Categories
Review

“How to Read Literature Like a Professor”

Thomas C. Foster

If you pay attention to my reviews, you may notice a dearth of “literature” as a genre. This was my attempt to begin working on rectifying that; sadly, I don’t think it will have worked. This sort of literary analysis, tearing apart every decision the author made to try to find the symbolism behind it, just isn’t my cup of tea.

Which isn’t to say that this wasn’t a good book! I quite liked the way it served as an overview of the topic, to begin with. Beyond that, there were a couple things that really stood out to me as something of throughlines to the book.

First, that, roughly put, meaning is in the eye of the beholder. We each bring our own personal history, our own preconceptions and biases, to our reading. The things that strike me as meaningful are going to be different than the things that strike my sister as meaningful, but the two of us are likely to have more overlap than I would with someone reading the same thing in their home in Hong Kong.

Secondly, a professorial reiteration of the idea that there’s nothing new. It’s one big melting pot; in the same way that each reader has their own approach to the same book, each other has their own approach to the same ur-story underneath everything.1

So, overall, a useful introduction to/reminder of literary analysis as a concept. I remain… not sold on the whole field, but to each their own! If it’s of interest to you, this is a pretty good place to start.2

  1. This also, I felt, made an excellent addition to the arguments in favor of transformative works as a thing. If all of fiction is just remixes of earlier fiction, then what difference is there, really, between a fanfic and Dante’s Inferno? One is older, is all, and has attained respectability over time.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Playlist

Playlist of the Month: May 2024

Honestly surprised this playlist is as long as it is; this month has felt extremely busy.

gatsby – Daniel Leggs on gatsby – Single

If You Want Somebody – Elderbrook on Little Love

I Don’t Want To Lie – Yoste & Vandelux on I Don’t Want To Lie – Single

Hallelujah Anyway – Luke Sital-Singh on Hallelujah Anyway – Single

Call Your Mom – Noah Kahan on Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)

Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes) – Kim Carnes on Best of Kim Carnes

Machine Learning – J. Maya on Machine Learning – Single

Beneath Oak Trees – Dylan Gossett on No Better Time – EP

Can I Ask – Yoste on A Place To Exist

People Watching – Charles Fauna on People Watching – Single

Under The Surface – Sultan + Shepard & Nathan Nicholson on Endless, Dawn

Boys Of Faith (feat. Bon Iver) – Zach Bryan on Boys Of Faith – EP

Risk Al – Mako & Baro on Risk al – Single

Imitadora – Romeo Santos on Golden

TUTA GOLD – Mahmood on TUTA GOLD – Single

The Night We Met – Amber Run on The Power Of Love – Single

Don’t Take the Money – Harry Strange & Mahogany on Don’t Take the Money – Single

Carrusel – Ozuna on Carrusel – Single

Kalahari Down – Orville Peck on Bronco

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – Beyoncé on TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – Single

Highlights – Sasha Alex Sloan on Highlights – Single

Bite the Hand – Harry Strange on Bite the Hand / Kind of Love – Single

Let Me Drown – Orville Peck on Bronco

Daytona Sand – Orville Peck on Bronco

Bronco – Orville Peck on Bronco

Lafayette – Orville Peck on Bronco

Blush – Orville Peck on Bronco

Tulips – Kai Bosch on Love, Throw Me A Bone – EP

Smalltown Boy – Orville Peck on Smalltown Boy – Single

manly – Andy HD on how i felt in march of ’21 – Single

Oliver – FER4Z on Oliver – Single

Dragon – flora cash on Dragon – Single

4 The Music – MIN on 4 The Music – Single

The Winner Takes It All – Meryl Streep on Mamma Mia! (The Movie Soundtrack feat. the Songs of ABBA)

Heat Above – Greta Van Fleet on The Battle at Garden’s Gate

CASTLE OF GLASS – LINKIN PARK on LIVING THINGS

JOLENE – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER

Be Together – Enrique Iglesias on FINAL (Vol.2)

The Archer – Taylor Swift on Lover

not ok – Andy HD on not ok – Single

not ok – Andy HD on not ok – Single

no body, no crime (feat. HAIM) – Taylor Swift on evermore

II MOST WANTED – Beyoncé & Miley Cyrus on COWBOY CARTER

Want You (living room floor version) – Yoste on Want You (living room floor version) – Single

They Can’t Hang – wes mills on They Can’t Hang – Single

DAUGHTER – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER

La Botella – Enrique Iglesias & El Alfa on FINAL (Vol.2)

Prrrum – Cosculluela on El Príncipe [Ghost Edition]

Como Yo – Enrique Iglesias on FINAL (Vol.2)

Midnight Magic – Charles Fauna on L I M B O

Kind of Love – Harry Strange on Bite the Hand / Kind of Love – Single

One More Light – LINKIN PARK on One More Light

Carson – Harry Strange on Carson – Single

Go Home (Demo) – alberto brandt on Go Home (Demo) – Single

All I Wanna Say – Lontalius on I’ll Forget 17

To Be Loved – Moko on Until Feb

Chicken Tenders – Dominic Fike on What Could Possibly Go Wrong

Revenge – Saffari on Revenge – Single

Don’t Matter to Me – Vancouver Sleep Clinic & GXNXVS on Don’t Matter to Me – Single

Take Me Back – Allman Brown on Take Me Back – Single

Hope… – alberto brandt on Hope… – Single

Makes Me Violent – Bob Vylan on Humble As the Sun

Lake Tota – Hayden Calnin on Lake Tota – Single

Saint Michael Myers – Trippie Redd & BANKS on Saint Michael

Vida – Miliano on Vida – Single

Stressed Days – Zino Vinci on Stressed Days – Single

Un Autre Monde – Tom Kha on Un Autre Monde – Single

Swans – Kai Bosch on Love, Throw Me A Bone – EP

TRAP PHONE – BERWYN on TRAP PHONE – Single

Pig feet (feat. Childish Major) – ScHoolboy Q on BLUE LIPS

The Hurtin’ Kind – Orville Peck & Midland on Stampede: Vol. 1

Follow The Sun – Lost In Pacific & Noah Kulaga on Follow The Sun – Single

Friday – The Chainsmokers & Fridayy on No Hard Feelings – EP

Lie To Me – Edwin Raphael on Will You Think of Me Later? (Recurring Dream)

