Tag Archives: Books

Week 2203

The world is still nuts. The right wing forces in the government are attacking Dr. Fauci. Sinclair media, who own a huge percentage of local news tv stations, is going to release a truly insane conspiracy report alleging that Dr. Fauci is responsible somehow for creating the coronavirus. Tons of people are going to see it. One of my friends has been whatsapping me some really disturbing stuff that makes me worry about him – ‘context’ around the police beating a guy in a wheelchair, ‘privilege’ from some country music guy, etc.

Biden said Trump was the first racist president, ignoring the one who actually enslaved human beings. It’s gonna be a long 4 years even if Trump loses. It’s incredibly depressing because I really think Biden can screw this up, but even if he wins, he’s pretty conservative and will probably be a really effective block to meaningful change.

Effective work will have to bubble up at city and state levels before it makes it to a federal level.

Family

We bought a car! Now we own a hybrid Rav 4 and it’s pretty cool! Sam did tons of work and found a deal with 0 down, 0% financing for 5 years. So it’s just incredibly easy on us and cheaper than the Budget monthly car rental we’d been doing. I’ve put in a dash cam and it’s a pretty good generic car. I got us the car insurance as well and we saved a few hundred bucks by returning the rental car early. Celebrated with some Aperol Spritz’s and they are STILL the reigning champ drink of the summer!

Got an offer on one of the Brooklyn apartments and accepted it – looking to get the deposit on it and get into contract! Now we’re wondering do we really want to sell the last one or turn it into a rental instead or what. (I really love living there, I just don’t think we can fit back into it.)

Did a little more bike riding with Zebus – she wanted to ride her bike all the way to the bakery to get a cookie! I’m so impressed with her. She did it, too!

Swale found some educational plugin for minecraft that lets you do chemistry, found the recipe for latex and how to make balloons and then tied balloons to chickens so they could fly. He’s also been saying just the sweetest stuff to me. Lots of I-love-you’s and his own special praise to me.

We spent a $60 gift card from work on a crazy strong blender from Cuisinart and its grrrreat. Already made some milkshakes and smoothies and frozen margs.

My Laptop crashed! I was going to have to ship it out for a month to get fixed, but then it started working! That’s terrifying. Good thing I do a lot of git-push on my repos, back up important stuff to our Synology DiskStation NAS. I did a bunch of work as I set up a new account for work on Sam’s laptop to get my jumpstart script to be smoother on OSX.

DIY

Sam found a cool wallpaper and we struggled it up in the downstairs bathroom and it looks great and I never want to do wallpaper again. It’s so tricky!

In the backyard I got up on a ladder with a pole saw and cut down some branches from the mulberry tree in the backyard, months too late to save the trampoline under it from turning into a giant mulberry collecter/fermenter. I either need to get a sawzall or a mini chainsaw or something to deal with all the branches – my small tension saw isn’t realllly cutting it for this many cuts.

Kinda stalled on the patio for a while.

We’ve foamed up some cable holes in the walls, need to go spackle and paint them. Also started adding trim to the bottom of the bathroom sink cabinet – trimmed off one of the cabinet shims with a Dremel to make the trim flush. Also put in some under-sink rolling trash and recycling cans in the kitchen and put handles on the cabinets.

Reading

Fun week! I’ve put http://www.morelightmorelight.com/2020/07/24/after-the-cops/ in my Kobo, along with a new Annabel Scheme book by Robin Sloan. (I love a book that comes with a makefile to get an epub, but you can read it online if that’s not your jam.

Work

Did some stuff around making documentation easier, and thinking about how to make your docs and walkthroughs look good, but be testable. Nobody likes a stale documentation site! Also getting ready to launch in the UK. Office re-opening is postponed until at least September. I don’t see it happening.

Nerdery

I installed Regolith as a tiling window manager for my laptop and it seems pretty cool. Took a little while to get used to, but I’m wondering why it isn’t easier to just drag windows into tiling window manager with the mouse. I spend a fair amount of time fiddling with things to get them looking right, so why is this better then just dragging a bunch of windows into the right spot?

If you’ve got a terminal open right now try this:

http://wttr.in/?format=v2

Pretty cool! They have tons of formats available so you could make widgets on your desktop or tmux statusline.

Blackfish City – urban ecopocalypse seasteading heist

Just finished Sam Miller’s beautiful book in the wee dark hours and it is a GEM. Qaanaaq is a place – I can see it and feel it’s culture, smell the noodles and the brine, feel the bitter cold. It’s like a long Geoff Manaugh article come to life. The nano-bonded orca-amazon that opens the book is one of the least weird things in it.

