For the Jewish gastronaut who feels ready to explore less readily available meats, but is worried about their Kosher status, this is the perfect read.For the Jewish gastronaut who feels ready to explore less readily available meats, but is worried about their Kosher status, this is the perfect read. Presented as a series of short, but humorous, debates between ANN (the explanatory voice of Kosher rules played by Ann VanderMeer) and EVIL MONKEY (the questioning voice of the confused non-Jew played by Jeff VanderMeer). Each dialogue ends with the stamp of Kosher or non-Kosher (or more common than is actually helpful Unknown Kosherness) status. Each section is a little brief, but as the writings were created from actual conversations between Ann and Jeff I suppose they end up pretty much being what they were.
So if you were ever worried whether Jackalopes, Wookies, Mermaids, Phoenix, Sasquatch, ET, or even Behemoth or Leviathan were Kosher, then this is the book for you. ...more
Another month; another book club selection must be read. Nineteen Eighty-Four was Colin's selection on the basis that it's a book that many people eitAnother month; another book club selection must be read. Nineteen Eighty-Four was Colin's selection on the basis that it's a book that many people either claim they've read , or believe they've read, but haven't. I had read it before — approximately ten years ago when I read it back-to-back with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. If you want to choose between them, I still think that is a better novel and probably a better prediction of our own dystopia. But, re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four made me realise actually how little of it I did recall. Obviously, I was fine with the bigger story arcs, but many of the finer details had either slipped my mind or not even really been noted previously.
Winston and, to a lesser extent, Julia are our everymen. Our view into the world of Ingsoc and Oceania. Neither of them are in control of their own destinies — even their treason is a carefully orchestrated party activity — instead they waste away drinking gin and being either loyal or disloyal. It doesn't seem to matter too much. Their treason appears to be a road crafted specifically to train them out of their crimethink, but without the party's activities Winston and Julia wouldn't necessarily have committed their crimes or even read The Book. With parallels in Minority Report they are tricked into committing their crimes rather than just arrested for what they might go on to do.
And the gin! How much gin is consumed in this novel? Victory gin appears to be an Old Tom gin rather than a London Dry judging by the description. Reading Olivia Williams' Gin, Glorious Gin a few books after this provided some interesting background as to how gin was seen in society at the time.
But it's just so heavy going. Page after page of dirgeful prose ramming home the points that Orwell wanted to get across rather than letting them seep through while he told us a story. It's not that he can't write either. There are some truly beautiful turns of phrase in the novel: from the opening line, to having characters speak parenthetically or in italics. I certainly didn't need to have Winston read The Book out loud to Julia — checking occasionally if she's still paying attention — like Orwell knows this bit is going to be a struggle but can't think of another way to get his points across.
A fascinating essay that might have made an excellent shorter novel. You should definitely read it if you haven't already. It's an important — very important — work and it's genre defining. But important works aren't always readable novels. ...more
An impassioned plea for Goodreads to stop the madness. To stop arbitrarily deleting 'reviews' just because they aren't simple book reports. To stop chAn impassioned plea for Goodreads to stop the madness. To stop arbitrarily deleting 'reviews' just because they aren't simple book reports. To stop changing the rules of reviewing without actually telling Goodreads members. To stop refusing to explain, discuss, or entertain the possibility that they might have messed up a bit here.
What started as a "complicated prank" has become a collection of essays, deleted reviews, parody reviews, personal stories and saddest of all goodbye letters. Exposing and discussing the censorship, the inconsistency and even trying to drill down into some of the data to see if there are any patterns (spoiler: there doesn't seem to be). The ebook is available from Lulu for the cost of production only, also some contributing authors have posted free to download links for the book. Download and read – it won't take that long.
I have voted for this book as a write-in vote for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2013 in both the Non-Fiction and Début Goodreads Author categories. Apparently Goodreads uses the average rating of the book to 'weigh' the validity of write-in votes (presumably as part of their decision to censor those votes - but I digress) so I've also rated the book five stars. I encourage others to do the same (even if you feel the need to re-rate the book after the awards have closed).
I leave the final word to the (former) owner of Goodreads:
"I hope you’ll appreciate that if we just start deleting ratings whenever we feel like it, that we’ve gone down a censorship road that doesn’t take us to a good place." — Otis Y. Chandler, Goodreads CEO...more
Euan Semple was the guest speaker at our (not exactly) annual work conference, earlier this year, where he gave an excellent talk about his experienceEuan Semple was the guest speaker at our (not exactly) annual work conference, earlier this year, where he gave an excellent talk about his experiences with social computing at the BBC. Semple was the guy who introduced social computing to the BBC – initially mostly under the radar – consequently he's one of the best placed people to talk about the potential benefits to both companies and employees of embracing social computing (and more open knowledge management practices in general). At the end of his talk he, quite sensibly, had a little plug for his book: Organisations Don't Tweet, People Do.
