The bookshelf: The Black Box, by Michael Connelly

The Black BoxThe Black Box by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, deus ex machina to the max. Pleasantly surprised not to be disappointed — Connelly’s recent ones have not been so very great — until the very end. And then. Crash. Maybe he will explain it one day.

Plot line: Harry Bosch works to solve a murder that occurred in the LA riots 20 years ago. Meanwhile, his new boss is out to get him.




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On the record: The NYT on reading and reading devices

From The New York Times:

The smartphone has clearly been recent technology’s greatest gift to literacy. Carrying one obliterates one’s greatest fear: of being trapped somewhere — a train, the D.M.V., a toilet — with nothing whatsoever to read.

Most of what I devour on my phone is journalism: out-of-town newspapers and links gleaned from Twitter and Facebook. Ben Franklin would have liked this palm-size medium. He’s the founding father who said, “Read much, but not too many books.”

Corallary: If you are stuck in a line with nothing to read, it is your own damned fault.

From the reading rack: on Atlas Shrugged

I am reading Atlas Shrugged and meant eventually to write about how really bad this book is. But someone already did that. From Wet Asphalt:

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the worst book ever published. The characters are poorly drawn, the story is ridiculous, the philosophical underpinnings are incoherent and morally repugnant, and the writing is incompetent. Quite frankly and put as simply as I possibly can, there is no value to this book, it should not be read by anyone for any reason.

It’s a fascinating book, though, like a car crash.

Credit cards, DNA, and a Jeffrey Deaver novel: paranoia level rises

I just finished Jeffrey Deaver’s 2008 novel The Broken Window, starring criminalist Lincoln Rhyme battling a psycho killer who uses data mining to get to know his victims and pick a second set of victims to frame for murders.

Data mining reaps information about individuals from whatever is available — medical records, credit records, driver’s licenses, whatever — so that more companies can sell you stuff or to track your whereabouts because you never know, anyone can be a terrorist. Deaver’s novel was scary because of the psycho killer and because it made clear the very real role of data mining in our lives. As one character lamented, there are no secrets any more.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I picked up (behind on my reading, as usual) the Wall Street Journal and learned that Visa wants to show you ads based on your specific credit card charges, your social networking habits and, yes, your DNA. (The WSJ website requires a subscription, so here is a link to a Time story about the WSJ story and here is a link to a WSJ blog post about the story).

Psycho murders, psycho marketers.