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Inspired by caius’ “What are you working on” thread and the fact that I haven’t seen one of these in a while.

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    The State of the Art by Iain M Banks, The Peripherial by William Gibson.

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      The State of the Art by Iain M Banks

      The Culture series is one of my favorites. The Player of Games is the best, IMHO, though I really liked Excession and Surface Detail too.

      (No spoilers: the motivation for and consequences of the war in Surface Detail is Banks at his best.)

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        I need to read more Banks. His Culture novels seriously blew my mind. They’re what caused me to finally deeply grok the idea of a post materialism society and what that could mean. Sign me up!

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          Somehow my overall impression about The Peripherial after reading it was that Gibson is getting old.

          I don’t mean it as a bad thing, but I feel this way compared to other novels by him I have read. Or maybe its me getting older.

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            I re-read Gibsons trilogies while on holiday and the Blue Ant one is pretty dire. The Peripheral is a reset in a way and a really interesting take on the simulation argument, but not up to par with the first 2 trilogies.

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              What my impression was that the Peripheral has a more “tangible” end. I’ve read both the Sprawl and the Bridge trilogies earlier, and those left more questions unanswered and open in me than not. I liked both trilogies and also the Peripheral, it is not a bad book.

              I hope to look into the Blue Ant trilogy soon.

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          I’ve sunk my teeth into Practical Lock Picking, which is the definitive text for anyone wishing to get into locksport and physical penetration testing alike. Before taking the plunge into this book I’ve been surprisingly uninformed about locks. Throughout my life I’ve assumed that locks were probably boring on the inside, but it turns out I was wrong. To paraphrase the book: locks occupy a special place both in human history and in daily life of man. The arms race between pickers and designers has been a vicious battle for supremacy that has played out in slow motion throughout history. Nowadays, with the arrival of many programmers into the field, action might accelerate and head into new battlegrounds. Have a look at these two Bowley locks for a sign of things to come:

          https://youtu.be/qV8QKZNFxLw https://youtu.be/D6vioIPVzM4

          These beautiful machines are tickling my reverser nerve in new ways I didn’t know were possible.

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            Lockpicking is very relaxing…if you can find a local locksport chapter, it’s well worth the time just to fiddle with something and kinda space out until it clicks. Also, rakes are bullshit.

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            I’m down to the last 200 pages of The Fountainhead. I would not recommend it, unless you want to read a book where almost every single last character is a psychopath. I don’t think Ayn Rand understood basic human emotion.

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              The black dress seemed excessively revealing – because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.

              From Atlas Shrugged

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              “Six Not-So-Easy Pieces”. I feel now, in my middle age, I’m mature enough to tackle (again) special and general relativity.

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                “Kaupthinking” - The result of a journalist’s 10 year investigation into the largest of the Icelandic banks that crashed in 2008. It’s… just amazing (and only in Icelandic for the moment).

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                  and only in Icelandic for the moment

                  Aw, you had me excited for a bit there. Sounds like a good read!

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                    Ditto! Maybe we should petition the publisher for an English translation :) It could be the next “The Big Short”.

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                  Nonfiction: A Programmer’s Introduction to Mathematics from Jeremy Kun, after seeing it here.

                  Fiction: The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

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                    House of Leaves is a special thing.

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                    I’m attempting to read this essay on The Ethics of Economic Sanctions in the hope that it will help expand my framework for thinking about controversial projects Google is involved in (Maven, Dragonfly, etc) and what I’d like to happen regarding them.

                    It’s, um, pretty dry. But I’m trying anyway.

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                        Interesting:) I’ve been using a bullet journal for the past year, and I have no clue how I would’ve managed to do all I wanted/had to do without it! How’s the book so far?

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                          It’s pretty good so far. I’m still at about 20% though, not so much advanced.

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                          Is there really a books worth of content on the bullet journal method? I’ve been using it this year in combination with Agile Results and it’s probably the most effective I’ve been with task tracking (the combo makes it really easy for me to pick up again when i inevitably drop it, unlike GTD).

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                            I’m a recent convert to the method (well, my own bastardization of it) but haven’t read the book.

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                            The Rust Programming Language

                            I’m not sure how good of an intro to Rust this book is, but I backed it and received it in the post so why not :-)

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                              It’s a good intro. Can skip around a bit for certain topics as well

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                              Picking through The Secret History of Mac Gaming which is super interesting.

                              I didn’t ever play many games on Mac but reading about how people designed games on the platform really motivates me to pick up my own projects. It’s at the right intersection of art and technology for me.

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                                Wow this looks great I just bought a copy thanks for the pointer!

