Larry Hosken: New

Curtis Chen has a new novel out and a new game-ish thingy to provide some backstory. Go visit www.kangaroo2.com to learn more about the novel Kangaroo Too. And then visit __.kangaroo2.com for the game-ish thingy. As with the previous Kangaroo novel, the puzzle to figure out the "__" is on the book cover.

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2017-06-26T00:52:13.394777

Book Report: It's Complicated

It's about teenagers using social networking sites… Speaking of social networks, I'm lahosken@mastodon.social on Mastodon. What? What was I talking about?

Right, the book It's Complicated. It's about teenagers using social networking sites. Parents are scared plenty of what might happen to their teenaged kids on social networks, scared by news reports. (New technologies keep coming along, but fear is always a great way to sell news content.) Teenagers want to spend more time on social networking sites since their scaredy-cat parents won't let them hang out anywhere besides home or school. (Well-meaning parents reading this book might think: I will fix this. I will let my kids hang out at the mall. Good for you, but the kids will still want to stick to social networking instead: none of their friends' parents will let them out of the house, so there's nobody to hang out with at the mall.) This book lets you know that modern teenagers have it pretty tough. There were things in this book that scared me. E.g., these "digital native" kids think that whatever they find via Google is true because Google is a good site. Google is a good site, but it's not good at finding the truth; it's good at finding pages that are relevant to the topic. If I search for "Luke Skywalker", the first result I find has a lot of information about Luke's story, no doubt lovingly gathered by fans… but if I didn't know Luke was a fictional character when I started reading, I might not figure it out from what's written there. And that's a topic where folks aren't lying on purpose.

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2017-06-16T13:35:52.439630

This morning I tried out the Metaverse augmented reality game, which might or might not still be in beta, depending on where I read about it. In this game, you wander around looking at a map on your phone. There, you might see things you can interact with. There weren't any of those near my apartment; but I hopped on a bus, rode around until I saw a Kanye West head show up on the map, and then hopped off the bus so I could play with the head.

To play, I needed to get kinda close to the Kanye head on the map and then tap it. Unfortunately, the game expects you to get pretty close to the head, and this was a "bouncy" neighborhood for phone location-finding. After some frustrating minutes walking up and down the same stretch of sidewalk, I eventually convinced my phone I was in the right place. When I clicked the map's Kanye West head, my phone switched to an augmented-reality-camera view where the giant head of K.West gave me a quest (get it?): to help feed his ki(tty). Kanye sent me off to find T.Swift, who had cat food.

Looking at the map again, there weren't any Taylor Swift heads in evidence. There was another Kanye head. As I walked closer to it, moving across the map, I spotted a Taylor Swift head. After taking a couple of minutes and then giving up on trying to convince my phone I was near the second Kanye, I made my way over to the Taylor Swift head. There, I got cat food.

I suspect that the eventual plan is for me to bring the cat food back to Kanye. In the game, my character has an Inventory, now with cat food. When I re-visited Kanye, he didn't realize I had cat food—he just re-asked me to go get some from T.Swift.

I liked that this game has a quest mechanic, one that has me walk around rather than stay in place fiddling with my phone. I didn't like that the game expected me to get so close to places of interest, closer than is easy in a "bouncy" area. And I suspect the game is still in beta; I suspect that's why my character still has that cat food. Anyhow, this game shows promise.

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2017-06-11T18:37:24.645745

Book Report: How to Ruin a Record Label and Punk USA

It's two books about Lookout! Records, the East Bay record label. Before I read these books, I had the broad outline. Lookout! Records had the excellent luck to publish the first Green Day music. And they also published a bunch of East Bay punk music just as East Bay punk was getting popular. They were a hardscrabble punk label, then money poured in. They tried to start doing things the "proper" way, lost everything, eventually stopped producing new music. Reading these books filled in some of the details. I found it interesting, but maybe because I was seeing some of these things happen, albeit from the outside. E.g., back in the day I wondered "Why is this band The Donnas getting promoted so much? They are not that good." Apparently, that's one abyss that Lookout! dumped plenty of money into. (I shouldn't make it sound like I disagree with all later-days Lookout! decisions. They made good albums by The Phantom Surfers. Making comedy surf albums wasn't exactly true to the label's punk roots, but I liked those albums. So: I can't throw stones at the Lookout! folks. No reason to think I could have kept their label afloat.)

