“Radicalized” by Cory Doctorow

Radicalized, by Cory Doctorow, is a collection of four independent stories set just a moment in the future.  If you want four Black Mirror episodes filtered through Boing Boing, you’ll absolutely love Radicalized.

There’s an intensity, a purity in these stories, that really keeps you reading.   They are moral, they’re cutting, they’re biting.  They’re about otherness and othering.  These are stories written by an immigrant, the son of an asylum-seeker, and someone who has spent his life fighting for our digital rights. They’re not going to make you feel good.

The first story, Unauthorized Bread, is about a refugee who gets a spot on one of the “poor floors” of a posh high-rise, living in a Silicon Valley dream Internet of Crap dystopia, who learns to jailbreak her things.

There’s a story, Model Minority, about a Superman-alike who witnesses some senseless police brutality, steps in, and has to deal with the consequences.  Superman realizes Black Lives Matter but then struggles because he can’t punch police brutality in the face, and learns how quickly otherness can happen.  I loved the interplay between the Superman-alike and the Batman-alike.

The third story, Radicalized, was quite difficult for me to read.  It’s about a man who joins an online support group for folks dealing with terminal cancer in their loved ones, and their health insurances refuse to authorize their treatments.  The support group becomes more and more extreme, and he just can’t tear himself away.  It’s easy, too easy, to dismiss angry alt-right 20 somethings in chat rooms, but what’s it look like when that same rage is focused on health insurers?

The fourth story, Masque of the Red Death, is from the point of view of a rich financial trader, Martin, who has created his own “Fort Doom” and picked thirty lucky folks who will shelter out the apocalypse with him.  Doctorow has talked a few times about the choices we have when “it hits the fan”.  When your neighbor comes over for help, do you work together, or do you point a gun at him?  We’ve seen what working together looks like in Walkaway.  Doctorow shows his increasing skill in this story with point of view and word choice. Every moment we see the world from outside of Martin’s POV is simultaneously great and heartbreaking.

I know there will be a lot of people turned off by this book, who will get a whiff of it, feel feelings for things that they don’t want to have, and dismiss it as “propaganda”.  Midway through the first story, Unauthorized Bread, I had a different worry—are these all going to be Electronic Frontier Foundation fiction think pieces? I *love* the EFF, don’t get me wrong, but I do not need to read a novel yelling at me about the evils of DMCA and DRM and the Internet of Crap.  However, these worries were unfounded. Radicalized quickly digresses into dark glimpses of the world we’re creating for ourselves.

I received this book at no cost from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“A Long Day in Lychford”

A Long Day in Lychford is the third in Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford series. They’re nice and short, and I really really like them.

This entry is in a post-Brexit Lychford. Autumn is basically the only person of color in Lychford, and takes Brexit hard, and Judith is Judith about it, and then they spend the rest of the story cleaning up after their mistakes.

Pros: More Judith!
Cons: I fear the next story will not be good for our witches or the inhabitants of Lychford.

“Burned” (Alex Verus #7)

I recently read the seventh Alex Verus book, Burned. There’s somewhat of a tradition in Urban Fantasy for a somewhat cocky main character to really get in a rough situation a handful of books in, something that takes more than a few chapters–maybe even more than a few books–to get out of.

I absolutely love his power, and I’m glad I’m not sick of it seven books in.

This is the start of Alex’s. I read this pretty quickly, over a few days, and I’m really glad the next one is already out. I’ll definitely be starting it this weekend!

Ramen Salad

Here in the Midwest, pretty much everyone’s Mom makes the same “Asian ramen salad”. It’s cabbage and carrots and green onion and toasted smashed-up ramen noodles, some almonds and maybe some sunflower seeds, covered in a goopy oil-sugar-vinegar dressing.

It’s delicious, but we recently found
an upgrade. Add peanut butter, and cut out a lot of the sugar. The dressing is creamy and peanutty and … I’m going to go see if we any leftovers.

“A Winter Tide” by Ruthanna Emrys

Another entry in the woke Lovecraft pastiche. I liked this one quite a lot. It’s quite slow, but that’s part of the charm.

After “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, the government raided Innsmouth and put everyone in an internment camp. Only two survived, the main character and her brother. She’s trying to figure out how to be an adult, and how to properly learn magic, and the FBI swoops in and “asks” for her help.

I really, really liked this.

There’s a prequel short story, “The Litany of Earth”. I didn’t read it until after I had read the novel, and everything worked fine for me. If you read “The Litany of Earth”, make sure to read Ada Palmer’s response when you’ve finished.

“A Closed and Common Orbit”

This was a surprise! This is the second Wayfarers book, after The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I thought The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was OK–good even, but not super wonderful.

This book, however, I absolutely loved. I am so pleasantly surprised by how great it was. It’s a standalone story about an AI put into a robot body that can pass for human. This is very illegal. She has a relatively hard time adjusting, and the story is interwoven with another story about a little girl who escapes from a scrap harvesting factory.

I don’t really want to describe it more–just go read it.

“Treat Your Own Back” by Robin McKenzie

A little under a year ago, I hurt my lower back. I followed all the advice I could find online, expecting that it would heal in a few months. I was taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen a day, which helped reduce the pain a bit, but I was in pain every day.

The pain lessened after a few months, but I was still in pain every single day.

About two weeks ago, I bought this book “Treat Your Own Back” by Robin McKenzie per some ancient Boingboing review. I read it in an evening, and did the set of stretches twice a day. They took under five minutes each time, and within a few days I was down to pain every other day or so, and two weeks in, it’s been a few days since I’ve had any back pain at all.

I don’t even notice my back! I will come back in a few months and update this post, but I really am amazed at how well this worked.

Acer R11 Chromebook

I picked up a Chromebook a week ago. It was a bit under $250, has touch, a lit keyboard, a reasonable trackpad, HDMI out, USB3, an SSD, run ChromeOS and also Android apps, and the screen can flip all the way around so it’s in tablet mode.

I’ve only played with it a little, but it’s reasonably snappy and seems to do a huge portion of what I use computers for.

I’ve been playing with Termux so I can have a reasonable Python environment, and I think I’m going to try some Django development on the device itself…