And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

Randy Shilts


It's hard to sum-up this book: part history, part in-depth analysis of gay society in the 1980's, part polemic against the Reagan administration. Randy Shilts lived through it (and eventually succumbed himself), and he wonderfully captures the frustration, the fear, and the final sense of creeping inevitability as more and more in the core social circle fall away.

It's also a fascinating study of how governments listen (or not) to their own scientists, as well as of the political in-fighting between science groups and the ways in which reality is so often shaped by the perceptions of those reviewing the evidence: obvious in hindsight, perhaps excusably resisted at least in the early stages. There are plenty of examples of more recent "epidemics" that actually were not as devastating as they were at first warned to be (SARS and nvCJD spring to mind) – which isn't to excuse the quite despicable inaction later when things became clear. There's a lot here to be learned about how to respond to news of impending devastation.

One advantage of writing this review late is that I can include recent events: the exoneration of one of the main villains of the piece, Gaetan Dugas, who was reviled as "patient zero", deliberately spreading the epidemic more rapidly and widely. It turns out that, whatever Dugas' actions, they didn't give rise to as much secondary infection as was thought when Shilts wrote his book, and just goes to show how science is always a provisional activity.

Finished on Thu, 04 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 5/5.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery

Henry Marsh


A deeply felt and insightful – if sometimes over-personalised – view of medicine, neurosurgery, and working within the UK NHS. It's at times terrifying: some cancers are benign, some are malignant, but anything that recurs will basically kill you no matter how well you treated it the first time. It also doesn't reassure to think that neurosurgeons hone their skills by operating, and by failing – and this by definition leaves damaged patients behind. But it's also comforting to see the professionalism and skills on display, and to learn the surprising variety of perfectly treatable conditions from which one might suffer. Not for the fainthearted, though.

Finished on Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 4/5.

Darkness at Noon

Arthur Koestler


A classic of "fictional history", focusing on the Stalinist counter-revolution of the 1930's. The protagonist, Rubashov, struggles to understand what's happening to him as he is imprisoned, set up for a show trial, and eventually executed.

Koestler brilliantly captures something that often seems inexplicable in the history of the period: why did so many of the main characters collude in their own destruction? He makes a convincing case that they were captured by their own revolutionary logic: having professed the supremacy of the revolution, the creative use of obviously unjust violence, and the subordination of the individual, they found themselves unable to argue or act in their own defence, and even found solace in performing one last act that aided the revolution even as it consumed them. Still inexplicable, but also somehow admirable that individuals could become so devoted to a cause, no matter what one thinks of it.

Finished on Wed, 20 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 4/5.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Mary Beard


A distinguished historian's swan song, a history of Rome that focuses on many of the neglected aspects of the period – and on why they are neglected. The experience of slaves, or women of the poor – of which we know next to nothing – are contrasted against the experience of Cicero, the first person in history we can "know" in a modern, biographical, sense. On the way Beard explores what it meant to be Roman, and so what it meant to be a part of the Empire from the perspective of the ordinary and elite peoples far from Italy.

For me the most radical observation that Beard makes is in identifying what counts as "important" Roman history. She essentially discounts the empire and the emperors as being a footnote, something that occurred after all vibrancy and creativity had passed. For her, the Republic and the characters around it – the Gracchi, Cicero himself, Pompei and Caesar – are the elements that gave us the important things we have taken from Rome. It's an unusual argument, compellingly made.

Finished on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 5/5.

CfP: Collective adaptive systems

A special track of the 32nd ACM Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC'17) looking for contributions.


Special Track of the 32nd ACM Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC'17) April 3 - 7, 2017 Marrakech, Morocco

Nowadays, most aspects of our daily life are affected by pervasive technology, consisting of massive numbers of heterogeneous units/nodes (computers, devices, software applications, smart objects, etc.), complex interactions, and humans-in-the-loop. The distributed and open nature of these systems and their large scale make sensing, decision-making, planning and acting possibly highly dispersed: this may cause on the one hand the emergence of unexpected phenomena, but on the other hand it can be the key to support inherent adaptation and resilience.

These complex systems are typically referred to as Collective Adaptive Systems (CAS). They have to be equipped with dynamic and autonomous adaptation capabilities, to deal with changes in their working environments and within themselves. CAS involve huge collections of cooperating components, trading off individual tasks, properties, objectives and actions, with overall system goals.

To properly engineer and exploit CAS, a deep scientific understanding of the principles underpinning their operation is required. The development of CAS is closely related to other contemporary (software) engineering approaches, such as component-based systems and middleware platforms, as well as other Computer Science areas, such as Distributed Artificial Intelligence, Formal Methods, Agent-based Programming, Pervasive Computing, Internet of Things, and Autonomic Computing. This track aims at providing a common forum for discussing the various different viewpoints over CAS, attracting relevant and consistent contributions from different research communities, with the ultimate goal of filling the gap between theory and practice, hence paving the way towards implementation of relevant applications.

