Larry Hosken: New: Tag: book

Book Report: the Adventures of T and T

In this parable, two ostriches are illuminated through a series of spiritual experiences including visions, a glimpse of the afterlife, and miraculous teleportation.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Chinese Playground

I picked up this book around the time that arms dealer Leland Yee was suspended from the California state senate. That case had some San Francisco Chinatown gangster connections. If you look around for books on that, this autobiography by Bill Lee comes up. This book talks about growing up in Chinatown with gangster connections. And you get a pretty good idea of why criminals shouldn't brag: once the cops start arresting everybody, plenty of panicky folks are ready to snitch. And then, a turn that would be too weird if it were fictional: This autobiography also has some tech company misogyny from 1988—Lee was there when Richard Wade Farley tried to prove to his stalkee Laura Black that he wasn't a scary creeper guy by killing lots of people in the office where she worked. If you wondered what violence lurks in the bay area, this book has more than its share.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: The Puzzle Instinct

This book talks about how humans think their way through puzzles. It mostly does this by walking you through several classic puzzles. If you're already somewhat jaded of the classic puzzles, then long stretches of this book might be sloggish; be prepared to skim. But if you're interested in thinking about thinking (especially thinking through tricky things), then you'll want to put the brakes on the skimming and see how a brain can build up a chain of reason around these.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Thursday's Children

It's a "best of" collection of Curtis Chen's 512-words-or-fewer flash fiction. Short storylets, one or two scenes apiece; that's about enough space for some wry witty banter and/or to start noodling around some speculative gimmick. I'd already read these as blog posts; so the "reveals" weren't surprises anymore; but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the jokes held up the second time around.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Ghost Spin

What if the quickest way to travel was to transmit your thought-state to another world so that you could be "uploaded" into a new body? What if you were "broadcast" and folks in several places uploaded several copies of you into several bodies? Then you might end up with a book with a split protagonist.

That's this book's premise; two copies of one personality go through different experiences and thus make different choices. Maybe if I were better at figuring out the reasoning behind those different choices, this gimmick would have seemed amazing to me. As it was, it seemed like a sci-fi action novel awkwardly smooshed together with a twin study.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Annabel Scheme

What if the quickest route to organize the world's information was a Faustian deal with a demon? Our heroine is an ex-hacker occult specialist who… uhm, these stories were silly but fun.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling

There are plenty of storytellers out there, but they tend to specialize. Meanwhile, these transmedia projects keep popping up: some story-pieces embedded in movies, comics, ARGs, radio plays… If you're making such a story, it's not so straightforward to fit all those pieces together. Maybe you've written some screenplays; but not so much with the ARGs. How do you know which parts of your story will work best in which medium? In case that wasn't complicated enough, your audience isn't used to experiencing these transmedia thingies either. If part of your story's in a comic book and part is in profile updates on social networks, be prepared to repeat some things: plenty of folks reading the comic won't think to read the social stuff and vice versa. So what can you do? This book doesn't offer one-size-fits-all solutions; that's impossible for creative projects anyhow. It does point out some issues you might not have anticipated and shows ways to plan around them.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: China 3.0

I picked up this anthology of essays because it showed up in an author search for Michael Anti. Thus, I expected to have my pro-free-speech views reinforced. It turns out that Anti wrote just one essay in the collection; and there's a variety. Thus I learned some things. Including…

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Undiluted Hocus-Pocus

It's Martin Gardner's autobiography. It's about his life. It's not about logic puzzles, tricks with matchsticks, or computer simulations. Those are things he wrote about. His autobiography is about the life that happened in between writing articles. There's academic politics, writing some not-so-interesting articles before stumbling into recreational mathematics, meeting magicians and others which would eventually lead to material. Through it all, Gardner's curiosity shines through, along with his ability to find a diamond of interesting-ness in a rough of noise.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Random House Puzzle Maker's Handbook

It's a book about how to make crossword puzzles (and other word puzzles) from 1995, a revision of a book first written in 1981. It's about how to make (and edit and market…) crossword puzzles by hand. Back in 1995, that's how you made crossword puzzles. There were just barely some computer programs coming along that would help you figure out which words you could use to fill in that □□Z□□E□□K□□ in your grid.

Why read this book now? Nowadays, when I want to make a crossword puzzle, I load up Crossword Compiler, click a button, and let the computer fill in my grid with answers that, y'know, cross. (OK, I'm exaggerating the ease. Since I work on puzzlehunts, I make puzzlehunt-ish crosswords, by which I mean "gimmick crosswords". To make the gimmick work, I probably need to do some prep. Like if the gimmick is something numeric such that LONDONENGLAND should be written in the grid as LOND1NGLAD and FORTWORTH as FOR2RTH, I have to start by constructing a word list so that Crossword Compiler understands that, for this puzzle, LOND1NGLAD is a valid answer.) This book has plenty of advice that I won't use. E.g., when fitting answers into a crossword puzzle by hand, favor answers that alternate vowel/consonant, since these tend to fit into crosswords better. That's a good rule of thumb when you're working by hand and using your brain; but when a computer can try all the possible "crossings" in a minute, it's less useful. And yet, this book's still useful today.

Crossword puzzle fans will point out a flaw in my reasoning above, and in so doing point out the first useful thing I learned from this book. Crossword puzzle fans will point out: The best crossword puzzles are hand-constructed. So the whole premise of saying that the book might not be useful since it concentrates on by-hand puzzle construction must be wrong. Well… yes and no. I make crosswords that will be used in puzzlehunts. People don't complete these crosswords. They fill in a third of the answers, someone sees F□□R■N□M□D■S□□P in the diagonal, figures out that's FOUR-NAMED SOAP, and folks set aside the grid, figure out DAYS O4 LIVES and… Darned few folks will go back, look at that grid, fill the rest in, and tut-tut over mediocre word choices. I can get away with some things that I couldn't if I were a professional puzzle constructor trying to sell stand-on-their-own-merits crosswords to Will Shortz. And this book told me something I didn't know about making crosswords by hand: even if I were to get good at it, it would still take a really long time to make one puzzle. The book doesn't really point this out explicitly, but you can't help but notice the word "hours" popping up. Hours for this stage of construction; hours for that stage.

With practice, crossword construction gets easier, but it doesn't get easy. Good to know. If you don't plan to make enough crosswords in the future to justify training up, need a high-quality grid, and you value your time, maybe you should hire a pro.

But even if you're just jockeying a computer, this book will help. It has advice on what to do if you get partway through constructing a puzzle and it's just not coming together. This happens on the computer, too; it's just faster. Sometimes you choose a grid, lay in your theme answers, press the "fill" button and… the computer gives up. Or it generates something that's bad even by my low standards. Maybe you can salvage your idea by tweaking the grid: when you laid your theme answers into that arbitrarily-chosen grid, did that mean the computer was going to have to choose a word ending in J? Maybe you should figure out a grid layout that puts that J at the start of a word instead. (Crossword Compiler does a great job of "trying all the words" to find those that will fit into a grid; it doesn't have a notion of "trying all the grid layouts" to find one that will work best with a set of theme answers.)

This book talks about the core of puzzle construction; even though I skimp on the details of exquisite puzzling, there was stuff in here I could use. And if you're a by-hand puzzle constructor (or if this book inspires you to become one), there's even more good advice.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Puzzle Craft

"The subtitle's a lie, of course. We can't fit descriptions of how to make every type of puzzle into one book." And yet this book does show examples of many many kinds of puzzles. Along with each example, there's a blurb or a page or perhaps more than a page about how you can make such a puzzle. Mind you, many puzzle-types aren't so easy to make. It's not like you're going to sit down, read the section about a Rose Garden, say "oh, that's how it's done?" and crank one out. But that's good to know, too—if you need to crank out an emergency replacement puzzle for that puzzlehunt that's happening tomorrow, you now know better than to attempt a Rose Garden. Though this book is about puzzles in general, there's even some stuff that's especially-useful for puzzlehunt makers. There's a section on embedding secret messages in puzzles; there's a section about puzzlehunt structures.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Don't Get Too Comfortable

It's essays by David Rakoff. The first few in the collection were so unenthusiastic about everything that I wondered how did this end up on my to-read list? Then I was reminded: this collection includes J.D.V. M.I.A., his report on playing in New York City's Midnight Madness game. He didn't like it. On the one hand, as you read over the report, you can see some things about the hunt that perhaps made it not-so-fun: lots of emphasis on "aha," not much "grind" for each puzzle; so if a team didn't spot the "aha", there probably wasn't much for them to do except sit and stew and feel frustrated. On the other hand, there also seems to be some sour grapes; he turns up his nose at folks who enjoy such activities. Since I enjoy such activities, I just thought "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man" and was glad to have an excuse to stop reading the collection.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Little Brother

Remind yourself it's fiction: after a terrorist attack, the DHS goes police state on San Francisco. That part's all too believable. The less-believable part: our hero is a teenaged computer programmer; he's better at computer programming than pretty much anyone I know. He doesn't do anything in particular that you haven't heard of someone doing… but he's simultaneously expert at programming services, defeating computer security, defeating real-world security… sort of a teenage hacker as trickster god. A fun read; bonus puzzlehunt points for having a puzzle-y ARG as a plot point; inspiring a puzzle hunt in San Francisco; and for listing Seth Schoen in the acknowledgments.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Shady Characters

Thursday afternoon, talk at work turned to punctuation. Since work uses a lot of @s and #s, this should not surprise you. Someone hazily remembered that Shakespeare had invented “modern quotation marks.” This morning, I got around to Googling it: alas, that hazy memory was off. So… who invented quotation marks, then? Teh internets have some good info, but for more detail and analysis, I turned to Shady Characters, the book by the author of the Shady Characters blog. It talks about quotes, semicolons, dashes of various lengths… It's a fun book if you're into that sort of thing. There are some surprisingly good stories in there; how does a society figure out how to express a pause with no precedent? (It's kinda like figuring out that zero is a concept that merits a notation.)

Shady Characters has nudged the course of my life in recent years.

A few years back, some folks put together some resources to help folks learn the arcana of puzzlehunts. (Yes, there are mysteries, customs. Thinking about answer-extraction yields insights that let you skip parts. You are expected to recognize the six-dot Braille alphabet; you are not expected to know Braille contractions, eight-dot Braille symbols… That kind of thing.) Scott Royer had written an awesome puzzlehunt guide with a walkthrough for one puzzle. I was working at Google's engEDU team, hearing about Instructional Design and Theories of Learning all day. There are plenty of those Theories running around, but most agree: if you want someone to remember what you just taught them, give them a way to apply what they learned right away. So we wanted some more sample puzzles as exercises: nothing super-amazing, but something straightforward for Morse code, something for anagramming, something for indexing… Writing a puzzle with the only constraint "It should use Morse code" ain't so easy—you can do anything. If we had a theme, that would jump-start plenty of puzzles. But what theme?

I'd been reading the Shady Characters blog, reading about the history of punctuation. Most of these stories are of the form: over history, several symbols indicated the same thing. Before there were modern quotation marks, there were: different marks out in the margin, indented text with marks at the left edge; marks at the left edge with a different mark embedded in the text; different marks embedded in the text. But #'s story in the blog was different: # had been around roughly forever, but it meant different things over time and was called by different names.

So I used # as the theme for some sample exercise puzzles. Because # meant different things, there was still some variety. Several months later, there were quite a few puzzles. As the blog continued, more puzzle ideas resulted. Someone familiar with Swedish pointed out that # was a map symbol for a lumberyard. As you would expect, that inspired some lumber-ish puzzles.

Anyhow, when the book came out, I picked it up. It's a fun read; it's probably smoother to read the book than to pick your way through the blog. Usually, I'm a Kindle kind of guy, but I'm glad I got this book on paper. So far, most of the history of punctuation is tied up with the history of printing: scribes' marginalia, early typesetting. The physical book illustrates a lot of the type-ish things by using them itself; I suspect that wouldn't work so well on a Kindle. I read it over, got yet more puzzle ideas. But you might like the book even if you're not using it to get puzzle ideas.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Operation Mincemeat

It's about WWII spies. The central thread is a plot by English counterspies to fool the Nazis into thinking that the invasion of Sicily would actually be an invasion of Greece and Sardinia. It's a gruesome plot: dressing up a corpse as a military courier, planting forged documents on it, then dumping it into the Mediterranean so that it will wash up on shore and be discovered. Along the way, there's a submarine, a maze of bribery and corruption, and plenty to worry about.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate

I'm a technical writer. I understand that folks don't always appreciate technical documentation. Sometimes the docs are bad. Sometimes the docs are good…at bearing bad tidings. Tech writer Roz De La Torre talks about some review meetings with engineers about draft documents.

Them: "This is terrible. This is way too complicated"

Roz: "Is it wrong?"

Them: "No."

The book Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate is for, by, and about technical writers. It's about keeping documentation in a wiki. I didn't learn so much from that part; I've been keeping docs in wikis for several years now. But it was specifically about Confluence wiki, and I'd heard that it had a section on how Confluence's search computes relevance ranking. We use Confluence at work, so there were some things I wanted to know about; how to do "intranet SEO" was a big one. From that I learned… Confluence's search doesn't work the way I want it to. Findability isn't a big problem for us now; but it probably will be sometime in the next couple of years. And we might not have great tools to fix it then.

This is terrible.

By which I mean, "Thank you for the early warning."

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Worm

Do I call it a "Book" report if it doesn't exist in book-ish form? Oh sure why not. Worm is a novel-length story posted online. It's about superheroes. What if there were thousands of superheroes in the world? But nobody's born with superpowers—instead, anyone with latent powers gains those powers only after they've gone through some trauma. Thus, nobody's born knowing how to use their powers; instead, they grow up thinking of un-powered life as normal. In this world, it's not enough to have superpowers—to make a difference, you also need to get past the mental blocks against using those powers. Unfortunately, this means that some of the most powerful people are pretty ruthless. It's a darned bleak story.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Exploding the Phone

There are plenty of little articles about phreaking floating around; this book does a good job of pulling lots of little bits together into a flow of history. Along the way, I learned some things. E.g., there wasn't just one famous blind teenaged phone phreak; there were a few (Engressia, Acker, Teresi, Fettgather…).
Back in the day radio stations used to have listening lines, telephone numbers you could call to hear what was being broadcast by the radio station. They were used mostly by advertising agencies to check that radio stations were broadcasting the ads that their clients had purchased.
That was neat: that problem is still around these days, though you're more likely to confirm your ad's playing over the internet than over the phone.

Joybubbles (then known as Joe Engressia) had a presidential speech for a phone phreak club that tech writers or other educational folks can take as a motto: "knowledge shared is knowledge expanded."

