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Stung Eye

The eye of the bee holder.

Podcast Listening in 2023

I’m still listing to podcasts near daily, mainly when I run or while walking to/from the bus. (On the bus is reserved for reading.)

I’m currently subscribed to 25 different shows in my podcatcher (Pocket Casts).

Last year’s listens can be found at the end of my 2022 reading and listening post.

Completionist Listening

I’m listening to nearly every episode of:

ADSP, CBC Spark, Conversations with Tyler, Game Dev Advice, Hard Fork, Lex Fridman, Long Now Seminars, Nice Game Club, Philosophy Bites, Philosophize This!, Search Engine, Sean Carroll’s Mindscape, Song Exploder, Stuff Dutch People Like, The Bike Shed, This American Life, This Developer’s Life

Occasional Listens

I’m cherry picking episodes of:

Broken Record, Canadalands Commons, CBC Ideas, CppCast, Hanselminutes, Overdue, Tetragrammaton, The Tim Ferris Show, Syntax

New Podcasts in 2023

  • Broken Record - Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, and Bruce Headlam interview icons of music. Liner notes for the digital age.
  • Hard Fork - A tech-news show about the future that’s already here.
  • Search Engine - A podcast that tries to answer every question. No question too big, no question too small.
  • Tetragrammaton - In-depth interviews with iconic music producer Rick Rubin.
  • This Developer’s Life - A podcast that looks into the daily life of software developer. (Technically a reboot. The podcast that got me into podcasts back in 2015.)

Favourite Podcasts of 2023

Some of my favourite episodes from the past year, listed alphabetically by show:

Broken Record: Beastie Boys and Spike Jones (2020)

Canadalands Commons: Cory Doctorow knows why monopolies are killing art

CBC Ideas: Is artificial intelligence intended to serve human welfare or Big Tech?, Inner City Winnipeg

CBC Spark: ChatGPT and the future of AI

Conversations with Tyler: Ada Palmer on Viking Metaphysics, Contingent Moments, and Censorship, Peter Singer on Utilitarianism, Influence, and Controversial Ideas, Lazarus Lake on Endurance, Uncertainty, and Reaching One’s Potential

Game Dev Advice: Starting Your Own Studio, BioShock Infinite, Anti-Crunch Culture, Learning Patience, Rendering and Graphics, and more with Steve Anichini

Hansleminutes: The Web’s Next Transition with Kent C. Dodds, The History of Data with Ted Neward

Lex Fridman: Joscha Bach: Life, Intelligence, Consciousness, AI & the Future of Humans, Stephen Wolfram: ChatGPT and the Nature of Truth, Reality & Computation, Neil Gershenfeld: Self-Replicating Robots and the Future of Fabrication, Matthew McConaughey: Freedom, Truth, Family, Hardship, and Love, Lee Cronin: Controversial Nature Paper on Evolution of Life and Universe

Long Now Seminars: Coco Krumme: The False Promise of Optimization

Mindscape: Michael Tomasello: The Social Origins of Cognition and Agency, David Deutsch on Science, Complexity, and Explanation, Michael Muthukrishna on Developing a Theory of Everyone, David Krakauer on Complexity, Agency, and Information

Overdue: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Philosophize This!: Why is consciousness something worth talking about?, What if free will is an illusion?, Is ChatGPT really intelligent?, Is Artificial Intelligence really an existential threat?, Should we prepare for an AI revolution?

Search Engine: How do I find new music now that I’m old and irrelevant?, Does anyone actually like their job?

Song Exploder: Alvvays - Archie, Marry Me

Stuff Dutch People Like: The One About House Interiors, The One about Weddings, The One About Haunted Amsterdam

Tetragrammaton: Tyler Cowen, Tyler Cowen DJ Episode: From Avant-Garde to Pop

Tim Ferris: John Vervaeke: How to Build a Life of Wisdom, Flow, and Contemplation, Apollo Robbins: The World’s Most Famous Pickpocket, Seth Godin: The Pursuit of Meaning, Choosing Your Attitude, Overcoming Rejection, and Committing to Making Positive Change, Arthur C. Brooks — How to Be Happy, Reverse Bucket Lists, The Four False Idols, Muscular Philosophies, Practical Inoculation Against the Darkness, and More

This American Life: The Rest of the Story, Rest Stop (2009), Say It to My Face, How I Learned to Shave

Reading in 2023

I read 21 books last year. Nine on my Kobo e-reader and the rest were deadtree format. Seventeen of them were fiction. Five were non-fiction. Night-time reading with the girls continues, but with less consistency. Cold-weather-commuted to work by bus, which accounts for the increase in books compared with 2022 & 2021.