The Special Track on Collective Adaptive Systems takes deliberately a broad view of what CAS are and how they should be designed, analysed, built and deployed. In particular, the track's interest is both in the foundational view (e.g., theories, methods, formalisms, models) and the practical aspects (e.g., development methodologies, programming languages, middleware, development and runtime environments, tools). Moreover, also applications of CAS solutions to real-world case studies are welcomed.

Major topics of interest this year will include the following:

  • Novel models, languages, programming and implementation techniques for CAS
  • CAS technologies and infrastructures
  • CAS applications
  • Scenarios, case studies and experience reports of CAS
  • Formal aspects (semantics, reasoning, verification) in CAS development
  • Business Processes in CAS - Self-* and emerging properties of CAS
  • Security and privacy in CAS - Policy-based coordination and self-adaptation in CAS
  • Middleware platforms for CAS
  • Software architectures and engineering methodologies for CAS

Important Dates

Sep 15, 2016: Papers and SRC research abstracts submission Nov 10, 2016: Author notification Nov 25, 2016: Camera-ready copies Dec 10, 2016: Author registration

Programme Co-Chairs

Mirko Viroli Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna, Italy email:

Francesco Tiezzi University of Camerino, Italy email: francesco.tiezzi@

Program Committee Members

  • Jacob Beal, BBN Technologies, USA
  • Olivier Boissier, Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, France
  • Tomas Bures, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Siobhan Clarke, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • Daniel Coore, University of the West Indies, Jamaica
  • Ferruccio Damiani, University of Torino, Italy Rocco De Nicola, IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy
  • Giovanna Di Marzo Serugendo, University of Geneve, Switzerland
  • Simon Dobson, University of St Andrews
  • Schahram Dustdar, TU Wien, Austria
  • Kurt Geihs, Universitaet Kassel, Germany
  • Jane Hillston, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • Christine Julien, University of Texas at Austin, USA
  • Hung La, University of Nevada, Reno, USA
  • Peter Lewis, Aston University, UK
  • Alberto Lluch Lafuente, DTU, Denmark
  • Michele Loreti, University of Firenze, Italy
  • Andrea Omicini, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Carlo Pinciroli, Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Canada
  • Rosario Pugliese, University of Firenze, Italy
  • Barbara Re, University of Camerino, Italy
  • Jan-Philipp Steghöfer, Chalmers Technical University, Sweden
  • Martin Wirsing, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen, Germany
  • Franco Zambonelli, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy


Papers accepted for the Special Track on Collective Adaptive Systems will be published by ACM both in the SAC 2017 proceedings and in the Digital Library.

CAS Special Track organisers also plan to invite authors of selected papers for a Special Issue in a high impact journal, such as ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems or Science of Computer Programming.

Paper submission and format

All papers should represent original and previously unpublished works that currently are not under review in any conference or journal.

The author(s) name(s) and address(es) must NOT appear in the body of the paper, and self-reference should be in the third person. This is to facilitate blind review. Only the title should be shown at the first page without the authors' information.

Submitted papers must be in the ACM two-column page format (doc template, pdf template, latex template). The length of the papers is 6 pages (included in the registration) plus up to 2 extra pages (at extra charge), i.e. total 8 pages maximum.

Paper registration is required, allowing the inclusion of the paper/poster in the conference proceedings. An author or a proxy attending SAC MUST present the paper: This is a requirement for the paper/poster to be included in the ACM/IEEE digital library. No-show of scheduled papers and posters will result in excluding them from the ACM/IEEE digital library.

Submission is entirely automated via the STAR Submission System, which is available from:

Poster Sessions

Papers that received high reviews (that is acceptable by reviewer standards) but were not accepted due to space limitation can be invited for the poster session. Poster should be not longer than 3 pages (included in the registration) plus 1 extra page (at extra charge), i.e. total 4 pages maximum. The poster session procedures and details will be posted on SAC 2017 website as soon as they become available.

Student research abstracts competition

Graduate students are invited to submit Student Research Competition (SRC) abstracts (maximum of 2 pages in ACM camera-ready format) following the instructions published at SAC 2017 website. Submission of the same abstract to multiple tracks is not allowed. All research abstract submissions will be reviewed by researchers and practitioners with expertise in the track focus area to which they are submitted. Authors of selected abstracts (up to 20 students) will have the opportunity to give poster and oral presentations of their work and compete for three top-winning places. The winners will receive medals, cash awards, and SIGAPP recognition certificates during the conference banquet. Invited students receive SRC travel support (US$500) and are eligible to apply to the SIGAPP Student Travel Award Program (STAP) for additional travel support.