Inside Out – Winona Oak & Boy In Space on Inside Out – Single

Down Bad – Taylor Swift on THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY

Bones Shake – Hazlett on Bones Shake – Single1

Count on Me – Emmit Fenn on Count on Me – Single

Sober – Edwin Raphael on Will You Think of Me Later? (Recurring Dream)

Hideaway (feat. Ruba) – Charles Fauna on L I M B O

I Wanna Die in La (feat. girlhouse) – Jon Bryant on I Wanna Die in La (feat. girlhouse) – Single

iwaly – Shallou on iwaly – Single2

Promise – HAEVN on Promise – Single

NEIGHBOURS – BERWYN on NEIGHBOURS – Single

Seasons – Thirty Seconds to Mars on Seasons (Acoustic) – Single

Run Right Back – ORACLE & Holochrome on Run Right Back – Single

Twelveighteen – kiskadee on Twelveighteen / Heda – EP

Believe Again – Luke Sital-Singh on Believe Again – Single

The Age of Believing – Aron Wright on The Age of Believing – Single3

Data – Aweezy on Data – Single

The River – Petey on The River – Single

Photoshoot Tonight – Isaac Dunbar on Beep Beep Repeat – EP

Heaven – The National on Heaven – Single

Not Like Us – Kendrick Lamar on Not Like Us – Single4

Miénteme – Orville Peck & Bu Cuaron on Stampede: Vol. 1

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) – Orville Peck & Elton John on Stampede: Vol. 1

As Easy As Possible – Oduu on Connect – EP

Yet – Babsy. on Yet – Single

Heartburn – Panama & Vandelux on Heartburn – Single

Conquer The Heart – Orville Peck & Nathaniel Rateliff on Stampede: Vol. 1

I Don’t Want To Lie (living room floor version) – Yoste on I Don’t Want To Lie (living room floor version) – Single

Oblivion – SYML on Oblivion – Single

THICKRICK – Dominic Fike on 14 minutes

CHIHIRO – Billie Eilish on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT5

Captagon Limit Extended 909 Sr – 47 Tw Mix – Flesh Simulator on Captagon Limit Extended – Single

Control – Emmit Fenn on The Last Dance – Single

How Far Will We Take It? – Orville Peck & Noah Cyrus on Stampede: Vol. 16

Stay High – One Room on Lagoona

Chemical Sunset – Orville Peck & Allison Russell on Stampede: Vol. 1

hi grace – Dominic Fike on 14 minutes

Stay Out of Trouble – OPLURE on Stay Out of Trouble – Single

Sinking Underground – Lontalius on Sinking Underground – Single

  1. This is one that feels like it’s gonna be in my list for months on end, just based on how I’m slowly picking up bits of it that I can sing along to.
  2. I can’t quite figure out what this one reminds me of, feels like it’s on the tip of my tongue…
  3. The same guy who gave me “like the softest hammer” (How You’ll Be Remembered) comes in with “love is like a tiger on a landmine — you’re scared but want to save it at the same time.” Excellent.
  4. I’m told this is full of sick burns, or whatever. I don’t actually keep up with the music industry news enough to follow it, I just heard it enough from people who do that it wound up in here.
  5. The driving synth line in here is really excellent.
  6. The music video for this is also excellent.
Categories
Review

“Perfect Software And Other Illusions About Testing”

Gerald M. Weinberg

Another book club entry, and a shorter one than usual, it feels like. I think the core concept is a good one to hold on to: testing everything is impossible, so you should be aware of what tradeoffs you’re choosing, and pick the ones that best meet your needs.

There’s some places in the book where, coming at it with Programmer Brain, I was annoyed at how long it took to explain something. Like yes, of course, you can’t test every possible system state, even just looking at a single small program there’s likely to be thousands of possible states, and that’s without addressing all the additional states created by the fact that programs don’t exist in isolation. The system they’re running on can impact them; the person using them can have a varying level of knowledge on using the program or the system; the program can be left continuously running for a long time, getting into ever more-complex possible states; heck, even cosmic radiation can impact program state.1

That complaint aside, there’s still a lot of useful ideas in there. Remember, the testers are not the enemy! But neither are they infallible. They are, in point of fact, people. Have empathy for them.

In all, a good, and reasonably quick, read about the software development process. Give it a go if that’s your type of thing.2

  1. Seriously, cosmic rays flipping bits inside RAM (or on various forms of longer-term storage media) is a real problem!
  2. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.
Categories
Review

“Prodigals”

Alan Dean Foster

This was a fun little romp of a book. It starts as a first contact scenario, a nice hectic experience for everyone involved as the various contacted governments scramble to pull together contact teams. And then it promptly goes off the rails for them, as nobody’s expectations about what First Contact will actually look like have anything to do with what happens.1

There’s some fun twists and turns in the book, and I quite enjoyed it. Towards the end it went a little funny, but I think… reasonably stuck the landing. Check it out.2

  1. And I am, frankly, delighted that the book managed to come up with a coherent reason for why this first contact was completely nonsensical in a way that most First Contact stories completely fail at. They’re from space. Do you know how much stuff there is out there? Why would an advanced race bother landing on a planet to mine for resources?
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Review

“Bad Gays”

Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller

This is a fun concept for a book: take the concept of “let’s talk about the forgotten gays of history” and focusing, instead of on the heroic ones, the villainous ones. I thought the choice of Hadrian for the cover art was weird, but the chapter on him… sorta explained that, and sorta didn’t? Like, my reading is that he was definitely a toxic boyfriend, but not particularly a villain beyond that, unless you want to count the inherent villainy of being a Roman emperor. And even then, by Roman Emperor Standards, he wasn’t actually all that bad.1

I have, in the past, bounced off books for being too academic in style, and this feels like it’s right around the upper edge of what I can tolerate in that way. It’s an interesting telling of the history, with a fair amount of citations throughout, but where I started to lose interest was where it got deep into… queer theory? Historiography? Something like that. Not a book to read when your brain is tired and you just want to gently process words, there’s too many moments demanding of deep thought for that. But then, sometimes that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the read! It’s a fun, if sometimes disheartening and depressing, skim through a specific subset of history. Give it a go.2

  1. This is, admittedly, a pretty low bar.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Review

“Thing Explainer”

Randall Munroe

This was a really interesting book to read. The quick summary is that it explains things! (It’s a well-chosen title.) The trick is that it does so using line art and the 1,000 most-common words, in the style of Simple English Wikipedia. It’s a mix of genuinely useful information, decontextualization that feels like Strange Planet, and a surprisingly similar feeling to trying to read a book in a language in which you are not fluent. For as short a book as it is, it took me a long time to read it; I could only get through a few pages at a time, and then I had to go take a break to let my brain recover.

