l33tminion: (Bookhead (Nagi))
I meant to get around to write a post on the reading I did at Sandy last week. But last week was exhausting, and the weekend was pretty busy. I didn't have nearly as much interrupted reading time as some years, but I did get in a good thousand pages:

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea: This conspiracy-weird-humor cult-classic novel has definitely left its mark on pop culture, and it's certainly one of the things I was making reference to way before I actually read it. A sensible read given how fond I am of RAW's humor re the Principia Discordia and the like, but to be honest I think the Principia is quite a lot funnier. Still, if you read that and decide you'd like more of the same but want something that's heavier on the narrative, a lot less G-rated, and about a kajillion times longer, Illuminatus! is pretty good.

Class by Paul Fussell: Fussell's musings on the American status system are most interesting when he's relating other people's take on the subject (e.g. the idea that class politics might be divided among factions of "The Guilty" and "The Cross" certainly seems to have some present-day relevance). Most of the book is Fussell's extensive cataloging of differences between social classes in America. To put it another way, Fussell defines the middle class as being motivated largely by anxiety about their (in)ability to rise in the class hierarchy, and the bulk of the book by that view is mostly middle-class-baiting. Many of Fussell's observations seem to have stood the test of time pretty well. Some seem bizarre. (Is "vodka with water" really an upper-class drink, and was it ever? A little on that topic turns up this interview with "The Gronk", who is certainly rich and (semi?)famous, but would a pro-athelete be upper-class in Fussell's taxonomy? Fussell says that it's a middle-class mistake to focus too much on profession, but he also might have something to say about that nickname.) The book concludes with a chapter on the role of college in the status system, which is one of the more interesting bits given how the higher-education bubble has developed since. In Fussell's view, the problem is that college is advertised based on average increases in earning potential, but this conflates selective universities (which help) and non-selective colleges (which don't). That problem seems to have been "fixed".

Minimalist Parenting by Christine K. Koh and Asha Dornfest: The book this most reminds me of is Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. It certainly has a similar philosophical bent. But Caplan's book had a pretty clear thrust of argument (people underestimate the benefits of parenting and overestimate the returns on certain kinds of parenting effort, therefore they underestimate the number of children they should have; instead of stressing out about the prospect of parenting, maybe consider having (more) children and just being lazier about it) and it backs up that argument in the sort of way you might expect an economist like Caplan to do. Minimalist Parenting, likewise, is what you'd expect from two bloggers, basically an organized collection of "lifehacks"; less in the way of numbers, more in the way of "try it and see".
l33tminion: (L33t)
Last weekend, we went to Lubbock to visit Julie's folks. Erica got to spend some quality time with her grandparents and get in another visit with her great-grandma. We also took her to see the animals at the South Plains Fair. Scott (Julie's dad) made homemade paella, which was really good! Was nice to get in some good times with family.

This week work was quite busy. Wednesday I went out to the Olin campus for the fall career fair. I love helping with campus recruiting, it's always great to get back to Olin and see the current crop of students, they always really seem to have it together. It's strange to be so far removed from undergrad, still feels like not that long ago. (Enjoyed the lunch, too. The Olin dining hall is now run by Rebecca's Cafe instead of Sodexo, and that seems to be a big improvement.)

Speaking of Olin, I've also been reading a book by one of my Olin profs, A Whole New Engineer, about Olin and Olin's collaboration with the iFoundry at the University of Illinois. Pretty interesting so far. While I already knew a lot of the background about Olin, I didn't know much about the iFoundry program, which seems to be an attempt to replicate some of Olin's successes with a small, low-budget program at a much larger university.

This weekend was mostly pretty quiet. I managed to play a bit of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on Saturday (worth the time, though I stayed up a bit later than ideal). Sunday, went to Octoberfest in Harvard Square, which was for some reason not postponed to the rain date despite pouring rain. The weather was pretty lousy, but I don't regret trying to make the most of it since it got me out of the house. Erica napped in her stroller and I enjoyed a little bit of the music (though from a bit of a distance; Erica's ability to sleep through brass bands, while impressive, is not unlimited).

I took down the AC yesterday, just in time. So much easier when I get to it while the weather is still dry.

Of course, I've also been following the presidential election with great interest. Looking forward to the second debate tonight (will probably brave the weather to watch that in company instead of streaming it at home). Though I'm also looking forward to this whole thing being over. (How much crazier can it get in less than a month?)

