Robert Charles Wilson – Spin

is a scifi book which I’ve just finished, and I’m so excited that I have to write this short review. I’ve read other Wilson’s books, namely Darwinia and The Chronoliths, and they have quite a lot of common features with Spin. They all describe the world as we know it after it was hit by some unpredictable and completely mindboggling event. In Darwinia, a continent disappears and is replaced by an unknown land, in Chronoliths, gigantic statues from the future begin to appear around the world. Wilson manages to plausibly describe what these events do to the world, how the society and individuals react, and how everything is trying to stay normal. Also the main characters are a bit similar in their nature. However, while Darwinia was interesting and The Chronoliths engaging and massive, except their dissapointing (lack of) ending, Spin is simply perfect.One day, the stars and the Moon dissapear from the sky. The sun comes up, as warm and blinding as ever, but there’s no activity to be seen on it. As we find out, the Earth has been wrapped in a kind of capsule, which simulates the Sun and gravity of the Moon on one hand, and slows down time inside on the other. One minute inside is about a thousand years in the rest of the Universe.

And that, as strange as it may sound, is of course only the beginning of a brilliant book. When I read half of it, I was breathless already, as it was about at that stage that The Chronoliths ended. But this time, not only is there another half of the book, but it’s even getting more and more interesting, everything falls logically into place and things get explained in the end – I didn’t believe that it was possible. There is even a kind of elegant happyend.

Politics is mixed with a plausible depiction of human relationships in the shade of upcoming Apocalypse (the Sun outside goes through its natural life cycle, which doesn’t concern us since it takes billions of years, but suddenly in the book it becomes a key issues), the longing to lead a normal life is contrasted with apocalyptic cults and the chaos of the end of days. It is unbelievable, how many topics Wilson managed to include and touch in his book, and how compact and solid it stays all the time. It is believable, it is thrilling and at the same time it makes you think.

Well, simply thumbs up. One of the best books I’ve read lately. Robert Charles Wilson – Spin @ Amazon.

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The Influence of Web 2.0 on Business

is the name of my final paper on UNYP. I’d appreciate any comments and feedback, particularly in next day or two, since then I’ll bind it and it’s officialy done. The topic covers Web 2.0, blogs and social software in general and their influence on organizations. A year ago when I started it still seemed like a relatively new thing, today I’m not so sure, but I’d say that at least here in Czech rep. the majority of people, even those using the Internet, don’t have a clue about these things. Not that I’d be helping, since they often would not read in English, but anyway.

UPDATE: I changed the name and there are also some slight differences in the text.

The Influence of Web 2.0 on Business.pdf

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A few recommended books

I’ve been reading quite a lot throughout the summer, and thought I could recommend books that might be worth your time. I’ve been discovering America however, as they are mostly classic ones. Nevertheless, if you haven’t read these, I suggest you do some catching-up too. And, by the way, if you’re not into science fiction, these might be just the right books, as it is good science fiction. I’ve got hold of a few Ursula Le Guin books. I remember trying to read one when I was about twelve, and it didn’t seem to be my cup of tea then. Not this time however – she’s got me so good that I’m preparing to read everything she’s written. I read The Lathe of Heaven first, and I was astonished. It’s about dreams and how little we know about these everyday miracles.

The Word for World is Forest is a bit more moralistic, or how to put it, but it reflects Le Guin’s understanding of human nature woven in a classical topic, the clash of technology and nature.

The last book worth recommending so far is called The Dispossessed. Again, it’s a book with interesting and quite utopian ideas, as a large part of it takes place in an anarchistic society, which is being contrasted with a depiction of capitalistic system.

The second author is John Wyndham I loved his Day of the Triffids when I read it years ago, but I never got to read anything else from him – until now. Chocky has been a surprise, I definitely didn’t expect the kind of plot it puts in front of you – family and relationship issues, parents raising their kids… but throw one unusual thing into the mix, in this case a kid’s imaginary friend, and you have an interesting story with a message.

Last author I’ve been catching up with is Neal Stephenson. I’ve read The Baroque Cycle Series a while ago, and now I got to his older works, The Diamond Age and Snow Crash. While Snow Crash seemed like it is trying too hard to be a cyberpunk novel, it turned out as very interesting, since the cyberpunk world (which I got used to in no time anyway) serves as a background for topics like memes, human mind and Sumerian civilization, which I wouldn’t expect. The Diamond Age takes place in a more advanced world where nanotechnology is the common way of producing everything, and where there are no nation-states – people can belong to different organisations with different possibilities, goals and power structures. The world is depicted in utterly convincing and believable manner, and for me, the actual storyline was less of a priority – and while I had that with other Stephenson’s books, I don’t think it matters at all. They are simply incredible.