It is, however, quite fun to read. You’ll learn some things, and at the same time you’ll have a few moments of feeling proud of yourself for figuring out what the heck it’s trying to convey. It’s an educational puzzler. I had a lot of fun with it; check it out.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Playlist

Playlist of the Month: April 2024

Feels like a shorter one than usual—I had a bit less time for listening to music this month. Which feels slightly ominous.

How It Was – Yoste on A Few Brief Moments – EP

Friends – Yoste on Friends – Single

gatsby – Daniel Leggs on gatsby – Single

If You Want Somebody – Elderbrook on Little Love

I Don’t Want To Lie – Yoste & Vandelux on I Don’t Want To Lie – Single

Hallelujah Anyway – Luke Sital-Singh on Hallelujah Anyway – Single

Call Your Mom – Noah Kahan on Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)

Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes) – Kim Carnes on Best of Kim Carnes

Machine Learning – J. Maya on Machine Learning – Single

Trouble In Your Eyes – Yoste on Trouble In Your Eyes – Single

Beneath Oak Trees – Dylan Gossett on No Better Time – EP

Can I Ask – Yoste on A Place To Exist

My Innocence – Corey Harper on My Innocence – Single

Safety In Numbers – MAX RAD & Nathan Ball on Safety In Numbers – Single

People Watching – Charles Fauna on People Watching – Single

american fantasy – Daniel Leggs on american fantasy – Single

Under The Surface – Sultan + Shepard & Nathan Nicholson on Endless, Dawn

Boys Of Faith (feat. Bon Iver) – Zach Bryan on Boys Of Faith – EP

Nobody Cares – Lonely in the Rain & MR TOUT LE MONDE on Nobody Cares – Single

Risk Al – Mako & Baro on Risk al – Single

Armor – Iniko on Armor – Single

Imitadora – Romeo Santos on Golden

TUTA GOLD – Mahmood on TUTA GOLD – Single

The Night We Met – Amber Run on The Power Of Love – Single

Grow (feat. Wye Oak) – Forester on Grow (feat. Wye Oak) – Single

Constantinople – Ed Prosek, Portair & Driftwood Choir on Constantinople – Single

Don’t Take the Money – Harry Strange & Mahogany on Don’t Take the Money – Single

rainonmyparade – cln on rainonmyparade – Single

Carrusel – Ozuna on Carrusel – Single

Kalahari Down – Orville Peck on Bronco

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – Beyoncé on TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – Single

Highlights – Sasha Alex Sloan on Highlights – Single

Bite the Hand – Harry Strange on Bite the Hand / Kind of Love – Single

Cover Girl – Haux on Blue Angeles

You’re Not Alone (feat. Tailor) – Lonely in the Rain on Clouds In Our Heads – EP

Let Me Drown – Orville Peck on Bronco

Daytona Sand – Orville Peck on Bronco

Bronco – Orville Peck on Bronco

Trample Out the Days – Orville Peck on Bronco

Lafayette – Orville Peck on Bronco

Somewhere Between – Dylan Gossett on Somewhere Between – Single

Blush – Orville Peck on Bronco

Born This Way (The Country Road Version) – Orville Peck on Born This Way (The Country Road Version) – Single

Tulips – Kai Bosch on Love, Throw Me A Bone – EP

Smalltown Boy – Orville Peck on Smalltown Boy – Single

manly – Andy HD on how i felt in march of ’21 – Single

Oliver – FER4Z on Oliver – Single

A Bad Dream from an Old Life – Ed Prosek, Portair & Driftwood Choir on A Bad Dream from an Old Life – Single

Dragon – flora cash on Dragon – Single

4 The Music – MIN on 4 The Music – Single1

leaving so soon – Andy HD on how i felt in march of ’21 – Single

The Winner Takes It All – Meryl Streep on Mamma Mia! (The Movie Soundtrack feat. the Songs of ABBA)

Hymn for the Weekend – Coldplay on A Head Full of Dreams

Heat Above – Greta Van Fleet on The Battle at Garden’s Gate

CASTLE OF GLASS – LINKIN PARK on LIVING THINGS

JOLENE – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER2

Be Together – Enrique Iglesias on FINAL (Vol.2)

Lost – Frank Ocean on channel ORANGE

The Archer – Taylor Swift on Lover3

Too Sweet – Hozier on Unheard – EP

Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other – Orville Peck & Willie Nelson on Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other – Single

Lost In Paradise (feat. Boo Seeka) – Forester on Moonlight

not ok – Andy HD on not ok – Single

not ok – Andy HD on not ok – Single4

no body, no crime (feat. HAIM) – Taylor Swift on evermore

Far Away – Allman Brown on Far Away – Single

RIIVERDANCE – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER

Leave This All Behind – Dixon Dallas on Leave This All Behind – Single

Afterlife – Eloi El on Above Ground

II MOST WANTED – Beyoncé & Miley Cyrus on COWBOY CARTER

Want You (living room floor version) – Yoste on Want You (living room floor version) – Single

SWEET ★ HONEY ★ BUCKIIN’ – Beyoncé & Shaboozey on COWBOY CARTER

Waiting for the End – LINKIN PARK on A Thousand Suns (Deluxe Edition)

Palestrina Sicut (feat. Sarah Aristidou, Kim Sheehan & Niels Orens) – Max Cooper on Seme – EP

