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.

2020-01-19 21:36:32


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.)

2020-01-11 08:36:00


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

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.

2019-07-08 08:21:22


The new network stack before I tucked it away.


Reading and Listening in 2018

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. Podcasts still loom large in terms of time invested.

There’s a chart below showing books read by year since 2011.

Fiction in 2018

  • The Cuckoo’s Calling - J. K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith - Tropey brit-bloke detective novel. Fun. I’ll follow this series.
  • The Vorrh - Brian Catling - An endless, timeless African forest. Colonialism and ancient magic.
  • Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë - An exploration of tyranny and love on the heath.
  • All The Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders - Witchcraft and science in the near-future.
  • A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle - The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics for kids.
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach - Positive thinking and tenacity for birds.
  • Seven Surrenders - Ada Palmer - Providence in another God’s universe.
  • Democracy - Papadatos, Kawa & Di Donna - 490 BCE Athens as graphic novel.
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch - Gentlemen Bastards serve the Crooked Warden in medieval Venice, but on another planet.
  • Our Man in Havana - Graham Greene - Spycraft and other self-fufilling prophecies.
  • Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro - A quest to remember in a time with a need to forget.
  • REAMDE - Neal Stephenson - Gold farming and jihad.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke - “oh my God! — it’s full of stars!
  • The Will To Battle - Ada Palmer - A tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battle is sufficiently known.

Read in that order.

Top Three Fiction in 2018

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it - but take care not to smile at any part of it.”

This book came highly recommend by Sam. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t an exploration of tyranny, love, and inter-generational trama on the heath.

From Sam:

“This is a wild ride: raw and violent and exceedingly modern. In Wuthering Heights there’s no hiding how terrible most of the people in it are. At the same time, the novel seems to be precisely about how conditions of violence, cruelty, racism, and intolerance reproduce themselves from generation to generation.”

At the end I was hoping for a Nelly spin-off.

Seven Surrenders and The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

“If God made Man and Man made this, it is still a Self-portrait. And if, as some say, God made Man in His Image, and His Image then made this, it is a portrait’s portrait. And if Nature is the face of God, another Portrait, and Man is the spawn of Nature, it becomes a portrait’s portrait’s portrait. The Nature we see on Earth too is a microcosm, one might say a portrait of the Cosmos, and the Cosmos a portrait of the Laws of Nature, portraits spawning portraits like the spiral chambers of a nautilus repeating the face of God. Such a Creator seems desperate to show Himself to someone. And yet He hides Himself.”

Part two and three of the Terra Ignota Series. Philosophical and political sci-fi of the best kind.

Is there a place for miracle in a scientific society?

Is an Imperfect Sovereign better than a mounting Will to Battle?

What exactly is it that holds society together?

Non-Fiction in 2018

Top Three Non-Fiction in 2018

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

“Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts arise from coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, and shame. These "violent” modes of communication divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.“ -Wikipedia Entry on NVC

Becoming Leonardo by Mike Langford

"What accounts for Leonardo is an act of self-discovery, and the tenacity to make it, over and over. […] Learning to read was incredibly difficult, writing “correctly” even more so. Everything seemed wrong to him, backward somehow, and he couldn’t figure out why. He felt so stupid. And then, somehow the idea was inserted into his confused little brain, “Do it your own way, even if it is different. You are not stupid! Find how it works for you.”

Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. Illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton.

“Play to each element’s strengths: use Salt to enhance, Fat to carry, and Acid to balance flavor.”

A cookbook for those who wish to cook without cookbooks.

Podcasts in 2018

For podcasts, 2019 will be the year of the pare down. I seem to have collected 23 podcasts in the podcatcher and I can’t keep up. My unlistened episodes queue is at 27 and growing.

Podcasts added this year:

  • Flash Forward - Possible & not so possible futures. Speculative radio plays and science journalism.
  • Interactive Indies - Conversations with Winnipeggers doing game dev and/or interactive media work.
  • Javascript Jabber - Guest and panel discuss all things JS.
  • Syntax - Tasty web development treats.
  • Views on Vue - Guest and panel discuss all this Vue.
  • ZigZag - Journalism as a token economy.

Podcasts still in rotation:

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

Top Three Podcasts

I enjoyed these podcasts the most in 2018.

Ideas with Paul Kennedy (CBC)

Still a favourite. So many great episodes to pick from.

Fav Episodes:

Flash Forward

Possible and not so possible futures. Speculative radio plays and science journalism.

Fav Episodes:

The Public Philosopher

I was introduced to philosopher Michael Sandel in 2012 through his online course on Justice at Harvard. Since then I’ve been following his BBC Radio series of public debates.

Fav Debates:

2019-02-03 12:32:53


Number of books read each year from 2011 to 2018.

2015 was the year I discovered podcasts. I’m recovering.

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

I’m planning on 2019 being the year of the re-read.


The Blue Whale. Natural History Museum. London.

Architectural artwork by photographer Peter Li.


