Books and Links: May

This month has been really busy for me. I've been doing a lot of reading on work topics, and I'm in the middle of re-writing much of my note-taking apparatus, so this month will be kind of wordy and unstructured.

This may be the last time I do a post like this... I would like to move to shorter posts more often. We will see.


The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

I think I started this in high school, so it was a fun quick re-read.

PKD's interior monologues are so skillful. Each character's mind speaks with its own voice. They don't get more poetic or use vernacular not accessible to that character's waking mind. It's subtle, but quite effective. I'm really tempted to get more intellectual or emotional within the mind of a character, but he stays with a very consistent voice.

The recursive symmetry of the book within a book is compelling. I imagine that when the characters of Man in the High Castle read A Grasshopper Lies Heavy they are reading about us reading them reading us reading them...

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Perhaps the length of one’s life was not important—except in the way it is to so many living beings, desperate to avoid death. Perhaps, long or short, it mattered how one spent that time.

Seeing how much I enjoyed the Ancillary series, I picked this up. While I wouldn't say it's as strong as Ancillary, I really enjoyed this one. It's a fun world, I like the parallel histories going on between the story's present and past, and the existential questions about worship and language that Patience of the Hill presents.

blank vhs covers were kinda beautiful - YouTube

This is wonderful. Growing up, my dad had boxes of taped soccer matches and I remember some of these!

blank vhs covers were kinda beautiful - YouTube

Alabama's Nick Saban: The Scariest Man in College Football | GQ

I got this link from Dan Shipper's Superorganizer's profile on the author of The Profile. (Meta, right?)

I have to wonder if part of Saban's personality and the of perfection is rooted in the works-salvation of Catholicism.

after a big victory, Saban feels less joy than relief. Saban is reaching for a standard, so there are only two possibilities: Either you did what you were supposed to do, or you fell short. If you fell short, you go work harder and better to try to meet the standard next time. And if you met the standard, you go work doubly hard to fight off complacency—a fatal disease transmitted by pats on the back and post-game confetti—so you have a shot at meeting it again. The process, then, is never over. Wins are not ends but merely data points that help Saban assess the state of the process at a given moment.

It's a fascinating profile.

Alabama's Nick Saban: The Scariest Man in College Football | GQ

Please Print (A Journaling Rant) – The Cramped

In these historic times, many people have turned to journalling as a way of keeping account for the next generation. So when the grandkids ask what it was like to live through the 2020 Pandemic, you’ll be able grab your pipe, sit them on your lap, and regale them with yarns spun from your own written words.

I see so many that I know discussing how important their digital journalling app of choice has become for this purpose and… my heart sinks. I feel so sad for them. The reason….

None of these apps will be around.

This is a really good point. He does have a good middle ground though:

So please, I implore you, if you insist on journalling using any digital tool, please also regularly print what you are writing. Stick it somewhere cool and dry.

Please Print (A Journaling Rant) – The Cramped

psychicpaper | iOS <13.5 sandbox escape/entitlement 0day

A pretty great read of a very intriguing security flaw.

[…] Because it’s very hard to parse XML correctly, valid XML makes all parsers return the same data, but slightly invalid XML makes them return just slightly not the same data. :D In other words, any parser difference can be exploited to make different parsers see different things. This is the very heart of this bug, making it not just a logic flaw, but a system-spanning design flaw.

Sadly, this is a 0day that was on iPhone for quite a while… still affects non-beta at the time of this post.

Another reminder that however slick the marketing packaging, every device is a 0day waiting to happen.

psychicpaper | iOS 13.5 sandbox escape/entitlement 0day

Frank Chimero · Redesign: Table of Contents

At the start of 2020, I’ll begin redesigning this website. In the past, I’ve done this work in secret, but I’d like to document the process this time through.

Not only is Frank an engaging writer, this is basically a curriculum in good design, and in the integrated design process between code and notebook. I should have reviewed this before I started my redesign.

Frank Chimero · Redesign: Table of Contents

3 tips for a better student online learning experience - Christensen Institute : Christensen Institute

With the shift to virtual learning, good teaching becomes more about checking in with students to coach them on self-directed learning activities and provide targeted interventions than about covering content via video lecture.

While I'm sure it's different for everyone… this was exactly my homeschooling experience.

3 tips for a better student online learning experience - Christensen Institute : Christensen Institute


I'm still using my Drafts system to create zettel from links, random thoughts... making it easy to create them means I've made a lot more than I thought. Here are some that are more useful for the three people who read my blog.

A price is a signal

A price is a signal wrapped up in an incentive so if you want a strong signal and a strong incentive you need to let prices rise.

I think I agree with this.

It's an interesting argument for cold-hearted capitalism, and one I have attempted to voice without being this articulate. I feel that (barring common grace) there is a severe downside since the signal's strength does not correlate with moral good… I don't think that it follows that the signal you send and the incentive you create are necessarily "good" or aligned with universal truth.

Tyler Cowen, Blood Money - Marginal REVOLUTION

Minimum viable artifact

Minimum viable artifacts are the least amount of work required to communicate between peers.

Code artifacts are The Truth. Design artifacts are part of a dialog to guide code.

  1. If the code is right, you don't need a design artifact.
  2. If the code is wrong, simply draw the fix for only what is broken.

It is hard to trust a peer with less than pixel perfect when you have been hurt and betrayed before, but it is time to change our habits.

11. Brad Frost and Evan Lovely: Code is the Source of Truth — Design Systems Podcast — Overcast

Second-guessing the modern web -

This article does a good job of pointing out some of the technical problems with what Frank Chimero and many others have pointed out about the "modern web."

As your React application grows, the application bundle grows. Unlike with a traditional multi-page app, that growth affects every visitor: you download the whole app the first time that you visit it. At some point, this becomes a real problem. Someone who lands on the About page is also downloading 20 other pages in the same application bundle. Bundle splitting ‘solves’ this problem by creating many JavaScript bundles that can lazily load each other. So you load the About page and what your browser downloads is an ‘index’ bundle, and then that ‘index’ bundle loads the ‘about page’ bundle.

This sort of solves the problem, but it’s not great. Most bundle splitting techniques require you to load that ‘index bundle’, and then only once that JavaScript is loaded and executed does your browser know which ‘page bundle’ it needs. So you need two round-trips to start rendering.

Maybe I am an old fogey, but it really does feel like a lot of clever javascript build system is a solution in search of a problem. I'm prejudiced in favor of the "new" old-way of the so-called JAMstack: static pages, rich interaction where required, readable source code.

But I’m at the point where I look at where the field is and what the alternative patterns are – taking a second look at unloved, unpopular, uncool things like Django, Rails, Laravel – and think what the heck is happening. We’re layering optimizations upon optimizations in order to get the SPA-like pattern to fit every use case, and I’m not sure that it is, well, worth it.

Amen… but also great comments on how hard it is to swim against the industry current.

But the cultural tides are strong. Building a company on Django in 2020 seems like the equivalent of driving a PT Cruiser and blasting Faith Hill’s “Breathe” on a CD while your friends are listening to The Weeknd in their Teslas. Swimming against this current isn’t easy, and not in a trendy contrarian way.

I will be happily driving my PT Cruiser static-site blog long after React is as old-news as Angular 1.0. :-P

Second-guessing the modern web -

  • 2022-06-08 11:31:29 -0500
    Rename articles

  • 2020-06-18 14:26:02 -0500
    Move everything to CST

    Don't know why I didn't do that before. It caused _no_ end of

  • 2020-06-01 07:45:38 -0500
    Small edits to post.

  • 2020-05-31 21:58:43 -0500
    Books and Links: May