Books Read in 2015

Non-Fiction

  • Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman by Francis Stonor Saunders
  • The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
  • The Western Canon by Harold Bloom
  • Ten Years Under the Earth by Norbert Castaret
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Fiction

  • Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Science Fiction & Fantasy

  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey (The Expanse)
  • Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey (The Expanse)
  • Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling
  • The Terror  by Dan Simmons
  • The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Drowned World by JG Ballard
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Authority by Jeff Vandermeer
  • Deathworld by Harry Harrison

Rereads

  • On Blue’s Waters by Gene Wolfe (The Book of the Short Sun)
  • In Green’s Jungles by Gene Wolfe (The Book of the Short Sun)
  • Shadow Games by Glen Cook (The Black Company)
  • The White Rose by Glen Cook (The Black Company)
  • Shadows Linger by Glen Cook (The Black Company)
  • The Silver Spike by Glen Cook (The Black Company)
  • The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny (The Chronicles of Amber)
  • Nine Princes In Amber by Roger Zelazny (The Chronicles of Amber)

My Current Privacy and Ad-Blocking Suite

My intent is to keep this updated periodically, and whenever I change it.

I am a thousand miles away from being a security expert, but I feel like I’m slightly more paranoid than most people, and have done just enough research to offer a good starting point.

Chrome Extensions

  1. uBlock Origin for blocking advertisements. This replaced Adblock Plus. uBlock claims to use fewer system resources, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference on my system. The reason I chose it is because ABP evidently gets money from advertisers to privilege certain ads by default. As a user, you can turn this option off, but it seems like a conflict of interest to me, and since I have a choice, I will go with the equally useful alternative.
  2. Disconnect for third-party cookie blocking. This replaced Ghostery, which had become a little too invasive, requiring me to rerun the setup process on every account in Chrome (I have three) every time it automatically updated itself.
  3. Vanilla Cookies for blocking all cookies. This may prove to be redundant with Disconnect, but it caught a few things which Ghostery did not.

VPN Software

  1. I use OpenVPN Access Server on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosted by NFO. Though I was eventually able to get it running, setting up the standard OpenVPN server and client packages proved more difficult than I wanted it to be, since I know next to nothing about networking and server administration. A full year later I discovered Access Server, which is made for rookies like me. It’s a 5-minute installation, very well done. The server package leads you into the client package installation, which is even simpler. The OpenVPN website, on the other hand, is just awful: I’m not even 100% sure I have included the correct link above, that’s how confusing it is.
  2. I use VPN Net Mon as a little tool to shut down applications that would reveal private data if the VPN happened to turn off without me noticing. It sits in your tray and monitors the connection, then axes programs you tell it to watch. This could include your torrent client, but also anything which sends data over the network as well.

Also, Tor browser

The Tor browser bundle has come a long way since when I first tried running it. It’s basically idiot proof at this point. It does add noticeable latency, so I don’t use it for regular surfing. It’s an additional layer of protection that’s pretty low effort.

Search Engine

My default search engine for the last few years has been Duck Duck Go. Whereas Google’s policy is to track everything and perform big data alchemy on it, DDG doesn’t track anything, they just provide search for you. Their design is top notch, and the search results are officially ‘good enough’. The bang operators are a great feature I use dozens of times a day, as well.

Knights fighting Snails

“As anyone who is familiar with 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts can attest, images of armed knights fighting snails are common.”

Often, the snails fare pretty well in the fight.

What is the significance of the snail imagery? Nobody really knows for sure, and it’s not obvious from context. One possibility is that the snail stands in for some contemporary figure or group, like in an editorial cartoon. Another is that it’s a sort of meme, a joke that the young men drawing marginalia learned and copied from the works of their peers.