Reading, fast and slow

TIL that Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel fame) has a pretty cool book list.

And … scrolling down, it’s updated as recently as 2020!

Slowly and steadily, he’s covered a lot, and a lot of good stuff — and written it all down too!

I scrolled through all of it, and his “sixties-to-eighties reading period” is my favorite 🙂

Some samples:

42. Jun 1981	Gary Zukav	The Dancing Wu Li Masters	1979	332 pp.
82. Jan 1987	Thomas Hobbes	Leviathan	1651	729 pp.
95. Oct 1989	Sigmund Freud	Civilization and Its Discontents	1930	104 pp.
19. May 1977	C.G. Jung	Modern Man in Search of a Soul	1933	244 pp.
9. Mar 1971	Bill Moyers	Listening to America	1971	342 pp.
3. Oct 1968	P.D. Ouspensky	In Search of the Miraculous	1949	389 pp.
24. Apr 1978	Robert M. Persig	Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance	1974	406 pp.

Interesting links: December 2021

Old step-well in India

(Apology: I usually structure these into sections, but didn’t have time to do that this month)

(focussing on Sublime Text and BBEdit)

The consideration should be efficiency and not a nebulous quality like “Mac-like design.”

I have to revert to what I wrote in the last article:

“The best text editor is the one you know how to use.”

If you are happy with the text editor you are using, keep typing. Spare me the assertions about what is “Mac-like design” and what isn’t.

  • On “Roam books” and “Roam newsletters”
  • On telling apart different forms of “note-taking systems”
  • In support of “ubiquitous linking
    • We affirm that the ability to copy a link to a resource is as important for cognitive productivity as the ability to copy other types of information. This applies to all persistent digital information.
    • To help people benefit from the information they process with software, we advocate ubiquitous support for linking of information resources. This would help realize the potential of hypermedia that was envisioned by information technology pioneers such as Ted Nelson and Douglas Englebart.
    • Some discussion here
  • In defense of Socrates and the Great Books
    • Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montás tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life, and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities.
  • Squid Game, the Mr. Beast version
    • The viral success of MrBeast’s “$456,000 Squid Game in Real Life!” video means that many viewers, like some of my students, have come to associate Squid Games through MrBeast’s version rather than through its original series, thereby removing its original context and meaning. As NBC tech journalist Kat Tenbarge succinctly tweeted: “Now what if — bear with me here — the stakes of this game were life and death, painting a grim portrait of capitalism.”
    • By celebrating the creation of new content devoid of original meaning and context, we’re praising a system of ahistorical, non-relational entertainment over substance and critique. Or, as Stan Cross sarcastically responds to the fan account: “in the future creator economy, there will be so few gatekeepers, MrBeast will be able to operate at such speed he’ll rack up millions of views parodying shows before they’ve even been conceived, and then they won’t need to be made. A win for all of culture.”
  • Bizarre, but somebody’s using this, GreaterWrong, “a way to browse LessWrong”
  • Case study: implementing a log-based relational database in Common Lisp
  • Exploring distributed consensus in Wolfram Mathematica
  • The “Tao of Programming
    • This is a book about what goes on in the minds of programmers. Most programming books are about the mechanics of programming. These are essential, yet they can leave novices confused and bored. Tao Te Programming tries to get at the spirit of programming, to expose the ways of thinking that make programming challenging and fulfilling rather than too hard and grinding.
    • Good programming is often about effective compromise. You can go too far in a good direction. That is why many chapters have opponents — an indication of forces you need to try to balance. Chapters can also have allies that point in a similar direction.
  • Remembering an old smart-watch
  • Terry Eagleton on Richard Dawkins: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching
  • Was playing “Poop Bingo”, and noticed that Wombat poop is cubic, and turns out the reason for that was just discovered this year! Wombats Poop Cubes, and Scientists Finally Got to the Bottom of It
  • James Robertson on the basics of Pharo | by Richard Kenneth Eng | Medium(https://richardeng.medium.com/james-robertson-on-the-basics-of-pharo-2bccec77c743)