They Can’t Hang – wes mills on They Can’t Hang – Single5

IF YOU GO DOWN (I’M GOIN’ DOWN TOO) – Kelsea Ballerini on SUBJECT TO CHANGE

Glad I Found You – Elderbrook & George FitzGerald on Glad I Found You – Single

Never Change – Otherwish on ii, Let You Go

DAUGHTER – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER6

Me Voy Acostumbrando – Enrique Iglesias on FINAL (Vol.2)

La Botella – Enrique Iglesias & El Alfa on FINAL (Vol.2)

BLACKBIIRD – Beyoncé, Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy & Reyna Roberts on COWBOY CARTER

so bad (feat. Vide) – Kid Kobe on so bad (feat. Vide) – Single

Yardstyle – M24 on Concrete Rose

American High – Isaac Dunbar on American High – Single

The Mountain Is You – Chance Peña on The Mountain Is You – Single

Prrrum – Cosculluela on El Príncipe [Ghost Edition]7

Como Yo – Enrique Iglesias on FINAL (Vol.2)

Midnight Magic – Charles Fauna on L I M B O

All Of You (feat. maybealice) – Lonely in the Rain on All Of You (feat. maybealice) – Single

BURN IT DOWN – LINKIN PARK on LIVING THINGS

Unwavering – Sandrayati & SOHN on Unwavering – Single

Stay Still – Le Youth, Forester & Lyrah on Stay Still – Single

Honey – Corey Harper on Honey – Single

JUST FOR FUN – Beyoncé & Willie Jones on COWBOY CARTER

Kind of Love – Harry Strange on Bite the Hand / Kind of Love – Single

Cinema – French Braids & Tailor on Cinema – Single

Finally Stop Dreaming – Dylan Gossett on Songs in the Gravel – EP

Hey Now – VisionV, Surf Mesa & MKLA on Hey Now – Single

AMERIICAN REQUIEM – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER

Have I Ever Left Your Side? – Aron Wright on Have I Ever Left Your Side? – Single

ALLIIGATOR TEARS – Beyoncé on COWBOY CARTER

One More Light – LINKIN PARK on One More Light8

Back Through You – Sultan + Shepard & Tishmal on Endless, Dawn

Carson – Harry Strange on Carson – Single

Paris – The Chainsmokers on Memories…Do Not Open

Righteous – Juice WRLD on Legends Never Die

  1. Really love the strings here, wonderfully rhythmic.
  2. collab of the century???
  3. Feels very… ‘80s female lead to me. I dig it.
  4. Not a repeat! One is the “explicit” version and one isn’t… but they’re actually very different iterations of the same song.
  5. Feels very “Fred again..”
  6. I have done no research to find the answer to this question, because it’s more fun that way, but I keep wondering: did Beyoncé already have the classical-opera-style training for this, or did she learn it just for this song? Either way, daaaaang.
  7. This is the one song I added whilst I was away from my computer and listening to less music.
  8. A+ song to sing along to in the shower, can recomend.
Categories
Review

“How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”

Dr. Walter Rodney

This is one of those books that I feel underprepared to read. Human interests are fractal; every topic is full of so much more detail and history than you’d ever expect. And this is a book from deep within a topic area. There’s a lot of assumed prior reading that I just don’t have.

The general thesis is pretty simple to state: through slavery and colonization, Europe took the resources of Africa to fuel its own development, and in so doing, slowed the development of—or, roll credits, underdeveloped—Africa.

And that point is made quite well throughout. There’s a lot of the history of the relationship between Europe and Africa, and it’s a whole lot of interesting, useful information. The one point that really lodged in my head was population numbers over time: using the (very) rough census data available, the extrapolated populations of Europe, Asia, and the Americas just kept growing over time; Africa’s population stayed stable for a couple of centuries. Gee, do you think there’s something environmentally unique about Africa that meant this gigantic landmass with plenty of arable land was just immune to natural population growth? Or could it perhaps be that people kept showing up with empty ships and leaving with ships full of slaves?

And the population numbers were already something I hadn’t known about, but the larger point made is that having a permanent population drain is a massive detriment to a region’s ability to develop. Every person taken away isn’t just a person taken away, they’re a whole set of possible futures cut off. Every interaction they could’ve had with someone else, every possible invention they could’ve come up with… every child they could have had, and every interaction and invention and child that child could’ve had, expanding on into the future. A massive amount of potential, stolen away… over and over, constantly, for centuries. It’s a hell of an impact, and the way Dr. Rodney talks about it really drives that point home. For that alone, this book is well worth the read.

There’s two part of the book that didn’t hold up well. Firstly, it was written in the 1960s, and has a lot to say about the future of socialism, with the unfortunate outcome of pointing to the USSR and North Korea as shining examples of development. That… aged poorly.

The other issue is a lot more mechanical, and hopefully just an issue of the specific edition I was reading: it had, very clearly, been run through OCR software at some point, and was reprinted based on that without an editing pass. It’s a tad headache-inducing to have to deliberately blur your vision at times so you can figure out what word was supposed to be there, based on the shape, instead of whatever word actually wound up there. Whatever OCR software was used, it was very bad at distinguishing between the characters f/l/t, as well as c/e, and the editing pass appears to have been “paste it into Word, hit ‘spell check,’ accept the first suggestion for everything.” Not great, Bob!

All in all, I found this to be an interesting read, and can heartily recommend it. Maybe… avoid this specific edition, though.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Review

“His Majesty’s Airship”

S.C. Gwynne

The extent of my knowledge of dirigibles, prior to reading this book, basically consisted of “they’re cool in steampunk, the Hindenburg going up like a struck match the size of a building made sure we don’t use them in real life, and I kinda hope we’ll be able to make them actually viable with modern technology sometime soon.” Which is, to be fair, probably between one and two more pieces of knowledge above average for the topic. I stand by two of them, and the third is also fairly accurate, but now the Hindenburg thing is supplemented with “it wasn’t even remotely the first time something like that happened, it was just the first time it happened on camera.” And boy, did that ever make a difference. Turns out it’s a lot less visceral to read about an airship crash than it is to watch it happen.

