Hunger Games in 1Q84

Here’s the deal, I liked the premise of Hunger Games. I liked the setting, I liked the back-story, and I especially liked the science-fiction aspects like the Tracker Jackers and Muttations.  I really just wish it wasn’t written for young adults.  For those that have read 1Q84 you will appreciate this thought: I really just want to give this book to another author and have it re-written.  It’s not that the writing was bad, it’s just that I feel characterization and setting development were exchanged for action and teen-angst.  I had a hard time dealing with the classic teenager “does he/she like me” tone of the book.  I can appreciate the appeal and success and like I said, it’s not a bad book.  I’m just not ready to be a teenager again 🙂

Moving on, I’ve started my quarter of Networks with my Computer Networks and Network Security class, so expect appropriately themed posts.  For those that just groaned, this isn’t a threat!  But I do tend to write what’s on my mind…  I’m hoping to

Bitcoin Accepted Here [by freeborn]
Maybe I should accept Bitcoins to fund my research into Bitcoins? 😉 (Photo credit: Adam Crowe)
analyze the Bitcoin protocol a bit more specifically in my networks class and hopefully get more into depth into SSL/TLS and software exploits in my security class.  It should be fun!

To complement these classes, I’m reading Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier which should not only be relevant my security class, but will round off my personal Game Theory investigations.  Each book by Schneier seems to take a step back from the technical security problem and focus on a grander scale.  Here he takes on societal trust issues and among other things, he shows why society needs defectors (those who don’t play by the rules).

Lastly, after attempts of finding a private German tutor where I’m currently living haven’t worked out, I broke down and bought a one-year subscription to Rosetta Stone online.  I was very reluctant until I saw and tried one feature: online studio sessions with a fluent speaker.  I sat through my first 50 minute session 1-on-1 yesterday and it was great.  The tutor was very friendly and helpful and we spoke entirely in German. Amazingly, these are included in the price and one can perform the sessions over and over.  For those studying less popular languages, with limited access to speakers, this is a great find!  I wish I would have found it earlier.

How to spoil a party.

Suggest the following game to the host:

Have a friend donate a $1 bill and place it on the table.  There are two general rules.

  1. The dollar bill is awarded to the highest bidder.  Whatever the highest bid is, that bidder pays for the dollar with that bid.  Each bid must be higher than the last and the game ends when there are no new bids.
  2. The second-highest bidder has to pay his last bid, but gets nothing.

It’s easy to imagine how the game plays out. The first bids are pennies, but it slowly rises to bids of $1.00 and $0.99.  Now, the second-highest bidder is now paying $0.99 for nothing, when he can just bid $1.01 and only lose a penny!  Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera… Soon, friends are no longer friends.

Is there a rational way to play this game? This question is the premise of game theory and is the theme of William Poundstone’s Prisoner’s Dilemma.  I won’t describe the prisoner’s dilemma here, but I did appreciate the description and critiques of game

Cover of "Prisoner's Dilemma"
Cover of Prisoner's Dilemma

theory from this book. Poundstone develops the “why” behind people’s motivation to cooperate or defect.  He also presents a brief history of John von Neumann and his contribution to game theory.

A good follow-on to this book seems to be Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier, which explores how society relies on trust to function, even when there are defectors, to use game theory parlance.  For example, when we board the plane, we trust that pilot knows how to fly.

However, I’m going back to fiction for the moment and I’m going to read the Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I’ve read the previous two books some time ago, but I have this thing against finishing a series…