Books give-away, featuring Airtable

Roughly every three years, I find I’ve amassed too many books, and have to give some (around 50-75) away.

There was a great “used books store” in downtown Mountain View, which (tragically1) had to close up shop and move away, and the time after that, I went to the local Goodwill, and this time I’m thinking of donating what I can to the local library, we’ll see.

It’s somewhat disappointing that there isn’t any record of the hundreds of books I’ve given away over the last decade and change … so this time I thought I’d make a list.

Now the idea of making a list of the books I have, has come up in the past, but it has either

  • been on paper
  • or otherwise not accessible any more
  • or not re-attempted because there’s just no easy way to do it.

Until now.

I have this love-hate relationship with Airtable, it seems — I’ve written before about how their pricing is geared towards enterprises and lacking a good “personal use plan”, but … the fact is, for something like this, it’s dead simple to use.

What I recorded here is the name of each book, an image of the cover, and whether it’s hardcover/softcover2, and … I was going through them at the rate of about fifteen seconds per book.

Here3 is the result: an accessible list of everything I’m about to give away this time.

P.S. I realized something else: in case you live nearby and want to pick up anything on this list, leave a note on the list (it’s read-only, but comment-able), and I’ll figure out a way to hand them over.

  2. Not sure why I did this, it’s something I thought would matter …

Rorschach tests

Sometimes I have flashback memories of certain small well-defined thing-experiences, this is one of them.

It’s about a book, this book, and the timeframe here is … about 12 years ago (!), a year after the book came came out.

I remember the moment I found this in the library (at the times, the Forest Hills branch of the Queens library system), and felt like I should pick it up.

And then I remember the moment when I felt, “damn, this is the book I would have wished to write one day!”

It’s hard to describe, so I’ve linked to ways to get context at the end (some excerpts from reviews here below) — but reading it was one of the most surreal yet pleasant experiences I’ve had … and I’ve had a few of those.

…readers will have observed that Hall is not going for the Dirty Realist of the Year award. His shout-outs instead go to Paul Auster, Haruki Marukami, the “Matrix” movies, “Memento” and, peering back into the distant mists of time, “Jaws.”

The text itself tells a story. Inkblots, puzzles, pictures made from vowels and consonants strewn just so. The climax comes to life in an unnerving 50-page flipbook of a shark racing right at you. The typography is so complex, in fact, the print run was sent to a company in Italy, the only place with a press nimble enough to do the job. “The Raw Shark Texts” is a kind of Rorschach test. Is it a thriller, a love story? A philosophical quest? Yes.

Now … I went back to Amazon to check, and it turns out this is the only book he ever wrote, which …


Quick rules for personal technology

(Edit: found this while cleaning old posts, must be about 2-3 years ago, but seems very relevant still 😀)

Bunch of suggestions from me, take it or leave it:

  • get off social media
  • no more free games on your phone
  • no news apps
  • no notifications (as much as possible)
  • use “do not disturb” aggressively
  • turn off ads everywhere
  • make something instead of “swiping away”: doodle, write gibberish, whatever
  • write a small journal everyday

Dark Crystal

I kept watching past the last episode, and “the making of …” was just as thrilling as the episodes themselves!

Puppets? Puppets! Glorious, CGI-enhanced puppets in so many shapes and sizes, requiring to be manipulated in so many different ways!

And the sets, and the detail in every physical object, and the music, and the effort involved in every hand-crafted piece, is just … overwhelming.

To think that I just began watching this by accident!

If you haven’t watched it already, please do — it’s a full-spectrum audio-visual spectacle, a treat for the senses, that will soon leave you entranced, if you let it.

More on Notion and Airtable

I had talked about tentatively trying out both Notion and Airtable earlier, and I have more to report on that.

Airtable is just a really great experience, makes it so easy to “just create a Base”, add tables, easily add color-coded “tag columns”, link between different tables, and so much more.

But — the price is too high, at $10/mo, and it seems to be more enterprise-focusses, or intended for teams, because no other personal software has such a high subscription cost — this is more than Notion, more than Bear, more than Evernote, more than Dropbox, more than Ulysses, more than … you get the point — so I don’t even want to go down a path of really using it a lot any more.

Meanwhile, in a sort of mirror-image of my dissatisfaction with Airtable, I’m amazed at just how much Notion can do for me. It’s great for my flexible note-taking style — I’ve always bumped up against “the rules of the world” with other apps — and it’s a very pleasant feeling to have it get out of my way.

It’s easy to add new bits and pieces, and then mold them as needed, and then make the whole thing easy to share, embed or organize.

Finally, the “dead-simple and fun-to-use tables” experience is mostly true within Notion as well, so I’m quite happy to not have to give that up either 🙂

I ended up signing up for the personal paid plan, because it’s just that useful to me now, and a super-set of the functionality of quite a few other apps.

Now (since I’m quite conservative about using new apps!) I hope Notion stays around! The team is responsive and seems to be focussed on the right things, and I wish them all the luck in getting more adoption for what they’ve been able to make.

Interesting links: September 2019

Panoramic view from the Venera 13 lander, from Venus, in 1982
Panoramic view from the Venera 13 lander, from Venus, in 1982

Monthly recap (Sep 2019)

A shovel-full of little stones in the sand
A shovel-full of little stones in the sand

Minor updates:

  • A team offsite that involved sailing in the bay (on the USA-76)
  • Some frustration with the limited AT&T data plan that I have
  • Went for a Gulzar event
  • Rapunzel at the Playhouse
  • Trying out Sam Harris’ meditation app
  • A first Lego set for Tara (so, will be giving away her Duplos soon)


  • Chernobyl (series on Netflix)
  • End of the tour (movie on Netflix)