Books to Read

The Atlantic published A Reading Guide for Those in Despair About American Politics. It’s a list worth looking through, and of course, reading…

  1. Americanah By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie
  4. Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom By Ryan T. Anderson
  5. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism By Edward Baptist
  6. Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith By Francis Beckwith
  7. The Coming By Daniel Black
  8. The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism By Pascal Bruckner
  9. Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
  10. Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics By Cathy Cohen
  11. Evicted By Matthew Desmond
  12. Roads to Dominion: Right Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States By Sara Diamond
  13. Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America By Tamara Draut
  14. Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America By Martin Gilens
  15. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion By Jonathan Haidt
  16. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements By Eric Hoffer
  17. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right By Arlie Russell Hochschild
  18. Book of Judges
  19. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in the 20th Century By Alice Kessler-Harris
  20. The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism By Yuval Levin 
  21. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness By George Lipsitz
  22. Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class By Ian Haney López
  23. A Canticle for Leibowitz By Walter Miller
  24. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 By Charles Murray
  25. Dreams From My Father By Barack Obama
  26. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America By George Packer
  27. Citizen: An American Lyric By Claudia Rankine
  28. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty By Dorothy Roberts
  29. The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown By Paul Taylor
  30. Because of Sex: One Law, 10 Cases and 50 Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work By Gillian Thomas
  31. Habibi By Craig Thompson
  32. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems
  33. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America By Colin Woodard

My Creative Commons book collection

Like squirrels collecting nuts it is easy to try to fill a hard drive with “useful stuff” – just to have it available at some later date. The stuff of interest right now are various books I like/need/reread/ that are licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Often when I come across a CC licensed book of interest I tend save the file on my hard drive and write about it on the blog.

When I recently recommended Deazley, R., Kretschmer, M. & Bently, L. (2010) Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright, in this entry I got a comment that I could support their bandwidth by hosting the book. An easy request to fulfill. I also began thinking about files that occasionally disappear from the web and I decided to resolve part of this issue as well.

So instead of only saving the Creative Commons licensed books I like on my hard drive I created a page on my other blog for the books. If you have a book you would like to recommend please leave a suggestion in the comments section.

50 dying things

The Telegraph has a wonderful list of “50 things that are being killed by the internet”. The name is a little misleading since it is not only the internet’s fault but it is an interesting and amusing look at the way in which our world is changing. Not that I will miss all the items on the list, but it’s still good to notice what is changing.

1) The art of polite disagreement
While the inane spats of YouTube commencers may not be representative, the internet has certainly sharpened the tone of debate. The most raucous sections of the blogworld seem incapable of accepting sincerely held differences of opinion; all opponents must have “agendas”.

2) Fear that you are the only person unmoved by a celebrity’s death
Twitter has become a clearing-house for jokes about dead famous people. Tasteless, but an antidote to the “fans in mourning” mawkishness that otherwise predominates.

3) Listening to an album all the way through
The single is one of the unlikely beneficiaries of the internet – a development which can be looked at in two ways. There’s no longer any need to endure eight tracks of filler for a couple of decent tunes, but will “album albums” like Radiohead’s Amnesiac get the widespread hearing they deserve?

4) Sarah Palin
Her train wreck interviews with NBC’s Katie Couric were watched and re-watched millions of times on the internet, cementing the Republican vice-presidential candidate’s reputation as a politician out of her depth. Palin’s uncomfortable relationship with the web continues; she has threatened to sue bloggers who republish rumours about the state of her marriage.

5) Punctuality
Before mobile phones, people actually had to keep their appointments and turn up to the pub on time. Texting friends to warn them of your tardiness five minutes before you are due to meet has become one of throwaway rudenesses of the connected age.

6) Ceefax/Teletext
All sports fans of a certain age can tell you their favourite Ceefax pages (p341 for Test match scores, p312 for football transfer gossip), but the service’s clunking graphics and four-paragraph articles have dated badly. ITV announced earlier this year that it was planning to pull Teletext, its version.

7) Adolescent nerves at first porn purchase
The ubiquity of free, hard-core pornography on the web has put an end to one of the most dreaded rights rites of passage for teenage boys – buying dirty magazines. Why tremble in the WHSmiths queue when you can download mountains of filth for free in your bedroom? The trend also threatens the future of “porn in the woods” – the grotty pages of Razzle and Penthouse that scatter the fringes of provincial towns and villages.

8) Telephone directories
You can find Fly Fishing by J R Hartley on Amazon.

9) The myth of cat intelligence
The proudest household pets are now the illiterate butts of caption-based jokes. Icanhasreputashunback?

10) Watches
Scrabbling around in your pocket to dig out a phone may not be as elegant as glancing at a watch, but it saves splashing out on two gadgets.

11) Music stores
In a world where people don’t want to pay anything for music, charging them £16.99 for 12 songs in a flimsy plastic case is no business model.

12) Letter writing/pen pals
Email is quicker, cheaper and more convenient; receiving a handwritten letter from a friend has become a rare, even nostalgic, pleasure. As a result, formal valedictions like “Yours faithfully” are being replaced by “Best” and “Thanks”.

