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 of 1960s Cambodian rock music. OK, that's gimmicky, but it works. And they've updated the songs, some of whose stylings sound cheesy today. Yes, I've been listening to some of the original Cambodian songs--the internet is a wonderful place, full of pirat-- uhm, archived media. But the story behind the music is sadder than anything you'll hear on VH-1 Where are They Now. "Probably died in a Khmer Rouge labor camp," is not how you want anyone's story to end. But singer Ros Serey-Sothea was a big star in Cambodia in the 1960s, which was an unfortunate time to be in Cambodia; her story is sad, and probably ended in a Khmer Rouge labor camp. Luck is important. Timing is important. It's better to be lucky than talented.

Oh, right, my point. The book Wireless Nation is about lucky people.

This book is about how the USA's FCC apportioned spectrum to early USA cellular telephone companies. There weren't always auctions--the FCC wasn't even allowed to run auctions. So it tried giving the spectrum away based on merit. But that was hard. Then it tried a lottery. Things got really weird as tons of little companies joined the lottery.

It's a strange story full of strange personalities. The USA came late to the world of mobile phones. Its mobile phone industry has been slow to develop. Back when I worked on mobile phone software platforms, those platforms weren't for the USA--they were for Europe and Asia, where people actually used mobile phones.

Why is the USA so backwards? Because its phone providers are a gaggle of randomly-chosen mountebacks. This book tells their story.

One interesting fun bit of history: You know that "fact" that using cell phones in automobiles causes car accidents? The AAA was saying that before there were car phones. It wasn't based on research, it was just a concern, a worry. We should pay more attention to abusive husbands and totalitarians taking over government. We know that these problems recur. They were bad for Ros Serey Sothea. They are bad for us today.

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Book Report: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

According to one election quiz, I should vote for John Edwards or Ron Paul. According to two election quizzes, I should vote for Bill Richardson. According to yet another, I should vote for Kucinich. How do I know which election quiz I should listen to? Maybe I should set up a poll. That sounds hard. Instead, how about I present a book report for "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier"?

This latest graphic novel in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series is a framing story and then a bunch of little bits--ephemera of the League and its past incarnations. The framing story is fun. The ephemera are less so, or maybe that's my fault. I don't like the right stories; I don't know all of these stories. (Yes, I know about the excellent online annotations, and I am grateful for them. It's all very well to learn that something is a reference to Mighty Moth; if I don't care about Mighty Moth, that reference doesn't make me like the work any more.)

I'm not a fan of the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, so I didn't appreciate the Chthulhiana--not even the short Cthulhish story in the style of Wodehouse, not even the other Cthulhish short story, this one in the style of a sort of deranged Kerouac. I'm not a fan of Shakespearean comedy (probably for the same reason that future scholars will say "Thanks to years of study, I think I see why 'I can has var?' was supposed to be funny, but it doesn't really make me laugh.") So the fake Shakespearean comedy which also [I'll leave out what else happens in this bit, lest I spoil the ending] left me cold.

The further adventures of Fanny Hill as she wanders across mystical lands in other fiction of the time which I haven't heard of and which I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care about and... And is this the most self-indulgent thing that Alan Moore has ever done? Gah.


But the framing story is still pretty good. Wandering around in England after the fall of Big Brother, exploring a school for spies, explaining a naming scheme for rocket ships. The story of the immortal Orlando told in the form of a sort of boy's adventure comic serial, that was pretty good. Maybe... maybe this is one of those books that you want to pick up, but be ready to skim. When you start reading the, say, the fake Shakespearean comedy, if you don't like the first couple of paragraphs, skip the rest of that part. It's fine, you'll still be able to follow the story. And the story, overall, is pretty good.

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Link: Webster's Online Dictionary

Puzzle hunts were everywhere last weekend. Midnight Madness in Hot Springs. Some movie called BHAGAMBHAG set up a promo treasure hunt in Mumbai, sounds big-scale. I didn't do any of that. I have a cold. I sat around the apartment, stayed cozy, puttered around with the computer. Not that there is anything wrong with the computer. It lets me see Webster's Online Dictionary, which presents a bunch of information about my query word. Definitions. Other words whose definitions mention this word. Translation into foreign languages (with furigana for the Japanese, no less). I think I could wast^W spend a lot of time on this site.

(I learned about it via Chronicles from Hurricane Country.)

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