“What is a TikTok dance mash up if not a digital Dorito?”

The hierarchy Newport builds up here seems to make sense, but I’m reminded of this Dilbert strip, which makes the point that the medium may encourage certain content, but doesn’t necessarily determine it.

The previous post courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse’s season pass, which we just signed up for yesterday because for the next couple of weeks the second month is free.

Gonna try to get out of the house a bit more this summer, and into somewhere else with AC.

And it’ll be nice to see more movies. 🎥

Finished watching: Fly Me to the Moon.

I was worried this would be another summer “comedy” that would leave me cringing, but it was actually a fun, fast-paced comedy/heist with a good performance by Scarlett Johansson, a hilarious Woody Harrelson in his element, Ray Romano doing work I didn’t know he could do, a fun cameo by Colin Jost, and a totally useless Channing Tatum with too much makeup.

Several excellent laughs, lots of fun, and the space race! Absolutely recommended.🍿

By far my favorite part of Flighty is the Home Screen widget that tells you when your next flight is.

We just got home yesterday from a week in Europe, and it tells me I only have to wait thirteen days until I’m back on the road.

Flighty widget showing a Delta flight to Atlanta in 13 days.

Finished reading: Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree.

Fun prequel to Legends and Lattes, but missing some of the magic of the original. Still worth reading. Would be a great children’s/YA book with some light inessential cleaning up. 📚

The food and beer selection at CDG past immigration is criminally weak for a city that prides itself on food.

Maybe they’re just upset I’m leaving?

Finished reading: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

Awesome investigation of evolution from a totally different (sci-fi) perspective. Made me think fun thoughts. Excellent up until the last couple of pages, which were totally disappointing, like the author didn’t know how to finish it.


Vianden Castle is a short but steep hike from the bus stop, but the views are excellent even before you get to tour the inside.

All public transportation in the entire country of Luxembourg is free of charge to all riders. And it’s mostly on time. This is a miracle.

This morning, I was leaving Luxembourg City to visit Vianden Castle (still en route) and asked how to buy a ticket out here, since it’s half an hour of train and half an hour of bus and mostly outside the city. A kind employee gently told me, no ticket needed.

A miracle.

I have apparently arrived in Luxembourg 🇱🇺 on the Grand Duke’s official birthday. Unfortunately, all that was left when I arrived on the TGV from Paris was the aftermath.

Finished reading: Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

A critical reminder that being the kind of person you feel you ought to be is impossible, and that’s okay—perhaps even freeing, when considered rightly.

Burkeman spends a lot of time repeating himself, but perhaps that’s part of the point: by repeatedly learning another way in which we can never “spend” time optimally, he maybe hopes to get just one ounce of understanding through.

That said, I found the nihilism offputting, even though I suspect he would argue that it’s not nihilism but realism. 📚

Finished reading: The Olympian Affair by Jim Butcher.

More swashbuckling! And spies! And a very weird planet. And cats. A good follow-up.

Now, Mr. Butcher, please get back to writing Twelve Months…📚

Today, I’m headed back to Japan 🇯🇵 for the first time since October 2022! Nineteen months is too long between visits.

I’m looking forward to sushi 🍣 and trains 🚅 and lots and lots of robots 🤖.

A first for me: a plane at a nearby gate is having a part flown in for maintenance. (Fortunately the origin city is very close, so that flight isn’t delayed by too much.)

Third Space Coffee in Colorado Springs serves artisanal coffeeee flights. We had to get one… okay, we got three. ☕️

Today was the last day of the ski season for us. We didn’t track every day, but we tracked most of them, and for a pair of engineers who live in Texas, we had a pretty good year. 🎿

I think we found our wall photo for this trip! 🎿

Sometimes the naming of ski runs is a delicate matter, full of nuance and wordplay and even history.

And sometimes a black diamond from the top of the mountain is just called KABOOM. 🎿

Meera on skis on top of Copper Mountain in front of the sign for the KABOOM black diamond run.

Meera skis like a girl. By which I mean, she had 2,000 feet more vert than we did today.🎿

Our first day this trip at Copper was exactly as beautiful as expected, if a bit warm. We spent all day on the eastern side of the mountain, taking the Super Bee lift over and over.

We even did a couple of double blacks off the back side of the mountain. I love being able to tackle harder slopes.

Meera celebrating on skis in front of clear blue skies.

Today’s the first day of the last (planned) ski trip of the season. The sun is bright, although the sky is partially clouded, and it snowed last night.

It’s going to be a good week. 🎿

Finished reading: Slow Productivity by Cal Newport.

What a spectacular book for post-pandemic white-collar knowledge work. Partly philosophical and partly actionable, Newport says maybe we should step back from the cliff of minute-to-minute “pseudo-productivity” and consider the contribution of our entire lives or careers.

The hardest part for me is that I recognize everything he says in my workplace but I’m concerned about how radical even the lightweight suggestions he gives would be. I guess that’s an indication I should start implementing. 📚

Expanded the photo wall today to include our trips to Munich, Zermatt, Big Sky (Montana), and Solitude (Utah). I love seeing all our big trips together at a glance.

