A Database of Folly

by Aaron Swartz on July 3, 2012

The open data movement is a hammer which has gathered the support of many nails. There are the curious taxpayers, who feel their annual checks mean they deserve a peek at the interesting facts the government has collected. There are the ambitious business owners, who see an opportunity to privatize profits from work with socialized costs. And there are the self-styled activists, who believe that if we reveal the data on what the government is really doing, we will arrest corruption by exposing it to sunlight.

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Fun Summer Reading

by Henry on July 3, 2012

It being the season, some recommendations for entertaining fiction – feel free to castigate my narrow tastes in comments, to make your own recommendations, or both, as suits you best.

Charles Stross – _The Apocalypse Codex_ (Powells, Amazon ). The new Laundry book, and the best one imo since the first. Without giving anything major away, things are really beginning to move …

China Mieville – _Railsea_ (Powells, Amazon). Again, China does his best to lose me, this time writing a novel which could easily be mistaken in a dim light for young-adult steampunk. Again, he fails completely. Enormous fun – you’ll never think about naked mole rats in the same way again.

Josh Bazell – _Wild Thing_ (Powells, Amazon). Only very good, in contrast to its prequel, _Beat the Reaper_, which was an excellently funny macho asshole thriller, but still entertaining. The footnotes are good value too (how many popular thrillers have footnotes with short discussions of spandrels?), up to, and only up to the point where the author starts expounding his views on Middle East politics (he’s an Alan Dershowitz fan – enough said).

Paul McAuley – _In the Mouth of the Whale_ (not officially available in US; though if you have a Kindle you can gimmick your address). A sequel to his Quiet War duet. I need to write something on the way that these books use evolutionary theory to drive their argument.

Paul McAuley – _Cowboy Angels_ (Powells, Amazon). A very different novel – hard sf meets the paranoid Cold War thriller. Imagine an America (not ours) which discovers how to build gates to recently branched alternative realities, and starts to play out the game of empire-building and neo-liberalism, not with other countries, but with different versions of itself.

Tim Powers – _Hide Me Among the Graves_ (Powells, Amazon). Vampirism, Swinburne and Pre-Raphaelites. Among Powers’ best – not as good as _Declare_ or _The Anubis Gates_ (but then: what is?), but just as good _Last Call_, and better than the rest (which is to say – very damn good indeed).

Nick Mamatas and Brian Keene – _The Damned Highway_ (Powells, Amazon) Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail – the H.P. Lovecraft mix. I’ve speculated before that there is no subgenre of fiction that cannot be spatchcocked with Lovecraft, but Hunter S. Thompson blends _particularly well_, and amidst the comedy, there is one moment of genuine loathing and horror (tentacle porn and Richard Nixon, aloof). The graphic design person who thought of Steadmanizing the Ian Miller illustration for At The Mountains of Madness and using it as the cover art, deserves an award.

Harry Connolly – _Child of Fire_ (Powells, Amazon). Lovecraftian urban fantasy. Fun, fast-paced braincandy, found via Charles Stross (the first of a series, which unfortunately appears to be in hiatus).

Felix Gilman – _The Rise of Ransom City_ (Powells, Amazon). But you’ll have to wait until the fall/autumn for that one (more in due course …).

Oh, I know what y’all are going to say. You’re going to say it’s wrong to like R. Kelly because his music is bad. No. Unnnh huuh. “But it’s got T-Pain in it!” You like “I’m on a Boat,” don’t you Sherlock? Further, “I’m a Flirt” is insanely catchy. Now you object that the Venn diagram of insanely catchy and bad has a large overlapping area, because you wrongly hate hillbilly-from-the-future Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” but nonetheless, “I’m a Flirt” is just a good song. No. You know why else? Because I told you so. Also, everything silly you wanted in a video. Expensive cars? Stupid big jewelry? Honeys up in the VIP room? So many honeys. I’m gay for this video.

But it might seem as if it’s wrong to like R. Kelly’s music because he’s committed statutory rape on multiple occasions.
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