Fiction in 2023

  • Ready Player One - Ernest Cline - 80s nostalgia and sci-fi tropes.
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate - Becky Chambers - “Hope isn’t about predicting the future; it’s about how you approach it.”
  • Freeze Frame - Peter May - A locked (in-time) room mystery.
  • Hail Mary Project - Andy Weir - “Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.
  • The City in the Middle of the Night - Charlie Jane Anders - “Humans are experts at storing knowledge and forgetting facts.”
  • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow - Gabrielle Zevin - “To design a game is to imagine the person who will eventually play it.”
  • Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman - “Adults follow paths. Children explore.”
  • The Word is Murder - Anthony Horowitz - “Diana Cowper had planned her funeral and she was going to need it.”
  • Wonder Boys - Michael Chabon - “Writers, unlike most people, tell their best lies when they are alone.”
  • Consider Phlebas - Iain M. Banks - World-building introduction to the Culture.
  • Blackthorn Key - Kevin Sands - Fun YA recommendation from a middle-school teacher.
  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin - If Zevin’s “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” was a love letter to video games, this is her love letter to books and bookstores. “The words you can’t find, you borrow.”
  • Our Tragic Universe - Scarlett Thomas - A maddeningly storyless-story purchased for its beautiful cover. - “We should have stories not to tell us how to live and turn out lives into copies of stories, but to prevent us from having to fictionalise ourselves.”
  • Children of Time - Adrian Tchaikovsky - Evolution, generation ships, and the future of intelligent life.
  • The Sentence is Death - Anthony Horowitz - Hawthorne and a meta-fictionalized Horowitz part 2.
  • The Penderwicks - Jeanne Birdsall - “Parents almost always want what’s best for their children. They just don’t always know what that is.”

Non-Fiction in 2023

  • How To Love - Thich Nhat Hanh - “Every one of us is trying to find our true home. Some of us are still searching. Our true home is inside, but it’s also in our loved ones around us. When you’re in a loving relationship, you and the other person can be a true home for each other.”
  • Built to Move - Kelly Starrett & Juliet Starrett - “Can your ability to get up and down off the floor provide insight into how long you’ll live?”
  • Excellent Advice for Living - Kevin Kelly - “Listening well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them
    “Is there more?” until there is no mo
  • The Autism Partner Handbook - Joe Biel, Dr. Faith G. Harper, Elly Blue - Love on the spectrum.
  • The Creative Act - Rick Rubin - “Look for what you notice but no one else sees.”

Top Three Books of 2023

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow - Gabrielle Zevin

“To allow yourself to play with another person is no small risk. It means allowing yourself to be open, to be exposed, to be hurt. It is the human equivalent of the dog rolling on its back — I know you won’t hurt me, even though you can. It is the dog putting its mouth around your hand and never biting down. To play requires trust and love.”

Two friends — often in love, but never lovers. A beautiful story about friendship, love, trauma, work, play, time, art, and the creative process. A coming-of-age novel, for its multiple protagonists and for the video game industry they grow up within.

Children of Time - Adrian Tchaikovsky

“There had been those back on Earth who claimed the universe cared, and that the survival of humanity was important, destined, meant. They had mostly stayed behind, holding to their corroding faith that some great power would weigh in on their behalf if only things became so very bad. Perhaps it had: those on the ark ship could never know for sure.”

This book is full of wonder. A mix of science fiction and science fact. I’ve been told that I’m not great with spoilers, so I’ll proceed with caution and tempt you with an odd quote for a space opera:

“She knows that individual ants themselves cannot be treated with, communicated with or even threatened. Her comprehension is coarse, of a necessity, but approximates to the truth. Each ant does not think. It has a complex set of responses based on a wide range of stimuli, many of which are themselves chemical messages produced by other ants in response to still more eventualities.”

Built to Move - Kelly Starrett & Juliet Starrett

Future-proof your body through mobility, balance, breath, sleep, and nutrition. Ten quick health assessments with daily physical practices for improvement. An example assessment, the Sit-and-Rise Test:

“Stand next to a wall or steady piece of furniture if you think you will need help. From there, cross one foot in front of the other and sit down on the floor into a cross-legged position without holding on to anything (unless you feel very unsteady). Now, from the same cross-legged position, rise up off the floor, if possible, without placing your hands or knees on the floor or using anything else for support. Tip: Lean forward with your hands outstretched in front of you to keep your balance.”

Scoring this assessment:

“Start by giving yourself a score of 10, then subtract one point for each of the following assists or problems:

- Bracing yourself with a hand on the wall or other solid surface
- Placing a hand on the ground
- Touching your knee to the floor
- Supporting yourself on the side of your legs
- Losing your balance”

Humble brag: I scored an inelegant ten on this assessment. I figure that’s the past twenty years of sporadic yoga paying off. That said, I’d like to be a ten on all these assessments at eighty, which means strength training, mobility work, and increased protein consumption.

Glad to have found this book at 46, but it should probably be required reading at 16.

Family Books of 2023

It’s getting harder to fit in nighttime reading with the girls. This year we wrapped up the Lumberjanes graphic novel series with books 18, 19 and 20. We’re definitely going to miss Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Riple, but the first half (quarter?) of this series was the strongest.

Our family favourite for the year was The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, a summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits, one dog, and a very interesting boy. Although published in 2005, this book has the nostalgic feel of the E. Nesbit books (from the early 1900s) mom read to me and my sis as kids. (As a side note, many E. Nesbit novels are available for free from the Standard Ebooks project.)

