Recent Reads 2019: 01.23 – 02.18

The Tech Revolt — The California Sunday Magazine
“Whether it was protesting projects with ICE and the Chinese government or walking out to demand better treatment of women, political activism 
has entered tech with a force that the industry has never experienced.”

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How to Declutter and Organize Your Personal Tech in a Few Simple Steps – The New York Times
“It takes up so much psychic space and brings up the same negative effect: anxiety,” Ms. Fortin said. “Since we all have our phones in our pockets, we’re toting our clutter around with us.”

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What He Left Behind
“Kira Martin struggles through her connection – both emotional and physical – with her troubled and destructive son.”

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Elderblog Sutra: 1
“The idea is that in a complex game, after most players have finished a first full play-through, the mechanics might still leave interesting things for them to do. An Act 2 game-within-a-game emerges for experienced players who have exhausted the nominal game. A game dominated by such second-order players is an elder game.”

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Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field?
“Women’s experience of their education differed along two critical dimensions — they encountered a culture where sexism and stereotypes were left unaddressed, and they saw only lip service offered toward improving society—and both of these disproportionately alienated them.”

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I Blocked Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple
“These companies are unavoidable because they control internet infrastructure, online commerce, and information flows. Many of them specialize in tracking you around the web, whether you use their products or not. These companies started out selling books, offering search results, or showcasing college hotties, but they have expanded enormously and now touch almost every online interaction. These companies look a lot like modern monopolies.”

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Thread by @Foone: “If I was setting up curriculum at a university I’d make an entire semester-long class on The Challenger disaster, and make it required for a […]”
“Your friend is going through a hard time and you’re trying to help, and normally that’s fine, but it happens on the day when you’re getting over a cold and your roommate is yelling at the cat and you get an unexpected bill and your fiancee is out of town Each of these things on their own (or maybe with one or two others) is not a huge problem. You don’t have a breakdown. You don’t have a panic attack. But sometimes the dice come up the wrong way and all of them happen at once.”

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge Will Make You Laugh So Hard It Hurts – The New York Times
“She is so good at making people laugh that her facility for pathos can sneak up on them. While her audiences are distracted by sparkling punch lines, she is secretly messing around in the dark reaches of their psyches.”

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Weekly Reads 2019: 01.01 – 01.22

Okay, so these reading lists are a bit longer than a week between postings. Hopefully that will improve this year. 😀

Things I Don’t Know as of 2018 – Overreacted
“In this post I’ll offer an incomplete list of programming topics that people often wrongly assume that I know. I’m not saying you don’t need to learn them — or that I don’t know other useful things. But since I’m not in a vulnerable position myself right now, I can be honest about this.”

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The Woman With Lapis Lazuli in Her Teeth – The Atlantic
“But art experts were still skeptical. Some dismissed the idea that a woman could have been a painter skilled enough to work with ultramarine. One suggested to Warinner that this woman came into contact with ultramarine because she was simply the cleaning lady.”
The unfortunate part of this article is how readily the experts in the related field dismissed out of hand the idea that a woman was a manuscript illustrator.

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From Pompeii to Victorian erotica, pubic hair was considered sexy, healthy and youthful – inews.co.uk
“Pubic hair is frequently placed on the frontline of feminism and growing a new band member for ZZ Top in your pants is often seen as a fuzzy fuck you to the patriarchy that leaves you literally tearing your hair out, and doubtless, there is some truth to this.”

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The weighted-blankets fad isn’t “appropriation.” It’s good news for autistic people.
“The trajectory for weighted blankets is the best of American capitalism: People figured out that a particular product is enjoyable for people outside my small corner of the disabled universe. They figured out a way to make the product cheaper and easier to access. This is an unequivocally good thing.”
Honestly, I have a lot to unpack with this response. I don’t know that it’s unequivocally a good thing, if I’m honest.

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The internet, but not as we know it: life online in China, Russia, Cuba and India | Technology | The Guardian
“More than half of the world’s population is now online, but that does not mean we all see the same thing. From being filtered by the government to being delivered by post, the internet can vary enormously depending on where you live.”

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It’s 2019 and I Still Make Websites with my Bare Hands
“I just… how… how can you stand building applications without knowing how they work?”