You learn a bit about the frustration of telephone company security folks: the uncomfortable switch between cracking down on hardened criminals and investigating folks who are breaking into your systems out of curiosity. Nowadays, most telephone companies and ISPs seem over-eager to cooperate with government spying; you get to see the history of that. There weren't any laws preventing folks from getting past phone system security and thus avoid being billed for calls. While investigating such, the phone company would listen in on calls and figure out that there were listening to, say, a bookie. So they could get the bookie to stop making calls by siccing the police on them, but had to hide the fact that they were eavesdropping on calls.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: The Ludic City

Mostly, an academic jots down observations of people goofing around in cities' public spaces. Pedestrians waggle their arms. Buskers and street crazies accost passers-by. Bicyclists ride in perhaps-surprising places. It's a strange thing to write down; this book seems to be a reaction to city planners who think in terms of function. When laying out a plaza, serious-minded planners are unlikely to consider the opinions of grind-happy skateboarders (except, perhaps, in hopes of thwarting them). But perhaps if they want those public spaces to be used by the public, they should consider how folks might goof around in those spaces. (Is this a real controversy? I don't know; I don't read much about city planning.)

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Virtual Love

Virtual Love is a romance set in Google's early days. The author, Kim Malone Scott, worked at Google back in those days, wrote this. She wasn't so pleased with how it turned out, and left the manuscript to molder, hoping to get it into better shape at some point. Until she finally realized that wasn't going to happen, thought some folks might like to read her take on Google's early environment anyhow, and published it for cheaps. If you know what you're getting into, and if that sounds like a good read to you, then it's a good read.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Reports are Everywhere: How to Run a Puzzle Hunt Jonobie Ford of Team Liboncatipu wrote about lessons learned running a Microsoft Puzzle Hunt. The instant I heard of its existence on the Puzzalot blog, I knew I had to read this. And from this descr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Magus ARGers and Situationists talk about this novel: its plot is something like that of the movie The Game, a sort of paranoid story in which several people playact around our protagonist, hoping to effec...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beta China I follow many feeds; I used to follow the tech news site PandoDaily. I ignored most of it; modern tech reporting has problems and PandoDaily illustrated plenty of those. But for a while, there was so...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Neptune's Brood It's a science fiction novel. How do financial transactions work in an interstellar civilization which has that nasty speed of light to contend with? How would you defraud such a system? ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How to Interview a Financial Advisor The author, @choonpiaw, is a computer nerd who made good and didn't squander all his money. Maybe you're a computer nerd who just got lucky with an IPO… and in a few years you would like to be...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Reputation Society I'm not game control for every game out there. E.g., I'm not on Game Control for this game; I was just passing along word of its existence after I saw it mentioned on a flyer. But I can see why you m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Griftopia We've had a chance to reflect on the financial disasters and bailouts of 2008. What have we learned? We learned that America's most successful bankers aren't those who are best at computing loan risk...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Art of Explanation I'm a tech writer. "Professional Ignoramus" would be a more accurate job title, albeit not so likely to land me fun jobs working with clever software developers. Still, it's what I do. Here's what ha...

Permalink & Comments

Puzzle Hunts are Everywere, so Don't try to Think About Other Things Working on the UI for the upcoming Ghost Patrol game, I took some little breaks. (Part of the UI is a little countdown timer that lets you know how long until the game starts—and eventually tel...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Strange Wilderness This afternoon, I thought back on wrong career decisions I've made. I thought about their consequences—totally overshadowed by consequences of things out of my control. It's like the lives of f...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Debugging It's a book about debugging, about troubleshooting. It has some good advice and some fun anecdotes. As I write this, it's been a few weeks since I read it, and the anecdotes have all leaked out of my...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Nature Noir It's a memoir by a park ranger about park rangering, but it's not nature hikes and checking trees for moss. It's grittier than that—more about crime and law enforcement. It turns out that plent...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Uncertainty In Games Greg Costikyan has designed more games than you have, so I pay attention when he writes something. Uncertainty in Games didn't contain any startling revelations that knocked me out of my chair, but i...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Forsada Politics and war in post-apocalyptic Lake Tahoe? Sounds like a great topic for some young adult fiction. Well, I liked it, though I'm not a young adult. Still. This is a sequel to Semper. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Hydrogen Sonata Maybe it's a science-fiction novel by Iain Banks, set in the far-future intergalactic universe of the Culture. Maybe it's a reflection on the nature of truth, especially when intertwingled with histo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Code Busters Club It's young adult fiction in which young adults solve a Real Crime by solving some common codes. Set in the alternate universe like this one, but if you want to get a message to nice people without th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Alif the Unseen A fantasy novel swirling together the 1001 Arabian Nights with the Arab Spring. Along the way, we have a secret book containing a more-secret message about even-more secret magic. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Salvage and Demolition A tightly-knotted time-travel novella. A secret society, a secret book containing a more-secret message about even-more secret magic, this story wraps up plenty of fun stuff in the snarls of its loop...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Like every novel-reading San Francisco bay area tech worker, I enjoyed Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Its computer and code bits are more science-fantasy than hard science fiction, but they support...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China Deng Xiaoping steered China out of the disaster of the Cultural Revolution; he seemed pretty enlightened until June 4, 1989 when the military cleared Tiananmen Square of protesters. How did it go so ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Subversives (The FBI's war on Student Radicals and Reagan's Rise To Power) This book about Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement was pretty amazing. It was also a slow read. Usually you say "So good I couldn't put it down," but in this case I might say "So good that I pu...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: City of Fortune It's a history of Venice back in the days when Venice was a big deal. If you think that Realpolitik is hardass nowadays, go read your history and weep for the soul of humanity. Venice came to power ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Best Writing in Mathematics 2012 This was a mixed bag. The good news is that not all the writing in this collection is aimed at mathematicians, since I'm not a mathematician. The bad news is that a bunch of math writing for non-math...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Flow I got this book on Kindle and kind of wish I'd read the paper version instead. The Kindle version is broken partway through: if you try to read past the first page of the endnotes, you get kicked out...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Java Concurrency in Practice I work with the Scala programming language but Scala runs on the JVM, the Java Virtual Machine. This is pretty important. Java turned out to be an icky programming language, but some smart folks have...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: An Object of Beauty It's a novel about people and their relation to art: loving it, collecting it, selling it. In theory, art exists for beauty; but what if you own a painting that's beautiful and valuable? Maybe you co...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tubes It's a book about the physical structure of the internet. So you'd expect that I couldn't put it down. But oh man. Early on in the book, there's a sentence I share all these quotidian details of tr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Just Kids Before Patti Smith was a rock-and-roller, she was a poet. Well, she was an artist in search of a medium. So was Robert Mapplethorpe—they were a couple. And when they stopped being a couple, the...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Mongoliad Book Two Several characters flung across Eurasia. I wonder the authors are going to tie up all the loose ends. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Work Revolution We hold these truths to be self-evident: Company dress codes encourage workers to spend time thinking about their dry-cleaning. That's weaksauce. Incentives that reward time spent in process instea...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Professor Moriarty: the Hound of the D'Urbervilles What if there were sequels to a bunch of pulp books I never read in which their protagonists confronted Professor Moriarty (of the Sherlock Holmes stories)? Those Sherlock Holmes stories that I thoug...

Permalink & Comments

th;dr I was only partway through this book's intro before my wrists got tired just from holding it up. I had to stop reading it. Thank you, Kindle inventors! If it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't hav...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Corner It's a year in the life of an open-air drug market in Baltimore. Most of the folks in the neighborhood are addicts and/or dealers, and thus most of the folks in this book are, too. I didn't finish re...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Lightning Man It's a biography of Samuel F. B. Morse, the namesake of my favorite puzzlehunt code. So it's about time I read up on the man's life. He wanted to be an artist. He wanted to paint beautiful scenes, n...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Many Subtle Channels in praise of potential literature In honor of USA's Buy Nothing Day, a report on a book that I checked out of the library: Many Subtle Channels It's a book about the OuLiPo. You've probably heard of them: they're a literary cabal in...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How to Sharpen Pencils I'm a technical writer. I write instructions. I often team up with a "Subject Matter Expert," someone who's really good at doing something. I ask them what they do and they write it down. You might w...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Liars and Outliers It's a book about security. It's a book about how to think your way through security problems. Not just thinking about where to throw up barriers—also about how to think up policies that won't ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Claudius the God The people of the United States of America came together to elect a man who would turn this nation into a panopticon—choosing him over another man who was all that plus bigotry. Bigotry was vot...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality @hpmor is Harry Potter fan fiction...no, wait, don't run away. I'm serious. It's funny because in this book, Harry Potter doesn't just let himself get pushed around by the plot. He thinks things thro...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Elements of User Experience This is a book with a great premise and then problems in the details. The story behind the book is this: Jesse James Garrett made a great diagram about how to organize... let's say it's about how to ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Positively Fifth Street I liked Word Freak, a book about a reporter who studies up and becomes a champion Scrabble player. And I told some automated recommendation services that I liked it. Thus, those automated recommendat...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Slayground, Plunder Squad, Butcher's Moon It's action novels in which Parker the ruthless amoral thief. He is pursued into an amusement park that's shut down for the winter. And then a lot of ruthless people die. He gets involved with an art...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Team Geek Ben and Fitz wrote a book about coexisting with your fellow geeks on team projects without going mad. Those of you who are still reading this book report instead of going to Amazon... probably don't ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Puzzler's Mansion It's the third Winston Breen novel. Thus, it's a YA puzzle mystery. It's pretty awesome having a puzzlehunter protagonist who actually thinks like a puzzlehunter. E.g., he's at a puzzlehunt put on b...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Broken Ballots A few people want to steal elections. A few billion people want fair elections. How do you make an election un-stealable? It's not easy. Elections do't run themselves; we need election officials. Fol...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Railsea Post-apocalyptic Mevillean steampunk fantasy. Fun little read. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: All the President's Men I didn't think I'd learn anything from this book, but I was wrong. I thought everybody knows the story of All the President's Men: Plucky reporters Woodward and Bernstein investigate Watergate; they ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Leaving Cheyenne Three characters with intertwined fates grow old on ranch land in Texas. It starts in the early 20th century and makes it to mid-century and life gets easier but it never really gets easy. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Republic, Lost When Solyndra was falling apart, Republicans were screaming: these green companies were just boondoggles, false fronts to scoop up government money. It's easy to dismiss their complaints as a bunch o...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Distrust that Particular Flavor It's a book of articles by William Gibson; quick essays, book reviews, book introductions. There are some fun ones, there are some clunkers. If you think you'd like a book of Gibson articles, you're ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A New Culture of Learning It's a book about learning; it's a book about culture. Our culture has brought forth all of these fancy new communications technologies. If there are some facts I need to know, I can probably look t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Mongoliad, Book One Book Two of the Mongoliad ships today so here's a report on, uhm, Book One. I'm a professional technical writer, but I did a stint with some instructional designers. Thus, I was forced to confront t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Tangled Web The Tangled Web talks about why web programming is doomed to be insecure for a long time to come. Nothing works quite right: networks, name servers, OSs, browsers, web servers, headers, cookies, form...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Low Life Many quick snippets about New York's criminals and underclass. It was kinda fun, but a few days after reading it, I remember almost nothing. I could say that was a metaphor for New York itself, alway...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Evolution of Cooperation It's a book by Robert Axelrod, who set up some groundbreaking game theory experiment/contests back in the day. He set up a computer program that would run other computer programs. Specifically, it ra...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman worked on some of the greatest psychological thingies of our time. Behavioral economics, he was there for that. The difference between things that we think make us happy and really ma...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hide Me Among the Graves Tim Powers writes historical... fantasy? Horror? He writes alternate histories as they should have happened if we lived in a world of the supernatural. He writes histories that show how much less unl...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Vanishing Violin It's another YA puzzle-mystery featuring the Red Blazer Girls. (You might vaguely remember that I read the first book in the series a while back. This time, the puzzlehunt story is a bit more believa...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Boswell's Life of Johnson Oh man I only made it like halfway through part 1. People keep recommending this to me. Samuel Johnson was some writer. As such, he produced some interesting work. But at least as near as I coul...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Founders at Work It's a book of interviews with people who founded high-tech companies. It's pretty darned interesting to hear the stories from the horses' mouths, as it were. There's not just one "Founder story". Re...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Four Steps to the Epiphany You're trying to put together a new product. Steven Gary Blank, author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, doesn't want you to give the early version away. His test for a viable product isn't "Will pe...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Steve Jobs About twenty years ago, I switched from using a Macintosh to Windows. I was surprised at how much easier the Windows machine was to use. I was a Mac user, I'd listen to a bunch of other Mac users all...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Restoration Game It's a scifi thriller whose protagonist is a game designer. This book was fun. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Cowboy and His Elephant It's a biography: The original Marlboro Man wasn't a ranch hand; he was more of an oil-tycoon-heir who dabbled in ranching. He's the "cowboy" in the title. I wasn't expecting the Marlboro Man, but I ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The New New Thing It's a biography of Jim Clark, a high-tech entrepeneur. This book talks about a period of his life after he helped found SGI and Netscape, when he was working on health-service software and designing...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Solaris Humans try to communicate with alien intelligence and wacky tragedy ensues. Some science fiction authors use "first contact" scenarios to point out things about humanity; but you never really believe...

Permalink & Comments

The Bible Repairman and Other Stories It's short stories by Tim Powers, the guy who wrote The Anubis Gates, Declare, and On Stranger Tides. If you liked those, you'll probably like these. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Bunny's Alphabetical Misadventures It's a color art book that's only available for Kindle—so if you don't have a color Kindle, this one might not be so great for you. But if you do have a color Kindle, this book has cute bunny d...

Permalink & Comments

Link: Nordic Larp Won the Diana Jones Award! Good to see careful documentation of far freaking weirdness get some recognition! ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close I'm thinking about folks being brave today, so here's a book report about a story with a brave protagonist. My mom knew I'd like this novel: It's about a puzzlehunt. Or, rather, it's a sort of myster...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Ready Player One It's a fun little story about some gamers. Some folks are really into this book and love it and will talk your ear off about it. Some folks have backlashed against that and will talk your ear off abo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Taking People With You It's a management book. It was written by a guy who worked at Pepsi, so you probably don't want his advice about what things are worth doing; he chose to sell sugar water instead of change the world....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Mysterious Benedict Society It's a young adult adventure novel that starts out with a puzzly quiz. Kids who do well in the quiz team up to battle an evil conspiracy. This book is science fantasy, and the fantasy lost me. It's t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: In the Plex Why do I keep reading Steven Levy books? They're full of mistakes. He interviews people who know a lot... and then somehow still gets it wrong. I read In the Plex because, golly, he talked to all the...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Private Wars It's been a thrilling time. I switched ISPs last week, and in so doing I b0rked my outgoing mail. But I didn't realize it. For a week, I've been thinking that I was sending mail when really I was bas...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: By Blood By Blood is literature but nonetheless pretty darned good. It's by Ellen Ullman so I picked it up hoping that there would be cool stories about stricken computer nerds. But it's straight-up literatur...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Too Big to Know We know a lot, and nowadays we know that we know a lot. I read a lot of books. But I read only a teeny-tiny fraction of the books that get published. And books are, in turn, just a teeny-tiny fractio...

