So, we’re all preoccupied with how Google wants to store and index all your life’s email for you; now Amazon wants to store and index your search history for you, for better or worse. A beta of the new A9.com search portal went live yesterday. Some of its more interesting features, if you use your amazon.com log-in and accept cookies:

  • Each entry in the results page of your search includes a notation of the date and time you last clicked on that link.
  • There’s a tab to simultaneously show you the results of the same query performed on Amazon’s book database.
  • Most Google search syntax works.
  • If you rerun a search you have previously done, the results page tells you which hits are new.

If you want to search in privacy, you can use generic.a9.com instead, which promises not to recognize a9 or amazon cookies. John Battelle discusses some of the implications of the ‘history server ‘ concept here.

Clearing Up The Confusion

“Science-fiction author Neal Stephenson’s latest 800-page dispatch, The Confusion, arrived in stores this week. But Stephenson fans hoping for another brain-wracking, cryptographic puzzle to solve will find a surprise instead: A central scene in the book provides a long, detailed description of the mechanics of 17th-century bills of exchange. Pivotal themes in the book involve the emergence of a cashless market at Lyon, France, and Sir Isaac Newton’s 30-year stint at England’s national mint.

The Confusion, which consists of two 400-page novels interleaved (literally ‘con-fused’) with one another, is the second of three volumes in The Baroque Cycle, a nearly 3,000-page opus that fictionalizes the exploits of Newton and the Royal Society of scientists to which he belonged.

In an interview with Wired News, Stephenson, who rose to fame on cyberpunk-themed novels including Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon, said his interest in money and markets dates back to 1994, a time when crypto hackers and Citicorp/Citibank CEO Walter Wriston were equally likely to expound on the concept of money as an information technology.”

Supreme Court to Hear Indefinite Detention Case

Can the Rights of People Simply Disappear by Presidential Order? “What does it mean when the President of the United States can on his own designate a citizen in the U.S. as an ‘enemy combatant,’ and order the military to hold that person incommunicado, indefinitely, and without charges? The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding whether the courts even have the right to question the President’s action.

What does it mean when the U.S. military internationally can literally snatch people off the street, designate them as ‘enemy combatants,’ and assert that they are beyond the reach of either U.S. or international law? Many are transported to a facility under total U.S. control and funded by Congressional appropriations, where they are held incommunicado, indefinitely, without charges and some are threatened with trials before a military commission that falls short of basic standards of justice.

If the Supreme Court upholds these actions, it will condone the President’s claim of virtually unlimited ‘wartime powers’ without a formal declaration of war by the Congress, and with no or extremely limited oversight by the courts or the Congress.

On April 20 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the President’s alleged right to create a ‘law free zone’ at the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba. And on April 28, the Court will hear oral arguments on the President’s asserted right to designate citizens as ‘enemy combatants,’ hold them at the U.S. Navy base in Charleston, SC, and deny them the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

We believe that the President cannot be allowed to create a ‘legal Black Hole’ into which people are dropped with no recourse to the courts or to international law. Among us we hold many varied views on how and why this situation has arisen and what is ultimately needed to ensure justice. But we all agree that this dangerous new presidentially-designated category of ‘enemy combatants’ who have no legal rights is unjust, illegal, and immoral, and cannot be allowed to stand.

The silence over this perilous issue must be broken, and public opposition must be manifested. Join us in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 and April 28 to declare a resounding NO! Legally permitted, non-violent demonstrations will occur on both days from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm with a program of speakers beginning at 11:am.” —Not In Our Names

Did Nabokov Suffer From Cryptomnesia?

“An intriguing development on the Nabokov front, a crypto-scandal widely reported in Europe, but not much here: Lolita is causing trouble again. At least, that’s been the way it’s been portrayed in the European press, which has overheatedly raised the specter of “plagiarism”: Did Vladimir Nabokov lift the controversial plot, indeed the very name of Lolita, from a 1916 German short story called “Lolita”?

But more interestingly, there are fascinating implications for understanding Pale Fire, which followed Lolita seven years later. And then there’s “cryptomnesia.” —Ron Rosenbaum, New York Observer