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Review

“The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success”

Mark Jaccard

The intro to this book does a good job of explaining what the whole book is going to do: go through some common climate beliefs and prove them wrong. And not in a single direction, either—sure, there’s the usual “anthropogenic climate change is a theory in the same way that gravity is” thing, but there’s also some good deconstruction of a couple of my personal pet theories. Which is for the best: when it comes to the climate emergency, being able to look at the evidence and change your opinion as necessary is pretty important!

I don’t actually have a great deal to say about this book; it was useful to read, and I appreciate that it came with some clear action items. (tl;dr: push for politicians to put in climate regulations; bonus points for flexibility in implementation, extra bonus points for handing power to regulatory agencies a la California’s Air Resources Board)

So hey, give it a read! As an extra push, the PDF version is free to download, so all it costs you is the time.

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Review

“Encounters with the Archdruid”

John McPhee

Somewhere over the course of my last several moves, I lost my copy of The Control of Nature; given that I absolutely loved that book, it’s been on my list to get another copy of it. During a recent foray to a local used book store, I took the chance, and also took a chance on grabbing another of McPhee’s books to see if it would captivate me in the same way. About an eighth of the way through Encounters with the Archdruid, I had a very clear vision of my future, wherein I have an entire shelf dedicated to a collection of all of McPhee’s works. While Control of Nature was maybe the single best possible option to start with for me, Encounters with the Archdruid also grabbed my interest in the same way.

Encounters with the Archdruid is in three parts, but this time, the unifying thread isn’t a single theme. Instead, it’s a single person: David Brower, head of the Sierra Club, stout conservationist. He’s… a character:

Jerry Sanderson, the river guide who has organized this expedition, calls out that dinner is ready. He has cooked an entire sirloin steak for each person. We eat from large plastic trays–the property of Sanderson. Brower regularly ignores the stack of trays, and now, when his turn comes, he steps forward to receive his food in his Sierra Club cup. Sanderson, a lean, trim, weathered man, handsome and steady, has seen a lot on this river. And now a man with wild white hair and pink legs is holding out a four-inch cup to receive a three-pound steak. Very well. There is no rapid that can make Sanderson’s eyes bat, so why should this? He drapes the steak over the cup. The steak covers the cup like a sun hat. Brower begins to hack at the edges with a knife. Brower in wilderness eats from nothing but his Sierra Club cup. (186-187)

The book isn’t solely focused on Brower, though. It’s focused on three people opposed to him in very different ways—a miner, a developer, and a dam-builder. McPhee managed to arrange for these meetings on grand scale, setting up long tours with himself, Brower, and each of his three ‘natural enemies.’ It’s a powerful way to tell the story, and makes for some fun moments. For example, at the dedication of a dam on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, where the man who spearheaded the construction of the dam introduced him thus:

Then Dominy spoke. “Dave Brower is here today,” he said, and the entire ceremony almost fell into the reservoir. “Brower is not here in an official capacity but as my guest,” Dominy went on. “We’re going to spend several days on Lake Powell, so I can convert him a little. Then we’re going down the river, so he can convert me.” (196)

It’s a really interesting way to tell… well, not a story. Several stories, twining together, and lacking the clear beginning, middle, end of what you’d find in a novel. It’s just the events, the interactions, told in a deeply personal way that still manages to get the author well out of the reader’s way. I really enjoyed reading it, and I recommend checking it out yourself.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.
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Review

“Strong Towns”

Charles L. Marohn, Jr.