Permalink & Comments

Books Report: Paranoia T1 Stay Alert; S1 Reality Optional; Y1 Traitor Hangout These are novels based in the world of the Paranoia paper role-playing game. I used to play this paper RGP called Paranoia. It was pretty fun. Most RPGs put emphasis on surviving: making smart tactic...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Falling to Earth It's Al Worden's autobiography. Al Worden grew up a farmboy, but became an Apollo astronaut. He didn't walk on the moon. He was a pilot, excited about piloting spaceships. He was pretty excited to pi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Semper Peter Dudley wrote a book! (You might remember Peter Dudley if you worked at Geoworks back in the day.) It turned out pretty darned well. It's young adult fiction, but there's nothing wrong with read...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Digital Forensics with Open Source Tools It's a book about how to look over a hard drive and find out "what happened here?" This is a useful skill for computer security—you might want to figure out how a virus or hacker took over a ma...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: In a Sunburned Country Bill Bryson travels to Australia and writes about the place. He's pretty funny, and Australia gives him a lot to be funny about. This is partly because Bryson is given to self-deprecation and Austral...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Scarlet Pimpernel Jolly English noblefolk rescue French fleeing-aristocracy from the bloody French Revolution. Hapless heroine follows her cooly competent husband around. Oh jeez, there I go judging a book from back i...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Theory that would Not Die It's a book on the history of Bayes' Theorem. Bayes' Theorem is, roughly, a handy tool for practical probability problems. Suppose you are an email system's spam filter. You see a new email message t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Kobold Guide to Board Game Design Professional game designers write essays on topics in Board Game Design. Along the way, they get into project management, prototyping, usability, playtesting, and other good stuff. As a professional ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Maphead @KenJennings, funny Jeopardy champion, writes about maps and geography. He's into maps; he talks about why he likes them and why other people do, too. But that's not all. He talks with geography soci...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: No One Thinks of Greenland It's literature. It's fiction but it's not genre fiction and it's not about undersea telegraph cables, so you'd think I wouldn't like it. Oh, there's a brief nod to the history of electronics with th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: This is not a Game Thanks to a Snoutcast interview, I learned of the existence of This Is Not A Game, a non-fiction book about Alternative Reality Games by Dave Szulborski (not to be confused with the novel This is Not...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Timetables of History It's a summary of world history, presented as a timeline. It's a few hunded pages. The rows are years. The columns are different, uhm, sectors of culture: art, science, etc. I hear tell that this is...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Mind Games It's a book of short stories by Richard Thieme. I saw a recording of an interesting talk he gave at DefCon. So I read this collection, which turned out to be largely about UFO sightings and the paran...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: West of the West A newspaper reporter does some journalizing about whatever he likes. Since he likes California, especially the San Joaquin Valley and Fresno, the results are some pretty interesting stories... uhm, t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Version Control by Example For a hobby computer programming project, I used a revision control program called Veracity. It works fine. One of the Veracity programmers wrote a book about revision control; I found it cheap, so I...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Jay's Journal of Anomolies The Breatharians were not the first fasting hoaxsters, nor will they be the last. Flea circuses have a history. This book is a collection of Jay's Journal of Anomolies, essays on bits of history of s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Glued to Games It's a book about the psychology of games. Why do we enjoy them? It's all very well to say that "Games are fun." You could say "Paper clips are fun," but then folks would tell you that you need to be...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Ignition! It's a book about the history of the development of rocket propellants. I'm not a chemist, but this was still fascinating because it talks about really dangerous stuff. The whole point of rocket prop...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Crossworld You'd think that I'd like to read a book about competitive crossword-puzzle solving featuring a first-hand report on playing in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Crossworld is such a book, fr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tic Tac Toe and other Three-in-a-Row Games I vaguely remembered that there were some three-in-a-row games that weren't tic-tac-toe, but I couldn't remember what any of them were called, so internet searching yielded nothing. Then I thought to...

Permalink & Comments

Comic Report: Cuba: My Revolution What was it like living in Cuba as it changed from a kleptocracy to a paranoiac batsh*t-insanocracy? It was bad. The protagonist of this comic got shot at, imprisoned, tortured, watched her family in...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour It's more young adult puzzlehunt fiction, so you won't impress your grown-up friends for having read this. But it was fun! A group of friends at a NYC catholic school team up to solve a long-forgotte...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Information Yay, no mouse sounds latetly; I guess the mouse didn't stick around. Kinda like me when I tried to read the book The Information. DNF. This book is about information theory. It talks about symbols, l...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hackerspaces: the Beginning Oh, I heard a mouse chewing above my head. I sure hope it doesn't figure out how to get into my apartment from my neighbors' apartment and... uhm, but I didn't want to talk about gnawing-spaces, I wa...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Seventh Level It's more puzzle-hunt young adult fiction by Jody Feldman. You remember how I liked her Gollywhopper Games book, aside from the magical realism parts? This book has a school that's also somehow the h...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Art of Intrusion It's a book of hacker anecdotes. "Kevin Mitnick" is the author name on the cover, but these are stories from other hackers. They're good stories. They're not all true stories; some of them have par...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Gollywhopper Games It's young adult fiction answering the question: What would happen if there was a puzzle hunt in a toy warehouse that was magical like Charlie's Chocolate Factory? On the one hand I wanted to read th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Moonwalking with Einstein So as I walk in, I'm thinking This is dumb. Who puts an art gallery in a sporting goods store? But as I walk out, I'm paying for $40 bucks of tube socks and ch– What? Book? Oh, right. Moonwalki...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Super Crunchers It's a book about working with Big Data. Considering some of the projects I've worked on, you think I'd be pretty excited. But my experience made me kind of picky about the details. At first, this bo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Closure: The Definitive Guide This book is about computer programming, specifically about how to use the Google Closure Library and Google Closure Compiler. I learned things that I didn't learn from Google's own documentation for...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Art of Computer Game Design It's an early book of essays on computer game design, from back when pixels were chunkier and networks were slower. Plus some notes from more modern times, pointing out places where those early essay...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide? Try to stay awake through the short description, because it gets better after: autobiography of a bench chemist. Max Gergel learned practical chemistry: someone wants some quantity of some substance ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Buddha in the Attic It's a novel of the Issei experience, a story told in the first person plural. We arrived in the USA, we met our mail-order husbands, we picked crops, worked in houses and laundries. Peeking at folks...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: REAMDE What if Neal Stephenson wrote a thriller in which fate throws together a ragtag mop of gamers, hackers, and spies and pits them against an international terrorist? Yeah, you probably already made up ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Gentleman's Game I've been reading a bunch of Greg Rucka comics lately and wondering whatever happened to his Queen and Country comics. Those were great grim spy stories, with Steve Rolston art. But they'd turned int...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Parthenopean Scalpel It's another piece of short fiction by Bruce Sterling. Back before the age of total war when everything was worth blowing up, terrorists were assassins. This is the story of an assassin who spreads ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Zero Day Happy USA Buy Nothing Day 2011, aka #OCCUPYXMAS. To celebrate, here's a report on a book I'm glad I checked out from the library: Zero Day. Maybe it's not quite accurate to say "I'm glad I checked o...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tactile Morse Code Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. I don't feel that I need to read the book Tactile Morse Code because its cover explains its system pretty well. Bonus irony points for being a book about...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hackerspaces: the Beginning It's a free book in which folks who participate in Hackerspaces write about their organizations and their spaces. Hackerspaces are tangled up with the Maker movement: folks who chip in to form a spac...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Embassytown It's weird science fiction: humans interact with aliens. In the aliens' language, statements must refer to real things. If you wanted to compose a poem about a purple cow in this language, you would ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Lawrence and Aaronsohn It's Armistice Day today, so here's a book about World War I. Specifically, it's about Lawrence of Arabia and Aaron Aaronsohn who I guess you might call, uhm, Aaronsohn of Palestine. The subtitl...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Rule 34 Lisa Long (aka Cassandra Cross from The Hogwarts Game) is in town, showing off some music software that she works on in the UK. She was taunting us Yanks because USA licensing rules for streaming mus...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Black Swan It's a short story (or perhaps a novella) about parallel worlds. (The publisher calls this book "a cyberpunk story", but I think they just meant they remember that Bruce Sterling did good things for ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Why Programs Fail Today we celebrate #DennisRitchieDay ahem excuse me, Dennis Ritchie Day, in memory of a computer programmer who... Oh, man his stuff is in your computer, in your phone, Dennis Ritchie's stuff is ever...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Chinese Maze Murders A few decades ago, a diplomat who'd been to China "updated" some ancient Chinese detective stories and published them. In these stories, a magistrate solves many mysteries at once. In the ancient ori...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Deep State If you've been listening to the recent Snoutcast podcasts, you've heard interviews with some ARG (Alternate Reality Game) folks. If you listened to this week's podcast, you might have heard of a Walt...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Game Wars Battling a case of upper-respiratory-something infection, I find myself participating in a new activity: sinus irrigation. But nobody wants to read about that. You know what you want to read about, t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Bottlemania It's a book about bottled water and tap water in the USA. The summary, you already knew: bottled water isn't just bad for the environment, it's stupidly bad for the environment... if you live in San ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms A fantasy novel about cruel people and deities. It was a fun, vicious read. Oh man, I'm not going to type any more. I had a flu shot today. I forget to tell them to use the right arm. Now my left pi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Being Wrong I bought this book because the writer had a good TED talk Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong. That's a risky move. A lot of these TED talkers turn out to be better with the speechifying than with the wri...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Architecture of Open Source Applications If you're a computer programmer who thinks about software design, it helps if you've had a chance to learn about a variety of software designs. This is a great book for that! Maintainers of several p...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: I'm Feeling Lucky It's anecdotes and interviews about Google's early history by Doug Edwards, an early employee. (Is this a good time to repeat that my opinions are mine? They're mine. I speak for myself. I don't spea...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Getting Sued and other Tales of the Engineering Life It's by a civil engineer from a few decades back, so you might think that a software developer wouldn't learn anything from this memoir. But there's wisdom in here—figuring out how to get along...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Startup Engineering Management This book Startup Engineering Management is aimed at engineering managers at startup companies—but is pretty good for engineering managers at big companies, too. It has some info about everythi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Being Geek It's a collection of essays—well, a collection of rewritten blog posts—by blogger "rands". In theory, it's a geek writing about being a geek. An awful lot of it is about being a geek in t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Adventures in Puzzling The cover promises multi-puzzle extravaganzas, and it delivers. There's a fun variety of puzzles here. And they're organized into extravaganzas—into groups of puzzles, with each group leading u...

Permalink & Comments

Books Report: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen, The Potato Chip Puzzles The Potato Chip Puzzles is a puzzlehunt novel. You might want to read The Puzzling World of Winston Breen first, since The Potato Chip Puzzles is its sequel. Both of these books have some crime mixed...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Nerds 2.01 Back in 1998, some PBS folks made a TV documentary about the internet, "Nerds 2.01". TV isn't a great medium for this stuff—humming computers don't make great television. So there's footage of....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Master Switch This book's title is a play on words: "The Master Switch" is a switch you can use to turn everything off. A telephone "switch" is a device at the center of a phone network that directs calls as in "s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Fatal System Error It's a book about the era of botnets. It doesn't go into the technical stuff, but comes at the story from the point of view of law-enforcement folks investigating things the old-fashioned way: talkin...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Kingpin This book was a tough read, but not for the usual reasons. It's a biography of l33t Hax0r Max Vision. It's good, it makes sense, the facts hold together (better than you can hope for in most technica...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Underground I've read a few books about l33t hax0rz; so far, Underground is my favorite. It has short bios of young hackers in the 90s. There were a bunch of networks; there was an Ur-internet rising up above t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tabletop: Analog Game Design It's a collection of papers by a few authors about tabletop games: design, history, culture, place in society, all that. I got it for free here: Tabletop: Analog Game Design. Some of my co-workers a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Little Bets If you run a business that's supposed to be innovative, you must take risks. To succeed long-term, you must take many small risks; recognize which gambles work out and which don't; and then push furt...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Knuth: Selected Papers on Fun and Games Don Knuth is, of course, one of our greatest scholars of Computer Science. If someone asks you, "What's an efficient way to to sort ______ for quick retrieval?" you are always safe bluffing the answe...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Lifecycle of Software Objects What if the tamagotchi were smarter? Not people-smart, but somewhere between people-smart and dog-smart? This sci-fi novella makes some guesses and tells a story. It's pretty plausible, and got me th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Bird Cloud It's by Annie Proulx, so the writing's pretty good. It's about how she had a house build out in some windswept spot in Wyoming. Or at least, that's what it was about when I stopped reading it. The wr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Surface Detail (Yes, I'm publishing another blog post today. Sorry about the flurry. I'm testing stuff. This blog post should look pretty ordinary, but there's a rel="author" tag hiding in the source code.) It's a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! It's a quick, light biograpy of Marshall McLuhan. Before I read this book, all I knew about Marshall McLuhan was "The Medium is the Message" and he was some pundit who cheerleaded ("cheerled"?) us in...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The 48 Laws of Power This book tries to tell you how to get ahead by lying to people. It keeps telling you how powerful you'll be if only you follow its advice; it tells you that people who try to be "nice" are doomed to...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax This book is the first in a series of spy thrillers. And you're thinking, "But Larry, you never like thrillers. Why did you read this book?" One of my relatives mentioned these books at some family ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Managing Humans It's kind of a book about people-management by "rands," a blogger who's also an engineering manager. I suspect that people-managers who aren't used to dealing with nerds might get creeped out by thi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Wireless It's a book of short fiction by Charlie Stross. Oh man, if I wasn't bored by C'thulhu stories, then there's a story in here I would have liked and I might have liked the Laundry story... Or if I lik...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Party If you're an American and you read this primer on China's Leadership Transition, you might be surprised that it says that party leadership and army leadership are more important than government leade...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Planets Wow, DASH was a lot of fun. I'm so glad I volunteered; I met some cool people. I learned that I've been doing this geocaching thing all wrong (which I kinda suspected already). But I'm too tired to w...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Flashman It's the story of empire. It's the story of a conquering force in Afghanistan realizing that they weren't as conquering as they thought. It's the story of the Massacre of Elphinstone's army told from...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Silicon Eye You think that you understand something, but then you figure out that you don't understand it after all. You've built up this model in your head, then you see something that doesn't fit the model. To...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Collapse of Complex Societies This book looks at the collapse of the Roman empire, the Mayan civilization, and those Chaco folks you heard about from the X-Files. Why do civilizations collapse? There's a bunch of theories runni...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Art of Game Design The Art of Game Design is pretty awesome. This book is about design. In theory, it's about game design. But if you're designing something for humans, this book contains plenty of wisdom. I think thi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Colossal Book of Wordplay It's a book by Martin Gardner (the Mathematical Games guy), edited by Ken Jennings (the Jeopardy! guy). So you might expect it to be pretty amazing. But it's a book of little word puzzles of the so...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Waltzing with Bears This book's subtitle is "Managing Risk on Software Projects" and it's written by the Peopleware guys. OK, nobody's reading this blog post anymore; the non-computer folks have clicked away to find som...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Aramis, or the Love of Technology This book was pretty good but it was painful to read. It was painful because it was good... and it describes an engineering project that flopped and stopped: Aramis. It was going to be a railed pub...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web My job title is "Technical Writer" but I don't write much. I work with engineers, helping them to explain their work. Most engineers can write just fine. I bolt organization onto their stuff. Some e...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Independent Cycle Touring My bicycle's a coatrack; why did I read a book about planning and riding multi-day bicycle trips? Well, I wouldn't have heard of Independent Cycle Touring except that I know the author; but I'm glad...