From an adult’s point-of-view, not much happens in the Penderwicks, but from a kid’s perspective every day in this novel is full of curiosity, adventure, heart-break, joy, friendship, and many perils great and small. So glad to learn there are four more books in this series.

Coming Soon

I normally pair podcasts with my yearly reading recap, but it’s already mid-February and I want to post what I’ve got. :)

Reading by Number

Number of books read each year from 2011 to 2022. I’ve been averaging 18 books per year for the past 13 years.

Past yearly overviews: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

Reading and Listening in 2022

I read 12 books last year. Two on my Kobo e-reader and the rest were deadtree format. Eight of them were fiction. Four were non-fiction. Nightly reading with the girls continues. My commute to work is back (after a nearly three year work-from-home pause) so I expect 2023 to see an increase in books.

Two of the books read this year were written by close friends, which was a treat.

Fiction in 2022

  • Perhaps the Stars - Ada Palmer - The conclusion to the epic Terra Ignota quartet. “Did we poison our ethics with the trolley problem?”
  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars - Christopher Paolini - “Eat the path, or the path will eat you.”
  • The Immortalist - Chloe Benjamin - “Here’s what happens: you make choices, and then they make choices. Your choices make choices.”
  • Rumours of Virtue - Sam Popowich - Authenticity and trauma Winnipeg.
  • Vita Nostra - Marina & Sergey Dyachenko - Sasha is a verb in the imperative mood.
  • Tinkers - Paul Harding - “[B]e comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.”
  • Termination Shock - Neal Stephenson - Climate change solutionism and the Line of Actual Control.
  • Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay - The long and sudden of it all.

Non-Fiction in 2022

Top Books Written by Friends in 2022

Happy to have read two books written by friends in 2022, one fiction, one non.

Rumours of Virtue - Sam Popowich

“[E]very image distorts the reality people suppose it just records. It abstracts, it selects, it changes the emphasis, the perspective. I say the image does that, but of course it’s the photographer who does it, in the first instance. But they are not alone, not the sole author of this fakery: everyone who developed the scientific theory of optics, everyone who manufactures cameras, everyone who designs sensors. In the old days, I would have said everyone who produced and developed film and prints. A myriad decisions go into the production of an image that, out of a profoundly naive understanding of technology, people tend to believe is a direct and unmediated capture of what actually exists.

Disgraced photo-journalist Nick Maitland is forced to confront the traumas he harbours, and the impacts of his decisions, when accused of faking his most celebrated image.

The story of a self-obsessed hedonist and what happens when we reject our obligations to society in the name of ego, pleasure, celebrity, or even artistic expression.

"Sure, people are responsible for their own lives, but they aren’t solely responsible. They inherit things from their parents, from their teachers, from the world around them. You don’t start a world over again, fresh, you have to make do with what’s given to you, which includes a world full of other people.”

Chase That Smile - Harold Cabrera

“Life is good. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Harold Cabrera is a man with a plan! Actually he had three plans. Before the age of 40 Harold dreamt of running the Paris Marathon, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and completing an Ironman triathlon. Not to spoil anything, but he accomplished all three, and went on to write this book about the planning, training, and determination it took to do so.

It’s a special thing to have a friend like Harold. His positivity is infectious and his ability to seek out and revel in good times is second to none. Also inspiring are the physical challenges he puts himself through, and it’s not just big races. By way of Strava I get to see Harold running, cycling and swimming each and every day of the year. Harold reminds us to challenge ourselves, to recognize when life is good, and to be grateful for it all.

Top Three Books of 2022

Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay

“Despite the red glow of the on-air light, he then pushed through the studio door, only to be met by one of the great mysteries of life. We look so very different from the way we sound. It’s a shock, similar to hearing your own voice for the first time, when you’re forced to wonder how the rest of you comes across if you sound nothing like the way you think you sound. You feel dislodged from the old shoe of yourself.”

Friendship and love in 1970s Yellowknife through the eyes of a group of CBC radio journalists. A pipeline proposal and its impact on the indigenous people of Northwest Territories. An epic but ill-fated canoe trip. Winner of the 2007 Giller Prize.

Vita Nostra - Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

“She was caught and pulled up like a kite, while her body left on the grass remained inert. A thread that connected her to this anchor helped her soar and kept her close. She felt the trees as her arms, and grass, as her hair. A lightning struck, torn leaves flew by, and Sasha laughed with pure joy.

She knew herself to be a word spoken by the sunlight. She laughed at the fear of death. She understood what she was born for and what she was destined to carry out. All this happened while the lightning remained in the sky, a white flash.”

Suggested to me by Sam when I mentioned I liked grammar-based magic systems. Sasha is coerced by a strange man to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. This book is weird and dark and philosophically pretenious in the best of ways. There’s not much more I can say. It’s full of “concepts that cannot be imagined but can be named” and vice versa. Originally written in Ukranian by spouses Maryna and Serhiy Dyachenko. Serhiy Dyachenko passed away last year.