This book is start to finish what Robin Sloan calls gold coins, fascinating little surprises. Beyond the end actually – in the acknowledgments I discovered Bradley Silver’s modern tattoo work at white rabbit studio.

I enjoyed this as much as The Fifth Season, which is to say: immensely. Ended up checking it out twice from the NYPL on my Kobo just to savor through it.

Week 3044

Books

Just finished up Tigerman by Nick Harkaway and it was a delight. A lovely struggle of a man who wants to be a father and ends up being a mysterious crime fighter, set against a post colonial outpost island sentenced to die and rotting as a Black Fleet uses the death of a nation to set up a zone without law. Really good fast-moving stuff of heroes and villains. Randomly checked out Lost Gods by Brom from the NYPL ebooks and it is holding up so far, though I feel irrationally suspicious that it will disappoint.

Also started The Fifth Risk after being reminded of Michael Lewis by the excellent Against the Rules podcast. I’m a bit full up on the mind bending horror of this age, though. My heart is really struggling for more meaningful ways to contribute within the time I’ve got.

Code

Got an hour or so over the weekend to make a wee bit more movement on the Trello release notes.

Researched X-API-Warn, X-API-DeprecationDate, DeprecationWarning (Python), Obsolete (C#), and @Deprecated(Java).

Work

I learned that you typically have 2 months of leaving notice in India and I can’t quite wrap my mind around it and all the implications of staffing and pacing of projects.

Also started working on an internal document around API deprecation policy. We do a pretty decent job of communication etc, but I want to make it a clear guide so that we can get better at it. Standards and checklists are good for things that we intend to do often.

Some good reading around this:

Family

Maxwell is sleeping on the couch nightly. He goes from the bed to the couch in the middle of the night, some sort of bi-phasic sleep thing I imagine. Zelda sleeps through the night for the most part!

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

Finished Walkaway last night. It’s the hard utopian bit of wonderful you need in dark times. To live in the first days of a better nation, you have to build and believe that you can be in that nation before it is supported.

In Walkaway, the rich keep getting richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class is gutted out of society, fearfully scrambling to keep out of poverty and ignoring how close they are to being out on the street. Automation keeps progressing and the uber wealthy don’t need surplus people.

There’s no death camps, there’s just no jobs and no safety net and no healthcare for the unneeded.

So some folks walk away from money and just do for each other. That’s a threat to the base of a greed-sick society, so that society moves to protect itself.

The police are sent to deal with these terrorists and thieves.

The walkaway road is very hard and very dangerous and some people die.

I’m more energized than before to act to fix the place where I love, because what I do matters.  (You too.)

Two weeks with the Kobo Aura One

My nook finally died, so I upgraded to a Kobo Aura One

I wanted to treat myself to a really good e-reader.

Why not another nook? Meh. I heard that this one was pretty amazing. I don’t really like being locked into one store. Why not a kindle? Amazon already knows a hell of a lot about me and my family, we don’t really need to give them anymore info.

Besides, I heard a group of loyal and passionate readers contributed to the design of this reader. That’s a good sign that they made product testing part of the campaign.

What I like about it:

  • It’s waterproof. I can read in the tub or the rain. Which I do.
  • The integration with Pocket works great. Instead of falling down a twitter hole into an article in the morning, I can just send it to Pocket and set up a bunch of great reading on the subway.
  • You can check out books from the library right from it! This is a big deal – I can’t stand having to hook the thing up to a computer to transfer library books in.
  • I like the auto-warm light for nighttime.
  • Little stats all through it warm my nerd heart! Lots of little measures of how fast you’re reading or how many minutes of book you’ve got left sprinkled throughout the interface.
  • Easy to load on e-pub files!

Could be better:

It’s too big. Only fits in one jacket I own! My nook used to even fit in my back jeans pocket.

Wishlist:

I wish I could buy an e-reader that could integrate with my Calibre library of drm-free epub files. If I’m on a wi-fi network with a Calibre library, why can’t I have some sort of UPNP browsing through the books I’ve got? I’d chip in on development if this were a thing someone was making.

 

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read so much ABOUT this book that I thought I read it. Everyone talks about the gender fluid sex, but it isn’t that big of a deal in the story.

Duality and oneness are the themes – the most upfront example is how gender works on Winter, but there’s also the differences in how the main societies and governments function with openness/decentralized/feudal vs closed/centralized/communal.

The political intrigues that drive our protagonist across societies and from civilization into wilderness are gripping – and then it turns into an endurance adventure. I didn’t see that coming! Also, I’m not that into endurance adventures.