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Using Ruby in 2019 – Jason Charnes
“Can Ruby and (Insert Language Here) coexist? Absolutely. I think too often we approach programming language wars as you have to choose one or the other. I don’t think that is the case.”

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Effective Mental Models for Code and Systems – Cindy Sridharan – Medium
“Reducing the cognitive load on the future reader and helping them build a better mental model of our code minimizes the risk of the introduction of bugs, unlocking the ability for a future generation of maintainers to make progress at a rapid clip. It also helps build a culture of paying it forward with respect to managing complexity, effectively amortizing the maintenance cost of the codebase over time.”

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More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost – The New York Times
“Now a counter movement, led by entrepreneurs who are jaded by the traditional playbook, is rejecting that model. While still a small part of the start-up community, these founders have become more vocal in the last year as they connect venture capitalists’ insatiable appetite for growth to the tech industry’s myriad crises.”

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Opinion | The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s – The New York Times
“By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.”

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Daring Fireball: Pentagram’s ‘Range of Possibilities’ for Slack
“What Pentagram has revealed indicates a total disregard for what Slack is and was — a brand which users have genuine affection for — and their new mark is nothing more than an unmemorable, unpleasant shape.”

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The Great Divide | CSS-Tricks
“Maybe the term front-end developer needs some rethinking. When I started working, front-end was mostly HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript. A good front-end developer needed to be able to translate a Photoshop layout to a pixel perfect website. Front end today is much much more. If you want to learn front-end development, people seem to start learning git, npm, angular, react, vue and all of this is called front-end development.”

Simplified Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:
4 cups broth
1 small onion, minced
2 cups of mushrooms
1 cup arborio rice
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T parmesan cheese

Notes:
– You can use any broth or stock you like, mushroom is great, but any stock you have on hand will work fine.
– For the onion, you can use scallions or shallots too. Feel free to toss some garlic in there, if you like.
– The mushrooms can be any variety or a mix. Feel free to go up to 3 cups, too, if you want.
– You can use regular long-grain rice as well. Not quite the same, but definitely cheaper.
– The balsamic is optional. It lifts the flavors, but if you don’t have it around, just skip it.
— Parmesan is also optional, if you want to make it vegan or just don’t like cheese.
— I like to add just a pinch of nutmeg to the mushrooms as they’re cooking. It enhances their flavor and is nice if you have it on hand.

Instructions:
Heat the broth in a saucepan. Keep it at a simmer.

Melt some butter in a large deep pan or another heavy saucepot. sauté the onion until soft (if using garlic, add it last or it will burn).

Add the mushrooms (and optional nutmeg) and sauté until they darken and start releasing their liquid.

Add the uncooked rice and stir to coat with the vegetables for about a minute. Add the vinegar and stir until it’s evaporated.

Time to start the tedious part!

Ladle about a cup of the broth into the pan and keep stirring until it’s been absorbed (about 5 minutes).

Repeat this process with 1/2 a cup at a time until the rice is plump and no longer chalky in the center. It looks like rice pudding and should take about 30 minutes.

Add the final broth and now’s the time to add the parmesan. Give it another stir and once the broth is absorbed, you’re done!

Here’s my little cheat:
Standing and stirring for a half hour straight is no fun, unless you want to just chill and drink something nice and relax, that’s cool, too.
If you want to do other things (make a salad to go with it, etc) you can put a whole cup of broth, maybe a bit more, in the pan at a time and just let it simmer, stirring every couple of minutes.
The texture won’t be /quite/ the same, but it will still come out marvelous.

Weekly Reads 2018: 12.02-12:30

How To Stop Wasting Time On The Internet – Barking Up The Wrong Tree
I’m not even as bad as some folks are with my social and internet use, but this makes me want to get a little closer to the minimalism discussed here. I have a lot of things I feel like I don’t have time for and that’s probably not as true as it seems.

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When someone dies, these people spring into action. Lessons on death, grief and life – The Washington Post
“We know how to have funerals, burials, cremations and scatter ashes. But grief? It’s not something where there’s a recipe.” This was beautiful, a little sad, but worth the read.

