2/5/2017: Hairy Pooper

I read the original Harry Potter books back while they were coming out. I had about a 3 year lag, so I wasn’t ever waiting for the next one during a midnight Barnes & Noble release party. (NOT that I’m claiming high moral ground or anything. I’m totally that guy.)

I remember blowing through them at record speed and being pretty satisfied.

Well, I’ve come upon the Stephen Fry audio versions and, it being several years later, I figured I’d give them a listen.

I started back in November or so and have been interleaving other stuff between them.

It’d been a fun ride so far. I missed a bunch of detail in the hypnogogic haze under which I read most of them, clearly.

But I’m about half way through the fifth book (Order of the Phoenix) and the constant refrain of “why won’t the grown-ups listen to me” is getting under my skin something fierce.

Suddenly, on my way home, listening to a scene with the antagonist du jour flexing her authoritative might to keep the misunderstood kid who really could fix everything down, I snapped out of it. The Glasses of Disbelief Suspension came off. I started thinking about the characters and not one in 10 could be described by more than a couple words (appearance notwithstanding.)

All this pent up frustration with the tedium of the protagonist’s whining, waiting for some bit of neat magic description all just blew off over a span of about 25 seconds.

I feel like I’ve been freed from detention with Professor Umbridge.

2/4/2017: ER Diagram hell

I do a lot of database design work. It’s not HARD database design work. I’m just involved in a whole lot of projects, both in and out of the office, that require me to write a bunch of DDL.

For all the explosion of open source development tools lately, I am absolutely SHOCKED that there aren’t reasonable tools available for taking either DDL or going to a database directly and reverse-engineering a normal database diagram. It’s amazing to me.

Sure, you can get yEd, Dia, or any other diagramming tool and do it yourself. But a hand-drawn ER diagram strikes me as being much the same as software documentation: Lies. They’re written once out of a management directive to have a pretty picture/piece of paper. Then they’re filed away someplace and the underlying structures and or code begins IMMEDIATELY to diverge from the documentation, making the documentation worse than no documentation.

I’ve been playing around with Graphviz/dot for an awfully long time now and finally decided that it was time for me to write something that would generate dot graph source from more or less normal looking ddl. Sadly the code is in python instead of something sensible like perl (which was literally born for this kind of task.) But we don’t use perl in the office and they’ll get all kinds of pissy if it starts showing up in the source control system.

About an hour ago I finally got to the point where it would draw pictures of tables with column layouts and associations between tables. It’s not using real referential integrity DDL to generate the connections though. I’ve just given it a syntax that will allow me to put “table1.column1 -> table2.column2” notation in SQL comments that it will pick up. This way I can take the DDL file and run it directly into the database AND generate a diagram at the same time.

I’m not sure how I’m going to reconcile it to the (currently completely nonexistent) build/release system we don’t yet have. But I’ll find a way.

The biggest issue with that, I think, is going to be managing the transactional DDL. (i.e. alter table statements.) I may just bail on that entirely.

So I’m going to show a couple people this “cool new toy” at the office tomorrow.

They’ll nod and say “neat”. A couple of them will ask if I can put the source up into our tools directory.

What I’m NOT going to tell them is that I’m taking THIS code, and modifying it from here so that it generates a fully-featured suite of ORM model classes.


You’re not a real programmer unless you’re lazy enough to write code that’ll write your code for you.

Wait ’til they find out all the ETL is generated source.


(hmm…maybe I should generate the code for the python-based generator using a perl script. Now THAT might just be able to keep me interested.)

2/2/2017: Nudus regis

I’ve been getting the creeping sensation that I should probably learn Javascript. The proliferation of frameworks and toys alone has to indicate something about either how easy it is to work with, or how much people are doing with it, if not both.

I’ve got a couple (dozen, who am I kidding) web development books and they hit all of what seem to be the major ones: Node, angular, jquery, react, yadda yadda, something about bisque.

But when I really try to nail down how to DO something specific, I end up on a wild goosechase of plugins to frameworks to platforms. It’s almost as though nobody really DOES anything other than prepare and write libraries.

I get these flashbacks to the 90s when we tried to write code generators to do all the work for us, only realizing, after a tremendous amount of pain and suffering, that we couldn’t cheat our way out of doing the work needed to create software. We built class libraries and ORM layers and all KINDS of crap, even down to the 3gl tools like PowerBuilder, SqlWindows, and such.

But no matter how we tried, we could never write:

    virtual void main() = 0;

(Apologies to the non C++ people reading, so…everybody pretty much.)

I don’t care how fancy your tools are. You can’t avoid doing the work. And again and again I’m faced with these attempts, sometimes elaborate, most of the time half assed, to escape reality with another plug in. And yes, maybe I’m COMPLETELY wrong and off base. But if so, the responsibility is on the tool maker to market their product. Don’t just dump it in a fucking github repository with reference documentation, start a mailing list, and expect me to give a shit.

Yeah, so I’ll learn enough Javascript to be dangerous. I’ll dabble in JQuery, since it seems to be ubiquitous, and I’ll probably try some Node.js stuff, since it seems like the One True Server-Side Javascript technology. But the rest of this crap can go hang.

Is your framework du jour worth me learning? Prove it.

I’ve got too much actual work to do.

