Marc Stiegler wrote a short story for Analog Magazine in 1989 called “The Gentle Seduction” that is a hopeful take on the Singularity. It reminded me of a much older short story by Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question”. Both are thought provoking.
Following is a list of books, essays, and articles I read (or re-read) which feel worth sharing or re-sharing on on New Years Eve:
“Thinking in Systems: A Primer”, by Donella H. Meadows
“Release It!”, by Michael T. Nygard
“Language in Thought and Action”, by S.I. Hayakawa, Alan R. Hayakawa, and Robert MacNeil
“The Stars My Destination”, by Alfred Bester
“One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics”, by David Berlinski
“Information Diet”, by Clay Johnson
“The Great Stagnation”, by Tyler Cowen
“One Way Forward: The Outsider’s Guide to Fixing the Republic”, by Lawrence Lessig
“The Waste Land”, by T.S. Eliot
“Race Against The Machine”, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Software Engineering Related Essays, Posts and Papers
“Up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction”, by Bret Victor
“Analogy as the Core of Cognition”, by Douglas R. Hofstadter
“On Being a Senior Engineer”, by John Allspaw
“Quality With a Name”, by James Shore
“Out of the tar pit”, by Ben Moseley
“Paxos Made Moderately Complex”, by Robbert van Renesse
“The Future is Hypermedia APIs”, by Mike Taczak
“Ubiquitous Programming with Pen and Paper”, by Awelon Blue
“Leverage Points: : Places to Intervene in a System”, by Donella Meadows
“Unicorns and Strong Typing”, by Michael Bevilacqua-Linn
“Big Ball of Mud”, by Brian Foote and Joseph Yoder
“Intrinsic and Incidental Complexity”, by Noah Sussman
“Damn Cool Algorithms: Log structured storage”, by Nick Johnson
“The Humble Programmer”, by Edsger W. Dijkstra
“Simple Made Easy”, by Rich Hickey
“The Long Tail of Technical Debt”, by Michael Feathers
“The Carrying Cost of Code: Taking Lean Seriously”, by Michael Feathers
“No Silver Bullet”, by Fred Brooks
Making A Difference with Software Engineering
“Homegrown Computer Science for Middle Schoolers”, by Tess Rinearson
“Blue Collar Coder”, by Anil Dash
“Government As A Platform”, by Tim O’Reilly
“How Do Committees Invent?”, by Mel Conway
“Anyone can do it. Data journalism is the new punk”, by Simon Rogers, The Guardian
“I believe a computer program can stand in…”, by Lisa Williams
“How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust”, Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica
“How To Tell A Story With Code”, by Rob Spectre
“Urban Storytelling with Open Data”, by Mark Headd
“Making Philadelphia Better Together”, by Mark Headd, Programs & Technology, Office of the Managing Director, City of Philadelphia
Society, Governance, History, Health, Art and Music
“The Condition: Chronic Self-Disclosure”, by Bethlehem Shoals, The Awl
“The Web We Lost”, by Anil Dash
“A Self-Made Man Looks At How He Made It”, by John Scalzi
“Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love”, by Tara Parker-Pope, NYTimes
“What I’ve Learned About Learning”, by Reginald Braithwaite
“The Builders Manifesto”, by Umair Haque
“How Will You Measure Your Life”, by Clayton M. Christensen
“When They’re Grown, the Real Pain Begins”, by Susan Engel, NYTimes
“Sincerity, Not Irony, Is Our Age’s Ethos”, by Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, The Atlantic
“Young Worf”, GregOttawa, Reddit
“Believe You Can Change”, by Aaron Swartz
“Going Numb In The Summer Of The Gun”, by Jen Doll, The Atlantic
“Horatio Alger, RIP”, by Jim Tankersley, National Journal
“The 10 Doctors”, by Rich Comics
“Looking back at Star Trek: The Next Generation on its 25th anniversary”, by Brian Phillips, Grantland
“Babies Are Born Scientists”, by NSF.gov
“America, The Fixable”, The Atlantic
“Welcome to Hell: Philadelphia Has a Serious Case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, by Steve Volk, Philadelphia Magazine
“You Can Feel The Difference”, Nathaniel Popkin, Hidden City Philadelphia
“Poverty, College and A Dream Deferred”, by Chris Lehmann, Practical Theory
“Clinging to the Skin of this Tiny Little World (The TV Movie)”, by Philip Sandifer, TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue
YouTube.com: Doctor Who’s Who’s Who 1986 – EDITED!:
A fun watch for the Doctor Who off-season.
