Category Archives: Pals

Two weeks with the Kobo Aura One

My nook finally died, so I upgraded to a Kobo Aura One

I wanted to treat myself to a really good e-reader.

Why not another nook? Meh. I heard that this one was pretty amazing. I don’t really like being locked into one store. Why not a kindle? Amazon already knows a hell of a lot about me and my family, we don’t really need to give them anymore info.

Besides, I heard a group of loyal and passionate readers contributed to the design of this reader. That’s a good sign that they made product testing part of the campaign.

What I like about it:

  • It’s waterproof. I can read in the tub or the rain. Which I do.
  • The integration with Pocket works great. Instead of falling down a twitter hole into an article in the morning, I can just send it to Pocket and set up a bunch of great reading on the subway.
  • You can check out books from the library right from it! This is a big deal – I can’t stand having to hook the thing up to a computer to transfer library books in.
  • I like the auto-warm light for nighttime.
  • Little stats all through it warm my nerd heart! Lots of little measures of how fast you’re reading or how many minutes of book you’ve got left sprinkled throughout the interface.
  • Easy to load on e-pub files!

Could be better:

It’s too big. Only fits in one jacket I own! My nook used to even fit in my back jeans pocket.


I wish I could buy an e-reader that could integrate with my Calibre library of drm-free epub files. If I’m on a wi-fi network with a Calibre library, why can’t I have some sort of UPNP browsing through the books I’ve got? I’d chip in on development if this were a thing someone was making.


Another way to give

This week I dropped off 13 phones at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. I saw Executive Director Peter Goldberg speak at the NYC Tech Solidarity meeting in February and he went over the story of Kalief Browder.

Peter talked about the amazing effects that bail has on guilt. If you can post bail, you are magically less likely to plead guilty to charges and to go to jail. Heck, if I can help people magically not commit crimes by helping them get bail, that seems like a great way to reduce crime!

Peter said they ( and all non-profits) have surprising needs that nerds with good jobs wouldn’t expect. They need laptops, desktops, phones.

In the BCBF’s case, loaning someone a phone means they have a vastly higher chance of not missing their court date. It allows the bail fund to communicate with their clients and make sure everything works out.

I went to my help desk and CTO, and talked with them about old phones available for donations – we cycle through new equipment and have lots of “loaners” or used phones – more than we reasonably need. Just by asking and working with the help desk team to wipe old phones we managed to get phones that we’d just pay someone to recycle for us into the hands of folks who can fight for a fair trial.

Not bad, and not much work to do a hell of a lot of good. If you want to give them a few bucks to do this good work, you can also donate to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund online. Let me know if you do!

Today’s subway reading from 1953

I picked up some old Amazing Stories magazines up at a flea market in Woodstock. 

Robert Sheckley and Richard Matheson – I’m sold!

charles the robot mourning mark
The Robert Sheckley story Beside Still Waters has great art by Virgil Finlay

Beside Still Waters is a sweet story of a lonely asteroid miner dying. Full of mystery and possibilities.  I wonder why Sheckley never became a bigger deal?

The Richard Matheson story is weird- an infant daughter falls into another dimension during the night and is rescued. Mostly by the family dog. The last sentence is a puzzle for me. 

So some night we may look up and hear Arthur Godfrey chuckling from another dimension. 

What? Do not understand. 

Wow, that kinda casual sexism don’t fly these days.

My legs hurt

Group 3
I did a 5K last night in Central Park – which sounds like nothing, but I am not a runner.

The last time I ran was 15 years ago in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, with Chris Acton. It was terrible. I ran the 5K race in Rochester in a terrible 45 minutes. I was so slow and awful that my elf-lord boss ran backwards in bare feet encouraging me to keep going. It seems kind, but it also seems kind of like krumping to show someone that it isn’t hard to dance.

Anyway, this time was better! I don’t dig the 30 minutes of being corralled while we wait to start or the crowding, but once the run started I was able to get going and stay going. I’m still slow – finished in 32 minutes – but it’s better by a lot than last time!

Review: A Burglar’s Guide to the City

A Burglar's Guide to the City
A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a fan of Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG, which is only nominally a study of architecture through strange lenses. (One of the first posts as I write this looks at an art study of the bacteria on money and how it travels through society and compares to seeds being transmitted through ancient boat ballast.)

And who doesn’t love burglary and heist movies – I’m in it for the naughtiness of penetrating forbidden places and urban exploration.

This book is a loving review of how architecture affects burglary, how burglary affects architecture, how the architecture of a city affects the burglary and then affects how policing responds. The helicopter patrols of L.A. sprawl are a response just as the vertical patrols of giant housing projects reflect their own landscapes.

We delve into locks, lockpicking, escaping, getaways, tunnels through earth, air, traffic, and buildings themselves.

At the end is the sobering reflection that all of this is only interesting as the edges of burglary, the mythical kind of burglary. Real burglary is too often full of ugly nastiness, destruction and damage to the lives of those burgled.

I really enjoyed the discussions on Nakatomi space and turning on burglar eyes to see architecture in a different way – it’s an easy read and I’d recommend it.

View all my reviews

Who watches the watchmen?

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.


The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

Source: FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades – The Washington Post

It happened before 2000. There was other evidence in those cases. But still – false testimony from these high levels over decades happened.

It should shake you.

What is preventing us from reading a similar headline in ten more years? How could we make sure this lab has an incentive to tell the truth rather than to ally with their colleagues?