Monday, June 30, 2014

[Book Review] Duty Bound

Duty Bound / Sidney Bristol
She’s the woman he sent away.

Lisette wouldn’t be back in New Orleans if she didn’t need protection—and who better to turn to than her ex-boyfriend turned Detective? She’s got a closet full of secrets that include a stalker ex and a kinky past. She vows to not dream about Mathieu…much. If only he were a Dominant, one who would not just flog her into bliss, but love her as well. A girl can dream, can’t she?

He was her first love.

Mathieu wants nothing to do with another damsel in distress, but he can’t say no when the little blonde woman walks back into his life with proof her ex is big trouble. He’ll give her a place to sleep, but nothing more. His heart is locked up tight. Except, Lisette uncovers his past in the BDSM world and she’s never backed down from a challenge. He can handle her, can’t he?

Lisette and Mathieu embark on a relationship that is strictly about sexual gratification, but evolves into more. When the bodies align, the hearts entwine. Except their rekindled flame is in danger. Lisette’s ex has found his prey, and he’s not afraid of taking a life.
I don't remember requesting this book (though I remember previewing it).  To be utterly honest, the cover makes me slightly uncomfortable - it looks like they're banking on various sexuality and dominance related racial stereotypes.  On the bright-side, they at least deign to show the man's actual face and not cut the image off at the nostrils.  Blame me for judging a book by it's cover, I honestly thought the book was going to be very smutty crap, with about every sexual and romantic cliche possible crammed in.

On reading the book I was pleasantly surprised, it was definitely significantly better than I expected.  Yes, we have some cliches and cringe-worth euphemisms for genitals and fornication, but a romance or erotica novel with none of those is akin to finding a unicorn.  I think the reason the book is labeled 'erotica' is due to the kink content - not to quantity of smut.  Lisette and Mathieu definitely get it on at length, but I've encountered a number of romance novels with more explicit, but vanilla, sex.  That being said, they have some very heavy and intimate scenes that lack anything approaching conventional sex.

Quick note - don't look up the author's website at work, you'll be entering NSFW territory (probably).  Smutty, kinky novels seems to be what Sidney Bristol does, and unlike some authors out there, she seems to have knowledge of the scene she writes about.

Duty Bound is part of a series of BDSM romance/erotica titles set in New Orleans.  I haven't read the other books (as previously stated, I didn't even realize I had requested this title), so some of my assessments may be off because of this.

On one level the book seems almost like a rebuttal to Fifty Shades of Grey.
"So you wanted to change it up in bed?  I don't see anything wrong with that.  Not that I want to think of my sister doing anything in that Shades of Grey book..."

Lisette sputtered and laughed.  He had no idea.  None at all.
The book has negotiation, consent, after care, safe words, and a power dynamic that allows either partner to feel safe saying "I don't want to do this" and not risk being shamed.  There is acknowledgement of different preferences and ways of doing things, and even more importantly, it is stressed that one's sexual proclivities still require consent before inflicting them on another.  Lisette enjoys when a trusted partner beats her within specific parameters, she does not enjoy being hit or damaged outside of that, which is the lynchpin for the tension of the plot.  Lisette's ex has issues, and ultimately his discovery of her kinky side leads to dangerous violence and stalking against her.

The descriptions of the sexual activities and settings of the book sound as if the author has familiarity with the subject matter (whether personal or just really good research), and has gone to the point of careful nit-picky detail.  Personally, I have no clue if anyone regularly uses something like nylons to store their floggers, but it's a fantastic detail that imparts realism.  As it happens, I think the details go a little overboard here and there.  Part of the feeling that this book is a rebuttal to Fifty Shades is taking details of kinky paraphernalia to the point of educational lecture rather than just heightening the setting.  Interestingly, for a book where the male love interest is expressly a sexual dominant, 'alpha male' posturing/pissing matches were largely missing compared to what one often finds in romance novels.

