Back Up Your Work

So, a couple of weeks ago my laptop died. Sure, that happens, right?

Buuuut I didn’t back up a single thing. So when my laptop died it took all of my writing – all the poetry, all the chapters, all the bad fanfic that I loved anyway – screaming into the void with it.

So. Go back up your stuff. Back it up right now.

Seriously.

 

Iain Pears’ Arcadia

I recently read Arcadia, by Iain Pears. It’s a good book, a great book even, but I still have mixed feelings about it.

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Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Three interlocking worlds. Four people looking for answers. But who controls the future—or the past?

In 1960s Oxford, Professor Henry Lytten is attempting to write a fantasy novel that forgoes the magic of his predecessors, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds an unlikely confidante in his quick-witted, inquisitive young neighbor Rosie. One day, while chasing Lytten’s cat, Rosie encounters a doorway in his cellar. She steps through and finds herself in an idyllic, pastoral land where Storytellers are revered above all others. There she meets a young man who is about to embark on a quest of his ownand may be the one chance Rosie has of returning home. These breathtaking adventures ultimately intertwine with the story of an eccentric psychomathematician whose breakthrough discovery will affect all of these different lives and worlds.

Dazzlingly inventive and deeply satisfying, Arcadia tests the boundaries of storytelling and asks: If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly alter the past?

It’s got a dystopic future, a Narnia-like pastoral land, and 1960’s England – all the best things – rolled into one story. The way you are introduced to the effect of a character’s choices before you see the action occur is clever. The way the narrative coils in upon itself as you read is brilliant.

But – but – I spent the whole time thinking, “I’m not smart enough to read this book,” and wishing I could read it in one go rather than in bits and parts in between all the other things I have to do. Arcadia is a book that demands things of you. Your time, your undivided attention. And that’s not bad, in case I’m making it sound bad. But, if you’re going to read it, do it when you have a solid block of time to devote to it. It’s not a book to pick up for 15 minutes on your break, or for half an hour before bed.

Interestingly, the book was written to be read as an app for iPhone and iPad. You can read the ten strands of the narrative separately and each is a complete story. You can read bits of each – whatever you like. I think this format would have better fit my needs and made the experience more enjoyable.

Should you read it? Absolutely. At first it sounds like a weird kitchen-sink mish-mash of sci-fi and fantasy, but it absolutely works in the end.

 

Robert J. Sawyer Does it Again

I got my hands on an ARC of Robert J. Sawyer’s new book Quantum Night.

quantum-night-cover

It’s funny, I was just saying to one of my customers that it had been a while since the last RJS book and *boom* there it was. When it was delivered to my workplace I was giddy with excitement – my coworker asked me if I needed a moment to be alone with the book.

Yes, I said.

Seriously, Robert J. Sawyer can tell a story. And it has been several years – his last book, Red Planet Blues came out in 2013. No biggie if we’re talking George R. R. Martin, but for a prolific guy like Robert Sawyer that’s a long time.

I loved this book. Loved it. It had all the things I’ve come to expect in a Robert Sawyer book – well researched high concept science fiction, interesting characters, Canadiana, philosophy jokes.  If you’ve liked his previous work, you’ll like this one. If you haven’t read anything by Robert J. Sawyer, why the hell not? Reading his books is like riding a water slide; you jump in one end and whoosh through the twists and turns until you pop out the other side.

Quantum Night comes out March 1, 2016 and from one sci-fi fan to another I highly recommend you buy it.

 

RaMJacks

Rick and Morty Pumpkin Stencils

Seriously.

It’s not Fall yet, I know, but I love me some Halloween. And my newest obsession is Rick and Morty. If you Googled your way here you don’t need me to tell you how awesome that is. If not, then feast your ocular appendages on this:

But it gets better! Adult Swim has posted Rick and Morty pumpkin stencils on their website. You can choose from Mr. Meeseeks, Rick, or Morty.

RaMJacksCheck out these examples by reddit user /u/OzmaofAK

Now go make your own. They are the best thing ever.

Seriously.

GFRnM

Gravity Falls X Rick and Morty: Callback or Coincidence?

I noticed something just now while watching Auto Erotic Assimilation. Just a throwaway piece of animation:

Rick_and_Morty_Season_2_Episode_3_Auto_Erotic_Assimilation_Full_Screen_720p_HDIt reminded me of this little bit of twin humour in Gravity Falls:

Gravity_Falls_SDCC_2015_Look_AheadCoincidence? Yeah maybe. I have no idea if the production schedules would have allowed this to happen on purpose, but it still makes me smile. And, I mean, the two shows have done this before:

So, in conclusion, I’m bored and it doesn’t take much to amuse me…

 

TardisRingYum

TARDIS Engagement Ring is the Best Thing Ever.

If you’re a Whovian getting married, or know a Whovian getting married, you need to check out this gorgeous TARDIS engagement ring for sale on Etsy. Check. It. Out. Etsy user dtekdesigns offers quite possibly the best TARDIS ring I have ever seen. Unlike some other designs, which only suggest a vaguely TARDIS-like vibe, this one is the freakin’ TARDIS.