Permalink & Comments

Comic Report: Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards It's a story of paleontologists racing through the wild west to dig up bones and racing to scientific organizations to present dinosaur theories. This was a fun comic book, and some of the stuff in ...

Permalink & Comments

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Meridian High School in Idaho Tonight I played in a puzzle event. The puzzles were pretty cool! They were designed by Mike Selinker, Thomas Snyder, Tyler Hinman... and maybe others? Eric Harshbarger designed the prizes; he's a ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Three Cups of Tea Yeah, it's that book that everybody else already read, the one about the do-gooder who builds schools in Pakistan (and, later, Afghanistan). This book started out hard to read—the writer think...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Design of Design It's Groundhog Day, which the movies tell us is a day in which we have to worry about the same thing repeating over again. So maybe today's a good day to report on a book whose title repeats, The De...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Seaworthy What does "seaworthy" mean? It means something that can survive being out on the sea. But "worthy" is a word with interesting connotation. It doesn't just hint at toughness, but also at a sort of rig...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Hacienda I'm back on my feet after being down sick a couple of days. The internet is a wonderful thing. It delivers a substantial fraction of all human knowledge when you want it. It also delivers intellectua...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Zero History It's another William Gibson novel. This one seemed merely good, not transcendentally wonderful like Spook Country. But good is still pretty darned good. It explores the relationship between the mi...

Permalink & Comments

Site Update: Better Blog "Tag" Page You might remember a while back I made a "tag cloud" for this blog; now it's bigger. Before, it didn't show the tags labels tags thingies from the posts I imported from blogger.com. Now, it does. I...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Making of the Atomic Bomb I've read plenty of books about the development of the atomic bomb, but concentrating mostly on Los Alamos. It's a tale kind of like Camelot for nuclear physicists—for a time, the world's best...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Trick or Treatment It's a book about alternative medicine. Going in, I had some idea of what I wanted to learn. I figured that some alternative medicines are probably good for curing some things... but probably not g...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Priceless Yesterday, I dodged Black Friday, but didn't quite make it through Buy Nothing Day. I bought a streetcar ride and then a train ride down the peninsula. How much were those worth? I don't know. I k...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Marketing in the Age of Google (Disclosure and/or disclaimer: I don't speak for my employer. If you know who my employer is, you might guess I have all kinds of confidential insider Search Engine Optimization secrets, but I don't....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Gimme Something Better This book was interesting, a lot more interesting than I expected. After all, I'm not a punk. I didn't grow up a punk. So why would I read—brace yourself—an oral history of the SF bay ar...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tilings and Patterns I know what you're thinking: Oh no, Larry tried to read another math book. No doubt this means the blog's"unfinished" tag will soon be attached to another book report. But I made it to the end of t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startups I read an early draft of An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startups months ago, but didn't blog about it then because it wasn't published yet. And then, when it was published, I forgot that I had...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Kraken I guess this book's genre is horror. Or urban fantasy. In modern-day London, some normal folks are drawn into conflicts between wizards, armageddons, and objects of worship. So there's a secret Lo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Apprenticeship Patterns For some reason, I thought this would be a book of mentoring patterns, but that's not what's going on here. This is a book for a computer programmer who wants to learn more about the craft. If you'r...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Coders at Work I used to post an annual list of top 10 fave reads of the year. Nowadays, I post a "book report" for every book I read. It takes less time than writing up the top 10. It took too long to pick the ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Nmap Network Scanning I just got back from a 9-day tour of various western USA places as the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Kodachrome, and Zion National Park. Along the way, I busted my travel laptop, so I haven't been upda...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Sorcerer's House It's a fantasy novel in which our characters start out in the normal world and then discover a magical gateway to a world beyond our own where blah blah blah. It sounds like the plot of the worst te...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: This is not a Game It's a thriller/mystery, so you wouldn't expect me to like it. But the main characters are Game Control for some big Alternate Reality Games a la I Like Bees. So along the way, there are diverting m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Whole Earth Discipline It's been a glum time at work lately. A co-worker was sick for a long time. Last week, he passed away. In our department, we could count on him to cheer people up when things went wrong. So now we m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Finite Fields for Computer Scientists and Engineers I'm not at Blackhat, nor will I be any time soon. Crypto is hard. I didn't finish this math book, Finite Fields for Computer Scientists and Engineers. My math is pretty shaky. Usually, when I'm t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Transition It's a novel by Iain M. Banks but it's not set in the Culture universe. It's set in a multiverse. I wasn't into it. I have a tough time with multiverse novels. So there's an infinite number of un...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Battery and the Boiler You think you've seen cultural imperialism? The Battery and the Boiler shows you what cultural imperialism looked like in 1880s England. I read this book because it's an adventure story about the l...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Offshore It's a novel; it's litrachaw. I tend to approach a book of litrachaw as a puzzle: spot the theme, spot the metaphor, that kind of thing. I was feeling all clever for having figured out this novel, ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Two Bits Two Bits is a book about the free software movement, explained in terms that an academic can understand. The author tries to steer around debates about what exactly constitutes an example of Haberma...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Masterminds of Programming I just read a blog post, The Myth of the Superior Programming Language. In it, he points out that people who insist on using some wack-ass different programming language are kind of annoying. I agr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Inherent Vice I'm too blissed out from playing Shinteki to write a new blog post. Fortunately, I have a backlog of book reports. Thus: Inherent Vice It's a mystery set in Los Angeles, but it's 60s Los Angeles. T...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development This book is about software development process. I guess it's aimed at project leads, project managers, and managers. But it's organized into Design Patterns, a form loved by many computer programm...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Pervasive Games (Theory and Design) Several months ago, I ran into a little post from a blog called "Pervasive Games". The blog post was interesting, so I wrote a little blog post about that, as one does. But I didn't really notice th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: China Underground I hoped that this book was about subversives and criminals in China: reporters, human rights lawyers, whistleblowers... I read news about China's internet censorship measures; I can follow the inter...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Planning Extreme Programming For me, this was a "Casablanca" book. By that, I mean it reminded me of my experience watching the movie "Casablaca." I kept thinking Big deal, I've seen all this before. But of course, that's beca...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Sane Asylum This book is about Delancey Street, mostly about the way it operated as of 1974-ish, based on a visit by an East Bay reporter. I grew up with a big Delancey Street building in my neighborhood, but fr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: When You were a Tadpole and I was a Fish What's that you say? The Gathering for Gardner was this last weekend? Then I'm a few days late to be topical with a book report on When You were a Tadpole and I was a Fish. But books are a slow me...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tetraktys I read this novel because it was recommended via a computer security discussion group at work. That doesn't sound like a good way to make decisions, does it? Oh, Amazon.com recommendations, why do I ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Wiring up the Big Brother Machine Google stopped censoring in China; as a result, more Google search results are censored. The Chinese people can find less stuff now. Why? Because of the "Great Firewall". The Chinese government c...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Not Becoming My Mother Ruth Reichl's mother was kind of depressed, kind of goofy. Reichl's written some autobiographies with scary parts. The scary parts were dinner parties. Yes, really. When her mother hosted dinner ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Strengths Finder 2.0 Strengths Finder 2.0 is an online personality test disguised as a book. The test administrators charge you to take their test. To make the idea of spending $25 to take a personality test palatable,...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Down at the Docks Back in 1999, I traveled in New England. I told intrepid traveler Tom Manshreck that I was going to visit New Bedford. He said ""Yeah, man--New Bedford used to be a good place to go to--to get shot...