Erisitic improvements: Erica is eating a bit more adult food (she really liked having some of Julie's scrambled eggs this morning), she's more interested in playing with blocks (though not yet up to nesting or stacking, mostly just hitting together or knocking down), she seems to be understanding some words (maybe???), she's more visibly interested in hearing people read aloud (though she doesn't yet follow along or turn the pages or pay attention to specifics).
l33tminion: (Smile)
Work continues to be busy but tiring. I'm only now getting to clearing some of my backlog both there and at home. Hence the delay in posting.

Two weekends ago (Labor Day weekend) was my sister's wedding! It was a wedding retreat, a whole weekend with immediate family old and new at a vacation home in the mountains in Newry, Maine. The wedding was beautiful, and the whole weekend was very relaxing. Congratulations again to Melissa and Elliott!

The highlight of the weekend for me, actual wedding aside, was taking the kid on her first hike. I bought an awesome backpack carrier, Eris enjoyed surveying her domain, and it was quite a workout! You can really tell the optimists from the pessimists among the people you pass on a steep hike, the former tell you encouragingly that the summit is right around the corner, the latter tell you accurately that it's still quite a ways. (One inversely-directed hiker compared Erica in her backpack to "the Queen of Sheba", to which I responded "and I, her loyal servant".) I definitely need to get in some more use of that backpack. It's fun!

(That and stargazing from the roof deck of the house. It's been a long time since I've had such a good view of the stars.)

I've been trying to get in more of activities I consider worth having done in retrospect and less of stuff that seems like a waste of time. It's not always what I expect.

Things that were good uses of my free time:
  • Going to Michelle's birthday party
  • An extended Sunday brunch that ended up taking all of the morning and a bit of the afternoon
  • Getting back to reading S.
  • Starting to read Fix (the conclusion of a trilogy)
  • Reading books in general, including on the Kindle app on my phone
  • Long strolls with the kid
  • Catching up on Fear the Walking Dead (even though that's not nearly as good as the show it's a spinoff of)
  • Watching Dennou Coil (most briefly described as "Google Glass the anime")
  • LJ discussion threads, even though it takes me entirely to long to edit entirely too wordy comments
  • Cooking, even when it's something simple
Things that were not good uses of my time:
  • A super-aimless Saturday morning, where it took me far too long to get up and do anything
  • Playing a bit of Borderlands (I thought I would enjoy it, but it was just too repetitive and grindy)
  • Excessive Facebook browsing
Erica is developing really quickly and seems to be really having fun with her rapid increase in capabilities. She loves playing with her toys, especially an electronic music-box that's all flashing primary-colored lights and snippets of classical music, anything with moving parts she can manipulate, and anything that makes noise when she hits it against the floor.

Eristic improvements: Dancing (including moving to the beat of music), standing assisted, bouncing up and down from a standing position (every day is leg day!), pulling herself up to sitting, kneeling, or half-standing poses on her own. Getting bored mid-hygiene and trying to get away (come back, baby!). Trying to get into the container of wipes to chew on them (evidently delicious?). Eating more varieties of food (though her reaction to some really new things is very dramatic: super-exaggerated disgust-face followed by demanding more followed by surprised laughter at every bite). Trying to remove books from lower bookshelves (the bungee cords are deterrent enough for now). She still is way into making that growling sound, too!
l33tminion: (HHGTG Stub)
Unlike previous years, this year's trip to Sandy Island Camp wasn't a digital hiatus. I didn't leave my phone at home this time. For one thing, I wanted to have the camera, and for another, I was driving and wanted to bring the phone for nav. But unless I'm really committed to taking a complete break from the internet (and I wasn't), I won't do it, so I spent a lot of my time at camp listening to podcasts or huddled in the shadow of the internet shed.1

But it did mean a lot of time to relax, particularly as the kid had two grandparents and an aunt who wanted to make the most of quality time. Early on, it was, "Can I watch the baby? Change a diaper? Take her for a walk?" Sure, if you insist! Later in the week, it was more like the kid would just vanish and I'd look up and think, "Where did the baby go?"

Eris is still determinedly working on improving her mobility. This makes her extra interactive, but also extra tired and hungry. Introducing her to new foods is fun, and she eats not nearly as messily as I would have expected. Aside from rice cereal, we've gotten in some banana (her favorite) and plain yogurt (which she also liked).