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                                Practical TLA+ by @hwayne.

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                                  How is it? I am considering picking it up in the new year. All the talk of formal verification lately has been really interesting.

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                                  • Reading more of “Why Nations Fail”, which attempts to explain why some nations are more prosperous than others. So far, it’s been a great book and has really helped me see a more nuanced view on many political topics.
                                  • Starting to read “Technology and the Virtues”, which is an ethics book aimed at technologists. I think as a software engineer, it’s important to have thought long and hard about the ethical implications that the software I build could have. Sometimes it seems too easy to ignore or underestimate the (sometimes unintended) impact of a software engineers’ work.
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                                    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (fiction), and Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares (non-fiction). Just completed On the Shortness of Life, On the Happy Life, and Other Essays (Essays, #1) by Seneca.

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                                      “Type Theory and Formal Proof” + “Software Foundations”. The combination is an amazingly accessible introduction to basically the state of the art in type theory.

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                                        I usually have one non-fiction and one fiction work going concurrently. At present:

                                        The Power Broker - Nominally an autobiography about the New York urban planner Robert Moses but really about how power accumulates and consolidates, and how it can curdle even the most idealistic. Even at over 1000 pages it’s a cracking read; it’s un-put-downable in a way that I imagine marathoning House Of Cards to be.

                                        A Fire Upon The Deep - found a copy in a neighbourhood lending library and figured it was time for a re-read. Bit of a slow start but once it gets going it’s great; if you’re into space opera and also pretty hilarious satires of ‘90s USENET then you’ll feel right at home with this one.

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                                          I love The Power Broker. I read it my first year of university in a public policy seminar and it just blew me away. The LBJ books are also great, but nothing like as earth-shaking as the Moses one.

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                                            It would have been awesome to read this with a group! Reading it solo, I feel as if the only outlet I have to talk about it is to subconsciously turn all conversations towards the book, e.g. “…oh, so that reminds me of something in The Power Broker, when…” ;)

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                                          “Working Effectively with Legacy Code” by Michael Feathers.

                                          Most of my career has involved some amount of legacy code, but my current position features a mountain of 90s “C-with-classes-style” C++ - and my standing orders are to rewrite much of it for the modern era. This book takes a very useful approach to the topic, and I’m enjoying it a lot. It is from 2004, though; if anyone has more recent recommendations, I would welcome them!

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                                              I’m a really slow reader, more because I value short pieces than long form works like books, but I’ve been working my way through A Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier and enjoying it.

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                                                Non-fiction: I’ve recently finished October by China Miéville, and just started reading Revolting Prostitutes, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while.

                                                On the fiction side, I just finished Blackfish City. In case the non-fiction choices weren’t a clue, I generally like progressive or topical themes in my sci-fi, but when the blurb starts ‘After the climate wars…’ I did initially wonder if this was going to be a bit heavy-handed (and a co-worker said the same thing when I recommended it).

                                                I’m glad I ignored that and read it anyway - it’s a really imaginative book and a good read.

                                                I’m also re-reading the short stories from The Little World of Don Camillo, which are as lovely as I remember.

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                                                  Ah, Don Camillo, a very different age of the world, but quaint and fun and nice.

                                                  One of the things I enjoyed about it was, although the priest and the communist were represented as the angel and the devil… the political split in some senses was less sharp than it is these days.

                                                  Both sides could see the good (and bad) in what the other was doing.

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                                                  Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

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                                                    Thanks for this! Looks super interesting! I’ve gotten the sense from listening to podcasts like Bombshell, Rational Security and Lawfare that defense planning is a fascinating little pocket universe with a ton of quirks and peculiarities. I look forward to reading this!

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                                                      Thanks for the reminder, I meant to put this on my reading list after hearing an interview with the author on the 80,000 hours podcast.

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                                                      The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov, a novel taking place in the Middle Earth that tells the story from the Orcs’ perspective, suggesting that the original works are Mankind’s propaganda against the industrial nation of Orcs.

                                                      Programming a Problem-Oriented Language by Charles Moore, on domain-specific languages. I decided to read it after reading the article Little Languages by Jon Bentley. If I like the idea, I’ll try How to Design Programs.

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                                                        Is The Last Ringbearer any good? It sounds interesting. I’ve only had a couple experiences with “alternative perspective” novels (most importantly Ender’s Game/Ender’s Shadow, which I really liked) but none by separate authors!

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                                                          I enjoyed it. It is essentially a spy thriller in Middle Earth.

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                                                            I’m still at the beginning but I’m liking it so far. I was afraid it’d read like clumsy fanfic but I’m glad it’s not the case.

