Weekly Reads 2018: 9.16-10.15

A bit behind on posting these because of some ongoing health issues. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more reading again soon. 😀
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How One Man Is Recreating Lost Colors – The New York Times
In our ephemeral world, so many things slip quietly away. It always pleases me to find someone is doing this kind of work and research.

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The Rise and Demise of RSS
Fabulous article on the history of my beloved RSS. I still miss Google Reader every single day.

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Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong – The Huffington Post
This is a long read, but no matter what your weight is, it’s worth the time.

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558m-year-old fossils identified as oldest known animal | Science | The Guardian
How on earth these scientists even found these fossils in the first place feels miraculous. The journey from 558m years ago to today, where these fossils exist and show us a picture of an incomprehensibly long ago past? Mind boggling.

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Now Damien Echols Will Teach You the Secrets of Magick – The New York Times
Surprised to see this level of openness in an article about high magick, though in a lot of ways this reminds me of Alan Moore.

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Where in the World Is Larry Page?
Interesting read that gives some insight into what’s going on at Google, and I was really surprised to hear that Page is little more than a phantom at the company.

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How Your Notifications Are Lying to You and How to Make Them Stop
A much healthier approach to dealing with notifications. These things are tools that are supposed to help us, not make us miserable. It is possible to have a more humane relationship with our devices, but it takes a little work.

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The Festival Where Millions of Women Prepare a Feast for a Goddess – Gastro Obscura
It’s unfortunate that for the rest of the year these women’s lives are so restrictive, but even so, this kind of ritual is amazing to learn about.

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Kitchen Soap – On Being A Senior Engineer
As I struggle to find my identity in this field, this piece was helpful in clarifying that my attitudes and approaches are in the right place, even if my technical skills are a mashup.

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The Joy of Cooking for One – The New York Times
I’ve been cooking for myself a lot lately out of necessity and this sums up a lot of what I’ve been feeling about it.

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’M.A.S.H.’ Remains One Of The Most Influential Sitcoms of All Time | Inverse
A piece of writing that sums up so much of what I love about this show. It remains relevant in so many ways and had a huge influence on me.

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We Could All Use a Little Snail Mail Right Now – The New York Times
Love this and would love to get into sending more snail mail. Just tactile, physical things in general seem to be getting more and more important to me.

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How to build rock-solid Ruby on Rails apps with BDD – DEV Community 👩‍💻👨‍💻
Coincidentally part of a book I have queued up to read. This was a nice overview of the flow from scenario to code and back.

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Notes to Myself on Software Engineering – Member Feature Stories – Medium
A great set of reminders for those that build software. Some real gems of wisdom in here.

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A Suggestion on How to Spend a Day at Home
This is just delightful. And full of breakfasts.

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Daily Poem #7

Someone clever once said
Women were not allowed pockets
In case they carried leaflets
To spread sedition
Which means unrest
To you & me
A grandiose word
For commonsense
So ladies, start sewing
Dangerous coats
Made of pockets & sedition

“Dangerous Coats” by Sharon Owens

(I can’t link to this one as it seems it was only available on a deleted Tweet?)

Weekly Reads 2018: 9.9-9.15

Companies worry more about access to software developers than capital
Interesting to read about software developers as a resource from the perspective of the “C suite” set. My work feels simultaneously more respected and objectified at the same time. Probably a good reality check, to be honest.

On Writing Beautiful Tests – CrateDB
This post on testing practices sparked some thought on the discipline of software engineering in general and how I’ve seen people react to the concept. There’s a lot I’m taking away from this one.

MythBusters’ Adam Savage on the tech he carries everywhere – The Verge
Yeah, sometimes I just like reading about what folks carry with them when they go about their days.

How Tor.com went from website to publisher of sci-fi’s most innovative stories – The Verge
I run a small press and magazine myself. I love how Tor.com has embraced shorter fiction and it gives me ideas of what’s possible in the world of publishing.

Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction? | Tor.com
Tremendous resource for science fiction by folks who’s work has fallen by the wayside. Looks like there’s a couple gems in here. Leigh Brackett is quietly my personal favorite on the list.

Five Young Women With Prize-Winning Book Collections
A bookstore gives an award for young women who have some awesome book collections. This is the hardcore kind of collecting, not just having a bazillion books like me.

Ugliness Is Underrated: Ugly Design
Fabulous piece on the “ugly design” trend that is slowly growing, and posits that it’s the natural outcome of a reality that has suddenly become more fragile.

Did the Oscars Just Prove That We Are Living in a Computer Simulation? | The New Yorker
Slightly old article that discusses the question we’ve all been asking ourselves since David Bowie died.

