Sunday Selection 2011-12-11

Around the Internet

More shell, less egg It’s alway a joy to see two masters at the top of their craft engaged in a respectful, but determined duel. This is a short commentary on Donald Knuth and Doug McIlroy’s approaches to literate programming. Worth reading even if you’re not a big fan of literate programming.

Selective use of technology I firmly believe that science and technology is a good thing and that our world is better because of them. However I also understand that technology cannot do everything for us. In particular there are a lot of decisions it cannot make for us (yet). I also tend to get a lot of my best work when I am least partially disconnected and can hold at bay the full force of the Internet. All things in moderation.

Why sugar makes us sleepy (and protein wakes us up) As much as many of us would like to live as if we disembodied brains surviving on anything that barely resembled food, that is definitely not the case. Since we are stuck with our flesh-and-blood physical bodies for the foreseeable future, it is a good idea to figure out how it all works and make the most of it.

From the Bookshelf

Do the Work While I’m not entrely a fan of Steven Pressfield’s use of vaguely “spiritual” ideas and terms, this book is still worth reading for everyone. It’s especially useful if you have that big project you’ve been thinking about but never got around to actually starting. At $1.99 for the Kindle edition, it’s a steal.

Video

What we actually know about software development Despite the importance of software development, most developers are acutely unaware of the scientific studies in the area and rely mostly on anecdote. Luckily there is an increasing amount of research in software development (not to be confused with computer science) and it’s worth knowing what we actually know about the field and what is myth.

Sunday Selection 2011-11-27

Today’s a bit of a health and fitness special to compensate for all the Thanksgiving excesses. But first, some programming.

Programming

All I Need to Be a Better Programmer I Learned in Kindergarten Sometimes the basics can be boiled down to just a few sentences. Sometimes I think I knew more when I was five than I do now. Of course, that’s a lie, but it’s worth thinking about.

Code Fearlessly I think version control is amazing. I’ve been using Git for a few years now (Subversion before then) and I keep all my writing as well as my code in repositories, backed up to Amazon and a VPS. The great thing about version control is how it lets you make mistakes and try out wild ideas without worrying about how you’ll get back to a working state if you break something.

Health and Fitness

The Creative Brain on Exercise I know, I know. Exercise doesn’t come naturally to most of us spending our days in front of our screens. But given how much of our work is creative in nature, it makes sense to take care of our engines of creation. I think the time spent in exercise will more than pay itself back over the years (in saved medical bills and lost work time if nothing else).

How Getting Buff Can Make You a Better Rubyist. In case you’re wondering about whether any of this exercise and diet stuff actually works or not, here’s some evidence straight from the source. This is worth watching even if you’re not a programmer, but just someone who has a normally sedentary work life.

Tim Ferriss on the 4-Hour Body at the NEXT conference I know that so-called “extreme” advice such as provided by Tim in his book always earns a skeptical look, but I find his idea of minimum effective dose quite interesting. If you’re looking for the most efficient ways to change your body for the better, this is a must-watch.

Eat to Live If you’d rather have advice from a medical doctor who’s also changed the lives of dozens (if not hundreds) of people, this book is your best bet. I tend to think of it as more of a primer on nutrition and health in general rather than just a diet or fitness book. It might take you some time to get through it (though it’s a small book) but again, the investment is definitely worth it.

Sunday Selection 2010-10-03

Reading

A new medium requires a new literacy The times they are a changing, and keeping up is not a easy business. This article from the Huffington Post talks about how the idea that younger generations are automatically better equipped to deal with technology isn’t quite true and how education is perhaps more important either. It’s centric to the United States but could easily be generalized to the world at large.

Staying healthy and sane at a startup Most of us might not be working day-in-day-out to get our awesome startup off the ground, but this post from former Twitter API lead Alex Payne is useful to anyone working at an intellectual desk job. It discusses the value of diet, exercise and meditation and offers some sane and down-to-earth advice on how to keep yourself in shape (physically and mentally). I’m starting to implement these in my own life (especially diet and exercise) and I hope to see some good effects.

Media

How web video powers global innovation YouTube often gets a bad rap for being a time and productivity sink and to a large I think that’s true. In this TED talk, TED’s CEO Chris Anderson talks about how the rise in online video is helping to boost global innovation on a multitude of levels. This doesn’t mean you’re justified in spending hours watching cats do funny things but it does mean that online video is more than just entertainment.

Software

Google Voice If you’re not using Google Voice, you should be. Voice gives you a number that acts a “proxy” between the caller and you’re actual phone. Why is it awesome? Because it gives you an unprecedented amount of control over how you receive and handle phone calls. If you have multiple physical phones you can redirect calls to your Voice number to any (or all) of them. You can set rules for who gets to call you and when or you can just turn on the “Do Not Disturb” mode which sends everything to voicemail. Voice also presents voicemail in an email-like web interface so that you can see who called you in once glance. And lest I forget, you get free SMS too.