Link Dump 004
July 21, 2019
Whew! There’s a lot in this one! People were just sharing so much good stuff this week! Enjoy!
Articles, Essays, Books, Short Stories, & Tweet Threads
- Death to Bullshit: Yes, please! Make sure you click the “Turn bullshit on?” link just for fun before you go.
- “Various things in MetaPost” and “Fancy Euclid’s ‘Elements’ in TeX” showcase @jemmybutton’s incredible mastery of art in LaTeX. It’s truly incredible!
- “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain” is a short story by Robert Olen Butler. I’ve read it, and though I’m still not sure I know what it was about, it was definitely a beautiful, mysterious experience—which could perhaps have been guessed from the title. I liked this bit: “This was near the end of our time together, for I was visiting daily with a Buddhist monk and he was drawing me back to the religion of my father. I had run from my father, gone to sea, and that was where I had met Nguyen Ai Quoc and we had gone to London and to Paris and now my father was calling me back, through a Vietnamese monk I met in the Tuileries. Quoc, on the other hand, was being called not from his past but from his future.” Nguyen Ai Quoc, by the way, was another name of Ho Chi Minh’s. Butler, the author, has also apparently released a course on short story writing, though I haven’t gone through it yet.
- “The Octopus” by Nathan Goldman is a sad, sweet story published in the journal Protocols. I hadn’t heard of Protocols before finding this article. From their “About” page: “PROTOCOLS is a cultural journal with an ambitious mission: to curate and publish provocative writing and art from across the global Jewish diaspora with attention to progressive and leftist politics. PROTOCOLS seeks to amplify the voices of Jewish writers and artists marginalized and excluded from mainstream platforms, to provide a vibrant and enriching gateway into Jewish life, and to serve as a home for collective engagement, dialogue, and cultural organizing toward a democratic and liberated future.”
- “Which?” is a cool short story by Joseph Hall. It’s so short and concise that I had to read it several times to make sense of it. It’s a bit like reading a Borges short story—though it’s much shorter than most of his—in the sense that each re-reading yielded new revelations.
- “The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world”: “Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts—and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.” This is encouraging news, but can we find that many people to agree on something in America? I sure hope so.
- “Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?”: “The bicycle, as we know it today, was not invented until the late 1800s. Yet it was a simple mechanical invention. It would seem to require no brilliant inventive insight, and certainly no scientific background. Why, then, wasn’t it invented much earlier?” This post provides a really fascinating look into the history of the bicycle. The key insight, it seems, turned out to be: stop trying to copy the carriage and start trying to copy the horse.
- The Conservative Sensibility is a new book by George Will. Mr. Will is a conservative, and this book is his attempt to articulate what conservatism ought to be. I haven’t read the book, and I’m not a conservative, but I’ve heard Mr. Will recently on a few different podcasts, and he’s very articulate and thoughtful, at least when speaking. He’s also been a prolific column writer for several major US news outlets, but I must confess that I’ve never read any of his columns. Anyway, I don’t think he makes any attempt to explain the insanity taking place on the US conservative scene right now; I think he mostly just wants to stake out a philosophical position, regardless of whether modern “conservatives” hold that position or not. (In fact, he said on one podcast that he’d left the Republican party because (and I’m paraphrasing) political parties are tools: you use them as long as they’re useful, and then drop them when they’re not.) I want to read it soon because he seemed to be a careful and thoughtful person, and although I’m very socially liberal, I’m at least open to hearing from those who worry about large government and over-regulation because I understand that different kinds of tyranny can emerge from either extreme.
- “How to Be Unhappy” is a tweet thread that hit me a little too hard.
- “It’s Okay to Be Good and Not Great” is something I’ve been learning but needed to hear again. The article is a little fluffy, but I think it makes good points overall.
- A Blessed Unrest has been a creepy favorite of mine for a while. Where else (besides in horror movie soundtracks) can you find music that sounds like a haunted house? But this album is more sad than scary. Favorite track: “Half Sick of Shadows”
- “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt is so beautiful. When we listened to Pärt in college, I didn’t think much of him. But this is really quite wonderful.
- “Get started making sounds” is a series of tutorials from Ableton about how to use synths. It’s weird: I have a music degree, but I understand virtually nothing about synths and other digital music tools. So, I’m definitely going to be working my way through this soon. I don’t know how in-depth it goes, but the first few pages are definitely designed for people with zero experience in digital music. I’d eventually like to use this knowledge to build something fun with the web audio API.
- Sleep With Me is a family favorite, and my wife and I are Patreon supporters. This podcast got me through some of the most difficult times in my life: it helped me to sleep at night, and it even helped me calm down during the day. I mentioned it in a previous blog post, but I’m mentioning it again because it’s so good!
- The Report is a podcast in which Lawfare and others attempt to give voice and character to Robert Mueller’s report. It’s not a dramatization; it’s a weaving together of interviews, press conferences, rallies, witness testimonies, readings of sections of the Mueller report, etc., to help make the report more accessible to the average American. On a related note, Insider commissioned Mark Bowden (the author of Black Hawk Down) and Chad Hurd (art director at the cartoon Archer) to write and illustrate the Mueller report as yet another attempt to encourage the average American to consume the contents of the report. Their finished product is here.
- apg-js2-exp “is a regex-like pattern-matching engine that uses a superset of the ABNF syntax for the pattern definitions and APG to create and apply the pattern-matching parser.” In other words, you can replace regex patterns with something significantly more human-readable.
- pandoc converts between document formats. Who knew?
- Neuralink = Ghost in the Shell is coming our way soon! I’m still not sure whether or not I actually like Elon Musk, but at least he’s getting cool shit done.
- “I was wrong about spreadsheets and I’m sorry”: “I ridiculed the spreadsheet jockey. I dismissed their power. I was an asshole about spreadsheets. I just didn’t get it. I asked why people didn’t ‘learn to program,’ and all the while, I was using tools which were clearly less sophisticated than Excel.”
- The NASA Clean Air Study encouraged me to buy a houseplant the other day: I bought a peace lily at Walmart. I also found this nice infographic that summarizes the study.
- Project Wren “lets you go beyond reduce, reuse, recycle, so you can reverse your footprint and have a bigger impact in stopping climate change.” It looks like you pay some kind of monthly subscription that funds carbon footprint offset projects, like “tech-enabled rainforest protection” or “clean briquettes for refugees.” I have no idea if this is a scam or not, but it might be worth looking into for folks with disposable income who feel like they’re not doing enough to solve climate problems.
- The Open Syllabus Project “collects and analyzes millions of syllabi to support educational research and novel teaching and learning applications.” In other words, they combine all of the syllabi they can find on a given subject to help identify the most-used learning resources for that subject. For example, here’s the list for English literature.