Are Rap Lyrics a Confession?

Rap lyrics as a confession isn’t a new topic or question. I remember hearing about this a few years ago with someone who had rap lyrics on their Facebook page that was arguing it should be inadmissible in court. Just Googling “rap lyric confession” gave me these examples:

and more. But today my wife was watching the latest episode of The Daily Show, which contained this clip:

In case that clip eventually goes away, Trevor Noah discusses this news story in which a bunch of rappers, including Jay-Z, are trying to get the law changed in New York so that rap lyrics are inadmissible in court. Frankly, I always thought it was BS that rappers could have it both ways – boast about crimes for street cred, but argue it was just art, not a confession. (Kind of like those assholes who pretend to be reporters covering the news on actual news channels until they get in trouble and then it’s all supposed to be parody or not taken seriously) But I immediately thought of this great Key and Peele sketch:

Examining Web Browsers: Microsoft Edge on Windows; Linux Browser Update

This post continues a series on exploring new browsers:

Quite a bit has changed since I first started this series about 18 months ago. Back then I was sure I would only be trying Microsoft Edge on Windows and that I would be sticking with Firefox on Linux. Yet Microsoft Edge is now available for Linux, Mac, and Android. On my laptops I continue to prefer non-Firefox browsers. Things continue to be interesting in this realm.

Linux Update

It’s been almost a year since my last update. Since then I have continued to use Vivaldi on my main laptops and Qutebrowser on my netbook. I am still using Firefox on my main computer, but I’m starting to see more and more signs that we’re moving back to a browser mono-culture as we had in the 1990s. I will attempt to go to some website in Firefox and it won’t load correctly. It’s not a Linux vs Windows thing because using any Chromium-based browser gets things working again. I think this is slightly worrisome since it’s been quite a few years since Google (and/or parent company Alphabet) have been guided by the ethos “Don’t Be Evil”. That is to say, they are consistently acting like the large company they are and that rarely means putting the needs of users first. I haven’t yet started checking out Vivaldi, Brave, or others on my main computer, but I think that may be coming this year.

Windows

In most ways, my Windows browser of choice means less than it ever has. Because I now edit my Let’s Play videos on YouTube to correct the audio, I almost never need to use the browser for anything. But, I still wanted to finish off the Windows part of this series and check out Microsoft Edge. However, boy have things become complicated since the last blog post! Multiple articles have been written about how Microsoft seems to be trying to party like it’s 1999 (well, technically 1998) and force usage of Edge in Windows 11. Then there was also the scandal of Microsoft bundling in a Buy Now, Pay Later feature in into Edge (ie Layaway for Young Millenials and Gen Z – this old Millenial remembers mom using Layaway for Christmas presents back while my parents were still in college and not making lots of money) In a (maybe?) less controversial feature, they’re making RSS feeds cool again? All I can say about this is that I hate the stupid, cyclical nature of the tech world. Everyone decided that blogs were definitely dumb and then we’re back to them (but for $$) with Substack and email newsletters. We were loving RSS and using Google Reader and then someone decided that RSS was too hard for the non-techies (those of us with the tech chops never stopped using RSS). But now both Google and Microsoft are re-surfacing RSS to their browser users. Well, let’s take a look at Edge.

Microsoft Edge upon startup - default, inspirational setting
What it looks like to start Microsoft Edge on my computer for the first time with its default settings.

Let’s spend some time with this page, as first impressions are important. First of all, compared to all the other browsers, Microsoft Edge did not offer to import any settings. It may be the case that it’s been on there so long that it asked me about it back when Edge replaced IE years ago. Or it may be the case that Microsoft considers itself to be the default and not require an import. It’s also interesting that it didn’t ask me to make Edge the default. Give then way they’ve been acting with Windows 11, I wouldn’t be surprised if opening Edge was consent to making Edge the default.

