“Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives,” or, “less existentially upsetting than you’d think”

David Eagleman
I believe I added this book to my wish list back when CGP Grey talked about it, either on Hello Internet or Cortex. It’s an interesting concept, explained succinctly in the title: a collection of (very) short stories about what happens after you die. I’d actually read one before, way back when it was published as the one-page science fiction short in the back of Science magazine.
To be honest, the book was an enjoyable read, but a very quick one; for the price, I think I’d recommend checking it out from your local library.1


  1. Also, y’know, I recommend supporting your local library in general. They’re a wonderful resource. 

“Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality,” or, “you could make a drinking game of watching people change the world with these essays”

Edited by Randall Packer & Ken Jordan, with a foreword by William Gibson
As a well-documented computer nerd, I’m honestly kinda amazed I’d never stumbled across this book before. It’s an impressive collection of titans of the field — Alan Kay, Douglas Engelbart, Vannevar Bush, Tim Berners-Lee, and so on.1 Other than the foreword, there’s nothing truly new in this book,2 but the essays are downright formative. Bush’s essay, written in the wake of the Second World War, describes what is recognizably a smartphone; Berners-Lee’s describes the foundation of what would become the internet. Looking back, it’s a fascinating read — hindsight is 20/20, and all that. It’s a cool book, give it a read.


  1. It’s maybe a bit of a stretch to call Bush a titan of the field of computer science, but he did invent the military-industrial complex, which led to a lot of computer tech, so… I’ll let it stand. 
  2. Well, the introductions of each author probably are, but I digress. 

“Personalized Hey Siri”→

Apple Machine Learning Journal:

In addition to the speaker vectors, we also store on the phone the “Hey Siri” portion of their corresponding utterance waveforms. When improved transforms are deployed via an over-the-air update, each user profile can then be rebuilt using the stored audio.

The most Apple-like way to continuously improve that I can think of. More interesting, though, is this bit later on:

The network is trained using the speech vector as an input and the corresponding 1-hot vector for each speaker as a target.

To date, ‘personalized Hey Siri’ has meant “the system is trained to recognize only one voice.” That quote, though, sounds like they’re working on multiple-user support; which, with the HomePod, they really should be.

“An American Princess,” or, “how is this woman not a gay icon”

Annejet van der Zijl
I’m not a big history person; if you haven’t noticed from the sort of things I tend to review, I like my books distinctly fiction. This one was a bit of an accident — as a Prime subscriber, I get a free Kindle book a month, and this seemed the most interesting of the available choices. Which, to put it lightly, was pretty accurate.
Since it’s a biography, it’s a bit weird to try to summarize at all, because anything interesting feels like it’d be spoiling a surprise. Rather than doing that, I think I’ll just leave you with the title of this post, the title of the book, and a note that I can happily recommend it, because it was a heck of a read. She had a wild life.

“Automate This,” or, “Wall Street is slightly more terrifying than I thought”

Christopher Steiner
At some point, I’ve probably mentioned that I’m a computer guy. If not, hopefully you’ve been able to figure it out just by reading along; it’s probably a safe bet that only a computer nerd would make an app.1
Fairly often, this means I get to explain things to people in a less incensing way than they’d first heard about it.2 This book… did not do that. It was intended to be calming, but as a person who lives in a capitalist society, it’s a bit unnerving to see how quickly things that used to be jobs are being eaten by computers.3
That said, it was a fascinating read — I’d never heard of some of the things being talked about, not because they failed and disappeared, but because they succeeded but are borderline invisible.4
And, of course, it’s an interesting history of how the finance industry made themselves entirely redundant, all while arguably slowing the pace of human progress. Ah, banks.
Anyways, go read the book.


  1. Yes, I am still in shameless self-promotion mode, thank you for asking 
  2. Looking at you, “Apple is making your iPhone slower” thing 
  3. And yes, I say this as somebody whose entire career path is basically going to be “helping the computers eat more jobs, faster.” 
  4. Call center software that picks which agent to route you to based on your personality type so that you’ll be a happier customer at the end? I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t just read its origin story. 

Playlist of the Month: March 2018

The other day I walked by the park and saw a man trying to play frisbee with himself, and I can’t tell if that’s more or less sad than the fact that I spent all of Spring Break at home doing homework.
Starboy (feat. Daft Punk) – The Weeknd
Coming Down – Bon Iver
Silence (feat. Khalid) – Marshmello
Lost In the World (feat. Bon Iver) – Kanye West
Say It First – Sam Smith
Punching in a Dream (Stripped) – The Naked and Famous
Free – Kidswaste
Down – Marian Hill
Cheap Thrills – Boyce Avenue
Daya – Lane 8
This Is What You Came For – Boyce Avenue
We Don’t Talk Anymore (feat. Selena Gomez) – Charlie Puth
In The Flames – DJDS
I Like Me Better – Lauv1
Move Along – The All-American Rejects2
Avril 14th – Aphex Twin
Redemption – Zacari, Babes Wodumo
Opps – Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok3
Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Everyday, Everyday (feat. Nevve) – Manila Killa
Begin (feat. Wales) – Shallou
Breathe (feat. Ina Wroldsen) – Jax Jones
No Church in the Wild (feat. Frank Ocean & The-Dream) – JAY Z & Kanye West4
Seaside – Haux
Caves – Haux
Supernova – Ansel Elgort5
Savage 2.0 (feat. Nessly & Nyne) – Paces
Homegrown – Haux
Shape of You – Ed Sheeran
The War – Haux
By My Side (feat. Tedy) – MitiS
Final Song – MØ
Friends (Under the Influence) – Majik6
27 – Majik
Love Lies – Khalid & Normani
Talk to Me – Majik
Save Me – Majik
How It Is – Majik
Paralysed (Skeleton Mix) – Majik
It’s Alright – Majik
Kings and Queens and Vagabonds – Ellem7


