Recent Books — Louise Penny, Chickenshit Club, Black Bolt

  • Still Life by Louise Penny.  Great start to this series, homicide in the Quebec countryside.  I feel like I have read another in this series but can find no evidence of it.
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny.  And the latest in her series, also excellent.
  • The Chickenshit Club by Jesse Eisinger.  The premise is good and there is some interesting detail in here, but the book loses its way in the detail.   I expected to be angry about corporate crime and lack of consequences after reading this book, but I just felt kind of tired.
  • Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed.  I dip into graphic novels every once in a while to see what is up.  This one got great reviews.  It was just ok for me, a little difficult to relate to the characters or situation.

Recent books — All Systems Red, Seven Little Lessons, Sea of Rust, Dark Matter, Behold The Dreamers

  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells. A fun romp with cyborgs, planetary exploration, betrayal, friendship. Short and sweet. Apparently a longer novel form coming out this year.
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. Super quick walk thru the major issues in physics today, well written and crisp.
  • Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill.  Humans are extinct, robots rule the world, and they are just as petty, noble, nasty, friendly, loving, and vicious as humans ever were.
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  Fun multiverse adventure, exploring the role of the observer in controlling the multiverse.  Seems like the author is working hard to get this to film, would be fun.
  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.  Immigrants trying to find their way in America during the 2008 financial crisis.  The good, bad, and ugly of being an immigrant in America, and a story of success and failure and resignation and acceptance.


Recent Books — We Have No Idea, The Grid, Exit West, Adam and Eve

  • We Have No Idea by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. A walk through the big unanswered questions about our universe. The sophomoric humor is very tiresome, I enjoyed some of the information, but can’t recommend.
  • The Grid by Gretchen Bakke. This book has had a lot of buzz, but it is very tiresome.  Some interesting observations but wrapped up in wooden repetitive prose.  The language and story aren’t good enough to make this book widely popular, and the data is too thin for a really technical book.  I resorted to just reading the topic sentences of paragraphs and trying to make do with that.
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.  Nice tale of immigration, especially pertinent today. Our birthplace is a matter of sheer chance, it does not define us.
  • The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt.  A dive into the Adam and Eve story, and how its relevance and meaning have changed over the past several thousand years.  Very helpful context, it would be interesting to read the origin myths of other major religions and a theological discussion of them.

This holiday’s board game winners — Mansions of Madness, King of Tokyo

Mansions of Madness was surprisingly fun.  We had low expectations, it just didn’t look like our kind of game.  Cooperative sounded too nice. But the pace is good, the iPad app really helped run the game, and once we realized that going “insane” in the game opened up play quite a bit, we had a lot of fun.  Definitely recommended.  Not a short game tho.

King of Tokyo — super fast to play, easy gameplay, and the game can shift dramatically in seconds.  Also recommended, and you can fly through a game.

A disappointment was One Night Werewolf.  Maybe we needed more eggnog.  With 5 people, it seemed like the outcomes were obvious.  Maybe we were doing it wrong.

Trying out a game camera, didn’t realize how varied this segment was

We don’t hunt but we like to observe the critters around us.  Trying out the Bushnell Aggressor — no idea if it is the best, but got decent reviews, and we wanted the cellular capability.

Bushnell offers its own portal at and also includes a trial offer for Deerlab which seems to have a bunch more features.  The device also comes with a 30 day wireless trial plan and notifies via text or email of new captures, and apparently you can extend the data plan without a contract which is nice..  It can be configured to capture video or pictures as desired.  It uses an impressive 12 AA batteries but apparently can also be hooked up to a solar panel.

The first critter it spotted is not surprising or particularly alarming!  I will deploy it in a location more likely to see deer, otter, mink, etc in the future.

Recent Books — Best Practices, Lodato, Intelligent Systems, Jane, Not A Sound, Seventh Function of Language, Dead Woman Walking, How Not To Be Wrong, Strangers in Their Own Land, Viking Economics

  • The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch.  Engaging tale of a man who set out methodically to improve his relationships.  Good counsel for all of us.
  • Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato.  Intriguing and I seemed to enjoy, but somehow just never finished.  I am not sure why.  I guess I am not really in a fantasy mood.
  • Intelligent Systems for Engineers and Scientists by Adrian Hopgood.  Kind of dated at this point.
  • Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore.  Good reviews but ugh, choppy and poorly developed.
  • Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf.  Solid thriller — a deaf woman stumbles into a mystery, and increasingly learns that those closest to her may be involved.
  • The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet.  Great book, man did this make me feel uneducated — the art, literature, and culture references flew by me, but well written.
  • Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton.  Nice thriller set in Scottish border lands with some excellent twists.
  • How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg.  Great discussion of practical math and statistics and how they impact our everyday life.  Really good.
  • Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild.  Another “how does the conservative right think” book.  Useful to try to build empathy.  Let’s hope that the conservative right are reading the equivalent books.
  • Viking Economics by George Lakey.  A bit gushing, but still a solid read about Nordic economies and values, and what we can learn from them.  A core point that resonated with me — the Nordic countries have embraced “investing in our people” as a core principle, and a lot of policy decisions stem from that.  This does not seem like a bad idea.

