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Stung Eye

The eye of the bee holder.

Reading and Listening in 2016

I read 17 books last year. Two more than 2015. Eight less than 2014, Two less than in 2013, one less than in 2012, and one more than in 2011. All seventeen books were deadtree format. Thirteen of them were fiction. Four were non-fiction.

If we also count the books I’ve read to my girls before bed, the number would larger. This was the first year I started reading chapter books with the girls. We finished four chapter books together.

As in 2015, I listened to a large number of podcasts, but I took a break from audio books and audio lectures.

Fiction Read in 2016

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J. K. Rowling
  • Q - Luther Blissett - 16th century Europe. Reformation, early capitalism, and the journey of an Anabaptist radical.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe - Charles Yu - An exploration of the melancholy nature of consciousness. And time-travel.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling - Late to the game, but I can now officially call myself a Rowling/Potter fanboy. The final book did not disappoint.
  • Golden Mean - Annabel Lyon - Fictional account of Aristotle’s years tutoring Alexander (later to become The Great) of Macedon. A search for the mean between action and thought.
  • The Cat’s Table - Michael Ondaatje - Friendship!
  • Purity - Jonathan Frazen - Although sunlight is a disinfectant, too much is a cancer.
  • Seveneves - Neal Stephenson - We never learn who blew up the moon. Survival story. Post-apocalypse far-future history.
  • Embassytown - China Miéville - Must-read for language nerds. Aliens whose native language doesn’t support falsehoods. Through humans they learn to bridge similes into lies.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini - The lives of girls and women in Afghanistan, 1960 to 2000.
  • Children of Dune - Frank Herbert - Free will versus prophetic determinism on the formerly desert planet.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear - Patrick Rothfuss - Out-of-the-pan-into-the-fire hero fantasy of epic scale. Much fun.

Read in that order. No incompletes or duds this year.

It’s my usual mix of science fiction (How to live…, Seveneves, Embassytown, Children of Dune), fantasy (Harry Potter, The Wise Man’s Fear) and historical fiction (Q, Golden Mean), with a dash of “coming of age” (The Cat’s Table). Purity and A Thousand Splendid Suns sit outside my wheelhouse and I thank my sister for those. I found ten of the thirteen novels at Value Village. Still rocking the serendipity-driven reading plan.

Children’s Fiction Read in 2016

Read with the girls:


Top Three Fiction Reads in 2016

Oh boy! Can I pick more than three? No?

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

“As it turned out, imagining the fate of seven billion people was far less emotionally affecting than imagining the fate of one.”

The moon explodes. Within two years moon parts will rain down on earth, destroying the planet’s surface. 1,500 humans are selected to live in space, the other 7 billion will die. The only plan is to orbit earth and survive the 5000 year wait until the planet is re-habitable. The page count is worth it. Includes orbital-mechanics porn.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Summarized in a quote and a poem:

“Learn this now and learn this well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.”
- Khaled Hosseini

“Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls”
- 17th-century Iranian poet Saib Tabriz

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

“The malady of indifference is what destroys many things. Yes, even civilizations die of it. It’s as though that were the price demanded for achieving new levels of complexity or consciousness.”

Where there is energy there is struggle. Abandon certainty! That’s life’s deepest command. The only order is the order we create ourselves. Fear is still the mind killer. :)

Non-Fiction Read in 2016

I first attempted to read the Annotated Turing in 2013. In 2016 I forced myself to persevere by promising to give a “Papers we Love” talk on Alan Turing’s 1936 paper on computable numbers. Charles Petzold’s book is an heavily annotated version of Turing’s paper. I enjoyed the process of reading the book, grokking Turing’s Universal Machines, and giving the talk. I also got to reconnect with my year 2000 engineering thesis advisor, Bob McLeod, who attended the talk and asked some tough questions at the end. The slides for the talk can be seen here.

Podcasts in 2016

I discovered podcasts in 2015 and continued to listen to hundreds of hours worth of them in 2016. The podcasts I’ve been listening to, in alphabetical order, split into non-technical and coding categories:

General Interest Podcasts

  • Ideas with Paul Kennedy (CBC) - Documentaries in which thoughts are gathered, contexts explored, and connections made.
  • Invisibilia - The invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.
  • The Longest Shortest Time - The parenting show for for everyone.
  • Philosophy Bites - Top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics.
  • Public Philosopher - Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel examines the thinking behind a current controversy.
  • Reply All - A show about the internet.
  • Song Exploder - Musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.
  • The Tim Ferris Show - Interviews with world-class performers to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.
  • Think Again - Surprising the smartest people you know with ideas they’re not prepared to discuss.
  • This American Life - Themed story-driven journalism.
  • We Turned Out Okay - The modern parent’s guide to old-school parenting.

Programming Related Podcasts

Top Three Podcasts

The Tim Ferris Show

Binge listened to over 150 episodes of the Tim Ferris Show in 2016. Most episodes are long-form (1 to 2 hour) interviews with interesting people. Tim has a knack for making his guest feel comfortable and chatty. I likely could have pick 50+ favourites, but here’s three.

Fav Episodes:

  • #93 - Jane McGonigal - Jane is a world-renowned game designer and the Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future. Her research focuses on how games are transforming the way we lead our real lives, and how they can be used to increase our resilience and well-being. Listen on the web.
  • #157 - Mike Rowe - Mike’s performing career began in 1984 when he faked his way into the Baltimore Opera. His transition to television occurred in 1990 when — to settle a bet — he auditioned for the Shopping Channel and was hired after talking about a pencil for eight minutes. Amazing story teller. Listen on the web.
  • #148 - Josh Waitzkin - Josh was the basis for the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. Considered a chess prodigy, he has perfected learning strategies that can be applied to anything, including his other loves of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (he’s a black belt under Marcelo Garcia) and Tai Chi push hands (he’s a world champion). He talks about everything from dynamic quality (Zen and the Art) to parenting to athletic training and learning. Listen on the web.

Think Again

I’ve listened to all 90 episodes starting in June 2015. Host Jason Gots and guests explore surprise topics.The conversations are fun and wide-ranging.

Fav Episodes:

  • #47 - Kate Tempest - Poet and spoken word artist Kate Tempest won the Ted Hughes award for her epic poem Brand New Ancients. Her 2014 album Everybody Down has been described as “novelistic hip-hop”.
  • #50 - Ethan Hawke - Ethan Hawke and host Jason Gots discuss fatherhood, perpetual warfare, and the daily struggle between light and dark within every person.
  • “Best Of” Mixtapes - Mixtape #1, Mixtape #2, Mixtape #4 - Listen to these to get a feel for show and then cherry pick the archives for guests you know.


I listened to the 2016 season while on vacation in the Netherlands, Greece and Spain. Made for some heady runs.

Fav Episodes:

  • The New Norm - Social norms determine much of your behavior - how you dress, talk, eat and even what you feel. Hosts Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin examine two experiments that attempt to shift these norms.
  • The Problem with Solutions - Are there problems we shouldn’t try to solve? Lulu Miller visits a town in Belgium with a completely different approach to dealing with mental illness.
  • The Personality Myth - We like to think of our personalities as predictable, constant over time. But what if they aren’t? What if nothing stays constant over a lifetime?

Audio Lectures and Audio Book in 2016