  1. One day I’m going to look up the actual lyrics, but for now I’m quite happy with the ways I’m mishearing it, because it’s pretty funny. 
  2. #throwback 
  3. Fun fact: the version in the movie is just slightly faster than this one 
  4. I didn’t realize until I was putting this post together that this was on the Great Gatsby soundtrack. That was a good soundtrack. 
  5. Ansel Elgort is one of those people who I just cannot disassociate from a character he played, and I haven’t even seen the movie. 
  6. Can you tell that I just now remembered that I love Majik? File this under “me, suddenly remembering that I’ve got Apple Music now and can just download every song someone has ever made” 
  7. I found this because my friend was watching some Netflix show about a bunch of queens fighting about catholicism or something 

Fluidics

I made an app! I’m quite excited about it; this is, after all, the sort of thing I want to spend my career doing.

The app is called Fluidics, and it’s for tracking the amount of water you drink. As I mentioned a while back, I like to do a lot of tracking of what I’m eating and how much I’m drinking. That first part wasn’t too hard; there’s a variety of apps on the App Store for logging food, and after a while I was able to find one that wasn’t too bad.1 For water, though, nothing quite worked – Workflow came closest, but using it to do the sort of goal calculations I wanted was on the line between clunky and painful, and it’s such a general-purpose app that it felt visually lacking.
Eventually I remembered that I’m a computer science major, and why am I sitting around complaining about the dearth of options when I’ve basically got a degree in making the dang thing. Months of sketching, programming, swearing, and repeating the whole thing eventually lead to this: what I hope is the easiest water-tracking app on the App Store to use.
It’s been a fascinating process. (Here, by the way, is where I’m going to take advantage of the fact that this is my blog for rambling and start talking about what it was like making it; if you’d like to get more information on the app, I’ve put together a rudimentary website, or you can skip straight to the ‘it’s free on the App Store’ part and give it a whirl.) As it turns out, there’s a whole lot of work involved in making an app; my original sketch was the widget and two screens. Those came together pretty quickly, but I realized that probably nobody would feel comfortable using an app if the first time they opened it it just threw up a message saying “trust me!” and then asked for a bunch of health information, so I wrote up a privacy policy and started building an onboarding flow. Which then ballooned in complexity; looking at the design files, more than half of the app is screens for dealing with something having gone wrong.2
One of the most interesting debates I had with myself during the whole process was deciding what business model to use.3 The App Store has had an unfortunate tendency to be a race to the bottom; while there’s a bit of a market for pro apps, a minimalistic water-tracking app doesn’t fit into that category. There’s also no argument to be made for a subscription, so I’d narrowed it down to ‘free, because I’m turning it in as the capstone project for my computer science major’, ‘free with ads’, or ‘paid up-front’. The first one was the one I was most comfortable with; sure, ‘paid up-front’ would be nice, but I’d also get approximately zero people to download it what with all the free competitors out there. ‘Free with ads’ feels deeply gross, both because I hate online advertising in general, and because I’m doing a lot with health data, and I really don’t want to have any chance of that getting stolen. For a while, I thought it was going to be ‘free forever’, and I’d be justifying it as ‘building a portfolio’.
That wasn’t what I actually settled on, however; instead, I’m going with ‘free with in-app purchase.’ Instead of building in a paywall and locking some features behind it, though, I decided I’d go simpler; the app and all of its features are free. Starting in version 1.1, there’ll be a button in the Settings; a little tip jar.4 I probably won’t make much, but I’ll feel better about it overall, and what’s the harm?
Beyond that debate, most of the challenge of the project as a whole was just building it. I knew going in what I wanted it to look like; what I didn’t know was how to go about doing that. The way the background overlaps the text? That alone took a week of trying different things to get working right.5 A few things I wanted to include in the first version didn’t make it – the widget was originally going to be entirely different, but the way Apple has done the security on health data makes the original design significantly more difficult to do, so I switched it to the current design.6
It was definitely a learning experience, too – I’d done some iOS application design for classes before, but never gone all-in on making something that would be both functional and enjoyable for the end user. If you’re releasing something on the App Store, you can’t just include a note that says “on first run, it’ll ask for a bunch of permissions; just say yes” because nobody will read that. And getting something uploaded to the App Store is itself a whole process – the App Store page doesn’t fill itself out, after all, and copywriting definitely isn’t my strongest suit.7
But it’s done; I’ve made an app and released it to the world. 8 By the time you’re reading this, it should be available on the App Store; as I mentioned, it’s free to download, and I’d love it if you’d give it a try.