Recent Books I Didn’t Love — Night Value, Forest Dark, Last Girl, Sleeping Giants

I haven’t posted anything in months and this is how I choose to re-enter?

  • Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink.  Eh.  Fantastical story with fantastical characters, can’t connect with story or people.  I gave up
  • Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss.  If I knew more about Judaism and about Kafka, I would probably love this.  It was engaging but I was just missing too much due to my ignorance.
  • The Last Girl by Joe Hart.  Yet another post-apocalyptic tale where women have it bad.  This doesn’t really contribute much to the genre
  • Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel.  A completely ridiculous premise about our first contact with a superior interstellar race.  OK I kind of liked it but it is ridiculous.
  • The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley.  Some far distant future where technology and biology and humanity are completely intertwined.  Just OK.

Recent Books I Liked — Principles, Secondhand Time, Second Life of Nick Mason, Lab Girl, In the Garden of Beasts

  • Principles by Ray Dalio.  Overly long, and probably only relevant to those who have already had a lot of good fortune in life, but still a interesting read and worthy input for anything thinking about how to manage their career.
  • Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich.  Fascinating insight into modern Russia.  The sense of loss due to the collapse of the Soviet Union is worth reading about and understanding.
  • The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton.  Fun thriller about an ex-con trying to get free of his past.
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.  Compelling autobiography of a scientist and mother, a deeply human story.
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.  Life in Nazi Berlin pre the full outbreak of WWII.  The temperature in the pot slowly rises…

No you should not install 3rd party AV software

Between this news and the Kapersky revelations last week, I think the strategy most people should follow for their personal pcs is clear.

  • Don’t visit sketchy sites that are offering you free software, free movies, etc.  And never download software offering the same.  “If you aren’t the customer, you are the product.”
  • Don’t install 3rd party AV/Security software, this software digs into the heart of your system and just creates another source of vulnerabilities.
  • Do accept all patches from your OS vendor — Microsoft or Apple. You should probably allow them to auto patch your system without your intervention.  You have already thrown your lot in with them, why hold back.
  • Do run the latest OS from your OS vendor.  That is where their best and brightest people are working.

Microsoft and Apple have a gajillion people working on security, it is in their interest to protect their products from attacks, you should align yourself with them.

Recent Books — Crowley, Goldbarth, Bob Hope, Phenomena, Raj, Harry August, Tom Rob Smith, etc

Some winners and losers.

  • Little, Big by John Crowley. Well-regarded and I enjoyed some of the characters, but it lost me when it quickly flipped into faerie. Gave up on.
  • The Adventures of Form and Content by Albert Goldbarth. Goldbarth can be challenging but these are excellent essays. I aspire to be as well-read and thoughtful as he is.
  • Hope by Richard Zoglin. I never thought I’d be interested in a biography of Bob Hope, but a fascinating life story. He was an absolutely dominant entertainer in almost all forms of popular media, and could be incredibly generous, and yet had massive massive flaws. An interesting human being.
  • Phenomena by Annie Jacobsen. Got great reviews but the nonsense discussed drove me away. Gave up on.
  • The Chaos of Empire by Jon Wilson. Another I abandoned quickly. From past readings I’ve know the British were none too pleasant as they built their empire, and I wanted to learn more, but the early parts of this book just droned on and on with no insight.
  • The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. His earlier books are excellent, but he just never found his voice in this one. A satisfying ending but not a great read.
  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. Fun. Not memorable but fun.
  • Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman. My Kindle says I read this, and the Amazon blurb sounds familiar, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you anything about. Read whatever you want to into this.
  • Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason. An attempt at a Fargo-like tale but eh. Not funny enough.

Docker and VSCode on OS X — not ready for primetime

My workflow for years on my MBP has centered on VMWare running Debian/Ubuntu, and all my tools in the VM.

For developing code targeting AWS services, I thought I’d try using Docker for Mac and running Debian images with Docker.

Well that didn’t work. This bug involving time drift in a container has been around for a year now, with no attention paid to it. It basically makes it impossible to access any AWS services. I have to conclude that no one is actually using Docker for Mac.

I’ve also for years used a variety of editors and IDEs on both the Mac and Linux side. I heard such good things about VSCode that I decided to try it. But after any amount of time running it, it starts to miss keystrokes — I first noticed it wasn’t responding to copy/paste from the keyboard, then it also started to fail on simple text entry. I have no time for this, as cool as VSCode may be, it fails on the fundamentals.

Weekend experiment — Amazon Codestar

Created a site using Codestar. It was pretty easy (the ssh setup instructions are the trickiest thing, they are not perfectly clear). And I like that the resultant site embraces AWS cloud services. But in its drive to easy dev, codestar masks what is going on under the covers, and I am left with a site that I don’t really know how to modify and extend because I don’t understand what has happened beneath me. I doubt I will use it much.