The writing was about average for the genre, not a magnum opus but certainly not terrible.  There were occasions where the wording made me wince, or it seemed like as many euphemisms for genitals were shoved onto the page as possible, and I often had to re-read paragraphs to figure out how they were actually positioned while getting it on.  However the author definitely strove for maintaining some realism, and put out a decently written story.

Duty Bound is a kinky romance, there are consenting adults finding intimacy and catharsis, and dealing with the socio-political ramifications of their sexuality.  If you have trouble reading about BDSM, or about abusive relationships haunting the present, I would caution you from reading this book.  If you want to read about a couple finding each other through BDSM, then give it a try.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

[Book Review] The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter / Rod Duncan (Powell's Books)

Elizabeth Barnabus could be mistaken for a proper lady doing the best with limited means, especially with her brother working so hard at nights as a private detective.  The thing is, she doesn't have a brother.  Instead, with some level of misdirection, disguise, and intelligence, she plays a man's game with cunning and guile.  Fortunately, she has this a plenty, for although the pretence of having a brother has kept her safe, her 'brother' is a wanted man.

I like what Mr. Duncan has done in this story.  The world of The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is something of an steampunk-esque alternative-history that doesn't feel cliche.  Perhaps, most interestingly, the true villain of the story remains largely a specter, a real threat to Elizabeth's freedom and well-being, but it is the normal people, not necessarily of ill-intent, that she must work with and against to achieve her goals.

In light of modern day issues with patent-trolling, awarding of ridiculously broad patents, and other issues related to patents in the U.S., I found the idea behind the patent office in The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter brilliant.  The commentary may be accidental or deliberate, but fitting regardless.

Characters have contrasting and competing desires, and the plot does not revolve solely around the needs of Elizabeth.  If anything, Elizabeth's story is just a part of a bigger one, one connected across the different countries by the Patent Office and politics.  The story ends at a good place, however it is still clear even without the subtitle ("The First Book in the Fall of the Gaslit Empire duology") that this is a book one.

A good level of intrigue, wit, and complexity making for an overall enjoyable read.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

[Book Review] In Bed with a Rogue

In Bed with a Rogue / Samantha Grace
He’s the Talk of the Town
The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar. Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns. Tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family’s reputation no matter what it takes.

She’s the Toast of the Ton
Feted by the crème of society, the beautiful widow Lady Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper. But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he’s quick to press his advantage. In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil. But she’s got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes…
This was actually a rather sweet historical romance.  I'm not quite sure why the teaser paints Baron Thorne as scoundrel pressing his advantage with a lady in a difficult situation.  While Lady Prestwick is in a tight spot, he actually provides her with the resources she needs to achieve her goals.  The good Baron does have a reputation as a ladies' man, particularly among widows, but part of that reputation is one for discretion.  Thorne's biggest issue however is a legacy of public embarrassment connected to his family that is rather inconvenient when one just wants to let the past be past and move on.

Lady Prestwick is seeking her sisters, following the only clue that she has to the brothels of London.  Not a very respectable place for a lady to visit, but Lady Prestwick was not always gentry, and this is her family she is seeking.  Her marriage to the now-deceased Lord Prestwick left her valuing her freedom and leery of entanglements with men.

Circumstance, need, and desire bring the two together.  While overly self-assured and ardently courting the Lady, Thorne is incredibly solicitous of her well-being and needs.  Not only that, but his asking price for his assistance is that Lady Prestwick aid in reintroducing his wrongly maligned sister to society.  Throughout the book others around him rank higher in his consideration than himself.  More than that, I'd say that throughout the book genuine friendships arise not only between Baron Thorne and Lady Prestwick, but among those they associate with.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Monday, June 23, 2014

[Book Review] Mappa Mundi

Mappa Mundi / Justina Robson

Natalie Armstrong sees the world, and the mind, differently.  She's on the cutting edge of innovation using technology to repair and bridge neural pathways.  But what can heal can also hurt, and her technology is leaked to the less scrupulous and less patient.  So starts a game of cat and mouse with ethics, identity, and humanity and its center.