  1. That said, I’m also doing some design sketches for my own entry into the field; don’t get your hopes up, I make no promises. 
  2. I’m not talking “my code is full of bugs and something crashed” went wrong, either; it’s all “the user originally gave permission to do something, but then changed their mind and used the Health app to take it away” and other such nonsense. Computers may be finite-state machines, but “eleventy hojillion” is still a finite number. 
  3. I also talked about this a lot with my friend Chase, without whom I would’ve long ago given up on technology and disappeared into the woods to be a Bigfoot impersonator.. 
  4. Yes, I know, I’m just now releasing version 1.0, and I’m already mentioning plans for 1.1. Don’t worry, I’ve got versions 1.2 and 1.3 mapped out, feature-wise, as well, and have some rough ideas for 1.4. 
  5. For a while I thought I was going to have to write code to draw the numbers ‘by hand’; fortunately, I was able to get the drawing to work by taking advantage of layer masks, but good lord are the Interface Builder files a mess as a result. Behind The Scenes, everybody! 
  6. I do still want to get the original design working, probably as an option in the Settings page of the app; a future version is going to add watchOS support, and I believe that a lot of the work I’ll have to do for that will also apply to making the widget work like I intended, so those two will either be the same or subsequent updates. 
  7. Another shoutout to Chase, who wrote the App Store description and turned my pile of 100 disjointed screenshots into the four that’re currently on display. 
  8. Well, “done”; it’s functional and available to the public, but software, as the saying goes, is never finished, only abandoned. I’ve no plans to abandon this project anytime soon; I use it myself several times a day, so I’m pretty invested in keeping it working and making it better. 

Playlist of the Month: February 2018

This is a bit late! It’s because I had the plague.
Saturn – Sleeping At Last
Starboy (feat. Daft Punk) – The Weeknd
Coming Down – Bon Iver
Silence (feat. Khalid) – Marshmello
Freehand – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Lost In the World (feat. Bon Iver) – Kanye West
Vantablack – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Dancer – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Say It First – Sam Smith
Punching in a Dream (Stripped) – The Naked and Famous
Free – Kidswaste
Down – Marian Hill
Cheap Thrills – Boyce Avenue
Daya – Lane 8
Stir Me Up – Lane 8
This Is What You Came For – Boyce Avenue
Atlas – Lane 8
Skin & Bones (feat. Patrick Baker) – Lane 8
First Time – Elderbrook1
Open Your Eyes – School of Seven Bells
Second 2 None (feat. Christine and the Queens) – Mura Masa
One Dance – Boyce Avenue
We Don’t Talk Anymore (feat. Selena Gomez) – Charlie Puth
Say Goodbye – Cheat Codes
In The Flames – DJDS
I Like Me Better – Lauv
Move Along – The All-American Rejects2
Avril 14th – Aphex Twin
Redemption – Zacari, Babes Wodumo
Opps – Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok3
Havana – Pentatonix4


  1. I really like this song, but I’ve gotta say, it’s too upbeat for me when I’m dying of the plague. And not in a “I can only have sad music while I die!” way, in a “it genuinely hurt to listen to because it was too energetic” way. 
  2. I can’t remember what got this song stuck in my head, but I do remember when I first got it – not only long enough ago that Shazam didn’t exist, but long enough ago that “type the lyrics into Google” wasn’t a go-to tactic yet either. It was difficult to find. 
  3. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and if anyone spoils anything about it, I will not hesitate to murder you. 
  4. The music video for this is the first time I realized that Pentatonix had replaced Avi, and while I know it makes sense that they’d need a new bass, I’m still taking it as a personal insult. 

Playlist of the Month: January 2018

A lot of my comments at the start of these playlists are along the lines of “how did all that time happen,” you’d think by now I’d have figured out how it works, but no.
Saturn – Sleeping At Last
Nobody Else Will Be There – The National
Slow It Down – The Lumineers
Starboy (feat. Daft Punk) – The Weeknd
Coming Down – Bon Iver
Silence (feat. Khalid) – Marshmello
5AM – Amber Run
Freehand – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Stranger Things (feat. OneRepublic) – Kygo
Pteryla – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Ontario – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Earth – Sleeping At Last
Anatome – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Shadow and a Dancer – The Fray
Lost In the World (feat. Bon Iver) – Kanye West & Bon Iver
Vantablack – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Big Yellow Taxi – Counting Crows1
Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men
Amateur Blood – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Dancer – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
(Depart from Me, You Who Are Cursed) – Blueneck
Little House – The Fray
Say It First – Sam Smith
Punching in a Dream (Stripped) – The Naked and Famous2
Cavalry – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Cold – Novo Amor
Never Say Never – The Fray
Free – Kidswaste
Higher (Stripped) – The Naked and Famous
Down – Marian Hill
Last Forever (Stripped) – The Naked and Famous
O Superman (For Massenet) – Laurie Anderson3
Cheap Thrills – Boyce Avenue
Over – Julien Baker4
Daya – Lane 8
Stir Me Up – Lane 8
Appointments – Julien Baker
This Is What You Came For – Boyce Avenue5
Atlas – Lane 8
Skin & Bones (feat. Patrick Baker) – Lane 8
Don’t Let Me Down – Boyce Avenue
First Time – Elderbrook
Open Your Eyes – School of Seven Bells
Second 2 None (feat. Christine and the Queens) – Mura Masa
One Dance – Boyce Avenue


  1. Because sometimes you need a throwback, y’know? 
  2. There’s a couple other ‘stripped’ versions of stuff by them on this list, but this is the best one. 
  3. This piece is just so delightfully weird, and so quintessentially 1980s, I love it. 
  4. Go listen to the Song Exploder episode about this one. 
  5. I found this album by way of the background music to an Instagram video, and I’m remembering that I tend to prefer covers of popular songs over the originals. 