UPDATE: If you think of codestar as just a way to seed a project, it is kind of useful. it would have taken me a while to correctly configure IAM, CodeCommit, CodePipeline, CodeBuild, CloudFormation, and Lambda. A tool to seed a project with all this correctly set up is useful. I wish that the tool would emit a script to let me idempotently recreate the project from scratch including all IAM settings.

Recent Books — March of Folly, Hawley, Haigh, Lee, Birds

  • The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman. Not a new book but pretty timeless lessons. Our country is certainly making missteps yet again in the Middle East.
  • Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Excellent mystery about the crash of a private plane, in which every passenger and crew member has secrets that may have been in play.
  • Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh. A failing small town and the people in it, struggling with the arrival of fracking. I didn’t love it but seems timely.
  • High Dive by Jonathan Lee. A fictionalization of the events around a 1984 bombing in Brighton England. Engaging but not amazing.
  • The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. Great studies of birds and their behaviors. Go look up images of the bowers created by bowerbirds, truly confounding.

We don’t get to just move on from the healthcare discussion

The AHCA has failed and people are frustrated and tired. The Republicans want to move on. Trump wants to move on. Some Dems want to gloat. But there is no moving on from this discussion, healthcare is too central an issue in people’s lives.

The AHCA was a political construct. It was “designed” to meet the political objectives of Trump (meet his campaign promise of doing something fast, without regard to what that was) and the political objectives of the republican leadership (destroy Obamacare without regard to how). As a piece of policy, it was harmful to most Americans, and the design of the bill and the effort to pass it were slapdash and amateurish.

It was brought down by the conservative and moderate wings of the party — the conservatives wanted more free market structuring, the moderates didn’t want to hurt their constituents.

So, now what. We have a turned a corner in this country. The Frum article ( and Naam’s observations about the Overton window ( are useful to read. The electorate has come to expect universal coverage at a reasonable cost (which is what Trump ran on though he was just being politically expedient). Plans that rip away coverage from the poor, from children, from young mothers — those will never get through.

And inaction on costs is not acceptable. People are paying too much for healthcare today. They are mad about it. The US has the highest costs of any developed nation ( Failure to address the ruinous costs borne by the middle class and working class will result in midterm loss of Republican house seats, and turnover in Democrat seats as well.

The Republican leadership (or new Republican leadership) needs to accept reality. They can’t just throw up their hands, say “darn it”, and move on to their next dream of tax reform. There is plenty of room to work on costs and improve the functioning of the ACA — see Naam’s list ( There is plenty of room in a system with universal basic coverage to insert market dynamics. The Republicans need to turn their attention to these opportunities. The Democrats need to lead with reasonable proposals and support reasonable efforts.

No one can walk away from the healthcare discussion.

Atlassian, you exhaust me.

Jira dashboards, boards, projects, issues, sprints, backlogs, queries, filters, versions, epics. Confluence spaces, categories, pages, people. Bamboo plans, projects, deployment projects. Hipchat teams, rooms. Trello boards, lists, cards.

Atlassian products have more ways to group and scope content, each of which has a million attributes and quirks. It is exhausting and I find myself pushed away from their products. All of this bucketing and grouping does not help me understand what the hell is going on at all.

Recent Books — Other Minds, Last Days of Night, eVolo, Kevin Kelly

  • Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith. A dive into the nature of consciousness and how it might vary across entities, with a deep look at cephalopods, who have a very different nervous system than humans. Most fascinating to me was the description of their skin, with its color change capability, embedded photoreceptors, and highly distributed nervous system. I would have liked more cephalopod info.
  • Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. Fictionalization of the early days of the electrification of the country. Very interesting parallels to the tech booms of the last 30 years.
  • Evolo Skyscrapers 3. Wow, this coffee table book of imaginative future skyscraper designs could keep me occupied forever. Drones, fantastic trains, innovative green technology, disaster-resistance, extreme climates, etc. Super fun.
  • The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. I avoided reading this for a while and I don’t know why. A little bloated but an excellent look at the forces of change that are driving through our economy. Highly recommended.

Recent Books – Ove, Orphan Master’s Son, Bryson, American Nations, Hillbilly Elegy, Marauders

  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman. A touching tale of an elderly man dealing with the loss of his wife and the changes in the world around him. Definitely interested in seeing the movie, a great character.
  • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.  A life of adaptation and survival in North Korea.  A little fabulous at times but engaging.
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson.  I like Bryson, but his schtick wears a little thin in this one.  I’d read his earlier works.
  • American Nations by Colin Woodard.  Very good and topical read.  I don’t think the boundaries between the nations are quite as crisp as he suggests but his model is very helpful for thinking about how the different parts of the country are thinking about politics these days.
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.  A nice companion to the American Nations book, a deep look by one person at the culture of Appalachia as they experienced it.  Even tho I grew up reasonably close to the author, the culture that I experienced was so different than his.    Bridging these cultures is hard.
  • The Marauders by Tom Cooper.  People making bad choices in the bayou.