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review 2018-01-14 20:23
Listening In: Cybersecurity in an Insecure Age
Listening In: Cybersecurity in an Insecure Age - Susan Landau

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

An interesting foray into encryption and privacy, especially when considering the point of view of authorities who may need to access data on devices seized upon arrests.

The author makes a case for strengthened encryption, and I feel this makes more sense than the contrary. The book is positioned around the main controversy of including backdoors to allow police and intelligence services to access a device, so that when they need to do it during an investigation, to apprehend a perp or to follow the trail of other people potentially involved, they could do so easily; whereas strong encryption would make it difficult or impossible. However, as has been discussed during actual investigations (an example given in the book involves Apple), there’d be no guarantees that in-built backdoors would be used only by authorities: if they’re here, sooner or later someone with ill intentions is bound to find them and use them, too.

This ties into a general concern about how we have evolved into a digital age, and have to envision security from this perspective. Here also, while not going into deep technical details, the book explains the principles underlying this new brand of security; how this or that method works; the pros and cons of going towards more encryption or less encryption; what other solutions have already been tested, especially in military environments; how cyber-attacks can disrupt governmental operations in many different ways, such as what happened with Estonia and Georgia, and even the 2016 US elections. All very current and hot issues that deserve to be pointed at and examined, because whatever solutions get implemented, if they create less security and impinge on civilian privacy as well, they’re not going to be useful for very long (if ever).

Also interesting, even though it’s not the main focus, is the concept of encryption methods needing to be made public in order to be really efficient: the more people have a chance of poking at them, testing them, and finding faults, the more these methods can be revised and strengthened.

Conclusion: Not a very technical book, but that’s precisely why it makes a good introduction to such matters: easy to understand, while highlighting major concerns that not only deal with national security, but with our own (and with our privacy) as well.

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video 2017-11-09 01:31
McLuhan in an Age of Social Media - Paul Levinson

The Omnipotent Ear - applying McLuhan's tetrad to the flip of binge-watching television to binge-listening to the Beatles on Sirius XM radio

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review 2017-10-15 21:57
Before the Devil Breaks You Book Review
Before the Devil Breaks You: The Diviner... Before the Devil Breaks You: The Diviners, Book 3 - Libba Bray,January LaVoy,Listening Library

Sigh. I have very mixed feelings about this. I love the first one, enjoyed the second one and feel like this book three is very fillerish for the final book. A lot of the scaryness is gone. It's very political and not at all why I started this series and got so invested. I'm one of those people that like to read, be entertained without the necessities of making everything political. 

 

I love Theta and Memphis. They are probably my favorite characters in the book. Jericho didn't do much this time around and even Evie was a little boring at times. Its a long one and half of it wasn't necessary. 

 

I'll still read the next one but I'm hoping Libba Bray has more of that scary, ghostly goodness left for this series. 

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review 2017-08-10 03:32
A Fun Adventure with the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
Miles Morales: Spider-Man - Jason Reynolds,Guy Lockard,Listening Library

It was Bendis/Bagley's Ultimate Spider-Man that brought me back to comics after a decade-plus break, and no matter what else I read, it was one of my Top 2 titles on my pull-list. Financial concerns got me to stop reading/collecting about a year before Miles Morales showed up. I was able to deal with letting everything else go, but USM was tough -- especially when I heard about this new kid. I never learned much about him, I know he's Afro-Hispanic, that his uniform is the best one since Ditko's original, I heard they did a good job showing Miles and his parents going through a Charter School lottery, I know he's popular enough they brought him over from the Ultimate universe.

 

Still, I saw this cover floating around Twitter last week and thought it looked pretty cool, so grabbed it when I had a moment. There's a lot of Miles, his family and his school, not a lot of Web Head. But when he shows up, it counts.

 

Miles is having some Spidey Sense problems, which is leading to problems at school -- a suspension and some trouble with his History teacher. He's not sleeping well -- tormented by nightmares about his uncle's death. Miles starts to wonder if people like him -- descendants of criminals --should have super-powers, if he should be a super-hero. It's hard to describe the threat that Miles and his alter-ego face, really it unveils itself slowly throughout the book. But it's a doozy, and it's not what it seems to be early on.

 

I think Miles is a great character, he's Peter Parker-esque in the best sense of the word, while being his own guy. His parents are fun, his dad in particular is a wonderful character -- a great dad, it seems. Miles' best friend and roommate, Ganke is a hoot. There's a girl, of course, because he's 16. I don't know if Alicia's a fixture in the comic or not, but it'd be interesting to see how she is outside of this.

