books


If you’ve read “The Paradox of Choice”, then you are familiar with author Barry Schwartz’s argument that trying to maximize outcomes is a recipe for unhappiness, because in today’s option-rich world, there’s always going to be a different option that might be better than the choice you are about to make. Better, Schwartz says, to be a “satisficer” and just find something really good, rather than worry about whether its the best. Unfortunately, Schwartz fuzzes over the neurotic existential core question that drives one to be a maximizer rather than a satisficer. Probably we’d all be satisficers if only for the relief of stopping shopping around, if only I could tell the difference between getting something really good that’s maybe not the best, and worst of all, Settling.

So what does this have to do with Voila, Baby!? My cousin Kimberly Brown has started a business helping expecting and new parents prepare for and supply their offspring. This is a godsend for we maximizers, who want to get the right thing/a good deal/something special but don’t have the time or information to decide between 10 different kinds of strollers or diapers or cribs or all the stuff you need to have, never mind the bells and whistles. Kimberly’s put the family genetic shopping gene plus years of on-the-ground New Jersey training and her investigative journalism instincts to the task of figuring out what all the products do and helping people find the one that works best for their budget, lifestyle, aesthetics, etc. Avoid the dangers of settling and the depressive spiral of maximizing by letting Voila, Baby! figure this stuff out for you. Plus, your boss won’t catch you surfing baby sites while you’re at work.

At the end of last year, I wrote a chapter on law and ethics for a new O’Reilly book on network security.  It was a bit of a challenge to say something useful, accurate and concise on the topic, which I’ve been studying for most of my legal career, but I think I managed to cover the bases in an interesting and enlightening way, without being either too shallow or too pedantic.  Now, the book is available for purchase and I’m thrilled.
OReilly Media — Bookstore: Security Power Tools

Let me know if you like the book, opinions about the chapter I wrote and whether you think that there’s a need for a longer examination of the issues, either for lawyers or for security researchers.  I want to thank Mike Lynn for thinking of me for the book, and Patrick Ames for making the process so smooth.

Our friend Matt Richtel has published his first novel, “Hooked,” a
fast-paced thriller about the nature of love, obsession and life in the
digital era.

Hooked has gotten nice early reviews: “a shrewd cinematic thriller”
(Booklist); a mix of Michael Chrichton and John Grisham (Edgar Award Winner Rupert Holmes); “an astonishing first novel” (Bestseller Katherine Neville).

There is more information about the book and upcoming book signings at www.mattrichtel.com.

Read it and/or weep.

On one of my mailing lists, a woman asked for readings about the frailties of the criminal justice system. Her query prompted me to describe two books, one I’ve read, and one I’m reading.

The first is Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle. In 1920s Detroit, a black family moved into a white neighborhood. Whites gathered threateningly in front of the house, shots were fired from inside, and two white people died. The black men in the house were prosecuted. The NAACP took up the case as one of its very first cases, and brought Clarence Darrow in to do the defense. The details of Darrow’s questioning of witnesses shows what a very weak tool crossexamination is against an intentional liar. That may be a good reading for the class, but the book as a whole is fascinating in its sketch of the crimal justice system as symptomatic of the times, and also in the portrayal of the early days of the NAACP.

Arc of Justice is so good that I’m surprised to be able to say that Tulia by Nate Blakeslee may be better. I’m in the middle of it right now, but it is an absolutely infuriating account of a white narcotics officer who concocted cocaine cases against the black residents of a Texas panhandle town. Forty people were charged and some received 300 year sentences for deals that never happened. The book details the economics of criminal defense in rural areas, and why and how defense attorneys failed to do even the minimal amount of investigation that would have revealed that the narc was lying. Yet, even when a good lawyer shows up, the DA and the judge simply don’t want to credit the evidence, and the rules of court allow them to keep relevant information from the jury.

Happy reading.

I’m obsessed with Murakami. This book is a compendium of actual first person accounts of the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Meticulously researched, its nonetheless repetitive and even dull. The stories lack little telling details and nuance, usually Murakami’s forte. There are fascinating bits, though, of every day Tokyo life. Its strange how differently the survivors look at the incident than I believe most Americans, would. Rather than seeing themselves as victims of the odd cult, they talk of the incident as though an accident had befallen them.

I’m only supposed to be reading books about Japan. But that doesn’t mean I can’t read comic books about other stuff, and this one is irresistable. After a strange incident with a glowing green thing under the Brooklyn Bridge, Mitchell Hundred has superpowers that enable him to control mechanical devices with his mind. Whoa! Not quiet good enough for the job of superhero/vigilante, he decides to turn his hand to politics and gets elected Mayor of New York. This is superhero meets West Wing meets Bewitched (the TV show). In short, it rocks. James, from Isotope, turns us on to this. James also rocks.

Lovely and sad, this book deals with the psychology of a defeated post WWII Japan and a man who participated in the imperialist cause only to lose prestige, certitude and ultimately, his relevance. Particularly potent for those of us who would be heroes.

I picked it up at the Stanford Bookstore, in preparation for our summer trip to Tokyo.

Yaoi. I love how the kendo fighting is an obvious metaphor for sex between the protagonists.

You can either tell yourself that this book is fake, and Strauss and his PUA friends are assholes, or you can ask yourself how assholes like Strauss and his friends seduced so many women. I took the latter view, and if you do, this book raises a lot of really uncomfortable questions about women’s self esteem, about desire, mating and staying together. I’m trying to get my friends with women’s reading groups to take it on.

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