I’ve been hearing about this book off and on for a while now. Mostly by way of Merlin Mann’s podcasts, I suspect, as he’s been a proponent of some of the ideas of late.1 Honestly, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

If I were to try to distill it down, I think the core argument of the book is that we need to stop optimizing for growth. Which largely makes sense — building a city budget around “if you build it, they will come” can look like it’s working, but infrastructure maintenance is expensive and tends not to be budgeted for all too well.2 What Marohn argues is that we should stop building new infrastructure, cut off the stuff that’s the worst bang-for-buck, and refocus on value-per-acre. Specifically, that city planners should be focusing on value-to-the-city-per-acre. And, again, it’s a solid argument: why should the city spend $10 million building roads and water and sewer and power lines to connect up a new Walmart when that Walmart will take 30 years to put $10 million of tax revenue back into the city’s coffers, and over those 30 years a bunch of that infrastructure will need to be (expensively) maintained or replaced?

If I sound skeptical, it’s the Keynesian economist in me. I rather suspect I’m going to have to read this book a second time and sit with it some more, though. Because, yes, Keynesian theory — I think the role of government is to not act like a business, to spend money that private industry won’t in order to solve problems that the economy doesn’t provide the incentive to solve.3 But then, maybe Marohn is right, and that’s only true at the state and national level, and that sort of responsibility doesn’t fall to cities? What’s the right level of government for interventions like that? I don’t know!

That whole debate aside, I think there’s some arguments he makes that don’t need that sort of alloying to be palatable. We totally should be lightening or even getting rid of zoning restrictions — when I was studying a broad in Vienna, one of the nicest things that was easy to not notice is that there was always a grocery store in walking distance. Going grocery shopping without needing to get in the car is the best, and any city regulation making it harder to achieve that state of being is bad and it should feel bad.

All in all, I… am a bit unclear on how I felt about the book. I don’t regret having read it, though, and I think at worst it’s a good way to start asking yourself some interesting questions. So, hey, check it out!4

  1. Relatedly, he was also the tipping point for me on buying an ebike, which I’ve been enjoying and slowly working into more ‘personal mobility’ use.
  2. Citation: gestures broadly
  3. And hey, while we’re on the topic, call your state and federal legislators and tell them to pass a carbon text.
  4. 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.
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Review

“Soonish”

Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith

I’m really the exact target market for this book — I love the sort of ‘pop science’ stuff like this, examining some of the stuff currently happening in the lab and looking at what it could be useful for in the future. A nice plus to this book over the versions of that that you’ll find online, though, is that they’re willing to say “actually, no, that’s a cool concept but it just won’t work.”1

Honestly, I don’t have a ton to say about this book. It’s an easy read, comedic and informative, and I totally recommend it to any of my fellow “I wanna know about the Cool Science Stuff” people. Check it out.2

  1. Specific example: space-based solar power, which they pan for being so economically infeasible that it’ll probably never pan out. Personally I still somewhat disagree, but part of that is that I think they’ve missed an opportunity for getting two birds with one stone by parking the space-based solar panels in an orbit where they block some light from reaching the Earth. A one-two punch against climate change!
  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.
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Review

“Open Borders”

Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith

As a Certified Liberal, it was never going to be particularly hard to sell me on “we should loosen our immigration restrictions,” but I still think this book did a great job at selling me on it. It’s a very quick read—more of a highly-illustrated essay than what you’d think from the term “book”—and is well-organized around the topic idea.

Structurally, it reminds me of writing essays in school. A chapter of overview, a chapter of the primary argument for, and then a few chapters rebutting the arguments against your thesis, and then a final wrap-it-together with a call to action. And, hey, they teach essay structures like that because it’s effective!

I think my favorite line from the book comes from a discussion of keyhole policies.1

“How can immigration restrictions handle problem x?” is simply a bad question.

It makes far more sense to ask: “What’s the cheapest, most humane way to handle problem x?”

The final call to action is less a “let’s make open borders happen!” and more a “let’s start moving the Overton Window to make open borders happen!” So, by reading this post: thank you for your contribution. If you’re interested in furthering that goal, I recommend you check out the book, as I quite enjoyed it.2

  1. Keyhole policies are defined in the context of keyhole surgeries: instead of cutting the patient wide open, you make as small an incision as possible—a keyhole—in order to reduce collateral damage/side effects. Similarly, a keyhole policy is a narrowly-focused policy in place of a (possibly overly-) broad one.
  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.
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Review

“The Design of Everyday Things”

Don Norman

Unlike my usual book reviews, this wasn’t my first time reading the book. Last time, though, it was an assigned reading—I have this in print because it was provided as a textbook! And, as a textbook, it is both an excellent choice and a seminal text.