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                                                          I’m reading two books:

                                                          • The Rust Programming Language by Steve Klabnik and Carol Nichols
                                                          • The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
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                                                            I’m reading “About my mother” by Peggy Rowe, who is Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame mother.

                                                            It has a bunch of well written and funny stories.

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                                                              I just finished Measure What Matters and the Orkneyingar Saga, and just started A Treasury of British Folklore. I’ve been working my way through the exercises in SICP, using guile.

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                                                                • The Gulag Archipelago 1 - Solzhenitsyn
                                                                • Beyond Good and Evil - Nietzsche
                                                                • Nausea - Sartre
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                                                                  Are you reading the new abridged, single-volume edition of The Gulag Archipelago? If so, how are you finding it? If not, did you explicitly stay away from the abridged one?

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                                                                    I’m almost at the end of the first volume of the unabridged set. Although I know Solzhenitsyn approved of the abridged version, I feel like I have the time to read full thing. If Vol 1 is anything to go by, I think I made the right decision - there’s nothing I’ve read that seemed superfluous.

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                                                                  “Software Debugging for Microcomputers”, Robert C. Bruce (1980). (It’s the last book I wanted to get for my next debugging book review.)

                                                                  Based on what I’ve read so far the book is pretty poor, but it’s hard to say how bad it is for its time. The programming advice is terrible, though. The author comes so close to getting the key point and then completely misses the mark. One of the more egregious mistakes is talking about functions in BASIC (not subroutines) and then never using them (that I can tell). Even worse, functions are explained wrong. So it teases you with this powerful abstraction mechanism that not only do you not have, but is never used! (Edit: I found out that there is a version BASIC for the machine in the book that supports functions as the author describes them.)

                                                                  There’s an abridged version under a different title you can get on the Internet Archive, although it’s missing the part about functions.

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                                                                    I read mostly for pleasure. Certainly this week!

                                                                    I just wrapped up the Alloy of Law yesterday. Pretty interesting, but not nearly as good as the trilogy whose universe it is set it.

                                                                    Last night I started reading Linesman, so I can’t say much about it yet. I’ve heard praise, Goodreads keep recommending it, and I like the cover. (And I found a cheap used copy on Amazon.)

                                                                    When it arrives in the post tomorrow I’ll read Seven to Eternity, Vol 2; I really liked the first volume, though I’m a bit concerned with rumours about the pacing dropping in the later issues.

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                                                                      Yesterday I finished reading Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky and started reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Also, last week, I picked up a second hand copy of the classic wizard book: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which I’m browsing trough at work, the book is also available for free online. And yesterday the official Red Dead Redemption 2 guide came in the mail, which I am excited about (not so much reading as reviewing, since I already finished the game).

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                                                                        Voices From the Net, by Clay Shirky

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                                                                          White Noise by Don Dellio. (Nobody told me that Dellio was really funny. I haven’t gotten to the point where any plot is happening yet, but it’s hilarious.)

                                                                          Boogiepop and Others by Kouhei Kadono. (It’s wild that Boogiepop Phantom got greenlit, and even more wild that it gathered a following in the US, where the Boogiepop books weren’t available until quite recently. Boogiepop Phantom is a collection of TV-only side stories & it’s mostly confusing because it expects the whole audience to have read the first 3 books. Thus far, the book isn’t as grimdark as the show.)

                                                                          I’m also finishing up Jacques Vallee’s UFOs: The Psychic Solution, which I consider an inferior follow-up to Passport to Magonia. It introduces the idea that the close encounter experience is functionally an influence op, but it doesn’t really go anywhere with that idea; the whole book ought to have been folded into Passport, rather that weakly rehashing the material there.

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                                                                            The Life-Changing Habit of Tidying Up. I’m quite the neat freak and thought my end-of-year vacation (the first in 3 years or so!) would be best spent cleaning up. I’m hoping to learn some process, and maybe some new tricks. If nothing else, the book should set the mood for next week. :)

                                                                            Also 12 Rules For Life. I’ve been finding Jordan Peterson’s philosophy to be so much more insightful than what people online make it to be.

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                                                                              Also 12 Rules For Life. I’ve been finding Jordan Peterson’s philosophy to be so much more insightful than what people online make it to be.

                                                                              I think JP has a particular talent for saying one thing while simultaneously denying that he’s saying that at all. A peculiar kind of double-think. And a unique ability to rapidly switch from something very agreeable (petting cats / skateboarding is cool) to something deeply horrifying (denying global heating / only eating cows and no plants, ever).

