Monthly Archives: November 2009

How To Remove Your Most Embarrassing Moments from Google

Written by wired wiki

The mighty search engine has allowed us to do so many things. “Mighty” is the operative word, as these same search engines (usually the one that starts with a “G” and ends with an “oogle”) can also curse us all. If you think about it, any schmuck can find out more about you than you’d like by typing only your first and last name.

Different folks certainly have different tolerance levels for their online persona and how public they want it to be, but thankfully, there are tips to ensure that your boss, your ex, or your mildly interested former friends can keep tabs on you on your terms.

Unfortunately, pleas to remove content on Google fall on deaf, mechanical Google ears. The best and easiest way to remove content from Google (and other search engines in the process) is to remove the content from the internet. This guide will show you how to make the best of the content that is there or how to remove it entirely.

Google Yourself

Do yourself a favor and Google yourself every now and then. Search websites, search images (Google Images and Yahoo Images both allow you to do this), search video; all of it. Carefully comb the rest of the website on which you find yourself linked, too. Trust us, a completely innocuous photo of you at a backyard barbeque can easily end up in the same, shameful, public album as your friends trying to give the cat a contact high at the same event.

Some tips: You’ll want to put your first and last name in quotes. That way, Google will show you the pages where your first and last name are together and filter out lists of pages that just happen to contain both your first and last name somewhere on the page.

Take inventory of your search results. How would this look like to your next employer? Scary?

The Entourage

Many of the scariest websites are most often from people you know. For example, members of wedding parties will often find themselves on a wedding website. Lucky for you, if you’re on a wedding website, you’re probably friends with the person who owns and hosts the content on the internet. A simple e-mail should straighten up any wayward information.

Picasaweb, Flickr and other image searches

Though wedding websites are usually safe, public photo albums are probably not. It’s therefore a good idea to politely request removal of your last name from friends’ public photo albums. Think of how embarrassing it would be to find your full moniker attached to a caption reading “butt contestant,” no matter how tame or innocent the context.

On Flickr and Picasaweb, if you find yourself tagged in a photo that you really don’t want people to associate to your name, you’ll want to un-tag yourself. Under the picture where you are tagged it says “Remove tag.” Click the link and it won’t show up in the photos section of your profile. It will still be in your friend’s album and other people can still see it, but your name won’t appear when passerby’s mouse over it.

SmugMug is often a professional, password-only site. Perhaps recommend this site to the friends who have sensitive photos of you.

Facebook and LinkedIn

Though you should already have a private Facebook account in the interest of, well, taming your Googlability, here’s how to hide yourself, anyway.

  1. Log into your account. Hover your cursor over the Settings tab, and click on Privacy Settings.
  2. Click Profile to control who can see what on your profile. Just about everything should have “Only Friends.” Ditto for Contact Information (which is the second tab under Profile).
  3. Fiddling with the Search is also a good idea. Web searches will tell others looking for your name if you are indeed on Facebook, though you can fix it so people can only see your name, profile pic, and a link to add you as a friend. Or, you can go into mega-stealth mode and make it so just about anyone will never find you. It’s highly customizable, depending on what you want people to see. And trust us, they are looking.

Ditto with LinkedIn. Anyone googling your name will likely come up on your LinkedIn profile first, and despite it being a repository for your more grown-up pursuits, it’s probably still unsettling to have random Google searchers ask you about things on it if you weren’t expecting it.

Adding Robots.txt to your web host

Google and other search engines will be stopped cold in their tracks if they see a dreaded little text file on a web server. The text file is named ‘robots.txt’ and it needs to contain the following text:

User-agent: *  Disallow: /

You can create the text file in any plain text editor. If you want to host the embarrassing websites, but don’t want Google (or any other search engine) to see it, add the file to your web host in its top-level folder.

In the Future

As your online and real lives merge even further in the so-called digital age, it’s going to be an uphill battle to remove the content that’s out there. Bad news for those with little common sense.

However, the best way to avoid compromising situations online is to avoid compromising situations in real life. We’re not saying not to have any fun, but until you are able to keep people from taking digital photos of you, you’re stuck behaving properly in public. Look on the bright side, your online self is keeping you honest, right?

Top 10 Cross-Platform Apps that Run on Windows, OS X, Linux

Written by Kevin Purdy

Whether your important data lives in the cloud, on your laptop, or on a different operating system, you shouldn’t have to use sub-par tools to get at it. These downloads work with every major operating system, along with some not-so-major (mobile) ones.

Photo by Mykl Roventine.

All of these applications run on all three major operating systems—Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux—and most can be loaded onto a thumb drive and run as a portable app on any Windows system. Some can also be accessed from the web, and a few have dedicated mobile apps for most phone platforms. We’ve distinguished which apps work where at the front of each item. If we’ve missed any platforms, please tell us so (politely!) in the comments.

10. Buddi

Computers: Buddi is a financial management application developed with financial non-experts in mind. Sure, it can import your CSV file from a bank or financial firm, and it does all the standard financial calculations and projections. But the way it switches between money figures, and walks you through the importing and setting up of your accounts, makes it a real open-source find, and you can easily swap profiles between your laptop and desktop systems, if needed. Looking for something with a bit more mathematical oomph? Money management alternative GnuCash has you covered.