I did manage to get in a bit of reading at camp (though I notably did not read any books from start to finish):

Piketty's Capital - I started reading this at Sandy last summer, planned to find some time to finish it during the year, and failed to do so. It's pretty interesting, though, as a historical account of the conditions that caused inherited fortunes to dominate the landscape of wealth in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and why those conditions were notably absent for much of the 20th century. It's also interesting as a bit of futurism that predicts a return to low growth, extreme wealth inequality, a shrinking middle class, and the reemerging dominance of inherited fortunes. The last part, concerning policy recommendations, will be of interest to liberals, horrifying to libertarians, and probably politically infeasible in any case. Still, I agree with Bill Gates that the book is worth your time if you're interested in the topic.

Haidt's The Righteous Mind - Started this book some time before camp. This book's subtitle "Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" promises more than the book delivers, and Haidt has blind-spots you could drive a truck through, and for all that he notes that he's a former liberal, Haidt seems to think that some of the moral intuitions he cites are absent from liberal politics instead of employed in different ways. Still, it's not bad as a pop-science book about moral psychology.

(If the author's name sounds familiar, Haidt has most recently gotten a lot of attention for writing conservative "what's wrong with the kids these days" think-pieces, including this one in The Atlantic.)

Cities and Space: The Future Use of Urban Land - Started but haven't finished yet. A collection of essays that was a product of an academic symposium, published in 1966. Interesting so far. Notably, it leads off with an essay that predicts the main problem of urban land in the future will be its ever-declining value as transportation and communication costs trend towards zero (the author also predicts that automated freeway navigation systems will allow traffic to flow at 150 mph bumper-to-bumper).

The weather at camp was pleasantly cool, and that continued on our return. (Had to get out a jacket, unusual for July.) Julie's dad was in town for a conference, and that Sunday was my 30th birthday, so we had some fun celebratory meals. Not a bad milestone. I did seem to manage to check all the boxes just in time for the end of my 20s.

Since then, summer has once again turned on the heat.

The handyman is scheduled to do some work on the house related to baby-proofing and climate control, but that's been delayed because he's sick. Hopefully the delay won't be too long.

I've been playing Undertale, which really is as good as people have claimed. And I have played a bit of that new Pokémon game that everyone (kind of shockingly close to literally everyone) is talking about.2

Eristic improvements: Substantial increases in mobility. Maintaining pre-crawling pose, reverse-gear backwards scooting, improved rolling. I'd say the kid is almost to crawling. In fact, she just got in her first bit of what might technically be crawling, which involved taking a lot of wind-up bounces before flinging a leg forward. She's also become more talkative. Definitely making the transition from cooing to babbling, some of her vocalizations are now recognizably featuring syllables and consonants. Some improvements in skill at manipulating objects, particularly those spoons.

1. The camp office, sole source of wifi on the island. There is some cell reception but it's terrible, particularly on T-Mobile.
2. I joked that it turns out that all Ingress needed to be wildly popular was to be combined with the most successful video-game franchise of all time. Of course, that's not really a joke, and it shouldn't really be so surprising that's a winning formula. (Though I do wonder if the game will have staying power, or if its popularity will be a brief fad.)
l33tminion: (Rock!)
Housing acquired! Picking up keys tomorrow, move scheduled for mid-November.

It took an extra week due to circumstances beyond our control (some finicky details about an international deed transfer not done correctly the first time by the seller). But now it's done for real.

Stress is still wearing on me. Still, there are quite a few things I'm really looking forward to: Spending time with cousins this weekend, my mom is visiting town next weekend, there's an Ingress event in Boston next Saturday, and the weekends after that include some last-minute trips home.

I led a tech talk on interviewing at Google at Olin last week, and I'll be at Olin again for the career fair and a tech interviews panel discussion this week. I really enjoy helping out with that aspect of recruiting!

I saw The Martian on a work movie outing on Friday. The book is great, and the movie is a great adaptation. For the most part, it sticks closely to the book's plot with some judicious trimming for time. Though it does manage to make the book's over-the-top ending even more implausible, and there are a few moments where the cuts cause some of the funny bits to make less sense, or where the movie goes a little bit too far with putting viewer-friendly interfaces on everything. If you at all think you might like a story about an astronaut trying to survive being stranded on Mars, I recommend you see the movie and watch the book, in either order.
l33tminion: (L33t)
Housing acquisition process is less of a to-do this week than last, but there's still a lot to do.