For a quick summary, rigid airships looked like they had a solid chance at being the New Big Thing for a while there. Zeppelin had some entertaining failures, weirdly became a national hero for having stuff go catastrophically wrong but in a way that everyone could be jingoistic about, and then The Great War began and it was already pretty dang obvious that air superiority was very important. Hey, look, this guy has been building these giant airship things, and had specifically envisioned them as being terror weapons the whole time! And so began the first blitz of London.

The word “terror” in there is doing a lot of important work, because as just regular ol’ weapon weapons, they were kinda hilariously inept. They had no idea where they were, most of the time—there’s a great line in the book about how they missed London (and valuable military/industrial targets) so often that people were starting to wonder if they were deliberately attacking crops in the fields. Hint: they were not, it’s just that airships are hard to steer.

War ends, British empire is the biggest empire to ever empire, and boy howdy would it be nice if we could just fly everywhere instead of waiting for boats to go the long way, eh? Politics happens, the British government throws millions of pounds at developing their airship, R101, it makes a triumphant first flight! No, wait, scratch that, it makes a triumphant first departure, heading off for a journey to show off just how fast you can get to India from London with an airship, and makes it as far as… France before it, quite literally, crashes and burns.

All told, the story is quite interesting. Some historians try to position themselves as without bias; Gwynne… does not. I had to copy down a quote from where he really shows what he thinks of this whole ‘airship’ concept: “In spite of what appears in retrospect to be excruciatingly obvious—the lethal impracticality of the big rigids—the idea did not die, and airships did not disappear.” (80) Tell us how you really feel, mate!

I read through it being quite entertained by that stance, because as I said at the start, I’m optimistic that we may one day be able to make this technology work. Not to get too Diamond Age about it, but I kinda suspect that nanotechnology and possibly building, like, something like an aerogel but filled with hard vacuum would work better than “an amount of hydrogen that could power a city for a day or two”. The fact that their best storage mechanism was cow intestines also says something about the sum total of manufacturing technology available at the time.

Really, a lot of what went wrong has more to do with management than technology. The head of the program, a politician who had built his entire brand around this project? Not gonna be super excited with delaying things for safety. The manager of the program who’s supposed to report to him being the kind of guy who passes on all the good news and buries the bad? Bad thing to have around when the thing you’re building is a gigantic bomb that you shove passengers into.

This was, overall, a very readable history book. I had a good time going through it, even if I did roll my eyes occasionally at the author and frequently at the people running the show.1 It’s worth your time to hear about this whole fascinating bit of history that tends to get forgotten by the flashier events that happened around it. Check it out.2

  1. Seriously, after the second time that the ‘admiral’ drunkenly overrules the captain of the ship and insists that he will do the landing, and then does the airship equivalent of scraping off the landing gear—maybe fire the guy? Just a thought.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Photography United States

Virgin Islands National Park

Visiting a national park is always cool when you’ve got the opportunity. Virgin Islands National Park is… slightly more out of the way than many of them, but definitely worth checking out.

Getting there involves flying in to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and then taking a ferry over to St. John. The view from the ferry is a pretty good introduction:

Photograph of St. John Island, taken from the ferry leaving St. Thomas Island.

There’s a few options for ferries; if you’ve already rented a car, the Love Island Car Ferry is your best bet, and has a pretty reasonable schedule. Depending on which of their ships you wind up on, it’s worth hopping out after you’ve parked and paid/checked in and going to the upper deck to watch the ride.

Photograph of a decaying, partially-sunken vehicle ferry in Cruz Bay on St. John island.

You’ll be dropped off in Cruz Bay, a dense town that doesn’t offer much by way of walkability, but overflows with options to rent… Jeeps, mostly, though there’s a some variety thanks to the Bronco.

Photograph of a stop sign in Cruz Bay, St. John. It has many stickers added, including letters that make it read "Don't Stop Believin"

Get into the park, though, and there’s a whole lot to do. We’d hoped to do the Snorkeling Trail at Trunk Bay Beach, but it was packed, and hiking there from a parking lot that wasn’t at capacity seemed like a great way to get heat stroke. Instead, we wound up at Cinnamon Bay.

Photograph of the Cinnamon Bay Beach and Campground sign in Virgin Islands National Park.

There’s a good setup; a campground, a little restaurant, and, once you walk past the park information signs and some ruins, the beach.

Photograph of overgrown ruins in Virgin Islands National Park. A sign reads "Danger: Unstable Ruins. Do not enter." A rock formation in the ocean is faintly visible through an open window in the ruins.

And oh, what a beach! The Caribbean, it’s got some great beaches, who knew? Though there’s no snorkel trail here, it’s still good snorkeling – almost directly out from these ruins, about level with the buoys, there’s a coral reef that’s fun to float around. (Treat the wildlife well, though! Don’t touch anything, don’t step on any coral, and make sure that any sunscreen and/or bug spray you apply is coral-safe.)

Photograph of Cinnamon Bay in Virgin Islands National Park.

There’s also at least one stingray out there – we spotted him close to that rock formation on the left in the photo above. Sadly, the only “waterproof” camera I own is my phone, and the water resistance of an iPhone is more “you can rinse it off if it gets dirty” than it is “lol spend an hour underwater.”

Blurry photograph of a deer at Virgin Islands National Park

We also spotted some more terrestrial wildlife; a deer stopped to enjoy the view, as well, just a few feet behind where we’d put down our towels on the beach.

Photograph of a tree-covered pathway next to the ruins at Cinnamon Bay in Virgin Islands National Park.

And, of course, what would a photography post of mine be without a picture of an aesthetically-appealing pathway?

Categories
Review

“Dairy Free”

Angela Litzinger

I went through this in two sittings, and sorta split it into the two key components as I was doing so.

The first part is, broadly, the ‘introduction,’ but while there’s a couple pages of usual “introduction to this book” type material, what it really works out to is an introduction to the dairy-free life. And, really, it’s the thing I wish I’d had available when I was just starting to figure out this “if I stop eating any dairy I’ll stop being sick all the time!” thing. There’s a line in there about taking six months to just sorta get used to it and start feeling confident in doing so, and that really struck me, sitting as I am on the other side of that line. Having that reassurance back at the beginning would’ve been helpful, as well as the general tips and tricks on how to do it. Although, admittedly, this is written from the perspective of someone with a severe dairy allergy, whereas I’ve just got a severe cow’s-milk intolerance, so some of the things I can ignore. I don’t need a recipe for a non-dairy goat cheese, both because I don’t actually care for the categorical ‘goat cheese’ taste… and I can just eat actual goat cheese, so long as it’s fully goat and not a blend.