13) Memory
When almost any fact, no matter how obscure, can be dug up within seconds through Google and Wikipedia, there is less value attached to the “mere” storage and retrieval of knowledge. What becomes important is how you use it – the internet age rewards creativity.

14) Dead time
When was the last time you spent an hour mulling the world out a window, or rereading a favourite book? The internet’s draw on our attention is relentless and increasingly difficult to resist.

15) Photo albums and slide shows
Facebook, Flickr and printing sites like Snapfish are how we share our photos. Earlier this year Kodak announced that it was discontinuing its Kodachrome slide film because of lack of demand.

16) Hoaxes and conspiracy theories
The internet is often dismissed as awash with cranks, but it has proved far more potent at debunking conspiracy theories than perpetuating them. The excellent continues to deliver the final, sober, word on urban legends.

17) Watching television together
On-demand television, from the iPlayer in Britain to Hulu in the US, allows relatives and colleagues to watch the same programmes at different times, undermining what had been one of the medium’s most attractive cultural appeals – the shared experience. Appointment-to-view television, if it exists at all, seems confined to sport and live reality shows.

18) Authoritative reference works
We still crave reliable information, but generally aren’t willing to pay for it.

19) The Innovations catalogue
Preposterous as its household gadgets may have been, the Innovations catalogue was always a diverting read. The magazine ceased printing in 2003, and its web presence is depressingly bland.

20) Order forms in the back pages of books
Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item also bought…” service seems the closest web equivalent.

21) Delayed knowledge of sporting results
When was the last time you bought a newspaper to find out who won the match, rather than for comment and analysis? There’s no need to fall silent for James Alexander Gordon on the way home from the game when everyone in the car has an iPhone.

22) Enforceable copyright
The record companies, film studios and news agencies are fighting back, but can the floodgates ever be closed?

23) Reading telegrams at weddings
Quoting from a wad of email printouts doesn’t have the same magic.

24) Dogging
Websites may have helped spread the word about dogging, but the internet offers a myriad of more convenient ways to organise no-strings sex with strangers. None of these involve spending the evening in lay-by near Aylesbury.

25) Aren’t they dead? Aren’t they gay?
Wikipedia allows us to confirm or disprove almost any celebrity rumour instantly. Only at festivals with no Wi-Fi signals can the gullible be tricked into believing that David Hasselhoff has passed away.

26) Holiday news ignorance
Glancing at the front pages after landing back at Heathrow used to be a thrilling experience – had anyone died? Was the government still standing? Now it takes a stern soul to resist the temptation to check the headlines at least once while you’re away.

27) Knowing telephone numbers off by heart
After typing the digits into your contacts book, you need never look at them again.

28) Respect for doctors and other professionals
The proliferation of health websites has undermined the status of GPs, whose diagnoses are now challenged by patients armed with printouts.

29) The mystery of foreign languages
Sites like Babelfish offer instant, good-enough translations of dozens of languages – but kill their beauty and rhythm.

30) Geographical knowledge
With GPS systems spreading from cars to smartphones, knowing the way from A to B is a less prized skill. Just ask the London taxi drivers who spent years learning The Knowledge but are now undercut by minicabs.

31) Privacy
We may attack governments for the spread of surveillance culture, but users of social media websites make more information about themselves available than Big Brother could ever hoped to obtain by covert means.

32) Chuck Norris’s reputation
The absurdly heroic boasts on Chuck Norris Facts may be affectionate, but will anyone take him seriously again?

33) Pencil cricket
An old-fashioned schoolboy diversion swept away by the Stick Cricket behemoth

34) Mainstream media
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News in the US have already folded, and the UK’s Observer may follow. Free news and the migration of advertising to the web threaten the basic business models of almost all media organisations.

35) Concentration
What with tabbing between Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and Google News, it’s a wonder anyone gets their work done. A disturbing trend captured by the wonderful XKCD webcomic.

36) Mr Alifi’s dignity
Twenty years ago, if you were a Sudanese man who was forced to marry a goat after having sex with it, you’d take solace that news of your shame would be unlikely to spread beyond the neighbouring villages. Unfortunately for Mr Alifi, his indiscretion came in the digital age – and became one of the first viral news stories.

37) Personal reinvention
How can you forge a new identity at university when your Facebook is plastered with photos of the “old” you?

38) Viktor Yanukovych
The Orange Revolution in Ukraine was organised by a cabal of students and young activists who exploited the power of the web to mobilise resistance against the old regime, and sweep Viktor Yushchenko to power.

39) The insurance ring-round
Their adverts may grate, but insurance comparison websites have killed one of the most tedious annual chores

40) Undiscovered artists
Posting paintings to deviantART and Flickr – or poems to writebuzz – could not be easier. So now the garret-dwellers have no excuses.

41) The usefulness of reference pages at the front of diaries
If anyone still digs out their diaries to check what time zone Lisbon is in, or how many litres there are to a gallon, we don’t know them.

42) The nervous thrill of the reunion
You’ve spent the past five years tracking their weight-gain on Facebook, so meeting up with your first love doesn’t pack the emotional punch it once did.