The top left has the app 3×3 menu, a winter advisory (it’s supposed to snow here tomorrow), and the current temperature. Although I have a half dozen places to check the weather nowadays (including my smartwatch and my phone), I think there is definitely room for having it on the page that will open up with my browser. Whether I’m starting up my browser to start my day (I don’t know if anyone does that on their computer or laptop nowadays compared to a smartphone) or just bringing it up to do some work on the web (which is most work for most people, right?) I think it’s nice to be reminded of the weather. Especially if you live somewhere with pronounced seasons. On the right is something to join Microsoft rewards to get compensated for using Bing (seems desperate if you ask me) and then news alerts and a settings button. The page looks like the front page of Bing with its image of the day. Below is a never-ending series of squares that will take you to various news stories. Seemed a bit busy and not quite my style. By clicking on the settings buttons and then selecting focused, I ended up with:

Microsoft Edge focused front page theme
Microsoft Edge focused front page theme

Much better! It still has the things I like (eg the weather), still lets you search right away (although I hate Bing – recently wife wanted to do Wordle and while the right website was the top result in Google, it was 8 results from the top in Bing). Then I presume those sites below would change if I actually used Bing. And if I needed to procrastinate and SOMEHOW finished all the news stories in my RSS feed reader, the news topics are still at the bottom and I could use those to browse the news rather than be assaulted by the news squares. If I used Edge, this would be my preferred start page.

After this I looked around to see what differentiated Edge from the competition. In its current incarnation I could only find one thing (that is one thing apart from its ability to be integrated with MS Office): collections.

Microsoft Edge - collections 01
Microsoft Edge – collections introduction
Microsoft Edge - collections 02
Microsoft Edge – collections more explanations

I decided to just try it out a bit:

Trying out the Collections feature in Microsoft Edge
Trying out the Collections feature in Microsoft Edge

Basically, I could see this being very interesting for the Pinterest crowd. (In fact, it also has Pinterest integration) If you’re collecting ideas or doing research on a particular subject, you could collect the pages together and even add notes. I think most browsers have some similar feature – or at the very worst you could hack something together using bookmark folders (wonder how many non-techies even know that’s a thing?). It’s OK.

And that’s my overall feeling of Microsoft Edge. It’s OK. I don’t see a compelling reason to change. It’s competent. To be clear, I wouldn’t see a reason to change to Chrome, either. (Other than the aforementioned websites that don’t work in Firefox) They’re not exciting and they need to be in a world where everyone except Firefox is a Chromium browser. This is where Vivaldi wins (for me and for any power users) – by providing a reason to change away from whatever is default or whatever the techie in your life set up as your default browser.

I can definitively say that we can close out the Windows portion of the browser competition. Vivaldi wins. It has the features I need and want (whenever I actually use the web on Windows). Until/unless Vivaldi stops being developed or gets bought out like Opera did (or starts doing “evil” things to make money), I think I’ve found my browser home on Windows.

Now it’s time to see who can win the competition for the browser wars on my main Linux computer.

2021 in Books

In Calibre, I now have 2529 ebooks and e-magazines, 2026 unread. To be fair, I get a free book from Tor.com and Amazon.com every month. This also counts any ebooks I’ve bought for the kids, many of which I will not end up reading. (I also have some number of physical books and audiobooks I do not wish to count)

I started off the year continuing previous trends – reading sequels and programming books. Speaking of sequels, I finally finished The Expanse (well, there’s one more short story or novella coming, but the main series is done)  I added in the Discworld series as a series I can read while waiting for the microwave at work or other places where I usually don’t have my phone with me. I’d intended to read the Tor.com blog posts on the Discworld read-along, but never got around to it in 2021. Then, sometime around the summer, the 2021 WorldCon Hugo nominations voting copies were made available so I scrambled to try and read as many of those as I could before voting time in order to make an informed voting choice. Programming books fel by the wayside. I didn’t really make any kind of significant dent in my cookbooks, either. 

Before getting to my favorite book and Goodreads stats, a few things I wanted to highlight some things from this year’s books. The Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents were the most depressing books I’ve ever read. This year they were just about matched by Riot Baby. However, what made the parable books even more depressing is that they were written in the 1990s and yet they seemed even more likely to happen now than ever. There are definitely days where I’m legitimately scared for the future that we’re leaving our kids. 

