Oak Update

Oak, the Rails blogging engine I've been working on, now supports 20 out 34 Micropub tests.

Making progress.

Refactor Day

Yesterday I chose to set the entire day apart to only do some basic code cleanup and minor refactoring.

I renamed methods and variables, DRYed up a bunch of duplicate code, extracted a few things into swift extensions, and deleted unused code and no-longer-necessary debugging output.

It was a nice change of pace, our code base is now cleaner than it was at the beginning of the day, and I left feeling great at having left things better than I found them.

I’m going to do this again soon.

Double Edged Swords, Indeed

I've been thinking a lot over the last couple of years about the impact of always-with-us-and-always-connected-computers and the software we run on them, primarily Social Network/Attention Demanding apps.

Two items came across my feeds the other day:

The more time people spend on social media, the more prone they become to recency bias, and especially the form of recency bias that inclines us to believe that what has just happened is far more important that it really is.

Everyone everywhere is prone to recency bias, but I think we are more prone to it than any society in history because our media are so attentive to the events of Now, and we are so immersed in those media that anything that happened more than a week or so ago is consigned to the dustbin of history. The big social-media companies function as what I have called the Ministry of Amnesia, and the result is that we lack temporal bandwidth. Unless we work hard to cultivate that temporal bandwidth, we won’t have the “personal density” to resist the amnesia-producing forces that make us think that whatever happens today is more important than anything that has ever happened.

How Change Happens, by Alan Jacobs

And:

Teaching complicated ideas to people on a phone is like trying to teach geography to a bunch of sugared-up kids who just had a triple espresso, while they are standing on one foot being bitten by a swarm of mosquitos.

There could be a direct correlation between smart phone usage and underinformed mass behavior.

Sometimes it’s worth opening up a laptop and slowing down just a bit.

Yes, opening up a laptop might count as slowing down a bit.

On One Foot, by Seth Godin

The always-on, always-connected lifestyle is having its impact. I'm not sure we can know yet if it's something we will adapt to, or something we will have to reign in, but it's a sharp instrument, and at least at the moment, it lacks a handle.

Book Review: Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Cover of the book Red Mars

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Robinson paints an extraordinarily detailed view of what life on Mars could be like, from the constituent molocules of the atmosphere down to the interpersonal relationships of the settlers. He leaves out no detail, giving us a very rich portrait of life on the Red Planet. I thoroughly enjoyed the geologic descriptions of the surface; driving across the California and Arizona deserts on a recent road trip made that all the more tangible.

Robinson's technical details are likewise as thorough as one could imagine for a novel, including geology, biology, artificial intelligence, chemistry, and physics.

The price for such detail is, however, a book that tends to move a geologic pace. The book, while as expansive as Mars itself, seems to evolve over eons, only really moving quickly within the last few chapters. Robinson also jumps from character to character over the books many sections, making it difficult to form much of a bond with any single one.

If you plan to sit down with Red Mars, my advice is to slow down and let it take you along, at its own pace; don't fight it. This is a book that wants you to fall in love with Mars, but, at least for me, it wasn't necessarily love at first sight.

In spite of my complaints, the ending did hook me, and I can't help but think that the sequel, Green Mars, will be on my Kindle in the near future.

Buy Red Mars at Amazon