“What Dreams Shadows Cast”, or, “the cave isn’t haunted, but it does hate you”

Barbara J. Webb
So, a year and a half ago, I read the first book in what I assume is an ongoing series. At the time, I was quite clear on the fact that I loved the setting of the book. If you want all the explanation, hit up that link; for now I’ll just say it’s a new take on post-apocalyptic, where the apocalypse was being abandoned by the gods who’d previously been quite happy to intervene on people’s behalf.
That gap between reading the first and the second wasn’t the greatest thing for my enjoyment of the second — I spent a bit too long trying to remember where we’d left off, and some of the references back to the first I gave up on trying to remember. Things are in a slightly better place than they were in the first, though in order to avoid spoilers I’m not going to explain how, but you still get the sense that the world is deeply broken. Which, true, it sorta is; they’d based their entire economy and governmental system around an external force, which one day decided to up and leave. Maybe not the best way to have done things.
Honestly, I’m a bit annoyed with the handling of business in Miroc, the city where the first book took place; in the aftermath of that one, it’s set up to begin recovering from the Abandonment. In this book, we’ve skipped forward six months, and aside from a couple references to tentative recovery, nothing much seems to have changed. Sure, it’s only six months, but it’s also a metropolis that just finished making itself entirely self-sufficient, there should be more happening.
Which is rather the crux of my opinion on the book: “there should be more happening.” There’s background details — mentions of an influx of immigrants, as well as an increase in emigration — that aren’t explored very well.1 Instead, there’s a digression, ignoring the leftover villains from the first book to go have an Indiana Jones adventure in the desert.
This book feels like it was supposed to be either the second of two books, or possibly the second of a trilogy, but halfway through someone decided they wanted it to be an ongoing series. And to match the expansion in scale, they tried to expand the setting — the already compelling villains from the first book are almost entirely ignored, despite having been clearly set up to be the main antagonist throughout the series, and what was set up as the background for the whole setting got awkwardly retconned.
It just didn’t work as well as the first book. Which is a shame, because that first one was amazing, and this, while still captivating, left me disappointed at the end. Nonetheless, here’s the link; that said, if you haven’t yet read the first one, go do that instead.


  1. That specific example is actually a huge plot thread that’s just… entirely dropped partway through. Everyone is all secretive about where they’re emigrating to, and then something new comes up and the characters decide to leave that Chekhov’s Gun just sitting on the table, ignored. 

Playlist of the Month: December 2017

Good lord, it’s already 2018. Hopefully I’ll be able to stop accidentally putting “2014” as the date on stuff sometime soon.
Haze – Amber Run
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth1
Waves – Hayden Calnin
Saturn – Sleeping At Last
Work Song – Hozier
Nobody Else Will Be There – The National
I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner
715 – CRΣΣKS – Bon Iver
Unsteady – X Ambassadors
Heathens (feat. MUTEMATH) – twenty one pilots2
Slow It Down – The Lumineers
Starboy (feat. Daft Punk) – The Weeknd
Coming Down – Bon Iver
Silence (feat. Khalid) – Marshmello
Ocean Eyes – Billie Eilish
Cleopatra – The Lumineers
Kusanagi – ODESZA
Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes) – Kim Carnes3
Betty Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes
5AM – Amber Run
Freehand – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Come to Me (Ofenbach Remix Radio Edit) – Lily & Madeleine
Stranger Things (feat. OneRepublic) – Kygo
Pteryla – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Ontario – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Earth – Sleeping At Last
Weaving Spiders Come Not Here – Blueneck
The Forbidden Spark – Collapse Under the Empire
Lilitu – Blueneck4
Anatome – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Shadow and a Dancer – The Fray
Here (In Your Arms) – Hellogoodbye
Lost In the World (feat. Bon Iver) – Kanye West & Bon Iver
Christmas Eve / Sarajevo (Instrumental) [Remastered] – Trans-Siberian Orchestra5
Vantablack – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett


  1. “Why are you still posting playlists on your blog when you can just share them through Apple Music?” well you see, this song isn’t available anywhere, and if a song isn’t on Apple Music, then Apple Music’s playlist sharing pretends that it doesn’t exist and there was never anything there to start with 
  2. Yeah, I am the reason that’s stuck in your head again. Sorry. 
  3. Sometimes you just need some 80s, y’know? 
  4. My current description of Blueneck is “the sound of Seasonal Affective Disorder” 
  5. It’s practically obligatory; that said, don’t try to grab this whole album, because it’s like nine hours long and randomly interspersed with a reading of some Christmas story or another, which is really surprising when you just hit shuffle and expected Christmas music for an hour or so. 