Mappa Mundi is a brilliant science fiction novel that asks questions about mind and matter as we know it.  It was the May pick for the Virtual Speculation bookclub and a book I highly recommend reading.

Discussion Fodder:
  • How do our fears and insecurities shape our beliefs as children?  Do the stories and beliefs we tell each other to keep terror at bay count as a type of magic?  How do we use non-belief in handling our fears?
  • "To put it another way, the development of Mappa Mundi, as all such developments, was a necessary result of our own nature, as irresistible as evolution itself.  What we can change, we shall change.  What comes to hand, we shall use.  What we see we presume to understand.  When the basic needs are satisfied, the restless mind turns itself towards improvement."  Do you think this is an accurate evaluation of humanity?
  • Is "perfection" the goal of technology?
  • Is Natalie insane?  Was she ever?  Does she process the world differently than those around her?  What is the nature of sanity and identity in Mappa Mundi (hunting with George, Guskov's history, Mary and Natalie)?  "But neither of them would have seen this if Ivanov had not been Hilel and all those men after."
  • What do you make of Guskov?  Is he either a hero or villain?  An idealist, something else altogether?  Does his history effect how you feel about him?
  • Is Bobby X "alive"?  Are he and Natalie still human?  If not, at what point did they stop being human?
  • What do you think of Bobby X's statement that "Matter [...] is energy plus information." 
  • Mary says that "religion is already a contagion," in reference to security procedures and the Mappaware leak.  Do you think there is truth to that description in how religion spreads and changes?
  • How does reprogramming a brain mechanically compare to conditioning and brainwashing?
  • What do you think about the inclusion of technology (pads) that has become everyday that did not exist at the time of publication (original publication date 2001, close to a decade before we started seeing tablets)?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The importance of programming

I am something of a perpetual student, and to that end I'm generally enrolled in several MOOCs at any give time.  One of my latest endeavors was again attempting to learn how to program.  I say again because while I've taken classes I generally get lost when the bottom drops out a few weeks in, and it's even worse when dealing with a completely online class.  I get the basics, but I have historically had trouble building on the basics.  Programming for Everyone (Python) looked like a class I might be able keep up with, and I was familiar with the professor's teaching style from his Internet, History, Technology and Security class.

As someone who has struggled with programming I really appreciated this class.  I think it is incredibly useful to understand programming, even if one lacks the skills to build complex programs.  Perhaps it is only appropriate then that we had an option to talk about the importance of programming in an essay assignment.  My essay perhaps is not profound, but it's something I banged out for the assignment and it seemed to go over well with my classmates.  So with that, here's my submission.
"What is the impact of programming on our world? Does everyone need to learn programming? How might individual lives and society as a whole be changed if we found a way to include programming and technology at all levels of education?  It is acceptable in your essay to disagree and say that programming should not be for everybody.   Make sure that whatever position you take, that you support your argument."
I think that the impact of programming in our world is incredibly profound and often overlooked.  Life as I know it would not be possible without the programming that controls the technology many of us interact on a daily basis.  Millions of people take advantage of tools created by programming almost constantly through their daily lives, and often do so with little understanding of the language and controls that work behind the scenes.  So while I think that it would be enlightening and beneficial for programming be widely taught, I do not think it is necessary nor the major hurdle that we're facing in spreading digital literacy.

I think digital literacy is incredibly important in a society that relies so heavily on technology.  Understanding of the technology behind the tools (be they for work or entertainment) allows for a freedom and fuller utilization of the technology.  Comprehension allows for growth of skills, including the ability to recognize, diagnose, and repair problems as they arise.  That being said, someone can have a high level of digital literacy and strong computer skills without knowing how to program.  Information technology encompasses a large knowledge base, and knowing one type of programming may help you learn others, but does not guarantee comprehension of other programming languages.  The more programming you know, the more doors open, and the more that you can make the tools technology provides tools to do what you want.