2/1/2017: Ad Nauseum

A funny thing is starting to happen, that I noticed in a soft way a couple days ago, but was finally brought into stark focus with that last post (which I hit ‘publish’ on about 3 minutes ago.)

I’m getting pretty windy.

A month ago it was a real struggle to get a few hundred words of blathering blurt out of me on anything. But now I’m finding that as soon as I open this little text box, even intending to just put down 300-500 words (which is my nominal low-end for a post.)

Even though I’m doing the weekend catch up game for the most part, I’m getting a fair bit better at removing the barrier between brain and keys.

AS such, I don’t mind that this one is teeny at all.

It’s nice to see progress, even if it is along so dubious a dimension as word count.

1/30/2017: Used books

When I was a wee lad of 20ish I used to haunt a used book store called Pyramid Books in Peekskill (“pee, dubba e, ess kye, ell” as Christa used to say. More about her and Pete someday maybe. Probably not though.) It had all the trimmings; the old book smell (you know…rot), the hot little girl working the front counter, isles of too close too tall shelves of too many books, creaky hardwood floor. It was awesome.

I used to come out of there with armloads of stuff I’d never read (not that I knew that then), but just used to have for the love of them.

There were a few used book stores around when I moved back down to Brooklyn, but most of them were pretty threadbare, so I didn’t go in more than a couple few times. Sure, there would occasionally be a new batch of engineering books from some donation or something, and I’d pick through them pretty thoroughly. But for the most part it was just crap.

But last year, when I moved down here to Nashville, I kept hearing tell of this used book metropolis, McKay’s. I went once soon after I moved in to the apartment (I spent the first couple months down here in a hotel, as I didn’t have a job) and came out with my eyes just glazed over, carrying as much as I possibly could, drooling.

But between the “52 books this year” challenge (which looks like it’s going to prove to be an absolute cakewalk) and the glaringly empty second bookshelf from last weekend (really? last weekend? Wasn’t that a month ago?) I’ve been….feeling the itch.

Finally this weekend I decided it was time to go. So I hitched up the horse and buggy, plugged the address into the gps, and was lead 40 miles in the exact opposite direction.

Because that’s what you get when you try to find an address on “Old Hickory” in central Tennessee. There are eleventyhundred of them, so any numeric address on “Old Hickory Blvd” is going to exist in triplicate within an hour of wherever you are, which fucking annoys me to no end. The inability of people down here to give discrete directions is actually pretty impressive. “Turn left down by where the old church used to be.”

Eyerolling aside, I didn’t mind SO much since I was listening to the final confrontation chapters of The Graveyard Book, which are fucking riveting, especially with the full cast recording of the audio book.

Pulling into the church parking lot that definitely was NOT McKay’s, I sighed and keyed “McKay’s” into the gps, instead of the address because fuck you too garmin and it plotted out what seemed like a more sensible course, which I took.

Pulling in to the parking lot there was still far too much going on in The Graveyard Book for me to get out, so I ended up sitting there, truck running, for about 45 minutes before I found a good breaking point.

I got all excited heading in to McKay’s. It was about as busy as I expected and the size of the place, for a used bookstore, is always overwhelming. It’s about as big as a normal 2-floor Barnes & Noble. I made my way around electronics (they have a lot of stereo equipment, used gaming consoles, and instruments, rather reminding me of a pawn shop more than anything) tried to look at used video games (I still don’t have anything for my xbox 360 except Saints Row 1 and 2.) But that was mobbed by wheelchair bound weebs and rude kids so I headed over to the computer section.

Nothing. It was all just garbage. Dummies books, “how to use an iPhone 2 for seniors” garbage and the like. I looked at the traffic and realized there was absolutely no chance I’d find anything of that broad interest. Over to finance and economics…nothing. Just…nothing.

Alright. Fantasy pulp. HERE were the books. SO many out of print trade paperbacks. Forgotten Realms stuff (which I just adore), a whole vertical shelf of Dragonlance books (I’d been wanting to reread a bunch of those.) All with split bindings, having been read by some kind of fucking savage. The prices were…well…60 to 80% of cover price. I kept picking up books, looking at their condition and price, then making an “uch” noise before putting them down.

The ‘oversized F/SF’ section had the compilations and first-runs. I found “Ready Player One” which people can’t seem to shut the fuck up about. Cover price was $3 less than their asking price, and I just got angry.

Back up to audio books, movies, another run through used video games….nothing.

Fuck this.

I left, got in the truck, and headed down to Brentwood, to barnes & noble. I don’t mind paying full price. I was just hoping for some finds. But the condition of the trade paperbacks was horrid and just sent me off.

The Graveyard Book finished while I was on my way there, and there was an afterward by Gaiman about where he got the idea for the book, the process, etc. He mentioned conspiratorially that Liza Hempstock (the witch if you’ve read it, and…the witch if you hadn’t either I suppose) was indeed related to the Hempstocks in “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane”, which made that decision for me.

I walked in to barnes & noble…mad.

Not just mad, righteous.