Finished reading: Hangman’s Gate (War of the Archons 2) by R.S. Ford

This world of forgotten gods where prayer and worship actually affect their powers continues to fascinate me, but unfortunately the writing doesn’t measure up to the story. Too many threads opened without closure, as if the author assumes you can just open the next book. It’s possible to do this well in a series, and many authors have—just not this one.

Enjoyed the read, and I’ll probably pick up the next one, but I wish it had a better editor.


Had to renew my driver’s license in person today. Texas allows one renewal online, but today I had to brave the DMV. Or as Texas inexplicably calls it, DPS.

It wasn’t Kafkaesque—it was actually quite easy once I found an office with an appointment—but the wait was worse than a doctor’s office. My 3:40 appointment wasn’t called until nearly 5pm, at which point it took less than ten minutes to complete.

Oh well, I don’t need to do that again for a long time.

First First Robotics

Last Saturday, I judged a First Tech Challenge for the first time. In fact, despite having been a professional roboticist since 2009, this event was my first interaction with any First competition. I shouldn’t have waited. The kids are excited and shockingly capable; the audience is wild; the challenge is fun; and I had an amazing time. I’m helping out with another one in two weeks—the awkwardly named “Semi-Area” competition. I’m looking forward to it.

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This one went by quickly.

Conlextions #138 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟪🟪🟪🟪 🟦🟦🟦🟦 Solve Time: 28 seconds

Finished reading: The Sunlit Man by Brandon Sanderson

Apparently Sanderson’s fiftieth novel, and the last of the four Kickstarter books. Directly impacts the Cosmere, and the first of these weird ones where having read everything Cosmere really helps enrich the story.

A swashbuckling adventure—seriously. But of course with magic and mystery you expect.

My only complaint is that so much of the mystery of the early books is gone—we know so much now about Investiture and such that I’m no longer dazzled by it.

Still, a fun read. 📚

Finished reading: A Demon in Silver (War of the Archons) by R.S. Ford

Magic is creeping back into the world. Some parts think they’re ready; others have no idea; almost nobody’s prepared for what actually happens.

A fun read, with disparate threads that you just know have to fit somehow, but I wished for a little more sense of purpose rather than piling on more worldbuilding. 📚

Last night, I entered all my upcoming trips into my Obsidian trips database. The year is getting crowded, and we haven’t made it out of January yet. (I also haven’t entered some known trips for the back half of the year; at least August, October, and December will all have at least one trip.)

One day I’ll post something more interesting. Today, it’s another puzzle.

Conlextions #132 🟪🟪🟪🟪 🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟦🟦🟦🟦 Solve Time: 1 minute, 6 seconds

Posting NYT instead of @lex because the purples today are hilarious.

Connections Puzzle #219 🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟪🟪🟪🟪

Also I initially made a silly mistake with the blues in Conlextions today, but I fixed it.

Conlextions #129 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟪🟪🟪🟪 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟩🟩🟩🟩 Solve Time: 33 seconds

This puzzle continues to bring a little joy (and sometimes frustration) to my day.

Conlextions #128 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟪🟪🟪🟪 Solve Time: 1 minute, 24 seconds

I found this one took a little more patience than some.

Conlextions #127 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟪🟪🟪🟪 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟩🟩🟩🟩 Solve Time: 2 minutes, 59 seconds

Conlextions #119 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟪🟪🟪🟪 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟩🟩🟩🟩 Solve Time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

I discovered @lex‘s Conlextions puzzles through Dr. Drang at the end of December and immediately ripped through the archives. It has just now occurred to me I can post results here.

Obviously, I will cherry-pick the good ones where I made no mistakes.

Conlextions #116 🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟪🟪🟪🟪 Solve Time: 5 minutes, 33 seconds

Conlextions #117 🟨🟨🟨🟨 🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟦🟦🟦🟦 🟪🟪🟪🟪 Solve Time: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

Finished reading: The Law by Jim Butcher.

A fairly weak entry in the series, maybe intended as a palate cleanser after Battle Ground. We see a little of Dresden’s psyche, but not much. A short return to the early novels’ PI theme, but with Dresden as a far more powerful, and more broken, wizard. 📚

Finished reading: Heroes by Stephen Fry.

A fantastic addition to Mythos. Fry picks some of the best-known Greek heros (and one not-so-well-known) and brings them and their complete stories to life. He tells complete stories, bringing in all the crazy background and mythological history and real history. You get modern geography and philosophy and demography alongside Theseus and Perseus.

I have no nits to pick, except that again the audiobook, while delivered excellently by Fry himself, is mastered poorly, so keep your volume knob handy. 📚

Year in books for 2023

Here are the books I finished reading in 2023. I also keep a running log throughout the year.

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Finished reading: Mythos by Stephen Fry.

Excellent retelling of the classic Greek myths. Plus some I’ve never heard. If you ever read (or refused to read) Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, you owe it to yourself to read this one. Fry brings the characters and stories to dramatic life, truly retelling rather than just reciting.