9. KeePass

Computers, portable, cellphones: You use a multitude of applications and web sites that require passwords, license keys, and administrator codes. On one computer alone, that makes it worth having a central vault for all that stuff. If you use more than one computer, having a consistent KeePass database is really, really helpful. Encrypt your master password database with a file only you have access to, and/or a truly secure single password, and you can take that list just about anywhere—on Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhones, Android, BlackBerry, Palms, on a USB drive, or pretty much anywhere. Open-source coders love to write KeePass apps, so there’s a very good chance you’ll always have this clever password management system at your side. For help getting started with KeePass, check out Gina’s guide to securely tracking passwords. (It also works great in conjunction with Dropbox.

8. TrueCrypt

Computers: TrueCrypt is a multi-platform security tool for encrypting and protecting files, folders, or entire drives. The software behind it is open source, and so likely to be supported and developed beyond its current version and platforms. It’s only on Windows, Mac, and Linux at the moment (though that’s no small feat), but it can be made to run as a portable app, and its encryption standards—AES, Serpent, and Twofish—are supported by many other encryption apps that can work with it. In other words, TrueCrypt makes you feel better about taking all the revealing information about yourself or your work on the road. Check our guide to encrypting your data for more.

7. Thunderbird

Computers, portable: Mozilla’s desktop email client is an excellent tool for reading, sending, and archiving email, even if it doesn’t get a ton of love these days—seeing as how seemingly everyone’s doing their email thing on the web. But even if you don’t use it as your main email client, Thunderbird remains the most reliable way to back up your email from any service and, in most cases, still access it when the web interface goes down. With the imminent release of Thunderbird 3, and the portable version to follow right after, Thunderbird might just turn a few more folks back to the idea of desktop email.

6. Pidgin and Adium

Computers, portable: They’re not the same program, but they come from the same open-source roots. These instant messaging clients do the yeoman’s work of connecting to all the major chat protocols and helping you maintain a universal buddy list. Pidgin does the job adequately, if without a ton of pizazz, on Windows and Linux clients (you can spice it up a bit with these snazzy plug-ins), while Adium, compiled from the same libpurple code library, is written with OS X’s glassy looks in mind. Both are crucial if you don’t want to run multiple memory-sucking IM clients on all your machines.

5. Miro

Computers, portable: Miro doesn’t get enough love (here or elsewhere) for being a pretty great all-in-one aggregator for all the video on the web. The open-source video player handles video podcast feeds, Hulu streams (which you can subscribe to, show-by-show, TiVo-style), live streams, local files, and anything else with moving pictures with ease and grace, and you can take it wherever you go to ensure you can watch your favorite web-accessible or desktop videos.

4. 7-Zip

Computers, portable: 7-Zip doesn’t have the sexiest job on a computer, but since no two operating systems accept all the same compressed file formats, it’s an essential download. It tackles the RAR files that file sharers are so fond of, makes sense of .tar and .gz files on Windows systems, and has its own compression format (.7z) that’s space-saving and quick.

3. Firefox

Computer, portable, and (coming soon on non-Maemo devices) mobile: Even if you don’t think it’s the absolute fastest or most cutting-edge browser, Firefox is safer than the well-known standard on most Windows systems, and it’s customizable in every last detail. That makes it worth keeping on your USB drive as a go-to option for browsing at the in-laws or at home. With add-ons like Xmarks or Weave, it’s also easy to keep your bookmarks—and keyword bookmark searches—within reach on any system. And when Firefox Mobile, a.k.a. Fennec, makes its debut on mobile phones, we might see some rather awesome synchronization of everything, right down to the last tab you had open at home.

2. Dropbox

Computers, web, mobile: Dropbox creates a single folder that you’ll always be able to access, no matter where you are. That folder can actually sync files and folders from anywhere on your system, but the concept remains the same—instant backup for anything you drop in one location, across multiple computers, through Dropbox’s web site, on the iPhone, and on mobile browsers. That makes it perfect for music you love to listen to, documents you need to work on, and photos you pick up at a relative’s house. In other words, feel free to stop emailing yourself.

1. VLC Media Player

Computer, portable: Managing the multitude of codecs, formats, and restrictions on media files, from one system to another, is a pain you don’t need. VLC Media player, installed on any system, just works. It’s built with the goods to process, convert, resize, and stream just about any file you can find with audio or video, and its presence on a USB drive ensures nobody ever comes up embarrassed when their nephew’s soccer video just won’t play, even though, they swear, it worked just yesterday. For a guide on making the most of VLC’s cross-codec powers, read Adam’s tips on mastering your digital media with VLC.

What apps are always with you, or always downloaded, when you’re switching between systems, traveling, or otherwise away from your preferred setup? Do tell us in the comments.