Who Owns the Future?

Jaron Lanier


A fascinating, if ultimately incomplete, exploration of the alternatives to the current web architecture that prioritises the needs of companies over those of consumers – or producers, if the truth be told. Lanier approaches the problems strictly from the perspective of information and information processing, with a clarity that I, even as a computer scientist, find refreshingly complete: it's as though he's willing to encompass some of the logical consequences that even professionals shy away from.

The central argument is that internet users, and especially users of social networks, are providing too much information for free to companies that then profit from it. Lanier suggests some alternative approaches to this, where content and expertise give rise to micro-payment compensation in cash or some other medium of exchange. The problem is that this is a tall order against the structures that have already grown up, and it's unclear that it's now possible to change tack as radically as would be required. Still, in many ways that makes this work all the more important, and it's a great contribution to the broader literature on e-commerce and digital living.

Finished on Sat, 18 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 3/5.

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates


A book that it's perhaps hard for a white, middle-aged, Englishman to review, but still a powerful indictment of how America still relates to its black (and other) populations – made all the more poignant by the current spate of police shootings and the contentious presidential campaign that's unmistakeably racist. Coates chooses to frame his argument in terms of physical threat, using it as both a metaphor and as an entrance to the more general sense of fear and danger still felt by many. He doesn't avoid the changing face of oppression over the years, but still holds that there's a danger to being black in America that it's hard for whites (and non-Americans) to fully understand: perhaps the closest we can come to it in the UK would be the feelings of Catholics in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles, which was a story of privilege and discrimination that I remember being hard to accept at the time.

Finished on Thu, 16 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 4/5.

Peacemaking, 1919

Harold Nicolson


A minor participant's view of the making of the Treaty of Versailles.

It's strange to see the inside view: strange to realise that the things that later generations perceived were mistakes were often understood to be mistakes at the time – but that events carried the negotiators along, and their differing beliefs and goals, as well as their incongruent personalities, made it impossible to avoid the consequences. Many world statesmen appear, and most come out reasonably well – the exception being Woodrow Wilson. This book is a great precursor, and complement, to the histories of the run-up to the next war and helps contextualise many of the events that often seem inexplicable.

Finished on Sat, 04 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 4/5.

Doctoral Symposium on Foundations and Applications of Self-* Systems (FAS*W)

There is a doctoral symposium at the SASO  conference this year.

Call For Doctoral Symposium Submissions Doctoral Symposium on Foundations and Applications of Self- Systems (FASW)

Augsburg, Germany, September 12 & 16, 2016


Abstract Submission due: June 12, 2016 Paper Submission due: June 20, 2016 @SASO2016Conf

Foundations and Applications of Self Systems (FAS) is the umbrella for two closely related but independent conferences, the International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO) and the International Conference on Cloud and Autonomic Computing (ICCAC). The FAS Doctoral Symposium provides an international forum for PhD Students working in research areas addressed by FAS. In this forum, PhD students will get unique opportunities to subject their research to the scrutiny of external experts, gain experience in the presentation of research, connect to peers and experts addressing similar problems, and get advice from a panel of internationally leading researchers.

Different from the technical tracks of the conference, the FAS* Doctoral Symposium focuses on the specific needs of young researchers at the beginning of their career. As such, particular emphasis will be placed on a critical and constructive feedback that shall help participants to successfully conclude their PhD studies.

PhD students working in any area addressed by the FAS conferences are invited to submit a Doctoral Symposium paper in which they describe the key motivation and objectives of their research project, and reflect on the methodology as well as the current status of their PhD studies. Complementing the thematic focus of FAS, we particularly solicit contributions in the following areas:

Engineering of self-organizing and self-adaptive systems. We solicit theoretical and applied works addressing fundamental principles underlying self-organizing systems, as well as methods that allow to quantify, model and reproduce the self- characteristics of complex systems in biological, social, physical and technical systems. Examples include mechanisms underlying distributed decision- making and collective intelligence, software engineering challenges in self-adaptive systems, as well as general application of self- principles in the engineering of technical systems.

Complex Cyber-physical and socio-technical systems. We welcome contributions that apply self-* principles to address challenges in the design of complex cyber- physical and socio-technical systems. Particular examples include smart grid infrastructures, sensor networks, opportunistic networking scenarios, as well as large-scale social information systems. Works addressing challenges such as the security, privacy and anonymity of users, or mechanisms to prevent censorship, manipulation or unfairness in socio-technical systems are especially welcome. We further solicit works on socio- technical and socio-economic challenges in P2P systems, such as the design of incentive, trust and reputation mechanisms.

