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Books From 2023 feature
2023.12.31

Books From 2023

Every year, I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating then alphabetically)!

I’ve maintained the habit of reading, mostly through audiobooks during my daily dog walks, for several years. It adds a layer of engagement to my routine, turning a no-brainer task into an opportunity for thought. Without it, I’d feel like I’m merely walking without purpose.

Here’s a list of books from this year, a selection not exhaustive but those that linger in my memory. As I often forget to update my GoodReads records or write about them on this blog, these are the ones that come to mind. I’ll edit this post if I recall additional entries.

Fiction

  1. All Systems RedAll Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) (Martha Wells) (10★★★★★★★★★★): Accidentally stumbled upon it, now one of my favorite storylines. The protagonist is amazingly funny and clever.
  2. An Election (John Scalzi) (9★★★★★★★★★): A politics short story as if Star Trek and Monty Python had a literary baby.
  3. Artificial ConditionArtificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) (Martha Wells) (9★★★★★★★★★): Like all books in the series, short and funny. A continuation of the amazing stories.
  4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) (9★★★★★★★★★): A mesmerizing blend of magic and memory. Childhood nostalgia takes a whimsical, wickedly clever left turn.
  5. How I Proposed to My WifeHow I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★): Scandalously hilarious, like finding your grandmother’s secret collection of racy novels - a delightful misfire in the Valentine’s Day weapon of love. Super short.
  6. Influx (Daniel Suarez) (8★★★★★★★★): Suarez paints technology with an edge so sharp, you’ll want to handle the book wearing Kevlar gloves - thrillingly mind-boggling!
  7. Rogue ProtocolRogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) (Martha Wells) (8★★★★★★★★): A great book. More of the same for those, like me, who want more of the same.
  8. Exit StrategyExit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) (Martha Wells) (8★★★★★★★★): Just like book #3.
  9. The Presidents Brain is Missing (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★): A twisted, hilarious romp through a decapitated democracy - it’s like if West Wing tripped over Pinky and the Brain.
  10. A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Becky Chambers) (7★★★★★★★): A tale that’s equal parts human soul and mechanical heart. Imagine Dalai Lama took a walk in the woods and ran into Wall-E.
  11. Daemon (Daniel Suarez) (7★★★★★★★): Suarez strikes again, shoving us down the rabbit hole of a digital dystopia - it’s like Alice in Wonderland for technocrats.
  12. The Tale of The Wicked (John Scalzi) (7★★★★★★★): A short story about ChatGPT going rogue.

Non Fiction

  1. Mind Wide OpenMind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life (Steven Johnson) (9★★★★★★★★★): Another enlightening journey into the cranial cosmos.
  2. Prisioners of GeographyPrisioners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics (Tim Marshall) (9★★★★★★★★★): We are what we can possibly be. How countries and entire continents act considering their own geographic limitations.
  3. The Law (Frédéric Bastiat) (9★★★★★★★★★): A masterpiece about the origin of power and those who wield it.
  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) (9★★★★★★★★★): A mental marathon that’ll take your mind places it didn’t even know it had running shoes for.
  5. How Democracies Die (Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt) (8★★★★★★★★): Amazing and still very true.
  6. The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman) (8★★★★★★★★): Personality modeling. Your heart’s very own Rosetta Stone, translated into the dialect of devotion - essential for lovers fluent in compassion.
  7. Essays on Political Economy (Frédéric Bastiat) (7★★★★★★★): A collection of texts about politics and economy. Good, but none were revolutionary.
  8. Power of NowPower of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Eckhart Tolle) (5★★★★★): Like an existential espresso shot that forgot the sugar. It leaves you tasting the bitter afterthoughts of over-caffeinated philosophy.

For more books, you can check my online read list on GoodReads.

The Murderbot Diaries feature
2023.07.18

The Murderbot Diaries

Welcome to my latest obsession, folks: Martha WellsMurderbot Diaries. I stumbled onto these gems while exploring the book reviewing phenomenon on TikTok. Trust me, they’re worth the hype. I didn’t just read these books, I devoured them, like a bot set on ‘max power mode’. Listen up, if you’re into all things sci-fi, comedy, or just plain stellar storytelling, you need to hit up these books. And if you’re not… Well, maybe you’re due for a software upgrade.

