week, was “oh, this when we remember how we used to ban books back in the 50s.” I went to the Banned Books Week website and found a pamphlet that shows the banned or challenged books, in 2013! Looking over the list, I’m incredulous that books like the Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, and Diary of Anne Frank, which a Northville, Michigan middle school try to ban, are still routinely challenged.
Packt Publishing is offering a buy one, get one free deal on eBooks until March 26th. What I like about Packt is that they have some very niche books, like a book on Gnucash! I was curious about what other books they had and I made a list of my favorites below.
Packt has three books on the BeagleBone listed below. They all look a good source for BeagleBone project ideas if you are looking for a next project.
- BeagleBone Home Automation
Raspberry Pi for Secret Agents: This looks like a fun book. There’s a chapter on sending your Pi on remote missions and having it tweet statuses back.
Security / Networking
Traffic Analysis with Tshark How-to: Wireshark rocks; Tshark is wireshark on the command line, which rocks more.
Packt seems to have a number of books on Clojure2 and the following looked interesting:
Gnucash 2.4 Small Business Accounting: Beginner’s Guide: I’ve been using Gnucash for years and this is one of the few books on the topic.
Building a Home Security System with BeagleBone, by Bill Pretty, is an excellent collection of DIY projects. He unmasks common home security techniques in a clear and concise manner for hobbyists. There are several fun and practical projects that make you feel a bit like a super-spy as you build up a system of motion, infrared, and acoustic sensors.
I was elated to find Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (DFW) on my library’s staff pick shelf. I’ve been meaning to read it so I quickly snatched the book. The opening essay on the Adult Video News awards, is absolutely hysterical. My favorite line:
A suspicion that we’d had all week but decided was unverifiable is now instantly verified when one of yr. corresps. gets accidentally shoved against a starlet and is jabbed in the side by her breasts and it hurts.
The third essay in the collection, “Some remarks on Kafka’s funniness from which probably not enough has been removed”, laments that “it is next to impossible to get [American college undergraduates] to see that Kafka is funny.” His example is “A Little Fable:”
“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”
“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.
Kafka captures the absurdness of modern life and presents it in a very chilling way. I think most people find his delivery style unnerving and uncomfortable. But in works like The Castle, he perfectly captures the individual helplessness caused by bureaucratic paradox. It is his subtlety that makes it great and that is where the humor lies. He’s like a Douglas Adams, but just not as in-your-face.
In this sense, I disagree with Joseph Epstein’s Is Kafka Overrated?. He concludes with, “great writers are impressed by the mysteries of life; poor Franz Kafka was crushed by them.” While he may have been crushed, his stories force readers to consider uncomfortable truths. When we stress about whether to check-in at work, despite being ill and most likely virally contagious, we are having a Metamorphosis moment. When Glenn Greenwald’s partner was held at Heathrow airport for nine hours, he was re-living The Trial. The irony of The Castle was not lost on me when I was involuntarily recalled to Afghanistan, only to be sent home because my job had been canceled months ago. Kafka provides comic relief for the modern life, especially one where governments are increasingly infringing on our privacy. When you take your shoes off at the airport gate, knowing that this ceremony is delusional, but you choose not to engage your rational being and acquiesce, Kafka is enjoying the schadenfreude.
In my seminar class, Privacy in Electronic Society, I recorded a presentation exploring the “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” argument. It starts with a summary of “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other
Misunderstands of Privacy by Daniel J. Solove.
Then I cite examples of privacy in other media:
- The Neighbors by Arne Svenson.
- Face to Facebook by Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico
- fbFaces by Joern Roder and Jonathan Prinay
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
- V for Vendetta
- The Lives of Others
For class, I’ll be moderating an online discussion, but for the rest of the world, I’ll facilitate a discussion on this post as well! Think of it like a mini-Coursera 😉
Bleeding Edge is filled with 9/11 conspiracy theories, eccentric characters, and a wild alternative universe called the “Deep Web.” It is very Pynchon; the only difference is that this universe is found through computers and not through hallucinogens like some of his other books.
This was the most comprehensible Pynchon book to me. Probably because I was alive during 2001, I’ve lived in Manhattan, I am familiar with the techno-jargon, and I’ve at least heard of the exuberant tales of tech boom. For those that are worrying that Pynchon is becoming more accessible, fear not as Jonathan Lethem writes in his review:
Thomas Pynchon is 76, and his refusal to develop a late style is practically infuriating. The man’s wildly consistent: the only reason Bleeding Edge couldn’t have been published in 1973 is that the Internet, the Giuliani/Disney version of Times Square and the war on terror hadn’t come along yet. This book, and Inherent Vice, make jubilant pendants on his mammoth enterprise, neon signposts to themes he took no trouble to hide in the first place.
But in the deep web of this book, lurks a darker message. Bleeding Edge could not have been released at a more appropriate time. At its core there is a struggle between those who want to get lost on the Internet and those who want to find them.