I should never EVER be armed with purchasing tools when I’m feeling righteous (or, frankly, many other times at all.) I went tearing through the fantasy section. First Dragonlance trilogy? Yep. Ready Player One? Grab THAT along with “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane”, a boxed set of Brian Sanderson’s “Mistborn” trilogy, which people on various subreddits will NOT STFU about, so fuck THEM. Then I ‘picked up’ (which I’ve realized is my personal euphemism for “bought but am at least moderately ashamed of the expendature” a couple short story compilations of “Urban Fantasy”, some of which sadly include the dresden files guy, whose writing I can’t stand. A certain level of pulp I positively love, but his protagonist should be named Markeysue von Hackneytrope.

So I kept walking around, growing stack in my arms, ponytail bouncing behind me, grumbling to myself as I was unable to find something I wanted in to programming section (srsly, I’ve cleaned them the fuck out.)

Finally realized I couldn’t actually hold any more books (I’d dropped the Sanderson boxed set a few times) so I made my way to check out and saw the Make Magazine issue about making Raspberry Pi bots. Yep. I need THAT. And a cute girl said “I can take you down here.” … What? I can’t help it. Every time a girl says that I raise an eyebrow. Oh fuck you. Judge me at your own peril.

Anyway we chatted a bit about Gaiman and stuff, complete with some conspicuous giggling and I left to go buy food for eat.

They look good, sitting there. I’m not sure which I’ll pick up first. Probably Ready Player One, if for no other reason than to get people off my ass about it.

1/29/2017: Something something last Sunday.

Yeah, see this isn’t a good sign.

I was haunting reddit yesterday, particularly doing some deep diving into /r/fountainpens. I knew…I knew it was a mistake, somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind.

Sorting the posts by ‘top’ and going through them, I saw what looked like one of those insipid ‘unboxing’ posts (people seriously, never do that.) But in fact the poor guy had unwrapped the first layer of his long awaited package to see the bubble wrap drenched in black ink.

Immediately people started chiming in about Goulet’s customer service (I’d never heard of ‘Goulet’ before) and indeed, one of the responses was from a ‘/u/mrsgoulet’ saying they’d get right on it, followed by a bunch of hurrahs and “See? THAT’S customer service.” And assorted accolades.

So…between that and a mention of a twsbi eco or twsbi 580al, I did a search and ended up at Goulet Pens. I may have actually gasped out loud. I certainly turned to look at my wallet, sitting on the desk, and gave it a reassuring pat before apologizing to it for what was almost certainly about to happen.

As expected, I spent the better part of an hour paging through ink descriptions, sampler packs, and pen listings before deciding that yes, it was indeed finally time that I graduated from fountain pen cartridgenoobdom to full refillable ink fountain pens.

It was almost certainly preordained at the moment I started buying fountain pens at all. The first few were these disposable pilot ‘vpen’s. They’re…meh. Then came the LAMY Safari pens. I ADORE the feel of them, but even the extra-fine nibbed ones throw SO much ink on to the page that it’s tough to manage.

I finally came across the Pilot Metro, which is a great balance of weight and page feel, so I’ve been using those and a cheaper pilot ‘ergo’ pen with a thin black plastic body. It’s pretty fragile (he says, having broken one) but I’m not sure I’ve ever written with a finer nib, which I love.

But all of these are $25 and under. Most are under $15.

I didn’t really think much about how much I was enjoying them. It all still felt like a bit of a novelty. But then I picked up one of my trusty old rollerballs, that I’d been SWEARING by for probably 20 years and my lip curled up as I made an ‘uch’ noise, trying to write with it.

So now I was a fountain pen guy. I didn’t think I was quite that pretentious. But meh, fuck it.

My eyes focused back in on the comparison chart between the twsbi eco, the 580, and the 580al, and it was clear that the al was the way to go…along with some inks….and some ink samplers….and a glass pen (you know, a dip pen so I could test the ink samplers without having to fill and empty a cartridge converter or *gasp* my new pen.

It’s really just down hill for me. I don’t have what the guys on /r/fountainpens call a Grail Pen and, God willing, I never will. But… I will.

Bad enough that I’ve got 14 kinds of ink on their way.

1/28/2017: 4-day lag, continued

In software development, this is what we call a “day for day slip.”

BUT at least I’m caught up with dates on posts and things that actually happen ON those dates (for now at least. I’ve no fucking idea what happened on Sunday.)

But on SATURDAY (after all of the near masturbatory book shelving) I took my first stab at some very VERY basic leatherwork.

Now, part of my book fetishism is a love of journals, notebooks, and organizational systems of damn near every type. The problem is that I can’t actually USE every type of organizational system and notebook out there, which I don’t mind telling you, seriously marshes my fucking mellow.

But I’ve settled, tentatively on the Midori Traveler style of notebook as something I carry around. There’s their “normal” size, which is pretty big, and fits wonderfully inside an inside denim jacket pocket, then there’s what they call a passport size, which isn’t, but can be (hypothetically) kept in a back pocket (though not quite a shirt pocket.)

A midori traveler notebook at its most simplistic, is really a leather cover with an elastic band down the center. You buy the inserts (you get a couple when you buy it) open it half way, and slide it in to the elastic. I think you get a couple additional elastic bands that let you just add inserts, up to about 3 or 4 tops, before the thing’s just not big enough to handle it.

