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 Spread the Word by William Safire. This is the 500th book I’ve added since I started using Goodreads to track them in October 2012. It’s a collection of his columns “On Language” in the New York Times from the late 90s. While some of the examples are dated, it’s still a fascinating read. He had a gift for playing with language. I love when there are words about words. Take Paradiorthosis, a correction that is itself incorrect. Next time a guy tries to mansplain to me, I’ll throw that at him. Or Kakistocracy, government by the worst people. I think that should be illustrated with a picture of the current Congress. Or Linguaclips, the technique of abbreviation, clipping long words into short ones, and clipping those into initials and acronyms. I could go on. A great book for people who enjoy reading.

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman. This is a well-written, well-researched book that will open your eyes. After the first few chapters, I disabled Location on my apps and Facebook and started turning off my cellphone when it wasn’t in use. The amount of data we willingly share on line is staggering, but you might not know what happens to it next. When you sign up for an online dating service, for example, that data is sold, often in realtime. We are commodities, bought and sold to advertisers. Then there’s what hackers and organized crime does with the information. Hackers can access your computer cam and sell photos of you online. With the Internet of Things (communicating devices) gaining speed more and more of our world is subject to intrusion. His final chapters detail some solutions that governments can take, that corporations and coders can take, and that we as individuals can take. Mr. Goodman did an amazing job making this technical subject accessible to regular readers.

Clam Wake by Mary Daheim. I’m generally a fan of Mary Daheim’s cozies. I’ve read all the Alpine mysteries and most of the Bed & Breakfast series. This was a weaker entry. Renie and Auntie Vance in particular were grating. The way she harped on all the drinking was weird. The mystery was fun, though slight, and the location descriptions were excellent.

vamysteryfan: (books)

Found In Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche.
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Shaped History by Boris Johnson
The Monuments Men by Richard Edsel and Bret Witter
The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

Found In Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche. I never think about the little instruction booklets that come with my new electronics. Thanks to this book I’ll never look at them the same way again. Translators and interpreters affect out lives in subtle ways. They have a hand in many areas, from the religious books we follow to peace treaties to YouTube videos and beyond. I never considering the difficulties in translating porn or TED talks. Most of us know at least one funny mistranslation (all your base are belong to us, anyone?) but think how dangerous a mistranslation could be in safety directions. The book is full of interesting anecdotes that will make you think.

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Shaped History by Boris Johnson. I really enjoyed Boris Johnson’s unabashedly exuberant The Churchill Factor. I lucked into an ARC and it’s worth reading. It took some time to get used to his slangy style, but it was worth it and even eventually seemed appropriate. Johnson’s premise is that Churchill was exactly the right man in exactly the right place to make the choice for good that benefited history. The year 1940 was pivotal in the fight against the Nazis and he made a decision to end appeasement. I loved the stores about his past, his relationship with Clemmie, and his prodigious writing output. I learned a lot about Russia’s activities in the war – my history classes glossed over a lot of that. The only chapter I didn’t like was the one where Johnson listed all Churchill’s worst decisions and then proceeds to excuse/explain them away. He really reached on some. All in all an enjoyable read for someone looking for more information about Churchill written in a casual style.

The Monuments Men by Richard Edsel and Bret Witter. This is an extremely detailed account of about a year during World War 2 after D-Day in the European theatre. Hitler and his crew systematically looted the great treasures of Europe. If they were in museums or in the hands of private collectors, especially Jewish ones, they ended up in the hands of the Nazis. The were shipped east and kept in repositories, many of those underground. The Monuments Men tried to track down these repositories. Remarkably, the Allies made the decision to return the artwork to where it belonged, even to Germany, instead of claiming it for reparations. I will never be able to look at the Castle of Neuschwanstein in the same way after learning it sheltered so many looted treasures.

The Monuments Men worked without much in the way of resources. It was remarkable that they were able to return so many treasures. Visiting European museums would be a very different experience today if it weren’t for their efforts. I was particularly moved by the story of Rose Valland. She has been given short shrift in many historical accounts. If it weren’t for her recordkeeping, many items would still be lost. The Monuments Men were gifted art curators and historians. Many of them went on to distinguished careers in the best known museums in the world.

The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. This book attempts to explain what the CIA’s Master Chef examination, Michael Symon, and Thomas Keller have in common. It explores what makes a great chef from several different viewpoints. Is it adherence to classical cooking, a sense of fun, creativity? This book was written in 2001 so it was interesting to read in light of what we know now. Michael Symon is a big name on television and Thomas Keller is still revered as the chef for the French Laundry. I hadn’t heard about the Master Chef designation. It was interesting to read about the challenges the aspirants went through. The exam tests a chef’s knowledge of classical French techniques thoroughly. If you haven’t read and practiced the recipes in Escoffier, there’s no point. It’s a good addition to any foodie-file’s shelf for the behind-the-scene tales. Very enjoyable

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. It’s a companion book to a series currently being broadcast on PBS. What would history be like if an artificial intelligence wrote it? It would likely focus less on human interactions and more on the development of technologies. Robots wouldn’t care as much about social evolution as they would about technological innovation. The hummingbird effect is in contrast to the well-known butterfly effect where tiny actions can have enormous unknown consequences. The hummingbird effect is linked chain of causality that might be unanticipated but traceable. I enjoy these kinds of books about the development of technology. I like the background information about how inventions came to be and the changed our lives.

vamysteryfan: (Default)
I went to an introductory class on Hootsuite, which is a software that manages and tracks tweets and Twitter streams. The class was extremely interesting and useful; the software is more useful for large organizations. People, including me, were tweeting during the class. I ended up preserving the Twitter stream to save the insights. It also faintly creeped me out as many applications of Big Data now do.

You can specify a geographical location, language, and hashtag to track tweets about a specific event and then respond to them. For example, you can look for tweets in Korean within one mile of the Smithsonian museums and then respond to them with suggestions for other things to do in the area. It will also do Boolean searches - Bieber AND sucks or Bieber NOT sucks - to track reactions to events.

And you can set up a Twitter display, say in the lobby of your office building, for tweets about your company events, or just about anything.

I was proud that I noticed the capacity for Boolean searches - people geeked out over it when I raised it :) We also talked about not feeding the trolls - true for organizations as well as people.
vamysteryfan: (Default)
I downloaded a new-to-me software package called Andreamosaic. It takes your photos and uses them to create a mosaic of another photo.

For example, I have about 300 photos I've taken over the years at Moonridge. I set a photo of Cascade as the main image and then made the mosaic with all my photos.

Before and after )

Cascade is now made up of hundreds of pictures from Moonridge. It's a little hard to tell. My copies are higher res than I can upload here. I plan on doing a little more experimenting before I'm really ready for primetime.

OK one with Garett )
Garett is made of fans :)

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