New: 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 breathe too deeply. And the occasional deep breath is a good way to calm down. So when the paramedic told me "Try to stay calm and stop hyperventilating", I breathed slower but deliberately kept breathing deep. That was a mistake. Last night, I had breathing problems again--started out as nothing but got worse as I took deep breaths to relax. They got better when I got up to walk around, but got worse when I sat down to try more deep breathing. Finally I got on the internet and looked up "hyperventilating", read about it on Wikipedia. I found out I'd been wrong about what it meant all these years. I didn't try to breathe deep; I felt better pretty fast.

Oh, right, I'm supposed to be telling you about Rainbows End. It is a science fiction novel by Vernor Vinge. It might be worth reading just for the in-jokes. Someone who read the book recently mentioned that he couldn't remember anything about it, so I guess I'd better leave some notes for myself: book shredding/scanning; Alice and Bob; micropayments; certificates. What's that? You want me to write something non-cryptic? OK. This book's setting is pretty interesting. It's a world in which online collaboration is pretty easy. In this world, engineer/designer folks don't really engineer/design things--they just do a really good job of describing what they want to other people who might do the real design work--or might farm it out to yet other people. But there's enough, uhm, findable expertise out in the world such that this technique works pretty well. Wearable computing is prevalent, but unfortunately most people are pretty bad with computer security; this is a bad combination. There appears to be some kind of micropayments system lurking in the background, butthe book says little about it. There are fun schemes to digitize the world's books faster than Google, Amazon, et al. would normally get around to it. There are jokes, there are many jokes. It's a fun read. Check it out.

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Posted 2007-12-22