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Neal Stephenson

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Cyberpunk, in the popular consciousness, conjures a glut of dissociated images: Blade Runner’s slummy urban landscape, hackers in sunglasses, Japanese cyborgs, grubby tech, digital intoxication, Keanu Reeves as Johnny Mnemonic. But it began as an insanely niche subculture within science fiction, one which articulated young writerly distaste for the historically utopian optimism of the medium and, in turn, provided an aesthetic reference point for burgeoning hacker culture, before metastasizing into a full-on cultural trend.

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I'm entering a PhD program in the fall (scientific computing/bioinformatics) and am taking the summer off to travel. As such, I feel like I'm going to have a lot of free time for reading. I'm looking for suggestions for books that I should read that will make me a better computer scientist. I'm not interested in textbooks, since I'll be reading enough of those in the Fall and would prefer topics that I likely wouldn't get exposed to in a class. Also, everything I plan on reading I'm going to have to carry with me for the whole summer, so lighter and smaller is better.

So far I've compiled the following list based off of previous similar discussions:

  • The Soul of A New Machine - Tracy Kidder
  • COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS - M. Mitchell Waldrop
  • The Society of Mind - Marvin Minsky
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid - Douglas R. Hofstadter
  • Computer Power and Human Reason - Joseph Weizenbaum

What else is there anything else that I definitely should add?

EDIT: Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm definitely going to have a lot of good choices this summer.

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A few weeks ago, Fox News breathlessly reported that the embattled WikiLeaks operation was looking to start a new life under on the sea. WikiLeaks, the article speculated, might try to escape its legal troubles by putting its servers on Sealand, a World War II anti-aircraft platform seven miles off the English coast in the North Sea, a place that calls itself an independent nation. It sounds perfect for WikiLeaks: a friendly, legally unassailable host with an anything-goes attitude.

But readers with a memory of the early 2000s might be wondering, "Didn't someone already try this? How did that work out?" Good questions. From 2000 to 2008, a company called HavenCo did indeed offer no-questions-asked colocation on Sealand—and it didn't end well.

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gdco11.jpgWith October's GDC Online show
in Austin fast approaching, event organizers have announced two new
programs granting free Expo Passes to games/tech industry locals and
qualifying students.

This offer comes as part of GDC Online's new outreach programs to the
local Austin and Texas community, whether it be to larger tech
companies in Austin and elsewhere, or local students interested in
getting into the video game industry.

These programs are open to students and working professionals, respectively, and interested parties can apply online via the Student Outreach and Games & Tech pages on the official GDC website.

For those interested in applying for a free GDC Online Expo Pass, here are some of the notable events you will be able check out at the show:

- Perhaps most significantly, Expo Pass holders gain access to GDC
Online's Expo Floor, which will host a number of the most influential
companies from all realms of the industry. The Expo Floor is a great
place to make new connections and learn more about the latest tools and
techniques used in game development. For a full list of Expo Floor
exhibitors, check out the official GDC Online website.

- Expo Pass holders can also visit the Expo Networking Lounge -- located on the show floor itself -- or attend the GDC Online Opening Party and the GDC Online Happy Hour, all of which are great opportunities to rub elbows with indies, social game devs, and traditional game developers.

- Elsewhere, Expo pass holders can celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of the games industry at the second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards, which will be held on the evening of October 12 alongside GDC Online, and can also attend Neal Stephenson's REAMDE book signing following his Narrative Summit keynote Q&A.

- In addition, all Expo Pass holders will gain access to three complementary GDC Online sessions, which include a look at the top trends in mobile and social gaming, a panel on the future of cloud gaming, and social dev Mind Candy on user engagement with online games.

Accepted applicants in both the Student Outreach Program and the
Games & Tech Program will also receive a special coupon to pick up a
free 32oz BPA water bottle on-site, and will be entered for a chance to
pick up a GDC Online-branded messenger bag or iPad sleeve.

To qualify for the Student Outreach program, you must be currently
enrolled in a verified video game educational program or related program
at an accredited educational institution and have not yet registered
for a GDC Online 2011 pass. The Games & Tech program follows similar
guidelines, but you must instead be a professional employed in the
video game industry, technology or related field.

In addition, full conference passes are still available
for GDC Online, which will take place Monday, October 10 through
Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin,
Texas. The show continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated
solely to discussing the development and business trends surrounding
connected games -- including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and
social networking games.

For more information on GDC Online as the event takes shape, please visit the official GDC Online website, or subscribe to updates from the new GDC Online-specific news page via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS. GDC Online is owned and operated by UBM TechWeb.

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