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Stung Eye

The eye of the bee holder.

Reading and Listening in 2017

I read 20 books last year. In 2016 I read 17. In 2015 I read 15. In 2014 I read 25. In 2013 I read 19. In 2012 I read 18. And in 2011, when I first started tracking, I read 16. All twenty books were deadtree format. Eleven of them were fiction. Nine were non-fiction.

I also read to the girls almost every night and, for the first time this year, Acelyn started reading bedtime stories aloud as well.

As in 2016 and 2015, I listened to a large number of podcasts.

Fiction Read in 2017

Read in that order. Not as many stand-outs as 2016 but no major duds.

Got halfway through One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I started off loving it, but grew frustrated by the dense, fanciful plot. Reminded me of my experience with Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled in 2013. Maybe I don’t have the patience for stream of consciousness magical realism.

Nearly half of this year’s fiction was science fiction. Seven of the eleven were found at Value Village. Three (Walkaway, Morel, Lightning) were from the library. One (Goldfinch) was from my sister.

Top Three Fiction Reads in 2017

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

On the dystopian side of Doctorow’s imagined future you’ve got “Default” an hyper-capitalistic oligarchy of surveillance and control. On the utopian side you’ve got the Walkaways, folks living outside default reality, building a culture that “revolves around sharing, fierce debate and open-sourced best practices.” (npr review)

Sam would say that it tapped into my solutionism tendencies, but it was refreshing to read about a near future that wasn’t all depressing.

“Anything invented before you were eighteen was there all along. Anything invented before you’re thirty is exciting and will change the world forever. Anything invented after that is an abomination and should be banned.”

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

The journal of a fugitive on a deserted island struggling with love and reality. I’d been meaning to read this book ever since I saw Sawyer reading it in season 4 of Lost. I shouldn’t say any more…

“When I slept this afternoon, I had this dream, like a symbolic and premature commentary on my life: as I was playing a game of croquet, I learned that my part in the game was killing a man. Then, suddenly, I knew I was that man.”

Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer

A far-future Earth ostensibly based on 18th century Enlightenment philosophy where global travel is incredibly quick, nation states have been replaced by non-geographical “Hives” with voluntary membership, religion has been outlawed, and gendered language banished.

The author Ada Palmer is a historian and this is grand scale future history world building. (She’s also written a long-read blogpost On Progress and Historical Change that I’ve been meaning to read.)

“Does it distress you, reader, how I remind you of their sexes in each sentence? ‘Hers’ and ‘his’? Does it make you see them naked in each other’s arms, and fill even this plain scene with wanton sensuality? Linguists will tell you the ancients were less sensitive to gendered language than we are, that we react to it because it’s rare, but that in ages that heard ‘he’ and ‘she’ in every sentence they grew stale, as the glimpse of an ankle holds no sensuality when skirts grow short.”

Non-Fiction Read in 2017

Mindfulness, meta-cognition, stats and parenting. The stats books were research for my Paper’s We Love talk on information.

Top Three Fiction Reads in 2017

Mindstorms by Seymour Papert

“Children, Computers, and Powerful ideas” A must-read for anyone in the ed-tech space or anyone interested in education in general. The 1980s tech might look dated but the insights are still incredibly poignant. I’ve got two pages of back-of-the-book notes and quotes that I still need to review.

This isn’t a book about teaching kids to code. This book is about coding as a way to help children think about thinking; a tool to scaffold the learning of complex and powerful ideas.

“For what is important when we give children a theorem to use is not that they should memorize it. What matters most is that by growing up with a few very powerful theorems one comes to appreciate how certain ideas can be used as tools to think with over a lifetime. One learns to enjoy and to respect the power of powerful ideas. One learns that the most powerful idea of all is the idea of powerful ideas.”

The Practicing Mind - Thomas M. Sterner

This was the book I couldn’t stop telling people about. I built a lecture around it for one of my courses. I read it and then listened to the author-read audio book.

“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.”

Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect; practice makes permanent. As such, it’s important to be mindful about what and how we are practicing. No skill is ever perfected, so let’s learn to love the journey over the destination.

Honey I Wrecked the Kids - Alyson Schafer

Democratic parenting that addresses “the four 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.

Podcasts in 2017

I discovered podcasts in 2015 and continued to listen to hundreds of hours worth of them this past year. Looking over the length of this list, it’s no wonder I’ve got a Beyondpod queue of 19 unlistened podcasts.

I’ve continued to listen to most of the podcast I listened to last year.

New this year:

  • COMMONS - The only politics show in Canada for people who “hate” politics.
  • Every Little Things - Big ideas about the small stuff.
  • Levar Burton Reads - The best short stories, performed just for you. In other words, Reading Rainbow for adults.
  • Long Now Seminars - Helping make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare.
  • Overdue - A podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read.
  • Philosophize This! - A podcast dedicated to sharing the ideas that shaped our world.

Top Four Podcasts

Three general interest favourites and one favourite coding podcast.

Ideas with Paul Kennedy (CBC)

Fav Episodes:

  • The Motorcycle is Yourself: Revisiting ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ - This episode originally aired in 2014 but was revisited in April when Robert Pirsig passed.
    Read - Listen
  • Dr Owen Taylor: How Internet Monopolies Threaten Democracy - Four internet platforms — Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple — increasingly control our lives, our opinions, our democracy. We urgently need to start talking about how we are going to respond as a society.
    Read - Listen
  • Michael Sandel: Why Democracy Depends on How we Talk to Each Other - A debate about immigration that is actually a debate about what it means to be a citizen.
    Read - Listen

Long Now Seminars

Fav Episodes:

Levar Burton Reads

Fav Episodes:

  • Empty Places by Richard Parks - An accomplished thief is approached by a wizard who wants to send him on an unusual mission.
    YouTube: Part 1 & Part 2 - Spotify: Part 1 & Part 2
  • The Lighthouse Keeper by Daisy Johnson - The story of a solitary life by the sea, and a woman’s courage.
    Listen on YouTube - Listen on Spotify
  • The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu - An immigrant mother’s magical attempt to bond with her American-born son.
    Listen on YouTube - Listen on Spotify
  • Chivalry by Neil Gaiman - An elderly widow purchases the Holy Grail at a second-hand store, and becomes wrapped up in an epic quest.
    Listen on YouTube - Listen on Spotify

Greater Than Code

Fav Episodes: