Sunday Selection 2021-01-31

We’re at the end of the first month of 2021, and what a month it has been, at least for those of us in the United States. Personally, I’m mainly in the mode of sitting at home patiently while waiting to be eligible for getting the COVID vaccination, which is almost certainly another couple of months away. Luckily it is currently cold and snowy in my corner of the world, so I’m not particularly incentivized to go outside. While I’m stuck at home, I’m trying to read and write more, so here we are:

Henry Rollins on Defining Success

Even though I’m not very familiar with Rollins’ artistic work, his writing always seem to strike a chord with me. Some years ago, his article on Iron and the Soul encouraged me to make regular exercise, especially weightlifting, a serious part of my life. It was something that I managed to more or less keep up over the years and my life was better for it (until COVID-19 made gyms a bad idea). Similarly, the advice and ideas he presents in this piece are not exactly new, but he phrases them in a way that makes them seem like a breath of fresh air in a world that lately seems rather stale.

And now for something completely different:

Formalizing mathematics: an introduction

This is probably not going to be of much interest if you’re not a mathematician or theoretical computer scientist, but it’s something that’s been bouncing around my head. I’ve been looking into the Lean Theorem Prover, where one can write mathematical proofs in a programming language, so that the computer can check them. Theorem provers are being increasingly used to verify properties of software, but it seems like the pure mathematics is just getting on board with how useful they can be. This article tells us why these theorem provers might be crucial for advancing the state of pure mathematics, in more ways than one.

Brad Wright’s rules for Stargates, Star Wars and Superheroes

If there’s anything I like more than computers and software, it’s science fiction (ok, and food and drink and friends and family, but that’s a matter for another blog post). Brad Wright is a writer and showrunner responsible for the Stargate TV shows and for Travellers, which I think is one of the best high-concept, low-flash science fiction shows of the last decade. In this article, he talks about some of his rules of thumbs for not just good science fiction, but good storytelling, and I think many of my readers will find themselves nodding along.

The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe by Stephen Hawking

I decided to start my book reading this year with one of the slimmest ones on my bookshelf. This is a series of lectures given by Stephen Hawking on how the universe began, how it’s continuing and how it might end. But what’s perhaps more interesting, Hawking goes into depth about how we came to know about all of it through centuries of discovery (and a number of wrong turns on the way). Reading this book reminded me of how much I enjoyed pop science as a teenager. I might have to pick up Hawking’s Brief History of Time after I’m done with this one.

Stacey Abrams on 3 questions to ask yourself about everything you do

If you haven’t been living under a rock you’re probably aware of the Democrats’ win in Georgia, thanks in large part due to the organizing activities of Stacey Abrams. I didn’t know much about her until the elections, besides that she ran for Georgia governor in 2018. In this TED talk from shortly after that election, she talks about events from her life that shaped, and as the title says, 3 questions to ask about everything you do.

Sunday Selection 2019-09-08

I was looking back to see when the last time I made one of these posts, and I saw that it was almost 6 months ago. How time flies. In the meanwhile, both spring and summer seem to have whizzed, and the mercury is definitely heading in the downward direction in this part of the world. For me, these last few seasons have been largely a time of rest, recovery and re-alignment. I’ve been getting a lot of therapy (physical and mental), changing up my exercise routine, experimenting with new recipes, and letting go of some old goals, and charting courses for new ones.

Anyway, you didn’t come here for my vague and disjointed ramblings of my life, you came for a sprinkling of interesting things around the web. So here goes:

On Keeping a Notebook: A Reading List

Admittedly, I’m cheating with this first one. I’ve been using pen and paper more over the last year, having re-discovered the joys of writing with modern fountain pens. I keep multiple notebooks now (a journal, a literal pocket notebook, a research notebook and a meeting notebook, among others). So of course when I this dropped into my inbox a couple weeks ago I couldn’t resist going through them all.

Toni Morrison Transformed the Texture of English

Part of the afore-mentioned charting courses for new goals has been a renewed desire to read and write more and carefully (carrying my Kindle Voyage with me on the subway has been a great help in this regard). Toni Morrison is one such writer that I want to read all of one today, Ursula K LeGuin being the other.

We should all be reading more Ursula LeGuin

Talking of which, multiple people have recommended Ursula LeGuin to me, and this article reinforces that idea. I have always believed that fictional writing should explore ways we can live in our life. I would not be where I am in life, and the sort of person that I am, were it not for liberal amounts of science fiction in my formative years. It seems that LeGuin’s writing would provide good fodder for future imaginings of my life, and in different ways from what I’m used to.

Altered Carbon

And while we’re on the topic of fiction and re-imagining lives, Altered Carbon is one of the best science fiction shows I have seen in recent years. On the surface, it is reminiscent of Blade Runner-style science fiction noir, but it is also an exploration of what happens to society when immortality is practical and commonplace. Season 1 is on Netflix and Season 2 is in the works.