Permalink & Comments

Life of Pi: Another Perspective You might have noticed that I changed my blogging software recently. Yes, I do go on about it. Sorry. As part of this, I shut down blogger.com's access to my web site's file system. Otherwise, it...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Between Silk and Cyanide It's the autobiography of the codemaster of the SOE an English spy organization during WWII. Wait! Dont' run away! It's not just math and cryptography and war. There's good stuff in here, too. Th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Brain Storm This novel is by Richard Dooling, the same guy who wrote Bet Your Life, one of my favorite books of 2003. This book was pretty good, too. It's a legal thriller—hey, come back! It's a legal th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hackers It's another Steven Levy book about the history of technology. As with other Levy books, I keep spotting things that I know are wrong, so it makes me not trust Levy to tell me things I don't know. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Rapid Development Today at work, we talked about ripping of^W^W repurposing some material from that McConnell book on software engineering, Code Complete. So maybe today is a good day to post a book report on another...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Silent Thunder I saw two cousins today, which is good. As of this morning, I didn't hope to see any. But that's not what this blog post is about. This, as you might guess, is a gratuitous blog post to see if I g...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Pragmatic Programmer This book, The Pragmatic Programmer is difficult to find by searching, since there's also a series of books by that name. So maybe I'll give the full title here: The Pragmatic Programmer / ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Internet in China (Zixue Tai) It's going to sound like I'm slamming this book, like it's bad. It's not bad. I just chose the wrong book, is all. The thing is: this is an academic work. [It might also sound like I'm obscurely refe...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Influencer Good grief, it's another pop psychology book. I've been reading a lot of these recently, it seems. I swear, if I have to sit through another discussion of children who can/cannot delay their consump...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How to Win Friends and Influence People This is a popular book about how to be well-liked. The good news is that there's some good advice in here. E.g., try to see things from the other person's point of view. The bad news is that some o...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere It's a collection of short stories. Easy-to-read stories about folks going through tough times in their lives. The protagonists tend to be thoughtful persons of color surrounded by not-so-thoughtfu...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Snowball It's a biography of Warren Buffet. It's pretty long. But there are some good stories in here, the writing is good, and it smells well-researched. It edges around some touchy topics, but it's prett...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Oil! This is the book that the movie "There Will Be Blood" was based on. But that's not how I heard of this book. I saw Word for Word perform the first chapter. This group acts out short stories and st...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada Good writing can help your work's longevity. But it doesn't fix everything. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada is a well-written book. It's from 1872. Charles King was a good writer. But... it ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Design for Community It's Derek Powazek's 2002 book about making web sites that work well for communities. There were examples of things that worked well, things that didn't. A lot of this material is stuff you get to ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Berkeley Pit Cousin Eric was in town this weekend. There was some sight-seeing. One place of interest was Berkeley. My parents pointed out some places of interest for the Free Speech Movement: here was the pla...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Mythical Man-Month (a Study Guide) If this book report seems a little heavy on the questions? It's because it's the first draft of a study guide? For people reading the book? Oh man it's way too long? But hey give me a break, it's...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Mythical Man-Month (leftover cheap joke) Last week, I posted a rough draft of a study guide for The Mythical Man-Month. I left a cheap joke out of that study guide. That study guide was serious business and had no room for cheap jokes. S...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Great Gamble It's a book about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, telling it from the Soviet point of view, based on interviews with Soviet soldiers. It's like a horror movie where you want to yell at the chara...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Broken Angels I got kind of tired of space marines. Maybe I played too much Quake, back in the day. Broken Angels is a book about space marines. Sort of. Close enough. I didn't really get into it, but I'm not...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Killing Neighbors I used to work for a lady named Lee Ann Fujii. She was pretty cool, so when I heard that she wrote a book, I figured I'd read it to see what she's been up to. She's now a foreign policy wonk special...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The City & The City It is a new book by China Miéville. It has a creepy premise, and is very paranoid. There are two cities which occupy the same geographic space. How do they coexist? Citizens of each city ha...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Best of 2600 (a Hacker Odyssey) I used to read a little newsletter called 2600. It billed itself as The Hacker Quarterly, which makes it sound like it was full of sploits for breaking in to computer systems. But it wasn't really ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Amazonia Memoirs by some guy who was employee #55 at Amazon.com. He was an in-house editor. Amazon wanted to have some folks on staff who could write up book reviews. This was before they let any bozo with...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Remix It's a book by Lawrence Lessig from 2008, and therefore it's about copyright law. (Nowadays he does election finance reform. Back then he was all about the copyrights.) It's about mashups. It's ai...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Spin Control This book is a novel. This book is about human evolution. No, wait, this book is about the evolution of society. No, wait, this book is about changes in society post-singularity. No, wait, this boo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Slack Today I was that guy on the bus who wears too much scent. Not my fault! An automatic air freshener squirted me. Now I know why "fresh" can mean "offensive". I am very fresh right now, in that sens...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Notes from a Broad I bought this book because its author is "Fran Lebowitz". This is not the same Fran Lebowitz who wrote the excellent Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. Rather, this is the "Fran Lebowitz" who us...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Lewis Carroll in Numberland This book is about Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson as a mathematician. There were errors in the parts that I understood. So I didn't trust the other parts to help me to understand new stuff. Maybe I...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Knowledge Sharing in Software Development I was in meetings most of this last week at work. Meanwhile, one of my co-workers was learning a new style of programming--and thus was trying to learn about four big new things at once. She sent m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: I Wish there was Something that I Could Quit It's a novel by Aaron Cometbus! I hadn't heard it had been published until I entered a bunch of book ratings into Amazon.com. Amazon.com's recommendation engine recommended the book. Three cheers ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Alphabet Juice This book is a sort of lexicon, except that instead of definitions there are riffs. These are some of the author's favorite words, or at least words that he wanted to write about. He likes to pron...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Stiff (The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) There's some interesting stuff in this book about scientific, medical, and engineering-testing uses of human cadavers. There's some interesting stuff, but there's some "humorous" reportage to slog t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Security Engineering This book is humongous! It's a survey of security computer engineering. It doesn't go into depth on any one topic, but it's got plenty of breadth. In areas where I already knew something, this boo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Ecology of Fear Angelenos worry about disaster a lot. At least that's the premise of Ecology of Fear. Los Angleles is prone to disaster, both in real life, in the movies, in books,... Maybe it's true. And yet. H...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Big Oyster It's kind of a history of the oyster. It's kind of a history of shellfishing in New York City harbor. Once there were oysters. Then they were overfished. Then they were cultivated. Then water poll...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Grayson I read this book because it was an Amazon recommendation, albeit a tepid one. Wow, what a great book! Remember Lynne Cox, the lady who swam to Antarctica? She wrote this book about a long swim off...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Fire Time Fire Time is a science fiction novel from the early 70s. It brings you back to an earlier kind of science fiction. The author Poul Anderson drew out a solar system based on a trinary star. Then he...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Feast for Crows I was a tourist in downtown Houston. I'd brought a couple of books with me--I finished those and left them behind. So now I had room in my bag for a new book. And I'd need a new book or else I'd h...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: An Evil Guest Amongst books set in the Lovecraftian "Mythos" universe, this is the best I've read so far. That's kind of a backhanded compliment. I dislike H.P. Lovecraft's Mythos books. I suppose it's guilt by ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Elephant Memories This book is subtitled "thirteen years in the life of an elephant family". It's by Cynthia Moss, who watched the elephants at what became Amboseli National Park north of Mt Kilimanjaro. The book re...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Crossroads of Time In this parallel-worlds scifi adventure, our hero meets some people who are largely, but not 100% like him; he figures they will all get along OK, and they do. He goes to strange places similar to o...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Box It's a book about cargo boxes. You know, intermodal freight containers. That was enough to get me to read the book. There's interesting stuff in here for economists, policy wonks, labor history fo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Un Lun Dun Before I launch into a complain-y whine about a book, I want to remind myself that there are good things in life. Yesterday was a good day. (I didn't even have to use my A.K.) There were good comic...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Pattern Recognition I'd heard that William Gibson had written Pattern Recognition, this book that wasn't science fiction. So I didn't read it. That was years ago. More recently, I read Spook Country that wasn't exactl...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Myth-Nomers and Im-Pervections I read this book years ago, but I read it again more recently. It was on sale as a tiny paperback. Sometimes it's useful to have a pocket book that, you know, fits in your pocket. That way you can...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Microsoft Rebooted This book is about changing a company's culture. It's about Microsoft. It's about Gates and Ballmer shifting the company's culture as they had to comply with the various legal judgments against the...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR This book, written by PR consultants tells you why your business is spending too much money on advertising and should spend money on PR instead. Advertising lacks credibility. E.g., when I see an o...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Eyre Affair This book is set in a parallel universe. In this universe, mad science reigns. People care about literature! There are vampires! It's all different from our universe! And yet somehow similar! Y...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Elephant Tramp George "Slim" Lewis was an animal trainer in the depression-era USA. He rode the rails from circus to circus, handling elephants. He specialized in unruly elephants. Thus, this book has a "thrille...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Doomfarers of Coramonde This book has everything: wizardry, parallel worlds, lizard men, a dragon, ogres, magical swords, a flying saucer, romance, court intrigue, an armored personnel carrier, death scenes, a dude who was ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Saturn's Children This sci-fi book, dedicated to Heinlein, features an android female sexbot who-- Hey, wait, come back! You're thinking that the book is going to be some awful misogynistic piece of crap. But it's n...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Mote in God's Eye Happy National Poetry Month! To celebrate, this blog post contains no poetry. You're welcome. The Mote in God's Eye is a science fiction classic that I never got around to reading. Except that I ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You I read this book because it's by Dorothy Bryant who wrote the excellent The Confessions of Madame Psyche. I read it even though my mom read it and didn't care for it much. I didn't care for it much...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Getting to YES This book is about negotiating agreements. You want mushroom pizza, they want bell pepper pizza, how do you figure out what to do? You look for middle ground, of course, and this book talks some ab...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Elements of Programming Style Non-programmers might not realize it, but some computer program source code is even harder to read than the rest. Some of this code is so messy that an experienced programmer looks at it and says "I...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison I've "used" Oracle applications. When I say "used", I mean "tried and gave up". Oracle calendar was slow, buggy, and thought it was a good idea to store my password, unencrypted, in a publically vi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Designing Web Usability This book is about web usability. It's kinda old, from the year 2000. Reading it with this historical hindsight was somewhat discouraging. Apparently, webmasters have made the same mistakes for sev...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Code I picked up this book because I'd heard it talked about codes and also about digital circuit design, two topics dear to my heart. I started on it and it seemed pretty readable. But it stayed with p...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Best American Essays 2006 It's a collection of essays, not in any particular field. Apparently essayists, when they aren't writing about something in particular--uhm, apparently, they tend to write about themselves. Or else ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Applied Cryptography This is an old textbook about applying cryptography; that is, it's about computer security. It's the textbook by Bruce Schneier, the book he later said wasn't so important--you can get this stuff ri...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Predictably Irrational A series of musings about how people really behave. Or, rather, how they misbehave. Describes experiments about placebos, cheating, and other circumstances in which people lie to themselves and to o...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: On a Roll This is a book about business, yet it's a good book. It's Howard Jonas' autobiography. He starts out operating a hot-dog pushcart. He moves on to distributing those tourism brochures you see in ho...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Lord of Castle Black Some might say it's been too hectic of a week for me to post a book report, but prepare to be amazed at my review of The Lord of Castle Black: Swashbuckling swords and sorcery.Labels: book...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Letting Go of the Words I'm a professional technical writer and I recommend this book about writing: Letting Go of the Words. I theoretically train engineers so that they can write clearly. This book would help those peopl...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hackers and Painters It's a bunch of essays by Paul Graham about software development and other kinds of development. Some of these essays are interesting, some are irritating. They're interesting because Paul has a wel...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Group Theory in the Bedroom It's a collection of essays by Brian Hayes--the guy whose magazine article got me into Markov Chain-generated English drivel. I was able to follow most of these essays, which was darned nice since I'...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Gaudy Century I'm taking the day off work today. It's the day after a Bay Area Night Game (a rather-fun instance thereof). It was one of those Bay Area Night Games that actually happens at night, and thus I was ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest Just hours left until BANG XX. Can I claim that this is an appropriate time for a book report for a book that has 20 in its title? It's my blog; I can claim anything. The First $20 Million is Alway...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire I guess I made through ~100 pages of palace intrigue before I realized I don't especially want to read through that much palace intrigue. Yeah, that's right, I'm yet another person who made it partw...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Altered Carbon A fun piece of cyberpunky science fiction. Where by "fun... cyberpunky", I of course mean cynical and bleak. Personalities can be placed into new bodies. Criminals are punished by going into force...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Non-Designer's Design Book An introduction to layout design. There are general principles; there was also more detailed advice on designing brochures, business cards, and other stuff I don't care about. But the general princ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Growing a Business This is a book about running small businesses. The title says "growing", but it might as well have said "evolving". Hawken is thoughtful and wise, reminding the reader not to take on too many probl...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Exploiting Online Games This book is about hacking online games. Unfortunately, they started out talking about plenty of stuff which I already had read about. Cheating happens. E.g., people in shoot-em-up games use video...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: American Shaolin Yestere'en, I watched the Chinese New Year's parade. I'm not into parades, but I visit a fair number of parades. Why show up an event I'm not into? A non-trivial fraction of my friends are photograp...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Snoop Yesterday, my office-mate told a story about the struggle with stuff. Her house had a lot of clutter. She was sick of it. So she cleared stuff up. She got stuff organized. She gave stuff away. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Refactoring HTML This book is about cleaning up HTML, the markup language used to write web pages. It's a good book. I'm going to kvetch a lot about parts, but... kvetching comes easy. Anyhow. You know how liberal...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Psychology of Computer Programming How to get programmers to get along together. Attempts to use psychology to design easier-to-use computer language features. Discussion of which is better for your organization's culture: batch proc...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Peopleware I work for a large company. Thus, there are "leadership seminars" with "team-building exercises." I attended one of those. I was confessing this to some friends on Saturday, and one of them knew e...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Forms of Water It's a novel by Andrea Barrett, but it's not about scientists or even lab assistants. Who knew that Barrett wrote about anyone other than scientists and lab assistants? This novel is about people. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Engineering the City This book, Engineering the City showed up as an Amazon.com-recommended book, probably because I liked Brian Hayes' book Infrastructure so much. I kinda wish I'd paid more attention to the details of...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Crypto This last weekend, I pitched in for a playtest of MSPH12 "Jeopardy!". These puzzle-solving endeavors have wonderful moments. Solving puzzles in a team environment--it's very satisfying when my skil...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Crossing the Chasm This book is about marketing; about marketing for products which are at a certain stage: they have enthusiastic "early adopters", but no big uptake. This stage sounds familiar to me based on my expe...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Working Effectively with Legacy Code This book is a classic amongst computer programmers. Well, it's a four-year old classic. It captures the, uhm, zeitg^W movement towards unit testing and refactoring. It shares a problem with other...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Spin State I liked Spin State, a science fiction novel by Chris Moriarty. It's science fiction but with a story in which the characters make mistakes. That's a good thing. I actually found myself thinking li...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Ipcress File I came up with an idea for a board-game like computer game. The board was going to be a map of the city. And there were these bits of secret info to move across the city. You control some agents t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: He, She, and It During BANG 18, I found out that plenty of local goyim puzzlists don't know what a "golem" is. A puzzle required players to recognize monsters by looking at pictures. I thought that was pretty tough...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Googleを支える技術 I'm a technical writer. Technical writers write tersely. This promotes quick comprehension. If your writing is translated, there is another benefit. The translator does not need to work so hard. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Going Postal Skott raises an excellent point: The diskworld novels also have golems. E.g., I read Going Postal. I read this Diskworld novel because it's where the puzzler team "The Smoking GNU" got their name. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: DEC is Dead, Long Live DEC This is a book about DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation, a start up that grew big. The author argues that some of the things that made it a great start-up, a great place to work... these things also...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Craftsman In a passing reference to this book, The Craftsman, I got the impression that it was a book that studied how people think when they're working. But it isn't that at all. I wish instead people had p...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Code Complete Computers are hard. This afternoon, I was trying to figure out why some people couldn't view my web site. It sounded like a DNS problem; one guy reported it was affecting him on Comcast in Boston. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Sources of Power This book came out ten years ago. It discusses how people make decisions. Not necessarily how people ought to make decisions--but how they do. It does have some advice on how people can make bette...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Pirate Freedom If you travel through time, are you free? Or are you hemmed in by predestination? (Postdestination? What do you call destiny when time travel is involved?) That's a complicated question, and fort...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Matter It's a novel of The Culture. If you didn't like other novels of The Culture, you probably won't like this one. If you like other novels of The Culture, you probably will like this one. If you have...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Man Who Loved China Back in 2002, I went to the British Museum where an old illustration maybe showed a punch-card controlled loom from ancient China--long before such were invented in the West. Bookish fellow that I a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Information Development Last week, I hung out with a lot of technical writers. It was fun. They were from around the world, and they came with some interesting points of view. And with some interesting foreign microbes. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Code Reading I am getting ready for a The Game, and am thus hyper-aware of white cargo vans. This is tricky; while team-mate Wesley is in town, he's staying close to Delancey Street. As in Delancey Street Mover...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Spook Country This novel is a lot of fun. There is GIS. There is spycraft. There are references to volapuk, to... I guess William Gibson is showing us that he doesn't need to go quite so far into the future in...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Punching In I guess I can't think of anything to say about how BANG 19 is going that wouldn't give away seekrit stuff. So here's a book report for Punching In. To research this book, the author worked a few we...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How to Rig an Election This morning, I'm munching my breakfast, reading Slashdot's feed and I see a name I recognize. The strange part: the name is that of a politico, not a computer programmer. The Slashdot post is point...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Ghost Train to the Eastern Star It's a recent railway travelogue by Paul Theroux. It was difficult to read in places, perhaps because it is so recent. His trip was in 2005-2006-ish. He sees stirrings of trouble around Ossetia--s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Gaming the Vote I know what I can say about BANG 19 preparations. It's necessarily vague, in the name of seekricy, but it's heartfelt. Thank you you past Game Control folks who have shared advice, "war stories", a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Deliver the Vote Deliver the Vote is a history of crooked elections in the U.S. of A. It doesn't try to describe all crooked elections. Just some good stories, just enough to fill up a few hundred pages. George Wa...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Daemon (If you posted a guess about the secret message in the jack-o-lanterns photo, then you were right! Especially considering that was an unplaytested "I have no idea if this is possible" puzzle, I am su...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Far Country Scouting game locations for a puzzle hunt, e.g. BANG 19, is time-consuming but fun. It's a good excuse to go out on a tour of not-in-front-of-your-computer. Plus, since you're trying to find places...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Eleanor Rigby I have so many of these book reports written up. I should post them more often. I don't post them because lately I'm working long hours. (Which sounds impressive until you find out the reason I'm w...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cosmonaut Keep There's a parallel story; humanity's learning the secret of a light-speed interstellar starship drive; humanity's rediscovery of same, hundreds of years later. There is politics, humor, ... I dunno,...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: You Can't Win Jury duty continues. Jury selection continues. Maybe this is an appropriate time to post this book report which I typed up a while ago... You Can't Win is the autobiography of Jack Black. Here, b...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: TCP/IP Illustrated Network programming today... gee, I just call into some standard library, say, "I want the webpage at http://slashdot.org/" and it's there. It's almost that easy. You kids today, you don't know how...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: My Country Versus Me A scientist suspected of mailing out Anthrax commits suicide. Which brought up a newslet, a reminder of a recent lawsuit: Hatfill, another scientist sued the FBI after they leaked footage to the med...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Essays in Computing Science (Hoare) It's a collection of essays on Computer Science by Tony Hoare, dating from the 1960s through the 1980s. This isn't what you'd expect to find on my reading list, but the essay on Communicating Sequen...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Atrocity Archives British Intelligence vs Secrets Man was Not Meant to Know. This was a fun read. Not Charles Stross' best work--so if you don't like his other stuff, I'd skip this one. But I liked his other stuff ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Ambient Findability This was not the right book for me. Rather, I was not the right person to read this book. Ambient Findability is a high-level overview, a survey of the surge of information that's coming at us, and...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Air We Breathe This was a fun novel. As with other Andrea Barrett novels, the heroes are scientists, so I'm inclined to be sympathetic. This novel is narrated in the first person plural, by a community of people....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Singularity Sky My cousin goes to school in Washington D.C. He was talking with some Washington D.C. bloggers. Except that they don't call themselves bloggers. Why not? Because they're in Washington D.C. and "blog...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Scratch Beginnings Adam Shepard wanted to see if he could start out in a strange city with just $25 and a bagful of clothes and become a "member of society": have an operational car, a furnished apartment, have $2500, ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Old Man's War In this science-fiction novel, it's the far future and yet recognizably-human (albeit heavily-augmented) humans are somehow still relevant? Humans are better at fighting than human-controlled robots...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Noodling for Flatheads I've been watching teams' Ghost Patrol application videos. They've been fun, with a lot of variety. What does this tell us? Fun: This demonstrates that Gamers are silly Variety: This demonstrates ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Designing Effective Instruction Notes about another Instructional Design book. Please pardon the dry nature of this book report. Again, emphasis on measuring learning. Consider making up the final exam questions before you write...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Castaway Pirates Last night, I played Modern Art with some folks. It was a high-stakes game. One of us (not me) had revealed that he was one of the top five players of Caylus (a geeky German boardgame) on Brettspie...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Thirteen Moons The Trail of Tears was a bad thing, but Thirteen Moons was a good novel.Labels: book, middle states...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Invisible Cities I am back from Los Angeles. I have seen more art museums recently than... than is perhaps healthy. The stench of artsy-fartsiness clings to me still. I'm digging out from underneath a backlog of e...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Developing Technical Training Please pardon this book report: these are my notes from the book, not the usual wry and insightful commentary. "Instructional design", as near as I can tell, is a movement to apply some rigor to les...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: China: Fragile Superpower This book is about China. This book makes me want to hide my eyes and say "I hope you're wrong." It paints a discouraging picture. The Chinese government fears overthrow by popular uprising. The g...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Wireless Nation I'm getting some writing done this weekend, finally putting together notes from the Midnight Madness: Back to Basics game. And I'm listening to some music by Dengue Fever. They perform in the style...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Refactoring Here I am tending to my blog on the bus. I wasn't really planning on it. I was just checking my email. I get email, among other occasions, when someone or something posts a comment to this blog. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Middle Kingdom I didn't plan to spend today filling out an alternative minimum tax form for my friends at the IRS, but they insisted. I thought maybe I'd write something. But I didn't write anything. Except numb...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Keeping Found Things Found This book's title is misleading: it make sense. This book's preface is misleading: it makes sense, too. It took a while before I realized that the book was noodling all over the place but not actual...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: iWoz It is Steve Wozniak's autobiography, as told to Gina Smith. It's a fun read. Keep your wits about you as you read--they didn't fact-check all of this material. So when Wozniak tells you what was g...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Foundations of Security This is a introduction to computer security for programmers. It's subtitled, "What every programmer needs to know." By reading this book I learned... I learned that I'd already learned the foundatio...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Defensive Design for the Web It's sad news that Rory Root, owner of Berkeley's Comic Relief comic book store, died today. But no-one reads this blog for news. You're here for book reports. Here is a book report for Defensive ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: War and Peace Russian novels are long. Back in high school, my English class was supposed to read Crime and Punishment. Our teacher asked for a show of hands: how many of us had finished reading the book. Mine ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: War and Peace Russian novels are long. Back in high school, my English class was supposed to read Crime and Punishment. Our teacher asked for a show of hands: how many of us had finished reading the book. Mine ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Don't Make Me Think The SF Minigame was awesome. But I can't say much about that now, since other folks will still get a chance to play in that game. So... a book review about Don't Make me Think This is a book about ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Social Life of Information It was six months when I started looking for work and it was just this last week that I got my first phone screen. There aren't many technical writing jobs in San Francisco, thus phone screens are ra...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Seabiscuit This was a fun read about horseracing.Labels: book, entertainment industry, interspecies diplomacy...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: On Food and Cooking Here is the recipe I follow for tamales: 1. remove two tamales from package. 2. place in pot with steamer rack 3. place on high heat 4. get distracted by computer stuff, lose track of time 4. when ap...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Infrastructure Wow, Infrastructure is a great book. You should acquire it and read it. (Here, by "read" I mean "look at the photos". But you can read it, too, if you like.) It is photographs of "infrastructure"...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: India (From Midnight to Millenium) Summary: India is a melting pot of cultures, except that it hasn't melted. India is a diverse mix of cultures. Groups get mad and argue. It would be better if they just got along. For the most p...