                                                                              An example:

                                                                              JP: Well, I don’t really have beliefs about climate change, I wouldn’t say. I think the climate is probably warming, but it’s been warming since the last ice age, so,

                                                                              HL: But It’s dramatically accelerated in the last couple of decades.

                                                                              JP: Yeah, maybe, possibly, it’s not so obvious, I spent quite a bit of time going through the relevant literature, I read about 200 books on ecology and economy when I worked for the UN for a 2-year period and it’s not so obvious what’s happening, just like with any complex system. The problem I have, fundamentally, isn’t really a climate change issue. It’s that I find it very difficult to distinguish valid environmental claims from environmental claims that are made as a secondary anti-capitalist front, so it’s so politicised that it’s very difficult to parse out the data from the politicisation.

                                                                              So, he doesn’t really have any opinion on climate change … oh, except that anti-capitalist claims are not valid environmental claims. And similarly he doesn’t advocate enforced monogamy, he is just “objectively” presenting an argument on why it’s a great idea:

                                                                              So, let’s summarize. Men get frustrated when they are not competitive in the sexual marketplace (note: the fact that they DO get frustrated does not mean that they SHOULD get frustrated. Pointing out the existence of something is not the same as justifying its existence). Frustrated men tend to become dangerous, particularly if they are young. The dangerousness of frustrated young men (even if that frustration stems from their own incompetence) has to be regulated socially. The manifold social conventions tilting most societies toward monogamy constitute such regulation.

                                                                              That’s all.

                                                                              No recommendation of police-state assignation of woman to man (or, for that matter, man to woman).

                                                                              No arbitrary dealing out of damsels to incels.

                                                                              Nothing scandalous (all innuendo and suggestive editing to the contrary)

                                                                              Just the plain, bare, common-sense facts: socially-enforced monogamous conventions decrease male violence. In addition (and not trivially) they also help provide mothers with comparatively reliable male partners, and increase the probability that stable, father-intact homes will exist for children.

                                                                              I find his “I’m not saying that” attitude a rather troll-like, and I wish more people would call him out on it.

                                                                              That said, I do agree with him that we should pat cats though, and that cleaning your room is probably a good idea, and that skateboarding is cool.

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                                                                                I find his “I’m not saying that” attitude a rather troll-like, and I wish more people would call him out on it.

                                                                                JPs quote comes so close to being able to express the ways that social rules interact without passing judgement on them (as is essential to meaningful discussion of social change). Then, in the last paragraph he turns it around, stretching easily-defensible concepts into completely unsupported conjecture.

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                                                                                Downvoted for “incorrect”. Either I’m not indeed reading those books, or people get emotional because of the author of a book I’m reading. Okay.

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                                                                                  I haven’t read anything by JP, nor have I listened to his lectures or his online content. I have skimmed the discussion around him however, and to me personally he sounds like a very unsympathetic character, with views that are very far from my own.

                                                                                  Now, in an ideal world, one should perhaps separate the man from his works, and read his books in isolation from JP’s public utterances and views. And it’s possible that the contents of the book would be good and by following its precepts, people would change their lifestyle and be better people, for the good of all society[1].

                                                                                  If JP were sincere in trying to reach as many people as possible, and thus make the world a better place, he would be happy to keep his toxic views to himself, to help more people feel comfortable in buying the book , and reading it in public.

                                                                                  That is not the choice he has made, however. He has said and done things that would make me ashamed to be seen reading his book, and to avoid adding to his income by buying it.

                                                                                  That said, I believe the downvote for “incorrect” is unneeded.

                                                                                  [1] Yes, I’m purposefully comparing this book, which I haven’t read, with the great moral teachings of humanity, for the sake of a rhetorical argument.

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                                                                                    I’d find it hard to find the boundaries for that, beyond “what am i comfortable financially supporting?”. What’s the lowest moral level I’m willing to accept from the authors I read? Would I be willing to pardon people for being in a different zeitgeist (eg: being racist in nineteenth century America)?

                                                                                    I think skimming the online discussion around any modern author would be enough to make us want to dismiss them entirely (particularly so if their field touches policy somehow — which is more and more likely to happen as more things get politicised). I think that says more about the kinds of discussions we have online than about the authors themselves.

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                                                                                      Each of us has a limited amount of attention to spend. Skimming online discussions is a semi-efficient way to prioritize.

                                                                                      I’d like to expand the analogy to another example, closer to my usual reading interests. SF is my chosen non-fiction genre, and it’s very well-served by many authors. It can almost be seen as a fungible resource from a supply perspective.

                                                                                      Some authors (for example, Orson Scott Card) have taken public political stances opposite my own. Now, I could spend the time to try to read Card’s works[1], despite me not agreeing with him personally, and perhaps I’d come to enjoy his works through their contents alone. But as it is, his political views have pushed his works far down the attention stack. It’s unlikely I’ll ever get around to reading him.

