Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020

Okay. The work week is officially over until late Monday morning. I can switch gears now as the 2019 shut down/2020 restart process is coming into view. I’m excited to review the last year and see what I’ve gleaned from this rotation around the Sun. I know I didn’t achieve many of my goals, but that’s not really the point of setting them, if I’m honest.

I’m slowly developing a process over the years, it follows this general pattern:

  • First, work through a couple yearly reflection workbooks to take stock
  • Based on what I learn from that, determine the practical and aspirational goals for the year
  • Then finish up by doing some practical maintenance

The maintenance tasks will help me konmari my life a bit and make even the aspirational goals more possible:

  • Close out all browser tabs across machines, bookmark/pocket the good stuff
  • Run backups on all current devices
  • Organize physical journals/notebooks so they’re easy to grab
  • Catalog current tools (everything from goodreads to what I use to send out newsletters) and determine what can be streamlined/left behind
  • Organize projects both current and future in Trello so I can pick them up and put them down at will without losing my place

This isn’t all going to get done in the next couple of days. It’s more of an all-January kind of deal. I may document some of this process, mostly for my own records, but in case someone else finds it useful, too.

On Upgrades

I’ve got my 2015 Macbook Pro set up next to my beloved Weathertop (running Linux for programming and Windows for gaming). It’s running iTunes and Tiny Desk concerts and basically acting like a media center right now. I also write all of my fiction on there and use it to run almost every aspect of Luna Station Quarterly.

I’m looking at this miraculous device, all aluminum and crystal and circuits and I’m realizing it’s perfect as it is. I’m able to accomplish everything I need (including programming when I’m away from my desk), it runs all the programs I need, it’s able to play music for days and days. It fulfills every need and gripe I had with my earlier machines. It is, quite simply, enough.

My phone is a little slower than I’d like (and I’m upgrading that next year because it’s showing its age) but it functions fine and does what I need of it as well. I can connect with everyone I want to, play some games to entertain myself, and remind myself of literally anything I need to do.

At some point in the last couple of years I’ve stopped craving innovation in my devices. What I have does exactly what I need it to do. The dissonance with this realization is in navigating the upgrade path that is so relentless in both hardware and software. The need of companies to create perceived value without actually doing much in the way of impactful innovation for the end user is a symptom of larger problems, of course. Still, it creates a challenge that I have to address from time to time.

The one personal advantage, I suppose, is that when I am required to update a device, I have the opportunity to assess my options with a relatively clear perspective. I can make choices based on my needs, because I know what they are or can list them relatively easily. Stepping back from the annual cycle means I feel less tied to the microimprovements year-to-year and can find the best tools for me at the time, hopefully with enough room in the lifecycle to keep from having to go through the process again anytime soon.

For now, that will have to suffice, though I can’t help feeling that there is a better way. Though other options I think about mostly involve accepting a certain amount of obsolescence that I’m not sure is viable, considering my career and personal work. My default moving forward is much more likely to stick with the old until it is no longer not just viable, but livable. When the situation with my technology breaks down from doing what I need of it, only then will I assess and upgrade.

Evolving Interactions

On a slack I frequent daily, someone asked a question in the #watercooler channel we use for general conversation.

Genuinely curious to hear others’ experiences: is there a subset of tech Twitter/Mastodon where the dynamic is more conversational and less, uhh… “/dev/null with likes”? Trying to suss out for myself whether I should treat it mentally as more of a news feed or an interactive environment.

It was good timing for this because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my presence on social media and how I use the internet in general.

I’m one of those folks who’s basically off Twitter unless someone sends me a specific link and I don’t have a personal Facebook account. As for Mastodon, I use it a lot like a microblog a la Tumblr. The instance I’m on has a 10k character count limit so I can get a whole, fully-formed thought out (mine posts average around 500 characters). I do indeed talk about tech stuff and I do have cool conversations with folks on occasion. It’s more measured and slow due to the nature of the platform, though that suits me just fine. I’ve muted all the shitposting because that’s not why I’m there. In other words, there are definitely pocket universes where real conversation still happens on the internet.