The second part is the recipes, and this is where I played myself, a bit. “I’ll just read a little bit of this before bed,” I thought. Like a fool. Instead of some relaxing browsing to wind down, I instead sat there jotting notes about which recipes I’d like to try and what pages they were on. There was an audible gasp when I got to the ricotta recipe, and when I later got to béchamel I drew an arrow across the page, an excited “lasagne!!!” for emphasis. Because whilst I have mostly gotten used to this whole thing, the process of—to paraphrase the book—mourning the foods I grew up eating and can no longer have would certainly have been easier if there were slightly-higher-effort versions of some of my favorite comfort foods that I can still eat.

So hey, this is a super cool cookbook! If you’ve got a dairy allergy, or intolerance, or want to go vegan but just can’t survive without ice cream or lasagne, check it out.1 There’s a great deal of gluten-free and nut-free variations, too, making it a great resource for anyone trying to maintain an allergy-sensitive kitchen.

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Playlist

Playlist of the Month: March 2024

I’m on vacation here at the beginning of the month, and while my process for writing up the playlist remains the same, doing it while looking out over a tropical beach sure does make it nicer.

How It Was – Yoste on A Few Brief Moments – EP

twentyfive – Yoste on twentyfive – Single

Save Me – Majik on It’s Alright / Save Me – Single

Friends – Yoste on Friends – Single

gatsby – Daniel Leggs on gatsby – Single

If You Want Somebody – Elderbrook on Little Love

I Don’t Want To Lie – Yoste & Vandelux on I Don’t Want To Lie – Single

Hallelujah Anyway – Luke Sital-Singh on Hallelujah Anyway – Single

Call Your Mom – Noah Kahan on Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)

Jericho – Iniko on Jericho – Single

Want You – Yoste on Want You – Single

Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes) – Kim Carnes on Best of Kim Carnes

Machine Learning – J. Maya on Machine Learning – Single

Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes on Best of 80s

Trouble In Your Eyes – Yoste on Trouble In Your Eyes – Single

Beneath Oak Trees – Dylan Gossett on No Better Time – EP

You Haunt Me (Amtrac Remix) – Sir Sly on You Haunt Me (Remixes) – EP

Can I Ask – Yoste on A Place To Exist

Hide & Seek – Amber Run on Spark EP

My Innocence – Corey Harper on My Innocence – Single

Ibiza (feat. Romeo Santos) – Ozuna on Aura

Too Much – Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, DVBBS & Roy Woods on Too Much – Single

Safety In Numbers – MAX RAD & Nathan Ball on Safety In Numbers – Single

Let Me Down Easy – Ed Prosek & Lucy Clearwater on Let Me Down Easy – Single

Randy savage (feat. Rjayondatrack) – Dee Green on Street Lullabies

People Watching – Charles Fauna on People Watching – Single

Ride wit Me (feat. City Spud) – Nelly on Country Grammar

Devuélveme – Ozuna on Aura

Dark Thought – James Blunt on Who We Used To Be (Deluxe)

How Do I Feel X3 – Moko on Good Friday

american fantasy – Daniel Leggs on american fantasy – Single

Under The Surface – Sultan + Shepard & Nathan Nicholson on Endless, Dawn

Boys Of Faith (feat. Bon Iver) – Zach Bryan on Boys Of Faith – EP

Lift Me Up (From Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From and Inspired By) – Rihanna on Lift Me Up (From Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From and Inspired By) – Single

Hold Me – Slopes on Bad Dancer – EP

Body Language – Betcha on Body Language – Single

Nobody Cares – Lonely in the Rain & MR TOUT LE MONDE on Nobody Cares – Single

Espacio en Tu Corazón – Enrique Iglesias on FINAL (Vol.2)

Risk Al – Mako & Baro on Risk al – Single

Armor – Iniko on Armor – Single

N’importe quoi – Denzo & Octavian on N’importe quoi – Single

Imitadora – Romeo Santos on Golden

Fría – Enrique Iglesias & Yotuel on FINAL (Vol.2)

TUTA GOLD – Mahmood on TUTA GOLD – Single

Have This Dance – Axel Flóvent on Have This Dance – Single

Hellbent – J. Maya on Hellbent – Single

The Night We Met – Amber Run on The Power Of Love – Single

Grow (feat. Wye Oak) – Forester on Grow (feat. Wye Oak) – Single

Hallucinate – Yoke Lore on Toward a Never Ending New Beginning

Lace It – Juice WRLD, Eminem & benny blanco on Lace It – Single

Constantinople – Ed Prosek, Portair & Driftwood Choir on Constantinople – Single

Don’t Take the Money – Harry Strange & Mahogany on Don’t Take the Money – Single

rainonmyparade – cln on rainonmyparade – Single

The Walker – SYML on The Walker – Single

STELLA CADENTE – Mahmood on NEI LETTI DEGLI ALTRI

Carrusel – Ozuna on Carrusel – Single

NLDA INTRO – Mahmood & Slim Soledad on NEI LETTI DEGLI ALTRI

Words – Low on I Could Live In Hope

The Desert, I Run (feat. Bailey) – Forester on Moonlight

Kalahari Down – Orville Peck on Bronco1

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – Beyoncé on TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – Single