Playlist of the Month: November 2017

You know that point in the school year when time loses all meaning? I’ve been there for weeks. Or possibly years.
Haze – Amber Run
Cruise (Feat. Andrew Jackson) – Kygo
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth
Animals – Tamu Massif
Black Or White – Yoe Mase
Waves – Hayden Calnin
Dancing In The Dark – Imagine Dragons
Saturn – Sleeping At Last
Work Song – Hozier
Bike Dream – Rostam
Nobody Else Will Be There – The National
I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner
715 – CRΣΣKS – Bon Iver
Unsteady – X Ambassadors
Heathens (feat. MUTEMATH) – twenty one pilots
Lust for Life (feat. The Weeknd) – Lana Del Rey
Sober – Lorde
Slow It Down – The Lumineers
Starboy (feat. Daft Punk) – The Weeknd
Green Light – Lorde
Thatch Snow – Rostam
You and I – Toro y Moi
Coming Down – Bon Iver
Silence (feat. Khalid) – Marshmello
So Clear (feat. Meeka Kates) – Kraak & Smaak
Do I Wanna Know? – CHVRCHES
ocean eyes – Billie Eilish
Cleopatra – The Lumineers
Kusanagi – ODESZA
Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten – English Chamber Orchestra & Nigel Short1
Escapar – Enrique Iglesias2
Hero – Enrique Iglesias
Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes) – Kim Carnes
Betty Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes
5AM – Amber Run
Freehand – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Come to Me (Ofenbach Remix Radio Edit) – Lily & Madeleine
Stranger Things (feat. OneRepublic) – Kygo
Broken Glass – Rachel Platten
Pteryla – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Silvery – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Ontario – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Earth – Sleeping At Last
Weaving Spiders Come Not Here – Blueneck3
The Forbidden Spark – Collapse Under the Empire
Lilitu – Blueneck
Welcome to the Jungle – Novo Amor
Anatome – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Scars – Sam Smith
Shadow and a Dancer – The Fray


  1. Pärt and Britten are my favorite composers, how did it take me this long to find out this piece exists 
  2. The lyrics in the Spanish version are exactly as creepy as the ones in the English version. 
  3. It’s properly winter now, which means it’s time for the Music of Desolation 

Playlist of the Month: October 2017

By my estimates, it has been roughly 96 days since the end of September.
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako
Haze – Amber Run
Wastelands – Amber Run
Cruise (Feat. Andrew Jackson) – Kygo
All We Need – Fyfe
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth
Animals – Tamu Massif
Black Or White – Yoe Mase
Sugar for the Pill – Slowdive
Waves – Hayden Calnin
Dancing In The Dark – Imagine Dragons
One Man Band – Albin Lee Meldau
No Answers (Acoustic) – Amber Run
Dark Side Of The Gym – The National
Carin At The Liquor Store – The National
Walk On Water – Thirty Seconds to Mars1
Say You Love Me – The Nor’easters
Falling Ashes – Slowdive
All Boundaries Are Conventions – Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil
White Mustang – Lana Del Rey
Saturn – Sleeping At Last
Firefly – BANNERS
Kesselring – Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil
Work Song – Hozier2
Bloodshot – Albin Lee Meldau
Cherry – Lana Del Rey3
Bike Dream – Rostam
Nobody Else Will Be There – The National
Sleep Well Beast – The National
I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner4
715 – CRΣΣKS – Bon Iver
Unsteady – X Ambassadors
Gold Dust – BANNERS
Heathens (feat. MUTEMATH) – twenty one pilots
Lust for Life (feat. The Weeknd) – Lana Del Rey5
Dancing on My Own – Pentatonix
Sober – Lorde
EOS – Rostam
Warning Intruders – Rostam
When – Rostam
Slow It Down – The Lumineers6
Her Diamonds – Rob Thomas
Never Going To Catch Me – Rostam
Starboy (feat. Daft Punk) – The Weeknd7
Green Light – Lorde
Thatch Snow – Rostam
You and I – Toro y Moi
Coming Down – Bon Iver
Silence (feat. Khalid) – Marshmello8
So Clear (feat. Meeka Kates) – Kraak & Smaak
Do I Wanna Know? – CHVRCHES
ocean eyes – Billie Eilish
Cleopatra – The Lumineers
Kusanagi – ODESZA9


  1. I described this to someone as “centrist propaganda” the other day, and I stand by that remark. 
  2. A text message I sent a couple weeks ago:
    “Man I’m listening to “Work Song” and it’s creepier than I thought, like, ‘when my time comes around/ lay me in gently in the cold dark earth/ no grave can hold my body down/ I’ll crawl home to her’
    “like she’s just at home mourning the death of her beloved husband and his corpse crawls through the front door? that’s some Edgar Allen Poe shit right there” 
  3. I wish I could copy/paste the iTunes ‘explicit’ symbol in here, because honestly this song is just four minutes of Lana Del Rey cussing someone out 
  4. I wonder if Avicii heard this song and called Mike Posner like “oh my god dude I’m sorry I didn’t mean to pressure you, are you okay?” 
  5. This song has a nice melody for singing along to, but then you realize you’re walking down the street going “take off, take off, take off all your clothes” over and over 
  6. I think this song signifies fall in the same way that Blueneck signifies winter. 
  7. You don’t really notice until you try to sing along, but dang does this guy have a high voice 
  8. Probably my most-played song this month 
  9. This song is great for when you need a nap but only have time to put your head down for a couple minutes, it’s really relaxing. Also, I’m exhausted. 

