bad monkeys

Maybe I should have patented the idea

One of the Panopticon surveillance devices mentioned in Bad Monkeys is something called a Library Binding, which can be installed or implanted in a book (the exact nature of the mechanism is never described) and that, among other things, maintains a record of which pages the book is opened to, for how long. Spend an hour studying the phosgene gas recipe in the Golden Book of Chemistry, and Panopticon will know.

What makes this idea goofily paranoid is that it involves books with actual bindings—the idea of “bugging” a print book seems nuts, although I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibility if the CIA, or a sufficiently motivated MIT prankster, decided to do it. Monitoring an ebook reader, on the other hand, seems trivial, and I assumed plenty of folks had thought of it and at least a few might actually be doing it.

And then this morning I found out about this (via Tyler Cowen):

The Amazon Kindle, Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for iPad each provide a very simple mechanism for adding highlights. Every month, Kindle customers highlight millions of book passages that are meaningful to them.

We combine the highlights of all Kindle customers and identify the passages with the most highlights. The resulting Popular Highlights help readers to focus on passages that are meaningful to the greatest number of people. We show only passages where the highlights of at least three distinct customers overlap, and we do not show which customers made those highlights…

…the unspoken implication being, they could show which customers (or which customers’ Kindle devices) made which highlights if they wanted to—and also what pages those customers have bookmarked, and possibly how often they’ve accessed each book, and of course what ebooks they own, read or unread. All of which, again, is trivial from a technical standpoint. But it does raise the question of who else might be looking at that data stream, with or without Amazon’s cooperation. I’m not just talking about the government, either—imagine what Gawker could do with a record of some celebrity’s favorite book passages.

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Bad Monkeys nominated for Georgia Peach Book Award

My devious plan to corrupt Southern youth proceeds apace:

“The purpose of the Georgia Peach Award is to highlight and promote the best current young adult literature for Georgia high school age students, to encourage young adults to read and to promote the development of cooperative school and public library services for young adults. Teens vote for their favorite books out of the year’s top 20 nominees at their high schools and local public libraries.”

Many thanks to the nominators, and congratulations to my fellow nominees:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
Blood Brothers by S.A. Harazin
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger
Oh.My.Gods by Tera Lynn Childs
Ophelia: A Novel by Lisa Klein
Spud by John Van de Ruit
Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Wake by Lisa McMann
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

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Bangkok highway patrol adopts Scary Clown concept

From yesterday’s Times:

Starting out his new administration, the already embattled prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva — the fourth prime minister this year — made a promise to his people last month, ‘I will prove that once again Thailand can be the land of the free, the land of opportunities, and the land of smiles.’

The highway police seem to be as good a place to start as any.

The new cloth masks, which hook behind the ears and cover the mouth and nose, will help “reduce the stress from drivers when they see the police,” said Mr. Somyos, the highway police commander.

To that end, he said, some 200 police booths would also distribute small bottles of holy water, chewing gum and mints…

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Bad Monkeys puzzle solved… again

On October 17th the very determined Josh Larios, his wife Cameron, and his friends Jake Manalan and Mia Lipner became the second group to crack the Bad Monkeys contest puzzle. I congratulate them, and hope Josh can get some sleep now.

I’ve left the puzzle up for anyone else who wants to try it, but be aware that there are no more prizes. I’ve also posted an email from Jutta Degener describing how she and her coworkers at Metaweb became the first group to solve the puzzle (as you might expect, it contains spoilers).

Thanks to everyone who played. For those who are curious how I designed the puzzle, I used a program called Crossword Express, a very versatile piece of ‘ware that can generate traditional crosswords, Cryptics, Acrostics, Word Search, Sodoku, and Kakuro, among others. I bought the “professional” version of the program; it has since been released as freeware, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a puzzle fanatic.

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Bad Monkeys wins Washington State Book Award

2008 Washington State Book Awards, by category:

FictionBad Monkeys, Matt Ruff
General Non-fiction — Dirt, the Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery
History/Biography Native Seattle: Histories From the Crossing-Over Place, by Coll Thrush
Poetry — The Grace of Necessity, by Samuel Green
Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Winner (children’s category) —  Rabbit’s Gift, by George Shannon
Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Winner (young adult category) — The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Congrats to my fellow winners! The award ceremony will be held Oct. 22 at 7 P.M. at the Seattle Central Library, and admission is free.

Also, a reminder, I’ll be reading two nights later, from a new work, at Richard Hugo House (Oct. 24 at 7:30 P.M.). Tickets for that event are on sale now.

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