Tor.com: Emily Asher-Perrin: Can We Talk About Why We Really Love Princess Leia?:
Forced to be a sexual object for a crime lord? Choke him to death and get outta dodge. Find out your stealth party was spotted on by the enemy? Hunt them down with their own vehicles. Meet a strange new species that doesn’t speak your language? Share food and make friends. As we’re shown time and time again, there is nothing that this woman cannot do. She makes Luke and Han look practically incompetent if you’re actually keeping a scoreboard — Luke only has one or two solid goals that he feels obligated to follow up on, and Han spends half his time in the trilogy jamming to The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” You need Leia to keep it all together.
I went on an interesting journey online last night that led me to the source of the above phrase, a poem on mortality, entropy, memory… and databases. Yes, you read that right.
I read Tor.com’s wonderful blog almost once a day to check up posts on books, favorite sci-fi and fantasy TV Series, and more. Yesterday they had a post featuring a striking photograph by Cat Valente of some haunting graffiti with the title of of this post scrawled out. She had recognized the line from an earlier post in Tor.com’s Poetry Month series, “John M. Ford’s sonnet ‘Against Entropy’”. Reading the comments in that post led to the original source of the poem, where it was written and shared for the first time.
In 2003 Patrick Nielsen Hayden posted about how moved he was by Andrew Brown’s writing about the slow and terrible death of a friend’s wife. He lamented,
If I were a better writer I’d conclude by yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms.. In the comments of that post, John M. Ford, the writer Neil Gaiman said of,
my best critic … the best writer I knew, wrote the following:
The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days –
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.
A poem, written in a blog post comment in 2003, shows up on a physical wall in 2012.
The poem speaks loudly about the ends of things, our role, and even the work I do, which has everything to do with building systems that can adapt and grow in the face of bit rot and lack of attention.
Damn it, I don’t care if it isn’t hip, I still love the Web.
This is a handy list of older Doctor Who episodes to watch while waiting for the new season to start. For new fans, if you can get past the special effects, and imagine a series where most episodes were more like ‘The Empty Child’, slower, and a whole lot creepier, and maybe imagine yourself as a 7 year old, watching on a small black and white TV in the middle of the night alone, these will be fun. Enjoy!
- Fourth: The Brain of Morbius
- Fourth: The City of Death
- Fourth: The Genesis of the Daleks
- Third: The Three Doctors
- Fifth: The Caves of Androzani
- Fourth: The Deadly Assassin
- Fourth: The Robots of Death
- Third: The Spearhead from Space
- Fourth: Pyramids of Mars
- Third: Planet of Spiders
- Fourth: The Arc in Space
- Third: Inferno
- Fourth: Planet of Evil
- First: The Unearthly Child
- First: The Daleks
- Second: The War Games
- Second: The Evil of the Daleks
- Second: The Tomb of the Cybermen
- Fourth: Logopolis
- Fifth: Castrovalva
- Fifth: The Five Doctors
Tor.com gets at the philosophical core of “Total Recall” in ‘”If I’m Not Me, Then Who The Hell Am I?”: Total Recall’. I need to get around to reading some of Philip K. Dick’s stories.
Continuing my series of posts on what Doctor Who episodes to watch while it isn’t on the air, I give you “The Caves of Androzani”.
Voted the top Doctor Who episode ever by fans back in 2009, it is claustrophobic, fast paced, and leaves you wanting to know more about Peter Davidson’s Doctor. He is in way over his head, with villains who have complicated motives, that are more than one dimensional, in a life or death situation that is personal and not universe shaking. I think this may be the last episode featuring a Doctor that is ‘just another Time Lord’ and the stakes feel very high, without needing a story having the entire galaxy on the precipice along with him.
You may not be a Star Trek fan for various different reasons, believe me I understand, but there is a way of thinking about humanity, ethics, morality and governance that reflected a belief system that was both challenging and hopeful.
Tor.com lists 10 of the best episodes exemplifying this in “Occupy Starfleet: 10 Politically Minded Trek Episodes That Still Resonate”
YouTube.com: “Lessons in Humanity: Habeas Corpus”
Tom Lamont, in The Guardian, interviews comic book writer Alan Moore and asks him how he feels about the propagation of “V for Vendetta” masks among protestors: “Alan Moore – meet the man behind the protest mask”