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I read only non-white authors for 12 months. What I learned surprised me | Sunili Govinnage | Opinion | The Guardian
“In addition to the philosophical questions, I had some technical issues with this whole endeavour. The most frustrating were the practical problems, such as how difficult it was to get hold of well-known books by people of colour – even in ebook format.”

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I Read Only Books by Women For a Year: Here’s What Happened
“So, how did it change me as a reader? It’s subtle, but it’s there. I find myself more attuned to characters now, whether they feel like real people or just vessels caught in a narrative tide. I’m more interested in narratives whose conflicts don’t revolve around violence. I’m less willing to suspend disbelief for the rule of cool. To some extent this is just a natural extension of my evolution as a reader and writer, but I can definitely feel the influence of my year of reading women.”

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The Yoda of Silicon Valley – The New York Times
“I am worried that algorithms are getting too prominent in the world,” he added. “It started out that computer scientists were worried nobody was listening to us. Now I’m worried that too many people are listening.”

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Influencers Are Faking Brand Deals – The Atlantic
“Though it may seem like a useful tactic when you’re starting out, more established influencers worry that fake sponcon is creating a race to the bottom. Because brands can piggyback off of waves of unpaid influencer promoters, some have ceased paying influencers completely, or now pay rates far below what they previously spent.” My Gen X, anti-sellout self is wondering what the fuck is going on with these kids. They’re selling out and not even getting paid for the privilege of being fucked over by these companies.

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The internet as television – Blair Reeves
“The promise of the internet was that of a panoply of riches; a nearly limitless tapestry of human potential where geography was no longer a factor. But what we’ve gotten is rather the opposite. The vast audiences of the internet are mostly guarded by gatekeepers who are careful to extract and monetize your identity for access.” And the theme of the day is “damn, remember when the internet used to be cool?”

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The 2018 Good Tech Awards – The New York Times
“I’m continuing that tradition this year, in the spirit of reminding us that although scandals and wrongdoing in tech rightly get a lot of attention, there’s good happening elsewhere.”

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Headspace vs. Calm: The Meditation Battle That’s Anything but Zen – WSJ
I have very very mixed feelings about the commoditization of meditation. One one hand, ew, you can just find a youtube video or read a book. On the other, I understand that for a lot of people the reassurance of having a guide through learning how to meditate and keeping on track with it is beneficial and worth the price of admission.

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Daniel Ortberg: Top surgery was the best $6,250 I ever spent – Vox
“When I woke up in the recovery room, all I could think was, Of course. Oh, thank goodness. Oh, of course. Of course, of course, of course. But I didn’t know it was the best money I’d ever spent until I’d spent it.”

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Emily Dickinson’s Electric Love Letters to Susan Gilbert – Brain Pickings
“Poised and serious at twenty, dressed in black for the sister who had just died in childbirth and who had been her maternal figure since their parents’ death, Susan cast a double enchantment on Emily and Austin Dickinson.”

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Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone – Member Feature Stories – Medium
“In short, if you had handed me this device when I was a kid, in the 1980s, I would’ve lost my freaking mind with joy. A distraction-free iPhone is a futuristic tool that I control. It’s what I really wanted all along.”

Documentation, studying, and making things “easy”

I spent the last two days reading every inch of the React documentation.With that completed, it’s time to open up the Redux docs and start the process all over again.

This is not easy. Getting the focus together to read through these things is challenging, at least for me. They’re also complicated technical docs, even if well-written.

But I know from past experience that this is worth doing. No, I don’t expect to actually absorb all of what I’m reading. That level of studying would take a lot more that two days. I’m not being tested on this, so the purpose of the work is different than someone in school.

I just need to know where the information is so I can find it later. There’s a lot to be said for being exposed to information. What I can do is file the reference away in my brain somewhere. When an issue comes up while I’m working, it’s likely I’ll have some tendril of memory surface and remind me where I can find the information I need.

This kind of immersive exposure has a couple other benefits. I can come back and revisit the docs later and absorb a bit more each time. I can also use this experience as a stepping stone for deepening my knowledge as I seek out other resources that expand on the concepts. Better questions with more thorough vocabulary also becomes possible now that I’ve got a more solid foundation.

I’ve made things, if not actually easy and at hand, at least more within reach.

