I really enjoyed this TED Talk on hacktivists the first couple times I watched it a year ago and a few months ago. Not sure why I have not yet posted it.

The beauty of hackers, says cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari, is that they force us to evolve and improve. Yes, some hackers are bad guys, but many are working to fight government corruption and advocate for our rights. By exposing vulnerabilities, they push the Internet to become stronger and healthier, wielding their power to create a better world.

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Insurgent
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I read Divergent for the Not Your Oprah’s Book Club, I had no intention of finishing the series. That stance changed when I decided I should watch the movie for Insurgent since my trainer talked about getting an extra part in it. Maybe his scene got cut, but it would be cool to look for him like I watched Zombieland to look for my cousin.

Much of my review about book one applies to this book two as well. Factions seemed derived. The conspiracy was weak and forced. I kept hoping that the whole book would be revealed to all be a simulation because that was the only thing that could save the plot. The big reveal was obvious from very early in the book.

This book gave me more of Four like I’d wanted from book one. (Book three apparently even makes him a narrator, which is an odd change given books one and two only follow Tris’ perspective.) Also better is he got to have a backbone, have feelings, and even express himself. Tris also better developed across this book compared to what I recall of the first.

I’m watching The Americans with the organizer of the book club and others. Something making me uncomfortable in that show is one of the handlers developing a dancing along statutory rape relationship with a teenager in order to get access to her CIA father’s house to record information. Phillip is in his thirties and the girl in her teens. Four is 18 and Tris 16. But I still feel like Four is an adult while Tris is pretending like the teen in the Americans. By this world’s standards Tris is an adult, so maybe I am on the wrong side of this. Also, I’m not so interested in love stories in general, so that I care at all makes me more squirmy.

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The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Yeah, I am finally getting around to reading it and years of resisting pressure. I rarely read something while everyone else does. The Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson phenomenons where all for Generation Y while I am GenX. I cannot think of an equivalent for my generation. I guess we were too infatuated with MTV. What is it with dystopian settings for Young Adult fiction? Are they worried about the end of the world?

The writing was pretty direct and simple. It really felt like something Jennifer Lawrence could have written. I’ve decided I ought to watch the movies because it feels like the casting choice there was brilliant.

Predictably, the first part of the book is where we meet Katniss and the shape of the world and the setup for the Hunger Games. Following her perspective, especially the Fog of War, improved the story during the games as wondering what will happen and surprises helped. I was somewhat disappointed the ending did not leave more of a cliffhanger for prompting to immediately need to read Catching Fire.

Kind of felt Katniss possessed too much Emotional Quotient at times compared to the near constant describing her as impulsive. In the end, I think Katniss is much more level headed than she thinks she is. Perhaps as she grows confidence over achieving success, she will grow into it.

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The Gatekeeper
The Gatekeeper by Scott Ferrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scott is a friend from high school. We played D&D and terrorized our hometown. I wanted to read this because I figured it would incorporate elements from that experience. Maybe I would even recognize someone I know?

Stories like this about the hero stuck in another world are among my favorites. The D&D cartoon from the 80s, The Sleeping Dragon, and others unveil the challenge of learning to deal with a realm possessing unfamiliar physics, more sentient beings than just humans, and everyone looking at Terrans like they are idiots. Dealing with our world is hard enough. Getting thrown into something very different should break anyone. Relating to the protagonist, Gaige, was easy because I was the outsider kid struggling with parents and other kids not understanding.

The Gatekeeper started strong and kept up the pace. Gaige, Aoife, and Seanna were enjoyable. Foreshadowing of the twist was there but not too obvious where it would go. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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The Age of American Unreason
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Back in 2007, I went to Thanksgiving with Mom to the home of a Philosophy professor. The professor’s father discoursed on why United States presidents should only be intellectuals. His arguments made sense. Someone able to understand the options, determine risk, and plan for contingencies will likely do a better job than someone who cannot. (Most PotUS surround themselves with those capable of doing this, but at the time, the PotUS had political sycophants rather than intellectuals.)

The most spectacular portion of the book was the discourse on Junk Thought, which is what Jacoby calls pseudoscience, since she uses Junk Thought to bash it.

Really, I agree with 90% of the conclusions made in this book. My issues with the book rests with how the arguments link together in odd leaps that seem to rely more on faith than evidence. Plus, it is easy to tell who the author dislikes with the ad hominems used to discuss them.

The United States does need a well educated, well read, and actively engaged electorate to ensure our elected representatives possess the highest caliber. Books like this hurt that conversion instead of aiding us to somehow navigate the issues to achieve it.

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m4s0n501

As I have previously written here, I am biracial. One parent is European descent while the other is of African descent. When I was born, I was the first biracial child many had ever seen. Thankfully, it was just the start of a trend, so these days plenty are around for people to notice us.