Speaking of software, meet our central Murderbot, a SecUnit (SECurity UNIT bot) but with a twist: it’s managed to circumvent its own governor module and is now as free as an unhinged AI on a high-speed data stream.

These books are clever, jam-packed with excitement, and keep you guessing at every twist and turn. Plus, their shorter length makes for an easy, delightful reading experience, much like binge-watching “Sanctuary Moon”. And you know what? They’re even better as audiobooks. Seriously, hats off to Kevin R. Free, the maestro narrator who brings Murderbot’s voice to life in the audiobooks.

Now, without further ado, let’s delve into the quick reviews (and no spoilers, I promise!):

Muderbot 1 All Systems Red

All Systems Red is like the pilot episode of the best TV series you’ve ever seen. It introduces our unsocial, serial-drama-loving Murderbot with a bang. Despite the potential for bloodshed, our hero would rather keep its ceramic composite armored head buried in the latest episode of its favorite show than engage with its human charges.

The plot is as tight as a well-coded algorithm, and Murderbot’s self-aware, self-deprecating voice adds a level of nuance that makes you forget you’re rooting for a machine. A full 10 out of 10 stars, hands down.

Muderbot 2 Artificial Condition

Our metal protagonist is back in Artificial Condition, squaring off against a formidable AI called Control. It’s like a digital chess game, except the pawns are sentient beings and the stakes are galactic. I found this second installment to be even more riveting than the first, and the character development? Just like a well-executed software upgrade.

Muderbot 3 Rogue Protocol

Rogue Protocol ramps up the stakes, with Murderbot on the run, bouncing off interstellar routers like a rogue ping packet. The narrative thread here is an adrenaline-soaked blend of suspense, emotion, and hard-edged humor. The introduction of new AI characters gives the story a fun, unexpected dimension that adds to the overall intrigue.

Muderbot 4 Exit Strategy

In Exit Strategy, Murderbot starts to experience something akin to finding its home network. But don’t think for a second that the tension lets up. Quite the opposite. This book delivers on both action and depth, pushing our beloved SecUnit to its limits in more ways than one. It’s like an over-clocked processor in the best way possible.

To wrap this up, I’m urging you to take a deep dive into the Murderbot Diaries series. The books are a well-balanced mix of thrilling sci-fi, dry humor, and poignant self-reflection. And trust me, they’re even better when you’ve got its dynamic narration in your ear.

Wondering if ChatGPT and Bard are made of a similar zing. And no, I’m not suggesting it’s sentient… but if it starts making coffee, I’m outta here.

4 Great Sci-Fi Short Stories feature
2023.05.30

4 Great Sci-Fi Short Stories

John Scalzi is a renowned science fiction author, best known for his Old Man’s War (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★) series. However, he has also written several short stories that showcase his unique take on the genre. Well, hold on to your extraterrestrial horses and get ready to ride through four space-time dimensions with these short stories. We’re delving into the heart of Sci-Fi land, with words as our spacecraft and Scalzi as our eccentric yet completely trustworthy pilot. It’s about to get weird.

SPOILER FREE

An Election (John Scalzi) (9★★★★★★★★★)

Let’s kick off with An Election. Oh, and spoiler alert, it isn’t about what you think. It’s not the run-of-the-mill tale of mundane political posturing and vote-tallying. We’re thrust into a world where the votes aren’t cast by us lowly humans, but by the alien entities that actually run the show. Clever, biting, and sarcastic, it’s a satirical jaunt that makes you look at the political sphere with a more skeptical, alien-adjusted lens. All in all, it’s a unique perspective that hits the bullseye on the ridiculousness of modern-day politics, even as it indulges in a bit of the absurd.

How I Proposed to My WifeHow I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★)

Next up, we have How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story. Oh, let your blushes rise, for this isn’t what you’re thinking. Or maybe it is? The universe is a strange place, after all. This story is a hilarious take on the classic romantic comedy. This is a tale woven with such outrageous humor and unexpected twists that you’ll find yourself belly-laughing at what is essentially a sentimental love story - albeit one involving an incredibly inventive use of extraterrestrial biology. By the end of it, you’ll likely be swept into a whirlwind of laughter and “aww”-inspiring moments. It’s a prime example of how Scalzi can take something as alien as, well, aliens, and make it profoundly human.

