Reading, Drones, and Georgie Washington

Americans are still reading books, Internet and all! Younger Americans are actually reading more than older generations, which could be partially due to the fact that with the rise of texting and social media, so much of our communication is text-based, so everyone is doing a lot more reading (and writing) in order to communicate with their friends. The original study is linked in that article and in this graph:

What are some other ways to get people to read books?

Well it helps a lot if your college library not only tells you the call numbers of the book, but it gives you precise directions to the location of the book, which is pretty awesome. Much more useful when navigating a giant library, like I have access to at the university I work at, as opposed to the smaller library at the university I actually attended.

Another good way is to send free books to the millions of soldiers at war. That’s a really great way to get people to read, and also lead to the rise of quality paperback books.

“By giving away the best it had to offer, the publishing industry created a vastly larger market for its wares. More importantly, it also democratized the pleasures of reading, making literature, poetry, and history available to all.”

Because people are still reading (and likely due to the trendiness of shopping local), independent bookstores are thriving, even as chains like Borders (R.I.P.) and Barnes and Noble start to fade in popularity.

Now it’s time for a <Technical Interlude>

As I’ve mentioned before, everything is broken. On Wednesday, a vulnerability in bash was discovered, and while it was quickly patched, a similar-looking but different vulnerability was uncovered the next day, and that has yet to be patched. Bash is used in unix-based systems, most notably in Linux and Mac operating systems. Lots of server admins are panicking right now, but as consumers, we just need to sit and wait for patches (and if you use Linux, apply the first patch while you wait for the second). If you want to test your configuration, take a look at Brian Krebs’ rundown. I’ll be twiddling my thumbs until Apple releases an update.

Aside from gaping security vulnerabilities, I was recently fascinated by a couple essays [nerd alert]:

  • Why Google is Hurrying the Web to Kill SHA-1. A not-too-technical-but-still-technical essay about web security and why it’s semi-insecure and why Google is taking faster, unprecedented steps to make it more secure.

  • Inside Google’s Ambitious Plan to Change the Internet Forever. Starts with the premise of Google Fiber Internet, but largely discusses what would be possible if everyone had access to a “symmetric network” — equal upload and download speeds.

  • Software Version Numbers: A Neglected Opportunity to Improve Customer Experience. I have to write release notes as part of my job, so it heartens me to know that people do read them. Not to mention, this essay makes some great points about having trustworthy and reliable information included in version numbering. It can be somewhat random, and out of control (Google Chrome and Last.FM I’ve found to be the worst with the “version 32.0.324389404” numbering).

</Technical Interlude>

Emma Watson is leading a new UN initiative called #HeForShe, calling on men to do more as allies and pointing out what they have to gain by participating in feminism (hint: a lot). By treating gender more as a spectrum, men have just as much to gain as women.

Another realm where feminism is useful is economics. Many (developed) countries have aging populations, and are struggling to maintain their population growth because more women are choosing not to have children and the fertility rate is falling below the replacement rate of 2.1 (babies per woman). Sweden seems to have figured out a solution, however — offer paternity leave to the men. This mitigates the career hit that women take when they leave work to have a child, by allowing men to take time off from their career as well.

Something else that Emma Watson spoke to in her speech is that men don’t have room to be vulnerable or show anything but masculine toughness. This is clear on the web as well. Leah Reich wonders “if it all comes back to men. Not about banning or about even banishing them, but about the spaces men have carved out for themselves on the Internet, and the spaces they lack.”

One place it’s clear that women need to be more involved is in the tech industry. Apple is 70% male, and in the tech positions, that number rises to 80%. It’s never been clearer that that needs to improve than when people realized that the Healthkit app doesn’t track menstruation and fertility. For the record, Apple’s racial diversity is just as lacking. Also worth noting is that Google isn’t any better in either respect.

Drones are basically always in the news, at least the news that I read. DHL is going to use a parcelcopter (Paketkopter) to deliver packages to a remote island in Germany (DHL delivers most packages in Germany, in partnership with Deutsche Post). More background about the project is in DHL’s press release.

More promising, however, is the proposition to use drones in Africa to transport goods where infrastructure is lacking. The lack of infrastructure in many parts of Africa has meant that they are far ahead of us in some respects.

Apple Pay is revolutionary for many Americans, but the idea of paying for goods and services with your phone is already familiar to many Africans. Mobile payment systems such as M-Pesa in Kenya allows use of a mobile device to deposit, withdraw, or transfer money. It’s been around since 2007.

While mobile networks in Kenya served as a stand-in for banking infrastructure that didn’t really exist (or wasn’t easily accessible in more rural areas), that isn’t the case for banking infrastructure in America:

“In the U.S., where even the smallest towns have corner stores with ATMs, Apple Pay won’t have the radical impact that M-Pesa has had in Kenya. But the example of sub-Saharan Africa suggests the ways that mobile technology might eventually be able to displace developed nations’ complex physical infrastructure for finance and communication.”

Stars and Hey Rosetta! are going on tour together and I can’t go with my friends in Chicago but I might go see them closer to me. I haven’t been to a concert in a long time, so it might be worth it.

In honor of that, here is a new single from Stars called From the Night, and another single from Hey Rosetta! called Soft Offering (For the Oft Suffering).