Mastodon in particular doesn’t have any dark patterns (or any algorithms for that matter) that work to keep me sucked in and feed any FOMO I have. This makes it easier to close it down when other things need to be in focus. These days I find myself interacting with Slack folks (like we used to do on forums), using Mastodon for microblogging (hello LiveJournal and Tumblr), and putting long form thoughts out via blog (I see you hanging in there Blogger) and pretending it’s all an improved UI on 2000’s era functionality.

This way of using the internet has been an evolution in my thinking and, in many ways, a reclaiming over the last year. Actually, when I think about it, the real sea change for me in my attitude about social media was after reading “Deep Work” by Cal Newport followed up by my recent move that kept me offline by necessity. The book got me thinking and assessing and the time away allowed the perspective to see what I valued in my online time and where I really wanted to spend my energies.

At the end of the day, I’ve changed my default interaction with the platforms as output rather than input, quieting my feeds to a slow trickle. Because I have gotten responses from folks telling me that the stuff I write about hits important notes for them, I continue to share things, but I do what I can to put the whole thought together, provide context, and make it as meaningful to myself as it may be to them.

I’m pretty pleased with the changes I’ve made. The internet feels useful again, my time doesn’t feel wasted at the end of the day, and sometimes I am even of use to others who follow me. That’s really all I ask for in such a powerful tool.

Recent Reads 2019: 05.28 – 07.15

BBC – Earth News – Bizarre newt uses ribs as weapons
When attacked, the Spanish ribbed newt pushes out its ribs until they pierce through its body, exposing a row of bones that act like poisonous barbs. The newt has to force its bones through its skin every time it is attacked, say scientists, who have described the form and function of the barbs in detail.

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Eight ways the world is not designed for women – BBC News
“But it makes me so angry to think of all these women, living their lives, thinking there’s something wrong with them – that they’re too small or don’t fit or whatever it is.” “It’s just that we haven’t built anything for women.”

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Legends of the Ancient Web
I tell this story to reassure you that just because everything is heavy and political right now, it doesn’t mean we can’t also fight these fights on our own terms, as nerds.

The Utopian qualities that made us love the web have not disappeared, even as it’s become centralized and corporate, and we can find ways to defend and express them in our work.

The important thing is to recognize that there is a fight, and a need for individual acts of creative resilience.

We have to make sure that the powerful don’t get comfortable using our tools. And we have to find ways to dismantle the surveillance economy before it becomes a poltical weapon turned against our democracy.

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Wind Telephone – Ōtsuchi-chō, Japan – Atlas Obscura
Visitors dial in their relative’s number and catch them up on their current life or express the feelings necessary to move on. Some find comfort in the hope that their relative might hear them.

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Scientists teleported quantum data into the flawed heart of a diamond
It’s an amazing accomplishment. Especially in the Yokohama University study, where sending a photon into an inaccessible space using quantum teleportation represents the bedrock for what could eventually become a completely secure, distributed quantum computing network.

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Going Through Menopause Changed The Way I Think About Gender
I feel, instead, a new force, latent in the black expanse beneath me. There is nothing predictable or tame about this spirit. Elemental. Androgynous. Chaotic. Not found hovering ghostlike in nature, but the actual engine that drives nature. An atavistic force, the King Kong of Despentes, King Kong theory, a pregendered wildness that we lose claim to when we enter the strict binary. Tehom, the Bible calls it: the deep.

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America’s Early Female College Students Held Illicit Fudge Parties – Gastro Obscura
But for all these undergraduates, making fudge was not just an indulgence—it was a form of mild rebellion in an environment that, even as it promised empowerment, still sought to strictly control them.

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Why Did I Have Difficulty Learning React? –
It was difficult to come in thinking I was a senior developer and instead feeling like a junior. I often spent more time than I should have on my own just trying to understand things, frustrating myself in the process. I’d go a day or two or three of making no progress before reaching out to someone to explain something I didn’t understand but feeling like I should, feeling like I wasn’t good enough.

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Meet the Man on a Quest to Document Every Apple in North America – Gastro Obscura
An illustrated hardcover set of seven volumes, each between 500 and 600 pages long, Illustrated History is a compendium of every apple variety that has appeared in print in any North American publication in the last two centuries.

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What yo-yos taught me about being a developer – James DiGioia
Learning development is no different. You can read all the books you want, but the feedback loop of regular review of and conversations around your code can accelerate the process–no book is going to tell you implemented its pattern wrong! We have a reputation for being quiet loners, but learning is a social process. Be social!

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The Extraordinary ‘Cookbooks’ Left Behind by Prisoners of War and Concentration Camp Victims – Gastro Obscura
The package, when Stern finally mustered the resolve to open it, contained a picture of her mother with Stern’s son, a few letters, and a notebook of tattered pages, held together by rough stitching. In this notebook were recipes—of linzer torte, goulash with noodles, chicken galantine––compiled by her mother and the other women of Theresienstadt.

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Emma Thompson Gets a Shock at 60 – The New York Times
It came as a great surprise to Thompson, then, to suddenly find herself on uncertain ground occasioned by her 60th birthday in April. It was not that she balked at her age. Suggestions of “60 is the new 40!” make her eyes roll. “The denial of aging is unhealthy,” she sniffed in a recent chat. “It’s always been bollocks.” But she was flooded by discomfiting questions of her own about roles she had enthusiastically embraced throughout her life: as daughter, wife, mother, performer. She was still all of those things, but now she’s on the verge of being an empty nester.

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‘Fleabag’s’ soliloquy on menopause is the best three minutes of TV ever – Los Angeles Times
“I’ve been longing to say this out loud — women are born with pain built in, it’s our physical destiny — period pain, sore boobs, childbirth, you know. We carry it with ourselves throughout our lives,” Belinda says. “Men don’t. They have to invent things like gods and demons… they create wars so they can feel things and touch each other… and we have it all going on in here. Inside, we have pain on a cycle for years.”

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Researchers strapped video cameras on 16 cats and let them do their thing. Here’s what they found | Science | AAAS
When they were in their homes, the cats spent a lot of time following their humans around. They liked to be in the same room. A lot of my students were surprised at how attached cats were to people.

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Tech veganism | Read the Tea Leaves
I find that there’s a bit of a “let them eat cake” attitude among tech vegan boosters, because they often discount the sheer difficulty of all this stuff. (“Let them use Linux” could be a fitting refrain.) After all, they figured it out, so why can’t you? What, doesn’t everyone have a computer science degree and six years experience as a sysadmin? To be a vegan, all you have to do is stop eating animal products. To be a tech vegan, you have to join an elite guild of tech wizards and master their secret arts. And even then, you’re probably sneaking a forbidden bite of Google or Apple every now and then.

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The significance of plot without conflict – still eating oranges
What this shows is that the three-act plot, unlike kishōtenketsu, is fundamentally confrontational. It necessarily involves one thing winning out over another, even in a minor case like the one above. This conclusion has wide-ranging implications, since both formats are applied not just to narratives, but to all types of writing. Both may be found under the hood of everything from essays and arguments to paragraphs and single sentences. As an example, the reader might re-examine the first two paragraphs of this article, in which a “default position” is set up and then interrupted by a “problem” (namely, the existence of kishōtenketsu). The following paragraphs deal with the conflict between the two formats. This paragraph, which escalates that conflict by explaining the culture-wide influence of each system, is the beginning of the climax.

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Input / Output

I read through “Deep Work” by Cal Newport this weekend. Admittedly, most of it was a skim as I didn’t need the hard sell that deep, focused work for extended periods of time is the best way to get real, valuable things accomplished. For anyone that has been stuck in shallow work for their career, that stuff is probably really eye-opening.

For me, the second half is where I found the most value. That’s where the practical application advice lives and I took a fair number of notes as I worked my way through it. I’ve included them all below, in case they might be of use to someone else.

For now, I’ve started with getting up significantly earlier and spending the first couple of hours of the day in what I’m terming “deep work”. For me, that means solid time focused, without distractions from family or the internet. The work itself may not be particularly deep, but it will definitely move things forward in the work I’m doing as well as clear the way ahead for deep work to come.

I’ve set down some clarified professional and personal goals, as well as what activities will help me work toward reaching them.

I’m now assessing my network tools to see if any culling can be done. It’s possible that the focus and increased discipline I’m developing will be enough for now.

I’m also working with the questions: What does “deep work” mean to me and what does “shallow work” mean as well?


