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reviewed Revenant gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Machineries of empire -- book three)

Yoon Ha Lee: Revenant gun (2018) 4 stars

"Shuos Jedao is awake... and nothing is as he remembers. He's a teenager, a cadet--a …

Review of 'Revenant gun' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

Wow, there's so much plot! Nice to really meet a few more characters, but I kind of wish Cheris got a bit more screen time. I thought the ending was sweet, and the way all the storylines get brought together felt pretty good - I wasn't sure we'd get there at times.

Review of 'Overwhelmed' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

This is a collection of a lot of words. I worked through about a third of this featureless expanse before skipping to the end, where we learn that the secret is to do less, practice mindfulness, and get your deadbeat husband to do his fair share of the work around the home. And don't beat yourself up too much, it's all a process.

Anyways, given that message I'm glad I didn't read through the whole thing - something something the medium is the message. Maybe the author would have had more time if they had just written fewer words...

Murray Bookchin: The next revolution (2015, Verso) 3 stars

"Many similarities exist between the new movements against austerity that have emerged since 2011, ranging …

Review of 'The next revolution' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Short and easy to skim. I don't have the theoretical background to get too deep into his arguments, but the general gist seems to be:
Marxism & anarchism were useful frameworks for their time but now times have changed
In particular, we see that capitalism was in its youth at the turn of the 20th century, not in its old age, and also that workers are whole entire people and not just revolutionaries
* Let's make city councils stronger, break down big cities into "human-scale municipalities," and move towards a society of loosely interdependent municipalities. This will be a moral society.

Definitely skeptical of that last point, especially since I just read a bunch of stuff about how planning complicated things doesn't really work, and the fraught-ness of top-down restructuring of society.

Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool: Peak (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company) 4 stars

Review of 'Peak' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Read this book on a whim. Not too much to say here, a pretty good treatment of the ideas of deliberate practice. Which makes sense because that's kind of the author's big thing. Not gonna cover it here, you can read Wikipedia on your own. I like that he presents the quality of practice as a sort of continuum. The takeaway being that you can basically always be practicing better, so... maybe try thinking about it?

Things I thought about:
- what are things I am doing that I would like to attempt to deliberately practice? what are things that I don't want to deliberately practice?
- how would I go about practicing better?

Review of 'Java Precisely' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

If you are in a hurry, know how to program, and need to learn Java, this is great. It's the shortest book I found, and I felt much more comfortable after reading it. I found this through a recommendation in Effective Java.

- It's really short.
- Great title.
- Doesn't try to convince you that object-oriented programming is the cool new thing.
- Gets pretty precise about why certain things are the way they are.

James C. Scott: Seeing Like a State (Paperback, 1999, Yale University Press) 4 stars

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed is …

Review of 'Seeing Like a State' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

I read this because it was heavily cited in a few different blog posts/essays that I found thought-provoking. This took me a really long time to get through, but has similarly been really thought-provoking, and has influenced how I think about a lot of different things.

In a very small nutshell (maybe a pistachio?): abstraction can be very useful but it's very easy to overlook the value of all the concrete details along the way; blind faith in it combined with a way to impose the abstraction on others can be pretty dangerous.

For what it's worth, I think you can basically read the introduction and then read Part IV: The Missing Link. At the beginning of that part he summarizes the salient points of Parts II and III. If you find any of those stories particularly interesting, there's nothing stopping you from going back and actually reading them. I …

Sidney Dekker: The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error (2006, Ashgate Publishing) 4 stars

Review of 'The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

Read this a while ago - a few things I think now that I attribute to the book:

systems work most of the time, and it's because people generally can figure out how to do the right thing
sometimes systems fail, because people did not figure out how to do the right thing
* when a tense situation is unfolding, the people involved are making choices that make sense to them in that context. If the choice turns out to be wrong, that is regrettable, but also, "it was the right idea at the time."

Kenneth O. Stanley: Why greatness cannot be planned (2015, Springer) 4 stars

Why does modern life revolve around objectives? From how science is funded, to improving how …

Review of 'Why greatness cannot be planned' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

Read this on a friend's recommendation. The title is a bit clickbait-y, but the author is very careful to qualify his claims.

The main message is that, when faced with complicated problems, singlemindedly going after an objective can and will get you stuck in dead ends. He argues that since complicated problems don't have an obvious solution it's very likely that the next towards the solution is not actually directly closer to your objective. Makes sense to me - I think my main takeaway is to think about whether an objective makes sense in the individual situations I run into.

There are some pretty interesting thought experiments in here, and a fun new way to look at decision-making - while at some points I felt like this book dragged (the middle), it's very short and skimmable. Definitely worth a read.