TardisRingYumTardisRingYum2TardisRingYum3OtherTardisRing

With a selection of materials ranging from Sterling Silver priced at $1100 USD to Platinum at $3000 USD, there’s one for every budget.

Except mine.

Is there one made of used beer bottles?

dtekdesigns also offers a TARDIS pendant, Star Wars themed light saber rings and a selection of other delightful wares. You should definitely go and have a look: they are the best thing ever.

Source: Etsy (via the Mary Sue)

sousveillance

Sousveillance: We Watch the Watchmen

Everybody knows what surveillance is: it’s the closed circuit cameras in every store; it’s the security agencies archiving years’ worth of emails and web searches; it’s the Big Brother type of always-on recording of our daily lives by authorities from above. In fact, the term surveillance comes from a French term meaning “to watch from above.”

SousVeillance

The dangers and fears about surveillance are well known, so I am only going to cover them briefly. The technology that exists today allows governments to monitor the activities and behaviors of citizens in several ways: through the collection of personal information; intercepting postal and digital transactions; and the use video cameras.

When agents of the state can access the private interactions of citizens, so the theory goes, those citizens will start to police themselves; falling into line and being more obedient. Privacy is put at risk since no one can hide: Big Brother can see us wherever we are. The totalitarian state wins by seeing all dissent and being able to stamp it out in real time, before it becomes a problem.

But the same technology that allows the state and its authorities to watch its citizens, allows citizens to watch back. Smartphones capable of recording and uploading video are everywhere. This is a fact of life in 2014. Those cameras are only going to get more numerous as wearable computer becomes more common. It seems that we are creating a society of transparency, rather than a dystopian panopticon.

Sousveillance, then, is watching from below. When regular people observe and record the events of their lives and of their interactions with the state, the power dynamic of the interaction changes radically. The beauty of sousveillance is that it offers a credible threat of exposure to those misusing power.
If it is possible to film everyone all the time, chances are you are going to get caught in your wrongdoing, whether or not you have any power. The very possibility is going to be enough to dissuade some wrongdoers. So, instead of hiding from Big Brother, everyone gets to see everything: in a society of sousveillance no one hides.

This change in the dynamic of power can be seen in a recent case of alleged police brutality in Denver. David Flores was beaten by police because they suspected him of hiding drugs in his mouth, inside a white sock. When his pregnant girlfriend screamed at them to stop she was beaten as well.
A bystander, Levi Frasier, filmed the interaction on his Samsung tablet until he was noticed by the police. One of the officers shouted, “Camera!” and came over to Frasier demanding the tablet. When he returned it, the video had been deleted. Luckily, the video was already saved to cloud storage and Frasier was able to retrieve it later.

The official police story of this interaction goes like this: Flores was assisted out of his car, but then fell. He was punched repeatedly in the face to keep him from choking on the sock, and he was later taken to hospital. His wife was tripped because she might have been about to kick the officers. The Denver police refuse to comment on the video unless Frasier files a formal complaint. If not for this footage, it would have been the police officers’ word against Frasier and Flores. Now it is easy to prove to a skeptical public when the police and any other state agents have overstepped their bounds.

People in Canada and the United States have the right to film the actions of the police. In 2013 the United States’ courts and the President of the United States each affirmed that American citizens have the right to film any interactions with the state. In Canada courts have held that citizens have the right to film police interactions. While there is no specific Canadian law enshrining this right, there is also no law prohibiting citizens from doing so.

For sousveillance to work as intended it is important for there to be some system set up to protect concerned citizens from the state and corporate interests. The American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon has recently taken a step in that direction, launching its Mobile Justice App at the beginning of November.

The Mobile Justice App is based on a similar one released by the New York Civil Liberties Union in 2012 – Stop and Frisk Watch. The new app is designed to record footage of police interactions and upload the data straight to the ACLU for review. Thus, there is no need to worry about seizure of recording devices by the police.
According to the ACLU website the app has four main features: record, witness, report, and know your rights. First, ‘Record’ allows you to record interactions with the police. ‘Witness’ alerts nearby mobile users that you have been stopped by the police and suggests they might want to record for you. ‘Report’ allows you to transmit a written account to the ACLU alongside your video. Finally, Know your Rights provides an overview of your rights when interacting with police officers.

The app is free, and an iPhone version is to be released in early 2015. As of yet there is not a Canadian equivalent to Mobile Justice, and since the app comes from the Oregon branch of the ACLU, the information is regarding rights in the state of Oregon. Yet, this type of application shows that omnipresent cameras need not lead to an Orwellian panopticon.

It is not surprising that police officers are opposed to citizens being armed with cameras. Or maybe it is: always-on recording helps the police as well. When officers are equipped with body cameras and dashboard cameras, complaints against them drop off precipitously. Police are less likely to engage in improper behaviour, but citizens are also less likely to make unfounded complaints against officers.

For the better part of a century, science fiction authors have warned us about a future where the government is always watching. But advances in video recording and wearable computing have made cameras cheap and widely available to regular people. We may not need to worry so much about Big Brother watching; if we are careful and vigilant, we can usher in an age of transparency where we watch back.