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January 1, 2007

Book Short: Octavian Nothing

I am a busy guy. Not bragging here - believe me... just telling it like it is. I work full time. I'm very happily married. I have three wonderful kids. Overall, we are all pretty darn busy here at the Bartel household - and I'm not any exception. I also enjoy reading - however these past years I've noticed that reading for me goes rather slowly.

I finished Undaunted Courage in November, for example, but I started it in May. I find that reading before bed, for example, I maybe get five or ten pages in, if I'm lucky, before I nod off. A 500 pager goes rather slowly at that pace. (Speaking of Undaunted Courage, I need to post a book short on it as well - it too was an excellent read).

Anyway, since I'm such a slow reader given my life currently, I was astounded by how quickly I roared through The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing.

I caught a review for it in a magazine or newspaper - a short, less-than-50-words type blurb that compelled me to order it up. Something like this from the Wall Street Journal:

It is the eve of Revolution in Boston, where Octavian and his beautiful African mother live in circumstances of great elegance and high-mindedness. Outdoors, patriots are shouting "Liberty and Property!" while within the walls of the curious Novanglian College of Lucidity a group of rational philosophers -- so rational that ...

You get the idea. In any case, this book - for me - was a riveting piece of fiction. Set in Revolution-era Boston, the book is written in 18th century style and narrated from Octavian's point of view. The language is colorful - and while it took me a while, I finally settled in and got used to the language.

Octavian and his mother are subjects of an odd psycological and sociological experiment for a group of elitist and purported intellectuals. As the story passes, Octavian ages and his circumstances change drastically. Through its full course, the book explores concepts of slavery, free will, racism, human rights, war, inner peace, self-perception and more.

Subtitled "Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party" I was glad to read that author M.T. Anderson plans at least a second volume where we should learn more about Octavian. I look forward to it, and recommend this book as a slightly deep, thought provoking, and very enjoyable read.

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July 26, 2004

Big Brother

My friend Andrew Currie dropped by the other day - he noticed a book at my desk-side shelf, Web Security, Privacy, and Commerce - by Simson Garfinkel. First, let me say that I like Simson alot - I've read this book as well as his monthly column in MIT's Technology Review. Additionally, you have to like a guy who's name is 1 degree from Art Garfunkel - Simson actually looks kinda like Art too! Seriously, check out Simson's blog if you are interested in technology and security.

I'm a privacy advocate, and it is a superbly comprehensive view of the existing landscape of privacy and security on the Internet. Looking at it now on Amazon, I'd say the second edition is out and I need to get it.

This book is a great read for fundamentals on biometrics, authorization, authentication, exploits in secured systems, applied technologies for security and privacy and more. As I find with many O'Reilly books, save for the programmatic reference books, reading the first chapter or two tends to provide an encompassing overview into a topic area.

Privacy and "Big Brother" has been on the mind lately - two things I've heard recently that can imaginatively be combined. First this quick hit from Frank Barnako's Internet Daily for Schwab on July 20th:

Internet addresses for all - The organization that oversees the allocation of Web site addresses says new technology has made it possible for every person, printer, computer and other Net-connected device to have its own Internet address. Vinton Cerf, at a meeting of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, said, "This is a big, big step," Reuters reported. Before the development of the new technology, known as Internet Protocol V. 6, almost two-thirds of the available Internet addresses had been used. With IP Version 6, the available number is multiplied "25,000 trillion times," Cerf said.

25,000 trillion is a big number. It strikes me that more than every person on the planet having an IP available for their printer, computer, and IP connected devices - by today's standards - but that the future might hold that all a persons belongings become an IP connected device.

Consider the implementations of RFID technology. RFID, for those who don't know what it is or how fast it's coming to a shopping center near you:

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

The above comes from the "RFID Journal" FAQ page. RFID is seen as "the next bar code" - a supply chain advancement for the new millennium, allowing retailers and others to track inventories with small radio frequency embedded labels. Wal-Mart has consistently been in the news regarding RFID for a few years, having delayed trials initially due to the privacy uproar that ensued following indications that they would be tested. Most people now get the fact that this is a useful technology for consumers as well as retailers. I guess if there are savings in supply chain management, Wal-Marts prices for one thing should come down further, right?

From the site:

A number for every item on the planet - RFID employs a numbering scheme called EPC (for "electronic product code") which can provide a unique ID for any physical object in the world. 6 The EPC is intended to replace the UPC bar code used on products today.

Unlike the bar code, however, the EPC goes beyond identifying product categories--it actually assigns a unique number to every single item that rolls off a manufacturing line. 8 For example, each pack of cigarettes, individual can of soda, light bulb or package of razor blades produced would be uniquely identifiable through its own EPC number.

Once assigned, this number is transmitted by a radio frequency ID tag (RFID) in or on the product. 10 These tiny tags, predicted by some to cost less than 1 cent each by 2004, 11 are "somewhere between the size of a grain of sand and a speck of dust." 12 They are to be built directly into food, clothes, drugs, or auto-parts during the manufacturing process.

Receiver or reader devices are used to pick up the signal transmitted by the RFID tag. Proponents envision a pervasive global network of millions of receivers along the entire supply chain -- in airports, seaports, highways, distribution centers, warehouses, retail stores, and in the home. 14 This would allow for seamless, continuous identification and tracking of physical items as they move from one place to another, 15 enabling companies to determine the whereabouts of all their products at all times.

