David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself – 50 Book Challenge

The Man Who Folded Himself
Gerrold, David

This is a book that’s been recommended to me off and on over the years. It’s in print again and after getting hooked on Gerrold’s War Against the Chtorr series last summer I read this back in January. I think I like Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps” a little bit better, but this is definitely a keeper in the time-travel sub-genre. What it does nicely is to explore the human dimension relentlessly.

Dan Brown's Deception Point – 50 Book Challenge

Deception Point
Brown, Dan

More from Dan Brown. He’s not Tom Clancy quite yet, but he’s working in territory that I find interesting in its own right. Here he explores how power and scientific knowledge interact. For those, like me, who bias toward science and the rational and don’t naturally pick up on the human and the natural, Deception Point helps you remember why those with high EQs are typically in charge of those with high IQs.

Dan Brown's Digital Fortress – 50 Book Challenge

Digital Fortress : A Thriller
Brown, Dan

I thought The Da Vinci Code was ok but ultimately implausible and I thought the ending was pulled out of a hat. On the other hand, there’s no question that Dan Brown can write a good page turner, so I went looking for his earlier books (what can I say, when it comes to reading I am a gourmand not a gourmet). Digital Fortress was Brown’s first book, I believe, and I found it much more satisfying than the Da Vinci Code. What I found particularly interesting is how he explores how technical plausibility collides with the human dimensions of fear and paranoia in large organizations. His canvas here is the NSA, but the lessons are worth thinking about in more mundane contexts. So you get a nice thriller that moves and some food for thought about how digital technology affects big organizations. A nice twofer.

Heinlein's For Us the Living – 50 Book Challenge

For Us, The Living : A Comedy of Customs
Heinlein, Robert A.

I’ve been a Heinlein fan almost from the time I could read. I probably started with Rocket Ship Galileo when I was 10 or 11. The reviews of this lost first novel are accurate. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this to someone who wasn’t already a fan. But it is fascinating to see the origins of so many of the ideas and stories that came later. Got it as a Christmas present and finished it as the New Year began.

Wild Eastern Standard Tribe remixes

Wild Eastern Standard Tribe remixes. Trevor Smith has whipped up two amazing remixes of Eastern Standard Tribe, my new novel. The first is a “speed-reader,” based on the research of Xerox PARC researcher Rich Gold, which flashes the book, one word at a time, up on the screen, at a high rate of speed. It is astonishingly readable, and makes you feel like you’ve found a back-door to your brain’s comprehension nodes. The second is a “PurpleSlurped” version of the book, in which every paragraph is given its own link, so that one can easily refer to a specific passage of the text. Link (Thanks, Trevor!) [Boing Boing Blog]

Cory has put his newest book out there for all of us to play with. My old eyes will be reading the dead trees version I suspect, but I still appreciate having both the bits and the atoms available.

50 book challenge

50 book challenge. It seems that the “50 book challenge” has become all the rage on the net this past week. (One version of it here.) The idea is to read 50 books in a year and, in some versions, blog about them.

This is roughly what I did last year with my reading, primarily as a way to keep track of what I read but I slacked off from blogging toward the end of the year, as things got a little too crazy. It looks like I read about 80 books last year but forgot to blog about them for the last few months. (My list of reading for 2003.)

Despite this, I’ll try again and see if I can manage to keep a more complete record of my reading. I’ll review some here, or just add brief comments at least. At times, the complete reviews will appear at Bookslut, the premiere book review magazine on the web. (Some might say I’m a little biased…)

My other blogging is going to be a little spotty as I prepare to move across the country to a new job… more about that later.

[David Harris’ Science & Literature]

This was something I had hoped to do more successfully last year. I read plenty of books, but was less than diligent about recording my reactions and assessments. I’m posting this, in part, as a bit of a forcing function. David also offers some suggested rules for the challenge, although I can only promise that I will abide by Rule 6.

Blogging the market needs work

Blogs As Intra-enterprise Technologies of Cooperation.

George Dafermos at MIT, in Blogging the Market (93 page PDF) , looks at pervasive blogging as potential organizational dynamite, with case histories that include Slashdot, Amazon, Macromedia, Groove Networks, and Gizmodo.

(Thanks, Jim!)

[Smart Mobs]

I had real problems with this report. It’s gotten a fair number of pointers from other blogs and the outline looked intriguing. After about an hour skimming through it though I think there’s probably a really good 20-page report lurking in there somewhere, but in its present form it’s hard to justify the time to dig it out. If I were reviewing this paper as a referee I send it back for major revisions. Too bad, because I think it’s asking the right questions.

Power to the Edge

Power to the Edge:[A 9MB pdf] A new book by Dave Alberts and Richard Hayes – open sourced in its entirety by CCRP.

This book is truly a must-read for anyone interested in decentralization and the social and organizational relevance of shifting power to the edge, whether in a commercial or a defense context. As you read about the technology enablers of the edge, it’ll become clear why products such as Groove – as COTS enablers of the fully-networked collaborative environment – have such immediate relevance to the defense community.

A debt of gratitude goes to John Stenbit and Lin Wells for catalyzing the creation of this tremendously timely, useful and relevant piece of work. [Ray Ozzie’s Weblog]

Once again, it appears that the U.S. military is moving ahead on figuring out new ways to organize and manage work, while commercial organizations create pale imitations of concepts long since discarded as unworkable.

Crichton on Reason

Crichton on Willy.

The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda.

Although only just now in the blogdex, Crichton’s 3-month-old scathing indictment of the pop-environmentalism movement in… [TeledyN]

I finally got around to this item in my aggregator over the Chrismas holiday. In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in September, Crichton makes an interesting argument that today’s environmental movement is best thought of as a secular religion that operates on the basis of faith instead of evidence.

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There’s a simple answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren’t true. It isn’t that these “facts” are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all—what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

I think Crichton is making an even broader argument about the role of reason and evidence in coping with today’s world. Let’s hope he gets heard here as widely as he does with his fiction.

One hot design book

One hot design book. Here’s a new book that’s making the rounds: Universal Principles of Design. Mike dropped by my office a couple days ago to show it to me, after having heard about it from Victor (who heard about it from Adam). The buzz may well be justified. Here’s a blurb from Amazon

Universal Principles of Design is the first comprehensive, cross-disciplinary encyclopedia of design. Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, it pairs clear explanations of every design concept with visual examples of the concepts applied in practice. From the “80/20 rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Occam’s razor, and from self-similarity to storytelling, every major design concept is defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge.

[IDblog]

Looks fabulous. Ordered.