Let Them Eat Data: How Computers Affect Education, Cultural Diversity, and the Prospects of Ecological Sustainability Chet A. Bowers  
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Do computers foster cultural diversity? Ecological sustainability? In our age of high-tech euphoria we seem content to leave tough questions like these to the experts. That dangerous inclination is at the heart of this important examination of the commercial and educational trends that have left us so uncritically optimistic about global computing.

Contrary to the attitudes that have been marketed and taught to us, says C. A. Bowers, the fact is that computers operate on a set of Western cultural assumptions and a market economy that drives consumption. Our indoctrination includes the view of global computing innovations as inevitable and on a par with social progress—a perspective dismayingly suggestive of the mindset that engendered the vast cultural and ecological disruptions of the industrial revolution and world colonialism.

In Let Them Eat DataBowers discusses important issues that have fallen into the gap between our perceptions and the realities of global computing, including the misuse of the theory of evolution to justify and legitimate the global spread of computers, and the ecological and cultural implications of unmoving knowledge from its local contexts as it is digitized, commodified, and packaged for global consumption. He also suggests ways that educators can help us think more critically about technology.

Let Them Eat Datais essential reading if we are to begin democratizing technological decisions, conserving true cultural diversity and intergenerational forms of knowledge, and living within the limits and possibilities of the earth's natural systems.

Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences Geoffrey C. Bowker, Susan Leigh Star  
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Is this book sociology, anthropology, or taxonomy? Sorting Things Out, by communications theorists Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star, covers a lot of conceptual ground in its effort to sort out exactly how and why we classify and categorize the things and concepts we encounter day to day. But the analysis doesn't stop there; the authors go on to explore what happens to our thinking as a result of our classifications. With great insight and precise academic language, they pick apart our information systems and language structures that lie deeper than the everyday categories we use. The authors focus first on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), a widely used scheme used by health professionals worldwide, but also look at other health information systems, racial classifications used by South Africa during apartheid, and more.

Though it comes off as a bit too academic at times (by the end of the 20th century, most writers should be able to get the spelling of McDonald's restaurant right), the book has a clever charm that thoughtful readers will surely appreciate. A sly sense of humor sneaks into the writing, giving rise to the chapter title "The Kindness of Strangers," for example. After arguing that categorization is both strongly influenced by and a powerful reinforcer of ideology, it follows that revolutions (political or scientific) must change the way things are sorted in order to throw over the old system. Who knew that such simple, basic elements of thought could have such far-reaching consequences? Whether you ultimately place it with social science, linguistics, or (as the authors fear) fantasy, make sure you put Sorting Things Out in your reading pile. —Rob Lightner

Bunny Modern: A Novel David Bowman  
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Imagine killer nannies patrolling the streets of New York, their baby carriages bristling with automatic weapons, even as prowling, infertile parent-wannabes make desperate grabs at the carriages' precious cargo.... This is the premise of David Bowman's novel, Bunny Modern, an apocalyptic millenarian view of New York in the 21st century. The city is without electricity, a phenomenon some attribute to electrons flying backward in time to that day when Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival. This unfortunate reversal in the electrical current also seems to have affected sperm production, which accounts for the plummeting birthrate in New York and, in turn, the gun-toting nannies. Bowman laid claim to this sort of manic, hallucinatory fiction in his first novel, Let the Dog Drive, and Bunny Moderntakes it to dizzying new heights. Sex, drugs, and appliance worship—dystopia never looked so intriguing.

The New Spanish Table Anya von Bremzen  
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Amazing things are happening at the new Spanish table. The sweet-hot pequillos of Navarra turn up in a classic potato tortilla (the beloved omelet found in every tapas bar). Purple-veined Cabrales butter melts across a thick grilled T-bone. Honey is drizzled over eggplant "fries." Chocolate meets olive oil, strawberries meet fennel, vanilla meets salmon. Mysteriously delicious savory ice creams—balsamic vinegar, thyme, saffron—garnish soups and seafoods.

Casual, quietly inventive, steeped in regional traditions but unmistakably modern, Spain is the new France and Italy, an ipicenter of contemporary Mediterranean cooking with a wealth of alluring flavors and preparations.

Written by Anya von Bremzen—an award-winning food writer who first fell in love with Spain in the early 1980s, introduced the Catalan genius and three-star chef Ferran Adrià to American readers in 1997, and today spends close to half her year in the country—The New Spanish Table delivers all the pleasures of this exhilarating cuisine.

It's a rustic table: Baked Fish with Romesco Potatoes. It's elegant: Rack of Lamb with Pistacchio Pesto. It's exquisitely simple: Smoky Fried Almonds with sea salt, an addictive marriage of four ingredients. It's for entertaining—dozens of tapas, paellas and cazuelas (named after the Spanish terra-cotta casseroles)—and, with its glorious comfort foods like fried eggs with crackling, crispy whites, and luscious unusual Rice Pudding Ice Cream, perfect for cozying up, alone.

Most of all, The New Spanish Table is an irresistible, festive celebration of flavors from a culture absolutely passionate about food, wine, and the pleasures of an excellent meal.