Category: Writing

Columns of Numbers

I like columns about numbers. My new favorite columnist is Walter Hickey, who writes Significant Digits for 538.com. He tweets here and here’s more about him.

Hickey’s list is, of course, one more variation on the classic Harper’s Index list. But he makes it his own. If you aren’t familiar with it, Harper’s magazine crafted the perfect number list feature, with subtle connections between items.

I like columns of numbers, but I even more like math columns, especially math puzzle columns, and the best forever is the “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American by Martin Gardner. Now you can get all of them on a disc!

Then there’s Dennis Shasha, or Dr. Ecco, whose math puzzles appeared in Dr. Dobb’s and elsewhere.

And keeping us mathematically honest is John Allen Paulos, the tireless campaigner against mathematical illiteracy.

My First 7 Jobs

1. Paperboy
2. Dishwasher
3. Truck washer
4. TV antenna installer
5. Assembly line worker in water heater factory
6. Printer’s helper in box factory
7. Lab assistant in pharmaceutical company

River Walk

I learned the Pomodoro Technique from Staffan Nöteberg’s charming book years ago, and have been using it ever since.

But productivity tools always have to be adapted to your own quirks and internal rhythms, as Belle Beth Cooper recognizes in this article.

I’ve never quite mastered the five-minute breaks every twenty-five minutes, but I’m pretty good at the serious break every two hours. It helps that the dog has figured out the schedule and tells me when it’s time to walk to the river.

It also helps that there’s the river to walk to.

Currently Reading: 50 Foods

The premise is intriguing: just 50 foods. Why those 50, specifically? Are these the best of all foods? And what’s a food, anyway? Just something you can pick or kill? That would eliminate anything processed, like bread or wine or cheese.

Whatever criteria Edward Behr used for deciding what foods to include in this 400-page celebration of foods, their varieties, selection, preparation, storage, and enjoyment, he has produced a tantalizing and satisfying read. And part of the fun of reading the book is deciding where you agree with his selections and what foods you would add or delete.

One proof that this is an idiosyncratic selection is that, out of 50 foods, Behr has seen fit to include six different cheeses. Over ten percent of the foods here are cheeses. I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with that.

Behr is the founder of the food magazine The Art of Eating.

/now

What I’m up to right now:

Publishing PragPub, a monthly magazine for software developers
Editing books on web development and usability for the Pragmatic Bookshelf
Putting together an anthology of articles on functional programming
Writing a biography of a tech legend
Winterizing the homestead

Join the /now page movement:
https://sivers.org/nowff

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If I have a heritage, it’s this

“In Inisfail the fair there lies a land, the land of holy Michan. There rises a watchtower beheld by men afar. There sleep the mighty dead as in life they slept, warriors and princes of high renown. A pleasant land it is in sooth of murmuring waters, fishful streams where sport the gunnard, the plaice, the roach, the halibut, the gibbed haddock, the grilse, the dab, the brill, the flounder, the mixed coarse fish generally and other denizens of the aqueous kingdom too numerous to be enumerated.”

“Fishful.” Lovely.
“Too numerous to be enumerated.” Talking my language.
Then there’s the Melville-ish catalog of fishes.
Especially “the mixed coarse fish generally.”
And more subtly the sentence structure and rhythm around “streams where sport.”

You must taste this kind of writing, letting the alliteration of “In Iniasfail the fair there lies a land, the land…” tease the tip of your tongue: ananafathafathalasa lanthala…

Here’s an essentially dead language, Gaelic, thrusting its bones through the threads of ostensibly English prose. Rich and ripe.