Deep Work notes

Be patient. It will take time to develop this as a skill.

Deep work pushes you cognitively to your limits. Fatigue is inevitable if you don’t train it like a muscle.


  • Where you’ll work and for how long
    You don’t want an open-ended slog.
  • How you’ll work once you start
    Setting a metric (words written, feature complete, etc) can be helpful.
  • How you’ll support your work
    Be organized and ensure the environment and tools you need are readily available.

Experiment with the ritual if it’s not working. It’s a big deal to develop deep work.

Sometimes grand gestures (renting a hotel room) can help.

Focus on the wildly important goals. Use a weekly review to keep yourself accountable.

Do a formal shut down of work at the end of the day.

  • Downtime aids insights
  • Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply
  • The work that evening downtime replaces is usually not that important

Shutdown should include setting up a list of the next day’s tasks.

Embrace boredom

The ability to concentrate deeply is a skill that must be trained.

Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead take breaks from focus.

Schedule in advance when you’ll use the internet (social media, entertainment, etc).

1. This strategy works even if your job requires lots of internet use.
2. Regardless of how you schedule internet blocks, you must keep the time outside them internet-free.
3. Scheduling internet use at home as well as work can improve your concentration training.

You must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli.

Working like Roosevelt

High intensity bursts of focus can help you accomplish a lot. Set a timer.

Start with once or twice a week and use a specific goal and deadline.

Meditate productively

Walking to focus on a single deep problem or task.

Act mindfully but instead of clearing your thoughts, keep them focused singularly.

Once or twice a week for this at first.

Be wary of distraction and looping thoughts.

Stretches your deep thinking.

Quit social media

The craftsman approach to tool selection:

Identify the core function that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

Apply the law of the vital few to your internet habits.

  • Identify the main high-level goals in your professional and personal life. These goals should not be overly specific.
  • For each goal, list the top two or three most important activities that help you satisfy the goal. These can be more specific, but should not be one-time activities.
  • Consider the network tools you use. Ask if each has a substantially positive, substantially negative, or little impact on your activities.
  • Keep the tool only if it has positives that outweigh its negatives.

The Law of the Vital Few:

In many settings, 80% of a given effect is down to just 20% of the possible causes.

Stop using services for 30 days then ask:
1. Would the last month be better if I had used the service?
2. Did people care if I was using it?

If no to both, then quit using it.

Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself. Put thought into your leisure time.

Drain the shallows

Deep work should be built up. An hour or two, but likely no more than 4, with the remainder for more shallow tasks.

Schedule your day by blocks of time and adjust as needed. This isn’t about constraint, but thoughtfulness.

Quantify the depth of every activity.

Shallow work:

Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much value in teh world and are easy to replicate.

How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college grad with no special training in my field to complete this task?

Create a shallow work budget

How much time (by percentage) should be spent on shallow work?

30-50% in general.

Be conscious about accepting new obligations.

Become hard to reach after hours and during blocks of deep work.

Recent Reads 2019: 04.03 – 05.27

React vs Angular vs Vue: Who wins in 2019? – zero to mastery – Medium
Angular is the entire kitchen that gives you all the tools necessary for you to build the meal that is your web app . If I am a bank with lots of developers, I like Angular to keep everyone working in the same pattern. React is the oven. You most likely will need more tools to bake that cake, but it allows you the flexibility to pick and chose what tools you want based on your needs. If I’m a tech company with strong senior developers that can make good decisions, I like React.js. Vue is the microwave that allows you to get up and running really fast and make your cooking life efficient and easy. If I am a startup with a young developer team and a strict deadline, I like Vue.js.

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Abigail Disney Has More Money Than She’ll Ever Spend
Now I’m glad I didn’t give it all away, because my money has grown. Now I’ve given away so much more than I inherited. And I’m so much smarter now. What I would’ve done in my 20s would have been great and nice, but I’m so much more effective now.

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This YouTube Channel Streams AI-Generated Death Metal 24/7 – Motherboard
this is kinda awful (imho) though the interesting part with any AI-generated work is that there has to be source material to start with. so as much as these folks are “eliminating humans from death metal” they actually aren’t because without the source, there’s nothing for the AI to learn from.

