An eye-opening, maddening book that offers hope for leveling a badly tilted playing field.

A HACKER'S MIND

HOW THE POWERFUL BEND SOCIETY'S RULES, AND HOW TO BEND THEM BACK

A cybersecurity expert examines how the powerful game whatever system is put before them, leaving it to others to cover the cost.

Schneier, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School and author of such books as Data and Goliath and Click Here To Kill Everybody, regularly challenges his students to write down the first 100 digits of pi, a nearly impossible task—but not if they cheat, concerning which he admonishes, “Don’t get caught.” Not getting caught is the aim of the hackers who exploit the vulnerabilities of systems of all kinds. Consider right-wing venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who located a hack in the tax code: “Because he was one of the founders of PayPal, he was able to use a $2,000 investment to buy 1.7 million shares of the company at $0.001 per share, turning it into $5 billion—all forever tax free.” It was perfectly legal—and even if it weren’t, the wealthy usually go unpunished. The author, a fluid writer and tech communicator, reveals how the tax code lends itself to hacking, as when tech companies like Apple and Google avoid paying billions of dollars by transferring profits out of the U.S. to corporate-friendly nations such as Ireland, then offshoring the “disappeared” dollars to Bermuda, the Caymans, and other havens. Every system contains trap doors that can be breached to advantage. For example, Schneier cites “the Pudding Guy,” who hacked an airline miles program by buying low-cost pudding cups in a promotion that, for $3,150, netted him 1.2 million miles and “lifetime Gold frequent flier status.” Since it was all within the letter if not the spirit of the offer, “the company paid up.” The companies often do, because they’re gaming systems themselves. “Any rule can be hacked,” notes the author, be it a religious dietary restriction or a legislative procedure. With technology, “we can hack more, faster, better,” requiring diligent monitoring and a demand that everyone play by rules that have been hardened against tampering.

An eye-opening, maddening book that offers hope for leveling a badly tilted playing field.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780393866667

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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Sometimes funny, sometimes silly, sometimes quite sad—i.e., an accurate portrait of life in one's 50s.

IS THERE STILL SEX IN THE CITY?

The further adventures of Candace and her man-eating friends.

Bushnell (Killing Monica, 2015, etc.) has been mining the vein of gold she hit with Sex and the City (1996) in both adult and YA novels. The current volume, billed as fiction but calling its heroine Candace rather than Carrie, is a collection of commentaries and recounted hijinks (and lojinks) close in spirit to the original. The author tries Tinder on assignment for a magazine, explores "cubbing" (dating men in their 20s who prefer older women), investigates the "Mona Lisa" treatment (a laser makeover for the vagina), and documents the ravages of Middle Aged Madness (MAM, the female version of the midlife crisis) on her clique of friends, a couple of whom come to blows at a spa retreat. One of the problems of living in Madison World, as she calls her neighborhood in the city, is trying to stay out of the clutches of a group of Russians who are dead-set on selling her skin cream that costs $15,000. Another is that one inevitably becomes a schlepper, carrying one's entire life around in "handbags the size of burlap sacks and worn department store shopping bags and plastic grocery sacks....Your back ached and your feet hurt, but you just kept on schlepping, hoping for the day when something magical would happen and you wouldn't have to schlep no more." She finds some of that magic by living part-time in a country place she calls the Village (clearly the Hamptons), where several of her old group have retreated. There, in addition to cubs, they find SAPs, Senior Age Players, who are potential candidates for MNB, My New Boyfriend. Will Candace get one?

Sometimes funny, sometimes silly, sometimes quite sad—i.e., an accurate portrait of life in one's 50s.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4726-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A sometimes-humorous but uneven political satire.

BIDEN

YEAR ONE

A satire furnishes a day-by-day chronicle of Joe Biden’s presidency.

McConnell begins his farce by providing a dictionary definition of satire, apparently apprehensive his readership won’t figure out his purpose is absurdist humor. What follows is an ambitious commentary on Biden’s presidency, expressed through the conversations the leader conducts with an unnamed aide. Biden is depicted as a superannuated fool who often doesn’t seem to remember he is in fact the president. He forgets what social media is, repeatedly confuses Russia and Ukraine, has no idea what bills he’s signing, and seems to need a lot of naps. He mistakenly calls the nuclear football a baseball, and suggests he will signal his concern regarding White privilege by abstaining from vanilla ice cream on his pie. The constant refrain that marks Biden’s ceaseless bewilderment is: “When did that happen?” This routine continues for 339 days, an exercise that delivers some amusing and intriguing moments. But there is no comedic fruit too low-hanging for the author, who sometimes traffics in the obvious. Consider this exchange between Biden and his aide: “Aide: ‘Sir, you’re going to impose new sanctions on the Russians.’ Biden: ‘I am? Why would I do that? Have you seen Putin with his shirt off? He’s pretty ripped.’ ” In a prefatory note, McConnell claims to aim not only at humor, but also an articulation of Biden’s “basic governing philosophy.” Yet such a presentation never emerges out of the hijinks. Readers will be impressed by the author’s stamina and comprehensiveness—he manages to cover just about every topic of political note. But that scrupulousness finally becomes a vice, as many readers will begin to wish for something a bit briefer.

A sometimes-humorous but uneven political satire.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 979-8799184377

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2022

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