On both a first read and a reread, it holds up remarkably well. That tends to be an issue with the things that were formative to their field—eventually, they start to feel very obvious, because what was innovative has become a well-known trope. Not here, though; the only part of the book that felt noticeably dated was the couple pages that went into “the video phone” as a technology that hasn’t yet gotten big. That portion will need to be rewritten for the next edition.

Despite having been one of my textbooks, this doesn’t feel overly academic. I wouldn’t recommend trying to get through the whole thing in one sitting, but you won’t fall asleep trying to navigate through a sea of citations. If you’re at all interested in design as a discipline, 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.
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Review

“The 99% Invisible City”

Roman Mars and Kurt Kohldstedt

Given how much I love the 99% Invisible podcast, it’s utterly unsurprising that I also enjoyed this book. There’s a lot of overlap between the two—to the point that, in a few places, I was reading going “yes, yes, I know, can we get to something new?”

Most of the time, though, the things being discussed in here were new information, and the exact sort of tidbit that keeps me listening to the podcast. It’s a very digestible book, with chapters divided into subchapters divided into subheadings, each of which can be independently read. Bite-size portions like that make it very easy to pick up and read a little bit while you’re waiting for something, and put back down once you’re back in action.

Overall, I totally recommend this book. If you’ve ever looked at a bit of architecture, or a weirdly-shaped park, or even just a street light, and thought “I wonder how that wound up being there, like that?” this is the book for you. 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.
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Review

“The End is Always Near”

Dan Carlin

If you aren’t familiar with the name, Dan Carlin is the creator of Hardcore History, which is nominally a podcast series. Personally, I’d argue that it’s a more of a series of audiobooks that’s published via a podcast feed; the average episode is somewhere in the area of five hours long. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re at all interested in history, it’s well worth a listen.

Having listened to the podcast prior to reading this book, I found it very easy to read in his voice. He’s got a slightly different tone he uses for asides, parentheticals; every time I followed an asterisk to get down to the footnote, I found my mind going to that same tone, and it fits perfectly. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that someone who speaks for a living managed to encode their manner of speaking into a book, but it works very well.

The general premise of the book is pretty well-aligned with the name: human history is a long series of events that stood a very solid chance of wiping out, if not our species, then at least our civilization. And, several times, the latter did happen—Assyria fell. Babylon fell. Rome fell.

For the most part, being a history book, it feels pretty timeless, but here in 2022, the chapter on previous pandemics has definitely aged. The points made are largely still valid, but one point that he hammers on—we have no frame of reference whatsoever for a civilization-scale pandemic—no longer holds true. Sure, we haven’t experienced something like the Black Death, wiping out half the population, but having gone through global quarantines, we can at least begin to imagine it.

That one caveat aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who likes history. And existential dread. Give it a read.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.
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Review

“Refuse to Choose!”

Barbara Sher

My friend Madi has been telling me to read “Refuse to Choose” for a while. (Well, not just me—recommending this book is something of a leitmotif for her.) And, at long last, I finally got to it.

Very early in the book, I had two very clear thoughts:

  1. I am not the target demographic of this book.
  2. Madi really, really is.

Which is a very interesting combination. I actually quite like how early on I was able to come to the first conclusion—we’re talking, “reading the first few pages while browsing in a bookstore” level. And there’s an honesty to that—Sher knows who she’s writing this for, and wants to make sure they know that the book is for them, pretty quickly. Which isn’t to say that I, as someone who, again, isn’t the target demographic, don’t find anything useful in this; at very least, it’s a solid insight into the way my friend’s mind works, and for that alone I’m glad I read it.

