Recently Gartner has been harping on about the economic and technological impact the Internet of Things (IoT) will have in the coming years.
For those of you who need a quick reminder of what this IoT-thing is all about, it comes down to plugging communication and computation capabilities into all kinds of everyday devices, and allowing them to interact with the user or even other devices, directly or by being hooked up to the internet, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The example long thrown around is the fridge that monitors its content and orders stuff you are about to run out of. Nowadays of course, we are hooking more and more stuff up to the internet, like your camera, TV and Blu-ray player, but also your running shoes or your heating thermostat. And everyday more applications are added to this list.
It creates possibilities in user-interaction, or user-friendliness never before possible – I mean being able to remotely turn down the thermostat in your house and lower the blinds can have its advantages, no?
But maybe there’s also a downside to this. IT-security is currently an ever growing concern for companies, so now add to the current stack of computers and servers in danger of viruses and malware, about 26 billion devices who have often been created with anything but IT-security in mind, and this is bound to be a recipe for serious disaster.
Charles Stross, a science fiction author with a degree in computer sciences, often writing about a world “15 minutes in the future” as he puts it himself, had some interesting points about the dark side of this Internet of Things (especially the report about the spambot hidden in an electric kettle)…
Prohibition drove many of the good bartenders out of America towards Europe, New Yorker Harry McElhone among them. He introduced us to the Boulevardier, my current wintertime favorite.
Most people just refer to it as a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin, but maybe that’s doing quite some injustice to this little known cocktail, as depending on what source you go by, it might predate the creation of the Negroni. Regardless of its origins, a Boulevardier for me combines all the right flavours for the cold winter, just as a Negroni is one of the perfect summer drinks.
The original recipe is quite straightforward, calling for equal measures of bourbon, Campari and sweet red vermouth, stirred in a glass over ice and served with an orange twist. I however prefer it with these ingredients, which may not be obvious to find I admit:
- Fill a whiskey tumbler with ice cubes
- Add 40ml rye whiskey (I use Willett Family Estate Bottled 4 Year Single Barrel Rye)
- Add 40ml Gran Classico Bitter
- Add 40ml Antica Formula
- Purely optional, but for an even stronger winter flavor you can add about 3/4ths of a bar spoon of Allspice or Pimento bitters (that’s 2 names for the same), giving hints of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and anis to the Boulevardier. I personally use the Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters, but other brands exist.
- Stir for 20 seconds
- Cut an orange peel, making sure to get the oils onto the cocktail, and add the twist in the glass
Now it’s time to sit back, enjoy your Bouelvardier and watch the fire crackle…
Need something to read for those approaching winter evenings? Here’s my 2nd list of (mostly) Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books I read during 2013
It’s that time of the year again, winter hour is upon us, darkness comes early, the holidays are approaching fast, and the weather is turning cold, so like me, lots of people look for something to read in the evening by a crackling fire. So as is my habit by now, I thought I’d share with you my 2nd part of the list of books I’ve read in 2013, as you will see, it’s been a bit of a hit and miss batch for me. The first half of my book list you can read here.
- Making Money – Terry Pratchett (3/5) – The second outing of Moist von Lipwig, and for me rather unneeded. From the start it gives a strong “been there, done that” feeling, and is rather predictable all the way. It still gets 3/5 because of the writing, the characters and the jokes, but the story is a tired rehash of Going Postal, which in the end then, is the better of the 2 books.
- NOS-4R2 – Joe Hill (4/5) – Where as I still said “He manages to pack the same character development and mood his father is so known for in less pages” about his previous novel Horns, I guess he’s already turned over to the dark side with this one, clocking in around 700 pages, and not all needed in my opinion. The MacGuffin is a fun idea and the big bad is interesting, but the story could have been packed tighter, especially towards the 2nd half of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but regularly kept thinking “get on with it” as it has a tendency to linger.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (5/5) – In my opinion his best book since American Gods, and you could easily imagine it taking place in that same universe & mythology. The best description I can give it is an autobiographical fairytale based on a small part of Neil Gaiman’s childhood if it, like I said, would have happened in the world of the Gods from American Gods.
- The Rapture of the Nerds – Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross (5/5) – It’s the end of the 21st century and most of humanity has abandoned their meaty confines and uploaded to a gigantic computer network floating in space, while the rest has stayed behind and now have to endure technology gone out of control. Between the humor the picture they paint of this post-singularity future is eerily grim and not altogether unrealistic. Must read if you’re at all interested in high-concept sci-fi while able to enjoy it being prodded fun at in the same time.
- The Fourth Wall – Walter Jon Williams (2/5) – The third novel in the Dagmar Shaw series, where awkwardly enough Dagmar has been made into a supporting character. That aside the novel is an amalgam of genres, a bit techno thriller, a bit noir, a bit of a whodunit, some social commentary and a bit of an action thriller. For me it didn’t really work, plus I just couldn’t get into the main character.
- Neptune’s Brood – Charles Stross (3/5) – A novel set in the same continuum as Saturn’s Children, so not a sequel by any means. This time the master of futurology tackles the implications of intergalactic travel on economy and the financial services needed to support such endeavors – and the possible scams that go with it. Even though I could still appreciate the thought that went into developing the concept it just didn’t do anything for me.
Anything you would recommend to me?
I wrote this short story a few weeks ago, and found out this week that H.P. Lovecraft, whose work was a great source of inspiration for it, had his birthday on the 20th of August. So in honor of a man whose work has brought me countless hours of entertainment, I’m publishing the story here on my blog.