Building Thinking Classrooms - Peter Liljedahl

“For a curricular task to generate thinking, it should be asked before students have been shown how to solve it. Does this mean the task should come right at the beginning of the lesson? Yes.”

Back in June I attended a PD session at work by Peter Liljedahl. Afterwards I tweeted:

Very rarely do I leave a staff PD session thinking “oh wow, time to rethinking everything!” but here we are.

Fourteen (at times unituitive) teaching practices for building a classroom where students engage in solving problems as a community of learning. Read over a few nights this summer, I’ve already put some of these practices into place at the college. I’ll definitely re-read this book soon while taking careful notes.

Family Books in 2022

We read 100 story books and graphic novels from the library, including Lumberjanes vol 14 through 17, plus a few chapter books for good measure.

The Best (Kids’ Pick): The Undercover Book Club - Colleen Nelson

The bookworm and the class clown. Takes place in Winnipeg.

The best (Dad’s Pick): Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures - Kate DiCamillo

Of cynics and superheros. An existential adventure for children. A book that treats kids like adults while making adults feel like kids.

“‘Do not hope; instead, observe’ were words that Flora, as a cynic, had found useful in the extreme. She repeated them to herself a lot.”

Honestly, I wish I could just quote the entire book here.

“All words at all times, true or false, whispered or shouted, are clues to the workings of the human heart.”

The girls enjoyed the movie too; I thought it was a travesty.

Podcasts in 2022

Apparently I listened to 636 podcast episodes, across 32 podcasts, for a total of 500+ hours (20+ days!).

New podcasts:

Podcasts where I listen to nearly every episode: ADSP, CBC Spark, Eric Normand, Game Dev Advice, Invisibilia, Lex Fridman, Long Now Seminars, Nice Game Club, Overdue, Philosophy Bites, Sean Carroll’s Mindscape, Song Exploder, Stuff Dutch People Like, The Bike Shed, This American Life

Occasional listens: CBC Ideas, Conversations with Tyler, CppCast, Hanselminute, Philosophize This!, The Tim Ferris Show, Syntax

Favourite Podcasts of 2022

Some of my favourite episodes from the past year, listed alphabetically by show:

CBC Spark: Human and AI Consciousness, What AI can and can’t do

CBC Ideas: Reith Lectures: Artificial Intelligence and Human Existence, The Authoritarian Personality, Maria Ressa: Last Two Minutes of Democracy

Conversations with Tyler: Chuck Klosterman on Writing the Part and Relishing the Present, Lydia Davis on Language and Literature

Lex Fridman: Lee Cronin: Origin of Life, Aliens, Complexity, and Consciousness, Ariel Ekblaw: Space Colonization and Self-Assembling Space Megastructures, John Vervaeke Meaning Crisis, Atheism, Religion & the Search for Wisdom, Michael Levin: Biology, Life, Aliens, Evolution, Embryogenesis & Xenobots, John Carmack: Doom, Quake, VR, AGI, Programming, Video Games, and Rockets, Todd Howard: Skyrim, Elder Scrolls 6, Fallout, and Starfield

Long Now Seminar: Sean Carroll: The Passage of Time and the Meaning of Life, Dorie Clark: The Long Game: How to be a long-term thinker in a short term world, Steward Brand, Jonathan Haidt, Kevin Kelly: Democracy in the Next Cycle of History

Overdue: Romona Quimby Age 8

Philosophy Bites: Josiah Ober on the Civic Bargain

Reply All: The Contact List

Sean Carrol: Anil Seth on Emergence, Information and Consciousness, Kate Jeffery on Entropy, Complexity, and Evolution, C. Thi Nguyen on Games, Art, Values, and Agency

Stuff Dutch People Like: The One Where we EAT All the Dutch Snacks, The One about the Dutch and Money, The One About Biking, Three Kisses, and how Dutch men can’t flirt

Tim Ferris - Margaret Atwood - A Living Legend on Creative Process, Susan Cain - Transforming Pain, Building Your Emotional Resilience, Professor Donald Hoffman - The Case Against Reality

Number of books read each year from 2011 to 2022. I’ve been averaging 18 books per year for the past 12 years.

Past yearly overviews: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

Sound + Code = Jam (Vol 1)

This past Saturday (July 23, 2022) marked the first in a series of in-person events focused on experimenting with sound and code. That’s right, we spent the day hacking music at New Media Manitoba in the beautiful Dingwall Building!

We had 18 folks at our peak, which is an amazing turnout for a niche event. The day went by in a flash. Like a good party, I was left feeling energized and inspired, but also with a melancholic sense that there wasn’t nearly enough time to get to know / catch-up with all those in attendance.

The day started with some lightning talks on Sonic Pi, Chuck, a musical instrument built using Scratch, and the wonders of Ableton Link. The rest of the day was full of cool experiments like:

There were also folks with awesome hardware gear and lots of great conversations on the possibilities of combining code with music. Some attendees assembled instrument and drum kit sample packs and surfaced this great CC0 fake acoustic drum kit pack.