But further, for the people this book was meant for, wow is it ever meant for them. I could see, very clearly, just what made Madi love the book.

In short, this book is for and about what Sher calls Scanners. I’m not one—I’ve known since elementary school, if not earlier, that I wanted to Do Computers when I grew up, and I’ve never deviated from that. Scanners are the people whose minds don’t work like that—if they have that deep level of interest, it can change focus over time, or perhaps they have a handful of interests that all equally captivate them, or maybe (as Sher describes herself) you’re interested in everything. If any of that is ringing true to you, I highly recommend this book—it goes through some of the difficulties that you can find yourself facing, and provides some helpful tips for how to deal with them. (And, I want to stress, those difficulties aren’t “your brain is bad and you should feel bad, the solution is to Just Be Better”—it’s much more in the area of “society expects you to want to focus on one thing forever, and your brain just doesn’t work like that, so let’s go through ways you can make the world work for you.”)

And if you, like me, aren’t a Scanner… well, it’s still worth a read, to help you understand the Scanners in your life. 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.
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Review

“Becoming”

Michelle Obama

I really wasn’t sure what to expect, going in to this book. I’m not a big memoir person, and it did take me a while to really get into the book, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

I think the most useful takeaway for me, from this book, is that it humanized Michelle. It’s easy to look at the occupants of the White House and think of them as these far-off figures, something akin to demigods for how remote their lives are from mine. Which remains true—the experience of living in the White House is so different from any aspect of my life I can barely imagine it—but we are all only human.

What I enjoyed the most was hearing about the limitations that come with it. It’s one thing to fantasize about it: “imagine being part of the First Family, you get to meet so many interesting people and be so close to history as it’s happening!”1 But the reality is motorcades and secret service escorts. Knowing that any time you want to go out for dinner, you’re causing traffic jams and costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in additional security costs. Even something as simple as “I’m going to sit on the balcony to drink my morning tea” becomes a mess—because, as Michelle notes, sitting on the balcony for her meant the Secret Service closing off a nearby street from which the balcony was visible. You can’t use a portion of your home without it disrupting the lives of hundreds of other people.

Michelle’s story is inspiring, and tragic, and delightful; it is entirely, perfectly human. I absolutely loved this book, and highly recommend it—even to my fellow “not a big memoir” people. Give it a read.2

  1. I’ve long since abandoned the dream of the Presidency. Being responsible for the entirety of the United States sounds like a special circle of hell, and no amount of escapist fantasy can paper over the sheer, staggering, impossible weight that the President has to bear.
  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.
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Review

“How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”

Bill Gates

I just have to begin by expressing my admiration for Bill Gates. Which still feels strange – I grew up on “Micro$oft” jokes and the image of Gates as the corporate Big Brother, a la Apple’s 1984 ad. Watching him go from icon of capitalism to the world’s foremost philanthropist has been interesting, to say the least. As a relevant aside, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary on his life, it’s fascinating, and works well to provide context on where he’s coming from in writing this book.

The book itself does what it says on the tin: it ends with plans of action for preventing the sort of global climate disaster that we, as a species, have been gleefully sprinting towards ever since we realized those funky rocks we dug up would burn longer than the trees we were chopping down. And the plans aren’t just “buy an electric car and vote for green energy;” not only are there more action items than just that, there are plans for people depending on which hat they’re wearing. Sure, you the consumer can buy an electric car… but you the citizen can write your legislators, and you the employer can invest in R&D, and you the local government official can tweak building codes to allow for more efficient materials.

The first half, or more, of the book is an accounting of what’s driving climate change, and it’s a fascinating overview. Your first guess about the largest culprit, in broad categories, is probably wrong.

