Categories
English Roman Science Fiction Thriller

Charles Stross – Accelerando

abstract(c)clix/SXC

„Your drink.“ The barman holds out an improbable-looking goblet full of blue liquid with a cap of melting foam and a felching straw stuck out at some crazy angle. Manfred takes it and heads for the back of the split-level bar, up the steps to a table where some guy with greasy dreadlocks is talking to a suit from Paris.

The story starts in an already advanced world where implants are getting widespread throughout the population. Manfred Macx is a political activist fighting for the rights of lobsters and uploaded kittens.

„But they’re only uploads.“ Pamela stares at him. „Software, right? You could reinstantiate them on another hardware platform, like, say, your Aineko. So the argument about killing them doesn’t really apply, does it?“

Manfred and Pamela somehow get a daughter – Amber – who escapes the imprisonment of her mother and takes the robot cat Aineko with her. Her adventures take her to a faraway router. She reigns over a planet, and leaves a backup behind. While the „real“ Amber is away, her backup is getting married and having a baby with Sadeq. She returns to find her son Sirhan, whom she never met before. Sirhan has had several childhoods and is very interested in the complicated history of his family. His grandmother Pamela (aged in a time where aging is avoidable) has returned to answer at least some of his questions.

Pamela raises her cane and points out into the billowing methane thunderclouds, her expression puzzled. „I’ll swear I saw a lobster out there …“

Interesting aspects of the family story are the thought that politics will stay with us although technology evolves constantly. The robot cat Aineko accompanies the family throughout the centuries, until the last pages nobody has noticed that what has startet as a software-driven robot has achieved consciousness and is silently controlling all the persons in its range.

Did we really split up because Aineko made us? It’s hard to believe: Manfred is too much of a realist to trust the cat to tell the truth except when it serves to further his interests. But this –

I’m not that into Science Fiction literature which I had to see once more while I worked through this complicated book with all its technical details and absurd hops through time and space. But I guess it gave me an interesting insight into the genre of Cyberpunk. I’ll give myself a little break with Terry Pratchett until I take the attempt to read „Halting state“ which is still living on the shelf of unread books.

Weitere Informationen: Accelerando – Charles Stross’s blogPhantastik-Couch.deCyberpunk @ feedbooks.com

Categories
English Sachbuch

Dave Shea/Molly E. Holzschlag – The Zen of CSS Design

Wasserblume(c)yongy/SXC

The CSS Zen Garden was created as a showcase for CSS design. It shows impressively what can be achieved by separating content from design. In the accompanying book the authors show several aspects of design and how you deal with these aspects in CSS. Each chapter shows several designs that are outstanding in a special field of design.

The book works nicely as an inspiration and explains some techniques that might be interesting for a CSS newbie. Experienced CSS users will not learn that much from it and I have to say that some designs and techniques might already be outdated in this fast-moving internet world. I haven’t done that much in web design in the last years, so I found the book quite inspiring and it’s also great fun to surf through the designs on the CSS Zen Garden Website. If you’re looking for inspiration that should be the first place to go. If you also love books than go and get this one.

Weitere Informationen:
CSS Zen GardenDave Shea’s blog mezzoblueMolly E. Holzschlag’s blog

Categories
English Erfahrungsbericht Sachbuch

Gretchen Rubin – The Happiness Project

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Be happier. We all want to be more happy but what do you do to achieve that? Gretchen Rubin took an analytical approach and tried to identify areas in her life where happiness improvement might be possible. She starts her year of happiness by decluttering her life. So the first chapter didn’t have much news for me. There’s not that much clutter in my life and I’m used to ask myself, if I really need that. I seldom keep items of clothing that I don’t wear (anymore) and I don’t buy items that I can only wear “on a special occasion”. Of course it’s fine to see that I don’t struggle with a topic that so many people consider a problem.

February tackles the subject of marriage which is currently not a topic for me either. But the thought of accepting your partner or friends with all their problems and bad characteristics made me think. You can and should do that with your partner (wife or husband) and of course your children, but one cannot do that with every person you have to deal with in real life. I tried to accept my clients and the aspects of their personality that sometimes fall on my nerve. But it’s just not possible to accept it if you get treated unfair. You cannot accept everything that people throw on you, sometimes you need not only „fight right“ but also fight for your right. You can’t do that by always being friendly. This won’t work in real life. Others won’t play by your lovely happiness rules. Sometimes you will have to show your teeth.

He didn’t want to spend hours pumping up my self-confidence. He was never going to play the role of a female writing partner and it wasn’t realistic to expect him to do it.

This might be a worthy fact for life: No man wants to do that. Men want to have a female partner that already has self-confidence and isn’t addicted on getting compliments all the time. Gretchen Rubin accepts the fact that it’s important for her to get praise for the things she does for her family. „Earning gold stars“ is an interesting term and it also shows that not only children can be baited into doing things but adults are also very much interested in praise for their work and life. I guess it should be easier to praise yourself sometimes.