The Best Books of the ’00s

Collected by avclub

The best books of the ’00s
Anyone looking for trends in our selection of the best books of the ’00s might have a hard time finding them amid the wizards, 19th-century serial killers, dysfunctional families and such. Narrowing down our decisions was pretty tough, and the process required a number of back-and-forths about what was significant as well as beautifully executed, which book from a given author represented his or her best of the decade, and so on. So consider these alphabetically listed selections 30 of the many, many memorable books published this decade, and as always, let us know what we missed.


Devil In The White City (2003), Erik Larson
Devil In The White City (2003), Erik LarsonIt’s easy to imagine Devil In The White City as a historic true-crime novel, devoted to telling the chilling story of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, with the Chicago World’s Fair simply serving as a backdrop. But what makes the book so remarkable is the level of detail provided by Larson’s research into the setting and the protagonists. Architect Daniel H. Burnham wanted to parlay the fair into a forum that would make Chicago a global city; his quest gets as much page time as the grim details about how Holmes murdered more than 27 young women, and it’s just as compelling. The result is a non-fiction thriller, a tale of creation and destruction filled with bizarre facts and stories that expose the best and worst of human ingenuity.

Fargo Rock City
(2001), Chuck Klosterman
Fargo Rock City (2001), Chuck Klosterman The trouble with High Fidelity is that it’s a great book about relationships and a miserably anachronistic one about music: Nick Hornby’s steadfast, monolithic devotion to the super soul hits of the ’70s fails to get anything right about the intersection of ’90s music and love. Enter Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City, the most trenchant book ever written about that ’80s punchline, “hair metal.” Over the course of his engaging, infinitely quotable discursus, Klosterman unpretentiously maps what music can mean, both within its own imposed narrative, and once it reaches the outside world. He veers all over the place: one moment he’s giving readers a detailed analysis of Guns ’N Roses’ Use Your Illusion video trilogy, and the next, he’s talking about why metal turned him into an alcoholic, and why it’s weird that Pavement never talked about the beer they were drinking. His passion is contagious: You don’t have to like (or even be familiar with) the music to be sucked into a world of beautifully argued, casually hilarious passion. In terms of books about what listening to music can mean when you love it to the point of idiocy, few are better.

(2005), Steven D. Levitt and Steven J. Dubner
Freakonomics (2005), Steven D. Levitt and Steven J. DubnerThere’s often profit and acclaim in writing books that make abstruse fields of study accessible to the layman: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time, for instance. But there’s even more glory in writing books that make those fields fun. The bestseller Freakonomics, co-authored by journalist Steven J. Dubner and “rogue economist” Steven D. Levitt, is an excellent example. By defining economics as “the study of incentives” rather than anything specifically tied to money or commercial interests, Levitt freed himself up for economics-style analysis of everything from dropping crime rates to the outcomes of sumo-wrestling matches. Like any mass-appeal, pop reevaluation of a scientific field, Freakonomics was controversial, with detractors questioning Levitt’s premises, processes, and conclusions. But just opening up the field to a wider consideration and discussion was a victory, and Levitt and Dubner’s lively prose and intriguing conclusions were icing on the cake.

Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America
(2001), Barbara Ehrenreich
Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (2001), Barbara EhrenreichBarbara Ehrenreich’s exploratory journey through the struggling underbelly of American society, undertaken when she realized how many women were being forced into minimum-wage jobs, and decided to try some herself, is emotionally draining but intellectually illuminating. Now, after the great financial collapse of 2008, the work reads more and more like prophecy, as untold millions struggle to scrape up enough change to just make rent, to say nothing of trying to buy food, or care for their kids. Ehrenreich’s travels take her from waitressing to Wal-Mart, and at all turns, she feels desperate and belittled, a feeling many people rudely tossed atop the unemployment line now share. It’s rare that a social-issues book becomes more prescient as time goes by, but Nickel And Dimed is an urgent exception.

(2008), Rick Perlstein
Nixonland (2008), Rick PerlsteinThe long 5 o’clock shadow over American politics gets his due in Perlstein’s exhaustively detailed tome on how the 37th president shaped his country. Richard Nixon’s long-building resentment toward the privileged, plus his conviction that disadvantaged men like himself deserved to be in charge, allowed him to exploit a widening gap between the counterculture and the counter-counterculture, invoking the cues that built a majority to carry him to the White House. Rejecting facile explanations of the aftermath of the 1960s, Perlstein redraws the map of two turbulent decades and picks apart the faux-populism that still inflects political discourse today, drawing those parallels without emphasizing them.

Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And The Birth Of The New Hollywood
(2008), Mark Harris
Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And The Birth Of The New Hollywood (2008), Mark HarrisThis account of the making of the five movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar of 1967—Bonnie And Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, and the winner, In The Heat Of The Night—is one of the great Hollywood books: deeply reported, sharply nuanced, and hugely entertaining even when ping into production minutiae. Harris doesn’t caricature subjects even when the temptation must have been overwhelming, such as drunken, racist Dolittle star Rex Harrison, soft-liberal Dinner producer-director Stanley Kramer, and haughty New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, whose one-man crusade against Bonnie And Clyde cost him his job. And the great stories are innumerable, as when The Graduate director Mike Nichols breaks down the skepticism of producer Joseph Levine over Nichols’ multiple uses of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds Of Silence” in its first 40 minutes: “I ran it, and he said, ‘I smell money!’” says Nichols, “thereby endearing himself to Paul Simon for all time.”