Permalink & Comments

Milestone: 11 Million Hits (plus gratuitous Taft domain pestering) Wow, it's the site's eleven-millionth hit. 195.225.178.21 - - [20/Feb/2008:06:20:03 -0400] "GET /anecdotal/hunt/15/darcy_ian.html HTTP/1.1" 200 853 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Uncommon Carriers I'd read most of these John McPhee essays already, and it was nice to read them again. This collection includes the essay about riding in the hazmat truck. That essay is darned good. Look, not all...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Nickel and Dimed I've been having a good time this weekend, hanging out at social gatherings around various in-town out-of-towners. I guess I should report on a happy book, but instead the next book in line is Nicke...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Making Globalization Work This book is worth reading. That's unfortunate; it has about 30 pages of interesting material scattered amongst 300 pages of verbiage. It's a book about Globalization--mostly about opening up marke...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Better You think I read this book because of my recent hospital visit, but I swear it was already on my to-do list. And it's not just about medicine. Sort of. This book, by Atul Gawande, is sort of about...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 30-33 (If you're reading these posts in reverse chronological order, be aware that this Book Report is the last one of a series. This book report is for Beautiful Code, a book of essays. Rather than try ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 26-29 Labor-Saving Architecture / William R. Otte and Douglas C. Schmidt This is a fun essay, talking about issues that arise if you have a distributed network of computers and you want all of those comput...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Mathematical Cranks My lip-bump had a name: pyogenic granuloma. You can Google that if you enjoy gross photos. Speaking of annoyances, what about those mathematical cranks, eh? Back in 2006, I reported that R.S.J. Re...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Inmates are Running the Asylum I didn't finish reading this book. It's about software usability. Well, the first few dozen pages were about the importance of software usability, with precious little advice on how to achieve same...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code: Chs 9-12 (I started learning Erlang a couple of weeks ago. Then I stopped. I'd started learning how to use the concurrency features. So I tried a simple program: it ran a "while true" loop in two threads--...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 5-8 Correct, Beautiful, Fast (in That Order) / Elliotte Rusty Harold Emerging from the previous essay, I saw that this essay was going to be about verifying correctness of XML. My yawning muscles tensed...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 22-25 (Visiting the doctor is good for you. Today, I visited a cardiologist to make sure that my recent hospital visit was Really No Big Deal. Thus, I missed the last bus to work and worked from home tod...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 2-4 (Another episode of Iron Puzzler is coming soon. And now, on to our partial book report, Beautiful Code, chapters 2-4...) Subversion's Delta Editor / Karl Fogel This essay was nice. It talks about...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 17-21 Another Level of Indirection / Diomidis Spinellis I'm not exactly sure what I was supposed to get out of this essay. "Function pointers can be useful."? OK, the point of these essays was not to in...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code Ch 1 Beautiful Code is a book about programming well. There are 33 chapters. In each chapter, one or two big-name programmers write about "the most beautiful piece of code they knew." As you'd expect w...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Anathem Yesterday, I watched a co-worker give a "practice" thesis defense. My workplace has plenty of grad students who are just, uhm, taking a little break from school. He's one of them. I, on the other h...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: She's Such a Geek This is a book of essays by women geeks. It's pretty inspiring. That's partially because geek stories can be inspiring. But also because the stories from several years back tend to be about women ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Rainbows End It pays to increase your word power. I always thought that "hyperventilation" meant "breathing too fast", but really it means "breathing too fast and/or too deeply". I didn't know it was possible to...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Planet of Slums Seriously? They used Erlang? On purpose? What's that you say? The mic is on? We're rolling? We're on the air? Oh! Ahem. It's time for a Book Report. This book by Mike "City of Quartz" Davis ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: On the Edge I posted that link to that "Another Bubble" video. Computer nostalgia is easy, you don't have to look back, the past just keeps coming back. That viper Wade Randlett who spread lies about the "New...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Long Time Leaving Yes, I have mostly been writing about the computer crapola lately. But I do still have a long bus commute and I have still been reading plenty. Would that everyhting I read was as much fun as Long ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Halting State This book, a science fiction novel by Charles Stross, is pretty funny. In the first act, there is a claymore. There is a heist in a computer game. There is electronic security. There are some hol...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Everything is Miscellaneous I am scheduled for HEAD & NECK SURGERY. It says so, in all-capital letters on the appointment form. Don't worry, mom, HEAD & NECK SURGERY is a scary-sounding category of things, but really s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Devices and Desires Monday did not go as I hoped. Monday, I thought I was going in for HEAD & NECK SURGERY. Instead, I was going in to the Head and Neck Surgery department so they could look at my lip, diagnose tha...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Iron Council I read a lot on the bus. Today, I didn't take the bus and yet I've been able to get yet more reading in. My secret? I'm staying home today with food poisoning. I'm not trying to read anything too...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: In Search of Stupidity I'm not working on gPhone the Open Handset Alliance. There were various internal recruiting drives for the project; I slunk away from those, kept my head down. I've worked on some mobile phone plat...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Dreaming in Code Tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day, but I'll probably buy some food. Usually, I Buy Nothing for Buy Nothing Day. To make that work, I stock up on food ahead of time. I was going to do that late Wednesday...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Core Memory I like old computers. This is a book of photos from the Computer History Museum. The photographer, Mark Richards, gave a talk at work a while back. When people asked him how he chose which things ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Algorithm Design Manual Stir craziness > geek craziness. I got a new computer today. I was really excited! But not for the reason you think. Sure, it's a sweet new machine that actually works with my DSL connection, ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: I Claudius Someone asked for the origin of the name of the Canary Islands, with the caveat that it was a trick question. So everyone present wracked their brains. I asked, "Were they named after dogs?" and th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Glasshouse It's fun to walk up next to Rich Bragg when he least expects it, especially if you're dressed up in glow sticks to look like a character from the movie "Tron". You remember "Tron", that movie where ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Botany of Desire This book by Michael Polan was fun. It's about four domesticated plants, talking about how some plants survive not by being tenacious but rather delicious. Or maybe beautiful or nutritious or intox...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Universal Selection Theory and the Second Darwinian Revolution Ron and Sua are moving soon; last night I helped Ron to pack up the library. "You should read this," he said, showing me a book. Its title was Skepticism and ... uhm, Skepticism and .... Uhm. I f...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Starfish and the Spider Yesterday, I was on my way to the comic book store when I saw Professor Karp. That is to say, I saw that computer science NP-Completeness guy. (Note to non-computer geeks: NP-Completeness is A Big ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Sand Cafe I have now eaten ramen noodles that were prepared on one of those espresso machine milk-steamer attachment thingies. I am told that the espresso machine cost a few thousand dollars. However, the no...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Accelerando Tonight, I bought some ramen. It should have been a pretty simple operation. I was in a supermarket. There was ramen. There was my shopping basket. But it was difficult. This ramen was 25 cents...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I started reading this book because it was highly recommended by Wikilens. I stopped reading it because I didn't want to read more about day-to-day life in Brooklyn. The first hundred pages were fa...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Prestige If you're an author, e.g. Christopher Priest, there is danger in writing a book that relies on its Amazing! Colossal! Surprising! twist ending. Your audience, while reading the book, will attempt t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Leave me Alone, I'm Reading Today at lunch, the conversation was all about web application security. No, wait, it wasn't even about web application security. It was about what sort of effort it would take to educate computer ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Invisible Man Yesterday, I went to a game party at work. I won a couple of games, which was more than my share. You might think that means I'm a brilliant strategist, until you find out what games I won (and how...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Happiness (Lessons from a New Science) Yesterday, I was walking in the Mission district and ran into Janak R. Janak just finished up an internship at my place of employment; soon he will go back to UCB. He asked, "Do you live around here...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Shinteki Decathlon 3 was awesome. Since then, I have had approximate 0.0 hours of unstructured awake time. Thus, not so much blogging. But I will paraphrase a conversation I was in a while ba...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Brainiac It's a book about trivia by Ken Jennings, that guy who kept winning at Jeopardy!. Fortunately, this book is about a lot more than just Jeopardy!. The author explores the world of trivia--the histor...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: All the Right Enemies Here is a mini-puzzle from BATH3 (that pirate-themed puzzle hunt from earlier this year): Prepithets Ye seek a four-letter word. Jack Flash _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Bill Cody _ _ _ _ _ ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Wonga Coup Some people worry that laryngitis might interfere with their opera singing. Me, I spent the day at home trying to recover from laryngitis, listening to operetta. And I'm glad that I don't rely on m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Tipping Point My intern just got back from attending Lunch 2.0, chatting with web industry folks. Last night, I went to Triple Rock brewery for a little Geoworks reunion, finding out what my ex-coworkers are up t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers Context matters. At work, I'm sitting in a new area with some folks who don't know me very well. Today, someone asked for some help making a decision. I didn't have an opinion, so I sought an exec...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Roads to Sata In this travelog, our hero walks the length of Japan, from the tippy-top of Hokkaido, the length of Honshu, down south past Sakurajima. This was in the 1980s, and gaijin were mysterious; he encounte...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Phonogram I canceled out of the stuff I'd planned to do today. Instead, I am sitting, napping, eating. I wore myself out last week. First, getting over a cold. Then, having just gotten over the cold, stayi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: New York Underground You might remember a while back I read the book RE/Search Pranks 2 and found out about Julia Solis, who together with the organization Dark Passage set up a LARP based around New York and an abandone...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Boys I'm not at Comic-con this weekend. I just read comics, but I don't especially want to meet their creators. I especially don't especially want to meet the creators of "The Boys." "The Boys" is perha...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Against the Day Long.Labels: book, explosions, mining...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Poor George Apparently Bernd Becher, industrial site photographer, died last week. Dammit. I would prefer that tragedies be restricted to fiction, please. Poor George is bleak. Nobody knows why they do the th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Lunch Lessons Those Debian install CDs showed up. Fortunately, I have two computers. So here I sit, typing on the laptop-- uhm, excuse me. OK, I'm back. Here I sit on the laptop, occasionally pausing to swap C...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Dishwasher Dave Hill wrote in to say that he'd been reading some of my old web pages. (He didn't say so, but he probably started browsing because he was hoping to see some kind of writeup about the the No More...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Assassination Vacation Pre-book-report non sequiturs can be fun: Darcy Krasne. We now return you to today's Book Report, already in progress. ...ever get published? Though this book is by Sarah Vowell, I blame its widesp...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Wisdom of Crowds Ron and Sua were in town on Friday. That's why I was stuck on a train. I'd had dinner with them on the peninsula, caught the train back, blammo. But it was good to see Ron, good to see Sua. This ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Undercover Economist It's another book explaining economics to the masses. Why did I start reading this? I should have known better. I've read too many popular-economics books lately. I stopped reading this one part...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: One Hand Jerking My friend 'Lene was bicycling along, minding her own business, when this set of streetcar tracks came out of nowhere and flipped her bike over. I was making fun of her for getting into a bike accide...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Just for Fun cranea17:/evidence> ls What do you think this is, UNIX? I think that's funny, but that's because I spend a lot of time in UNIXoid environments, specifically Linux. I'm biased. Maybe that's als...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: JPod I bought an episode of Sam & Max. I hoped that there would be good jokes. I was nervous that it wouldn't run on my windows machine. It's a laptop, so I figured it doesn't have a 3D graphics card...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How to Spell the Alphabet A while back, I pointed out some not-exactly-puzzle-ish-but-not-exactly-not-either images by Tauba Auerbach. I finally broke down and sent away for a book of her work, How to Spell the Alphabet. To...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How I Came into my Inheritance (and other true stories) 'Lene is out of the hospital. Meanwhile, Alexandra says that her mother is sick; Team Mystic Fish might be on shaky ground this weekend. I have no health problems myself; in theory I have no cause ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Goodbye Darkness This memoir of the Pacific in WWII is pretty disturbing. I suspect that William Manchester was pulling punches, but his story still has plenty of punch. People got blown up. People fought at close...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Garbage Land Yesterday was all errands, errands, errands. Except that one of those errands was "Return Garbage Land to the library." and since that library was in Berkeley, I made a couple of fun side trips. I ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Charles Sheeler: Across Media I am still catching up on email from the last couple of weeks. Going on business trip = distracting. Good thing I had this book report written up ahead of time. Ahem, Charles Sheeler: Across Media...