Funny – Kai Bosch on Funny – Single

NEVE SULLE JORDAN – Mahmood & Capo Plaza on NEI LETTI DEGLI ALTRI

Highlights – Sasha Alex Sloan on Highlights – Single2

I’ll Be Here – Sultan + Shepard & Elderbrook on Endless, Dawn

Wish I Told You – Eloi El on Above Ground

NEL TUO MARE – Mahmood on NEI LETTI DEGLI ALTRI

Mean It – Only AY on Mean It – Single

Bite the Hand – Harry Strange on Bite the Hand / Kind of Love – Single

Cover Girl – Haux on Blue Angeles

#skeptacore, pt.1 – Ryder & Skepta on 48 Hours – EP

You Deserve The World – Charles Fauna on L I M B O

SEMPRE / JAMAIS – Mahmood & Angèle on NEI LETTI DEGLI ALTRI

You’re Not Alone (feat. Tailor) – Lonely in the Rain on Clouds In Our Heads – EP

It’s Ok It’s Alright – Emmit Fenn on It’s Ok It’s Alright – Single

You Found Me – The Fray on The Fray

I’ll Drive – Elliot Moss on How I Fell

City of Gold – Orville Peck on Bronco

Victorious (feat. Rico Pelico) – Shack Frost on 2 Sides of Addiction

Same Day, Same Face – Novo Amor on Collapse List

Hexie Mountains – Orville Peck on Bronco

Heart Of It All (feat. Landon Ryle & Andreas Hauschild) – Lonely in the Rain on Clouds In Our Heads – EP

C’est La Vie – AntsLive on C’est La Vie – Single

Let Me Drown – Orville Peck on Bronco3

The Catalyst – LINKIN PARK on A Thousand Suns (Deluxe Edition)

Daytona Sand – Orville Peck on Bronco

Bronco – Orville Peck on Bronco

Empire Now – Hozier on Unheard – EP

Trample Out the Days – Orville Peck on Bronco

Lafayette – Orville Peck on Bronco

PARADISO – Mahmood, chiello & Tedua on NEI LETTI DEGLI ALTRI

Somewhere Between – Dylan Gossett on Somewhere Between – Single

Bigger Than God – Tep No on Do Ya

C’mon Baby, Cry – Orville Peck on Bronco

stayinit – Fred again.., Lil Yachty & Overmono on stayinit – Single4

Blush – Orville Peck on Bronco

Born This Way (The Country Road Version) – Orville Peck on Born This Way (The Country Road Version) – Single5

You’re Not Alone – Punctual & RY X on You’re Not Alone – Single

Like That – Future, Metro Boomin & Kendrick Lamar on WE DON’T TRUST YOU

Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey on The Great Gatsby (Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film)

Tulips – Kai Bosch on Love, Throw Me A Bone – EP

Smalltown Boy – Orville Peck on Smalltown Boy – Single

manly – Andy HD on how i felt in march of ’21 – Single6

Above Ground – Eloi El on Above Ground

Oliver – FER4Z on Oliver – Single

A Bad Dream from an Old Life – Ed Prosek, Portair & Driftwood Choir on A Bad Dream from an Old Life – Single

Dragon – flora cash on Dragon – Single

Overseas – Haych Hustle on Overseas – Single

Bad Episode – Petit Biscuit on Bad Episode – Single

4 The Music – MIN on 4 The Music – Single

Working On You (feat. Revs Boogie) – Nilez on The Losing Game – EP

My Peace (feat. kian cyrs) – Clue on My Peace – Single (feat. kian cyrs) – Single

All I Have – RY X on All I Have – Single

Silence (feat. The Midnight) – Essenger on Silence (feat. The Midnight) – Single

Something To Feel – Dixon Dallas on Something To Feel – Single

Cold (feat. Jodie Knight) – Lonely in the Rain on Clouds In Our Heads – EP

Down With A Fight – Elliot Moss on How I Fell

Chasing The Night – Axel Flóvent on Away From This Dream

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Orville Peck on Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Single

I’m Falling – Le Youth on About Us [Deluxe]

Friendly Fire – LINKIN PARK on Papercuts

The Curse of the Blackened Eye – Orville Peck on Bronco

leaving so soon – Andy HD on how i felt in march of ’21 – Single

The Winner Takes It All – Meryl Streep on Mamma Mia! (The Movie Soundtrack feat. the Songs of ABBA)7

  1. This has so thoroughly and immediately jumped up into my favorite songs ever list that I’m contemplating writing an entire post about it.
  2. For the right audience, this track is absolutely brutal.
  3. Watching a live performance video of this brought me back to undergrad and having a voice professor try to convince me of the importance of breath control; should’ve just shown me this video, honestly.
  4. I keep reading “stayinit” as code. stayinit
  5. A cover that I think I prefer to the original; sorry, a bit blasphemous, I know.
  6. Wishing this had the full lyrics available, because there’s at least one line in here that I want to know if I’m hearing right.
  7. Once again, blasphemously saying: I prefer this cover to the original.
Categories
Review

“Coming into the Country”

John McPhee

There are three ‘books’ within this book, and each tell a different part of McPhee’s experience of Alaska. The first is what feels, to me, the most like McPhee: out in the wilds, on a trip with folks who know the area better than he does, and generally just writing up how he felt going through that experience. I quite enjoyed some of his remarks about this one — Alaska, being so remote, seems to have worried him more than, say, the Grand Canyon did. “I am mildly nervous about that, but then I am mildly nervous about a lot of things.” (13)

I laughed more, in reading this, than I recall doing with his other books. Maybe I’m just starting to get more of his sense of humor, or maybe I just don’t tend to remember the comedy in comparison to everything else. But there’s little lines that just caught me, like “In a sense—in the technical sense that we had next to no idea where we were—we were lost.” (44)

The second book is about the project to relocate the capital of Alaska from Juneau. While reading it, I refused to let myself actually check my memory to see if Juneau is, in fact, still the capital of Alaska. Spoilers! I felt a sudden kinship to Charles Marohn as McPhee shared his opinion of Anchorage: “Almost all Americans would recognize Anchorage, because Anchorage is that part of any city where the city has burst its seams and extruded Colonel Sanders.” (130) Which really evokes an image!

The last part, the titular essay, is the longest of the three. In short, he went up into “the Country” — the most remote part of Alaska, Yukon territory — and hung around the town of Eagle, getting to know, so far as I can tell, everyone there, and in the neighboring “Indian Village.” This is the part that’s going to keep rattling around in my head for a long time, I expect. So much of it still feels entirely relevant today—it’s that same sense of encroached-upon white entitlement that continues to shape American politics. You have the people living in Eagle, complaining about the Native Claims Settlement Act, because it means the land surrounding their town now belongs to the natives… without a thought for the fact that said natives have been there a hell of a lot longer. (Nor is there a moment’s thought, by them, about the fact that, thanks to the “everything within five miles of a (white) town remains the property of that town” clause means that the native village, itself, is legally the property of the town of Eagle.) You get miners, incensed that the EPA wants them to install settlement ponds so that their mine tailings will stop killing all the fish downstream, repeating over and over that they’re ‘not doing anything nature doesn’t do’… which they have to shout over the sound of the hydraulic mining rig that’s applying 10,000 years of erosion per minute to a formerly-pristine valley.