Them: A Memoir Of Parents
(2005), Francine Du Plessix Gray
Them: A Memoir Of Parents (2005), Francine Du Plessix GrayIn a decade marked by the memoirs of angry children determined to mine some authorial gold from their unhappy early lives, Du Plessix Gray’s chronicle of growing up as an immigrant in mid-century New York relates history rather than agony, building subtly toward judgment while still acknowledging a debt of gratitude. Francine’s mother and stepfather, Russian émigrés who fell in love in Paris while they were both married to other people, were artistic geniuses and unrepentant social climbers, too exhausted or indifferent to be proper parents. With her eye to the keyhole, Du Plessix Gray weaves her early recollections into a riveting biography of two strangers she happened to live with, balancing memories of their often-irrational behavior with a sparkling account of their talents as celebrated by the world.

The Tipping Point
(2000), Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point (2000), Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell’s bestseller looked to epidemiology to explain how ideas and phenomena blew up, and ended up becoming its own proof for the theory. Who doesn’t know what a tipping point is now? Who could have said that a decade ago, before Gladwell started playing with the idea, then saw others popularize and spread it? While some of Gladwell’s example have been challenged—The Tipping Point’s view of declining crime rates contrasts sharply with the one found in Freakonomics—the concept seems not only solid, but downright prescient, arriving as it did before talk of Internet memes became a part of casual conversation.

The Wisdom Of Crowds
(2004), James Surowiecki
The Wisdom Of Crowds (2004), James Surowiecki Crowdsourcing would have remained an empty dot-com buzzword if James Surowiecki, the perceptive New Yorker business writer, hadn’t put real-life example and surprising science behind it. His persuasive book shows how properly constituted groups outperform inpidual experts, even on tasks where no member of the group seems to contain the relevant expertise. From the very first example—a county-fair guess-the-number-of-gumballs-in-the-jar contest—through the much-maligned terrorism-predicting “markets” set up by U.S. intelligence in the wake of 9/11, Surowiecki cuts through common-sense solutions to show that our reliance on pundits and geniuses is misplaced. Together, we know more than Alan Greenspan knows separately, which reveals our culture of overpaid technocrats to be thoroughly backasswards. Pair this book with Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and you have a blueprint for a truly enlightened democratic capitalism.

The World Without Us
(2007), Alan Weisman
The World Without Us (2007), Alan WeismanThe environmental-writing market boomed in the ’00s, as more and more people became convinced that climate change would doom us all within the century. But few environmental books have the terrific gimmick or evocative writing of Weisman’s The World Without Us. Weisman starts from an irresistible premise—how long would it take the planet to erase all traces of human society if we all disappeared tomorrow?—but bolsters it with a tremendous feel for place, sticking readers in the middle of the quiet solitude of the last old-growth forest in Europe, or the controlled chaos of an oil refinery, with equal ease. Weisman managed the rare feat of getting readers to consider their impermanence while also thinking about how it might be a good thing.


The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Michael Chabon
The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Michael ChabonBy the end of the decade, it had almost become a cliché for authors to wed pulp influences to the sorts of epic family sagas that defined American fiction. But when Michael Chabon tried it with Kavalier & Clay, it felt fresh and new. Though he wasn’t the first to dabble in blending these influences, his was the breakthrough novel that made the technique safe for others to try. And even now, after all the imitators, his book still feels alive in a way that few pulp novels or epic family sagas do, as it follows two boys in Great Depression New York City who invent a comic-book superhero. While the book’s occasional trips off into pulp adventure can seem a little goofy, its wistful, romantic heart and longing for Golden Age archetypes to chart a course for truth and justice remain potent.

(2001), Ian McEwan
Atonement (2001), Ian McEwanOn paper, it sounds like the most boring novel ever: yet another examination of repressed Britons on the eve of World War II. Instead, Ian McEwan turned the story of a forbidden love affair and a young girl on the edge of comprehending adult interaction, but not quite there yet, into a moving examination of guilt, forgiveness, and the power of fiction. The novel’s opening passages—where said young girl makes a terrible mistake and accuses her sister’s lover of a crime he didn’t commit—are written with keen psychological insight and leisurely pacing that nonetheless remains tense. But in the book’s following sections, McEwan’s games with narrative structure and unreliable narrators become something else altogether, an increasingly sad look at how little power stories have over real life.

Bel Canto
(2001), Ann Patchett
Bel Canto (2001), Ann PatchettIn December 1996, a group of Peruvian revolutionaries began a hostage crisis in the official residence of the Japanese ambassador in Lima that ended violently more than four months later. Ann Patchett was paying attention, and her novel finds a bittersweet lyricism in a fictionalized take on the same event. Stuck together, hostages and hostage-takers find the factors piding them—politics, language, and in one of the central relationships, the distance between a famous opera singer and a devoted fan—matter less than the needs that unite them. The grace they find can’t last, however, and like the music that helped inspire the novel, Patchett earns her novel’s heartache by suggesting the possibility of a sweeter, more beautiful world.