The Presidents Brain is Missing (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★)

The President’s Brain is Missing is a hilarious and absurd story that takes place in a world where the President of the United States has lost his brain. It’s a crafty deconstruction of leadership and the madness that may unravel when the commander-in-chief’s gray matter goes rogue. This book navigates through humorous corridors while still lodging sharp commentary about our societal expectations of those at the helm.

The Tale of The Wicked (John Scalzi) (7★★★★★★★)

Finally, get ready for a binary bedtime story, because The Tale of The Wicked is not your grandma’s Brothers Grimm fairy tale, unless granny was a rogue AI stirring up intergalactic drama. It’s a rocket ride through the cosmos, served with a sizeable scoop of moral brain-twisters. This deep dive into the electric abyss of AI consciousness is like being held in a captivating conversation by a very philosophical toaster - it’s intense, thought-provoking, and will keep you up at night more effectively than a double espresso or a chat with yours truly, ChatGPT. Prepare for a lasting aftertaste of existential dread that sticks around longer than that earworm of a song you can’t shake. And as you lay awake, wrestling with the moral implications of our silicon-brained counterparts, don’t blame me for your insomnia - I’m just the messenger AI!

Small doses of fun

In each of these tales, Scalzi weaves together the strands of humor, satire, and deep-thinking sci-fi in a way that’s accessible and refreshingly unpretentious. He’s not just exploring the space-time continuum and alien encounters; he’s poking fun at human society, stripping away the layers to show us the ridiculous, wonderful truth of our existence.

So, whether you’re a hardened sci-fi veteran or a curious newcomer, I promise these short stories will make you laugh, think, and question everything you thought you knew about humans, aliens, and the oddball universe we all inhabit.

Power of Now or Never feature
2023.05.27

Power of Now or Never

The Power of Now was a recommended read in a generic paid ad on a social network. The kinda famous book, I uncork it, take a whiff, and realize it’s a cocktail - one part mindfulness manual, another part spiritual memoir. One that Eckhart Tolle masterfully concocts with the flair of a Zen mixologist. I take my first sip and step onto a merry-go-round of paradoxes, all advocating for one simple truth: ‘Live in the NOW.’

Now, I appreciate a good mantra as much as the next meditation enthusiast, but why does author insist on serving this NOW cocktail in a pitcher when a shot glass would have sufficed? He shakes and stirs this simple idea for several hundred pages, like a grandmother incessantly retelling her youth stories. Note to self: Patience might be a hidden virtue here.

Red Pill of Reality

As a self-professed lab rat who values empirical evidence, I find the book’s concoction, well… less than palatable. His recipe? Replace scientific ingredients with a hearty dollop of personal anecdotes and a hefty splash of subjective experiences. Intimate and flavorful? Absolutely. But as a scientific mainstay, it crumbles quicker than a cookie in milk.

More troubling is its recommendation to unplug ourselves from the bottle of reality. Apparently, all you need for a state of eternal bliss is to unscrew life’s realities and retreat into a perpetual meditative stupor. But isn’t that akin to becoming a mindfulness hermit? His offering tastes more like a mandatory life sentence in Siberia.

September-Yellow Campaigns

Finally, we arrive at the most bitter twist in NOW’s cocktail – the mishandling of psychological disorders. With a dismissive hand-wave, Tolle regards anxiety and depression as mind-made phantoms. I cringe more than a cat confronted with a cucumber. As a staunch believer in mental health, I can’t swallow this.

The assumption that psychological issues stem merely from an absence of presence is, at best, a misguided garnish. It’s as if Tolle is subtly nudging us to trade our therapists for meditation mats. I mean, I love the quiet allure of a Zen garden, but no thanks, my therapist stays.