Based on the event turnout, I’m already pondering Sound + Code Volume 2. I’d love for the second event to be slightly more structured to ensure that everyone has a chance to work on a collaborative project.

A big thanks to New Media Manitoba for the event space and to Prairie Dev Con for the delicious lunch. (The 2022 Winnipeg Prairie Developer Conference will be this November 7th and 8th!) I’d also like to thank the Winnipeg Game Collective community for being the initial inspiration for the event.

To get a better sense of what’s possible in the space of algorithms and music, I’ve included a few videos below.

The remaining Sound + Code crew at day’s end on Saturday, July 23rd, 2022. Wish I had thought to snap a few shots when everyone was around.

DJ_Dave live-codes her track Easy over the course of 13 minutes.

DJ_Dave is an NYC-based experimental electronic-pop artist, DJ, and producer, who creates & performs her music using code – a style called algorave – and is one of the first to do so in a pop-sensible context.”

Yorkshire vs. Tokyo Live Coding Showdown - 2.5 hours of live coding from various performers.

“Expect improvised beats, melodies, and noise in a variety of genres, all executed through live coding in various systems. It’s all improvised live music, not DJing, so no one will have ever heard any of this music before, not even the performers.”

Reading and Listening in 2021

I read 12 books last year. Three were read on my Kobo e-reader and the rest were deadtree format. Six of them were fiction. Six were non-fiction. Nightly reading with the girls continues. I’m mising my weekday 1.5 hours bus commute reading sessions. It’s just too easy to fall asleep with a book across your face. :)

Fiction in 2021

Non-Fiction in 2021

Top Three Books of 2021

What’s Bred in the Bone - Robertson Davies

“A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.”

This was my only re-read of 2021. I think this is my favourite Davies novel, but I tend to think that after reading any of his books. It’s part two of his Cornish Trilogy, and shares some characters and settings from his Deptford Trilogy. Who was Franis Cornish? I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, but mix in art, philosophy, religion, spies!, forgery, provincial Canadiana, angles and daimons, and you know I’ll be hooked throughout.

“The art of the quoter is to know when to stop.”

Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”

Although I disagreed with some of the book’s claims, they are presented with such conviction that I just went along for the ride; it’s a good ride if slightly depressing. Harari’s history of humanity begins with the evolution of imagination and concludes with an exploration of human happiness. A 100,000 year story of how we (homo sapiens) outlived five other human species and (for better or worse) came to dominate the world.

“Biology enables, Culture forbids.”

Math Art: Truth, Beauty, and Equations by Stephen Ornes

A coffee table art book with artist interviews and high-level explorations of aesthetically pleasing mathematical concepts. Goes beyond the usual math art of Escher and Fractals, although both are mentioned. If you’re intrigued, the book is available from the Winnipeg Public Library.

Instead of a quote I’ve included photo from the book at the bottom of this post.

Family Books in 2021

Public libraries were open throughout 2021 so took full advantage.

The best:

Lumberjanes Graphic Novels - Volumes 1 through 13 - The girls absolutely love the adventures at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.

One top of those we read 73 story books and books 6 through 11 of Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows.

Podcasts in 2021

Due to my backed up queue of podcasts I only added two showa to my Pocket Cast list, Eric Normand’s Thoughts on Functional Programming and Conversations with Tyler. I also managed to pare down my show count from 28 to 23.

Podcasts where I continue to listen to every episode:

CBC Spark, CppCast, CppChat, Game Dev Advice, Gameplay, Hanselminutes, Invisibilia, Lex Fridman, Long Now Seminars, Nice Games Club, Overdue, Philosophy Bites, Reply All, Song Exploder, The Bike Shed, The Tim Ferriss Show, This American Life

Occasional listens:

CBC Front Burner, CBC Ideas, Philosophize This!, Syntax

Favourite Podcasts of 2021

Some of my favourite episodes from the past year, listed alphabetically by show:

Number of books read each year from 2011 to 2021. I’ve been averaging 18.5 books per year for the past 11 years.

Past yearly overviews: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

Quin by Bathsheba Grossman from the cover of Math Art: Truth, Beauty, and Equations.

Reading and Listening in 2020

I read 22 books last year. Three were read on my new e-reader, the rest were deadtree format. Fourteen of them were fiction. Eight were non-fiction. I continued to read to the girls almost every night. Normally my bus commute allows for my reading and podcast habit. In 2020 my reading shifted into bed before sleep. Podcasts shifted to running and cooking. 2020 was also the year the fam truely took over my Spotify account. The algorithms are confused.

Where 2019 was all re-reads, 2020 included one re-read, a bunch of sci-fi (as per usual), and a number of math and coding tomes.

Fiction in 2020

Top Three Fiction Books in 2020

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

“The pleasure of knowing secrets was doubled by telling them.”

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

“There was a door, but it was terribly bashful, so Auri politely pretended not to see it.”

Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies

“Universities cannot be more universal than the people who teach, and the people who learn, within their walls.”