The audiobook was absolutely worth it—Stephen Fry reads it himself and is engaging and hilarious as always—although the dynamic range is incredibly high, so be careful with your volume. 📚

Two more fall beers tonight:

  • Altstadt Okt
  • Samuel Adams Jack-O


Two beer bottles on a table: Altstadt Okt and Samuel Adams Jack-O

Every year, my wife and I grab as many pumpkin/yam/märzen/oktoberfests as we can and do a little home tasting. The selection at our local H-E-B this year is shockingly good, so I have a lot to post. I’ll make it a full page later; for now, just a picture from night one. 🎃 🍻

  • Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale
  • Freetail Oktoberfiesta
  • Tucher Festbier
  • Karbach Karbachtoberfest
  • Real Ale Oktoberfest
  • Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin
Six cans of beer poured into twelve plastic tasting cups, all arranged in three triangles on a wooden coffee table:&10;&10;* Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale&10;* Freetail Oktoberfiesta&10;* Tucher Festbier&10;* Karbach Karbachtoberfest&10;* Real Ale Oktoberfest&10;* Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin&10;&10;&10;

Not a good day for football in our house. Nice of Apple News to sum up the day so conveniently though… 🏈

College football scores for VT-Marshall (17-24) and SMU-TCU (17-34).

Finished reading: Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. An epic end to an epic trilogy. Disappointing in all the best ways. One smidge darker than I’d hoped, but you have to be realistic about these things. 📚

Got off a plane from New Zealand Thursday night, back on a plane (to Atlanta this time) this afternoon. I often can’t decide whether I love this life of travel or wish I could spend some more time in my own bed. Today it’s the former.

Finished reading: Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie. Even better than the first. Characters you want to know better, mysteries abound, swords and sorcery and sex and what else do you want from a book? 📚

I’m a day late to the cycle photo @challenges but I’m going to post this anyway since I’m enjoying these photo challenges and it’s actually a nice shot of Melbourne from across the lake in Albert Park.

A little boy on a bicycle on the shore of Albert Park Lake with the skyline of Melbourne in the background.

I wanted to make a joke about “divided by a common language”, but “this escalator is being rested” is such a great replacement for “down for maintenance” that I’ll just leave it at that.

Top of an escalator blocked by an orange bar with a blue flag reading in white letters, “Not currently in use, this escalator is being rested.” The flag also has an escalator icon with a thought bubble filled with Z’s.

I missed the first Virginia Tech football game last week (against ODU) because we were in New Zealand. An acceptable tradeoff, of course, but it’s nice to be back in the US this weekend and watch the Hokies take on Purdue. 🏈📺🦃

UPDATE: Having said that, of course there’s a multi-hour rain delay.

Leaving Queenstown yesterday, Meera snapped one of the best sea-earth-sky yonder photos I’ve ever seen. Plane-window photos never work, but New Zealand is so picturesque it didn’t matter. 📸

A New Zealand fjord. Blue water in the middle, green mountains on both sides, a full horizon of snow-capped peaks in the distance, and a plane engine in the lower-right.

Finished reading: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Dirty, but not dark. Cynical, but leavened with hard work. Clichés and anti-clichés. Excellent, not stereotypical fantasy. 📚

During our stop in Glenorchy yesterday, we encountered some surprisingly well-dressed travelers on the shore of Lake Wakatipu.

We assume they were there for wedding pictures or something similar, because Glenorchy’s not exactly a formalwear kind of town. 📸

A well-dressed man and woman walk on a pebble beach in front of a lake. He is wearing a formal black vest and white shirt, and she is wearing a white shirt and stunning red-and-gold long skirt.

We are flying back from Queenstown today, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why.

San Antonio Express News headline: "San Antonio to hit 100 for the 70th day this year, but relief from heat possible early next week"

It’s a day late, but on our adventures this afternoon we found the actual forest used for Lothlórien, between Glenorchy and Paradise. 👋 @jean

Dense forest of tall trees with sparse leaves, but the forest is so deep the entire scene is green and brown. Literally the forest used for Lothlórien in the movies.

Visiting Rhyme x Reason brewery in Wanaka, New Zealand, tonight, they had some spectacular murals on the walls. Apparently painted by employees, who are allegedly paid entirely in beer.

A wall mural painted above a doorway. The mural is easily 20 feet square of a cartoon man’s head wearing a yellow toboggan, his tongue snaking the length of his head to the right and up. Purple spheres and hops form the background.Meera sits on a bench in front of a wall mural. An orange planet/moon with bands like Jupiter is orbited by three gigantic green hops. A simple black cloud is overlaid on the planetoid.Two wall murals behind brewery vats. The left, a black planet orbited by giant hops. The right, Mario bursting through the wall, surrounded by hops, with the letters RxR in the bottom-left.

Driving around Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, this morning, it just screamed Lord of the Rings. Here you have the forest of Lothlórien, the Misty Mountains, and everywhere a hobbit could go (and back again).

(Not pictured: we climbed a waterfall.)

Panorama of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. Evergreen forest on the lakeshore, snowcapped alpine mountains in the distance.

Skied Coronet Peak today. That obviously calls for an après-ski New Zealand-native Ginger Bear in an orange can.

Okay, it’s orange and maroon, but as a Hokie, I approve anyway.