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A ‘Blockchain Bandit’ Is Guessing Private Keys and Scoring Millions | WIRED
At the peak of Ethereum’s exchange rate in January 2018, the bandit’s account held 38,000 ether, worth more than $54 million at the time. In the year since then, Ethereum’s value has plummeted, reducing the value of the blockchain bandit’s haul by about 85 percent.

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Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers – The New York Times
“School is so much fun,” Ms. Hwang said. Her son, Kyong-deok, agreed: “My mother has become a much happier person since she began going to school. Smiles hardly seem to leave her face.”

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Meditation in the Time of Disruption – The Ringer
The distinction is important: Whereas some come to meditation as a way of reckoning with the incredible gifts existence has already given them, others come because they want to see what else is in the bag. This sort of rhetoric only gets ramped up in reference to meditation as a performance booster.

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Punk Begins at 30: A Titus Andronicus Story in Five Acts | SPIN
hough Stickles is a master of the walk-and-talk, our initial discourse is largely limited to me picking up the stray proclamations he drops along the way (“The arena-rock experience on a DIY budget!”). But after my period of servitude to help ensure the Show Going On, he’s less inclined to swat me away. “You’re a ‘G,’” he daps me at the end of the day. “Now I’ll tell you mad secrets.”

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I Don’t Wanna Grow Up (And Neither Can You) | Gretchen Felker-Martin on Patreon
The idea that by depicting an act an artist is endorsing that act seems baked into the minds of certain left-leaning sets of younger people, particularly teenagers and early twentysomethings. That they have such deep concern for the safety and social equality of their traumatized peers and the traumatized in their own ranks can only be admirable, but more often than not the form it takes is mass harassment and scapegoating targeting not institutions or major studios but independent creators, many of them marginalized themselves.

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Why Archive of Our Own’s surprise Hugo nomination is such a big deal.
Both the demographics of the community and the more critical eyes many AO3 contributors represent make this Hugo nomination even more significant when you consider that the awards are barely past the Gamergate-esque war waged during the past few years, in which a group of disgruntled fans tried to rig the nominations to crowd out the women, minorities, and other “social justice warriors” they saw as “ruining” science fiction for everyone.

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One music list to rule them all | The Outline
When asked about why there isn’t a breakout pick for best album of 2018, Mitchum pointed to a paradigmatic shift in music writing that’s led to better representation and coverage of music genres across the board, with more albums thus vying for preferential treatment.

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Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management. – The New York Times
But the truth is that I don’t feel very productive. I’m constantly falling short of my daily goals for progress, so I’ve struggled to answer the question. It wasn’t until that conversation with Michael that it dawned on me: Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste. A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.

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Why the sexes don’t feel pain the same way
CW: many many mentions of animal testing Researchers have long attributed sex differences in pain perception to oestrogen, a hormone that controls the development of the uterus, ovaries and breasts, and which regulates the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen can either exacerbate or dull pain, depending on its concentration and location. Testosterone, the hormone involved in development of the penis, testes and prostate, as well as of secondary characteristics such as body hair, has received much less attention from pain researchers, although studies suggest it can reduce pain, and some people with chronic pain take testosterone treatments.

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RSS Is Better Than Twitter
Here’s what’s important: RSS is very much still here. Better yet, RSS can be a healthy alternative when Twitter is making you feel like shit. In 2019, that’s, like, most of the time.

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Want To Be Happy? Live Like a Woman Over 50 | Literary Hub
Contrary to cultural stereotypes, many older women are deeply happy. A 2014 Brookings Institute study on happiness and age found that people are least happy in their twenties, thirties, and early forties, and steadily gain an appreciation for life as they age. Indeed, most women become increasingly happy after age 55, with their peak of happiness toward the very end of life.

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Becky Chambers: To Be Spaceborn – Locus Online
“I wrote fanfic when I was younger, and I learned a lot from that. It makes good training wheels. Some writers disparage fanfic because it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re not learning how to make your own stuff.’ That’s okay! You can start with someone else’s fully fledged character – especially since your version of that character may be different than what’s textually there. It’s fine to start with a character that al­ready exists in a world you didn’t build, because it’s still coming from a place of love. A good story needs that more than anything else.”