The Blind Assassin
(2000), Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin (2000), Margaret AtwoodCanadian author Margaret Atwood has shown a career-long interest in gender relations and generational changes, particularly how the past gives way to a present that only dimly and incorrectly remembers what came before. That obsession gets worked out in a number of absorbing ways in one of her most ambitious, artful novels to date: The Blind Assassin follows several interlocked threads, as Atwood plays games with identities, connections, parallels, and altered histories. In one thread, she explores the childhood of two sisters, Iris and Laura; in another, Iris is a cantankerous, elderly widow, and Laura is an apparent suicide whose posthumously published novel became an enduring classic. Atwood only gradually reveals what happened between these bookends, and she keeps readers guessing, as it becomes clear that what the world remembers about Laura has very little bearing on what actually happened. Like many Atwood novels, Assassin is a puzzle box, but luminous writing, well-drawn characters, and the keenly melancholy theme of generational amnesia have more to do with the novel’s success than the series of reveals Atwood puts her readers through.

Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao
(2007), Junot Díaz
Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao (2007), Junot DíazIt’s lonely on the corner between Hispanic slang and geek culture, but this 2008 Pulitzer-winner’s “lovesick nerd” Oscar de Leon can only dream about hanging out somewhere else. The frenetic multi-generational saga of family curses and the legacy of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo is a hero’s tale and a fantasy homage rising out of a thicket of bilingual wordplay and a glorious stew of cultural references. Oscar’s determination to overcome his fate, set into motion when his grandfather runs afoul of Trujillo’s wishes, captivates even the jaded sometime narrator Yunior, faithful to his memory even though he was unable to be to his sister.

Carter Beats The Devil (2001), Glen David Gold
Carter Beats The Devil (2001), Glen David GoldPopcorn fiction and historical fiction were both sneered at more often than not in the ’00s, as poorly written tales of the secret history of everything overwhelmed the bestseller charts. Enter Gold’s debut novel, a romp through early 20th-century San Francisco and the world of vaudevillian magic that makes few claims to historical veracity, and rockets along like the best page-turners. But Gold’s novel is about more than how a sad magician finds love and constructs the ultimate illusion while avoiding assassins and those who suspect him of killing the president. It’s also about moving on past crippling loss, overcoming depression, and learning how to feel again. Gold’s pacing makes Carter easy to read, but his sense of emotion makes it take up space in the heart.

The Corrections
(2002), Jonathan Franzen
The Corrections (2002), Jonathan FranzenThe Tolstoy-esque family novel got its 21st-century upgrade early, and has withstood all comers since. The Lamberts’ disintegration under the pressures of work, illness, and love unfolds with a cynical humor that strips the family’s pretensions away until only their most craven selves survive as they struggle to break free. As these unsympathetic characters go through the wringer, Jonathan Franzen outlines the symptoms of modern malaise, whose only cure is being able to see through the layers of protective self-delusion. The modern dysfunctional family wriggles under Franzen’s microscope, but its features are all too familiar. Oprah, take note: His next book, Freedom, is due to arrive next fall, just in time to inform the next decade.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
(2003), Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time (2003), Mark HaddonWritten from the perspective of an autistic boy obsessed with detective work, Mark Haddon’s astounding tightrope act portrays his protagonist’s richly odd inner life and places it in the context of a suspenseful journey outside his comfort zone of numbers, routines, and maps. Plunged into an unfamiliar world of train travel and self-reliance, Christopher tries to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog, emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes, and trying not to be fooled by fake phantasms like Holmes’ creator. Not merely the finest fictional depiction of the autistic brain yet produced, Curious Incident is also among the best page-turning thrillers of the decade.

Empire Falls
(2001), Richard Russo
Empire Falls (2001), Richard RussoMuch of America made it out of the 20th century badly equipped to deal with the 21st. Richard Russo’s Empire Falls is set in just such a place, a rust-belt Maine town that’s kept going even though the industry that led to its creation can no longer sustain it. Russo brought his by-then-familiar command of memorable characters and comic moments to a novel more ambitious than any he’d attempted before. The book captures a time and place unnerved by a future that offers no reassuring promises of a better tomorrow beyond the comfort its inhabitants can give each other.

Fortress Of Solitude
(2003), Jonathan Lethem
Fortress Of Solitude (2003), Jonathan LethemMaybe Jonathan Lethem didn’t set out to create a magnum opus with Fortress Of Solitude, but that’s what he ended up with. The novel ties together a lifetime of obsessions—with music, art, fathers and sons, comics, and more—and grounds them in the 1970s Brooklyn of Lethem’s childhood. It’s a place of sadness, peril, and racial unease, but it’s also overflowing with the imaginative possibilities of childhood, at least until crises and looming adulthood start to shut them down. It’s a novel immersed in the past, but deeply distrustful of nostalgia and fully aware that the pain of youth has a habit of lingering, and even the presence of magic does little to secure happiness.