Playlist of the Month: September 2017

I have so much that I need to do and so little time; does anyone know where I can buy a time turner?
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako
Haze – Amber Run
Wastelands – Amber Run
Cruise (Feat. Andrew Jackson) – Kygo
All We Need – Fyfe
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth1
Better Man (Feat. Peter Gregson & Iskra String Quartet) – Fyfe
Animals – Tamu Massif
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Black Or White – Yoe Mase
Sugar for the Pill – Slowdive
Waves – Hayden Calnin
Miracles (Someone Special) – Coldplay & Big Sean
A L I E N S – Coldplay
Dancing In The Dark – Imagine Dragons
Drive Slow – LUCASV
Hymn – Kesha
Praying – Kesha
Boots – Kesha2
One Man Band – Albin Lee Meldau
Chandelier – Sia
No Answers (Acoustic) – Amber Run
Drugs – Roach Gigz feat. DB The General3
Nirvana – TheSamLao
Rainbow – Kesha
Hunt You Down – Kesha
Dark Side Of The Gym – The National
Broken Glass – Sia
Carin At The Liquor Store – The National
Learn To Let Go – Kesha
Don’t Believe In Love – Mr.PottyMouth
Walk On Water – Thirty Seconds to Mars
Say You Love Me – The Nor’easters
Fools – The Nor’easters
Falling Ashes – Slowdive
All Boundaries Are Conventions – Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil
I Found (Acoustic) – Amber Run
White Mustang – Lana Del Rey
Saturn – Sleeping At Last
Firefly – BANNERS
Countdowns – Sleeping At Last
Kesselring – Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil
Work Song – Hozier
Bloodshot – Albin Lee Meldau
Cherry – Lana Del Rey
Bike Dream – Rostam
Space Between – Sia
Born To Beg – The National
Change – Lana Del Rey
Nobody Else Will Be There – The National4
The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness – The National
Sleep Well Beast – The National
No Longer Making Time – Slowdive
New York – St. Vincent5
Breakdown – Jack Johnson
I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner
Skinny Love – Bon Iver
715 – CRΣΣKS – Bon Iver6


  1. One of my favorite things about this one is watching people try to pronounce the guy’s last name. 
  2. This is a great one if you’re missing that “classic Ke$ha” feel. And yes, spelling it “Ke$ha” instead of “Kesha” was deliberate. 
  3. At this point I’m just keeping this in here because it’s fun to have one song that really doesn’t fit the vibe of the rest. 
  4. Probably my favorite off this album, although “The System Only dreams in Total Darkness” is also very good. 
  5. “What, do you have a Song Exploder playlist?” – Chase 
  6. So, I use Workflow to automate the process of making these posts, because otherwise it’d take me a couple hours each time. The long and short of it is that it uses the iTunes Store’s search stuff, by dumping the full title of the song in, and then lets me choose the right one from a list.
    Somehow, given the full title of this song, iTunes’ search was unable to find anything, and I am utterly baffled by how that happened. 

“Not Your Sidekick,” or, “if you dropped hints any harder it’d cause an earthquake”

C.B. Lee
My obsession with superhero books continues, and I’m ranking this one second place out of the superhero books I’ve read for interesting worldbuilding. Set in Andover in what used to be the California-Nevada area, it takes place something like 100 years after a massive solar flare kicked off a low-key apocalypse. Between the Cosmic Radiation and the simultaneous failure of the safety systems in every nuclear power plant around the world, the radiation bath triggered a latent gene in the human population, giving some fraction of a percent of the population superpowers.1 World War III cropped up, apparently in a non-nuclear manner, and the various governments of the world ceased to exist.2 New ones sprung up – there’s a South East Asian something-or-other pulling together after a couple decades of civil war, a Global Federation that sounds like “the UN, but better at covering things up,” and NAFTA merged together into the North American Collective.
It gets interesting pretty quick, though, with a few references3 to old fashioned media being banned – presumably, collecting old TVs, books, DVD players, and so on is about conserving resources in a still fairly resource-starved world.4 But the government has done a great job of removing references to those old things at all. There’s just a whiff of fascism, and once you catch that it’s a hard thread to let go of. As background materials go, it’s utterly fascinating.
The story proper is also pretty hilarious – the protagonist is the daughter of Andover’s superhero power couple, which gives her an inside view into their normal lives. They’ve got cover jobs – real estate, the both of them – that they’re varying degrees of terrible at pretending to take part in. Their primary villains, Mr and Mrs Mischief, are more about pranking the population than causing any actual havoc, so even when they have to go in to work, such as it is, it’s not exactly a life-or-death situation.
Without superpowers of her own, though, their daughter Jess is at a bit of a loss about what to do with herself. After her precocious little brother5 makes one too many references to her underachievement in school and lack of powers, she decides to go do something with herself and applies for an internship at Monroe Industries, the high-tech firm that’s apparently Andover’s staple business. After getting the job, she’s a bit shocked to find out that the ‘experimental research’ division she’s working in is a cover for how the Mischiefs are getting their resources – her bosses are her parents’ arch-nemeses.
Hilarity ensues, and I’m quite happy to recommend the book to you. Give it a read.