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Opinion | In Search of Lost Screen Time – The New York Times
A recent study found that children between 7 months and 24 months old experienced higher levels of distress and were less likely to investigate their surroundings when their parents were on their mobile devices. Secure attachment begins in infancy when children take visual cues of attachment from their parents’ gaze.

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Strategy vs. Tactics: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?
While strategy and tactics originated as military terminology, their use has spread to planning in many areas of life. Strategy is overarching plan or set of goals. Changing strategies is like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier—it can be done but not quickly. Tactics are the specific actions or steps you undertake to accomplish your strategy. For example, in a war, a nation’s strategy might be to win the hearts and minds of the opponent’s civilian population. To achieve this they could use tactics such as radio broadcasts or building hospitals. A personal strategy might be to get into a particular career, whereas your tactics might include choosing your educational path, seeking out a helpful mentor, or distinguishing yourself from the competition.

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Luna Lindsey: Splines Theory: A Spoons Metaphor for Autism
I relate to this analogy somewhat, but it fails to describe the intricate resource-management I must do as an aspie. I wake up with a random number of spoons. Why? Why do I mysteriously get a bunch of new spoons at unpredictable times? The process of getting ready for a new task seems to cost me “spoons”, but that model doesn’t reflect the intricacies of the gathering process itself. What about the frustration I feel when I fail to gather or get interrupted? How do I describe the sense that a dozen little things need doing before I can start a big thing, each costing a fractional “spoon”?

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They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud. – The New York Times
“They’re coming here promising stuff that they don’t deliver,” said Mr. Frame, his hands and face still gray with coal dust. “People do that all the time. They’ve always done it to Appalachians.”

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When Dracula Author Bram Stoker Wrote a Gushing Fan Letter to Walt Whitman (1870) | Open Culture
You did so well to write to me,” Whitman replied, “so unconventionally, so fresh, so manly, and affectionately too.” Thus began a literary friendship that lasted until Whitman’s death in 1892 and seems to have been as welcome to Whitman as to his biggest fan.

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Britain’s Iconic Brown Betty Teapot Gets a Redesign – Gastro Obscura
“It’s one of those objects that everyone recognizes, but nobody knows why it’s relevant. It disappears into everyday life.” McIntyre himself spent three years researching, then reengineering, the Brown Betty, putting the spotlight on an under-appreciated piece of British design.

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The Modern Trap of Feeling Obligated to Turn Hobbies Into Hustles
That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?

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Music Heals: Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus on a Lifetime of Addiction
I have tried to do that with my words and I very much have tried to do that with my art but that’s a very difficult thing to do because ultimately none of us can ever know what it feels like inside the brain of another person. Even if this person is the closest person in your entire life, you know? We’re all only ever going to really understand ourselves, if we can even do that. That’s quite a hard thing to do. The totality of our personal reality, that’s nothing but the totality of our perceptions. So, I don’t know. My boy Ted Leo might call this the “Tyranny of Distance.” There’s a huge, yawning chasm between our understanding of the world and our understanding of ourselves and the way that we understand other people and try to speculate as to how they might perceive the world.

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Actor Michael D. Cohen Has Something to Say: ‘I Transitioned’ | Time
Though Nickelodeon has been supportive, Cohen knows this is a complicated time to be making this disclosure in Hollywood, too. The entertainment industry continues to grapple with what it means to be inclusive, and while LGBTQ issues are intermingling with kids’ programming more than in the past, sensitivities remain.

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Recent Reads 2019: 03.22 – 04.02

A Beautiful 1928 Letter to 16-Year-Old Jackson Pollock from His Dad – Brain Pickings
“The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life.”

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Lessons Learned From Seven Courses in Seven Days
“Aside from learning the actual content I consumed, the challenge of taking seven courses in seven days led me to reflect on who I am, what I like, and how I spend my time. I’ve distilled this down into several key points that I think apply to any learner.”

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In praise of slow thinking and Socratic ignorance — Quartz
“Distance and time provide perspective. To embrace slow thinking is to allow for shifts in opinion. When we’re not in a rush to reach a conclusion or take action, we’re free to explore ideas and change our minds, or just be deliberately undecided. Having no fixed position, which seems unthinkable on the internet, is actually a liberating way to navigate the world.”