And in the middle, there’s a great deal of discussion of the technologies we’re going to need to get through this transition. As a life-long nerd, that was the part I enjoyed the most; as someone who’s very sold on the importance and utility of nuclear power, my absolute favorite moment was a throwaway reference to “we should be building nuclear-powered container ships.”1

Here at the end, where I usually say “I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it,” I’m still going to do that.2 But beyond enjoying the book, it feels like the single most important thing I’ve read… possibly ever. The pandemic is the definitive crisis of the last couple years; climate change is the definite crisis of this generation. Go read the book. Buy a copy, read it, and pass it along to someone else to read. Take notes, and follow the plans of action that’re applicable to you. Let’s go save the world.

  1. I may have set some kind of land-speed record going from “what the hell” to “that makes perfect sense.”
  2. It’s not that I like every book I read, it’s that, as a general rule, I don’t write reviews of the ones I don’t like. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
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Review

“What If?”

Randall Munroe

A magnitude 15 earthquake would involve the release of almost 1032 joules of energy, which is roughly the gravitational binding energy of the Earth. To put it another way, the Death Star caused a magnitude 15 earthquake on Alderaan.

This is a fun book to recommend, because unlike most books, there’s a demo available online. Go read that, and if you like it, the book contains more. It also has a very literal subtitle: “serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions.”

Munroe has had a fascinating career to date, and I remain an avid fan of his webcomic. It was definitely a formative influence on the nerdier side of my sense of humor,1 and continues to make me laugh an average of slightly more than three times a week.2

This is a fairly good book for reading in small chunks – each ‘chapter’ is only a few pages long, and there’s no need to read them in any specific order.

All in all, it’s a fun read, and I definitely recommend it.

  1. And, in writing that, I’m having fun imagining his reaction to reading that.
  2. Three new comics a week, and the average is above that because sometimes I wind up hitting the ‘random’ button a few times and laughing again.
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Review

“What Einstein Told His Cook”

Robert L Wolke

In my mind, the term for this genre is “popular science.” Or, possibly, “pop science.” (In this case, that’s also a pun on the subject.) Either way, it feels like a fun piece of beach reading – worth the time to read, which differentiates it from an airplane read,1 but not so heavy that you feel like you should be taking notes or pausing to take time to process.

For the most part, this book stands up pretty well, and the cover is minimal enough that the whole thing feels quite modern. Admittedly, it loses some of this with the occasional dated pop culture reference, and the final chapter, discussing the latest technologies, noticeably lags as a result of being, dear lord, almost two decades out of date.2

Still, though, it’s not like chemistry changes all that rapidly, and a lot of the explanations of how things work were quite neat. Give it a read.

  1. For my own ‘pop science’ injection: despite their pressurized interiors, the amount of oxygen in the cabin of a plane is lower than what your brain is used to, so as the flight goes on, you get a little oxygen-deprived, leaving your thoughts nice and fuzzy. There’s a reason Clive Cussler books are the ideal airplane books – they’re incredibly formulaic, so there’s less cognitive load.
  2. There’s a very serious discussion of the differences between mechanical and digital cooking thermometers, which is downright comical in the age of RFID-tagged disposable cups.
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Review

“Becoming Steve Jobs”

Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli

Moving backwards, there were three things about this book that really captured my attention.

Lastly, the discussion of what Steve Jobs was like when he wasn’t being… what everyone thinks of when they think of Steve Jobs. The authors reiterate, many times, that the image of Jobs as alternating between ‘a genius’ and ‘an asshole’ was formed when he was very young, skyrocketing to fame at the helm of Apple. Later in life, he’d softened, become better able to have constructive discussions with people instead of just tearing into them – but, to the detriment of his public image, he’d also gotten very good at keeping out of the public eye when he wasn’t being Steve Jobs On Stage. Nobody was really afforded the chance to publicize that newer version of Steve Jobs.