As someone who works with technology and helps teach digital literacy, I work with people of all ages with all levels of competency (or lack there of) with using computers and related technology (tablets, cell phones, etc).  Unlike common perception, it's not just the elderly who are lacking in comfort and understanding with computers.  I work with teens who are very skilled with a very narrow area of technology - generally using a handful of apps on their phones, but have no skills to utilize technology beyond this scope.  I work with adults who don't know the difference between a website and a program.  So within this scope, my focus is on introducing "basic concepts" such as the most basic components and vocabulary so they can navigate and start learning what they want to do. 

When someone is at the point where they want to utilize technology for specific purposes, learning the programming first makes the process of gaining digital literacy far more frustrating.  Computer technology has progressed to the point where common day use does not require knowledge of programming, so it is no longer required before creating a word document or sending an email.  Additionally, the logic structures and precision required by programming can end up as hurdles for learning.

I feel that we should be encouraging learning programming in all ages, and investigate ways to make it less intimidating.  When people learn to program they can take those skills and use them as creative tools.  We're seeing a re-embracing of tapping of creative energy and craftsmanship, in contrast to the culture of mass-production and industrialization, with the growth of makerspaces and hackspaces throughout the United States and beyond.  One example of how programming and creative energy is being tapped is the National Day of Civic Hacking, where different types of hacking skills (including programming) are utilized to solve community problems.  The expansion and encouragement of teaching programming has potential for benefiting individuals in their comfort and understanding of how they can use technology, and potential benefits for the broader community as people use programming for expressions of creative energy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

[Book Review] Dragon Knight's Sword

Dragon Knight's Sword / Mary Morgan
"Duncan Mackay will do anything to lift the curse from his family — even forfeit his own life. But his plans change when he encounters the woman from his dreams, literally. She is from the future, somehow has his lost sword, and can talk to the Dragon that is able to lift his family’s curse.
Brigid O'Neill has spent her life listening to the mythological legends from Ireland and Scotland. So, when an ancient sword lands at her doorstep and she starts dreaming of a rugged Highlander, she drops everything and takes on a quest that will alter everything she believes.

Before their journey ends, not only will Duncan and Brigid battle an ancient curse, they must also find the courage to believe in the destiny that brought them together."
Dragon Knight's Sword is pretty much what you might expect.  A tormented brooding temptuous man of large proportion, a woman who is stunningly beautiful but never realized it, a sword (I mean, it's in the title), soul-searing attraction, kilts (mmm... kilts), about to be honest, about as much historical accuracy (ignoring magic) as a Ren Faire.  Light fare, on par with your regular highlands fantasy romance novel. 

To be honest, I do understand that achieving decent historical accuracy can be a challenge, and being a fantasy novel things are even more likely to be played fast and loose.  The story has a number of small inconsistencies (or if not inconsistencies, details that are poorly written so they seem contradictory).  The author strives to show the passion and magnetism between Brigid and Duncan, as well as develop characters throughout the book.

I find some of the physical descriptions to be a bit on the overdoing it side.  Duncan Mackay, highlander from the early 1200's is a towering man of "six and a half feet or taller."  Brigid is of short to average height.  I am also on the short to average height range and have many friends who are 6' to 6' 6" including a few ex's, so I'm pretty familiar with being around men with whom their nipples are constantly at eye-level, and their elbows inconveniently located near my own chest.  Let's just say, huge towering men have their downsides, regardless of the how likely someone of that stature is wandering around in 1200 (from what I understand concerning historical height trends).  I'm fine with all the men looking like Celtic warrior gods, that's cool, but I think it tends to be taken a little out of hand.

The sex is a mixed bag.  They definitely get all sorts of hot and bothered, with lots of fantasizing and dreaming.  On the other hand, I don't really find licking someone's lips sexy, and Duncan does that to Brigid a number of times.  Also, the sex is really quick.  We have a lot of build up about how much they want each other, Duncan cannot hold himself back, and BAM!  Just like that orgasms all around and they're into post-coital snuggling.  It sort of reads as if penetration to orgasm is a matter of seconds.  But, regardless of the setting, they are heavily into each other and enjoy their conjugal activities.