43) Solitaire
The original computer timewaster has been superseded by the more alluring temptations of the web. Ditto Minesweeper.

44) Trust in Nigerian businessmen and princes
Some gift horses should have their mouths very closely inspected.

45) Prostitute calling cards/ kerb crawling
Sex can be marketed more cheaply, safely and efficiently on the web than the street corner.

46) Staggered product/film releases
Companies are becoming increasingly draconian in their anti-piracy measure, but are finally beginning to appreciate that forcing British consumers to wait six months to hand over their money is not a smart business plan.

47) Footnotes
Made superfluous by the link, although Wikipedia is fighting a brave rearguard action.

48) Grand National trips to the bookmaker
Having a little flutter is much more fun when you don’t have to wade though a shop of drunks and ne’er-do-wells

49) Fanzines
Blogs and fansites offer greater freedom and community interaction than paper fanzines, and can be read by many more people.

50) Your lunchbreak
Did you leave your desk today? Or snaffle a sandwich while sending a few personal emails and checking the price of a week in Istanbul?

The worlds happiest places

According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), happiness levels are highest in northern European countries. In their World Factbook the happiest top ten are

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. The Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Ireland
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. New Zealand
9. Norway
10. Belgium

On average, around 60% of people in OECD countries reported a high satisfaction with their life, and a slightly higher share for their life five years from now. Among OECD countries, the share of people reporting high life satisfaction ranges between 85% or more in the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark, and less than 30% in Turkey, Hungary and the Slovak Republic. The non-OECD countries report lower life-satisfaction but are generally more optimistic about their future. Satisfaction with current life is around 20% or lower in Indonesia, China, India and South Africa, but higher in Brazil.

The only thing that confuses me is that Finland is in second place! I like Finland but I was always told that Finns are generally depressive lot. An article about the OECD report from Forbes.

Ten books you're supposed to like but I didn't

MissPrism over at A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag has created an interesting meme: Ten books you’re supposed to like but I didn’t. So here is my list (in no particular order):

Lord of the Rings (1939-1944) by Tolkien – I was upset to discover that I did not like this book. I forced myself to read the whole book while on holiday in Sardinia but felt often enough that I wanted to chuck it into the pool. Sorry I just don’t get fantasy fiction or science fiction (see below). But I really like the movies.

Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson – This upset me less. For me science fiction is great for movies but not worth reading about. The only exception to the scifi rule for me is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is actually a great comic work which just happens to be in space.

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintanence (1974) by Robert Pirsig – This is still annoying and I will probably give this another shot. I know it’s not important but it was for a while just “one of those books” and I just couldn’t get into it.

Great Expectations (1860) by Charles Dickens. I blame my schoolteachers for this. Why on earth would they think that this book would interest young children? It ruined Dickens completely for me. I would not be shocked if I eventually tried and enjoyed Dickens at a later date but still today after 30 years I have no desire to read this book, or any others by him. Good work teachers!

A Brief History of Time (1988) by Stephen W. Hawking. Apparently has been printed in over 9 million copies. Honestly folks I know you have it in your bookshelf – have you read it? I could not. The title and author make me want to but as soon as I get close to it, I pick another book.

On the Road (1951) by Jack Kerouac – you have got to be kidding me. Boring, boring… but wait! the next book is the same…

Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J. D. Salinger – again, you have got to be kidding me. Maybe this and On the Road is a generational thing. Boring, boring, boring. I think I would rather read Dickens (see comment above).

Heart of Darkness (1902) by Joseph Conrad. Yes, yes I know. The horror, the horror. I own two or three copies of this book which is proof of my valiant effort to enjoy it. I have read it from cover to cover more times than it deserves. Give it up it’s just not good.

To the lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf. Didn’t like it. Is this a gender thing? Nope! I just didn’t want to finish it. It wasn’t worth reading.

For whom the bell tolls (1940) by Ernst Hemmingway. Nope. The one dimensional macho characters just don’t grip me. It’s just a boys own comic without pictures. A time capsule. But some people are fascinated. Go figure.

Well there it is. Another list. Think of it as light Friday entertainment. Think of it as an admission of bad taste. But what do you think? What would be on your list?

Friday list 2: Miracles in Concrete

A second list you cannot miss on this early Friday evening is the Swedish Miracles in Concrete. This is not a mistake in translation: miracles, indeed! Well what they actually are trying to create is a list of the seven concrete wonders of the world but in Swedish wonders becomes miracles!

Örebro water tower – (about)
The Sandö Bridge – (about)
Turning Torso – (about)
The Kaknäs Tower – (about)
The new Svinesund bridge (about)
Arlanda Air Traffic Control (cannot find about)
Öresund Bridge – (about)

How did they chose these seven? Well first 21 buildings were nominated and there was an open vote for the seven best.

List of Cool Speakers

Freshome has a list (with pictures) of different, cool, strange, weird speakers. Among them I came across these

I don’t think I have ever wanted any speakers as much as I wanted these Munny speakers from instructables! Which says a lot about my music and my taste 🙂