Secondly, I’d never realized how integral to Pixar he was. At most, I knew he’d been involved in the company, led it for a while at some point; I hadn’t realized that he was the owner, one of the original people who built the company out of an immense talent pool bought wholesale from LucasArts. My mental timeline of Steve Jobs, betraying my tech industry bias, went Apple-NeXT-Apple. Pixar was an immense thing to miss out on, and realizing how much he’d shaped both Pixar and, eventually, Disney has me even more respecting the impact Jobs has had on our society.

And firstly, I found myself, over and over, contemplating the scale of technological change that happened within the lifetime of the company he and Wozniak founded. I think about these comparisons a lot, so here’s some of my favorites:

  • A single AirPod has more onboard processing power than any given Apollo launch.
  • Every Apple Watch, even the glacially slow Series 0, has had more processing power than a Cray-2.1
  • You can fit the entirety of the original version of MS-DOS in the L1 cache of a single core of a modern i9.2
  • I’d have to do a lot more math than I feel like doing to confirm this, but it’s not unreasonable to say that the iPad Pro I’m writing this on probably packs more computing power than every Apple II ever sold, combined.

And, even more than all those “ooh, it can do lots of math even faster” comparisons, the thing that kept striking me – reading this, as I was, on an iPad Pro – was just the staggering technological capacity of everything I do with this device. It’s a multitouch touch screen, with a battery of onboard radios, enough storage space for every book ever written; it’s got a lovely keyboard and stylus, both of which attach using only magnets. This device is a miracle of modern technology, and I’ve gotten very used to it. Reading about the Altair 8800, with its toggle switches and LEDs, gave me just enough decontextualization to look at this magical slab of glass and think, wow. Wow.

After reading this book, I think that sort of moment is something Steve Jobs would’ve loved to see.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book, and I highly recommend it. It was nice to see a more balanced look into Jobs’ life, a more human side of the man who so indelibly shaped the modern world. Give it a read.

  1. Surprisingly difficult to validate this comparison to my own satisfaction – the Cray-2 was in the era of “here’s how many FLOPS this baby can do,” but these days it’s just “what’s the GeekBench score?” and there’s no direct comparison between the two.
  2. I couldn’t find the actual size-on-disk of the original MS-DOS release, but based on the limitations of the file system, I can reasonably assume it’d fit.
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Review

“Grunt”

Mary Roach
I spent the entire time reading this book thinking that it was by the same person who wrote Combat-Ready Kitchen. Which was an interesting comparison to have in mind, as I quite liked that one, but “Grunt” was much more fun. While “Combat-Ready Kitchen” felt like it was trying to be ready for use as a textbook in a history class, “Grunt” was unabashedly written by a human being who likes to mention their human responses. I’ve got a great deal of highlights of comedic moments that Roach captured very well.1
As someone with precisely zero interest in joining the military, I think Roach is an excellent writer for this topic. Clearly she’s got a bit more experience in this area than I do — nobody who’s spent a week on a nuclear submarine doing research for a book can really be as clueless as she tries to convey — but she’s removed enough from it that she can be an excellent go-between. The feigned cluelessness doesn’t read as an affectation, it reads as making sure the genuinely clueless folks like me can follow along.
And it’s just an interesting subject matter. The Department of Defense has a spectacular research budget, which they put into doing all sorts of neat things. Nothing in the book focuses on the science of Exciting New Ways To Make People Dead; in fact, it’s almost universally focused on the opposite. I’m okay with my tax dollars going to research on reconstructive surgery and heat-stroke prevention.
I can definitely recommend “Grunt”. It’s a fun read, and the science is neat. Check it out.


  1. And a pent-up rant about just how bad the experience of trying to highlight stuff is in Apple Books. While the location of the highlight has a clear correlation to where your finger is on-screen, they’re not directly related in the way that we’re trained to expect from iOS. And god forbid you want to highlight something that spans across a page break – to date, the only way I’ve found to do this is to change the text size until they’re on the same page. Even Amazon does better than that, and their Kindle app has never not felt like an abandoned project.