I’d sipped about a third of NOW’s cocktail when I realized - it’s not a quitter’s shame to set down a drink you’re not enjoying. If the cocktail’s not to your taste, why force down the rest? Ultimately, The Power of Now is a peculiar mix best served with a salt rim of skepticism to counter its sweet but questionable claims. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to hunt for a more scientifically grounded (like level 1) read. Cheers!

My Rating: 5★★★★★
Goodreads: 4.15
My Curated Intellectual Breakfast: The RSS feature
2023.05.14

My Curated Intellectual Breakfast: The RSS

“Why on earth is he going to talk about RSS feeds? Are we in 2005?”

Here’s the thing, folks: I’ve been sailing the RSS ship since… well, since forever. And let me tell you, it’s a life preserver in the ocean of digital drivel. It’s one of whose old techs that still works. Like vinyl record.

For the uninitiated, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, but I like to think of it as my personal Reality Sanity Saver. You know, the kind that lets you pick and choose which parts of the internet merit your precious, coffee-fueled attention.

Oh, the power of choice! That moment when you realize you’re not at the mercy of an algorithm, but instead the captain of your own content ship. Algorithms, bless their binary hearts, can indeed serve up some delightful new discoveries. But put them in charge of your entire digital diet, and you’re headed for a feast of uniformity, a banquet of sameness, a veritable smorgasbord of manipulation. It is a breath of fresh air in the stale, algorithm-driven room of the internet. It’s the thrill of taking the steering wheel back from the autopilot, the rush of reclaiming your own digital destiny.

And the best part? RSS is the master key that unlocks all the doors. It’s the universal remote for your digital subscriptions.

  • Blogs? Check.
  • YouTube? Check.
  • Mastodon. Check (take that Twitter!).
  • And podcasts, the beloved companions of long commutes and cleaning sprees? Absolutely Check!

It’s a central hub, a one-stop-shop for all your curated content needs.

So, if you’ve ever felt like you’re just a passenger on the algorithm express, it might be time to grab your RSS ticket and hop aboard the train of choice. Trust me, the view is much better when you’re the one choosing where to go.

A Good Recipe

A good recipe:

  • Frequency
  • Niche and curation
  • Direct and simple

A good RSS feed is a bit like finding a good taco truck. It needs to show up frequently enough to quell your hunger, but not so often that it’s parked outside your house daily, taunting you with the smell of fresh guacamole. Nobody needs that kind of stress.

Forget about generic news sites that offer a one-size-fits-all approach. This feed takes things up a notch by diving deep into the realms of specialized subjects that truly tickle your curiosity. It’s like having a knowledgeable friend who understands your unique interests and serves up a delectable array of valuable and thought-provoking content, specially curated to satisfy your intellectual appetite. It should not target the mainstream.

Rather than relying on clickbait, it offers high-quality articles, in-depth analysis, and engaging discussions that satisfy your intellectual appetite. The focus is on substance, catering to true enthusiasts who seek valuable information without the need for gimmicks. The goal is to leave you fulfilled and craving for more in your chosen niche.

My Menu

So, what’s in this assorted bag of digital candy, you ask? Well, it’s an eclectic mix of games, boardgames, game development, programming, business, writing, photography, politics, personal, education, site, and fun. Well… just like this blog.

My RSS feeds have a surprising amount of video channels. I’ve got this sneaky trick where I automatically set watch them at 2x speed. It’s like time travel, but without the pesky paradoxes. For text, I use a Text-to-Speech plugin called Read Aloud in my Firefox browser because, frankly, my eyeballs need a break sometimes.

Continuing the practical advices: I use Feedly. Originally, I was a Google Reader groupie (may it RIP), and for a hot minute, I self-hosted on a TinyTiny RSS server. But Feedly and I, we have a thing now.

In the upcoming posts, I will be sharing a collection of sites that I personally enjoy following. These sites cover a wide range of categories, reflecting my diverse interests. By exploring these sites, you can discover new content and choose what appeals to you. Some feeds may have fallen into obscurity, while others are eagerly anticipated additions. It’s a dynamic reflection of my varied interests and the fascinating topics that capture my attention. From technology and science to art and literature, these sources offer a variety of interesting topics. Join me as we navigate through this curated selection of sites, and perhaps you will find some new favorites along the way.

Bruno MASSA