I did get some quiet time this weekend. Made pasta a la farmers market, finished reading The Magicians (pretty good twist on the magical YA genre, though the protagonist is thoroughly unlikable), and played The Last of Us: Left Behind (really good story and gameplay, for those that enjoyed The Last of Us this is more of what made that good, well worth the price of the DLC). I do like games where I can get something complete in the course of an afternoon.

I also started on Shadownrun: Hong Kong, which seems to live up to its predecessors so far (like the previous Shadowrun Returns games, it's a standalone story, not a sequel per se).
l33tminion: (L33t)
Wanted to write a bit about what I read at Sandy and during all that plane travel:

Seveneves: My Neil Stephenson tome for the summer. It took me until halfway through the book before I realized how the title is supposed to be pronounced. It's not Stephenson's best, but I thought it was a good book, especially if you like your science fiction with a lot of orbital dynamics.

Theories of Translation: A set of essays on translating literature. I read the companion volume, The Craft of Translation, some summers ago. The themes are pretty interesting, but a lot of the essays cover the same themes (e.g. the great debate between literal translation that makes manifest the foreignness of the original text and artfully paraphrased translation that's the sort of thing the author would have written, had they written in the target language in the first place). A few of the essays are extremely entertaining, though, in particular José Ortega y Gasset's "The Misery and the Splendor of Translation" and Nabakov's "Problems of Translation: Onegin in English" (Nabokov has some very interesting and well-argued ideas about how he intends to write his translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, and his commentary on earlier translations is quite funny, though presumably not for the earlier translators).

Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Only made it through the first half, but was interesting enough that I plan to read the rest. Piketty does a little bit too much discussing literary or pop-culture examples of the trends he's analyzing for my taste, but overall it's mostly well-grounded and interesting historical discussion of the macro political and economic trends that are likely to define significant differences between the 20th century and the 21st, as the "demographic shift" (the effect of slowing population growth) continues to take its course. If you already have a strong opinion about whether it's the sort of book you'd find interesting, you're probably right. (Bill Gates's review of the book is also worth a read.)

Halting State: The first book in "a trilogy of near-future Scottish police procedurals about crimes that don't exist yet, written in multi-viewpoint second person". Really enjoyable pulp sci-fi. Unfortunately this trilogy stopped at two books because all the speculative elements have turned surprisingly realistic since the series was started in 2006.

Apex: More pulpy sci-fi. If you liked the first two books in the series, definitely worth a read. If you have no idea what I'm talking about and you'd like a sci-fi thriller by an author who's big into transhumanism, start with the first book.
l33tminion: (Yay!)
Media I've consumed lately:

Existence by David Brin - Brin writes far future sci-fi with a lot of references to the present and a strong ideological bent (if you're familiar with his nonfiction or his blog, large parts of this book seem like an author tract). That said, this sprawling story about humanity's encounter with an alien message in a bottle is an enjoyable read. If you like Brin's earlier work (especially Earth) or sprawling multi-threaded sci-fi tomes like Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, give this one a try.

Ex Machina - A programmer is summoned to the remote estate of an eccentric software billionaire genius. He soon is told that his purpose is to play the questioner in thought experiment where the subject is an experimental AI. It's hard to go into more detail without spoilers, except to say that if that premise sounds good to you, you'll probably enjoy the movie. I thought it was pretty good.

Time of Eve: Another Act by Kei Mizuichi - This one is a novelization of the anime of the same name (trailer here). The adaptation sticks pretty close, but I think the movie is better, so I'll recommend that first. The story is Asimov by way of Japan, and if you like Asimovian robot stories at all, you shouldn't miss this one. It's brilliant.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: It's very entertaining!
l33tminion: (L33t)
I've been having a relaxing time in Lubbock with family and family friends. Julie's parents are wonderful hosts, as always. All her siblings made it into town, and Julie's uncle even drove down from Canada (!) to visit. Christmas dinner was delicious, and people got me and Julie really nice and thoughtful gifts.

I finished reading The Feminine Mystique. That was an influential book for a reason, and it's a very interesting look into late 1950s feminism. That plus The Two Income Trap (which I also read recently) make a very interesting pair of book-ends for the latter half of the 20th century.

Also read How Children Learn. Wonderful book, really interesting and optimistic stuff. I really wish John Holt had succeeded in more of his education reform goals, but I really need to read more by him and his cohort.