Insomnia and Getting Stuff DONE

Insomnia since 4am means I’ve gotten some stuff done and it’s not even 9 yet. I’m all prepped for my blog staff’s meeting later today, which means I got a bunch of small fixes done on the redesign and assessed the status of various projects for the next month or two.

Yesterday I finished my first little react project to the point where I’m calling it DONE as in Cult of Done and moving on to other things. I left a todo list on the readme so I can go back and clean stuff up later, but I’ve hit the law of diminishing returns for a learning project. Nothing I have left to work on there will help me learn anything new, or rather, anything I would learn I can do more efficiently as part of a different project.

You can fork that project, by the way, if you want to set up your own link directory. Check the readme for details.

Today I’m going to make a study day. I’m working through the documentation for React and Redux, which is going much smoother now that I have some experience under my belt. I might open Cuppa again and figure out next steps for that. It needs a real backend which will likely be in Node. MERN stack tutorials are in my future.

Last night I used Library Time to start poking at my next writing project. Notion seems like it will work for my needs, though I spent most of the time shuffling real pieces of paper around. I have a full binder of various attempts at wrapping my head around what this world looks like and who the characters are and what story I’m trying to tell. It’s been twelve years since I started the project and I’ve changed considerably (along with the rest of the world) in that time.

My first job is seeing what I have to work with, hence the paper shuffling. There’s a treasure trove of raw material. Somewhere in there is the heart of the story.

Weekly Focus 2018: 12.09-12.15

Studying

  • Plan next 4 weeks’ goals
  • Finish comp-sci courses
  • Read Redux docs
  • Finish React docs

Cuppa

  • Research user account options
  • Research Node/Express backend

Storybin

  • Reopen the files and refresh my memory
  • Consider finding collaborators

Resources

  • Fix user interaction functionality
  • Write readme and todos
  • Clean up Typescript

LSQ

  • Prep for blog team meeting
  • Read stories
  • Prep June subs forms
  • Push for proofreaders

Enrichment

  • Organize Astyrred
  • Organize comics, make new list
  • Finish Tiger’s Daughter

This looks like a very long list and I would agree except my day job is currently to study a lot. I’m trying to make the most of this precious time. As far as I know, I’ve got about 4 weeks left, so I’m establishing a few goals.

I’ve learned a lot about React and feel close to confident I could jump on a project and be productive. I think reading the docs for the various parts will help solidify that knowledge. The work I do on Cuppa will also help reinforce and expand what I’ve learned.

There’s a lot of LSQ work to do and a few of m plans have gotten a bit off track. I’m hoping to clean that up a bit.

Having settled on Notion for organizing the Astyrred stuff, I can now start planning in earnest. Time to play archaeologist with my own work!

Weekly Reads 2018: 11.19-12.01

Opinion | Puberty for the Middle-Aged – The New York Times
As someone already in perimenopause I can confirm this stuff is accurate, but also that it’s very frustrating that there isn’t a “What to Expect” style book for the experience. We just don’t know shit about the female reproductive system.

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Guksi – Gastro Obscura
I’ve taken an interest in woodwork and carving of late and will be adding this cup to the list of potential projects.

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This User-Friendly Menstrual Cup Is What Happens When Design Is Inclusive – Motherboard
Great piece. Not just about diversity in product design, but also about diversity in what a startup can look like.

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Front-end development is not a problem to be solved | CSS-Tricks
Hear, hear!!! I heartily agree with everything in this piece.

Don’t forget to breathe

“When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath… You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” – Emily in “Love, Simon”

This morning when I woke up everything felt tight, strained. I’m 43 and that means that things have indeed started to hurt more in odd places, but this was more than that. I felt clenched.

I turned to a guided meditation on my phone. It helped a little, enough to get the ball rolling in making me see where the clenching was coming from, or so I thought. I was looking at how stressed I’ve been lately for various reasons.

I can feel the burnout creeping in around the edges, enough that it might start effecting my work. I can taste it on my tongue and feel it in the way I interact with the word. I knew when I signed off for the day I needed to unplug for a day or so, at least from writing code and wrapping my mind in those logical thoughts, useful as they might be.

I lit some incense, took a deep breath, and started to unclench. Then the noisy neighbors came home and wrecked the mood I had so tentatively started to foster. Fine then, I’ll just watch a movie, right?

