Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Some Notes on 60 Minutes, the NSA and Snowden

  1. The NSA's credibility is so bad at this point that you can't help them by defending them. You can only ruin your own credibility by trying.
  2. Sending a former DNI staffer to interview NSA staffers on national TV is an ironic choice.
  3. If Edward Snowden passed the hacker test by hacking the test, overriding the administrator's permissions, and setting his own score, it's pretty clear that he deserves to pass the hacker test.
  4. If he can do all of that as a high school drop out, he gets bonus points.
  5. If he's coding at home with a towel over his head, maybe you should think about asking your other coders to do the same thing. Evidently, Ed Snowden has better opsec than the rest of your guys.
  6. He's also got a clearer concept of the legality & constitutionality of this business than most of the senior management over there. 
  7. Maybe you should put him in charge instead of trying to prosecute him.

Elsewhere: Boingboing has a nice little critique over here.

The Year in Reading 2013

In the next two weeks, I should be finishing 2013 with around 80 books read, excluding rereads, book-length online reading and books discarded midway through. This is roughly flat in comparison to last year.

As with previous years, I spent a lot of time binge reading specific authors. This year, I read most of Iain [M] Banks' writing, following his cancer diagnosis and before his death. Most recommended of the Culture novels: Look to Windward, Excession, Surface Detail. Best of the non-SF novels: The Steep Approach to Garbadale, about the family dynamics of an extended Scottish clan descended from the inventor of a Risklike game.

Seth Godin's books also popped up a lot. TryThis might Work, or Whatcha Gonna Do with that Duck? which samples his blog posts over the years. Good insights arrive through accumulation of small ideas.

Anne Carson wrote Red Doc> her second volume in the magnificently sad & funny poetic cycle about red, winged Geryon and Hercules (now called Sad But Great) & their friends and families. I kept going back and dipping into the book for a little reread at bedtime. It produced strange dreams.

In the process of putting together De Umbris Idearum, I spent a lot of time in the 16th and 17th centuries. Stephen Clucas' collection of articles Magic, Memory and Natural Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, James Connor's Kepler's Witch and Lawrence Principe's latest book on the actual chemistry behind alchemy helped situate Bruno's mix of science, philosophy and magic in the context of the period, as did Michael Flynn's online serialized article "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown", about Galileo and his contemporaries' roles in the heliocentrism debate, which, though not in book form, deserves mention here as one of the best long-form web works of the year.

Rounding out the list are three uncanny slipstream books. First: Kathleen Davis' Duplex, which was recommended to me so much that I hestated to read it. Boy, am I glad I did. Second, Voice of the Whale by Sjon: totally unique voice from a great Icelandic author. Third, Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities, a tour of del Toro's home and notebooks that provides a window into creativity.

I should also send out a cheer for two of my friends who published books for the first time this year: Matthew Alan, with One Degree and The Hero, and David Day, with The Tearstone. All three works are available for Kindle or paperback. You should buy copies for all the people on your Christmas list, and give some away to stranger on the street. They will thank you for it, and Matt and David will write more for you.

I'm writing more for you, too. In 2014, you should expect to see Startup Geometry, which has all my best tricks for starting and growing businesses, and Seeing the Forest, about strategy, wisdom and neuroscience. I'm a powerfully slow writer, which means that Geometry should be done already, but is not, and Forest still exists mostly as a really big PowerPoint deck, and waits conversion once Geometry is done.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Links for Later 12-7-13

  1. "Why Life Does Not Exist". tl;dr: Life is a porously bordered concept of arbitrarily defined complexity.
  2. "Is Growth Getting Harder?" Brad Delong quibbles with the Great Stagnationists
  3. Econometrics and Big Data
  4. Third Way tries to knock Elizabeth Warren down a peg, becuase they don't like the fact that she's appearing on magazine covers. It doesn't go well for them.
  5. Most of the deficit in economic opportunity in the US results from faulty government policies. That's good news.