  1. The degree to which it’s generic feels more tongue-in-cheek than anything else, so it works. 
  2. Except the European Union; apparently all it’ll take to resolve the Brexit mess is the end of the world? 
  3. These aren’t the heavily-dropped hints I’m referring to in the title; the romantic subplot is possibly the single most obvious thing to have happened in the history of ever. Subtlety, thy name is not Jessica Tran. 
  4. There’s some nice references to the fact that meat is a very rare luxury item, and the majority of the population lives on an economical vegetarian diet. 
  5. Now, we’re not going to say ‘super-genius,’ but we’re going to heavily imply it. 

“The Mystic Marriage,” or, “this book changed genre like four times”

Heather Rose Jones
School has begun in earnest, and I’ve suddenly gone from reading a book a day to taking a couple weeks to finish one. I’d call it depressing, but considering that I’m down to only a couple more books that I haven’t yet read, it’s actually working in my favor, keeping me from running out of new material quite so quickly.
“The Mystic Marriage” is set in the fictional European country of Alpennia, a small country that, were I to guess, is somewhere bordering France and, perhaps, Spain? It’s hard to say, as it’s never explicitly explained, but the recent collapse of the French Empire feels more personal than do the interferences from the Austrian Empire.1
There’s two twists that make the book really interesting.
The first is the presence of magic. It’s a different system than I’ve seen before, though – works of thaumaturgy are referred to as ‘mysteries’ and rely on the intervention of the saints. It’s all very Catholic, with some interesting utilitarian aspects. It’s reminiscent of the ways that science would have to be fit into the Catholic canon – tweak the wording a little bit, make sure to express some wonder about the great things God does, and you’re good as long as you don’t get too scandalous.
The other is more scandalous, and where it gets really fun. The core of the cast is, basically, the Lesbian Noblewomen’s Society. There’s a lot of mention of the fact that, as Noted Eccentrics, they’re allowed more strangeness by the high society of Rotenek, which is how they can get away, for example, a pair of unrelated women living together despite both being wealthy enough for their own households. It’s the scandalous nature of it that makes it feel realistic – there’s no “oh, yes, in this fictional country, unlike the rest of the Continent, everyone is totally fine with this!” It’s a “we’re powerful people, and as long as we’re not blatant we can get away with it.” Sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” applied to the upper crust of society.
And really, it’s a very enjoyable book. The genre changes were interesting, and allowed it to explore a lot of ground without being predictable, which I quite liked. So I’m quite happy to give it a recommendation – go give it a read.


  1. I think it’s the Austrian Empire; they’re referred to as ‘Austrians’ throughout, and only in glancing references, so it could just as well be the Holy Roman Empire. 

Playlist of the Month: August 2017

Classes have started and everything happens too much
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako
Killer Queen – FIL BO RIVA
22 (OVER S∞∞N) – Bon Iver
Haze – Amber Run
Wastelands – Amber Run
Cruise (Feat. Andrew Jackson) – Kygo
Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
One More Light – LINKIN PARK
Dreams – Sunday
VPN ft Palmistry – Mr. Mitch
All We Need – Fyfe
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth1
Better Man (Feat. Peter Gregson & Iskra String Quartet) – Fyfe
Zero Summer – Dirty Nice
Animals – Tamu Massif
The Roman Call – Beshken
Thunder – Imagine Dragons2
The Ends and the Means – Robby Hecht
Leave out All the Rest – LINKIN PARK
Black Or White – Yoe Mase
Borders – Fyfe
Sugar for the Pill – Slowdive3
Waves – Hayden Calnin
Miracles (Someone Special) – Coldplay & Big Sean
A L I E N S – Coldplay
Walking The Wire – Imagine Dragons
Dancing In The Dark – Imagine Dragons
Drive Slow – LUCASV
Hymn – Kesha4
Overgrown – Oh Wonder
All I Can Think About Is You – Coldplay
Praying – Kesha
Boots – Kesha
One Man Band – Albin Lee Meldau
Chandelier – Sia
No Answers (Acoustic) – Amber Run
New York – St. Vincent
Drugs – Roach Gigz feat. DB The General5
Nirvana – TheSamLao6
Rainbow – Kesha


  1. Seriously, this song is so calming 
  2. I just really like this one. “Now I’m smiling from the stage while/You were clapping in the nose bleeds” 
  3. Another very calming song, I recommend it. 
  4. Kesha is the only person that ever makes me think “yas queen” 
  5. My sister played this while she was visiting and it got stuck in my head immediately. Which is okay overall, because I think it’s a pretty hilarious song. 
  6. Another one I can blame/thank my sister for. 