The book is a series of 44 'thought essays' rather than a single work as such. Each essay is a variation on a number of themes. That companies, managers and employees shouldn't be scared of social computing; shouldn't fear the loss of control. That blogging, tweeting, just the act of writing down your thoughts provides both valuable business benefits and valuable personal benefits – as a form of self-expression, increasing your worth in both your current role and the next, forcing you to think about your actions and helping you to understand, and even shape, the world around you. That openness and honesty in your writing are the key to both success in social computing and not making (or recovering from) mistakes. That conversations between real people are more important than marketing and 'knowledge management'. That you can't easily have a strategy for something like social computing as it's still developing and changing too fast. And, that sometimes the inanity of the online can help cement the relationships. There is a subtext running through the book as well – many of these essays hint that they are also talking about changing the way you run the business in a social computing world rather than just how your current business should 'do' social computing.
Each essay is short, generally less than half-a-dozen pages each, engaging and well written; easily read during a visit to the executive bathroom (he says 'restroom' in the introduction, but I refuse). Unfortunately, while they are short, 44 is a lot of essays for a book on such a narrow topic. Many of the essays feel like different riffs on the same themes as previous ones. In part, maybe that's not such a bad thing: if we haven't grasped Euan's message yet, maybe he needs to repeat himself. But, as a reasonably seasoned Internetphile, I didn't feel I was getting as much out of the repetition as I had hoped. For somebody who is less experienced, or less convinced, about the benefits of social computing in a work context, it's probably a much more useful collection of writings and, hopefully, might change some hearts and minds....more
Part instructional essay, part political treatise, but ultimately I've got no idea who it's aimed at. It's Neal Stephenson's explanation as to why hePart instructional essay, part political treatise, but ultimately I've got no idea who it's aimed at. It's Neal Stephenson's explanation as to why he believes the command line interface is the 'best' way to interact with a computer. That the GUI is only a metaphor for controlling the computer, a mediated experience that removes too much of both the control and the power that the command line interface allows. Stephenson doesn't go so far (as some reviews have suggested) as pushing for the removal of the GUI and a complete return to the command line. He believes that the GUI is a useful metaphor for some people and some applications. However, for a power user, the GUI is a broken and mixed metaphor that hasn't lived up to it's promise.
The two major problems though, are firstly, complaining about a metaphor using another metaphor to do so, while ignoring the fact that the command line interface is also a metaphor (just an older one that is potentially less mixed and broken, but no less a metaphor) is just too many metaphors too many. And secondly, that the essay has no real audience. Either readers are 'trapped' in their GUI mediated experience but are unlikely to read this, understand it, or care. Or readers are already convinced that the command line can be a more elegant solution to many problems but still aren't quite sure what the point of the essay actually is.
That said, and I fall quite definitely in the second camp of readers, I did enjoy reading it. It's dated and flawed, but for a certain group of readers worth reading. Just don't really expect to learn anything. I think if this appeals to you it'll be because you've pretty much thought it all through yourself already though......more
A series of articles by John Campbell, editor of Analog magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971. Each is an editorial from an edition of the AnalogA series of articles by John Campbell, editor of Analog magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971. Each is an editorial from an edition of the Analog science-fiction and science magazine, and this collection was pulled together by the late, great, Harry Harrison in 1966. While many of the editorials from the magazine would have been about the content of that month's magazine, the purpose of this collection is to gather together the more strident opinion pieces instead.
Each piece strikes at somebody's cherished talisman. Whether he's arguing that the US FDA should have approved the use of Thalidomide in-spite of the destruction the drug went on to cause; that segregation (by ability) in education is a good thing, even though it will cause segregation by race as a by-product; that some poor people are just lazy – because after all, some successful people used to be poor until they worked hard to escape it; that black Americans and Chinese Americans have resulted in very different success levels in immigrant populations; and so on. Not all his articles are political – many are about science-fiction the genre or about science as fact – the two key subjects of the magazine, Analog, itself. But, by and large, these editorials are of a political bent, with a right-of-centre and pro-science ideology. Many of the articles are deliberately antagonistic in style, often narrowing or widening the definition of certain loaded words. While most of the editorials are from the early 1960s, many are from the 1950s, and two date back to the 1940s. Their age dates many of the ideas heavily, and makes many of the editorials, especially the ones that touch on race, awkward, if not downright painful, reading. I would assume they were still fairly incendiary even when they were written. Campbell doesn't seem to ask that you agree with him, or even that you shut up and listen – but he does ask that you think about the beliefs you already hold and allow them to be challenged....more