Meera in a white ski helmet and reflective purple ski goggles in front of a snow-covered mountain drinking a Ginger Bear from an orange and maroon can.

Wave to the Pelican on the Outer Banks

In 2019, we went to the Outer Banks for Meera’s birthday. We visited from Corolla all the way down to Okracoke, taking in beaches and lighthouses and sand and sun. Meera and I are not good at relaxing vacations. We’re always skiing or hiking or visiting museums or monuments. But on this trip, we spent an entire day at the beach, and I was able to be still long enough to take some great photos, including this one of a pelican above a crashing wave.

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We flew from Melbourne to Queenstown today, so I had to dig into days past for something precious for today’s challenge photo. My time alone each morning with coffee and words is indeed precious to me; this one occurred on Melbourne’s South Wharf last Monday morning.

A double espresso shot in a too-large Vittoria coffee tasse, on a saucer with a spoon.

Finished reading: Yumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson. Fun as usual; kind of a fantasy/mystery/romance. I didn’t love the storytelling device, but the story itself, the world, and the magic were all top-notch Sanderson. 📚

On the way back from visiting Westside Ale Works in South Melbourne today, we saw these three huge cranes on the same apartment complex. Coming from Texas, it’s refreshing to see rapid high-density housing buildup.

Three red and white tower cranes atop apartments buildings being constructed. The cranes read “Creating Possibilitirs. Graystar: the global leader in rental housing.” Dayglo green sedan in the foreground.

Riverwalk After Christmas

In 2019, we hosted Christmas at our house in San Antonio. My family flew or drove from the east coast (yes, it’s a 24-hour drive), and Meera’s drove down from the lake (a much-more-sensible one-hour drive). The day after Christmas for us is always a chance to get outside. December 23 is often a travel day; Christmas Eve is full of cooking and wrapping and worship; and Christmas is full of eating and unwrapping and family.

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On a wine-and-penguins tour on Phillip Island, we found this abstract tiling of Australian little penguins near the jetty in Cowes. Looking forward to seeing real ones later today!

Mosaic of ceramic tiles set in cement, three Australian little penguins made of black, white, blue, green, and orange pieces on a yellow background.

Finished reading: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. Spectacular, sweet fairy tale in fantasy clothing. Deserves its accolades. Highly recommended. 📚

Hot Chocolate and Churros at Barcelona’s Granja M. Viader

In September 2021, we spent a couple of days in Barcelona on our way back from Minorca and Mallorca. We had read that a favorite local breakfast spot was Granja M. Viader. Usually, that means there’s a line of tourists out the door, and Meera and I are almost always unwilling to wait in a line like that. However, this day, the line was practically nonexistent (probably because tourists hadn’t yet come back after COVID), and we slipped in for a breakfast of hot chocolate and churros.

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Streaking Across the International Date Line

Flying west across the international date line always screws with my “streaks.” Games, fitness—anything that automatically tracks daily continuity breaks. All of these apps need to build in grace days. Either occasional true penalty-free skip days or, like Knotwords, ways to rebuild the streak. I’m reminded of a conversation in the Apple sphere a few years ago about preserving fitness streaks on rest days or across the Sabbath for observant Jews.

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Finished reading: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. Fun, quick romp through a particular many-worlds hypothesis. A little too cute in places, and far too embedded in the real-world time (including soon-to-be-obscure Trump jokes), but a very enjoyable read. 📚

Thirty-Four Hours to Melbourne

Finally in our hotel in Melbourne. Quick recap: At 2pm Friday everything was fine. At 3pm Friday our Melbourne flight was delayed two hours, but our Dallas flight was delayed four hours, so we would miss our connection, and the next DFW-MEL flight didn’t leave for two more days. American couldn’t rebook us despite my platinum status. Our travel department figured out how to get us there through LAX, but before that a colleague traveling with us with Concierge Key status got us not only rebooked but on standby with a third alternative (which we ended up taking).

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Leaving tonight to add a fifth continent to my skiing conquests ⛷️.

It was just a few weeks ago I got to update my Where Have I Been page with skiing in South America (Chile 🇨🇱), and I’m super-excited to bag another in Queenstown, New Zealand 🇳🇿.

Remaining: Africa and Antarctica. The hard ones.

Sailboatlings at Port d’Andratx

In November 2021, Meera and I were itching to get traveling again. We had had our shots, waited past all the international quarantines, and it was time to go again.

We chose to visit Minorca and Mallorca because we had enjoyed Barcelona so much a few years prior, and we wanted to go back but experience something new.

Photo of me and Meera in front of Far de la Mola lighthouse, a thin tower on a cliff with wide horizontal bands of black and white and a bright red top.

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In This Picture, the Hail Hasn’t Started Yet

What if you went to Versailles as part of your honeymoon, but it absolutely poured that day in November 2017, and all of your pictures were of you and your brand new spouse soaking wet? On the plus side, I snuck this jacket into my luggage as a surprise gift for Meera when we got there, so she was both cuter and more comfortable than I was. Note, as usual, the red backpack straps over the sport coat; I am the essence of class.