And then I’ve read Clive Barker‘s Imajica once again. Its often described as a monumental epic, and it really is monumental. While Barker is renowned for horrors and weird stories, Imajica is more of a fantasy/alternative reality thing (there, I’ve said it…). It’s got nothing to do with sci-fi, but it still is connected to the previous books with a red line – it is again a book which points out how little we actually know about ourselves and our own perception of the world, and what other possibilities there might be – now, or in the future – without us actualyl noticing anything, our perception caged by seemingly relevant pieces of information, fed to us first from the outside and later hungrily sought after by ourselves, when we’ve shaped our perception accordingly.

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Report from Boom Festival 2006

Map of our journeyDuring slightly more than three weeks, we went with two cars from Prague to Hannover in Germany, then through France, around Spain to the Boom Festival in Portugal and back – 7500 km with all the surrounding journey branches. This is the description of our journey – full of unpleasant surprises and despite that, full of sun and relaxation. The blue icons in text are hyperlinks to Google Earth data, which will take you to the spots I’m mentioning. UPDATE: I’ve added photos. I was too lazy to make a gallery, so it’s a kind of all-in-one report. The photos were taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ20 and Nokia N70, panoramas made by AutoPano. Don’t mind the ghosts please.

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On our way to Czechtek

We’re on our way to Czechtek. Despite all media desinformation the party does take place, the police are letting both people and systems in, but the event was, and still is, boiling enough to cause a small revolution even among people who don’t listen to the typical teknival music (like me, usually), thanks to the unlawful approach the police have chosen. This thing will definitely get even more interesting.

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Million Marihuana March

We’re lucky to always have some reasons for demonstrations, making similar parties on Letna in Prague harder, if not outright impossible. It was a nice afternoon, distantly reminding me of last years demonstrations after Czechtek, where a spontaneous party would burst out on Letna and continue long into the evening. I spent most of the time around the psytrance stage, which, being the only 4×4 stage around, was under heavy siege. I always love to watch those innocent people, who either get involved in the psytrance vibe not knowing what it is at all, or who have all kinds of excuses why they don’t like psytrance, when in fact they’ve actually never experienced good psytrance. Nevertheless, both these groups looked like they really liked the music, and in the end we’ve also managed to bring in some Biolest flyers, to evangelize this upcoming wonderful event.

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Last.fm

is quite an interesting service, which follows what music you’re playing, and uploads the results so that a lot of classic data and Web 2.0 magic can be done. Other people can see what music you’re playing, you can see what they’re playing, you can get recommendations, tag and comment on tracks, artist, etc. I’ve known last.fm for quite some time but never actually began using it, since I had trouble running the plugin. I’ve finally overcome that trouble (I needed to switch off a setting in Winamp that decoded all mp3s with the mp3pro input plugin) and so my last.fm statistics (not really representative right now as I’ve just started) are available. And as I know you too have an interesting taste for music, please let me know your last.fm id in the comments :) I’ve also noticed (after who knows how long) that half of the site doesn’t work with Internet Explorer. Some things should be fixed now, however YouTube playlists still cause the main column to be too wide and disappear on the right. Well, sorry, you should use Firefox anyway. I’ve also fixed the blog RSS feed, added feeds for last links and music production, and redirected all feeds to FeedBurner.

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Psyoneer Summer Camp 2006

Greetings from our little technological corner in the dining room of the summer camp in Pnetluky. We arrived yesterday in the evening, went to local pub to have a beer, and discovered that there’s a dance event. Music, old and new Czech hits and cover versions, was played and sung live by a young pair, performing under the name Music Dance. It was a very good evening and on the way back we enjoyed a storm with few lightnings and rain.
Today we had a relaxing day, with bikes, petanque and so on, and in a hour or so we’re starting to paint our first canvas here with fluorescent colors.
And guess what – I’ve got some videos. I found out I can shoot and upload them on YouTube directly from my phone (Nokia N70).

YouTube playlist with videos from the camp

 

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Summer Camp Workshop Invitation

For past three years it has become a custom for us to go for a week to a forest by Pnetluky to an old summer camp. For a week, we pretended to be kids, divided ourselves into groups, competed in classic summer camp games, and so on. This year however most people don’t have enough money or vacation time to be able to take part, and the number of applications was really low. So this year, it’s not going to be a summer camp for grown-up kids, but rather an open workshop. I can only tell that we’ll be painting a lot, since I don’t know what else will the others come up with, but it will definitely be fun. I didn’t plan to go to the camp, but as it changed to a workshop, I just can’t miss it. Lots of intelligent, creative individuals around, great nature, what more could one want.
And what’s best, if you’d like to come too, it shouldn’t be a problem, just write me an email (I won’t post it here, it’s not hard to figure it out) or contact me otherwise. You can come for a day or for the whole week, as you want. Who’ll be there? People from Vytvarny Krouzek Ctverecek, making psychedelic decorations, guys from MimoTV, and quiet a few others. I guess it will be a pretty rich experience. Here are a few pictures from the first “psyoneer summer camp”.

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