The Interdependency Trilogy shows why Tor pays Scalzi the big bucks. It was an incredibly fun series with memorable characters and, if it hadn’t been for the Murderbot Diaries, it would have been my top vote for the series category in the Hugos. I listened to just about all of the first book on a car trip with my dad and it was a very fun time sharing that with him. The Poppy War trilogy also had a very awesome first entry and I can’t wait to get to part 2 later in 2022. 

My favorite book of the year was not a book, but the Murderbot Diaries. It’s very rare for a book or series of books to live up to the hype – especially the hype that these books have garnered among the SF world. But I found that Martha Wells managed to strike the perfect balance of humor (including mixing workplace humor with military workplace humor), emotion, and drama. The world continued to unfold with each novella and book and each new reveal was an amazing delight. At the Hugos I heard Ms. Wells do a reading of her next book (a fantasy book – I’m pretty sure she was more well-known for fantasy before the Murderbot Diaries) and it sounds like something I’m definitely going to need to put on my To Read List. (No matter how ridiculously long that is)

Honorable mentions to Ancillary Mercy (the final book in that trilogy) for ending it exactly perfectly, given what Leckie had set up in the previous two books. Also Project Harmony for hitting me so hard for a book I had no idea was going to be so great.

GoodReads Stats:

  • 20,444 pages read over 65 books (18,189 pages last year)
  • Shorted book was The Most Dangerous Game at 48 pages
  • Longest book was: Progrmaming Perl at 1174 pages
  • Average book length: 314 pages (279 last year)
  • Most Popular Book: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
  • Average rating 3.6 (3.8 last year)
  1. The Light Fantastic
  2. Equal Rites
  3. Mort
  4. Sourcery
  5. The Official Scratch Book
  6. A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  7. The Great Hunt
  8. Wyrd Sisters
  9. Third Daughter
  10. Parable of the Sower
  11. Cook’s Illustrated 2019
  12. Pyramids
  13. Parable of the Talents
  14. Princess Academy
  15. Investigators Off the Hook
  16. Guards! Guards!
  17. Eric
  18. Wayward Stars
  19. The Boys, Vol 1
  20. Palpitations
  21. The Gryphon’s Skull
  22. Legion: Lies of the Beholder
  23. After the Fall Before the Fall During the Fall
  24. Introducing Go
  25. Moving Pictures
  26. Programming Perl
  27. Generation Xbox
  28. Lightspeed Magazine: April 2014
  29. Death Masks
  30. Auberon
  31. Final Fantasy VI
  32. The Most Dangerous Game
  33. Reaper Man
  34. Crimson Son
  35. Black Powder War
  36. Necessity
  37. All Systems Red
  38. Artificial Condition
  39. Rogue Protocol
  40. Exit Strategy
  41. The Collapsing Empire
  42. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
  43. Witches Abroad
  44. The Consuming Fire
  45. Lightspeed Magazine: Women Destroy Science Fiction
  46. Small Gods
  47. Network Effect
  48. Django 2 By Example
  49. The Last Emperox
  50. Lords and Ladies
  51. Axiom’s End
  52. Riot Baby
  53. Hackers
  54. Cook’s Illustrated 2020
  55. The Ruin of Kings
  56. Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!
  57. Men at Arms
  58. The Poppy War
  59. Head First Go
  60. Koreatown
  61. Wild Cards: Aces Abroad
  62. Ancillary Mercy
  63. Harmony
  64. Rave Master Vol 10
  65. Rave Master Vol 11

Review: Rave Master Vol 10

Rave Master, Vol. 10 by Hiro Mashima
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At the end of Volume 9 I had no idea where Mashima could take the story. It seemed he had painted himself into a corner, perhaps not knowing if he’d get to go past volume 9. He expands the story by making all the smaller gangs that were held in check by Demon Card now vie for position at the top. Our main characters also have to finish finding the Rave in order to get all the answers to all their questions. It continues to be a silly and weird ride.