It’s lovely. My primary one has 3 inserts in it:

  1. General dated notes and horseshit (including overheard conversations, recipes, etc.)
  2. A planner insert. Mostly just a running-todo list, but I used to do the whole “Bullet Journal” thing (look it up, it’s neat.) But it just doesn’t really work for me. I can’t be arsed to keep it up. I’m more interested in Mark Forster’s organization stuff now. More on that some other time I’m sure.
  3. Lists. I’m learning to love lists. Lists of programming projects, a separate list of NON programming projects, book lists. I’m actually surprised how much I love having one just for lists of shit.

One of the neat things about the “multiple inserts for multiple purposes” thing is that I can fill them up and switch them out at different rates, which really appeals to a particular insecurity I’ve got about misusing space in notebooks. It’s…a whole thing.

But the sizes of these things are terribly frustrating. No reasonably priced notebook will fit in them. You’ve pretty much got to buy theirs. Not the fieldnotes, not the small moleskines. I mean, you can make your own with a nice paper cutter, some xacto knives and such. But then you get in to this whole craptastic fight with what kind of paper makes for a good insert. Lined? Are you going to print them yourself? What kind of ink? Gonna do the double-sided thing yourself? Are the lines gonna line up? Aaaannnd don’t even get me started about the fun of cutting them to size and trimming them down so the edges are even.

I made a few. It’s just not worth it. No. It’s a huge pain in the ass.

But I’m sick of paying the premiums for the midori inserts and, as nice as the paper is, it’s not THAT nice. I want to be able to walk in to Barnes & Noble and grab some of those small moleskine 3 pack notebooks. Yeah, those are pricey too. But not THAT bad.

So I went to Hobby Lobby and got a few 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of veg tan leather and some other stuff I thought I might need. I’d bought a “basic kit of intro leatherworking stuff” off of, wait for it….amazon.

I watched a bunch of “home made midori traveler” videos, or…well… the first 3 minutes of a lot of them. If I have to hear the phrase “ohmygod, it’s supercute” one more time I MIGHT actually go on a damn killing spree.

There wasn’t really so much to it in the end. I bundled a few notebooks together and used them to come up with a measurement (which I screwed up in the end) cut the leather pretty cleanly, punched holes for the elastic closure and binding, and folded it over and weighed it down.

I thought about beveling the edges, then burnishing them down. But, when I practiced with some scraps I realized I just didn’t have anywhere near the dexterity or control required for an even result, so I decided to create the first one as the simplest thing that could possibly work using a few little Field Notes notebooks for sizing (which are almost exactly the same size as the little moleskine ones.)

The only real error I made was that I wanted to make the thing wider, so that I could fit 4 or 5 inserts, instead of just 3 in there. Other than that it’s just fine. I really don’t think there was enough to possibly screw up, which was sort of the point for the first attempt. I’m working on the technology of getting some pictures up. But don’t really want to host rich media here directly, owing to bandwidth and storage limitations.

I think my next little leather project will probably be something with stitching, maybe a simple little wallet, I’m not sure. The idea of tooling leather seems neat to me. But it may also be one of those things I start in to and find it’s FAR more of a pain in the ass than I’m willing to undertake.

That’ll do for me for now. I’m going to spend a bit working on getting those pics up.

1/27/2017: (Something clever in latin about books)

I love books. I’ve always loved books. I love books more even than I love reading books, evidenced by the relative speeds with which I read them and buy them.

Finally, 14 months after I moved in to this apartment I found (with the help of reddit) a furniture store and went on a little Saturday morning trip (yeah I know this says 1/27. Go back a couple weeks to see why. And forget entirely the fact that I’m writing, if not posting this on a Tuesday night.)

In Brooklyn and I suppose NYC at large, there’s a furniture store chain “Gothic Cabinet Craft” that sells plain unfinished (presumably at your option, but that was always mine) furniture. I would be able to walk in to GCC and say “okay I want these bookshelves, but 5 inches shorter, with no crown, and 4 inches wider. Make me 4 of them and deliver them.” It was awesome. Of course all of that had to stay in New York (actually on my porch. Someday I’ll print THAT whole store, but it ain’t gonna be soon.)

So I wandered up to Conference Drive in…Madison? I think? to a big ol’ showroom full of “rustic” (read: painted and ‘artificially distressed’ *hurl*) furniture. I was approached, of course, by a commissionariat that I used the force on so I could peruse the selection unmolested.

In the back left corner (one might say “quadrant” as this place was hucking fuge) was acreage of that telltale blond pine wood. They had all kinds of cubicle shelving, cabinets. All kinds of nonsense in plain pine. Finally I spotted a few things.

I quested back across the land of desk, through the mires of eatery and over the barrows of bedroom to The Station, where I heard my Party Representative talking “Yeah I have the woman and that guy with the” I rounded the corner to see her gesturing at the back of hear head and I said “long hair? Or hoodie?”

She was aGHAST as I chuckled, never quite recovering.

“Yeah, could you help me with a couple bookshelves? Turn around times and such?” We started making our way through the headboards of Bedding Barrow.
“Finished, or…”
“Nope, plain pine.” She deflated more. I guessed where they probably made their margins.
“We’ve got some pieces in stock.” She added unenthusiastically.
“Well, cash and carry trumps first choice selection.” I couldn’t believe I might actually get out of there with shelves.