                                                                                      I have read and enjoyed works by authors who I suspect are far from me politically (David Weber and Vernor Vinge come to mind). So it’s not an absolute criterion. Artistic merit comes into play! But from all reports JP is a pretty mediocre writer, so that’s another strike against him.

                                                                                      [1] I tried reading Ender’s Shadow, it was pretty dire.

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                                                                                Listening to The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #1) in the car. What an in depth book. I know more about early-mid 20th century Texas politics than I do about the whole span of my state’s politics.

                                                                                Glad I’m almost through it (around 38h deep right now.)

                                                                                Personal reading: The Obstacle Is the Way

                                                                                Tech: Working (slowly) through SICP, about to pick up where I left off in Introduction to Graph Theory

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                                                                                  The Art of Execution by Lee Freeman-Shor.

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                                                                                    Non-Fiction: Improving Interrupt Response Time in a Verifiable Protected Microkernel and Why Dependent Types Matter.

                                                                                    Fiction: The Trees.

                                                                                    It’s going to be a good week, I can feel it.

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                                                                                      Ansible for devops, it’s almost finished. Next up is monitoring with Prometheus.

                                                                                      I’m looking for something ‘easy’ to read too. I started with a book I read ages ago; Stephen King’s Pet cemetery. Unfortunately I’m not really feeling it now so suggestions are welcome.

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                                                                                        Fiction: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: I was after some military scifi and this was recommended. It’s really space fantasy. I’ll finish it because it’s a pretty easy read and I’m curious about the twist, but I won’t read the rest of the series, and I wouldn’t recommend it as scifi.

                                                                                        Non-fiction: All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly: I don’t have enough history to determine the veracity of the author’s claims about previous era’s world-views, but so far it’s a good read. I’m looking forward to the end where they supposedly tie all the threads together.

                                                                                        Work: Clojure in Action by Amit Rathore: I’ve been threatened at $dayjob with having to write Java. I’ve been interested in learning a LISP for a while now. Clojure seems like it could kill two birds with one stone. I’m only a chapter or two in, and attempting to do exercism.io exercises alongside the book, so it’s slow going. So far it has been a good workout for my brain (my daily driver is Python so this Clojure is a very different beast.)

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                                                                                          I recently finished reading If You’d Just Let Me Finish by Jeremy Clarkson, which was hilarious.

                                                                                          I’m currently reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, because too many people I care about are victims of the New Age Medicine scam and I need more argumentative ammunition. That said, it’s just about impossible to reason people out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

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                                                                                            I just finished reading The Power of Habit which was a fascinating read. It kept me hooked to the point that I could read ~100 pages every day.

                                                                                            I’ve ordered The Sovereign Individual so that’s what I’m reading next!

                                                                                            BTW, if anyone here is interested in book recommendations, Tim Ferris did a podcast with Naval Ravikant and the podcast page contains an excellent list in the comments section. I was fascinated by the way Naval reasons about things, so I’m basically working my way through what his recommended reading is.

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                                                                                              Just finished Sum by David Eagleman. I listened to the Audible version. The book is a series of short stories, each depicting a version of the afterlife. Some are funny, some are poignant, and some are though provoking as hell. I like the audio version because some of the readings are inspired and there are some celebs on the cast list that I enjoy.

                                                                                              Starting Red Plenty a book about the economic planners who formed a huge part of Soviet society and their disconnect from reality on the ground.

                                                                                              On the just for fun non fiction front, I’m finishing up The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross. If you’re into dark apocalyptic urban fantasy this series is not to be missed! I personally feel like Stross lost his way for a while and got bored with the premise - sidetracking into vampires and super heroes and the like, but in this book he’s hit his stride again and I’m really enjoying it!

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                                                                                                Weapons of Math Destruction. Very well written, even if a bit too slow if you’re already in the debate about the topic.

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                                                                                                  “The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World” by Catherine Nixey. Eye-opening and eye-watering.

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                                                                                                    Heading back to the States for Christmas, so I have quite a bit of reading time, on the airplane and otherwise. On deck:

                                                                                                    • Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb

                                                                                                    • The Culture of Critique by Kevin MacDonald

                                                                                                    • The Phenomenon by Rick Ankiel

                                                                                                    • The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum

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                                                                                                      Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems

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                                                                                                        Just finished The dark forest and I continue with Death’s End.

                                                                                                        Maybe a bit overrated but it makes it still an awesome read.

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                                                                                                            Teaching functional programming to my team at work.