 

Oh, Miles having camouflage powers? That's just cool.

 

I think Lockard went over the top occasionally with his narration. Maybe part of that is pandering to the 11-13 year-old audience that Audible tells me this is directed toward. Maybe he and the director are just excitable and/or excited. It didn't detract from anything, it was just occasionally too much. By and large, his energy kept things moving, lively -- just the way a Spider-Man story should be.

 

This isn't for everyone, but for those who like the idea of a Spider-Man novel, for fans of Miles Morales, or those who are just curious about him -- this'll entertain. I won't say I've read every Spider-Man novel printed in the last couple of decades -- but I'm willing to be my percentage is pretty high. Miles Morales is among the best.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/08/09/miles-morales-audiobook-by-jason-reynolds-guy-lockard
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review 2017-04-25 05:05
A fitting conclusion to this great series
The High King: The Prydain Chronicles, Book 5 - James Langton,Lloyd Alexander

Arawn-Death-Lord has managed to get his hands on Dyrnwyn, Gwydion's sword, which has emboldened him to move his forces to launch an all-out assault on the Kingdom of Prydain. Gwydion and his allies move quickly to assemble the forces necessary to stand against him -- basically, it's an Armageddon-type situation, and all hands are needed.

 

Taran is sent to the Free Commots, where he spent so much time recently to gather their support -- and he does so, almost without trying to, becomes the leader of the assembled forces (such as they are) of the rather libertarian people. Before you know it, Taran's leading his band into battle at the side of Gwydion and the other warleaders. It's a stretch to believe, but at this point, you go with it. The forces marshaled against the High King are strong enough to make this an uphill battle, but when treason rears its ugly head and the forces of Prydain are divided against themselves, it really seems that all hope is lost. Eventually, Gwydion and his forces head off on a last-ditch effort to stop the Death Lord, while Taran, his companions, allies, followers and Glew take on a vital, but smaller task that will allow Gwydion's hail Mary to work.

 

And frankly, that whole treason storyline bugs me -- not just because it's evil, but because it's futile, stupid, and pointless. I think this was Alexander's biggest error in the series. It serves no real purpose but to stack the odds against the armies of Prydain.

 

Finally, we get final battles -- The Death Lord and his forces are defeated (spoiler, children's fantasy written in the 60's features good guys winning); the future of Prydain is settled; other Tolkien-esque things take place as is fitting in the conclusion to a fantasy series (actually, Tolkien was probably following the same older rules and tropes as Alexander, but we now associate them with Tolkien, not his predecessors).

 

Taran finally grows up into what Alexander's been holdig out for him all along -- it takes the whole novel, but it happens. Gwydion is probably the least interesting he's ever been here, which is a shame. Eilonwy? Oh, Eilonwy -- she's just so perfect (as a character, probably annoying in real life -- still, someone you want in your corner). I loved everything about her in this book. I wish Gurgi had a little more to do, and that Glew had far, far less. Fflewddur Fflam remains <b>the</b> unsung hero of this series -- the sacrifices he makes, the efforts he makes, his wisdom, etc., are all overshadowed by his comedic use. What he goes through moved me more this time through than any of the deaths. As an aside, the first time I saw a picture of Lloyd Alexander, I shouted -- Fflewddur! I don't know if it was intentional, or if I just had a strange imagination, but he looks exactly like a Fflam.

 

Oh, and there are many, many deaths -- mostly nameless soldiers on both sides, but there are quite a few named people, too. Some get great heroic moments, others are just named in a list of the fallen. I remember the first time I read this book being very upset by just one of them -- it was quite possibly the first time in my young life that anyone other than a dog, an ailing elderly person or a villain had died in a book I read. I still get sad when I read that particular one, but it doesn't get to me as much.

 

James Langton's performance here is consistent with what he's done for the last few books. If you liked him before, you'll like him now. If not . . .

 

I remember liking this more than I did, even just a few years ago when I read this with my kids. Still, a great way to wrap up this series -- Alexander ties up everything that needs tiring up, he rewards all the surviving characters in a fitting way and sends our heroes off on new adventures. There's still a bit of fun, a little adventure, and character growth throughout, with all things ending up just where they need to satisfy readers. It's really easy for adult-me to see where kid-me fell in love with the genre thanks to this series. Still, a fitting conclusion to this series -- which I still recommend for young and old (primarily the young).

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/04/24/the-high-king-audiobook-by-lloyd-alexander-james-langton
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