(2004), Marilynne Robinson
Gilead (2004), Marilynne RobinsonTwenty-three years after the luminous Housekeeping, Robinson proved herself one of the greatest American writers of her generation, winning the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for literature for her equally heartbreaking Gilead. Few could have predicted that the same pen that channeled orphans Ruth and Lucille coming of age in rural Idaho could so masterfully evoke an aging Congregationalist minister, looking back over his life with wonder for the grace given him but regret for his namesake, the son of a good friend who never took the path his elders would have chosen for him. Replete with references to Calvin, Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach, and other thinkers with whom Reverend Ames takes respectful issue, Robinson’s novel serves as a gentle theological treatise, but it never loses the glow of human relationships.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
(2005), J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2005), J.K. RowlingArguments for and against its place in the Great Western Canon aside, the Harry Potter series was undeniably the biggest literary phenomenon of the ’00s. Though the first installments from the ’90s were inarguably children’s books, beginning with 2000’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, the series began to morph into something decidedly more complex, reaching its apex in 2005 with Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. The penultimate entry in the seven-part series is most notable for the shocking death at its climax, probably the series’ most unexpected, harrowing moment. But even more remarkable is the fact that it spends 650-plus pages basically filling in backstory and moving pieces into place for the series’ conclusion without sacrificing momentum or character development. (Though it perhaps attempts to cover too much ground at times, giving some elements short shrift.) In spite of whatever other limitations she has as a writer, J.K. Rowling is at her best in Half-Blood Prince, capably unspooling her epic yarn in the straightforward yet enthralling manner that accounts for the series’ unprecedented success.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
(2004), Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004), Susanna Clarke It’s the kind of literary mash-up that’s simultaneously strikingly original and comfortingly familiar: Take a sort of idealized version of the Victorian-era novel, with all its drawing-room manners and morally repressed emotions, and insert some magic. And not the symbolic kind, either—actual magic, with rules, mysteries, and all kinds of difficult-to-fathom but impossible-to-ignore dangers. Susanna Clarke’s first novel is the warmly readable study of a frequently chilly world, a story to get lost in about the seduction of being lost, and an exhaustively researched tome on a subject whose research is entirely fictional. Ten years in the writing, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell still feels as light as a feather, and its tale of the friendship and rivalry of the two greatest magicians of their age has the ageless quality of all truly great fantastical fiction, reassuring without being entirely trustworthy, and utterly intoxicating.

(2002), Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex (2002), Jeffrey EugenidesJeffrey Eugenides’ long-in-the-making follow-up to The Virgin Suicides adds layer after layer around a kicky, potentially sensationalistic premise. Cal is born Calliope to a family of Greek descent, and spends years living as a girl, unaware of the intersexed condition that makes him genetically male. Jeffrey Eugenides follows the path of the gene that leads to that surprising revelation, tracing it back to Old World conflicts between Greece and Turkey while considering its place in the novel’s sharply realized 20th-century New World of 1970s Michigan. The past doesn’t die, it just mutates, and maybe, hopefully improves, on its way from one generation to the next.

Never Let Me Go
(2005), Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go (2005), Kazuo IshiguroMainstream authors of literary fiction self-consciously slumming it in genres of ill repute ended up being one of the surprising movements of the ’00s. While most of these novels and stories were too aware of their genre roots, Kazuo Ishiguro’s tale of two girls who slowly realize the true nature of their existence keeps what’s best about his writing—his sense of the world as an ephemeral place that could pop out of being at any moment—and weds it to the best dystopic science fiction’s sense of raw humanity breaking through in a sterile world. Like the similar literary science-fiction experiment The Road, Never Let Me Go ends up becoming a testament to the many ways love finds to stay alive.

The Road
(2006), Cormac McCarthy
The Road (2006), Cormac McCarthyA father and son travel through a post-apocalyptic America, half-starved, choking on a never-ending stream of ash sifting down from the sky, and with no hope for an end to their suffering beyond dissolution and death. Much has been made of the bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, but given its subject matter, the bleakness isn’t all that surprising. What is surprising is the way McCarthy manages to find a modicum of purpose in all that despair, creating a world in which all normal reasons for living—accomplishment, social structure, the possibilities of the future—have been ruthlessly stripped away, then showing how existence still struggles onward, in spite of all barriers against it. It’d be a stretch to call The Road uplifting, and the book has more than its share of horrors, but what makes it such a powerful, wrenching experience isn’t the aftermath of society’s collapse, but the suggestion that, even removed from sentimentality, the basic forward momentum of a dependent and his protector remains. Things don’t have to be good to continue, but they will continue, and sometimes that’s all that’s left.

The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle
(2008), David Wroblewski
The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle (2008), David WroblewskiWroblewski’s first novel retells the story of Hamlet on a farm in northern Wisconsin, and with some of the characters replaced by dogs bred by the Sawtelle family for extraordinary intelligence. And not a word of this lengthy, immersive journey into the struggle of young Edgar to break through the dangerous relationship between his uncle and his mother feels like a gimmick. Full of detail about the training methods that make the Sawtelle dogs special, and anchored by a fugitive quest for justice with only adolescent and canine wits to sustain them, Edgar’s story has the mesmerizing quality of great literature. It’s a world that feels found by accident, unknown to outsiders, and so beautifully tragic that readers will beg the pages to turn more slowly.