“Ambassador 1: Seeing Red,” or, “the title turns out to be an extremely satisfying pun”

Patty Jansen
I honestly had no idea what this book was about going in, and I think it worked well that way. As it turns out, it was a political thriller: the protagonist is a negotiator between Nations of Earth and gamra. It’s roughly equivalent to, say, being Turkey’s negotiator to the EU for the membership talks. Only Turkey is a stronger version of the UN with full executive powers over the entire planet, and the EU is a trade coalition that regulates FTL interstellar travel.
Where it gets really interesting is the various non-humans involved. The rough layout of the galaxy features something like 95% of the entire population being various humanoids; there are some references to the fact that one of the member races of gamra is far more ancient than the rest and not only developed the FTL technology but used it to seed the galaxy with the various humanities. But each version of humanity had tens of thousands of years to diverge from one another, and you wind up with some really interesting cultural and even biological variations. The Coldi, the majority group within gamra, have some serious differences in how they treat one another and think about the world in general.
And that’s what makes the book so interesting – you’ve got a Eurosceptic-analog President of Nations of Earth, a novice diplomat without his cultural exchange attaché, and a negotiating culture based on a completely different style of interpersonal relationships and loyalty than anyone from Earth is used to. It’s fascinating looking at all the interactions, and the author has done an incredible job of taking one or two differences and seeing what happens when you let those differences influence things for a few hundred years. It’s an excellent read, and I couldn’t put the book down, so if you at all enjoy good science fiction or the occasional political thriller, give it a read.

“Death by Silver,” or, “the landlady has a point, the plant DID try to bite the help”

Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold
I’ll start off by saying that this is definitely within the Sherlock Holmes archetype of stories,1 but it’s got enough differing it from the rest to be interesting.
The first big difference is in the setting: it’s the same Victorianesque time period as the average Sherlock Holmes book, but this is a world with magic of a sort – or, as the locals refer to it, metaphysics. It’s a bit of a complex system, based upon written language and a fairly complex grammar, utilizing a variety of different written squares. I don’t have a great grasp of how it all works, which is okay, because the way it’s written it has a good mix of detail and lack thereof. It’s a good balance, and the way its integrated into the rest of the world is quite nice.
That leads into the second difference: while there’s a clear Sherlock figure, I got the feeling that he’s the secondary of the two narrative main characters.2 While the Sherlock is still the normal Sherlock, albeit using magic instead of opium, the Watson is a metaphysician for hire, rather than a doctor. The story begins with him, in fact: a customer comes to him to remove a curse from the family silver. Finding a lack of a curse, he does a cleansing… and is rather surprised a few days later when he’s hired again to sort out the murder of his previous client, his skull having been bashed in with some of the recently-cleansed silver. It’s at this point that he brings in the Sherlock, as that’s more his area of expertise.
The relationship between the two of them is the third major difference.3 They went to school together, had a bit of a schoolboy dalliance, broke it off in college, and then resumed it in their adulthood. It’s a weird interaction – one of those rom-com style things, where both parties involved want the same thing, but are both convinced the other doesn’t want it. It makes the switching viewpoints mechanic pretty hilarious, to be honest; I spent a lot of time gleefully muttering “you idiot” at the both of them.
It’s the taboo quality of that relationship that I enjoyed the most, I think: the book doesn’t go in for the gloss-over-it style that some take, wherein the Victorian “don’t ask, don’t tell” style4 is stretched to cover openly gay men. Instead, it’s a matter of only being shown or spoken of behind closed doors. Secretive clubs that one must be vouched for by an existing member to get into. Careful remarks that can be said to have been misheard if the wrong response is given. It makes the whole thing realistic – take away the magical aspect of the book, and I could absolutely believe it was someone’s autobiography, hidden away and recently rediscovered and published by a descendant.
All in all, it made for an interesting read, and I’m quite happy to recommend it to you.


  1. I should have a tag for ‘Holmesian books’ by now, I read enough of them. 
  2. Two protagonists, working together; the viewpoint switches off between the two of them throughout. Nonetheless, the Sherlock has the helm slightly less than the Watson. 
  3. Well, insofar as it’s explicitly stated; there’s a lot of queer theory talk about the canonical Holmes/Watson relationship. 
  4. See “a bared ankle is improper, but I’ll meet you at the brothel for some opium later.” 

Eclipse

You may not have heard, but there was an eclipse recently. While I wasn’t going to go out and buy one of those expensive camera filters for doing proper eclipse photography, I did have an extra pair of eclipse glasses and some duct tape, so I made do. (The photo above is without the filter; during totality, which I was in the zone of, you can look at the event with the naked eye… or the naked lens.)

This is right before totality began – just a sliver of the sun was still showing, but without a filter, that’s still a lot of light.

I was switching off lenses throughout – I had a prime lens with the makeshift filter attached, and a kit zoom that I used when I wanted no filter but didn’t want to deal with the duct tape. This is that kit zoom, no filter, at its maximum zoom level.

Finally, here’s what it looked like through the filter.
I’m not going to talk about it being a ‘life-changing experience’ or anything, but I will recommend checking out some of the recordings – I believe NASA put out a 3D livestream that I assume is archived somewhere, and lots of better photographers than I am got some good photos, I’m sure.
And hey, next time there’s going to be an eclipse in the US, go check it out.1


  1. But, y’know, make sure to get your campground reservations a year early or so.