I pointed to a couple modular cube things 4×2 cubes of 16×16. “So…these are the…”
“ooh, I can get these made in…”
“eh, forget it. What do you…”
“It would only take 4 to 5 weeks…”
“Meh. What do you have in stock?” She led me over to a wall of varying sizes of shelves. I thought a second.

“Okay, 2 72x24s if you’ve got ’em. 60s will work if you don’t.”
“I’ll check to see if we’ve got a second 72.” And she disappeared “into the back” for a few minutes.

So yes, we journeyed back to fill out the paperwork and exchange cash and I realized…
“I have to walk down to harbor freight for straps.”
“We’ll bring ’em up.”

So…all that happened (he said, tired of writing.)

I strapped the shelving units to the top of the truck bed and drove (reasonably for a change) home and set one up.

Just one.

Because then I looked around my apartment and saw all the piles of books.

In so many corners, little stacks, big stacks, stacks by topic, by rarity (yes really) and I started collecting them, crisscrossing the apartment, carrying piles of them.

One at a time the shelves started to fill. An adjustment here…no that goes there. Wait, didn’t I have the second one of those over….AH! Yes. Hey, I forgot I had one of these…..and THREE of those!?! HA! I suppose I could keep the fiction…well…fantasy at least, over…yeah and trading down..well, up. Back and forth for hours, exhaling twice for every inhale. All the while making excited plans about reading this one first, no THIS one. And I definitely want to work through THAT. I’ve ALways wanted to learn THAT.

I stood there, smiling at my little shelf of mostly unread books that it was the most me thing in the whole place.

Books are home.

1/26/2017: And now a break from your regularly scheduled “I don’t know wtf to write about”

A couple of my favorite contemporary comedians (Warning: Not. Safe. For. Anything.):

I can’t get over the brilliance of Hannibal Buress’ matter of fact delivery. You could pick any clip of his:

The modern master, Patrice O’Neal. It’s a completely different style of comedy. There’s some absolute genius in here:

1/25/2017: Too many damn projects

I think I’m finally getting to the breaking point with the number of ongoing pursuits and projects I’m trying to juggle at once (he says, suddenly remembering that he actually planned on adding juggling.)

Between the mead (et al), the programming projects both for work and myself, trading, writing, cooking, reading, baking, leatherwork (more on that later) and well, call it what it is, gaming, I’ve gotten myself to the point where I’ll literally stand in the little junction between my bedroom, livingroom, bathroom, and kitchen and say “uhm” for five minutes when I get a block of time to myself.

In my 47 and change years I’ve gotten very good at pulling my own puppet strings (even better than I am at pulling other peoples’, which I’ll…NOT address later.)

So the game I play with myself goes something like this: “I’m really shitty at using time intentionally. I let hours just fly by and snap to attention every once in a while, amazed at what the clock says. I’m not REALLY involved in TOO much. I just need to manage my life better, then I’ll be able to fit everything I want to do in to a single .”

The problem with that is that it’s got the virtue of being ALmost true. It’s got that “just out of reach” feel that makes it indistinguishable from complete and utter nonsense.

So, off again to reread Mark Forster’s Autofocus stuff which I think, of all approaches to project/time management holds the best chance of continued commitment for my particular combination of tweaks.

1/24/2017: Edwin Lefevre

So yeah, I’ve been doing this 52 book challenge thing and I can be justly accused of picking books for size. I actually posted a question about the legitimacy of doing so on reddit, why I have no idea. I’ll occasionally need to ask the universe questions I full well know the answer to. I guess it helps to keep track of the number of things I’m juggling in my head to hear “duh” a couple few times.

I came to the conclusion that picking books for size, so that I’ll finish them is just fine as long as they’re books I’d read otherwise. No heading to the Barnes & Noble kids section to get the Percy Jackson or Captain Underpants series to blast through in an evening or anything. But if it’s already on my shelf? All clear.

One of the things I’m working on is spinning up the engines of market familiarity again, dumping as much as I reasonably can in my head, to get me ready for trading again. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to pull those levers.

At the end of the year I read “Hedge Fund Market Wizards” which was absolutely awesome. The “market wizards” books (I think there are 3 or 4) are primarily distilled interview content from Jack Schwager’s interviews with famous traders. It was one of the most enlightening books on the market I’ve ever read. The variety of approaches, personalities, and styles really left me with both the idea that there was simply no excuse for me not to be trading and the abject terror of trying to figure out what “my style of trading” really is. It’s one thing to pick one of a few available approaches and read up on how to do that well. But there are far fewer borders and boxes than I thought, leaving me with Tabula Rasa Terror.

But one thing most traders seem to universally recommend, both in the book and elsewhere, is “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” by Edwin Lefvre, which was written almost a hundred years ago (I think the publication date was 1923) and chronicles the rags to riches to rags to riches to rags to riches journey of a man fighting with the market. Well, I finished it this morning. It certainly held up its end of the deal. Aside from some anachronistic vernacular, and a strange difference in professional culture, I was surprised (though almost certainly shouldn’t have been) at how precise he captured the general principles and pitfalls of trading (because we’re not really talking about ‘investing’ here) more than 100 years ago, and how very little it’s changed, at least in that dimension; and in that regard it was edifying to find the same emotional demons I’d faced (and, lost) occurring in someone so far out of time and experience.