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I really hate that the best experience of micro.blog is on the web. The Mac app is flaky uploading photos, and while you can write alt text, there’s no way to position them in the post. The iOS apps don’t really believe in the share sheet (sharing to Sunlit loses my post 100% of the time), and scrolling in the official micro.blog app routinely breaks, making scrolling to the bottom of the post to continue writing impossible. I’d switch to Drafts, but I still need to handle photo uploading. (To be fair, Epilogue continues to be awesome, and I’ve never tried Wavelength.)

Lighthouses and Roses

In June 2013, I was on a business trip to Mountain View. I had never been to California before, so I spent as much of my free time exploring as I could.

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Do Not Gather Firewood

In 2017, we camped in Garner State Park with some friends and took a brief hike the next day. You’re not permitted to use local “found” firewood, so one of the people with us brought a truck bed full of huge branches we spent a long time chopping into firewood on which to cook a very nice pot of camp chili. Food you work for is supposed to taste better, but I mostly remember the work and the time, not so much the food.

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Waterfall Gully Features A Waterfall In A Gully

In August 2016, I was in Adelaide for a business trip. Okay, I was in Woomera for a business trip, but I had taken a week of vacation on the end of the trip to explore Adelaide. One day I decided to hike up Mount Lofty. Okay, I decided to walk to Mount Lofty from Adelaide and then climb up it. The trek took me past a place called Waterfall Gully, which is a… gully… with a waterfall.

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Switzerland In A Week (Sort Of)

Back in 2018, I had a business trip to Thun, Switzerland. Meera and I decided to make a vacation of it. Over the course of a week, we visited Thun, Interlaken, Gimmelwald, Zermatt, St. Moritz, and Zurich. In Zurich, we were unwilling to pay for a chocolate tour, so we found a review online that listed the places they went and did the tour on our own. One of the places was of course the Sprüngli shop, where we learned about Luxemburgerli, which are basically colorful mini-macarons.

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Just published Four Gospels, Five Great Commissions. It has been fourteen months since I wrote a new article, and I can’t tell you how relieved I feel to get going again. ✍️

The Second-Most-Ridiculous Hike We’ve Ever Taken

In 2019, my wife and I joined another couple for a backpacking trip in the San Juan Mountains of south-central Colorado. On the way back, we stopped for a day at my in-law’s condo in Ruidoso, New Mexico to recover a bit. But instead of resting and recuperating from a challenging hike, we decided to go for another hike in the nearby Lincoln National Forest. Okay, this one is entirely my fault.

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Greener, More Flexible, Grass

I came across this March 2022 post about having control over your day by @ChrisHannah, where they advocate for flexible working hours:

Personally, I think the best solution for people and companies (where the job allows), is if your entire working hours were flexible. For example, you could be contracted to work 8 hours a day, but you are free to fulfil those 8 hours between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm. Maybe one day you have plans later on in the day, so you choose to start at 7 am, and have a short lunch. But another day, you want to go have brunch with friends, so you could start later, or perhaps you just take a long break?

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The Picture

Some friends and I were talking about The Picture—the one you’re proudest of, the one you always want to show people, the one that makes you wonder if maybe you’re actually a photographer after all. I’ve taken some pretty pictures, but I think the best one I’ve ever taken is of a couple I don’t know and never met, on the beach of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. I hope they don’t mind, and I hope if they ever come across this post, they’ll appreciate how perfect their moment was (and say hi!

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Even though I went to the office on Friday after landing from Chile 🇨🇱, the first Monday back always feels like the “real” return to work.

Feels good to get back into habits of reading, journaling, and morning pages—all those practices that I’m happy to ignore while checking out on vacation.

I’ve lived in San Antonio for twelve years, and today I got my first library card.

(I’ve read dozens of books on Libby over the years with what was apparently a “temporary” card, and I finally had to go get a real one to keep reading.) 📚

We realized on day 3 of skiing that our skis were conveniently RGB-colored and of graduated lengths, so we posed them for a group shot.

Then I took a candid going up one of the lifts.

And of course we couldn’t let the boots feel left out, even though they’re less colorful. 🎿

Went to bed excited for overnight snowfall to improve skiing conditions. Woke up to exactly half my wish granted: almost 7” of accumulation, but whiteout conditions this morning. ⛷️

Picture of an apartment window looking out onto whiteout conditions due to snow.

Chilean Firsts

Achievement unlocked: snow skiing 🎿 in August. To be fair, we cheated by flying to Chile 🇨🇱 to do it. It’s also many other firsts: first ski trip in the southern hemisphere first trip to Chile first trip to South America first trip to the southern hemisphere with my wife (we’ve both been, repeatedly, separately, to Australia) And finally, it’s the fourth continent I’ve skied on (North America, Europe, and Asia were my first three).

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Initial Reflections on 15 years of Twitter

Since the ongoing implosion of X, née Twitter, began, I’ve been combing through my archive of 15,000-ish tweets across 15 years since April 20, 2008. It’s the longest record of anything in my life, stretching back further than my oldest Day One entry1 2. I remember almost all of it. Sometimes that’s good: starting in 2017, I published almost 90,000 words of Bible analysis to Twitter. Sometimes that’s bad: I spent a lot of days over the years angry about American politics—left and right—screaming impotently into the void instead of building something valuable.