If you're looking for a Highland romance with the level of attention to detail that you find in Outlander, this isn't the book for you.  However, if you want to read a fantasy with a historical setting filled with lust, intrigue, and the promise of dragons, this is worth a read.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Monday, June 16, 2014

[Book Review] Half a King

Half a King / Joe Abercrombie

Yarvi was never intended to take his father's throne.  Crippled from birth he is disdained by family and society, for how can one without two good hands to hold shield and axe be a true man, let alone a king?  Instead he finds his calling in wisdom and the ministry, at least until his father and brothers are killed at war leaving him to ascend the throne under his uncle's guidance.  But betrayal lies in store for Yarvi, starting a chain of hardships honing Yarvi into a man who could be king, and a man for whom hard decisions will rest on his shoulders.

There are no magical princesses or gifts of good fortune in the gritty world of Half a King.  There is desperation, betrayal, and more determination than anything resembling hope.  You will also find plotting, ambition, cruelty, and kindness.

The story is incredibly engaging and always keeps a few cards close to the chest.  Half a King is not light reading but engrossing and enjoyable.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

If this applies to you, please answer:

Why is my blog getting so many hits from bitcoin discussion boards/channels?  This has been puzzling me for the past few weeks.

[Book Review] The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts / M. R. Carey
"Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin and Neil Gaiman."
When I requested this book I didn't know what to expect.  I was intrigued but cautious.  I love Gaiman, don't tend to read Stephen King as I'm not big into horror, and DNF Justin Cronin's The Passage without any desire to try anything else by him.  So seemed like 33% chance of liking this, 33% of not really caring, and 33% giving up on it.  I was actually almost reluctant to start reading the book in case my fears were met.

I was completely taken aback with how much I loved this story.

Melanie a very special, if not quite normal, girl.  Like most children she goes to school, learning about history, math, literature, and science.  However, for her life has never existed beyond the compound she lives in, her cell, the classroom, the dining hall, and the showers.  She and the children do not play, and she only leaves her room fully restrained in a wheelchair.  She is brilliant, but innocent.  Pieces begin to fall into place.  Cities with a population of zero, students taken away by the doctor who don't return, and the triggering of a strange, overwhelming hunger.

We follow Melanie as she discovers what she is and some of the last humans as they fight against time to survive and find a cure.

M. R. Carey masterfully balances narrative and exposition, sharing details and knowledge of the world the characters navigate with a purpose to the plot and the action immediately at hand.  The characters are convincing in their and sympathetic, even if unlikable.  I was quickly drawn into the story and stayed entranced through the end.

The Girl with All the Gifts is the story of the extinction of humanity, and just maybe what comes next.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Monday, June 9, 2014

[Book Review] Bloodshifted

Bloodshifted / Cassie Alexander

Trouble just seems to find Edie Spence, and once it does she's not so good at backing away.  Though to be honest, her current situation as bonded day-timer to the vampire Raven was not exactly of her doing (and is the only reason she is still alive).  Now she has to stay alive, and in one piece, in the dog-eat-dog world of Raven's lair.  Raven saved her as a political favor, but has his own deadly game in play.  And Edie not only has to worry about her own life, she's carrying one with her as well.


I like the world of Edie Spence that I first met in Nightshifted.  Up until now she's largely been basically a normal person with bad luck, an over developed need to care for people, and just happens to work as a nurse for the paranormal.  She doesn't always make the right choices, and her judgement at times is certainly suspect, but people are like that. 

Unfortunately, in this go-around I just didn't really enjoy the novel as much as the others.  I've read the first three novels, Nightshifted, Moonshifted, and Shapeshifted, and then accidentally skipped over book four, Deadshifted.  I don't know if there was a personality shift in Deadshifted, or if the factors of the situation magnified Edie's behavior in ways that just didn't appeal to me.  Maybe I just don't like the ways in which Edie is changing?  She is literally on the edge of losing her humanity, and I'm not sure how I feel about her becoming paranormal.