This morning, I noticed several different book series all with protagonists who are of mixed blood. One even has a character who is half human and half dragon, which ought to be interesting for the parents to explain conception. (For the D&D nerds out there, in AD&D 2nd Edition some dragons could transform into human shape, which is how half-dragons became a thing. I had a few NPCs as a DM who were half-dragons.)

Pretty consistently these half-blood characters found rejection in larger society in not fitting one race or the other. Society wants them to choose. Really, it is a false choice as the characters, like I did, find honoring both is the only real viable path. Rejection of one or the other just leads to painful experiences. The reality is I am neither white nor black and can never be either. So I will always be something in-between. That’s OK.

Well, that’s what I have to explain to some people.

Anyway, fantasy and science fiction novels were a great source of reading about half-anything. Some of my favorites:

  • Spock from Star Trek who was half-human and half-vulcan.
  • Tanis from Dragonlance who was half-human and half-elf.
  • Smash from Xanth who was half-human and half-ogre.

Maybe with these new books I can find a few new favorites.

 

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I enjoyed reading Why We Should Design Some Things to Be Difficult to Use by Brian Millar for WIRED. It caught my attention and held it by referencing Dan Pink’s book Drive. I posted his TED Talk on Drive back in 2009. The sections of the piece:

  1. The Pleasures of Mastery
  2. Difficulty Makes Things Exclusive
  3. Danger May Be Safer
  4. Expert Mode and the Pro Am Phenomenon
  5. Are You Making It Easy to Do Something Badly?

It made me think about my decision to own a dSLR camera back in 2006. When I finally learned how to take good photos in a single take using Manual mode, I felt accomplished. It was something over which I felt proud. Even when I used a Point-n-Click or cellphone, my photos were much improved. Even looking at the work of others took on a new element of having some idea what went into creating such a gorgeous piece of art. (Or what shortcuts some took to create a sloppy mess.) Getting to know other photographers seeking to learn and improve and help each other changed the game for me. I understood why artists build a community.

Risk homeostasis, aka the concept that people will change behavior until the risk level is back up to the prior amount, was new to me. You know where to find me. (At my laptop Googling more.)

 

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A while ago I posted a review about the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The message of the book, I think, is critically important, but the book wasted my time with too many anecdotes and testimonials which are a taboo in science writing. The good parts remain where Dweck wrote about her own and others’ research and application of it in this area. If it had stuck with that I’d have given it 4 stars instead of 2.

In the review I suggested “The Inverse Power of Praise” chapter of NurtureShock (Bronson and Merryman) as an alternative. Well, The Secret to Raising Smart Kids written by Dweck is another good alternative.

Here Carol condenses Mindset to something any parent or teacher can read. It focuses on the research and how to put it into practice.

Not long ago, I noticed someone praised me for self-correcting. Specifically he like I noticed where I was doing it wrong and changed to resume the correct form. So I got to explain Mindset and praise his process of observation and reward. It got more than a little meta.

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About five years ago earlier this month, I went on Bahá’í pilgrimage to Haifa.

It is funny how in that post I wrote about the experience my expectation of some significant change. Even that post stated, “Something like serving at the Bahá’í World Center would be the kind of change I foresee,” which clearly states where my head was looking at the time. I think at the time I was terrified of where things were headed at work and very much tempted to flee a sinking ship. Many of our top talent at the time were. Anyway, I did apply for a job, but after the interview felt a crushing feeling it was not the right move for me so I withdrew. I am at a loss to figure out what changed.

Did not enter a relationship.

At the same employer. New job.

If anything, then the one big change is drifting from faith.

I still think about the statement I was told by some strangers that I ought to be an educator instead of wasting my potential working in IT.

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A friend posted about Winds of Winter not coming in 2015.

Back in 2011, I posted about George R. R. Martin and the question “whether GRRM has the time to finish the books before the HBO TV series catches up to him.” He had estimated the TV series will take multiple seasons for some books. Let’s compare his prediction with the reality so far.

Book Between Publishing TV ETA TV Real
One (Game of Thrones) N/A 2011 2011
Two (Clash of Kings) 2 years 2012 2012
Three (Storm of Swords) 2 years 2013 / 2014 2013 / 2014
Four (Feast for Crows) and
Five (Dance With Dragons)
11 years 2015 / 2016
(/ maybe 2017)
2015
(rest not yet announced)

That looks pretty spot on through 2015. Season four starts April 12rh. Based on the leaked GoT trailer, they do recombine books 4 and 5. Combined they are a monstrous almost 2k pages. GRRM also claimed 2-3 seasons for the recombined Feast and Dance books. Three seems more likely given the 1200 page Storm took two, 1800 page Feast/Dance should be about three.

Ideally Winds would come out well prior to the HBO season covering it, giving us a chance to read it first. So ideally 2016 but it could be 2018 or later. :(

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