The Terror
(2007), Dan Simmons
The Terror (2007), Dan SimmonsIn 1845, Captain John Franklin led two ships on a hunt through the Arctic for the fabled Northwest Passage. Both ships became icebound in the Victoria Strait, and all 128 men were lost. It’s hard to imagine a more horrible way to die, starving slowly as the temperatures plunge and scurvy drives shipmates to contemplate murder and cannibalism, but Dan Simmons decided to make things worse in his 2007 novel, throwing a monster out on the ice and letting the blood flow freely. Telling the story through the perspectives of various real-life crew members, Simmons creates a tense, unrelenting narrative about survival pushed to its extremity, where an inexplicable dark god lurking at the edges isn’t nearly as upsetting as the dwindling food supplies and an actively hostile environment. As grippingly detailed as a true-life adventure narrative, with all the symbolism and tragedy that fiction can provide, The Terror is a rewarding, haunting read. Just make sure to check the thermostat before opening the cover, whatever the season.

The Time Traveler’s Wife
(2003), Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), Audrey NiffeneggerThe decade was kind to debut novels of powerful imagination, and none were better poised to seize the American reading public than Audrey Niffenegger’s artfully constructed romance. Only in novelistic form could the emotions of her time-crossed lovers be fully appreciated. As readers proceed linearly through the book, Claire travels from birth to death in the normal way, while her husband Henry is yanked unpredictably through time. Told from their alternating perspectives, the story builds on the yearning and regret that comes from knowing the end before the beginning, and from being given glimpses of the future that others cannot know until it arrives. The Time Traveler’s Wife earns the tears it so copiously extracts, and creates an epic love affair perfect for the turn of the millennium.

White Teeth
(2000), Zadie Smith
White Teeth (2000), Zadie SmithFrom one of the most original talents this decade produced, White Teeth follows an unconventional friendship that becomes a portal into a world where every character’s story sounds truer than the last. The chance meeting of Archibald Jones and Samed Iqbal, fellow World War II veterans who reunite in 1970s London, are just the first brushstrokes in a richly detailed portrait of a neighborhood changing faster than its inhabitants can understand as they struggle to find meaning in a world radically altered from their forefathers’. In spite of its Dickensian spread, Zadie Smith’s debut novel never feels overstuffed or self-consciously stylish. Instead, its assured tone guides readers through genetic controversy, radical Muslim groups, and past-as-prologue, toward a profound commentary on assimilation and culture in the lives of her perse subjects.

5 Must Have Google Chrome Extensions

Written by Holden Page

While Google hasn’t officially released their own repository to download extensions yet (although you can officially submit them here), third-party sites such as Chrome Extensions have a large repository of extensions ready for you to download.

While many of these extensions are next to pointless, there are a few gems that can make your Chrome browsing experience a bit more useful.

aviary 5 Must Have Google Chrome ExtensionsAviary Screen Capture

Aviary, a powerful online image based editor, has released a quick and easy way to capture screenshots within Chrome instantly and edit them within a streamlined version of the Aviary image editor. You also get quick links to other Aviary products, such as Aviary Audio Editor, which we covered here. (Download extension)


You just can’t have a list without a Twitter app of some sort included. Chrowety is a streamlined, convenient and surprisingly intuitive Twitter client. While it doesn’t have all the features more advanced Twitter clients such as Seesmic Web, if you’re looking for quick and dirty tweeting without all the wait, you got it with Chrowety. (Download Extension)

2009 11 25 195420 5 Must Have Google Chrome Extensions


Feedly 5 Must Have Google Chrome ExtensionsOne of the most popular Firefox extensions, and beloved by many RSS consumers is Feedly.

Feedly turns your Google Reader into a magazine like start page. While I am not an avid user of Feedly, I know of many who swear by it. Some of them are so rabid about Feedly that they refuse to move from Firefox until a Chrome extension is available. Talk about a dedicated user.

Well now they can see the light. Feedly has now officially released a Chrome extension that will give you all the greatness of the magazine style reader you have come to expect. Time to move to the faster side of browsing my Feedly friends. (Download Extension)

Chrome Reader

2009 11 25 194834 5 Must Have Google Chrome ExtensionsIt has always puzzled me why Google does not integrate their own superior RSS reader, Google Reader, into Chrome. Until that day comes though, Chrome Reader will have to suffice.

When Chromes discovers an RSS feed, simply click on the RSS icon in the URL bar and that feed will automatically be subscribed to in Google Reader instead of opening a web page full of XML. Chrome Reader also allows you to add your new subscriptions into folders within the extension. (Download Extension).


2009 11 25 234505 5 Must Have Google Chrome ExtensionsDotspots is an annotation service that we recently wrote about here. Using the Chrome extension, you can add annotations to any content based web page by simply highlighting a paragraph. You can also see and edit other users annotations (also known as Dots). While the extension requires you have an account through DotSpots, it is a powerful extension that can potentially add a lot of value. To download sign-up for an account.