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The story behind the Oblivion mod Terry Pratchett worked on •
“Most people know Pratchett as the author of Discworld, the famous fantasy series about a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants. However, what many people don’t know is that the knighted author was also a massive fan of video games – so much so that he actually worked on mods for Oblivion, most of which were spearheaded by a Morrowind modder named Emma.”

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Delete Never: The Digital Hoarders Who Collect Tumblrs, Medieval Manuscripts, and Terabytes of Text Files
“Many people active in the data hoarding community take pride in tracking down esoteric files of the kind that often quietly disappear from the internet—manuals for older technologies that get taken down when manufacturers redesign their websites, obscure punk show flyers whose only physical copies have long since been pulled from telephone poles and thrown in the trash, or episodes of old TV shows too obscure for streaming services to bid on—and making them available to those who want them.”

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Emilia Clarke, of “Game of Thrones,” on Surviving Two Life-Threatening Aneurysms | The New Yorker
“But it all seemed manageable, part of the stress of being an actor and of life in general. Now I think that I might have been experiencing warning signs of what was to come.”

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Do You Have a Not-So-Stranger? | A Cup of Jo
Perhaps you make up stories about them, or maybe you simply wonder: Where do they live? What’s their favorite book? Do they have an orange cat named Julius? Is someone, somewhere, thinking of them right now? They’re mysterious, yet familiar, like human signposts or landmarks or even lucky charms.

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Chris Evans Talks Trump, Tom Brady, Anxiety and Those Retirement Rumors | Hollywood Reporter
“Cap’s arc within the Marvel universe has also become a story weirdly in tune with larger shifts in the culture, in ways even Feige couldn’t have predicted. Downey’s Tony Stark was the superhero as disrupter, a repulsor ray–powered Elon Musk. In the ensuing years, America’s collective faith in billionaires with big ideas has been severely tested; Musk is now a full-time Twitter villain, as is the president of the United States. Nazi-punching is once again a marketable skill. And Captain America — an honorable man maintaining his code through increasingly dark times — seems less like an anachronism and more like the hero 2019 needs.”

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At 82, Glenda Jackson Commands the Most Powerful Role in Theater – The New York Times
This is one of my favorite pieces of the year so far!!! “In those moments, she told me, even if you don’t know why, an energy is produced and sent into the dark. The audience responds and sends the light back, forming a perfect, unbound, unbroken circle. “It is the model of an ideal society,” incumbent on everyone working together. “It doesn’t always happen, but it has happened enough to know that it’s possible.””

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How to play an effective Paladin – presented by the Red Dragon Inn
“Just because a Paladin has Fallen doesn’t make the character unplayable, on the contrary, it makes them more playable! They have tasted something that they possibly hadn’t before, what it is like to be on the other side of the tracks. And that means that they can better accept those that walk there all of the time. You will need to decide how such a fall affects your character, but it should be something huge!”

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How I finished the entire freeCodeCamp curriculum in 9 months while working full time
“You will have to study even on days you don’t feel like it. Here is where motivation also plays a big role, but discipline is important — especially if you’re like me and get distracted a lot with social media and cat videos.”

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SQL: One of the most valuable skills – Craig Kerstiens
“Yes we get a new standard every few years and occasionally something new comes along like support for window functions or CTEs, but the basics of SQL are pretty permanent. Learning SQL once will allow you to re-use it heavily across your career span without having to re-learn. Don’t get me wrong I love learning new things, but I’d rather learn something truly new than just yet another way to accomplish the same task.”

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Die, Workwear! – How We Lost Our Ability to Mend
The idea of mending today feels more like a promise than a reality. Alden Wicker touched on this last month in her Vox article about how the spare button represents all the ways we fail to be good consumers. Everyone has a stash of spare buttons rattling around in some drawer, with each button still neatly tucked inside its original packaging until we gather the will to throw it away. We buy things because they’re supposedly “investment pieces” and “classics,” but when it comes time to actually take care of our clothes, we don’t actually know how – or, more often, can’t be bothered.

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The Soothing Promise of Our Own Artisanal Internet | WIRED
This vision of decentralization is more back-to-the-land than blockchain. If portals to the digital world are so exploitative, it asks, why not curate our own?