Julie and I saw two movies on the trip, Mockingjay - Part 1 (very well put-together, though I still think they could have made the book into a single movie) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (I enjoyed it; while I don't think this trilogy is as good as Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, it certainly stands up as an entertaining big-budget cinema spectacle). Saw the latter film at Alamo Drafthouse, which really deserves its reputation as the best big theater chain. Wish there was one in the Boston area.

On Sunday, I got a terrible stomach bug (the only bad bit of my trip) and spent the day drinking tea and watching Psycho-Pass (a cyberpunk dystopian police procedural, in a somewhat similar vein to Ghost in the Shell; worth watching if you like the genre, the first season is up on Netflix).

We were going to return to Boston today, but our flight was canceled on account of some ice. We're now scheduled to get in tomorrow, will see how that turns out.
l33tminion: (Keepon)
Another week where I don't have the energy to post about the weekend until the next weekend.

Last weekend, Julie's dad visited us in Boston. We took a side-trip to Concord, New Hampshire, went to see the symphony at Tanglewood (Beethoven's 9th, an amazing performance), and had some amazing meals (in particular, my first time dining at the new(ish) Boston branch of Fogo De Chao).

On Wednesday, we went to a concert at Club Passim along with Xave and Sarah. Hanna Sanders and Liz Simmons opened, Katie McNally and her trio were the headline performance. Both acts were really amazing, it had been too long since the last time since I caught a show at Passim. We were hoping to get a meal at Veggie Planet (the restaurant at Passim) before it closed for good, but it seems they already packed up shop. Hopefully Passim will be able to replace the restaurant for its dinner concerts, but they were running a pretty good concession stand.

Work has been busy. I had an important meeting with a technical contact at an airline this week. I did some good work this week and encountered some frustration. Today had good parts, yesterday was a disaster. But I survive, to the long weekend. Performance reviews are coming up once again, but what do I have to show for the last six months? Much accomplished, but little complete. A bit frustrating.

The produce box that arrived today contains cantaloupe and callaloo (some strange green, but that name is used for a variety of vaguely related greens, so I don't know which one precisely this is).

I finished Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall (good story and setting, an interesting game) and read Lexicon (a pulpy thriller, very similar premise to Snow Crash but a less satirical setting).

Workouts have been good, but I have a bit of a pulled muscle in my neck. It's recovering, though.

Really glad to have a long weekend.
l33tminion: (Microbes)
The good news is that today, I finally have some time to relax! Bad news, however, is "because I'm home with a terrible stomach bug".

Last weekend, went to my cousin Ben's wedding. Was great seeing so much of my family, and Rhinebeck, NY was really pretty.

The first part of that book discussion of Oryx and Crake that I participated in appeared in this week's episode of the C-Realm Podcast.

At work, I'm trying to get a project I've been working on a while completed, but it's accumulated so much stuff along the way that it's confusing to test and review. So trying to untangle that and get it tested and checked in piece by piece. There's so much to do.
l33tminion: (Conga!)
Last weekend was DJ and Michelle's wedding. I was honored to be in the wedding party. Many congratulations to the happy couple!

Work is still crazy. Last week got my promo feedback. The bad news is that I didn't get promoted, even though I'd thought my case was strong enough this time. The good news is I got more positive and more specific feedback than my last attempt: Work on larger projects with a broader scope, show leadership by doing things that facilitate / coordinate the efforts of a larger group. I've made some adjustments to my plans with those priorities in mind, and last week was wildly productive. I hope I can maintain that rate of productivity.

Today, I participated in a discussion of the book Oryx and Crake for the C-Realm Podcast. The book is worth reading if you like dystopian / apocalyptic fiction. Just checked the sequel out from the library.

The book group at work just finished a book of Joel Spolsky's essays, which was interesting but probably not very helpful in my day-to-day work. But our next choice is Working Effectively With Legacy Code, which I expect will be mind-explodingly relevant.

The weather is summery this weekend. Today was a beautiful day for biking, and I made it home just in time to avoid a torrential late-afternoon downpour. Temps getting up near 80 on Monday.

Julie is away this weekend visiting her folks for Mother's Day. Next weekend is my cousin Ben's wedding.
l33tminion: (L33t)
I'm back from camp!