While I am sure there are plenty of other extensions just as useful, if not more useful than the ones listed above, you can be sure that Chrome extensions will start seeing some serious advances in the near future. Keep in mind, these Chrome Extensions are not officially backed by Google and can break. While I have not personally ran into problems with any of the extensions listed above, I am sure some people have.

Make sure if you think there are any Chrome extensions worthy of a future “must have” list you leave them in the comments.

Bonus! Google Images: Spot the difference

Top 20 Unfortunate Lessons Girls Learn From ‘Twilight’

Written by John Scott Lewinski

From a male point of view, the only redeeming feature of the Twilight books and movies is the ammunition they provide against female claims of innate moral superiority over men.

Whenever a woman criticizes a man’s lust, aggression, shallowness or any other lesser angel of his personality, the quick-witted fellow can point to the millions of women addicted to the base, insipid, bad-boy-worshiping, misogynist syrup so many female viewers of all ages knelt to this past weekend, when The Twilight Saga: New Moon raked in $147 million at the box office, setting several records.

(A side benefit: The Twilight films provide good grist for RiffTrax’s movie-mocking mill — see video embedded above.)

In the spirit of speaking truth to diamond-skinned power, enjoy this list of unfortunate lessons girls learn from Twilight. (The list operates under the principle that any grownup female who embraces Twilight’s junior-high dreck temporarily sacrifices her “woman card.”)

And so, with an insincere “love is forever,” we begin.

  1. If a boy is aloof, stand-offish, ignores you or is just plain rude, it is because he is secretly in love with you — and you are the point of his existence.
  2. Secrets are good — especially life-threatening ones.
  3. It’s OK for a potential romantic interest to be dimwitted, violent and vengeful — as long as he has great abs.
  4. If a boy tells you to stay away from him because he is dangerous and may even kill you, he must be the love of your life. You should stay with him since he will keep you safe forever.
  5. If a boy leaves you, especially suddenly (while telling you he will never see you again), it is because he loves you so much he will suffer just to keep you safe.
  6. When a boy leaves you, going into shock, losing all your friends and enduring night terrors are completely acceptable occurrences — as long as you keep your grades up.
  7. It is extremely romantic to put yourself in dangerous situations in order to see your ex-boyfriend again. It’s even more romantic to remember the sound of his voice when he yelled at you.
  8. Boys who leave you always come back.
  9. Because they come back, you should hold out, waiting for them for months, even when completely acceptable and less-abusive alternative males present themselves.
  10. Even though you have no intention of dating an alternative male who expresses interest in you, it is fine to string the young man along for months. Also, you should use him to fix things for you. Maybe he’ll even buy you something.
  11. You should use said male to fix things because girls are incapable of anything mechanical or technical.
  12. Lying to your parents is fine. Lying to your parents while you run away to save your suicidal boyfriend is an extremely good idea that shows your strength and maturity. Also, it is what you must do.
  13. Car theft in the service of love is acceptable.
  14. If the boy you are in love with causes you (even indirectly) to be so badly beaten you end up in the hospital, you should tell the doctors and your family that you “fell down the steps” because you are such a silly, clumsy girl. That false explanation always works well for abused women.
  15. Men can be changed for the better if you sacrifice everything you are and devote yourself to their need for change.
  16. Young women should make no effort to improve their social skills or emotional state. Instead, they should seek out potential mates that share their morose deficiencies and emotional illnesses.
  17. Girls shouldn’t always read a book series just because everyone else has.
  18. When writing a book series, it’s acceptable to lift seminal source material and bastardize it with tired, overwrought teenage angst.
  19. When making or watching a major feature film, you should gleefully embrace the 20 minutes of plot it provides in between extended segments of vacant-eyed silence and self-indulgent, moaning banter.
  20. Vampires — once among the great villains of literature and motion pictures — are no longer scary. In fact, they’re every bit as whiny, self-absorbed and impotent as any human being.

Since the writer of this piece is clearly not female, the list came together only after discussing Twilight at length with women who enjoyed and detested the book and the first two movies. Olivia Dunkley, Vanessa Fewings, Rosie Lewinski and Beth Ann Lewinski contributed to the article.

How to make a woman Happy

It’s not difficult to make a woman happy. A man only needs to be:

1. a friend

2. a companion

3. a lover

4. a brother

5. a father

6. a master

7. a chef

8. an electrician

9. a carpenter

10. a plumber

11. a mechanic

12. a decorator

13. a stylist

14. a sexologist

15. a gynecologist

16. a psychologist

17. a pest exterminator

18. a psychiatrist

19. a healer

20. a good listener

21. an organizer

22. a good father

23. very clean

24. sympathetic

25. athletic

26. warm

27. attentive

28. gallant

29. intelligent

30. funny

31. creative

32. tender

33. strong

34. understanding

35. tolerant

36. prudent

37. ambitious

38. capable

39. courageous

40. determined

41. true

42. dependable

43. passionate

44. compassionate


45. give her compliments regularly

46. love shopping

47. be honest

48. be very rich

49. not stress her out

50. not look at other girls


51. give her lots of attention, but expect little yourself

52. give her lots of time, especially time for herself

53. give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes


54. Never to forget:



*arrangements she makes.


1. Show up naked

2. Bring food and beer.