Thoughtfully curated by Frey Thorvaldsson
In a desperate effort to keep a regular cadence going for this site I’ve stolen Tom MacWright's idea of posting what he's been consuming in terms of media every month.
The Dream Machine
This month I started reading The Dream Machine by M. Mitchell Waldrop, it’s ostensibly a biography of J.C.R. Licklider but it also charts the course of early computing all the way to the early internet. So far it reminds me a lot of The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, but it has a different emphasis. In comparison to The Innovators, Lovelace and Babbage only get a brief mention but every American tinkerer's approach to computers is fleshed out in detail.
So far it’s been a compelling read and has me excited about learning more about the inner working of computer. Generally, as a programmer it’s best to focus on your level of abstraction (i.e. for me that would be the browser and web servers - already enough for a life time) and accept that you won’t know everything but it’s still very tempting play around with the basics. I might not be designing microprocessors any time soon but it could be fun to play around like this person in Minecraft did. Getting hands on for an hour is equal to a lot of time reading.
Lana Del Rey is amazing. Norman Fucking Rockwell! reminds me of Warren Zevon (who is a genius as well). Weirdly melancholic, world weary mood with a side dose of humour.
Been flicking through Ronald Reagan's collection of quotes, which was discovered and published posthumously. I mostly picked it up because Ryan Holiday recommended it in one of his blog posts about his notecard system. This was when I was searching for examples of good note taking systems to emulate. I also vaguely liked the idea of reading more widely since my politics are of the left leaning sort.
The notes were used to improve Reagan's speeches. They range from crowd pleasing founding father quotes to more ominous Lenin quotes, which show the duplicity of the Soviet Man. There’s also a good deal of Nazi quotes mostly implying that communists are similar to Nazis in some way.
This old school conservatism is refreshing to read and on solid ground when contrasted with the then soviet system. It seems like its strength lay as much in not being communist as about conservatism. It reminded me of this interview with Charles Koch. In the interview, when Koch was informed how capitalism can be polluting he pulled a well worn ace out of his sleeve and brought up East Germany’s problems with pollution! As if that was at all relevant 30 years later.
Reagan's abbreviations are retained in print, which was a nice surprise to me. I’ve grown up with a computer and hadn’t really seen any type of shorthand. Reagan shortens America to Am. Education to Ed. and Republic to Repub. The statesman Abraham Lincoln becomes the approachable and folksy Abe Lincoln. It’s predominately government related words which are shortened, which fits what we know about his day job.
I’m 150 pages into it and there’s seemingly only one quote by a woman, who’s identified as: "Woman Who Fled Poland Before Martial Law". It took me longer than I’d like to admit to notice this disparity.
A lost world
I’m just now processing what’s happening in the world. The US seems deeply unstable. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said about it, but it has me feeling a bit grim. At the same time I also feel mildly hopeful. Maybe out of all this instability a new and better order can emerge. The problems in America seem so overwhelming (no healthcare, abysmal safety net, a government run by the rich via lobbyists) that it almost seems impossible to reform the system without a cataclystic reworking from the ground up.
Hopefully the US is more like the Ancien Régime than the Roman Republic. That’s the most optimistic take I can muster. I don’t think Biden winning will change the fundamental roots of Trumpism.