from a long-time Smalltalker who passed away seven years ago

  • Modern concrete construction might last 100 years with maintenance, but some Roman structures have survived for 1,000 years or more essentially unassisted
  • “You can’t see it as a tourist, but the reason the Colosseum is still standing is because of its incredibly robust concrete foundation,” said Jackson. That concrete foundation is packed with dense, heavy lava rock aggregate and is a full 12m thick, she added. Without such a strong, long-lasting material at its foundation, the Colosseum would have been reduced entirely to rubble by the region’s earthquakes.
  • Inside the Pantheon’s rotunda, the distance from the floor to the very top of the dome is virtually identical to the dome’s 43m diameter, inviting anyone inside to imagine the huge, perfect sphere that could be housed within its interior. When trying to appreciate the Pantheon’s dome, “unreinforced” is really the key word.

Monthly recap (Dec 2021)

Hiking at Point Lobos

Major update

  • Trip to San Diego got cancelled, bummer
  • Made a short weekend trip to Santa Cruz/Aptos/Carmel instead
  • Did a bunch of hikes!

Minor update

  • A foosball table at home 🙂
  • Family games and fun
  • Got my booster shot

Watched/read/played/made

  • Sing 2, in the theater. Great experience. Best part for me, as in the original, was the soundtrack!
  • Wallace and Gromit (claymation was great …)
  • Tara started watching Captain Underpants

On writing

Every now and then I find something insightful on HackerNews. I usually don’t share this, and store them as snippets for myself, but this is something that does seem generally useful:

(original source here, builds on a post here)

“Tips on making writing more fun”

  • Make it a story. If you are writing about an application framework, use an example application and make it something real (a todo app, a real estate search app, something you have personal experience with).
  • Link to your other stuff. He has a good point about sidebars (don’t do it), but if you have written about something tangential previously, links are a nice way to avoid that. Works for pointing to other people’s work as well.
  • Just ship it. He alludes to this in the last point, but seriously, the perfect blog post that never is published is 100% worse than the 80% done blog post.
  • Remember that while you are obsessing over everything, your reader likely isn’t (obsessing). Recall how closely you read this article? That is how closely most readers will read anything you publish.
  • Start with the end in mind (the title and the conclusion should be related and the thread should run through it).
  • “Kill your darlings”. If something doesn’t fit, no matter how interesting or witty it is, copy it off to some other doc (possibly for another article). Or delete it. Either way, remove it from your piece.

On to-do apps

History

I have been using OmniFocus for over five years now.

I started with version 2, moved on to version 3 and have even beta-tested the new version 4 on my phone for a while.

A lot of cruft has accumulated over the years, and this year I decided to “clean house”.

While doing this, I was open-minded about trying new apps — after all, a lot has changed in the last five years.

Different apps

I liked a lot of different apps.

Things was clean, simple, minimal.

Todoist was full-featured, flexible, integrated with everything.

Sorted had a novel hybrid task + event approach.

No app

Over the last two weeks, I spent a couple of days playing around with each of these.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and it’s easy to get lost in the “but, but, but, which is the best?!” trap here.

Instead, I decided to pick nothing for now.

Maybe a calendar app, and a notes app are all I need?

And if I do experience a need, then I can think about how to meet it, instead of deciding

“Getting the right things done in right time” should matter more than “using the right app”!

P.S. if pressed, my ideal app here would be some mix of Things and Sorted.

Roam stays

Much as I tried to quit Roam previously, I’ve been back to using it the last quarter.

It’s good enough, and “doesn’t suck“.

It is more fluid and immediate than the alternatives for what I need, when I need.

So, it stays in my toolkit.

(in the context of an end-of-year “app house-cleaning“, where I try to rationalize what I need, what I’m using, and what I can get rid of)