Self- approaches in Massive-Scale Decentralized Systems. Works in this area use self- approaches to address challenges in the design and operation of massive scale decentralized systems. Examples include Peer-to-Peer technologies, as well as overlay topology management schemes. We are further interested in decentralized data mining and machine learning approaches, as well as decentralized approaches to monitor, model and adapt distributed systems. Works using self-* principles to address the inherent challenges in the design of massive-scale systems with unreliable and heterogeneous are of particular interest.

Autonomic Computing. Systems Here we are interested in all works addressing the self-configuration, self-optimization and self-adaptation of cloud computing services, data centers and general distributed computing systems. Examples for questions addressed in this area include the monitoring and modeling of cloud services, the design of efficient resource allocation mechanisms, the application of data mining and machine learning techniques to analyze and predict the behavior of technical systems, as well as the characterization of distributed computing workloads.

Application of Self- in Robotics and Spatial Computing. Finally, we welcome contributions using self- principles in the areas of robotics, swarm robotics and spatial computing. Here, examples for works of interest include environmental modeling and perception, machine vision, and self-adaptation mechanisms in robotics, distributed coordination and collective intelligence in multi- robot systems, as well as novel paradigms for the programming of autonomous, spatially distributed entities.

Submission Instructions

Submissions should have a length of max. six pages and be formatted according to the IEEE Computer Society Press proceedings style guide. Authors should submit their papers using the EasyChair installation of the main conference, which is available at:

Please note that only single-author submissions are accepted, which focus on the topic of the doctoral work. The name of the supervisor (« supervised by ... ») should be clearly marked below the author’s name in the paper. Submissions should further adhere to the following structure:

  • Motivation: motivate the open problem that you want to address and briefly summarize existing approaches along with their deficiencies.
  • Objectives: describe the key objectives of your PhD project and argue how achieving them will solve the open problem outlined in the motivation.
  • Methodology: outline what methodology you will adopt to meet the objectives of your project. Clearly state on what existing works your work will build.
  • Research Plan: describe what preliminary results – if any – you have already achieved and summarize your plans for future work. Please add a rough schedule that allows to judge whether your research plan is feasible.

Authors of accepted papers shall prepare a final, camera ready version of the paper, taking into account all feedback from reviewers, and formatted according to the IEEE Computer Society Press proceedings style guide. Doctoral Symposium papers will be advertised in the final program, and will be submitted to IEEE Xplore as part of the SASO proceedings. Papers will also be made available in the IEEE Digital Library.

Review Process

Each submission will be reviewed by at least two Doctoral Symposium experts (see list below) that cover the different areas of interest of the conference. Submissions will be evaluated based on their relevance to FAS*, the motivation and quality of the proposed research, as well as the suitability of the chosen methodology.

Authors of accepted papers will have different opportunities to present their project at the conference. Besides a full presentation during the PhD Symposium session, an “Elevator Pitch Session” will be organized during the main conference, where authors get the chance to briefly showcase their research. In addition, the Best Doctoral Symposium paper will be selected and the award will be presented during the main conference. Finally, selected authors will have the additional chance to present their work via a poster in the poster session of the main conference.

Invited Talk

To be announced

Doctoral Symposium Experts

  • Ozalp Babaoglu – University of Bologna, IT
  • Jacob Beal – BBN Technologies, USA
  • Kurt Geihs – Universitaet Kassel, DE
  • Tom Holvoet – KU Leuven, BE
  • Manish Parashar – Rutgers University, USA
  • Jeremy Pitt – Imperial College London, UK
  • Mark Jelasity – University of Szeged, HU
  • Burkhard Stiller – University of Zurich, CH
  • Giuseppe Valetto – Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento, IT
  • Salim Hariri – University of Arizona, USA
  • Simon Dobson – University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK
  • Antonio Bucchiarone - Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento, IT

Important Dates (Extended)

Abstract Submission due (extended): June 12, 2016 Paper Submission due (extended): June 20, 2016 Notifications due: July 10, 2016 Camera ready version due: July 24, 2016 Conference date: September 12-16, 2016

Contact Information

For any further information, please contact the Doctoral Symposium chairs:

Pradeep Murukannaiah Department of Computer Science North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC, 27606, USA

Dr. Ingo Scholtes Chair of Systems Design ETH Zurich CH-8092 Zurich Switzerland

So Sad Today: Personal Essays

Melissa Broder


The story of an obsessive personality that makes one glad not to share similar traits. It's strange how, in someone else's mind, trivial things can assume enormous proportions; amazing how emotions can be felt differently than one would expect; strange that they can be felt in different ways simultaneously. I think this book is best read both as a story of survival – and as a warning in case you meet someone like the author and struggle to connect with them.

Finished on Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 2/5.