While McPhee himself winds up with an appreciation for the folks eking out a living in the Yukon territory, I must admit that I didn’t. I am, admittedly, reading about them 50 years later, with the changed modern perspective, but all it does is remind me of the staggering selfishness inherent in that whole survivalist/libertarian style. But then, at least one person he interviewed agrees… about the folks living outside Eagle, at least:

“They are unrealistic romanticists, and some are just plain stupid. They are devoid of values—materialistic, selfish people. We are constituents of a society grounded in law. They flout the law to live their romantic life style. They harvest moose, bear, fish—whatever they can get their hands on that they can fit in a pot—without regard for season or for sex, or for the law. Anything that walks, crawls, flies, or swims is fair game to them. They are interlopers. Every time they kill a moose or bear and toss it int the pot to feed their dogs, they deprive me of the opportunity to see that moose or bear. When I see something, I leave it to the person after me to see. Frankly, it just tees me off. I consider them to be a god-damned curse.”

“They’re a public nuisance.” (263)

As ever, I love a McPhee book. This one, in particular, feels like it’s of its time, anchored in the sweeping changes coming through Alaska in the 1970s; like any of the others, though, it doesn’t feel dated but rather like a time capsule. A flashbulb memory of a time and place, frozen so that we can visit it. Go check it out.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Review

“Embers”

Vathara

I really enjoy the genre of “alternate history” — the idea of taking one moment in time and twisting it so that something went differently, and then rolling everything forward to see how much variation we’d get, it’s just so very fun. It’s the concept of the Butterfly Effect, applied.

Embers feels like… not the opposite, but the inverse of that, somehow. It’s taking the way things are and attempting to roll history back to see what some of the big moments were that created this state of affairs. And it gets to ask some really interesting questions as it does so.

Take as a given that, 100 years before Avatar: the Last Airbender really kicks into action, the Fire Nation committed genocide. They killed every last air nomad save, importantly, one. The show tends to paint this as a single event, a single day in which all four air temples were targeted in a coordinated attack, Sozin’s comet making an overwhelming strike possible, but do pay attention to the fact that they aren’t the “air nation”, they are the air nomads. They wouldn’t all have been in the temples; there would’ve been many nomads out being nomadic, and the Fire Nation had to hunt them down too.

This is, obviously, horrible. Genocide is one of the definitive evils, and the Fire Nation did it more effectively than any historical genocide has managed.1 But remember one part of those historical genocides: they weren’t immediate. Hitler didn’t wake up one morning and declare by executive fiat that it was time to kill every Jewish person on the planet… he, and others, spent years building up hatred against them.2 Painting them as the villains, as sub-human, as an insidious evil that was out to destroy the world. One evil dictator does not a genocide make. Humans are, at their base level, not that easily controlled. World War II was full of tales of people who did their little bit to help, who saved one or two people.

And now, ask yourself: how, exactly, did the Fire Lord convince his people that the Air Nomads had to die? How did he make them hate the Air Nomads, so much that every soldier sent into an air temple was willing to fight and die to eradicate an entire people?

Embers is a fascinating read, that goes deep into these sorts of questions. What are the cultural differences between the nations? How was one Avatar expected to solve all the problems of the world, given how dang big a place the world is? How can you put the world back in order after a century of oppressive genocide… without letting the vengeful Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes turn around and start slaughtering their way through the Fire Nation? All sorts of fun questions. With fun bonuses in the form of the end-of-chapter notes, where Vathara goes through and explains some of their thinking in what’s going on, the historical concepts driving it, all that sort of stuff.3 I highly recommend it, and it is, delightfully, free to read.

  1. Although, that concept is something that Vathara argues against, as well, over the course of the story.
  2. Frankly, “years” is an understatement; antisemitism has centuries, millenia at this point, of history. Look up the history of pogroms.
  3. The use of the chapter-end-notes in transformative works is such an interesting piece of meta-material in this form of writing. It’s almost like the footnotes of David Foster Wallace or Terry Pratchett, but can set aside the fourth wall entirely and speak directly to individual readers, if they were there and commenting as the piece was being written. Someone get a sociologist over here to look into this.
Categories
Review

“The Culture Code”

Daniel Coyle

I’ve been enjoying that the book club at work seems to bounce back and forth between books that are Very Programmer-Oriented and things that aren’t at all specific to programming. This time, it’s the latter, despite the word ‘code’ in the title: The Culture Code is, in fact, more of a management book.

The focus is, as you might expect, on culture. What is a culture of success/productivity/various-other-positive-buzzwords? How do you create one?

Very broadly, the answers are: “one in which people feel safe and can feel vulnerable, and do is in the pursuit of a shared goal”. As for creating that environment, well, that’s what the rest of the book is about. And, generally, the tips boil down to “show people that these things are the case.” Make people feel safe by showing that they belong, that they are part of the in-group of this culture. Demonstrate that it’s okay to be vulnerable by making yourself vulnerable, showing your weaknesses. And reiterate the shared goal… mostly through use of little catchphrases, seems to be the advice there. It does feel a little trite, but then, having those little catchphrases repeated over and over does seem to hammer them into one’s head.

I actually did find there to be a good bit of value in this book, but in that “useful self-help book” way, where there’s the broad topic that you could’ve fit on an informational pamphlet, and then there’s the rest of the advice, which is scattered around in a way that feels almost like one of those little daily desk calendar things. My pull-quotes notebook lost several pages to this book.

So, overall, I found this a good book to read! I think it is, perhaps, uniquely well suited to be a Workplace Book Club read, and could happily suggest it as the first book for starting one of those up if you don’t have one already. Give the book a go.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.