Non-Fiction in 2020

Top Three Non-Fiction in 2020

How to Solve It by George Pólya

“Solving problems is a practical skill like, let us say, swimming. We acquire any practical skill by imitation and practice. Trying to swim, you imitate what other people do with their hands and feet to keep their heads above water and, finally, you learn to swim by practicing swimming. Trying to solve problems, you have to observe and imitate what other people do when solving problems and, finally, you learn to do problems by doing them.”

Burn Math Class by Jason Wilkes

“Forget everything you’ve been told about math. Forget all those silly formulas you’ve ever been told to memorize. Make a little room in your head with clean white walls and no math. Without leaving that room, let’s reinvent mathematics for ourselves.”

A Tour of C++ - Bjarne Stroustrup

“Think of [this book as a] short sightseeing tour of a city. […] You do not know the city after such a tour. You do not understand all you have seen and heard. To really know a city, you have to live in it, often for years. […] After the tour, the real exploration can begin.”

Family Books in 2020

The library was closed for much of 2020 so our picture book consumption plummeted. We still managed 40 picture books, two Nancy Clancy chapter books, one Harry Potter, and far too many garfield comic strips. Jelani Memory’s A Kids Book About Racism gave us the words to talk through the racism the girls have no doubt already noticed in the world.

Podcasts in 2020

The plan for 2019 was to pare down my podcasts, but in 2020 my show count balloned from 20 to 28. To keep up, I’m no longer an every-show-completionist.

New Podcasts: Front Burner, Nice Games Club, Game Dev Advice, CBC Spark, CppCast, CppChat, Lex Fridman, Pitchfork Review, Gameplay

Podcasts that continue to be in rotation:

CBC Ideas, Commons, Greater than Code, Hanselminutes, Invisibilia, Javascript Jabber, Long Now Seminars, Overdue, Philosophize This!, Philosophy Bites, Reply All, Song Exploder, Syntax, The Bike Shed, The Public Philosopher, The Ruby Rogues, The Tim Ferriss Show, Think Again, This American Life

Top Three Podcasts in 2020

Lex Fridman

Machine-learning researcher does long-form interviews about the nature of intelligence, consciousness, love, and power.

Way more than three favourite episodes:

Front Burner and Spark from CBC

Front Burner is a short daily news podcast, while Spark is a weekly look at how technology, innovation and design affects our lives. I don’t listen to every episode, but Jayme Poisson and Nora Young are there when I need a news and culture explainer.

Instead of picking fav episodes, I suggest you cherry pick the topics that stand out to you.

Nice Games Club

A show where nice gamedevs talk gaming and game development. A lovely show with a thoughtful group of friends.

Navigate the 200 plus episodes by topic.

Number of books read each year from 2011 to 2020.

Past yearly overviews: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

Email to Friends From This Morning

I’m here today to spread the gospel of the Mellotron.

Le Mellotron is people and music. A blog that became a webradio gathering and then a community of music curators and lovers. Located in a bar near Place de la Republique square in Paris, Le Mellotron beats day after day to the rhythm of the city, its people and streets. We believe in an emerging parisian musical scene, moved by its curiosity, and strengthened by its ability to capture and transform its influences. LeMellotron will be its amplifier.

I recommend binge-listening their “by year” playlists. The vibe is chill, funky, and full of soul.

The video stream gives you a glimpse of the friendships of a Parisian neighbourhood. For the full experience, it’s important to keep the video within sight while listening. :)

Love ya! Kyle

Reading and Listening in 2019

I read 20 books last year. All twenty books were deadtree format. Fourteen of them were fiction. Six were non-fiction. I continued to read to the girls almost every night. Together we read an additional 9 chapter books and oodles of picture books. I managed to drop a few shows from my podcatcher. Our family listened to 700 hours of music.

2019 was a year of re-reading favourites from my youth as well as more recent favourites. A year of nostalgia and retrospection! I enjoyed the journey and am planning on re-reading one book a year from here out.