My week away from everything was very relaxing. Mainly, I did a lot of reading. My reading list:
  • VALIS by Phillip K Dick: Phillip K Dick's book about how Phillip K Dick is crazy
  • REAMDE by Neal Stephenson: My one Neal Stephenson book per year, a pretty quick read for a thousand page book
  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Weird-topian sci-fi, good, very strange
  • Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber: Fascinating economic history, really cuts to the heart of some of what's wrong about modern economics
  • Cooked by Michael Pollan: Not as good as The Omnivore's Dilemma, but if you liked that you'll probably like this as well
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi: Dystopian biopunk novel, suspenseful, clever, and disturbing
I also spent some time watching the wildlife (unusually bold deer, a mother duck herding a dozen ducklings, a very angry sparrow attacking a fleeing squirrel), went on a shopping trip to Wolfeboro, played cribbage, and had some long conversations with my parents.

I was back from camp last Saturday, and went immediately back to being completely swamped with work and wedding logistics.

It's been good weather for biking, so I've been enjoying my new Hubway membership.

My birthday was yesterday, Julie treated me to a lovely birthday dinner at TW Foods.

Getting married in a month!
l33tminion: (Exile)
Intercon was fun. Hiterby Dragons is one heck of a setting.

Speaking of games and settings, I'm excited to see that Shadowrun Returns has completed their Kickstarter and is well underway with the development of their game. Shadowrun is a great setting, the tabletop game had mechanics that really worked well with that setting, and the developers of this game really seem to get that. Does that mean the game will be good? Don't know, but early footage is promising.

Another thing I want to point out of definite interest to computer RPG fans, this Kickstarter for a Planescape: Torment sequel. Now, I can provide even less confidence that this one will be good; Planescape: Torment continually comes up on lists of the best RPGs, the setting is interesting and fantastic and the writing is superb, it won't be easy to match. I would have been glad to see another game in the Planescape setting, certainly Torment explored only a tiny fraction of that. But the developers of this game are taking a different approach, taking another deep setting (Monte Cook's Numenera, an as of yet unreleased and vastly overfunded tabletop setting from game designer Monte Cook) and creating a game with similar plot and themes to Torment, with a focus on writing that develops the character and setting in interesting ways, focusing on exploration and choice. Worth taking a look at the Kickstarter if you were a fan of the original, they seem to have a good team (including some of the people who worked on Torment at Interplay) and certainly enough funds to make a good attempt. (Plus the intro to their Kickstarter video is pretty funny.)

This trend of Kickstarter as an indie game publishing platform is pretty interesting. The obvious interesting thing is that Kickstarter has been successful at funding projects that major publishers might find too small / risky / unprofitable. What's struck me lately is that there are a lot of different sorts of Kickstarter projects. These two feature old, established game developers returning to beloved projects that they couldn't return to in a big-company context, collaborating with young indie devs. That's pretty different from an established game company choosing crowd-funding over a publisher. Or from two people with a new-IP prototype seeking to complete their game.


On an entirely different topic: I've been thinking about cookbooks. Lately, I've been mostly cooking from recipes found on the internet or just winging it. But in the past, I enjoyed browsing through cookbooks and planning elaborate meals. It's also pleasant to idly thumb through cookbooks, too, they're nice to have around. They can be beautiful and interesting art objects in addition to culinary references and containers of delicious recipes. So I thought I'd ask, oh readers of this journal, what are your favorite cookbooks?
l33tminion: (Default)
Friday: Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross book talk at Brookline Booksmith (there doesn't seem to be video of that, but here's an earlier version of the talk/reading). They were talking about their as-weird-as-possible novel collaboration, The Rapture of the Nerds, and how the ideas behind the modern version of "the singularity" date back (at least) to a late-19th-century rocket scientist and theologian.

Saturday: Belgian Beer Fest, featuring quite a variety of local brewers and imports. The highlight for me was Night Shift Brewing, a local gem I was previously unaware of. Also went to the Greek Music and Food Festival, which featured traditional dance in elaborate costume.

Sunday: Union Square hosted a music festival entitled Help! Our Bands are On Fire to assist members of The Columbia House, a local artists' household destroyed by a house-fire.

Unfortunately, I must also mention another piece of sad news: ITAer and famed Lisp hacker Dan Weinreb died last Friday.
l33tminion: (Slacker Revolt)
Sandy was good! Took some classes in the craftshop, enjoyed a shopping trip to Wolfeboro, saw some spectacular fireworks, went on some kayaking adventures, played cribbage, spent time with my family, and read on the beach.

Reading list was relatively short this time:

Lamb by Christopher Moore - Enjoyed it, but maybe Moore's style of humor isn't quite my preference?