What I did enjoy in Bloodshifted were some of the supporting characters, in particular, the Shadows.  The sociopath phage entity (entities?) gets a chance to figuratively shine.

Overall, Bloodshifted made for a relatively quick read, though perhaps dark enough that I'm hesitant to call it "light" reading.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

[Book Review] Better Homes and Hauntings

Better Homes and Hauntings / Molly Harper

Nina Linden has the chance to rebuild her business after the physical and financial sabotage of her ex.  She lands the job of a lifetime in landscaping the private island estate of software wizard Deacon Whitney.  But the historic mansion has a dark history, and maybe all of those scary stories are more than simply speculation and myth.  Growing friendships with the other members of the project, and Mr. Whitney himself, help Nina recover from her own haunting past, and it will take a combined effort to unravel the secrets of this house.


I'd say that Molly Harper's writing is one of my guilty pleasures, but that would indicate that I felt any guilt about reading her books.  Yes, the romance is easy to predict and the villains obviously villains, but sometimes that's exactly what you want.

Better Homes and Hauntings makes for delightful light fare.  It is written with the seasoning of sass that I've come to expect and love from Harper's writing.  She does a good job balancing the different narrators, cultivates friendships between her characters, and makes me laugh in a book where there are nightmare level horrors lurking.

This is a great book for readers who like fun paranormal love stories.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Updating OverDrive Media Console Tip

Working from home today I decided to grab an audio book from my library's OverDrive collection.  Generally when using OverDrive audiobooks I limit myself to mp3 so that I can load the files onto my tablet and listen to in the car.  Since I'm on my home computer, a wma wouldn't be an issue.

So when I go to actually use OverDrive Media Console I find out there's an update available (3.2 to 3.0).  And things didn't work quite as planned.

Issue One - choosing the option to update just opens a new browser window to my homepage.

Solution - go directly to http://omc.overdrive.com/ and choose the correct version

Issue Two - something went wrong during the install involving a .dll and other sundry.  Retrying the install doesn't work, continuing the install doesn't work, and canceling the install leaves you with a broken install of ODMC 3.2

Solution - uninstall ODMC, then rerun the install package.  If you are not familiar with uninstalling software (for Windows 7 users) go to Control Panel - Programs (Uninstall a Program or through Programs and Features), find the program on the programs list, click on it to select it, then press the Uninstall button above the list.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Book Review] Reach for Infinity

Reach for Infinity / Jonathan Strahan (ed)
"An original collection of new short science fiction from the biggest and most exciting names in the genre. The latest in the Infinities collections edited and comissioned by multiple award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan.

What happens when humanity reaches out into the vastness of space? The brightest names in SF contribute new orginal fiction to this amazing anothology from master editor Jonathan Strahan. Including new work by Alastair Reynolds,Greg Egan,Ian McDonald, Ken Macleod, Pat Cadigan, Karl Schroeder, Hannu Rajaniemi, Karen Lord, Adam Roberts, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Aliette de Bodard Peter Watts, and others!"
This may be the best collections of science fiction stories I have read.  Incredibly well crafted across the board, and often unexpected. I was taken off guard by the storytelling and narrative forms.  I highly recommend this read to fans of literary science fiction.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Link Smorgasbord, May 2014

Help EFF Test Privacy Badger, Our New Tool to Stop Creepy Online Tracking
A new tool to help block tracking from third party sites, in testing so they're looking for people to use it and look for issues.

My Experiment Opting Out of Big Data Made Me Look Like a Criminal
On how absurd the efforts and limitations that someone must take are simply to avoid data harvesting..
It was no joke that taken together, the things I had to do to evade marketing detection looked suspiciously like illicit activities. All I was trying to do was to fight for the right for a transaction to be just a transaction, not an excuse for a thousand little trackers to follow me around. But avoiding the big data dragnet meant that I not only looked like a rude family member or an inconsiderate friend, I also looked like a bad citizen.