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Review: Harmony

Harmony by Project Itoh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is clearly a reaction to Japanese society, but it’s also prescient (given when it was written) about our current situation where no one wants to experience anything that could bother them. It’s incredible that he saw this coming 11 years ago. This is not to say that I’m one of those people who rails against “cancel culture” and so forth. I think it’s a positive thing, in general, that folks who traditionally did not have a voice in the world now can speak out against injustice. But there is definitely a vocal minority who refuses to deal with anything that might unnerve or challenge them. Of course this thin line (which I imagine myself to be on the correct side of) is why I originally considered starting off this review with the sentence “This book is dangerous.” I could definitely see some people taking this book as an example of why everyone should be able to say and do anything; who cares what others think?

As to the Japanese part (I am, admittedly, speaking second-hand), there has been a growing sentiment (certainly extant when Project Itoh was writing this book) that the society has become polite to a fault. That those who express their discomfort or issues with others are committing a faux pas against the greater society. And so Harmony conceives of a Utopia that is also a dystopia for some. The suicides mentioned in the book mirror the increasing numbers of Japanese men checking out and/or committing suicide. (And we see some evidence of the same happening in China and maybe among Gen Z here in America)

The other brilliant aspect of this book is the way it shifts between parts. Originally you think the story is going a certain way and then with each part, it shifts and now you’re in a different story than you thought it was going to be.

I think the fact that I liked it so much and had such a hard time truly explaining it to others, means it’ll probably be incredibly divisive. Still, I recommend it to folks as more relevant now in 2021 than it was when it came out in 2010.

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Review: Ancillary Mercy

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was the perfect ending to the Imperial Radch trilogy. It continues in the same vein as the previous two books: deeply introspective within the context of Anander Miaanai’s war with herself. The final chapter (which, of course, would have been an epilogue in any other book) comments on what turns out to be the thesis of the entire trilogy: sometimes you’re just a cog in the machine (no pun intended). You’re not the chosen one. The entire fate of the universe doesn’t hinge on you. In fact, it’s entirely possible that there’s absolutely no effect of the events of the trilogy. (At least in the present timeline) Most likely, of course, is that eventually Anaander decides to eliminate Breq for daring to stand against her, no matter which Anaander we’re talking about. But for now that doesn’t matter.

It’s so great to have a series that would be a side trilogy in any other circumstance. (Kind of like The Mandalorian TV show compared to the movies – at least at this point. I don’t know if eventually Disney/Lucasfilm tie it back into the movies in a significant way) It’s a lot more realistic this way. I love all subgenres within SFF, including the Chosen One. But it’s also nice, now and again, to have a regular Joe story. We follow her around for a while and she has some sort of narrative arc, but the world doesn’t depend on it. (Essentially the opposite of most Sanderson Cosmere novels/novellas)

I know this series isn’t for everyone. Some folks really need a lot of action. Someone I recommended it to couldn’t get past the first book. But if you would like to have something a little different and more introspective in your science fiction – definitely get through this trilogy.

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Review: Aces Abroad

Aces Abroad by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Up until now, we’ve been very America-centric with the Wild Cards series. In fact, except for the first book, it sometimes seemed as if there were only cases in New York City. With this book, things are expanded out. Sometimes it’s because some of the spores dispersed over other countries (of course, not as strongly as they did in the USA). Other times, it’s because of births or other forms of generational transmission.

I’ve yet to come to full terms with the implications, but it’s interesting that this book seems to make the retcon that the expressions of the virus have something to do with the cultures of the victims and/or their self-conceptualization. I’m pretty sure (but maybe I’m wrong) that in the first three books it was presented as more or less random. It does allow the authors to have some very interesting Aces and Jokers around the world even if the possibility for caricature is there. I didn’t see anything egregious, but maybe because none of the countries were my country of origin?

The other interesting line that Wild Cards walks as it gets further along is that it’s KIND OF our world, but kind of NOT. Obviously the Wild Card virus changed some things – like JFK Airport being called Tomlin Airport. But Reagan still ends up president in the 80s and the Iran-Contra thing seems to be mentioned at one point. Yet we seem to have the success of the Guatemalen socialist revolution that failed in our timeline. (I think? I’m a little hazy on that part of history, even if the USA did have a hand in it) The last book presented that AIDS is still an issue. So it’s walking this interesting line where, for example, I don’t know whether or not to expect Greg Hartmann to actually run for president or not.