* * *
It had taken him almost 15 years and the loss of 3 fingers, an eye and cost him the love of his wife and only child. No, scratch that, he hadn’t lost disjointed things or people, it had taken him the totality of his life to get hold of it. It had cost him everything he once had put great value to.
No, be careful, better not carelessly invoke any greater beings.
Inside the wilderness cabin he sat in darkness, except for the occasional luminescence from the dirty yellow moon when the clouds parted. The book, worn, crude and fist-thick, lay in front of him now, closed.
The full recollection of how he had started looking for the book was almost lost in time, above all, seemed irrelevant to him now.
Almost 15 years ago it had started with a bet, or something like it anyway. 15 years later and he couldn’t remember, but also couldn’t really care. To him it just seemed like a chance meeting with a stranger in a bar, resulting in an even stranger conversation lasting the better part of the night. He couldn’t even remember the face of the stranger. From then everything was blurred, or better, blotted out by the brightness of the one thought burning in his frontal lobe – the book. So in the morning he called in sick and started making plans. By the evening he had quit his job, and by the end of the week he had cashed out all his accounts and left an extremely short goodbye note for his wife and son – “I must go look for it, I can’t not…”
They never saw or heard from him again.
He had always soldiered on, living by the smallest of comforts to his soul, namely that if life held no regrets, it would be a worthless life.
And now his biggest regret lay on a rough wooden table in front of him.
It was about the thickness of a telephone directory and about half the width. A black stained and scratched leather cover, with an almost alien texture as if of a diseased lizard, gave the book an uneven look. In fact, the leather looked as if it was the result of some failed sewing experiment by Frankenstein, unpleasant to the eye, and equally sickening to the touch. For the rest nothing, no gilded title, no author, nothing.
He just couldn’t shake this feeling of regret.
Or was it anger?
And aren’t those often the same? Anger about being tricked. Anger about being unable to change what is happening to you. Anger about something that is irreversible but which you brought about yourself. Yeah, that’s regret. His regret.
The book had been the most elusive thing known to man. It had been the illustration in the dictionary next to the word ephemeral, here today, gone the same day. People had spent fortunes, even their sanity on trying to find it.
To look for it was meth to the addict. To find a clue, no matter how obscure, was oxygen for the drowning man. A word on a wall human eyes hadn’t seen in centuries had made him weep with pure joy. Finally deciphering the meaning of that word, and reading a name not spoken in ten centuries had been enough to make him forget a year of hardship. Using the name as coin with a gang of spoiled juvenile Satanists in St. Tropez to pay for the kidnapping of another spoiled brat had made him feel like a god.
It was exhilarating, the game to end all games. Daring, taxing, challenging.
Like in Southern France, where he had ceremonially dismembered a young child – the last in the bloodline of the real Savior – and cut out his small heart to find the mark engraved on the inside of his left ventricle. Or, in the swamps of Southern Louisiana, where he had voluntarily offered up his body to be ridden by the darkest of the Petro Loa. As a small mercy, the day after he didn’t remember anything he had done as vessel for these forces. Washing off the blood and avoiding reading any newspapers before he subsequently travelled to Peru were the easiest things he ever had to do to avoid dealing with the consequences of his acts.
So, regrets? Yeah, he had a few.
The comedown after the ultimate high was in equal proportion, even though he had succeeded. After all, the book lay in front of him. He had read it, devoured it, expected to be transformed and ascended to some kind of godhood. Life, death, the universe, mankind, gods and atoms. Even though everything made sense to him now, he had not risen to any greatness. Quite the contrary, the weight of all this knowledge had compacted him to the smallest, or better yet, most pathetic creature in existence.
Truth had not set him free.
He only knew that now that he had played the game, he himself had been played in equal part. Forces beyond any control had played him. The world wasn’t some placid island in the midst of black seas of infinity, it was a sand castle on the shores of whatever holiday resort these Great Old Ones vacationed at. And he was a sand flea, set free in the twisting corridors of that castle, goaded towards some goal known only to the child’s hand that manipulated everything to make his journey as entertaining as possible. Until the inevitable tides rolled in and the castle was swept away together with all the bugs in it.
Tomorrow however the kid would return and do it all again. And if not the same kid, some other kid. After all, they’re all the same; capricious, destructive, quick to anger and most dangerous of all, easily bored.
Either way, he was played out. His body frayed, his mind unraveled and his life destroyed. He imagined somewhere in a dark womb-like dimension something smiled with a lipless mouth and joyless eyes, feeling pleased with the fun afternoon it had had.
Fuck me, he had thought. He wasn’t going to wait for the sea to rush in and wash him away. Like some last stand, a last act of defiance, no matter how futile, he was going to climb the highest tower in the crumbling castle of sand, and throw himself off it.
At least he still had that power, and the barrel of a .38 was his tower.
So much regret, erased with such a simple gesture.
The door to the remote wilderness cabin is kicked open and a woman enters the single room. She stands outlined against the light of the dawn slowly crawling over the tops of the mountains. Dirty blond hair frames a face disfigured by a large scar crossing from her forehead, over her left eye down to her cheek. She cradles an arm ending in a hand from which the stumps of 3 fingers are moist with dark blood.
The pain and anguish instantly disappear from her face as she looks to the table. She couldn’t care any less about the fresh corpse in the chair, no, she finally won her prize.
-Thomas Verschueren (30th July 2013)