The Solitudes (John Crowley) – The first book in the Aegypt Cycle, as recommended by Max. This book really blew my mind. I don’t really see it as “fantasy” but an expansive meditation on memory and history. It’s the first book in a 4-part series, and I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the cycle.

Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Mae M. Ngai) – a fascinating scholarly history of the idea of the “illegal immigrant” that provides a much needed context for our contemporary debate on the subject. Ngai shows how recent our notions of citizenship and immigration are vie the history of the debates and revisions of statues from the 19th and 20th centuries. Highly recommended.

The Toughest Indian in the World (Sherman Alexie) – a collection of short stories by one of the most famous contemporary Indian novelists. It surprised me and shocked me at times, but some of the stories and images really stuck with me. I haven’t read Alexie’s other collections so I don’t know how it compares.

The Human Use of Human Beings (Norbert Wiener) – Wiener’s general-audience book on cybernetics has lots of gems that I’ve been blogging here and there. I found it interesting because at the time his ideas were somewhat new, and now they either seem antiquated or have been absorbed into out “default” view of things.

Absurdistan (Gary Shteyngart) – A madcap farce involving a massively overweight and fabulously wealthy Russian Jew trying to muddle his way through a massively dysfunctional Central Asian nation. It’s over the top and some readers may not enjoy the narrator’s neuroses, but it was pretty funny, if raw.

Numbers Rule (George Szpiro) – This is another book on the history of voting and electoral apportioning schemes. Szpiro takes us chapter-by-chapter through famous figures in the history of voting — from Ramon Llull through the Marquis de Condorcet and Charles Dodgson to Kenneth Arrow. A very entertaining read, if less of a page-turner than Poundstone’s book. The sections on choosing the number of representatives for each state in the House is pretty fascinating.

We had two talks by here at UCSD on Tuesday. The first was Cell Phones: How Power Consumption Determines Functionality by Arvind, and the second was Software-Defined Networks by Nick McKeown. These talks had a lot in common: they were both about shifting paradigms for designers, and about approaching the architecture of hardware from a software point of view.

(more…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 904 other followers