Permalink & Comments

Site Update: The Basic Eight vs Lowell High School (Today is April Fool's Day, but this is not an April Fool's Day prank.) The Basic Eight is a novel by Daniel Handler. It's set in Roewer High School. Daniel Handler went to Lowell High School a ye...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Rain or Shine You want to read this book. It's short, it's easy. It has rodeo announcing, stirring human drama, show business, the changing face of the American West, junk food wrappers. The writer, Cyra McFad...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Man Who Was Thursday People keep telling me how great G.K. Chesterton was. So I read one of his books, The Man Who Was Thursday. It had some fun sentences, some witty banter, some good paragraphs, but the book overall ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Ilium Raymond Chen, celebrity blogger, gave a talk at my place of employment yesterday. Afterwards, I went up to ask him a question. (Well, OK, to request that he apply his combination of knowledge of En...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Heat Bill Buford's previous book Among the Thugs was wonderfully brutal and scary, so I figured I'd like this book about restaurant kitchens and butchery. It's fascinating. He talks about how chefs lear...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Geek Love It was difficult to decide whether or not to go to that gallery show opening. But I was able to harness the wisdom of crowds: the humongous slow evening commute traffic decided I wasn't going. Bah....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Disgrace This past weekend I spent plenty of time in the company of BATH folks doing secret things. Normally I'd be bouncing up and down and eager to tell you about what happened, but... Actually, even if I ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Design of Everyday Things Yesterday I flew back into the San Francisco bay area after a business trip down South. I was looking out the window as we passed over scenic Fremont. We passed over some bodies of water. I looked...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Valencia Still pretty busy with game stuff--applications, puzzle ideas. It's been far too hectic for the last few days. Sometime yesterday afternoon, things turned a corner and I started to dig out from und...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Tapir's Morning Bath This book, by Elizabeth Royte, is about a cluster of scientists at a research station on an island in the middle of Gatun Lake, an area flooded during the creation of the Panama Canal. The scientist...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Railway Man The good news is that Gene Wolfe has a new book coming out with "Pirate" in the title: Pirate Freedom. The bad news is that book isn't scheduled to emerge until November, months after the pirate-the...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Parallel Distributed Processing Based on the title, I hoped that this heavy two-volume set of books containing a number of articles would teach me a lot about how to write programs that run on several machines at once. After readi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: India Unbound In this book, Gurcharan Das whines about life in India under the "License Raj". For many decades, India's government was over-regulated. The government was in charge of everything. Bureaucrats had ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Best Software Writing This weekend has been hectic. I attended a Game Control summit. I haven't listened to the audio I recorded. It could be interesting; it could be white noise. I stopped by the start of the Chinese...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Anansi Boys I watched the no-more-secrets application videos that have been posted so far. I found the toy sharks very funny, funnier than I would have expected from the verbal description "well, there are toy ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: American Gods Did you know that "No More Secrets" is an anagram for "Cosmo Re-Enters", and that "Cosmo" is the name of the villain from the movie "Sneakers"? Why yes, I have been staring at Game application mater...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Against the Gods (the Remarkable Story of Risk) Last night, I went out to a musical performance dealie. It was TV on the Radio. I'd heard their most recent album, and it seemed OK but not great. But Rob Pfile wanted to go see the show. Rob has...

Permalink & Comments

Link: Book Report: Prank the Monkey (pages 91, 92) You might think yesterday's book report was obnoxious, only covering the first third of a book. If so, you'll find this even more obnoxious: a review of pages 91-92 of a book. Rob "How Much is Insi...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Winter Queen Ah, winter. Cold, snowy, icy, windy winter. What a great time of year for sitting inside and reading. The Winter Queen doesn't really have anything to do with the season, through. This novel is b...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Last night, I watched Word for Word perform Lorrie Moore's short story "Which is More than I can Say About Some People." Wow, what a great short story. It was fun seeing it performed, but it was al...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Strange Itineraries It's a book of short stories by Tim Powers. There are some good ideas in here--but then most of those good ideas got recycled in later novels. Uhm, and I think they work better in the novels. I en...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Shampoo Planet I attended this meeting via video conference. No, I was not the guy in the gorilla suit. I have never ordered a gorilla-suited singing telegram. I figured that the concept is so wonderful that the...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Language Instinct (the first third) I am back from Chicago. (I went to Chicago! It was fun! I got to hang out with my cousin Betsy!) I'm still catching up on mail. I'm still downloading my mail. My main computer is still on a dial...

Permalink & Comments

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Book Reports I read many blogs. According to Google Reader's new Trends feature, in the last 30 days, I've read 1977 items in the past 30 days from 302 feeds. (And I've been cutting back. When the Trends featu...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Treasure Island I kicked myself off of Game Control for the Pirate BATH game. I was getting tired of reading about nothing but pirates. Factual pirate research isn't much fun. Pirates were bullies, they killed pe...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Shadow Cities This book, by Robert Neuwirth, changed the way I think about the world. It's about slums, squatter cities, shanty towns, favelas. It's about people who build on land they don't own. It's about peo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Making of the Atomic Bomb I've read several books about the Manhattan Project. They all had a focus. New documents that had come to light. Focusing on one of the minor players. Family life. Now I realize why all of those...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Life of Pi I only made it about halfway through this book. I found it dull. I like reading books about animals. This book has some animals in it. But... maybe I'd rather read a book that's all about animals...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Guanxi This book is about how Microsoft set up a research lab in Beijing. This was a pioneering effort. China's economy had opportunities for kids who wanted to Make Money Fast in computing--but not so mu...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Future Noir Yes, I read a book about the making of the movie Blade Runner. I make fun of people who read the entertainment news, but I spent more than an hour reading this book. It's mostly the fluff that you e...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cold Mountain This is a great book, an odyssey set during the USA's Civil War. It's a bleak study of the horrors of war. It's a story about humans and beasts. You've probably already heard about it. After I rea...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beautiful Code: Chs 13-16 The Design of the Gene Sorter / Jim Kent This essay is what I want to see in a book called Beautiful Code. He talks about the design. He dives into specifics of implementation. The section "Theory...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Soldier of Sidon This is another book about Latro, the soldier who has lost his short-term memory. To remember things, he writes them down, then reads them each morning. Except that sometimes his mornings are too b...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Re/Search Pranks 2 I had an interesting phone conversation a few weeks ago. I responded to some spam email offering to optimize my web site so that it would rank higher on web site searches. There are legitimate ways...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Programming Ruby: The Pragmatic Programmer's Guide This is a short book report. As if that wasn't bad enough, it's about computer programming. So maybe I should start out by relaying the story one of my relatives told tonight at dinner. It's a stor...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Birth of Plenty Most books are boring. Most books about economics are boring. But a few stand out, are interesting. Some reviewers fooled me into thinking The Birth of Plenty would be interesting. Those reviewer...

Permalink & Comments

Science Fiction Book Club Meme I plagiarized the following explanation from someone else who was passing along this meme: This is a list of the 50 "most significant" science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Scie...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: American-Born Chinese [I'm testing out a new anti-spam tool. In theory, I haven't told it to actually discard any mail yet. So in theory you shouldn't see a difference. But mistakes can happen. So if you send me somet...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cards as Weapons Ricky Jay came to speak at my place of employment today. I brought my old, worn copy of his book Cards as Weapons in, in hopes of getting it autographed. It turns out that he doesn't want to autogr...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Breeze from the East Mostly, I am not reading books. While I work on the Hogwarts write-up, I am not reading books. Mostly. I've posted some book reports in the past few weeks--but I'd read those books beforehand, wri...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Man Behind the Microchip Lea W. is in town, visiting from Cincinnati. Several folks gathered at Yancy's Saloon on Irving to kick it with Lea. Michael asked the question: "What do you love to do? There are a bunch of things...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Island of Lost Maps The Island of Lost Maps is non-fiction, a book about a non-descript thief who slices rare maps out of old books in libraries. It was kind of a non-descript book. I can't remember much of it. I rem...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Invention that Changed the World This book was a pretty good general history of the early development of RADAR. It doesn't stop at the end of WWII, but also talks about some of the radio telescope. I learned from this book--from m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: BAE05: Ellen Ullman's "Dining with Robots" The Best American Essays 2005 contains two essays which pay homage to the then recently-deceased chef Julia Child. One of them is by Ellen Ullman. Ellen Ullman is a geek; she writes about software ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: BAE05: Andrea Barrett's "The Sea of Information" Early Saturday morning, my friend Tom Lester drove me to the Emeryville Amtrak station from Berkeley. He pointed out the bakery called Sweet Adeline, and said that they had good cookies. My memorie...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Algebraist I walked several miles today so that I could fail to see a calligraphy exhibit. In theory, it has some work by Tauba Auerbach. In theory, it was open today, but a sign on the door said it was close...

Permalink & Comments

Books Report: Visual Explanations, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information I worked late tonight for no good reason. My deadlines are all self-imposed. I just got a little excited, missed the reasonably-timed buses, caught a late bus back. Mother Nature abetted my bad be...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Us and Them A conversation with my office-mate as I took out my ear-phones: me: I sure am glad I brought this little audio-recorder dealie along on that treasure hunt game, it made it easy to take good notes. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Perfect Red Blogger just enabled full editing of templates in the new Layout system. It's different from the old Blogger template system. I played with an early version of it, and I like it a lot better. It wa...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Introduction to the Practice of Statistics Today, I'm playtesting the Hogwarts Game. This game is going to be kind of unusual in that Game Control is providing transportation. They warned us not to pack our stepladders, copy machines, cooler...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Great Wave (Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History) Sometimes prices go up. This has happened before and will happen again. This hurts poor people more than it hurts the rich: poor people already spend most of their money. When prices go up, they can...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Eight Skilled Gentlemen Must pack. Must pack for Hogwarts playtest. Meanwhile, you can consider this book report for Eight Skilled Gentlement: It's a novel. It's swashbuckling fun set in a fantasy world based on kinda-...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The untold story of the THE TRUE VALUE OF PI Today I tagged along on the Google Intern Scavenger Hunt. But I am sworn to secrecy about on that topic. So I will not write about that. It wouldn't work to say, "Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, incl...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Spam Kings The Shinteki game was fun! But I'm not going to write about that now because (a) I couldn't post it now, since more people are going to play, and shouldn't have their surprises foiled and (b) if tod...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Servants of the Map If I were king, I would declare a national holiday: Andrea Barrett is Awesome Day. If I were king, I'd be a cruel despot; soon a resistance movement would form. One of their pet causes would no dou...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Political Fictions In theory, American politicians choose policies which will find favor in the eyes of the electorate. In practice, American politicians choose phrases which will find favors in the eyes of the electo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Out of Control Interesting reporting and interviews about bottom-up organization, order from chaos, and emergent behavior. Plus some talk about What It All Means. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much talk about Wh...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Mathematical Snapshots I just went out to see that crossword puzzle movie "Wordplay" with my parents and their friend Carol Kare. Carol is a crossword puzzle enthusiast, but she wasn't always. But the first time she picke...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hidden Order It's a economics book aimed at non-economists. It introduces terms and sets up some interesting thought experiments. E.g., what is a good way to divvy up chores between roommates if those roommates...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Google Story Now I've read two books about the history of Google: The Google Story and John Batelle's The Search. Of the two, I recommend The Google Story. It picks up on some things which Batelle overlooked. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Collected Castle Waiting Castle Waiting was one of the best comics ever. It's by Linda Medley. It's set in the world of fairy tales, but it's so smart and so funny. It's not scary like fairy tales are scary, because it's n...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Bury the Chains If you're from the USA, then happy Independence Day! I can't think of a less appropriate day to publish this book report on Bury the Chains, which has charming stories about slaves in the American wa...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Book of Illusions Wow, this novel is certainly literature. There are echoes and themes throughout the work. There are worlds within worlds, with parallels between the worlds; the obsessions of creators appear as sha...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: 4 Dada Suicides Dada is not art; art is dada. Before I talk about the book 4 Dada Suicides, I want to plug an art show I saw yesterday, by the artists' group Fiber Dimensions. As you might guess from the name, thes...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: 109 East Palace July 4th is a holiday in the USA, celebrated with fireworks. On July 5th, I was looking at a stretch of road next to Candlestick Park on the southern edge of San Francisco. It was covered with card...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre I was just expecting a pulpy Western. And this book is a pulpy Western. But it's written well, and also has some interesting musings upon the topic of greed. That quote which is famous for not bei...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Out of Eden (an Odyssey of Ecological Invasion) (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Invading Species) This is a fun book on a serious subject. Alan Burdick traveled the world, talking to scientists about invading species. Sometimes p...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: One Billion Customers I could mention that I'm over my cold, but that's not as interesting as the book One Billion Customers. Not even close. It's a book about doing business in China in recent times a la the 90s. Jame...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Maximum City I hear wild cheering outside. Does that mean that the USA scored a goal in the World Cup match just now? Maybe I should care, but I don't. Which reminds me of Maximum City. I only made it partway...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Control of Nature I'm still sick, a little. I'm better than I was. This morning I thought I was all better. So I hopped on the bus to work. I had a coughing fit on the bus. And another few during the day at work....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Strange Brains and Genius I'm playing the excellent game PsychoNauts. It's a fun game. In this game, you get to crawl around inside the minds of some pretty insane folks. Insane people can be fun. So you might think I'd li...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Naked Economics Many people recommended Naked Economics, but I should have paid attention to the details of their recommendation. This book is an introduction to economics. If you took "Economics 101" back in colle...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: My Kind of Place As a snack on Saturday, I had some hummus on good bread. For dinner, I had some more. I didn't think to put the hummus in the fridge in between, but I thought It will probably be OK. But it wasn't O...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cloud Atlas This book was fun. It does playful things with structure. It takes the idea of a nested framing story and twists it around. The result is a sort of ziggurat of prose, each layer a piece of genre f...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy I finished playing the excellent game Psychonauts! It was totally worth buying an XBox just to play this game. Actually, I didn't make it to the end of the game. I made it to the start of the "mea...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report (of a sort): Sucker's Progress (more or less) National poetry month is April. So I'll rhyme all month! Oh yes I will. A book not to read if you're in a hurry? The long Sucker's Progress is by Richard Asbury Its style is both list-y and rambli...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Nautical Chart You may recall that a few weeks ago, my simple plan to play the excellent game PsychoNauts hit a snag when I failed to rent an XBox machine. This weekend, I tried again. I'd asked around about XBox...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: First Democracy Last night I went out with a couple of friends to see the band Quasi. This was a good thing. I finally finally made it to a show at the Cafe du Nord, thus checking off one of my life goals. Also, ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: 400 Million Customers (Yes, I received some puzzle-hunt-related clothing tips in my snail mail. But aren't you getting a little tired of reading about puzzle hunts? It's been so long since we had a book report. Let us n...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Search Just a few hours ago, my weekend plans were so simple. Put the excellent game PsychoNauts into my backpack so I remember to bring it home from work. On the way home from work, stop off at BlockBust...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: One Hand Shaking We Californians believe in the absurd. But it's a pleasant surprise when the absurd reciprocates. Lowell Darling, artist and prankster, campaigned to be Governor of California back in 1978. He cap...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Nudist on the Late Shift Last weekend, I was working on an art project. Well, not exactly an art project. It was kind of a fake job application. The competition is fierce for this fake job, and some people are jockeying f...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Mixed Reviews Somedays your quality of life is mixed, but a good discovery can brighten everything. Yesterday morning, my streetcar was late, my bus was late, my bus filled up, I had to sit on the floor of the bus...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: How to Hack a Party Line The "New Economy" wasn't just a snake-oil story to extract venture capital money from gullible investors. It was also a snake-oil story to convince newly-wealthy tech CEOs to give lots of money to P...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans It's a collection of humor pieces from the McSweeney's web site. When I ride the bus in the morning, I don't have a net connection. Or sometimes I do, except that I didn't bring my laptop. Or some...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Remaking the World This is a collection of essays by Henry Petrowski about engineering. I suspect that he was paid by the word. The first essay is about the engineer Charles Steinmetz. But Petrowski wants an angle on S...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Nightwork It's a book about MIT pranks, with photos. Including some color photos. It was nice. Web sites can be more comprehensive, but are not so easy to read on the streetcar. Thus, I was glad to read th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Last Crossing It's pancake day, and I'm sick with a cold. Normally, I love pancakes, but today my body craves only soup, gruel, and tea. So be it. There will be other opportunities to eat pancakes. Today, I st...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Krakatoa Krakatoa was a volcano that got bigger and bigger until it blew up. Krakatoa was a book that got longer and longer until I just didn't want to hear any more about volcanoes, the Reuters news service...