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Finished reading: Thirty Questions by Timothy C. Tennent. Structured like a catechism but with answers far too long to memorize. Not a bad introduction to Christian doctrine, but fits better as a study: Tennent clearly expects you to do some of the work on your own. Fortunately, he gives chapter-and-verse starting points. 📚

Information architecture update complete! Almost everything’s a river, which gives me two huge wins:

  1. Every resource is accessible through the archives page.
  2. The entire site is more flexible in the future, since it’s based on metadata instead of the file system.

Finished watching: Tetris. Tons of fun, and filled in the hard-to-believe story of which I knew only the outline—who knew a movie about IP rights and the KGB could be so enjoyable? Lots of clever little nods to 80s video games. And of course I had to follow it with The Complete History of the Soviet Union. 🍿

Made some good progress today redesigning information architecture for VerseNotes.

Current theory: only standalone articles are dated; everything else is a Jekyll collection.

New theory: (almost) everything in one river of dated posts with judicious use of categories for archive organization.

Just dropped off our skis to get waxed. Starting to get excited for Santiago next week!

I do feel a bit silly waxing snow skis in Texas in July. 🎿 🇨🇱

Finished watching: Oppenheimer. Superb acting from a cast I didn’t expect tells a story I of which only knew a small fraction. Fun sound design, although parts were noisier than they needed to be. Only real complaint is that it did not need all 180 minutes, and some bits dragged unnecessarily. 🍿

Finished reading: The One Hour Bible by SPCK. Edited by Philip Law. A great idea—not paraphrasing or summarizing but eliding: using the actual words of the New Living Translation to tell the story of God in fewer words.

Unfortunately, while this treatment works well for the Old Testament and most of the Gospels, they abridge Acts too much, and the rest of the New Testament disappears until Revelation 22. I know it doesn’t fit the format, but ironically one of the elided verses (2 Timothy 3:16) says, “all Scripture is useful.” 📚

My yoga app introduced me to a new pose tonight: locust pose. I’m reasonably certain you can see it in my heart rate just after the two-thirds mark. 🧘‍♂️

Non-Alcoholic Beer Replacements We've Tried, With Notes

We have tried a bunch of non-alcoholic (n/a) beers lately, looking for something that satisfies the desire for something bubbly and refreshing but doesn’t have the associated buzz, drowsiness, lack of focus, terrible sleep, and other downsides of the high-ABV beverages we’ve come to enjoy. This is an unordered list of the ones we’ve tried with comments where applicable. All drinks with the same name as alcoholic beers are the non-alcoholic versions.

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Finished reading: For the Body by Timothy C. Tennent. A critical exposition of the need for the modern church to develop and espouse a positive theology of the body rather than the decades of pure negative theology: “don’t do that; that’s wrong.”

A great starter book on the topic, although the last two chapters are aimed squarely at pastors, not laypeople (they still have value, but not as much).

My primary takeaway is that developing a positive, holistic theology of the body allows us to see our sexuality, our bodies, and ourselves in the context of the complete gospel, not by the light of a few specific verses that mostly just make people angry regardless of what they believe. 📚

Finished watching: Silo (2023). Incredibly slow start, but every episode was better than the last, and the final scene is worth all ten episodes. I’m not sure if it was better that I’d read the books first, or worse because I didn’t have any suspense. 🍿

I had forgotten how much getting a car serviced costs. My 2014 Altima has been solid since I got it in 2016, modulo oil changes and tire changes, but today it needed some (expensive) help.

It was a lot of time and a lot of money, but I guess I can’t complain about one expensive trip in seven years.

Finished reading: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. Tremendously dissatisfying. A chaotic run through a fascinating world, but the plot was so contrived to prevent progress as to frustrate me with every page turn.

Not recommended. If you want a weird world, go read Piranesi instead. 📚

My First iOS Apps

Today, Phil Schiller celebrated the 15th anniversary of the iOS App Store, and many people posted the first apps they downloaded. Here are mine.

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Pharrell Williams's "Happy" as a Spenserian Sonnet

Back in 2014, there was a Twitter account, or maybe a Tumblr account, that published pop songs as sonnets1. I loved the spin on genre, but I noticed that they were all Petrarchan (Italian) sonnets, which go ABBA ABBA CDE CDE, or Shakespearean (English) sonnets, which go ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. I complained on Twitter that we needed Spenserian ones, which have a harder rhyme scheme: ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. But you shouldn’t complain without offering a solution, so I give you my offering:

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Finished watching: Ted Lasso. Three seasons and only two clunkers. Amazing record. It’s not common that we get a mostly wholesome high-quality smash hit show, and I’m so glad to have seen it. Believe! 🍿

I Made a Swift Game

I’ve been obsessed with Demonin’s Array Game since Andy Baio linked to it a month ago. After getting effectively to the current endgame (there’s no real end, but at some point there’s no “next upgrade”), it occurred to me that the simplicity of the game was ideal for me to try learning Swift again. I dove all the way into Swift and SwiftUI, first using Swift Playgrounds and then Xcode directly.