I’m probably going to reread this in a few years to see if I notice more.

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The Shooting by James Boice

Sonder
Guns
Narcissism

Sonder is what you feel when you are sitting on a plane, waiting for people to board and you realize that every person passing you is on a journey. This plane ride is an important part of their life and in their life you are just a minor character, a background actor. In the grand show of their life you’re an extra paid to mumble “rutabaga” to look like you’re talking.

Sonder is when you look down at the city and see people walking around knowing you’ll never know those stories. Everyone of those people are telling themselves and the world a story about who they are, what they’ve done, why. You’re telling a story too. You’ll never know even a hundredth part of the hundredth part of the stories around you. They’ll never know yours, but theirs are just as rich and complex, as painstakingly prepared. The camera of thought pulls back and back and back and the self becomes a dot, a pixel.

Sonder is when the impact of the world crashes into your head and you draw breath and feel not small but part of something huge.
sonder

Guns are a tool for killing. Guns are a tool for equalizing power. Guns are a force multiplier – they let you do a thing you would do, but do it more easily, more powerfully, more irrevocably.

The world is full of nice people and nasty people who want guns for similar and different reasons. Most people say they want guns for hunting animals or protecting themselves from nasty people. Of course, opinions differ as to who the nasty people are. Of course, opinions differ on if there are other, harder to speak reasons for wanting a tool that equalizes power. Guns are very American and our myths are full of people with guns. We love our guns and we hold them tight.

Narcissism is a perspective where the camera of thought is eternally turned in selfie mode. All things are seen with the self in the foreground. A tragedy is seen in terms of the properties one owns near it, not the many stories abruptly shortened by it or the tears of the survivors.

Narcissism is weird because it is very hard. The world is constantly connecting you, shaping you, crashing you into other people and changing you. To stand aside from all that and see it just in terms of yourself requires telling some inventive stories that don’t match with reality and abandoning what is for what isn’t. It’s hard to build the house of your life on something other than earth so it requires constant maintenance to shore up the false foundations, to insulate yourself, protect yourself, buffer against what is.

The Shooting  is a painfully good book about Sonder, Guns & Narcissism by my friend James Boice. Reading it made me happy, then sad, then angry at James for hurting me, then laughing, then happy again, then very happy. The structure of the book is Sonder. The focus of the plot is Guns. The antagonist is Narcissism.

No that’s probably a silly way to put it. It’s about a hurt boy who becomes a man, a shooting, and who got hurt by the shooting. No, that’s not right. The book is really a bunch of people, but the protagonist is Narcissism, the book barely has Guns in it and the antagonist is Sonder, trying to keep a Gun from firing.

I’m sorry, I keep getting this wrong. The book is about America, and how Narcissism takes a Gun and shoots Sonder in the head, then makes the story about itself.

I loved this book, I read it on subways and in bathrooms and finally all at once in bed staying up into the wee hours of the night until it was done. I hope you enjoy it and want to talk about it with me when we see each other.

Review: A Burglar’s Guide to the City

A Burglar's Guide to the City
A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a fan of Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG, which is only nominally a study of architecture through strange lenses. (One of the first posts as I write this looks at an art study of the bacteria on money and how it travels through society and compares to seeds being transmitted through ancient boat ballast.)

And who doesn’t love burglary and heist movies – I’m in it for the naughtiness of penetrating forbidden places and urban exploration.

This book is a loving review of how architecture affects burglary, how burglary affects architecture, how the architecture of a city affects the burglary and then affects how policing responds. The helicopter patrols of L.A. sprawl are a response just as the vertical patrols of giant housing projects reflect their own landscapes.

We delve into locks, lockpicking, escaping, getaways, tunnels through earth, air, traffic, and buildings themselves.

At the end is the sobering reflection that all of this is only interesting as the edges of burglary, the mythical kind of burglary. Real burglary is too often full of ugly nastiness, destruction and damage to the lives of those burgled.

I really enjoyed the discussions on Nakatomi space and turning on burglar eyes to see architecture in a different way – it’s an easy read and I’d recommend it.

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Review: Dad Is Fat

Dad Is Fat
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s not really a great book, but it is a great thing to have in the bathroom. Think of a comic working on a series of small riffs on parenthood and writing them down.

That’s what this book is.

The best part is Jim explaining how they put 5 children to sleep in a 2 bedroom apartment, with diagrams. Given the complexity of putting down one child, I’m flabbergasted. My gasts are really flabbery after reading this book.

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