Books: Little Brother

March 30, 2009

I just finished a very well-executed and scary book by Cory Doctorow. This book is called Little Brother, and is available for free through his website, under the Creative Commons license.

The book is a peek into the near future. Terrorists have blown up the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. The Department of Homeland Security responds, taking everyone into custody near the blast. The main Character, Marcus, is one of those detained. He is isolated, interrogated, and released several days later with the warning: “You will never speak of what happened here to anyone, ever. This is a matter of national security. Do you know that the death penalty still holds for treason in time of war?”

The book shows this 17 year old’s efforts to reveal the horrible abuses conducted by the DHS in a misguided campaign to fight a “War on Terror” by cracking down on anyone who doesn’t fit the DHS’s concept of “standard behavior”. His campaign of sousveillance (everyone monitoring the activities of the government) shows a plausible approach for resisting a powerful secretive government agency.

I highly recommend this book for anyone, but especially those of a political bent. While our government has not reached the point shown in this novel, the scenario presented is the next logical step to the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and detaining suspected terrorists without a warrant and without appeal. If your senator doesn’t know your feelings on these issues, it’s time you give them a call before even greater injustices are perpetrated.


Video: Kayaking Nepal

March 30, 2009

A nice whitewater video from Kayak Boat Riding. Some great footage in here, although the actual paddling ends at about 6:05.


Back from Alabama

March 29, 2009

I spend the past five days visiting my grandparents in Alabama. My sister and I flew down, leaving our spouses in Idaho. My grandmother is developing dementia, so we decided to keep the number of faces around to a minimum. She still remembers all the relationships, knows our names and that we’re married. She has a very tough time recalling words, and is starting to have problems with basic tasks like using the TV remote or the phone. She is also extremely anxious much of the time. If we’re going to go do something, she wants us to just go and do it right now. Grandmom also hates any time away from her husband.

We also had the opportunity to visit the beach – we even got an hour of sunshine while we were there. Storms the rest of the week. I’ve only been back in Idaho for a day, but I really miss the humidity!

I spent most of my free time with my head stuck in a book. 8 down for this week. My sister also talked me into reading the Twilight series. I found that I just cannot stand the main character (Bella) for the first three books. In the fourth, she becomes tolerable. The writing in the series also improves substantially, which is understandable with Twilight being the author’s first novel.

The flights were decent, although most flights were delayed by about 30 minutes. Of course, those 30 minutes are spent sitting on the plane rather than in the terminal. They don’t want to let us walk around any more than they have to.

I still have several half-completed posts just waiting for me to wrap them up. Hope to get them up this week.


March 20, 2009

It’s that time once again – midterms!

I have exams in both Psychology 101 and Anatomy and Physiology tomorrow. Lots of studying tonight and tomorrow morning.

A&P is going well – I’ve gotten an A on every exam to date. I’m hoping to continue that streak for this exam and the lab exam immediately after spring break. Psych isn’t going as well. A’s and B’s on the exams, but I can’t get above a low B on the other assignments! Our professor started out the semester saying there was no required length for the assignments. They could be as short as a few sentences. Apparently that was utter BS. The feedback on every assignment to date has requested that I write more. I hate when professors won’t give you their true expectations.

The quality of the assignments has also been very disappointing. We take a moderately long survey, get told what it “means about us,” and write what we learned from it in a nutshell. If these surveys are representative of current psychological surveys, I’ve learned I shouldn’t trust any psych studies!

Time to hit the books again, I have a couple posts half-written that I hope to finish up this weekend – after exams.

Webcomics Galore!

March 18, 2009

I was introduced to a new webcomic today, courtesy of LabRat. Digger is a very well-illustrated and creative webcomic, with a unique protagonist. The webcomic’s star is an anthropomorphic wombat, Digger,  who got lost while tunneling and ended up in matters far beyond her control. She is a very level-headed individual (as are most wombats), who goes to great lengths to avoid meddling in others affairs. Unfortunately, the world won’t let her get away with that, and she keeps getting sucked in to the affairs of the gods. Go check it out!

Another webcomic of which I am a long-time reader is Sluggy Freelance. Pete Abrams has been releasing a comic almost every day since 1997. The comic started out very roughly sketched, and focused on immediate laughs (Anyone up for a game of bikini-suicide-frisbee?), but as the author’s art has evolved, so has the storyline. Now, the comic tends toward broad, sweeping storylines – some of which deal with very serious topics. I’d really recommend checking it out, but you’ll need to start at the beginning!

Last, but far from least, is one that is not a webcomic per se. But it’s available online, so close enough! Frazz reminds me quite a bit of Calvin and Hobbes. The main character, Frazz, is an elementary school janitor who writes award-winning pop music on the side. He serves as both advisor and instigator for the children of the school. Especially my favorite character, Caulfield, who epitomizes the bored underachiever.

If you’re looking for a good way to kill a few minutes or a few hours, check out one of these comics!

Idaho Statesman layoffs

March 18, 2009

Our local newspaper is laying off more workers. I’m not overly concerned by this. I have never had a newspaper subscription and only read the newspaper once a month, at most. I skim the articles looking for something interesting, but usually find myself reading the funnies instead. It seems like they are the most insightful and well-researched part of the paper anyway. With the wide variety of information available online, I see very little need for local newspapers. Many of the articles are copied directly from the Associated Press. The local articles are frequently poorly researched and written.

Newspapers need to compete with online media, like Google News and blogs. Very few journalists can compete with the deep knowledge of expert bloggers. If I want information on science issues, Phil Plait is a much more reliable source than my usual newspaper. Same goes for politics. In local interests, the one area where our newspaper could concievably compete with online sources, our newspaper still fails to do the job. The newspaper didn’t run anything on the potential fee for kayaks until the bill had already passed the house!

I wouldn’t say it’s good that local newspapers are dying – after all, the Statesman still provides jobs for over 300 people. But as far as information supply goes, it isn’t a bad thing either.

Basset Play Time

March 17, 2009

Duke, our basset, has a very well-loved frisbee. It’s completely destroyed, but he’ll still happily run around with it, whether anyone is chasing him or not!

Duke the Basset

Doesn’t he look happy? 🙂