Unfortunately the solutions all seem to fall in to the “Doctor doctor, it hurts when I do this….don’t do that” variety. But it’d be a lot to ask of a book from 1923 I suppose.

I’ll go back through it with a notebook and a highlighter as there’s no doubt I missed a lot of great stuff on the first read through.

Now I’ve got a bookshelf (new, more on that later) full of trading books that are starting to quiver as I get near them. Can’t wait 🙂

1/23/2017: The 52 book challenge

There is no end to the number of internet soandso challenges. There’s….ya know what, it’s not worth it.

I always mourn the fact that I’m a voracious reader who doesn’t read nearly as much as I’d like. It’s just too easy to get sucked in to other things. The lure of the internet, primarily, is just too great for my ADDitude. But I came across the /r/52book subreddit a few weeks ago and thought to myself, I thought… “Self? There’s really no excuse.”

So off I go. 52 books by the end of the year.

There are going to be some dupes. There are going to be some rereads. And, I may actually pick some smaller books just to play catch-up on the numbers.

I’m not committing to reviewing each one. Shit…I’m not PLANNING to review them. But this post will be the list, assuming I can remember to keep coming back to update it. I’m sure I’ll be in touch along the way regardless.

  1. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed these. I blew through them all so fast the first time I read them, that I missed more than I remembered. It’s kind of startling to me how much COLOR there is in everything.
  2. “The Procrastination Puzzle” Nice little book on procrastination, what it is, and techniques for dealing with it. Full marks.
  3. “Magic of Thieves” by C. Greenwood. Meh. Skip it.
  4. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
  5. “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”
  6. “Manalive” by G.K.Chesterton. This book is my favorite thing ever created by a human.
  7. “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman.
  8. “How To Live On 24 Hours A Day” by Arnold Bennett
  9. “Three Hearts and Three Lions” by Poul Anderson
  10. “Buy Signals Sell Signals” by Steve & Holly Burns. A tiny little book, but so information dense it took me a week to digest.
  11. “The Ultimate Mind Map Book” by Tony Buzan. Meh. 98.5% fluff around a really great idea. Skip it
  12. “Dungeon Born: The Divine Dungeon” Book One by Dakota Krout. Read this if you like fantasy. It’s got all the hallmarks of a freshman effort. But it’s a smile.
  13. “Create or Hate” by Dan Norris. Just…don’t. It’s “fine.” The way I described it on Reddit is: Take Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”, change the word “resistance” to “hate” (presumably because it rhymes with create) then water it WAY down and cut out most of the smart stuff.
  14. “168 Hours” by Laura Vanderkam. This isn’t bad. It boils down to “You’re not as busy as you think you are, and when you’re honest about that you can probably have closer to ‘it all’ than you thought possible.” Good thesis, practical ideas. Light.
  15. “We Are Legion (We Are Bob)”. Imagine you hit the dot-com jackpot and your company is bought for a couple billion. You go to a peculiar insurance company that says they’ll freeze your head when you die, then fix you up a new body when medical science is up to snuff. You wake up…but you’re not in a body…not really. Then it starts to get weird.
  16. “Practical Demonkeeping” by Christopher Moore. I love this every time I read it. It’s a goofy little modern fantasy with heart. As a freshman effort it’s truly impressive.
  17. “How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. This was a lovely little book. I don’t want to salt the dig too much. It’s a little self-helpy and a lot autobiographical. There’s some nice casual “hey man, get over yourself. This is no big deal.” energy to it.
  18. “The Club of Queer Trades” by G.K.Chesterton. Look, I love Chesterton. He’s responsible for my favorite thing ever created by a human (scroll up.) I’ve read Queer Trades before and quite enjoyed it. But the second (or maybe fourth) time through, once you’ve figured out his literary devices and way of talking, it starts getting pretty pale (Manalive suffers no such deficiency.) There are an awful lot of books that are collected small pieces, presumably from his column writing career. And they just leave me a bit cold. If you haven’t read it, read it. You can bang out one of these short stories in no time and laugh your ass off doing it. But it doesn’t rank among his more interesting work.
  19. “Out of the Silent Planet” by C.S. Lewis. It’s good. But not good enough for me to read the rest of the trilogy.
  20. “Trading Beyond The Matrix” by Van K. Tharp. More about this elsewhere.
  21. “The Defendant” by G.K. Chesterton. It’s got some bright points. But definitely not one of my favorites. A lot of his stuff (12 Types, Tremendous Trifles, The Defendant, The Club of Queer Trades, etc) seem to just be anthologies of essays or tiny stories on a theme that appeared in serial. As such the individual pieces tend to be pretty hit and miss.
  22. “Pudd’nhead Wilson” by Mark Twain. I hadn’t read it in 30 years. I’d apparently forgotten entirely what it was about. Enjoyed it, but the patois was pretty jarring.
  23. “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore. I adore Moore. This is the 2nd in his “Pine Cove” series. He writes dog pretty convincingly :).
  24. “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G.K.Chesterton. This was my introduction to Chesterton back in the day. If you haven’t read it, I HIGHLY recommend it. Note that the full title is “The Man Who Was Thursday, A Nightmare”.
  25. “The Hero With 1000 Faces” by Joseph Campbell. I should’ve read this 30 years ago. Not that I’d have had the faintest fucking idea what it meant. But still. An excellent, if…somewhat dry, book.
  26. “Fluke” by Christopher Moore. I’m not sure I’d read this more than once. Just adorable.
  27. “For We Are Many” by Dennis Taylor. This is the 2nd of the Bobverse books. It’s fucking phenomenal. 3rd book comes out on 8/7 I think. I’m counting down days.
  28. “The Science of Personal Achievement” by Napoleon Hill. It’s audio, but it counts. The content is 10/10. But listening to the man speak makes me want to drive into oncoming traffic. Stop YELLING for fuck’s sake.
  29. “Coyote Blue” by Christopher Moore. I picked up some references to other books I’d previously missed on this read through. Coyote Blue’s a fun one. It slips between the cracks of his Pine Cove stuff and the San Francisco books. But…I suppose Fluke does as well, technically. I just think Fluke is strong enough in comparison that it doesn’t fall between anything. I might start the San Francisco series next, not sure.
  30. “Bloodsucking Fiends” by…you guessed it, Christopher Moore. So lovely 🙂
  31. “You Suck” follow up to Bloodsucking Fiends. I’d forgotten how much I loved this. Bloodsucking Fiends is arguably the better book. But Abby Normal absolutely steals the fucking show. It’s just… yeah. If you’re not already reading them then nothing I can say is going to push you closer to the edge.
  32. “Bite Me” the 3rd book in the San Francisco trilogy.
  33. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. You should just read this. It’s not huge. The audio version is also great as he reads it himself.