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I just accidentally used the Universal Control feature built into macOS Ventura. I had set up my work MacBook Pro next to the monitor for my personal Mac mini, where I used to keep my laptop when it was connected to this monitor. So I naturally just hauled the cursor beyond the side of the screen, and it magically kept going onto the laptop screen!

It took me several seconds to figure out that something special had happened and that my cursor had jumped from one machine to the other.

Something weird: how did it know which side of my monitor the laptop was on? It could guess by choosing the direction you try to move your cursor, exactly like I did, but it’s still absolutely delightful.

Screenshot of the System Settings control that allows the magic I just witnessed.
&10;It says, "Push through the edge of a display to connect a nearby Mac or iPad. 
&10;Allow the pointer to connect to a nearby Mac or iPad by pushing against the edge of a display."

Gave a bunch of stuff back to Apple today. These computers got both Meera and me through college and grad school, and it’s time to let go.

The white iPod (3rd gen, I think) was a birthday present when I turned 17 or 18; the iPods Touch tided me over until Verizon got the iPhone, and that iPhone 5s is still the best design ever made.

Makeshift parfait at the BOS (Logan) Admiral’s Club this morning waiting for our flight back to Austin. 📸

Brunch at In A Pickle in Waltham ahead of a wedding yesterday afternoon. Hot honey chicken and waffles, pumpkin bread French toast, and coffee. Perfect.

Today I discovered Merlin Mann’s Wisdom Project, and it’s the kind of thing at least part of my Micro.blog should aspire to be.

Little snippets that are helpful to me now and might be helpful to me or others later.

Some of them are very #wisdom:

Like it or not, you’re always practicing something. Put another way, whichever muscle you exercise the most can’t help but strengthen. Often to the detriment of others.

And some are pure Merlin:

Your calendar represents a portfolio of promises to your future self. Treat it that way.

Mostly final desk setup, shown here during a video conference we were both attending (on the iPad). The room looks mostly the same, except it has real curtains now and more stuff on the shelves. And we don’t use it nearly as often—we’re in the office more often than not.

Our other early-COVID desk, set up not in the office but the guest bedroom. Like everyone else, my wife and I spent too much time on videoconferences to sit in the same room, so we were fortunate to have space to spread out like this. Same monitor, different laptop and stand. No K’nex.

Standing desk evolution, a few weeks in COVID. At this point, we still had the blinds open to remind us what “outside” looked like. It still kind of felt like vacation, not yet like the terrifying pandemic it turned out to be. (It did, and still does, make me wish I were indie.)

Our home office desk before COVID. Made of an old kitchen table and K’nex, naturally. 📸

Day three of desk pictures. This one is an actual working desk of mine from my first apartment in San Antonio after grad school. It looks so much like my grad school desk in my Blackburg apartment I first guessed that’s what it was before looking at the location info.

Almost every element in this photo tells a story, at least to me. Maybe that would also make a good series of posts.

A desk made out of a door, covered in equipment: laptop, hard drives, speakers, turntables, lamp, working papers, notebooks, office supplies... it's a mess.

Yesterday’s desk post made me think of other interesting writing desks I’ve encountered.

This one is from our house in Sóller, Majorca, Spain, from November 2021.

An iPad instead of a MacBook because this was a vacation, not a business trip.

Black-and-white photo of a wooden writing desk made of an old sewing machine, topped by an iPad, keyboard, water bottle, and wine glass.

My workspace at Hotel Bellevue in Cazaubon, France, a few weeks ago. I love the aesthetic, but it made me feel like I should be writing a novel instead of PowerPoint slides. 📸

Photo of a small wooden writing desk dominated by a MacBook Pro and over-ear headphones.

Cleaning out and backing up my college/grad school MacBook Pro (15-inch Early 2008), and the nostalgia is strong in this one.

Sure, its 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo isn’t that impressive, and neither is its 4GB of DDR2 or 256GB GeForce 8600M, but it is weirdly performant on OS X 10.8.3, and the aesthetic is arguably more beautiful and indisputably more fun than current macOS.

The old-school 3D icons for Twitter, TextWrangler, and others are elegant, and maybe we should go back to them.

I did all of grad school on this computer, including tons of Matlab and hundreds of pages of LaTeX, and it’s kind of sad to see it go.

In Corpus Christi for Rio Texas Annual Conference. Tried out Railroad Brewing Company right by the convention center. 📸

Felt bad that I didn’t get much done yesterday, so this picture is to remind me of what I did finish this weekend. Let’s get the short week started strong. 📸

Finished reading: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Slow start for an amazing ending. Fun wordplay and enough mystery to hunt down the sequel. 📚

Pro tip: when the sky looks like this, the best time to leave work was half an hour ago. 📸

Finished reading: The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson. A fun, quick read. Pretty un-Sanderson. Seems like he was experimenting with style, similar to Tress, just not in the Cosmere. 📚

Finished reading: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. Like “Pyramids”, an excuse for Pratchett to make a billion pop culture jokes in a row. Tons of fun. 📚