As to Hartmann (aka Puppetmaster) this is, in most ways, his book. Or, as we know from the future, his quartet. The plot that links all the short stories is that the WHO has sent a bunch of American Aces, Jokers, and political folks around the world to see how Jokers are treated around the world. This allows Puppetmaster to collect (or attempt to collect) puppets around the world. We get many glimpses into his mind and his battle with his alter-ego.

I will confess that my favorite parts were the excerpts from Xavier Desmond’s Journal. We’d seen him here and there in Jokertown before, but his chunks of the story were the glue that kept things together and kept me caring about the folks due to my sympathy for his plight. He provided a different perspective on the others, Aces and Jokers alike. Of course, his trust in Hartmann was heart-breaking.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and it was neat to see how the Wild Cards Braintrust decided to conceptualize how the virus would have changed things around the world. I am curious to see how this quartet resolves and how the world continues to evolve away from its origins. (Especially if it starts to move further from the 80s. I was quite young then and don’t relate to a lot of the references – even the Cold War barely registered to me as a youth). If you’ve been enjoying Wild Cars so far, I think you’d like it. It’s actually also not a bad jumping on point. Most of what you’d need to know is explained as background info or in flashbacks. You might miss a couple things like Golden Boy’s situation, but otherwise I think you could just jump in here and be caught up to what’s going on.

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Review: Koreatown: A Cookbook

Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me start with the good:
– The photography in this book is beautiful
– The interviews with various celebrities and chefs are great
– The narrative style of the recipe intros work well
– the section on the the Korean pantry is important and well-written

The neutral:
– Even my wife, who has been cooking for our family (and previously, her family) for somewhere around 35 years (mostly off the top of her head without a recipe) found that once you’ve experienced America’s Test Kitchen recipes, everything else is substandard. We tried to make the Pajeon (seafood pancakes) for dinner and there were lots of assumptions that made it come out less than ideal.

The less good:
– The few recipes we’ve made have left us somewhat underwhelmed compared to the Korean restaurants nearby. For contrast, most (although not all) America’s Test Kitchen or Meathead recipes I’ve made have been better than anything I’ve eaten at any but the most expensive (like #150/person or more) restaurant.

Your mileage may vary, but I found it to be a “Just OK” resource for cooking Korean recipes.

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Review: Head First Go

Head First Go by Jay McGavren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit that I just skimmed over the web server part. I barely write web backend stuff in Python, I’m not about to do it in Go any time soon. My main goal with this book was to finally learn Go after having heard about it for 2-3 years now. This book turns out to be a very good resource for that. I have no idea how well it would work for someone who’s never programmed before, but for me it’s my 4th or 5th programming language and for most languages the basics are all the same (just like most languages have nouns, verbs, articles, etc) and it’s all about learning the details. I’ve been able to use what I’ve learned here to solve some problems for Advent of Code (a December programming set of puzzles) although I did have to go out to the official documentation a little to figure out things not covered in this book (like regular expressions).

If you need a jumpstart on Go, I heartily recommend this book. It’s written like a hip textbook with with little silly pictures and stuff, but each chapter has a mini project in it to give you a good understanding of how it fits together. This type of learning is best for me when I’m first learning a language vs the programming language books that are more like a reference book. Your mileage may vary based on your learning style.

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Review: The Poppy War

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved this book as part of the Hugo 2021 nominations packet

This book was GREAT! I can definitely see why its series was up for a Hugo nom this year. I wasn’t able to get past the first book before it was time for Hugo voting, but I looked forward to reading this book every day. There was never a time where I felt I had to push through the book. It even had such a great start:

“Take your clothes off.”

Actually, the first paragraph:

Rin blinked. “What?”
The proctor glanced up from his booklet. “Cheating prevention
protocol.”

WTF kind of test is taking cheating so seriously that the students have to strip to make sure they aren’t cheating?”