The myth that users will “vote with their feet” is simply wrong if opting out comes at such a high price. With social, financial and even potentially legal repercussions involved, the barriers for exit are high. This leaves users and consumers with no real choice nor voice to express our concerns.
Beyond net neutrality: The new battle for the future of the internet
I strongly recommend reading this.

Comic Book +
A fantastic archive of freely accessible comics.  Woo!

Comcast is destroying the principle that makes a competitive internet possible
On the history of telcoms and ISPs leading into today, and looking forward.

'Alien' artist H.R. Giger dies at 74
Not exactly library or book related, but I love Giger's work, and it definitely is a iconic part of science fiction.

Huge coalition led by Amazon, Microsoft, and others take a stand against FCC on net neutrality
In the long run I can't say I feel they always have our best interests on hand, but sometimes our interests and their interests actually run parallel for a bit.  The outcome on net neutrality affects them drastically.

Level 3 calls out Comcast, TWC and others for ‘deliberately harming’ their own broadband service
The title says most of it, the rest is how ISPs rely on each other to make the internet work.

Save Our Stacks
On the shrinking stacks in libraries,  particularly academic, as room is made way for offices and technology.

Amazon Delaying Shipment on Select Hachette Titles
Amazon's playing hardball with a publisher, and the publisher is pushing back.  This isn't the first time that a company has pushed back at Amazon, but Amazon can be very heavy handed, so there has been limited success on this front.  Hachette has something Amazon cannot duplicate through a third party brand, and Hachette publishes some big titles.
See more:
Amazon vs. Hachette Update: Booksellers Respond
Amazon Removes Pre-Order Capability On Many Forthcoming Hachette Titles
Amazon is Destoying my Favorite Things

Hollywood Is Still On The Wrong Side Of Net Neutrality
Interesting read

Who Has Your Back? Protecting Your Data from Government Requests
EFF's report for 2014.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wait, what's that referring URL?

I like to look at my blog stats periodically.  I'm going to assume this is at least somewhat common.  It's interesting to see what posts are of most interest and how people end up at my page.

And every now and then I find something that makes me squee.


That's not a web crawler referring URL.  I recognize the domain because Ramez Naam is the author of two books I really like (Nexus and it's sequel, Crux).

Turns out that my review was brought to his attention (likely through the publisher thanks to NetGalley), and was quoted on his website.


Currently I'm slightly embarrassed by my overuse of the word "and" in the first clause of that sentence, but also extremely happy that my review is featured here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

[Book Review] The Camelot Code

The Camelot Code / Mari Mancusi

When Sophie uses a secret code for her favorite game, an Arthurian legend MMO, she never expected to be sent back in time and meet the yet-to-be-crowned Arthur and the wizard Merlin.  Then when Arthur ends up in her time there's no time to find him, bringing Sophie's best friend Stuart in to act as a double until she can bring Arthur home.

Only, Arthur might just find he's far happier in the modern world, perhaps fitting in with others for the first time of his life.  Can Sophie and Stu manage to fill his shoes in the past so that the present isn't lost forever?  Can they bring Arthur back to his kingdom?  It'll take medieval magic and 20th century magic for them to stay atop this challenge.


As it turns out, this book just wasn't my bag.  That being said, I can definitely see this book being enjoyed by its intended audience.  I just apparently am not one to really enjoy a romance story aimed at elementary school kids.

The story is cute, the romance is sweet (if fraught with misunderstanding born of uncertainty and shyness), and the narrative decently paced.

I like that no one instantly understands what to do when plopped into a culture several centuries removed from their own time.  There is a decent job done handling different view points.

The plot itself is relatively straightforward, with a flavor of A Kid in King Arthur's Court.  The ill-intentioned characters clearly non-sympathetic.  Some of the technology details are a little mussed, though the idea of Merlin being overly into MMOs amuses me.

This would be a good read for kids in the 10 - 13 age range.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.