Fiction in 2019

  • Fifth Business - Robertson Davies - Of saints and fools and the revenge of the unlived life. - “God, youth is a terrible time! So much feeling and so little notion of how to handle it!”
  • The Manticore - Robertson Davies - Humanity’s mythic past and the archetypes that shape our lives. - “My job is to listen to people say things they very badly want to tell but are afraid nobody else will understand.”
  • World of Wonders - Robertson Davies - A life of roughness and cruelty transformed by magic. - “We have educated ourselves into a world from which wonder, and the fear and dread and splendor and freedom of wonder have been banished.”
  • Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse - The wisdom of a river. The meaning of a life. Every truth contains it’s opposite. Enlightenment through strife. - “Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.” (Available for free on Project Gutenberg.)
  • Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper - Three siblings find and protect the holy grail in a 1960s English sea-side town. Their uncle may or may not be Merlin. - “You can’t find a treasure map and just say, ‘Oh, how nice,’ and put it back again.”
  • The Old Man and The Sea - Ernest Hemingway - What you can do with what there is. Such a frustrating protag! - “It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
  • Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury - Colonialism on the red planet. “Sleeping beauty awoke at the kiss of a scientist and expired at the fatal puncture of his syringe.”
  • Franny And Zoe - J. D. Salinger - Walking the razor’s edge between ennui and egoism. - “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”
  • The Stranger - Albert Camus - A stranger to himself and indifferent to the world. - “Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.”
  • Slaughter House Five - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time. A duty-dance with death. - “And so it goes.”
  • Origin - Dan Brown - AI, evolution and the end of religion. Summertime guilty pleasure. Not a re-read. - “May our philosophies keep pace with our technologies. May our compassion keep pace with our powers.”
  • Exhalation - Ted Chiang - Mind-expanding sci-fi shorts with a focus on fate and choice. - “Free will is a kind of miracle; when we make a genuine choice, we bring about a result that cannot be reduced to the workings of physical law. Every act of volition is, like the creation of the universe, a first cause.”
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - An epic alternate history of the western philosophical tradition. - “The mystic nails a symbol to one meaning that was true for a moment but soon becomes false. The poet, on the other hand, sees that truth while it’s true but understands that symbols are always in flux and that their meanings are fleeting.”
  • Dune - Frank Herbert - Destiny, fanaticism, ecology, and the spice melange. “[T]he mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

Read in that order.

Top Four Books in 2019

Top three re-reads and then one book that was (for the most part) new to me:

Anathem by Neal Stephenson and Dune by Frank Herbert

Anathem and Dune are my top two all-time favourite sci-fi books. They did not disappoint.

Similarities: Epic world building. The nature of reality. The mysteries of consciousness and free will. Long now thinking. Neologistic dictionaries. Appendices. Myth, mysticism and religion. Math, science and philosophy.

Difference: Although I’d never wish to visit Dune’s desert plant of Arrakis, I’d love to spend a few years living amongst the avout in a Mathic concent on Arbre.

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

I’m going to cheat and pick the entire Deptford Trilogy rather than just one book. I’m hooked on Davies again and will now have to re-read all his other trilogies. There are fates worse than this.

Myth, magic, psychology, history and a dash of rural Canada in the first half of the 20th century.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

I’d read one of these short stories before, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, a must read for all AI enthusiasts / apologists. Read Online.

I also recommend listening to Levar Burton read The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, a tale of time-travel in medieval Baghdad. Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 on Stitcher, or Part 1 and Part 2 on Spotify.

Non-Fiction in 2019

Top Three Non-Fiction in 2019

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

With Nonviolent Communication (NVC) we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Communication as a spiritual practice involving deep listening, empathy and compassion. Observations, Feelings, Needs, Requests.

I might have to re-read this one yearly.

Honey I Wrecked the Kids by Alyson Schafer

Pairs nicely with NVC. Highly recommended for all parents. Don’t let the intro scare you off. This isn’t just a book for families experiencing major behavioural difficulties. This is a guide to family harmony based on “the three Cs”:

  • When kids don’t feel connected they’ll seek attention.
  • When they don’t feel capable they’ll seek power.
  • When they don’t feel counted they’ll seek revenge.
  • When they don’t feel courageous they’ll seek avoidance.

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

“Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions.”

We are what we do!

Family Books in 2019

This was the year I started reading chapter books to the girls. We read:

Mixed in to our nightly reading were about 150 picture books and graphic novels from the library.

The non-fiction family book that stood out was Sex is a funny word : a book about bodies, feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg, with illustrations by Fiona Smyth. An age appropriate cartoon book about bodies, gender, and sexuality.

Podcasts in 2019

The plan for 2019 was to pare down my podcasts, but I only managed to drop my show count from 23 to 20. My unlistened episodes queue is currently at 17. I estimate that I’ve listened to over 410 hours of podcasts this year, the equivalent of 17 24-hour days. I also switched apps from BeyondPod to Pocket Casts. I listen to most podcasts at 1 to 1.2x speed with silent gaps removed.

Podcasts still in rotation:

CBC Ideas, Commons, Greater than Code, Hanselminutes, Invisibilia, Javascript Jabber, Long Now Seminars, Overdue, Philosophize This!, Philosophy Bites, Reply All, Song Exploder, Syntax, The Bike Shed, The Public Philosopher, The Ruby Rogues, The Tim Ferriss Show, Think Again, This American Life, Views on Vue

Top Three Podcasts

Commons with Arshy Mann

In 2019 Commons focused on Canadian oil and Canadian dynasties.

Fav Episodes: CRUDE #2 – Bombs, Blood & the Battle of Trickle Creek, CRUDE #5 – A Town, Annihilated, and DYNASTIES #3 – The Fords

Overdue with Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting

Andrew and Craig take turns reading books and telling each other about them. The things they say are funny and smart. I only listen to episodes for books I’ve read.

I recommend digging through their back catalogue to find your favourite books. For example, they’ve got an episode on Dune, The Martian Chronicles, Franny and Zooey, The Old Man and the Sea, Siddhartha, and Slaughterhour Five.