Maps and Clouds

On Wednesday I spent the day at the Google Cloud Civic Tech Hackathon. It was fun day of teamwork, fancy food, data and technology. There was even an improv comedy workshop with some of the members of Outside Joke.

The Google Cloud Relay took place in 8 cities across Canada. The challenge was to build a web application to paint a picture of your city and how it is changing, evolving and adapting.

My team focused on the City of Winnipeg property locations and assessment value open dataset.

Below are two of the maps of Winnipeg we created. The first shows property values inspired by the work of Eugene Chen and Darkhorse Analytics. The second shows density of single detached homes.

2018-12-07 11:26:08


Property values of single detached homes in Winnipeg centered on where I grew up (Lord Roberts / Riverview).

Dark blue is sub-$225K. Dark red is $420K+.


Density of single detached homes in Winnipeg.

Green is less dense. Red is more dense.


Meow Reader Ex Machina

9 years, 4 months, 19 days ago I posted my first image to Meow Reader, a Tumblr dedicated to images of cats reading and cats learning how to read.

A few weeks back I mentioned the (then abadoned) site to my department chair and he (jokingly?) suggested I use Machine Learning to automate the discovery of new Meow Reader images.

Challenge Accepted.

A few Ruby scripts later (plus some research into the Clarifai API) and I’ve got a shiny new collection of reading cats, dogs, rabbits, sloths… you named it! I’ve documented the process below, but you can also skip straight to the images.

Finding reading animals, a play in five acts:

  • Act 1 - Collect 140 existing images of reading cats.
  • Act 2 - Use Clarifai to detect concepts within images from Act 1.
  • Act 3 - Sort the discovered concepts by:
    • How often they appear.
    • Machine’s “confidence” in the concept.
  • Act 4 - Collect 1000s of new animal images Tumblr.
  • Act 5 - Filter images from Act 4 using concepts discovered in Act 2:
    book, book bindings, book series, education, literature, newspaper, research, technology
  • Profit!

The Clarifai API could also be used in Act 5 to filter the images even further to limit the reading animals to be cats only. View the full source code here. There’s a separate script for each step.

Oh, and I also created a new version of the Meow Reader Android app using Vue.js and Cordova.

Please install it and leave me a glowing 5 star review. (/◔◡ ◔)/

2018-06-05 16:50:45


Animals Reading
Animals Learning How To Read
Animals Using Technology

Concepts used to find these images: book, book bindings, book series, education, literature, newspaper, research, technology


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:

2018-01-21 09:39:47


Andrew Burton and I spent the morning talking Open Data and Open Government with these passionate public servants at Canada Beyond 150’s three day conference in Winnipeg.

“Canada Beyond 150 is a ten-month professional development program involving a Canada-wide group of early-career public servants. The project is designed to support leadership and skills development, and to drive a culture shift across the federal public service.”

As part of this program, teams of public servants are working together to explore policy challenges including: reconciliation, open and transparent government, sustainable development, feminist government, and socio-economic inclusion.

Andrew and I meet with the open and transparent government team. Andrew was there in his capacity as the City of Winnipeg Open Data manager. I was there as executive directory of Open Democracy Manitoba.

We discussed the evolution (and/or disappearance) of privacy, the implications of a shift to digital government services, proactive vs reactive public disclosure, IT procurement, open source goverance, fake new, policy making as a participatory act, algorithmic biases, the logistics of open data, citizen engagement, artificial intelligence, techno-privilege, trust and reputation online, and so much more.

I was honoured to be invited to share my experiences and perspectives on these topics. It was inspiring morning. I look forward to seeing what kinds of improvements and innovations these folks will help bring to our federal public service.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, here’s why they chose Winnipeg as the location for their mid-project conference.


Types as Concretions

I love that space where coding and philosophy collide.

Rich Hickey talked about types, such as Java classes and Haskell ADTs, as concretions, not abstractions.

People often talk about a Person class representing a person. But it doesn’t. It represents information about a person.

A Person type, with certain fields of given types, is a concrete choice about what information you want to keep out of all of the possible choices of what information to track about a person.

An abstraction would ignore the particulars and let you store any information about a person.

Eric Normand, Clojure vs. The Static Typing World

From the same piece, how Clojure was designed to make a certain kind of software easier to write.

A type of software characterized as:

solving a real-world problem
=> must use non-elegant models

running all the time
=> must deal with state and time

interacting with the world
=> must have effects and be affected

everything is changing
=> must change in ways you can’t predict

2017-10-28 08:38:41


My talk about Alan Turing’s 1936 paper on computable numbers. Recorded in May of 2016 at Skullspace for Papers We Love Winnipeg.

The slides for the talk are also available.

I’ll be speaking at Papers We Love again this year on May 24th. This year’s paper will be Christoph Adami’s What is Information?

This presentation will carefully introduce the concepts of entropy and information, explaining them intuitively while still rigorously defined. The presented paper argues that a proper understanding of information in terms of prediction is key to a number of disciplines beyond engineering, such as physics and biology.


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


2017-03-25 09:46:46