It makes me sad for two reasons. First, it makes me sad to realize my limitations. The world offers so much! – so much beauty, so much fun, and i am unable to appreciate most of it. But it also makes me sad because, in many ways, I wish I were different. … But it doesn’t matter what I wish I were like. I am Gretchen.

This part really made me think. I compare myself and my life with other people far to often. Many people my age already have marriage, house, children. But it doesn’t matter that I don’t have that because I have a job I love and the freedom to explore life my own way.

Gretchen Rubin also mentions that she will never be an astronaut. I never wanted to be an astronaut but this is comparable with my frustration when I found out that I will never be able to read all books in the world or find all geocaches in the world (not even all in Vienna will be possible). You can do anything you want but you can’t do everything. I will someway be able to find that one mystery cache I’m struggling with and I will someday find that GCQRZK (which is kind of a Nemesis for me). I realized that I always loved the thought of being styled in an extravagant way but I was never feeling comfortable when I was wearing extravagant clothes or makeup. This is just not myself. I’m wearing jeans and black shirts all year and that’s how I’m feeling well.

It’s definitely a good idea to start thinking about happiness and explore ways to find more happiness in your everyday-life. Happiness won’t come to you, you have to make yourself feel better.

Weitere Informationen:
The Happiness Project – Blogfem.com

Categories
English Sachbuch

Lisa Sonora Beam – The Creative Enterpreneur

First Visual Journal Experiment (c) Eva

This book is neither a touchy-feely self-help guide nor a technical dump of business concepts. Each topic is presented to engage both the heart and mind while teaching practical action steps that can be taken now, whatever your level of experience.

It sounded like a nice little experiment and I was eager to try it out and create my own artworks. Unfortunately it turned out I’m not the one for this kind of art. My first visual experiment looks more like a battlefield than work of art.

In theory I really liked the idea, to scribble out business ideas on paper and get a vision of what can be achieved through creative planning. All the example pictures of visual journals look really nice and appealing but I just can’t figure out how to create such a nice-looking piece of art. I have to admit my creativity might be limited to creating on the screen. It could as well be possible that it was just the wrong moment to start it, right now I feel another absolute creativity-free moment rushing in.

Es könnte aber auch sein, dass mir einfach nur die englischen Worte fehlen. Das Buch war wirklich schon zu lesen und auch herrlich illustriert und genau das kann einem schön Respekt einflößen. Es ist wirklich inspirierend zu sehen, welche schöne Ergebnisse andere mit dieser Technik des „creative journaling“ erreichen können. Gleichzeitig bring ich aber selbst sowas definitiv nicht zusammen, wie man an meinem erbärmlichen ersten Versuch sehen kann. Entweder mir fehlen die Werkzeuge (wobei ich sowieso erst farbige Stifte kaufen musste) oder mir fehlen einfach die Techniken, wie man diesen Collageneffekt hinkriegt, wie er im Buch so ausführlich zu sehen ist.

Muster, Bilder, Ausschnitte aus anderen Bildern, ich wüsste auch gar nicht, wo ich das alles herbekommen sollte und Zeitschriften zu zerschneiden ist sowieso nicht meins, schon gar nicht irgendetwas zerschneiden, was eine längere Halbwertszeit als eine Cosmopolitan haben könnte.

Trotz allem empfehle ich allen, einen Blick auf dieses Konzept zu werfen, wer Lust hat, sich malerisch und bastlerisch zu betätigen, der könnte aus den Konzepten vermutlich enormen Nutzen ziehen.

Weitere Informationen: Lisa Sonora Beamflickr group visual journalVisual Journaling

Categories
English Roman Thriller

Stephen King – Cell

Mobiltelefon_(c)_Thorsten Freyer/PIXELIO

It takes only 12 pages to get that this is going to be an apocalypse in the tradition of Kings classic „The Stand“ (which I really should read again, it must be 15 years ago). Enhanced with the current fear of biological mass destruction weapons, terrorism and chaos this virus doesn’t only kill people, it makes them killing zombies. The survivors get to call what happened „The Pulse“, but they can only speculate, what happened to all the people carrying cellphones when the incident took place.

Survivors Clay and Tom met directly after the pulse occured and stay together nearly until the end. Clay worries about his wife Sharon and his son Johnny while Tom only has his cat left which he is resilient to leave alone. They take care for young Alice and at a later stage for the boy Jordan who is a computer geek and seems to understand much more about the technical implications of the pulse.

„Nobody should have answered it“, Clay said. „We all would have been better off.“
„Ah, but who can resist a ringing phone“, Tom asked. „And there goes your ballgame.“
„Thus spake fuckin Zarathustra“, Clay said. Alice laughed until she cried.

In the end Clay finds his son Johnny. He didn’t get the original pulse but got into the conversion measures at a later stage. In the end Clay has to take the most difficult decision of his life.

A story about how humans react in difficult situations, how you can get together with people formerly unknown and stick with them in times of horror and fear. Stephen King himself doesn’t carry a cellphone.

Categories
English Sachbuch

Twyla Tharp – The Creative Habit

Ballett(c)binababy12/SXC

Most people can’t recall much more than three notes in any context. Think about the last lecture you heard or business meeting you attended or book you had to read. How many of the important take-away points could you recall if you didn’t memoralize them in writing?

Twyla Tharp is a well-known choreographer in America, one of her recent works „Movin’ out“ (a dance evening based on songs by Billy Joel) was a veritable success on Broadway. Choreography might not be a discipline many of us have experience with but Twyla Tharps creativity tips work throughout all possible disciplines.

All I know for sure is that they are trapped in a the box. But do so with the faith that nothing is lost, that you haven’t put it in all this effort for naught. Everything you’ve done is in the box. You can always come back to it.

This box system might not be usable for all of us, we don’t have enough space to store lots of boxes for all projects. Also many of us will store a lot of the material digitally. We are trying to get rid of pyhsical media like CDs or DVDs and it’s just not possible to put everything in a box. The good thing with that is, that you don’t need a lot of space for digital boxes, you might also store your notes for every project in a Yojimbo folder (or any other program of your choice). And you can always access your material for later reference, which is even easier, if you’ve named and archived it digitally.

Without passion, all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.

All of us sometimes get stuck in our projects, you can’t go forward with constant speed all the time. Your passion and a good system will help you get out of your blockades. Twyla Tharp knows her stuff and is giving practical tips for everybody in the creative business. Creativity is not only talent, it’s also a habit you can learn and use every day of your life.

Categories
English Krimi Thriller

Daniel Suarez – Daemon

Stacheldraht(c)johnnybergSXC_1162409_24434279.jpg

Deutsche Zusammenfassung unten / For German summary scroll down

Soon he reached a circular chamber with a beam of sunlight shining down from a hole in the ceiling, illuminating a section of the wall. It appeared to be the basement of a shattered tower. Several barred windows ringed the walls in the shadows. It was a dead end.

Thanks goes to my brother for turning my attention to this great thriller. It’s as enthralling as frightful especially if you know, that most of the technologies described already exist.

The death of the computer game guru Matthew Sobol is followed by some strange incidents that makes the police first try to shut down the servers of his enterprise Cyberstorm. Next they try to enter his house to shut down the servers to kill the so-called „Daemon“, that Sobol has installed to take over world domination. Many people lose their lives until they find out that the Daemon lives in the internet and cannot be shut off.

FBI: „Just shut down the internet.“
The others gave him a patronizing look.
FBI: „You guys built the damned thing. Why can’t you turn it off?“
NSA: „Let’s stick to reasonable suggestions, shall we?“
FBI: „I don’t mean for a long time – just for a second.“
DARPA: „The Internet is not a single system. It consists of hundreds of millions of individual computer systems linked with a common protocol. No one controls it entirely. It can’t be shut down. And even if you could shut it down, the Daemon would just come back when you turned it back on.“

In the background the Daemon recrutes his subjects in Sobols computer games „Over the Rhine“ and „The Gate“. Only the best players find the back doors and beat the challenges Sobol has installed for them. One of them is Brian Gragg, former thief of identities on the internet, who know becomes one of the Daemon executives and as such a nightmare to the authorities who fight the Daemon. Of course their own task force gets infiltrated by the Daemon, it seems to be everywhere.

Suarez has no qualms to let his characters die and also come back to life if they haven’t fully served their purpose. Fortunately the second part Freedom TM is already available and I’m looking forward to learn how the story continues for Jon Ross and Natalie Philips.

Deutsche Zusammenfassung: Durch meinen Bruder kam ich zu diesem grandiosen Thriller, der sich mit den beängstigenden Tatsachen der uns umgebenden Technologien auseinandersetzt. Vieles, das in diesem Buch beschrieben wird, existiert tatsächlich bereits, wenn auch oft im Verborgenen.
Der Tod des Computerspielgurus Matthew Sobol setzt einige verdächtige Vorgänge in Gang, was dazu führt, dass die Polizei zuerst versucht, die Server seiner Firma Cyberstorm zu stoppen. Als die Polizei versucht, in sein Haus einzudringen und die dortigen Server zu stoppen, verlieren viele Menschen ihr Leben, bevor sie herausfinden, dass der Daemon im Internet lebt und nicht durch simples Herunterfahren eines Servers gestoppt werden kann.
Der Daemon rekrutiert seine Gefolgsleute vorerst durch Hintertüren in Sobols Computerspielen „Over the Rhine“ und „The Gate“. Nur die Besten bestehen die Herausforderungen. Einer von ihnen ist Brian Gragg, Identitätsdieb und jetzt einer der Führer des Daemon-Imperiums. Natürlich wird auch die Task Force des FBI vom Daemon infiltriert, er ist überall.
Suarez hat keine Skrupel, seine Figuren sterben und auch wiederauferstehen zu lassen, wenn sie ihren Zweck noch nicht vollständig erfüllt haben. Zum Glück ist der zweite Teil Freedom TM bereits erhältlich und ich bin bereits gespannt auf diese Fortsetzung.