Finished watching: Hidden Figures. I’m so glad this movie exists. Epic women I’ve looked up to forever, especially Katherine Johnson, and now other people will know about them too. Not a movie for nerds—it’s about people and society and space, not technology—but awesome anyway.🍿

Finished reading: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. Wow, what a fun novel. I had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen. Definitely better than her Uprooted. Thanks to @jsonbecker for saying exactly that and giving me the recommendation. 📚

Finished reading: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve never read a book so full of hints but so devoid of answers. Also with such a powerful, but dumb, protagonist. I want Denna’s story so badly… which I guess puts me in good company. A book practically made for Reddit. 📚

Finished reading: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Late to the party on this one. One of the most beautiful fantasy books I’ve ever read. Incredible command of language and myth and character. Also frustrating; I knew that going in, but I didn’t know just quite how. 📚

Finished reading: Eric by Terry Pratchett. Just fun. Less effort than previous books, but more entertaining. Plus: Rincewind! Only problem is it’s very very short. 📚

Finished reading: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik. Probably my favorite of these, which is nice because it’s last. Pacing worked out, some growth arcs concluded, and the inevitable future is hinted but not written. 📚

Finished reading: Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik. I will never get used to the pacing of these books; and especially the ridiculously abrupt endings. Not even cliffhangers, just endings. 📚

Finished reading: Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik. Fantastic adventure in the Andes devolves to more boring British politics by the end. Novik loves the history of the Napoleonic wars too much, and it weakens the stories. 📚

Finished reading: Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik. Unexpectedly appropriate for my long layover in Sydney. I like Laurence better as an explorer than soldier. More adventure, less British politics. 📚

Finished reading: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik. Pacing finally feels good, and as a result I enjoyed this one more than the previous four. Feels like the world is changing, which is fun to watch. 📚

Finished reading: Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson. Tremendous effort and tons of fun. Lots of Cosmere elements together, and the joy of Hoid everywhere. I just wish he hadn’t tried so hard to sound like Terry Pratchett. (Recommended by @manton) 📚

Finished reading: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. Probably my least favorite of the series so far. So many moving parts, and the jokes didn’t land for me. 📚

Finished reading: The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson. I absolutely tore through this book. As usual, Sanderson’s organization awes me, although I couldn’t help but feel he tossed a little too much Cosmere lore at us in one book to prepare us for what’s coming. 📚

Finished reading: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. More like a log of adventure than a novel. Temeraire and Laurence finally have a hard decision to make, although their expressed value system removes the tension entirely for the reader. Still a fun adventure though. 📚

Finished reading: Black Powder War by Naomi Novik 📚

Finished reading: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik. Seemingly totally independent from the first novel except the characters, another exploration into a world where dragons are rare but natural. The pacing is again weird, but the world entertaining enough to make up for it. 📚

Finished reading: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. Learning a new world is always fun, and Novik launches in as if England and France have always used dragon fleets in their wars. The climax is too long in coming though, and too short; similarly, the denouement is precipitous. 📚

Finished reading: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden 📚

Finished reading: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. Long train rides make these books fly by. Another one, like Wyrd Sisters, where Pratchett clearly enjoyed himself with puns and satire and camels. 📚

Finished reading: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. The first Discworld novel that actually made me laugh out loud. The Discworld is the same glorious place, but the words—powerful things—tickled me just right. I suspect I missed a lot more literature references than I got. 📚

Finished reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Takes a long time to get going, but spellbinding once there. Another winter fairy tale. Recommended by @hollyhoneychurch as a follow-up to Uprooted; good recommendation. 📚

Finished reading: Sourcery by Terry Pratchett. The self-consistency of Discworld, despite the total lack of logic, amazes me every time. All of its legends and myths and prophecies are true, just never in ways the reader expects, yet somehow always in ways that blend comfortably with the overall chaos. 📚

Finished reading: Mort by Terry Pratchett. Death hires an apprentice so he can take some time off and experience life, and maybe find a husband for his daughter. All of those things happen, but as is common on Discworld, not exactly in the expected fashion. Rincewind cameo. 📚

Finished reading: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Starts as a twist on a fairy tale, ends as high fantasy. The finale is a bit more chaotic than you’d wish, but the whole thing is a good time. 95% for children, but very much meant for grown-ups. 📚

Finished reading: The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik. I absolutely devoured this book. It pays off the first book’s cliffhanger better than the second even tried to, and while the writing got a little cheaper the story exploded into awesome. 📚

Finished reading: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik. More fun in the Scholomance. Cliffhanger from the previous novel doesn’t pay off, but a great read anyway. 📚

Finished reading: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. Clearly written for the Harry Potter set, but profoundly different and exciting and, helpfully, well-written. Immediately a favorite young adult novel. 📚

Finished reading: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. Concludes as expected, a surprisingly similar scene to Hero of Ages. I wish we’d seen Hoid more, but the tease of Kelsier at the end was worth it.📚

Finished reading: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. Beautiful, tragic, ending. Harsh cliffhanger, but didn’t leave me desperate for more Cosmere like most of this series does. 📚

Finished reading: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett. As fine a primer on headology as one could hope for. 📚

Finished reading: The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 📚

Finished reading: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett 📚