Permalink & Comments

Book Review: Copies in Seconds It's a history of the invention of Xerography. Eh, it was okay.Labels: book, ok...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Zero Game I just got back from a business trip to New York. I stayed in a corporate apartment. When I entered the apartment and looked around the living room, I saw that previous tenants had left some books to...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: People's History of the United States Reading Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States is hard work. He writes about some parts of USA history which I didn't know about. Some of these pieces of history were pretty disturbing...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Fortune's Formula William Poundstone wrote Prisoner's Dilemma, one of my favorite books ever. That book convinced me to look more closely at the prisoner's dilemma, and that in turn changed the way that I think about...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Beyond the Hundredth Meridian On the one side: snake-oil salesmen selling land, politicians seeking more consituents, consultants boosting their chances at government grants with Pollyannish lies of a land of plenty in need of s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Tuxedo Park Jennet Conant's biography of Alfred Loomis is fascinating. Loomis was an interesting character. He was a physicist, founding a Physics lab in the hoity-toity community of Tuxedo Park, NY. When WWII...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Swimming to Antarctica Yesterday, I was walking to the library. A cold wind blew. A light rain started to fall. I considered fetching my rain jacket out of my backpack, but talked myself out of it. I thought What would...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Secret Life This book by Benjamin Weiser has interesting ethical choices, history, and spycraft. A Polish navy officer became a traitor to Soviet-controlled Poland; which is to say that he arguably became a her...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Portuguese Irregular Verbs I posted a new travelog on this site, but I don't think it turned out very well. So I'm not going to link to it from here. I won't take the time to point out stuff I've done that doesn't read well....

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Old Goriot It's a French slice of life showing how petty greed and ambition amongst the middle classes can lead to zzz.... I only made it a few chapters into this book. Tags: book | once ground-breaking&...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Metropolis I am sick today. I lost my voice. So it's a bad day for conversation. But a good day for napping, blogging, and reading. Out of sympathy for my plight, I think you should read Metropolis. Go read...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the Edge of the World This book has two parallel storylines; one is interesting and one is not. I almost stopped reading the book because I found one of the storylines so boring. But it turns out that the two storylines...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Garlic and Sapphires I am basically over my cold, but the sore throat remains. Thus, I wanted soup. Citrus Club, a soup place on the Haight, was closed. I guess they wanted to enjoy their holidays or something. So I ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Why We Buy Reading this book in 2005 was a waste of my time. When this book was first published back in 1999, it was probably pretty interesting. So interesting that everyone was talking about it. So I had a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Psycho Ex Game Question: Under what circumstances will Larry read a romance novel? Answer: If one of the co-authors is Andy Prieboy. That's right, Andy Prieboy. Question: Wait, is that a good reason? Answer: As ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The King of California This book by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman ranks up with Cadillac Desert and City of Quartz as great books about the intersection of geography and history in the Western USA. It's about the history of...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Dreadnought My cousin Betsy was in town this last weekend. She was full of energy. My parents and I had to take her in shifts, and we still got worn out keeping up with her. I accompanied her to a couple of m...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Dealers of Lightning Sometimes, it's good to be wrong. For example, I claim to be pretty jaded. But when I saw a little dog, a Yorkshire terrier-style dog, walking along this morning carrying a rubber chicken, I was fil...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Three Musketeers I bet that those long stretches of dialog between people from different social classes--I bet those were pretty funny back when they were relevant to the culture. Unlike now, when they're kinda bori...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke Robert Hooke was a scientist during the 1600s. Did you read Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle? Of course you did. Or you at least got started. Robert Hooke was one of the mad scientists that figure...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Book of Common Prayer If you're walking along the street and you see a Joan Didion book sitting on a garbage can, pick it up and take it home. I did, and I wasn't sorry. You know all of those logic puzzles where you're ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Birth of the Chess Queen Did you know that Al Gore chartered a couple of planes to help out people in Katrina-smashed areas? It's enough to make you wish the nation had put some more resources at his disposal. But let's no...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Big Rock Candy Mountain Back when I was telecommuting, I'd listen to DJ Toby's show on KUSF Tuesday afternoons. Some days, she'd play the song Big Rock Candy Mountain, a song about the Promised Land for Bums. In the Big ...

Permalink & Comments

Home Games I sit here wheezing and sick at home in front of my computer, cheering myself up with memories of happy days. E.g., the previous six days. Wednesday my department at work had an offsite outing. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: History of Pi This was a fun book about the history of Mathematics as viewed through the lens of pi. I don't much enjoy reading history-of-mathematics books. I halfway remember my history of mathematics. That me...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cork Boat As an occasionally obnoxious person who tries to talk his friends into strange activities, I was glad to read the autobiography of an occasionally obnoxious person (John Pollack) who talks his friend...

Permalink & Comments

Not Quite Letting Go of Spring Did I mention that White Mughals mentions a doctor treating a bladder infection? And the doctor is named George Ure. Ure should totally be the root of the word "urea", though it isn't, really. Tha...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Walk In the Woods Bill Bryson confirms that hiking is difficult. This book was OK. Tags: book | Appalachian Trail |Labels: book, ok, pedestrian...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again In this collection of essays by David Foster Wallace, I was glad to read the title essay. It's about his experiences on a cruise ship. I've always wondered if I would like being on a cruise ship, a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Sister Age A collection of short stories, some of them autobiographical, by M.F.K. Fisher. I was not so fond of the Twilight Zonish ghost stories, but the rest were awesome. There was one story about going ou...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Man Who Would Be King A U.S.A. citizen went to Afghanistan and got mixed up in the local wars and politics. In the 1830s. This is his story. Ben MacIntyre wrote this book about Josiah Harlan, foreign meddler. Unfortuna...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Game Physics David Eberly wrote this computer programming book about physics and numerical methods. Where "numerical methods" means making quick accurate calculations. It's an interesting subject, and this is a...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: American Hero It's a noir political thriller. It kept promising to turn into something very interesting, but did not keep that promise. Tags: book | yawn |Labels: book, snore...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Storm of Swords It is another book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. It's Shakespearean History meets Tolkienoid high fantasy meets Howardesque barbarian epic meets soap opera meets... It's a guilty pleasure. I...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Oxford Pocket American Dictionary This evening I picked up a copy of the OxFord Pocket American Dictionary. Such false advertising--it's much bigger than any of my pockets. Tags: book | title | foreshadowing |Labels:...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Innocents Aboard It's a book of short stories by Gene Wolfe. There are some winners and some losers and some, uhm, averagers. It's Gene Wolfe, so even the averagers strike an interesting mood. I liked a ghost sto...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Hero's Walk Anita Rau Badami wrote this family drama set in an India in transition. It's a difficult read because so many of the characters waste so much effort being mean to each other. You grit your teeth at...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: the Founding Fish John McPhee writes about shad. Shad are fish. That description should make you want to read this book. Go. Go! Maybe you read his shad articles in the "New Yorker". Maybe you think "Surely I now k...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Cruise of the Acheron Sheila Natusch did a lot of research tracking down logs and reports for this description of "her majesty's steam vessel on survey in New Zealand waters 1848-51". She figured out that two documents i...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Consider the Oyster Holy moly, M.F.K. Fisher sure could write. I don't want to eat oysters, but I could read Fisher's writings about oysters all day. Except I can't really, because this was just a short little book. ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Something From the Oven Laura Shapiro wrote this awesome book about home cooking in 1950s USA. There are many interesting stories here. There is the tragic tale of Poppy Cannon who tried to convince the world that canned t...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Road Fever What does it take to drive from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay in less than a month? Will, determination, and paperwork. A big stack of paperwork. Folders and folders of paperwork. Visits to con...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Epitaph in Rust This is an old novella by Tim Powers. I liked it. It recently showed up in a two-novella conglomeration with The Skies Discrowned. I'd already read that novella, and hadn't liked it. So it was a ...

Permalink & Comments

Compliance At the front of this library book, it says In compliance with current copyright law, U.C. Library Bindery produced this replacement volume on paper that meets the ANSI Standard Z39.48.1984 to repla...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: What's the Matter With Kansas? Thomas Frank, a member of the liberal intellectual elite wrote this book for other members of the liberal intellectual elite to tell them that the formerly-liberal working class is tired of liberal ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Two Voyages to the South Seas As a French explorer, the great ship's captain and navigator Dumont d'Urville helped advance English colonization. D'Urville explored some uninhabited spot on Australia's Eastern coast. This told t...

Permalink & Comments

Arms and the Man, Canoe Following up on my recent trip to New Zealand, I read Two Voyages to the South Seas, a summary/translation of the memoirs of Captain Jules S.-C. Dumont D'Urville. This guy was a French ship's captain...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Process of Creating Life The Process of Creating Life is the second book of Christopher Alexander's Nature of Order tetralogy. That is, this is a book that is Alexander's theory of the universe and how this nature should gui...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Juked Vol. 3 Fall 2004 This is a collection of short pieces lovingly skimmed off the top of Juked. So I'd already read these. I guess I got juked. One good story: Public Access by David Gianatasio. You can buy this at Cod...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Earth Abides George R. Stewart wrote Earth Abides, a story in which about 9999 out of every 10000 humans is wiped out by a big plague. What will happen afterwards? Will our hero preserve civilization's triumphs ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cyber China (part two) Notes on a couple more chapters from Cyber China: Françoise Mengin: The Role of the State in the Age of Information This paper mentioned a few topics: hackers, Taiwan, Democracy. It implied that th...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cyber China (part one) This book is a collection of papers about the intersection of society and computers in present-day China. Karsten Giese; Speaker's Corner or Virtual Panopticon: Discursive Construction of Chinese Id...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cyber China (part four) Two more essays from the book Cyber China Barry Naughton The Information Technology Industry and Economic Interactions Between China and Taiwan This article had an interesting factoid. A large part ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cyber China (part five (last (whew!))) Two last essays in Cyber China... Ngai-Ling Sum: Informational Capitalism and the Remaking of "Greater China": Strategies of Siliconization This interesting paper talked about how various government...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Cyber China (part 3) Yet more essays in Cyber China... Patricia Batto; Government Online and Cross-Straits Relations This paper gives an overview of some China- and Taiwan-related web sites.Something interesting perhaps...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Chicago Stories When I bought this Cometbus book, I didn't realize that all of the stories had already appeared elsewhere. But I had forgotten the stories, so it was fun to read them all again. I felt like a bozo s...

Permalink & Comments

Ask Not For Whom the Klaxon Peals As I stepped up to the library exit, the stolen-book alarm sounded. I stepped back from the door and waited for some nice librarian to wave to me, to tell me to open up my backpack. But no nice lib...

Permalink & Comments

Site Update: Fave Reads I finally figured out my Fave Reads of '04. Usually I upload those on New Year's day. But this year I was in Seattle. And then I went to Tahoe. And then I started a new job. Hey, at least I finish...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Signal & Noise Of course you are glad that John Griesemer wrote a novel around the laying of the first transatlantic undersea telegraph cable. But you're also thinking A telegraph book would be far too nerdly to di...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: A Rabbit in the Air David Garnett wrote this book, A Rabbit in the Air, about his experience learning to fly. This book was published in 1932. He calls airfields "aerodromes". He provides cockpit drawings. He provides ...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Phenomenon of Life Summary: This is a good book if you skip the first four chapters, the last chapter, and half of the appendices. Christopher Alexander is famous as the honcho behind A Pattern Language. A Pattern Lan...

Permalink & Comments

Tech-Brain Candy When I commute to work, I change buses close to the San Francisco main library. Tonight, I took advantage of this. During the ride from Mountain View to San Francisco, I'd been reading Managing Gig...

Permalink & Comments

location location location As we waited to get into the puppet show, Tom and I made small talk. I told him that I'd finished reading Linda Greenlaw's Lobster Chronicles, about her adventures getting re-settled at Isle au Ha...

Permalink & Comments

I bet you get these mixed up all the time Last week, I read the book Managing Gigabytes by Witten, Moffat, and Bell. It's about storing and retrieving huge repositories of data. This week, I am reading Trilobite! (Eyewitness to Evolution) ...

Permalink & Comments

get on the bus My bus was not full; that broke my plan. My first week at the new job coincided with the company ski trip. I knew a few people at the new job, but not many. Now, on the bus ride back to the bay a...

Permalink & Comments

Updates:

Tags