  34. “Dungeon Madness” This is the follow-up to “Dungeon Born” by Dakota Krout. It’s a dungeon crawler fantasy series where the protagonist is the Dungeon itself. It brings to mind the Bobverse books which…as I scroll up I see I haven’t put here. That’s interesting. Anyway it’s got that air of “a great concept, well ridden” that I love so much about Bobverse (which, by the time you read this, will be repopulated above.) But it really left me fiending for the 3rd book.
  35. “Spellmonger” This is the first in what I’d hope was only a trilogy if I planned on reading the rest of them. It’s a perfectly reasonable bit of fantasy pulp for people who don’t read much. I’m going to skip the rest of them.
  36. “All These Worlds”, the 3rd book in the Bobiverse series. It’s lovely. Personally I think the first was the strongest. But the author really delivers on Bob. My fear is that he milks it drier and drier over another 3 or 9 book until there’s nothing left but mediocre wordcraft. He tied up the things that needed to be tied up and left open some fascinating possibilities.
  37. “Forex For Beginners” by Anna Coulling. It’s taken me… Jesus I don’t KNOW how long to get around to finishing this book. Given the dozens of books I’ve read on trading, it definitely ranks in the top 10 if not top 5 for wide and deep introductory material to currency trading. You can read that book and immediately open an account and start trading. It’s not all you need to know. But it’s all you need to know to get started and not shoot yourself in the foot. I disagree with some of her contentions but so what.
  38. “How To Quit Your Job With Passive Income” by Dustin Heiner. I figured I’d give this a shot. It’s not a bad little write-up of using affiliate sites and the like as a passive income stream. It certainly is thorough enough that you could read it and start right from there. A quick read, I’m glad I went through it because it put to bed any curiosity I’ve had about engaging in that kind of nonsense.
  39. “Options Trading Quickstart Guide” by ClydeBank Media (weird. No author name.) This is a surprisingly good little brain blast of options information and strategies. You definitely could NOT read this then head to your local broker with a check and start writing covered calls. But it’s a solid supplement to other beginner level texts. Yeah, it’s got the basics in there (from all the way down at “What’s a Put?”.) But it also has a lot more information about options strategies. Well… a little information about each of a lot of strategies. Definitely worth reading.
  40. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” by James Meyers. Meh. I didn’t realize this was little more than a pamphlet sized book. That’s the danger of buying books on the Kindle. Unless you remember to check the page count, you could end up with something…well…like this. It’s not bad. But it’s definitely not interesting enough to recommend.
  41. “Enchiridion” by Epictetus. Translated by Thomas W. Higginson. I only mention the name of the translator because of the incredibly shitty job he did on what is supposed to be a seminal work in Stoicism. Or maybe it’s stereo instructions…or perhaps an attempt to mimic the recipe for kreplachs into Mandarin, then translated into Latin and then English. Tough to tell because of how fucking shitty a job this guy did. Reading between the lines (which is pretty much the only way to get anything OUT of this) it’s actually got some interesting principles. I hadn’t thought of Stoicism as being quite so much of a “oh suck it up, we all have our place in the universe, make the best of it because it’s not in your power to change it” philosophy. I mean…3/4 that, sure. But it really makes it seem like petulant shelter from an oppressive sociopolitical structure.
  42. “Good To Great” by Jim Collins. This was really good. It’s an interesting study on what companies did that brought them from mediocrity (or worse) to well-defined and sustained (his criteria was 15+ years) greatness. I was surprised by some of their conclusions. But it definitely scans. Well recommended if you’re a part of an organization of any type. (The research is not applicable merely to corporations.)
  43. “On Basilisk Station” The first of the Honor Harrington books. I’d forgotten entirely how much I loved these.
  44. “MT4 High Probability Forex Trading Method” by Jim Brown (different Jim Brown.) It’s a solid little trading strategy book. Not for beginners. You’ve got to have a reasonable understanding of the currency exchanges or at least equity price action trading. Not because it’s particularly advanced so much as because of the background information.
  45. “Honor Of The Queen”: (Honor Harrington, Book 2.) I know I know. But still. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed these. I’ve got the audio versions now and listening to them is quite a treat.
  46. “Trading Forex with Divergence on MT4/MT5” by Jim Brown. Another interesting little trading system book. It’s going to be interesting to backtest this and see how it performs. I’m not sure I’ll trade it. But it’s another facet.
  47. “The Short Victorious War”. Honor Harrington 3. Lovely. I got most of the way through it before sitting at home and staring at the computer for the last 3 hours of the book. Listening to fiction audiobooks is a whole different ballgame from nonfiction. The performance weighs so much more heavily into the experience than I would’ve expected. Generally I get a lot more out of it. But sometimes I wish it was more natural for me to pause and picture what’s going on, especially with massive scale space battles. But I’ve got 8 more of these.
  48. “The Appetite of Tyranny including letters to an old Garibaldian” by G.K.Chesterton. I’d been chipping away at this for about a month. It’s a real Chestertonian slog. It’s remarkably enlightening about the attitudes of Germany a bit past the turn of the last century. Unfortunately I don’t know quite what years he wrote the pieces included in here. But it is absolutely predictive of the underlying issues that brought about the second world war and, with some background information in The Frankfurt School, what’s going on in the modern world as well. Just haunting.
  49. “Field of Dishonor” Honor Harrington #4. Some of it is a little tough to get through. But it’s solid. I’ve spent some significant amount of time just sitting at my computer listening to these in 3-4 hour chunks.
  50. “The Warrior Ethos” by Steven Pressfield. Solid little book on warrior culture, mostly with reference to Sparta, though he ties it back to modernity.
  51. “All These Shiny Worlds” a sci-fi/fantasy short story anthology. It was okay. I remember there being a couple bright spots. But I can’t for the life of me recall what they were, so they couldn’t have been THAT bright.
  52. “American Gods” Neil Gaiman. Full cast recording of the author’s preferred text. I’d read this when it came out and had loved it. The audio book is exceptional. It’s been long enough since I read the first edition that I wasn’t quite sure what I’d forgotten, what had been added, and what I was only noticing because I’ve listened to instead of read it. It’s interesting how that happens. I’m going to take a break now, because this counts 52 books this year, on the witching hour of 12/2.