A Woman Was Here: An Introduction | Luna Station Quarterly
Outstanding start to a new column on my very own magazine. I can’t wait to see where she takes this.

An Ode to Two Dots, the Game That Eases My Anxious Mind – Tonic
Two Dots is one of my favorite puzzle games. Similar to the author, I find it soothing and a great break for my brain when I need to step away from whatever I’m working on for a few minutes. A perfect example of games as self care.

Weekly Focus 2018: 9.16-9.22

    • LSQ
      • Staff meeting planning
      • Minor tasks
    • Writing Storybin tests
    • Studying Rails Guides
    • Enrichment
      • Immersive Skyrim
      • Stirring
      • Getting morning routine back

I finished the major book production planning for LSQ last week. That’s great as it’s just in time for me to work on planning for the staff meeting on Saturday.

I also have a few dangling threads I need to finish off related to the recent and next issues. LSQ work is perpetual!

Study will continue on the Rails Guides. This week I’ll have a normal schedule so it should be an every day event.

For enrichment, I’ve got to get my book reread finished. My immersive Skyrim post turned into five smaller posts, so I’ll be writing one of those because it’s fun! Finally, after being a bit ill over the weekend, I’m working on getting my morning routine back on track.

Focus music

When I’m coding, sometimes I’ll put on various game soundtracks on Spotify.

I don’t listen to soundtracks for games I already play. I know the music too well and it’s distracting. I focus on trying out music from stuff I’ve never played.

Besides getting music that helps me focus, as a bonus I end up discovering interesting games I’d never heard of before and probably wouldn’t have found any other way.

It’s pretty awesome, though it does mean my Steam wishlist gets even longer.

Immersive Skyrim: Introduction

One of the reasons I built a PC for myself this year was gaming. I hadn’t had a real, solid gaming machine yet and was excited to try it out. In particular, I wanted to see what I could do with mods on Skyrim.

I managed to gather a fair amount of mods that all worked together to give me an interesting, immersive experience. While I haven’t gotten very far in the game’s storyline (technically I haven’t officially started, but I’ll explain that later) I’ve had an interesting time wandering around, doing a bit of dungeon crawling, and ending up getting into and out of a fair amount of trouble.

I thought since I was having so much fun with this play style, someone else might too and so here’s the first part of my guide on playing Skyrim with a bunch of immersion mods. I’ve also added one “in character” cheat mod that keeps things fun.

Okay, fine, I’ll start with the cheat mod.

My character, as I’m playing her, is a Kajit from elsewhere in the Elder Scrolls world. She and her mother (who died recently) were traveling merchants and tinkers. In her grief, she sold everything they had except for the Haven Bag that had been passed down in the family for generations. She came to Skyrim to see what it was like and maybe try starting her life over again.

So yeah, the Haven Bag is probably the cheatiest cheat ever. It’s a house you can carry as a piece of equipment, complete with a bunch of loot, bed, alchemy table, workbench, etc. etc. So sue me, I’m a pack rat. I have to pick up everything I see and having a limited inventory is not for me. Yes, I’ve also slept in the bag and used it to warm up. But this is a land of magic, right? And yeah, this is what my character’s ancestors used to get by in life. It’s there to be used.

Okay, now that I’ve finished justifying why my total cheat is okay, I’ll tell you a bit more about the immersive mods I gathered to make the world feel more lived in and real, not to mention more dangerous. I’m going to go over the general categories now, and then break down the mods in separate posts later.

Before I get started, I’ve created a spreadsheet that lists all the mods, including the load order and links.

First, I have a bunch of what I’ll call “General” mods. These are the standard mods that are recommended that most players use, even if they’re playing a fairly vanilla game otherwise.

Next comes the “Cosmetic” mods. These make the whole world a little prettier, a little more lively, and a lot more realistic, especially when it comes to the animals in the world. I added quite a few of these.

“Loot and Trading” will be after that. I’ve added just a few things to make trade more realistic and add some depth to the world that wasn’t there before.

After that, I’ll talk about the “Direct Effects” mods I’ve added. These add more interactivity to the environment itself, effect the character’s stats, or modify the way the inventory works.

Finally, I’ll cover one of the most interesting set of mods I’ve added: “Health”. These are the mods that massively change the way the game is played and ties all the other mods together into a more immersive, impactful experience.

All in all, adding these mods has made Skyrim interesting and more challenging, though not in the typical way. Monsters and men retain their same level of difficulty. It’s the environment itself that seeks to punish with a more dangerous journey and reward with more beauty and subtlety.

Now I just wish I could keep avoiding that pesky main storyline.