The System of the World by Neal Stephenson - What a trilogy the Baroque Cycle was! Amazing stuff, though it took me some time to get through.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami - A simple, existential memoir about art, discipline, and the course of life. Well worth reading, especially if you're a fan of Murakami (and especially if you like his more contemplative stuff, like After Dark (which I read at Sandy last year)).


Also, today is my birthday. It's been a good year, and I'm looking forward to the next.
l33tminion: (Default)
Saw The Hunger Games last night. I thought the film was about as faithful an adaptation of the book as one could hope for, given the constraints of perspective, running time, and the movie business. Worth watching if you like dystopian fiction.

There's a good round-up on the adaptation choices here. BoingBoing has a good review, and OverthinkingIt discusses the movie and the books.

It is worth noting that the movie (as the book) plays the scenario dead-straight, unlike similar stories like Battle Royale which color their over-the-top scenarios with grim irony and dark humor. The movie even more so than the book because of the lack of internal monologue. Actually, the movie seems very precisely calculated to avoid irony in it's presentation to the greatest extent possible, just as precisely as it avoids receiving that R rating.
l33tminion: (Climbing)
Climbing this week: Passed a 5.8-, failed a 5.9, climbed a weird 5.7, failed some bouldering courses. Overall, not as bad as I'd expected after missing it for a while.

Last weekend was the first quiet weekend I've had in a while. Next weekend I'll be on the train back to Cleveland for Thanksgiving break. Julie will be visiting before Thanksgiving on one leg of a zig-zag cross-country tour.

I finished reading A Game of Thrones, which was good, or at the very least one of the fastest 800-page books I've ever read. The TV show is in some ways better, the pacing is tighter (by necessity), some of the foreshadowing has clearly been edited with the benefit of hindsight, the most awesome scenes are preserved (or, in some cases, improved), and the few tweaks to characterization are mostly improvements. I recommend both.
l33tminion: (L33t)
Programming: Here's an article on binary math in C. For more practical stuff (in you're a Python programmer), read this bit on the fileinput library in Python (very useful, but I hadn't heard of it previously).

Essays: Ever play Monopoly and wonder why the game (as you were taught) is so slow? That's because you were taught wrong.

Douglas Hofstatder makes a point about language by analogy.

A piece on the book and television series Game of Thrones and how it relates to the aesthetic of fascism.

Economics and Society: Foxconn (major Chinese electronics manufacturer) to replace workers with robots. But of course the increased automation will lead to new opportunities for those workers, once freed of the drudgery of such boring jobs?

Meanwhile, there's this HuffPo article about women increasingly turning to prostitution (called by other names) in order to pay tuition or student loans.

A Bit of History: A story about a computer virus that DDOSed the entire internet in 2003. (The Akami tech featured in the article is a friend of mine, he currently spends his time making the mathematical art published here.)

A story about the short and violent life of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, gang member, murderer, and murder victim before he was killed in 1994 at the age of 11.

Misc: A talk on organizing an art show featuring 100 different artists, who are all the same artist.

An article on the challenges involved in Arabic-language localization for film.

A short story titled Nanolaw with Daughter.
l33tminion: (Nom)
This weekend has been pretty intense, and I've still got Monday to go.

I feel like the last few months I've been slipping on my fitness. I'm ~159 lbs., up from 151 in June. I'd thought that gain was more of a temporary blip, but it seems to have settled in to a more long-term plateau, so more dramatic action will be required to start pushing my ratio towards muscle again. So more lifting and more cardio this week. Started off with a very intense workout with my trainer on Saturday and an extra half-hour on the elliptical. (Nothing today. It is vital that I get to the gym on Monday, even though I'm off work for Presidents Day.)

Saturday evening there was a dance for Squares, which was pretty fun.

Sunday afternoon went to the Boston Lamb Jam with DJ and Michelle. Had amazing food from local (and not-so-local) restaurants and some incredible beer (tasted Cape Ann Brewing Company's Fisherman's Tea Party barleywine and Blue Hills Brewery's Antimatter Pale Ale).

In the evening, I was sitting in the 1369 drinking tea and reading and the whole experience was just sort of surreal. A traveling snowshoe hiker was pouring over a trail map, and I struck up a brief conversation. A gray-bearded man at the table across from me was reading Medea. A group of surprisingly well-dressed friends discussed local brunch venues. It fit the mood perhaps too well that the book I was reading was Greg Egan's short story collection, Axiomatic.

Currently, watching the start of the third season of Avatar and taking it easy.

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