The many nostalgias of Harry Potter

I had pre-ordered the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which arrived this week (more on that later!) and made me think about the layers of feelings related to this … world.

First, there is the nostalgia of just being a series of books but one has read 20 years ago. That is, of a world that is different from the regular world, and which one has inhabited in detail through the books. The “wizarding world” is something familiar … and something left behind.

Second, there is the nostalgia of having the “normal“ word in the book be one that has itself been lost — in the sense of not being at all recognizable amid the world today. The way people act and relate to each other is … very much a “90s world”.

Third, there is the nostalgia of this world not only being “a long time ago“, but also being separated from the present by the huge gap in technology in human lives.

The magical people can be chuckled at for saying “fellytones” when they mean “telephones”, but wtf is a telephone today?

It isn’t just that the technology used is different, but that the modern current world is

a fundamental transformation office into a sort of cyborg individual call Ma which has changed utterly how we act, how we behave, but also what we believe in or aspire to.

Fourth, it is further nostalgic and that there is no point in imagining a separate parallel world of magic anymore, or at least not in the way of a group of people existing alongside us, as the book describes. Ubiquitous surveillance cameras would spot them, amateurs would find Hogwarts Castle on a map. And wait till the magical kids discover the legalized brain drugs of social media.

Finally, fifth, the forms of allusion and manipulation alluded to sound trivial or ridiculous, when compared to even “cheap consumer technology” in the present day. Moving pictures? Yawn.

So, what of it? Is there anything that could count as an equivalent today? Dunno yet.

There is no lack of yearning for a different world, just the inability to imagine one, which lends our current dystopia a desperate “there is no alternative“ tinge to it.

Yet, the “magical“ people in Rowling’s world are able to display a sense of camaraderie and ethics and just basic goodness. This essential human-ness is likely what still allowschildren to relate to the characters today, and … this might be a quality to aspire to when thinking of a similar counter-world, in the present day.

Books on Software Complexity

(from this HN thread)

If only all posters collected their responses into a spreadsheet like this one did

Here is the summary post (my preferences in bold):

From my perspective, the top “must-reads” are:
— John K Ousterhout, A Philosophy of Software Design
— Titus Winter (et al), Software Engineering at Google
— Hanson and Sussman, Software Design for Flexibility


Other interesting titles that caught my eye:
— Peter Naur, Programming as Theory Building
— Scott Wlaschin, Domain Modeling Made Functional
— Yehonathan Sharvit, Data-Oriented Programming: Unlearning objects (upcoming)
— Nick Tune, Patterns, Principles, and Practises of Domain Driven Design
— Robert L. Glass, Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering
— Donald Reinertsen, The Principles of Product development Flow
— Eric Normand, Grokking Simplicity

On catastrophe

From the blurb of a book by John David Ebert

Disasters, both natural and man-made, are on the rise. Indeed, a catastrophe of one sort or another seems always to be unfolding somewhere on the planet. We have entered into a veritable Age of Catastrophes which have grown both larger and more complex and now routinely very widespread in scope.

The old days of the geographically isolated industrial accidents, of the sinking of a Titanic or the explosion of a Hindenburg, together with their isolated causes and limited effects, are over. Now, disasters on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill or the Japan tsunami and nuclear reactor accident, threaten to engulf large swaths of civilization.

These efforts are breaking down. Nature and Civilization have become so intertwined they can no longer be separated. Natural disasters, moreover, are becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate from “man-made.”

Harry Potter and the 90s

The world of Harry Potter feels charming, with its bits of magic strewn everywhere, but also nostalgic.

It is an alternative world, but for those growing up in today’s world —- it’s more of a counterpart to a lost world.

Moving pictures? Do you mean like “live photos” on my iPhone?

Library book haul (Mar 2019)

Me and Tara go to the library once every six weeks or so, and I was thinking of starting to make a list of the books we’ve tried/liked over time.

March 2019 library books

But that is a bit too much effort, so I’m going to start with a pic — and if I can keep this up for at least six months, then I’ll start making a list.

Lisp Books

This is something I’ve always pieced together bit-by-bit, and I’m sure a lot of other people have done the same by combining occasional blog posts, reviews on Amazon, perhaps a few mailing lists, and so on.

Adam Tornhill has reviewed a bunch of these, and I’ve read them and agree with most of them, so here is an index to some of them:

(My own current path is slightly different, btw. I had read SICP many years ago and definitely need to re-read it, but I started with Conrad Barski’s “Land of Lisp” and am now slowly working through Graham’s “ANSI Common Lisp”, hoping to move on to PAIP once I’m done)