Recent Reads 2019: 02.19 – 03.21

How Marie Kondo Helped Me Sort Out My Gender – them.
“Presenting myself now, in a way that’s honest about how I’ve always mentally straddled the gender divide, I also feel the cruelty of gender-segregated spaces more sharply.” So much of myself reflected in this essay.- – – – –

Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Once and Future King – The New York Times
“Dr. Norell said T. rex has helped foster a surge in dinosaur paleontology over the last 20 years, evident in the rising number of researchers and new fossils, and in the increasing sophistication of techniques to study the finds. ‘In the last 30 years, the number of tyrannosaurs has increased threefold,’ he said. In terms of technology, ‘it’s a different world.’ Dr. Erickson added: ‘The golden age of paleontology is right now.'”- – – – –

Leaving Room for the Beautiful Flowers
Nah, I said. “This is enough. It’s enough for us to eat and to have enough to share with our neighbors. This way, it still leaves room for beautiful flowers, and the beautiful yard and the shared food are like insurance payments, in a way. When hard times happen, we will have a bank of goodwill with our neighbors we are counting on to see us through.”- – – – –

The World’s Last Blockbuster Has No Plans to Close – The New York Times
“One possible explanation for the store’s long life: Bend is in a region that the city’s mayor, Sally Russell, describes as having “huge expanses with really small communities” that often do not have easy access to the high-speed internet necessary for content streaming.”

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At Start-Ups, the Free Lunch Is Yours for the Making – The New York Times
Ms. Jennings is known around the office for her kitchenette cooking. Her signature dish? The personal “work pizza,” which makes use of complimentary bread, sriracha and Babybel. Jennings bakes these ingredients in the toaster oven for about four and a half minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.- – – – –

From Mobb Deep Rapper, A Cookbook For Healthy Eating — In Prison : The Salt : NPR
“And perhaps reading Commissary Kitchen and other prison cookbooks can ‘give people more of an understanding of the kind of people that are locked up in jail,’ Prodigy says. ‘You have people there from all walks of life: people who made mistakes and have to deal with the consequences, mothers and fathers. You wouldn’t expect them to be behind bars.’ But there they are, feeding themselves and just trying to get to know each other over a home-cooked meal.”- – – – –

The People Who Eat the Same Lunch Every Day – The Atlantic
“Last year, Loomis retired from his job but not his lunch, which he still eats three or four days a week (now with sliced bananas instead of jelly). ‘I never stopped liking it,’ he says. ‘I still do.'”- – – – –

Central Park Detective Retires With the Horse He Rode In On – The New York Times
“The horseman of Central Park stopped on a grassy plateau to survey the terrain, from the North Meadow to his left, the Great Lawn ahead and Strawberry Fields due south. As cyclists and joggers plied the winding park drives, a nonstop stream of tourists approached the hard-to-miss horseman. They sought directions or a photograph of him and Trooper, his stately horse.”- – – – –

Mercury Is in Retrograde. Don’t Be Alarmed. – The New York Times
“Both Ms. Miller and Ms. Nicholas said that there were positive aspects to Mercury being in retrograde, and that it was a good opportunity to look back, reflect and regroup.”- – – – –

Sexuality, Disability and the Journey to Inner Freedom | The Mighty
“Where does that leave you? These ideals cannot usually be achieved at all, and if they can it is for but a moment in youth. There is a serious disconnect between the media’s image of beauty and actual human biology. If you really think about it, the traditional standard of beauty in this country is a terrible standard by which to measure oneself.”- – – – –

A brief history of when men sold their wives at market, and why some women enthusiastically consented to it –
“Flogging your wife at a cattle market may seem grotesquely abusive, but the vast majority of these sales were carried out with the full and enthusiastic consent of the wife.”- – – – –

Now, There Is Zero Proof That Alcohol Is What Makes A Great Cocktail : The Salt : NPR
“She was won over, however, when she met Ben Branson, who was inspired to create Seedlip when he came across a 17th-century book, The Art of Distillation. Written by physician John French, the volume contained recipes for distilled nonalcoholic remedies for a variety of maladies — from epilepsy to kidney stones. Branson had other ideas.”

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 –
“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.”