I had heard about “Love, Simon” from a friend and they were pretty passionate about it. All I knew going in was that it was a teenager’s coming out story and I was guaranteed a happy ending, which is so welcome right now.

I liked the characters, enjoyed the soundtrack, and was very much appreciating the whole thing. And then I got blindsided by that bit of dialogue above. In the moment I didn’t understand why, but I started crying. Okay, sobbing is more like it.

The words are what the mom, Emily, says to her newly outed (by another student, not by choice) gay son. A little while later, the dad says some similar kinds of things. I could not stop crying. It’s been a half hour since the movie ended and I’m still crying.

In my spiritual tradition (as much as what you can what I do a tradition) we call this kind of experience a “heart opening”. Something comes along and just breaks you wide open and the feelings are overwhelming and intense and beautiful, if a bit painful as well.

I realized how much I needed to hear those words. In that moment I realized how much I, too, have been holding my breath. Unlike Simon, though, it hasn’t been four years. it’s been more like thirty-four.

I’m queer, this isn’t news to most and definitely not news to me, but my parents don’t know. I don’t have a partner. They’re conservative. I know they would still love me if I told them, but they wouldn’t get it, I don’t think, just how like they don’t get that I’m on the autism spectrum, though I have at least tried to explain that.

They don’t know about my spiritual path or lots of other small, personal, fragile things about me, either. Being exposed to them for the better part of the day yesterday left me feeling both tired and wired. Nothing was wrong, we had a nice time, actually, but I felt that gap between us, that secret. I was holding my breath all day.

This movie hasn’t made me suddenly want to tell them. I’m not planning all of a sudden on coming out. It has made me, however, realize that I hold my breath a lot. I have all this tension just balled up in a tight coil inside me. It’s not just my queerness, my spirituality, my personal beliefs. Not just being afraid of the world we’re living in and how it all feels so wrong.

It’s about how I’m approaching things, too. I’m not finding enough joy, or making my own. I’m not taking care of my health, spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise. I’m clenched all the time, with fear and nameless (and named) anxieties. I’m not resting enough.

I’m not breathing enough.

I don’t know what the next step is from here. I’m open and raw right now and that’s okay, it’s good. I vaguely was aware that there was a barrier up around me and it’s wrecked now and that’s good, too.

As Robert Fripp once wrote, “It is necessary to know the next step, but not the step after that.” My own “next step” was to sit down and write these words, to get it down on the page and find the connections.

There’s more digging to do, as well. I’ve got unreconciled feelings of something that might be regret, but it’s waiting for now. I also know that the world will do it’s best to come creeping back in, the good and the bad and that the intensity of these feelings will fade and it’s very possible I may even forget that this evening even happened. I like to hope not, though and to also hope that I can start building from here.

Is it strange to say that I wish any of you reading this a similar experience? It’s not fun, it’s not one of those “nice” feeling things. There is a chance though that it can be very healing and will do more good than harm when you recognize it for what it is. You may even feel like yourself again, though a slightly different version, when you come out the other side.

It’s not too difficult to start. You can begin by taking a nice, slow breath…

Weekly Reads 2018: 10.15-10.27

The Architecture No One Needs
Yeah, I’m giving a big yes to this article. SPAs seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.

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Reboot, Resets, and Reasoning | CSS-Tricks
Techie, but it was interesting to read about the mostly current state of css resets for browsers.

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The Whippet #56: Enough to sustain a living hoard
Just go read the “unsolicited advice” section because it’s fabulous. Do your best not to get distracted by the platypus facts.

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How Technochauvinism Derailed the Digital Future – The Atlantic
The only way to make technology that helps a broad array of people is to consult a broad array of people to make that technology. But the computer industry has a multi-decade history of gender discrimination. It is, perhaps, the industry’s original sin.

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The Absinthe Enthusiasts Hiding Bottles in the Swiss Woods – Gastro Obscura
Never tried absinthe and I’m not a fan of anise, but the idea of it all has always held a certain mystique for me.

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The revolutionary strategy hidden in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram feed – The Washington Post
The young women who have come to Congress have come to elevate, praise and admire one another. Not because they’re immature fangirls but because this coalition-building is their best hope for success in what remains, at its core, another mostly male workplace.