The Bike Shed with Chris Toomey and Steph Viccari

Excellent podcast about software development. I’ve listened to almost every one of their 200+ episodes. 2019 was a good year. I’m digging the conversations between the current hosts Steph and Chris.


New for this year, our family music consumption. We have a paid Spotify account, with additional tunes provided by YouTube, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, old CDs in the car, and the radio.

Even though we mainly listen to multi-artist playlists, Spotify tells me our top artists were:

Top genres: Lo-fi beats, Electronica, Rock, Edm, Jazz boom bap

In all, we listened to over 42,000 minutes of music together. The equivalent of one month of 24 hour a day tunes.

Number of books read each year from 2011 to 2019. Flatlining.

Past yearly overviews: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

2019 was a year of re-reading. 2020 is looking to be heavy on non-fiction.

Learning in Public

I teach coding at Red River College. I’ve been at the college for almost 12.5. Although I’ve learned a lot over this time, this learning has been almost exclusivly related to teaching and web development (and outside of work, parenting and open government).

It’s time to step a bit of my comfort zone: I’m going to learn modern game development.

So, okay, it’s not too far outside my comfort zone. It’s still tech. It’s still coding. But it feels like a different world.

It’s also a return to the math and physics of my engineering days, and to coding with C++, which has changed significantly in the 15 years I’ve been away from the language. There’s metric ton of learning to do. The goal is to distill this learning down to a collection of college level game development courses.

I’ll be documenting my learning here. Join me.

(The idea of documenting “learning in public” was inspired by the work of Tania Rascia.)

Switched On

Total network nerd out! I switched my internet provider from Bell MTS to TekSavvy and it was quite the ride.

Why the switch? Half the monthly cost and total control of my home network. Oh, and I love tech puzzle and the challenge of the build. ;)

My New Network Stack

In Winnipeg TekSavvy acts as a Shaw reseller, so the TC4400 takes in a cable signal from the Shaw network. The TC4400 acts as a Bridge to the internet for the Archer C9, which provides local wired and wireless routing. The DIR615 is configured as a Switch to allow for more wired connections, seven in total.

The Archer C9 also handles DHCP IP allocation for all devices with the Raspberry Pi set as the Domain Name Server. The Raspberry Pi uses the open source Pi Hole software to filter out ads at the network level, so no web or app ads get served to the devices on our network.

Benefits of the Switch

Here are a few of the benefits that made this switch worthwhile. Most of these benefits came from switching from the MTS provided modem/router/wifi combo unit (Arris 5168N) to the custom stack described above. The Arris unit wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t very configurable.

1) Wifi Signal Strength - My entire house and the backyard now has Wifi coverage in the -40 to -60 dB range at 2.4 and 5Ghz, which is really good. Measurements taken with the Wifi Analyzer Android App. I’m also running my 2.4 and 5Ghz wifi using the same SSID and password to allow my devices to auto-select 5Ghz when close to the router, and 2.4Ghz when further away.

2) More Wired Connections - I’ve gone from 4 ethernet ports to 7, meaning I can down run the following devices wired rather than on wifi: 2 laptops, 1 pi hole, 1 chromecast, 2 chromecast audio, 1 security alarm system. (Note: The Chromecast didn’t work at all when wired on the Arris.)

3) Pi Hole Ad Filtering - I had a Pi Hole running with the Arris setup, but it wasn’t perfect. So far the Pi Hole has blocked over %53 of all DNS requests as ads/trackers. That’s right, more than half of all domain name requests on my home network were for ads and trackers that I didn’t ask for. (Note: I still run uBlock origin on my browsers to catch the occasional ads that sneak through. Especially required for Facebook and YouTube.)

4) Download Speeds - Our internet speeds needs aren’t extreme. At mosts we’re pulling down 2 to 3 simultaneous audio/video streams. As such I stuck with the same speed band of 25Mbs. With MTS, speed tests over the years showed that we were rarely getting the promised 25Mbs download rate. So far with Teksavvy we’re consitently getting significantly faster than 25Mbs across all devices.Testing was done via Google and SpeedTest.net.

5) Monthy Cost - I’m now saving 50 bucks a month on my internet. More on this in the next section.

Costs and Savings

Total cost to switch: $295 (New Modem and Router)
Monthly Savings: $54 ($97/month MTS - $43/month Teksavvy)
Time to pay off switch: 5.5 months
Savings per year after that: $650

All that said, if you call MTS to cancel they’ll eventually offer you a deal. They offered to upgrade me to their Fibe 100 plan while dropping my bill to $45/month for two years (afterwhich it would be $119/month). It’d already purchased the cable modem from Teksavvy and was looking forward to my custom network, so I declined.

Also, it possible to switch to TekSavvy with a much simpler network stack by purchasing the Technicolor DPC3848V Modem/Router/Wifi combo unit. You’ll get fewer wired connections, no ad blocking, and I can’t speak to the WiFi coverage, but it should still be a solid setup.

The new network stack before I tucked it away.