Duncan Wilcock

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Great Book: The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

This is probably the best how-to manual all about sailing that there is out there.

My dad was a great sailor - he used to race for his university when he was at Cambridge in the UK - and we used to do quite a bit of sailing when we were kids.  My mom tells me he bought this book for us back in 1985 or so, but sadly I don't remember seeing it.

Anyway - it's an excellent book.  Great diagrams and great text.  The kind of book you read once, go sailing, and then come back to read it again and again and pick up new details each time.

It covers topics from the absolute basics - naming all the parts of the boat - to hull types, to the aerodynamics of sails.  It caters to small dingy-type sailing as well as bigger sailing yachts.  Of course there are the knots you need to know, but also man-overboard drills, and how to set an anchor.  Invaluable, and just the book I wanted to read.  Thanks Pops!

I have the 1985 version, but there is an updated (1998) version on Amazon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Recommendation: Liars & Outliers

A new book from Bruce Schneier - the man who coined the term security theatre that has since made it's way into the mainstream lexicon.

In short - Liars & Outliers is good - really good.  Schneier comes from a computer security background, but he has gone much bigger picture with this book.  Fundamentally it's a book about trust -  why we trust each other, what mechanisms we have in society to ensure that we do trust each other, and how these fail sometimes.

It's a book that introduces a new framework - paradigm even - for thinking about why we trust each other and what security measures we want or need in our society.

Bruce's arch enemy Kip Hawley of the TSA even recommends this book.

www.schneier.com is one of the top three blogs I read on a daily basis.  Here's how he describes the big idea of Liars and Outliers.
My big idea is a big question. Every cooperative system contains parasites. How do we ensure that society's parasites don't destroy society's systems?
Get yourself a copy, it really is excellent.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Three Great Articles from my Trip

On my extended vacation in south-east Asia, I spent quite a bit of time reading long form articles using Instapaper.  Three of them stood out and I wanted to highlight each of them here:

This article is about chemicals that can help erase the emotions that make some memories painful.  It's fascinating in-and-of-itself, but the background explanations on the neuroscience of memory were really interesting - in particular the section that contained this conclusion:
... every time we think about the past we are delicately transforming its cellular representation in the brain, changing its underlying neural circuitry. It was a stunning discovery: Memories are not formed and then pristinely maintained, as neuroscientists thought; they are formed and then rebuilt every time they’re accessed.

This was an eye-opening expose on some pretty horrible working conditions at a big internet shopping company in the American mid-west.  Demoralizing, devoid of job security, and likely to cause long term injury, I had no idea that these jobs could be this unpleasant.

This was the most disturbing of the articles I read, but perhaps the most important. Here is the crux of it:
Crime has not fallen in the United States—it’s been shifted. ... The statistics touting the country’s crime-reduction miracle, when juxtaposed with those documenting the quantity of rape and assault that takes place each year within the correctional system, are exposed as not merely a lie, or even a damn lie—but as the single most shameful lie in American life.