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2017-06-02T13:21:49.121587

At work, we'll soon move to our new San Francisco office. But for now, we're in a co-working space in a mall. In the morning, I walk through the mall. It's not open for business so early, so it's nearly empty. But it's not quite empty and it's rather echo-y. So I walk through this cavernous space while listening to echoes of a far-off janitorial cart. It's unlike other places I worked and I wanted to make sure I remembered it before we move.

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2017-06-01T04:35:28.658689

Book Report: The Gateway Arch

The St Louis Arch is magnificent. I'm glad I saw it. This here book talks about how the Arch was made; not so much in the "it's made of stainless steel" sense as the "it's made of political sausage". The big inspiration to clear lots of land for a memorial was probably to trick the US government into buying up lots of land at high prices. There was plenty of racism going on as white folks tried to shoo away black folks. Design happened back when planners thought that cars and freeways made a city active.

The more you learn about Eero Saarinen, the more you find out he was a jerk.

This book makes you think about opportunity cost. The Arch is pretty sweet. But what might have St Louis been like if a bustling neighborhood was there instead? What if that area hadn't spent decades as a parking lot, waiting to turn into a memorial? What if… This book left me sadder but wiser.

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2017-05-21T17:43:39.134435

My bus slowed to a crawl behind the naked march. Fans of nudity slowly slowly ambled down the middle of Haight Street, in the way traffic. It seemed rude. Did they really feel justified blocking buses? As they walked slowly slowly in front of the bus, all I could think was "What a bunch of assholes."

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2017-05-20T20:59:38.499055

Book Report: Data and Goliath

Bruce Schneier once again writing a normal-person-understandable policy-ish book about implications of computer security SNAFU.

Plenty of organizations gather info about us. Some of this information is online stuff: who we call, who we know on social networks, and on and on. Some of this information is real-world stuff: where our cars' license plates have been spotted, where we've traveled, and on and on.

Who/what has access to this information? Some people/things that make sense. I'm glad Gmail knows who sent me that email* so it can show me the From: field. Some people/things that don't make sense. I'm sad the NSA knows who's sending me emails since they're not using it for anything useful and employ some creepy folks who like to peek at such things.

Even if you're glad that some organization has your info, you might not be so glad if you knew how poorly they keep it safe. Users of the Ashley Madison adultery-hookup site were presumably glad to give private info to the site. They were presumably sad when hackers got past the site's not-so-great security and published the users' private no-longer-private info.

What can users do? Some things, but maybe not much. When you choose a service to work with, you might choose the one you trust to keep your data safe and/or to "forget" that data when it's no longer useful. But how do you know which services to trust? If you'd ask me to guess whether an adultery-hookup site would have good security, I'd have guessed it would (such private info)… and I would have been wrong. And sometimes all the choices are bad. And often, we don't choose. If I choose to move to another country, the NSA won't stop trying to snoop on my emails; it just won't be breaking US law when it does so. (So I guess I'd be helping to stop illegal spying? kinda?)

Policy-makers can do more. If in a secret police force, you might be a policy-maker; you can choose to snoop less. If you're in a company, you might be a policy-maker: you can choose to "forget" data if the risk of retaining it is > the benefit of keeping it around.

It's a thoughtful book.

*Yeah, email can be spoofed. Anyhow.

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2017-05-12T02:52:51.909530

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Fremont

Once again, I traveled to volunteer at DASH, that puzzlehunt that takes place in many, many cities nationwi worldwide. This year, I didn't "travel" very far: the first GC to ask for a volunteer was in Fremont. I wrote a few notes and posted a bunch of photos. If your team played in Fremont, maybe there's a photo of y'all in there.

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2017-05-07T18:24:41.025152

Ever wonder why the engineering department doesn't normally get business headshots?

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2017-05-07T13:00:26.821526

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