Book review: Privacy Is Power

Book cover for Privacy Is Power: Why And How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data by Carissa Veliz

Privacy is a topic I take seriously, especially as it relates to the data we generate and share online. I’m sure that I come across as paranoid at times, if not all the time, with my refusal to engage in social media and my concerns over browser usage and the sites I frequent while online. Yes, maybe I can take it to the extreme, but the more I read about how companies, governments, and the powers that be use our data, I worry that I may not be taking it seriously enough.

It’s articles like this one that showed up in my feed from Smashing Magazine, Pushing Back Against Privacy Infringement on the Web, that raises online privacy warning flags for me. Our personal data is being used, sometimes for our benefit, sometimes against us, and always for the benefit and profit of the companies that collect, analyze and trade it.

The article is a short read and provides a good overview on the importance of privacy on the internet. But it was the mentions in the further reading that intrigued me. I wanted to go deeper into why privacy is important, which led me to reading Privacy Is Power: Why And How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data by Carissa Veliz.

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2024 Fitness goals

I’m a believer in “you get what you measure.” It’s why I set fitness goals for the year. It provides motivation and something to track my progress against.

I’ve tracked my fitness goals each year since I started blogging back in 2014. This year is no different. Even though it is already February, I’ve been tracking my fitness activities against the goals in this post since the beginning of the year.

I track progress in three areas – working out, physical activity, and diet. Let’s start by looking back at last year, and then look at plans for 2024.

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Book review: Miniatures – The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi

Book cover for Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi

I like short stories. Done well, it’s a great format that engages you, tantalizes you, and presents a big enough idea and/or leaves enough open ends to keep you thinking about the story well after you finish it.

My typical rhythm is to read a short story (or two) between the typical books I read for entertainment. Since most of my entertainment books are built around science fiction, it’s a bonus when I can find a good collection of sci-fi shorts.

One such collection that appeared in my recommendations was Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi which is, of course, by John Scalzi. Scalzi is a prolific writer. I normally see a lot of his long-form novels in my recommendation feed, so I figured reading some of his short stories would be a good way to see if I liked his writing enough to read some of his longer format works.

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Peak beard

Gregg Borodaty with beard in 2023

Just when I thought I was going to take a year off from the beard, I changed my mind. I let it go fairly long this year. I didn’t do any trimming from beginning of November to mid-December. The six week period is about as long as I’ve went without shaving, and probably the longest I’ll ever go. Of course I’ve said that before, so there’s no guarantees.

Anyway, the picture to the right is an image of peak beard. It got to the point of being pretty uncomfortable (and very gray), so I’m not looking forward to growing it out this long in the foreseeable future.

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Book review: Constance

Book cover for Constance by Matthew Fitzsimmons

What do the books Infinite, Interference, Bandwidth, and Constance have in common?

Give up? It’s not obvious.

They’re all books that I discovered through Amazon’s First Reads program. If you’re an Amazon Prime member and like to read, I highly recommend this program. It’s a great way to find new authors and build out your reading list, which is why I like it so much. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve discovered my share of great books (and authors) through it.

Oh, and the other thing these books have in common is that they’re all science fiction books based on hard science fiction. In the case of Constance by Matthew Fitzsimmons, the plot of the story is built around cloning, specifically mind uploading and replication into another human body.

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My 2024 reading list

As I have done since 2014, here is my reading list for 2024.

According to Goodreads, there are over 220 books on my ‘Want to Read’ list. These can be broken down into two categories: my fun reads, of which there are ~140 titles, and my morning reads, of which there are ~80 titles. While these numbers appear large, it’s an improvement from last year when there were over 230 books in the queue.

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Book review: Atomic Habits

Book cover for Atomic Habits by James Clear

In addition to sharing book recommendations, receiving books as gifts is another fringe benefit of having other readers in the family. One of those gifts I received last year was Atomic Habits by James Clear. It was immediately added to my reading list. While I’m just getting around to posting the review, I finished reading the book last summer.

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Books to read in 2024

Looking to fill-in the gaps in your reading list for 2024? Out of the 35-plus books I read in the past year, these are the books that I enjoyed the most.

I’ve broken the recommendations into 3 categories – general recommendations (fiction, mostly from the sci-fi genre), personal development, and business. I’ve also included a list of “bonus reads” at the end. These are the books that I enjoyed a lot but wouldn’t say that you have to add to your 2024 list. These are entertaining reads that you can use to fill in any holes in your list.

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Book review: Lost in Time

Book cover for Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle

For some reason, I’ve read more than my share of sci-fi books built around the quantum physics multiverse, many worlds theory. OK, I know a couple of the reasons why. Once you’ve read a couple of novels in this genre, the Amazon recommendation engine that I have a love-hate relationship with kicks in to suggest more. On top of that, my favorite sci-fi authors like to use this theory, or variations of it, in their books.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when A.G. Riddle’s book Lost in Time showed up as one of my Amazon recommendations. A.G. Riddle is also one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I try to have at least one his novels on my reading list every year, and this one was the title I choose for this year.

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Rise of the Machines, Part 3

Friendly robot

For some reason, we (meaning humans) have a tendency to anthropomorphize things, whether they are objects, animals, or phenomena around us. We assume that everything that we interact with in our environment rationalizes and thinks like us, that the things around us experience feelings and emotions the same way we do.

I do it with my dog quite often. I imagine him thinking about how much he likes to go for a walk, or how he wishes he could have steak for dinner every night. And while my dog does display some strangely human-like behaviors, it doesn’t change the fact that he is still a dog, an animal. A lot of what he does is instinctual or based on learned behavior as result of routine or training.

A similar problem arises with artificial intelligence. Because of how it responds to our questions, we have a tendency to attribute human qualities to it. We think that it wants to please us or be our friend. We assume it feels remorse when it doesn’t understand us because it responds with ‘”I’m sorry.” We’re amazed at how it knows the answers we’re looking for. While these things do feel oddly human, it doesn’t change the fact that we are dealing with a machine. The behaviors are based on the attributes programmed into it or learned from the data it’s fed. For both creators and users of AI, this is an important concept that must not be overlooked.

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