The "Big Brother" concerns are when these types of technologies meet each other. IPv6 provides IP addresses for me and everything I own, even each piece of currency in my wallet. Now there is a minute chip that could be IP enabled in every product I own. If I live in Portugal, the government is already RFIDing my dog.

So, does it mean that the government will monitor every action of every person, or use such knowledge as leverage to control its people? I dunno - not likely, but once someone has any kind of power, it can be used any way they like - regardless of the intent.

And, the masses themselves have their own police power via technology over the government. E.g. these types of technologies, once common place can be used by the people themselves, possibly to monitor corporations or the government. George Orwell's 1984, which sadly I admit to having not read, at least since the 5th grade - so I'm putting it on my reading list - pushes forth the idea of government monitoring and control. A monitor in every citizens home, spewing control propaganda and monitoring what citizens do. This hasn't happened in 1984 or in 2004 - instead, technology has enabled citizens to poke government with technology.

Recently, the US military has been investigating dozens of allegations of prisoner abuse - Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq being one of the cases. This was not a case of the US coming clean with a Press Release on their own. This was a case of ubiquitous technology - digital cameras - being used by the soldiers accused of abuse themselves, enabling photos that were taken to be quickly distributed via the Internet to the world. Seriously, in all of 5 minutes, one solder/person could snap a picture, email it to a friend or news agency and bang - the US has a major issue on it's hands.

Food for thought.

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June 14, 2004

Follow up on "LESS"

First, I'll follow up on the previous post. The "Less - This is what
customers really want". Not terribly impressed.

I'm not sure if in this high-media opportunity lifestyle I live in - that is getting email, news via internet, magazine subscriptions, multiple daily newspapers - that when I devote some time to read something I almost expect to harvest some great knowledge nugget from it.

So, maybe my bar is too high - but I did not get much from this. In general, paying attention to what your customer wants make sense - and the author does present a particular angle on it - give the customer "less" to worry about in using your product and service. Still, I was not bowled over. You?

On my mind today, this book recommendation by Brad Feld - Purple Runner. Brad is a fairly accomplished runner, having run now, several I think, marathons (something I'd like to do, but have not yet effectively put on the go-do list).

I'm a recreational runner and participate in fun 10k runs. This book seems interesting - but I got sticker shock when clicking through... used copies in good condition at Amazon, range from $69 to $89. Wow. For a paperback to be this high, it must be pretty rare - maybe limited production, and with the popularity of running as a sport, very popular. Aside from college textbooks, if I buy a copy of
Purple Runner it will probably be the most I've spent on a book. I'm not postulating that it is not worth it, just stating a fact.

What is the most money you've spent on a book - for personal gratification, not counding educational efforts?

Posted by gcrgcr at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

June 8, 2004

LESS? This is what customers want?

LESS? This is what customers really want?

Okay, so I haven't read this yet - but I will, and I'll follow up here. If you read it, post your comments here, I'd be interested. From time to time I have reports like this forwarded along to me from friends and colleagues. I think it is very useful to examine the critical thinking others have put into an issue and made available via documentation. Even if it is ultimately a sales pitch of
some type - there may be free information in the discourse that is beneficial to you whether you purchase their wares and services or not. See if this gives you and nuggets after you read and mine it out. I will too...

Posted by gcrgcr at 8:49 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2002

Essential Blogging Okay well, so

Essential Blogging

well, so even though I haven't blogged much in October, okay not at
all, check out this... O'Reilly, one of the most respected tech
publishers has come out wiht Essential Blogging. Blogs have truly hit
the big time now! This is one book that I have to get just to have...
and I will enjoy every minute. Maybe if O'Reilly comes out with a Tivo
book I can die and go to heaven...
Updates... October 7th was Joie and I's 7th anniversary... woohoo! :)
We haven't celebrated yet... with 3 kids, this is difficult, so we've
made special plans for in November... our kids are our life and they
are the greatest testiment to our marriage: I am a very very lucky
person to have them all and probably don't deserve them, but I'll keep
doing my best.
Mom and Mom-in-law both have birthday's this month, and I'll hit the
big 31 on the first of November. Pushing 40! :)
The CSU/Wyoming Border War resumes tomorrow - the 94th meeting of the
Rams and Cowboys takes place in Ft. Collins. Joie and I are taking AJ
and will meet up with friends Kit and Edda (and kids?) to tailgate...
Kit's got a new Dodge Dakota that he's (appropriately) pretty proud of,
and apparently trucks were made for tailgating, so that's what we'll

Posted by gcrgcr at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2002

Conduct Expected : For the

Conduct Expected : For the 21st Century

During my college years, a professor I respect tremendously recommended this book by William Lareau - Conduct Expected.
I can't seem to find it now, otherwise I would quote from it...
basically he outlines the "hard rules" of business in the real world.
It's times like these, when over 12 months time your company reduces
force 4 times, that you realize many of these rules are true.
If I remeber right, one rule was - "In the big picture, you really
don't matter" -- talk about reality check... we are driven by
leadership to make a difference, work late, go the extra mile, make a
difference for customers, then we forget about this rule.
It looks like Mr. Lareau updated his rules for the 21st Century... I
think I'll check it out. I'll post the original rules on this blog

Posted by gcrgcr at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)




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