Tag Archives: Labyrinth Bookstore

Orcas and Egoists

Who knew Scott McVay was an Orca expert? I thought of him only as a grant-giver with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. His work as a marine expert was one of several surprises in the fall issue of Genesis, now online on the site of  U.S. 1 Newspaper, which excerpted part of McVay’s memoir, Surprise Encounters.  The launch party will be Wednesday, October 14, at 6 p.m. at Labyrinth Bookstore, click here for background. 

Another surprise — the so-healthy ego of mathematician John Conway, described as “archly roguish with a gawky, geeky magnetism” by Siobhan Roberts in the  biography Genius at Play,  excerpted here in U.S. 1’s Genesis. She quotes Conway:
“As I often say, modesty is my only vice. If I weren’t so modest, I’d be perfect.*
Everyone who knows him knows it. Most everyone loves him nonetheless. Conway’s is a jocund and playful egomania, sweetened by self-deprecating charm. Based at Princeton University, though having made his name and found fame at Cambridge, he claims never to have worked a day in his life. 

Both excerpts left me wanting more.

Danielle Allen: canceled — but — wait!

The Princeton chamber lunch on Thursday with Danielle Allen has been cancelled, due to weather — but you have another chance to hear her.  She will speak at Labyrinth bookstore on Tuesday, March 10,  at 6 p.m. With Melissa Lane she will discuss Lane’s new book the “The Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter.”

Here is Diccon Hyatt’s interview with Allen in the current issue of U.S. 1  This interview focused on her reading of the Declaration of Independence, whereas I was more interested in her direct declaration of how she advocates for bridging cultural divides, as reported by Not in Our Town Princeton here.

The chamber lunch will not be rescheduled, but Allen will stay in Princeton till June. Perhaps she be persuaded to talk about intercultural dialogue here, before she goes to Harvard.


Surveillance Knights: Doctorow and Felten

doctorow hermann felten

Liberation can turn into surveillance, they warned. Two anti-surveillance knights of the internet, science fiction author Cory Doctorow and Princeton University tech guru Ed Felten, spoke at Labyrinth Bookstore today, co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Library.

The Internet is the nervous system of the 21st century, said Felten. Just as language helped cave men collaborate, the Internet helps us organize at lower costs. It transcends what a single person can do. It is a mistake to try to control the Internet and fit it into something small, said Felten. “It was architected to let people try things and discover what worked.” If over controlled and regulated, we will lose that freedom.

YouTube needs to be free from regulation. Every minute, 96 hours of video are uploaded onto YouTube, most of it personal, says Doctorow, and that’s OK. Each of the seemingly banal interactions  — like the ubiquitous cute cat videos — is important. “Relationships are built up on these little moments,” said Doctorow.

What these like-minded experts said can be found in their writings, but Felten used a homey example to explain his objection. When the Keurig coffee maker patent expired, you could buy private label pods. Then Keurig engineered its new coffee makers so only its own pods worked. “That’s like patenting shoelaces, so you need European rights to tie your shoelaces in Germany.”

Doctorow cited software that can deactivate engines if the car is stolen. It might be sold to vendors of subprime car loans. Wireless pacemakers can be hijacked. For instance, one demo showed a pacemaker hooked up to a strip of bacon — and it fried the bacon.

As efficient and valuable as the Internet is, the Doctorow/Felten meeting demonstrates that nothing beats personal networking. PPL’s Janie Hermann (between Doctorow, on the left, and Felten) encountered Doctorow at a library convention over two years ago and learned that he was a buddy of Felten’s. Since that meeting several attempts were made to bring the two together for a conversation in Princeton, but schedules never matched. Three weeks ago Hermann learned that not only did Doctorow have a new book coming out but that he would be in the area for New York City Comic Con. She zoomed in on the rare opportunity and with very little notice was able to connect Doctorow and Felten at last, but the library’s community room was not available. Dorothea von Moltke from Labyrinth Books stepped in to offer her space for what turned out to be a standing room only event.