There’s not as much to write about this month (fortunately?). The US vaccine rollout continues to hum along – I already have a family member who’s received both doses of the vaccine, and another family member who’s scheduled for their first appointment. I still think it’ll be some time before I am able to get the vaccine (my current gut estimate is sometime in the summer), but that’s something to look forward to.

Seattle got it’s obligatory once-a-year snow storm. ⛄️ We got 10-12 inches of snow where I live, and unlike in previous years it wasn’t an inconvenience at all. We were all already staying at home, so it was possible to just keep working through the snow days. It was a nice exogenous shock to my lockdown routine – going out and walking in the snow was something you can only do once a year here!

Another thing that made me excited this month was the successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars. I can’t get over this video, what an engineering triumph:

Reading / Watching

Gödel, Escher, Bach

GEB is one of my “lifetime bucket list” books. It’s one of those books that has sat forever on my bookshelf, but I never built up the courage to dive into it. It’s a proper tome, and outwardly looks quite dense. However, in early January I started reading the first few pages on a lark and was sucked in. It’s actually much more approachable than I thought! (This is especially true if you have a computer science or mathematics background)

I’ll have much more to say about it once I’ve finished reading it – I’m about halfway through right now – but I can already see why this is on so many folks' list of books that influenced them. There’s something really special going on in this book…

Money Heist

I just finished watching the first season of Money Heist, and I’m still not sure if it’s great or mediocre. It’s essentially a heist movie serialized as a TV show. It doesn’t subvert the heist genre but, given that it’s serialized over many episodes, it’s freed from many of the typical time-saving tropes that limit what a heist movie can be.

What gives me pause about recommending it is it’s campiness. It was originally produced in Spanish (the English dubs are “just OK”), so it’s likely there’s some ideas being lost-in-translation. However, of every episode there’s at least a few cringey scenes that makes me question why I’m watching. Usually, though, there’s enough interesting story beats to keep me going. I’m not sure if I’ll watch the rest of the series, but the first season was good enough that I’d recommend it for shallow viewing.

  • “Go is not an easy language”: I found myself nodding along to most of the points in this article. Go is a “small” language, which results in tradeoffs: it’s easy to learn the entire feature set of the language in an afternoon, but learning the “““correct””” ways of doing things takes time. Just like any language, there are footguns – this article points out finite-worker concurrency as an example.

  • I published a list of interesting Wikipedia articles. There aren’t a ton of articles there yet, but this is a small experiment in digital gardening that I hope to expand upon over time.

  • EveryNoise is a fascinating data site for Spotify genres. There’s a lot here: the main feature is a scatter plot of genres by similarity, but there are a ton of other things to explore, like the listening habits of different countries and demographic groups. Describing it here doesn’t do it justice – if you’re even just mildly curious about music, it’s worth taking a look.

  • Proust Questionnaire – A popular set of questions which is supposedly used in a lot of interviews. The aspect of this that interested me was that Proust himself answered these questions himself several years apart, showing some drift in his personality and opinions on core beliefs. Seems like a fun exercise.

  • Athens is a promising-looking Roam Research alternative. It’s an open source project, but they also have funding from YCombinator, which confuses me… But, they just released a public demo that has me excited. Obsidian still seems more stable at this point, but I’m planning to take another look at Athens once it’s a bit further developed.

  • Mars and the Meaning of Money – An interesting take on the meaning of the Perserverance rover, casting it as a “civilizational art project”:

    I think the simplest mental model [of Perserverance] is as a civilizational art project. [$]2.7 billion is about 0.013% of the GDP of the United States. This is actually pretty cheap by civilizational artwork standards. …

    I think it makes most sense to think of space programs as art projects by and for global economic systems. They represent an economic system as an emergent entity admiring itself in the mirror.

Cover: Composition with Rectangles and Circles on Black Ground by Sophie Taeuber-Arp