And from there we were off to the races. I was reading this mostly at the same time as The Ruin of Kings. I also enjoyed that book, but I felt this one was more exciting from beginning to end – probably because (other than the first chapter) it’s being told chronologically so nothing has to be held back for suspense or surprise. There was also the difference factor of this book’s setting. While most fantasy is either Europe or Europe by another name, here we have a world that straddles primary and secondary world fantasy. Clearly the Nikara are China and the Mugan are Japan. I was torn on whether Hesperia was meant to be the Roman Empire or a lumping of all of Europe. The Hinterlands are clearly the Mongols. Spearly – I’m not sure if it’s meant to be Okinawa or Taiwan. But we have a correlation to Sun Tzu and even a journey to the west type Buddhism story. That was all fun and having the food and cultural references be a little different was also informative when it’s so often taken from Greek or Norse mythology. (Or Tolkienesque) I think many fantasy readers of Asian descent will be happy to see themselves in the story, finally! If my kids (who are hapas) continue to be into fantasy, I’ll definitely be sharing it with them.

As to the story itself, in another interesting contrast to The Ruin of Kings, the fantasy elements take a LONG time to arrive. This is neither good nor bad, it simply is. It made me wonder for a long time how and when RF Kuang was going to incorporate fantasy into it. In the meanwhile it read like a Confucian/wuxia tale and that was fun in and of itself. I think Kuang takes the well-worn Harry Potter/Cinderella trope of being raised by uncaring relatives and rising WAY above that to some good places. Because it’s meant for an older audience it’s not simply a “prove myself and I won’t be a misfit anymore” story. It’s also a wartime story and I think a lot of the aspects of the aftermath of war hit me a little harder in 2021 after years of things like the Syrian Refugee crisis and understanding how quickly things get turned around. I think Kuang does an excellent job of providing consequences to the actions. This isn’t one of those fantasy books where murder just happens willy-nilly. It leaves people screwed up.

I’m definitely adding the next book to my to-read list and can’t wait to jump on it. (Although since Hugo voting is over, it’s going to the back of the list) If you want your fantasy to have a different perspective or if you want to see yourself as the hero (because of gender identity or racial identity) read it. If you want a good story, no matter your background – read it!

Definitely a book for adults or for a very mature teen – profanity, drug use, rape, war, death, violence.

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Review: Men at Arms

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second time reading this book. I left the rating the same

When it comes to the Anhk-Morpork based books, Pratchett lays in the final brick in the foundation for all that will come. The Night Watch is elevated to full Watch. We get more interactions and elaborations on how the Guilds work and how Vetinari pulls all the strings. Carrot grows a little, even as he retains his essential “Carrot-ness”. Pratchett builds on adding in all the fantasy and horror characters that he started back with Reaper Man and introduces Angua, our werewolf watch-person. We also have the return of Gaspode and Detritus from Moving Pictures. Reading all of these in a row and thinking about them critically for these reviews has made me realize that Pratchett has moved towards really making Anhk-Morpork (and greater Discworld) seem like more real, lived-in places as he settled into it as a long series. It feels as alive as Gotham, especially as written by Scott Snyder.

This particular storyline is in the form of a detective novel (which I believe most of the City Watch novels become from here on out), but it’s almost incidental to the story. I think that’s the weakest thing about it and, despite having given it 4 stars before, I didn’t like the main plot too much last time. Pratchett is more interested in exploring ideas of diversity in the workplace (another trope that will continue in each of the City Watch novels going forward), the right of kings, and, to some extent, the feeling of power that comes from using a gun. That last one comes through a bit anviliciously and I don’t know if it’s a slight weakness in Pratchett’s writing on this book or if it comes from not being American. (That is to say, I’m lead to believe guns are much, much rarer in England)

It’s not a horrible place to jump in although you’ll be missing some of the details about the way others react to Carrot and the fact that he’s a human adopted by dwarves. Pratchett does seed the Koom Valley battle between Trolls and Dwarves that he pays off way later in Discworld 34, Thud!

Overall, by the time you’ve either arrived at Discworld #15 if reading in order or City Watch #2, I think you’ll have an idea of whether you like Discworld and should read this book. It works very well and I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s also not some must-read book even if you didn’t like other Discworld books you’d tried before.

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Review: Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!

Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! by Miran Lipova?a
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Learn You a Haskell (or LYAH as it’s known on Stack Exchange and other parts of the internet) is the most often recommended resource for learning Haskell. I think it has a lot of things going for it.

1. It’s available on the net for free if you don’t want to (or can’t) buy it
2. It’s got a conversational tone that reminds me of what I love most about the Perl O’Reilly books
3. The author does a good job comparing and contrasting with imperative programming languages (almost all the ones you’ve heard of, if you’re heard of any programming languages).

The bummer for me and the way that I learn is that the author shows lots of small examples and almost no full program examples. There’s an O’Reilly book (also available for free online) that’s a little more traditional in showing some more full programs. However, the reviews on here for that book seem to indicate that it’s due for a revision because it’s a bit out of date.

Should you use this book to learn Haskell? I think it depends a lot on the way you learn. This book and a little help on reddit were enough to get me started on solving Advent of Code problems in Haskell. I don’t need it for work or school, so I can’t say how well it would prepare you for that. Starting with functors and going through Monads, it went over my head on this first read. I’m pretty sure I will need to read it again at some point after writing a little more Haskell.

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Review: The Ruin of Kings

The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1)The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book for free as part of the 2021 Hugo Voting Packet

This was a great, fun book. The only point I really had against it is that eventually with all the fantasy names and locations and history, things eventually got a little convoluted to where I couldn’t remember who was related to whom and it really starts to matter in the last quarter of the book. The book has an interesting framing device – one of the book’s characters, Thurvishar, has written a report to the Emperor to document what happened. The introduction even includes a bit of lampshade hanging about the fact that he’s going to have to tell the real-world reader some things that the in-world reader (the Emperor) would already know.

The report is supposed to be in three parts, but that sets your expectations slightly wrong because the first part of the book is the first 3/4 (actually more because there’s also an appendix at the end). Part 1 reminds me a bit of the way that Christopher Nolan’s Mememto plays out. We have two narratives going on about our main character, Khirin. One narrative starts a few years in the past and makes its way to the time point of the first chapter. The other narrative starts from that first chapter and takes us to just shy of the “present”. That was fun to read because you’re able to look for foreshadowing and other little story-telling easter eggs because you know where the narrative is headed.

At its most basic level this is a Chosen One narrative, but the author plays with lots of subtropes, often subverting what you might expect while on a Chosen One journey. To go deeper than that would risk giving too much of the plot away, but at least it’s more creative than a basic Chosen One narrative. Lyons has populated the world with quite a few interesting magic systems, gods, and goddesses. Some of the background made me think of Sanderson’s Cosmere which makes me wonder if the author was inspired by Sanderson or if she’s just playing with very similar tropes.

Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for some fun fantasy that plays with many different parts of the form. Lyons also is a speed demon since this book came out in 2019 and she’s already at book #4. So you’re not going to get left behind as you might with other fantasy books unless she gets hit by a bus or something.

I was able to read everything in here without issue, but if you need some TWs: there is child abuse, non-consensual sex, profanity. I’d recommend (depending on your values/the kid’s maturity level) for at least high school/secondary school or older.

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Review: Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer RevolutionHackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the story of the beginning of computers, written in the 1980s. I’d already read about many of the events portrayed in the book via other books or magazine articles. But this was nice and detailed. I like Steven Levy’s style. He really brings the people profiled to life. Knowing where computers have ended up – which companies and movements have won – makes it an especially interesting read compared to when it was first published and people weren’t sure where the industry was going or if it would crash like the Atari crash of the 1980s.

It was weird that I was alive for a good portion of the last part of the book, but hadn’t experienced it firsthand both from being too young and from neither myself nor my parents having geeky peers.

The book has 2 afterwards to update the reader on what’s happened since then. The second one is from 2010. It’s funny, even 11 years later it the Zuckerberg section read SO differently. Frankly, I’d really love if Levy would just make a sequel to the original book and really cover the 90s to today. Go deep on Google, Red Hat, Linus Torvalds, Facebook, and Twitter. Show the 3rd (or 4th?) wave hacker and how they are similar and different from those previous generations.

Good as a history book that reads like a long-form magazine article. Also easy to read in chunks as you have interest. Highly recommend.

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