Not sure what I’m going to get to next. There are a few books I’m reading in parallel. I want to get back on the stick with sharpening my programming and trading chops, so I might go for some of that instead of more fantasy fiction. We’ll see.

1/19/2017: maters

“Alexa, 25 minute timer.”
“Five minute timer, starting now.” Ugh
“Alexa cancel timer.”
“Five minute timer cancelled.”
“Alexa, 25 minute timer.”
“There are currently no timers.” Son of a…
*turn around, stare right at the damn thing, enunciating like I’m on stage, or…well…drinking*
“Alexa, twenty five minute timer.”
“25 minute timer, starting now.” FINALLY.

I keep forgetting how well it all works, and thus my ADD brain just spins off in to the stratosphere, looking for fake internet points on imgur or reddit, or sniping at leftists on twitter. Suddenly hours will go by.

One of the best methods I’ve ever encountered for keeping me on task is “The Pomodoro Method“…technique, whatever.

First of all, it’s only named “pomodoro” because the guy who started it used a tomato shaped kitchen timer.

The idea is simple as can be. Pick a task, something a little beefy. “Laundry” or…uhm… “post about The Pomodoro Technique” for instance (hypomathetically, of course) and start a timer for 25 minutes. Once you start, do nothing but work on that until the timer goes off. If you finish, great. But if you don’t, then “pencils down, step away.” Seriously, stop.

Take five minutes for (ahem) bio breaks, to get up and walk around. Then take the next task, start a 25 minute timer, and go again. Repeat for ‘some number’ of iterations before taking a half hour break. (I forget what he says the optimum number is.)

You can get arbitrarily crazy with this by doing things like planning your tomato slots for the day or …well… there’s not really all that much to it. So I’m not sure how much “crazier” you can make this.

But I can do anything for 25 minutes. An hour? That starts stretching out a bit. My mind will definitely start wandering by that time and my effectiveness will drop precipitously.

One thing I like to do (when I can be arsed to do this, which frankly is NOT frequently enough) is to take a couple few big tasks and to rotate through them. Yeah, the net productivity almost certainly drops when context switching back and forth through tasks. But on the whole, I’m able to “keep things interesting and therefore productive” for a greater number of tasks and it nets out in my favor.

One thing I love about it is that working on a task, even if it’s not to completion, for the whole time span IS a positively reinforcing accomplishment on its own. If find this invaluable if my project is a deathmarch of some kind (which most of them generally are) like “clean the livingroom.”

Cleaning the livingroom for 25 minutes is easy. Cleaning the livingroom to perfection is nigh impossible. I can’t see the end of the task, so my “what’s the use” circuit engages and I go back to playing stupid fucking computer games (which, aside from some light Fallout Shelter, I haven’t done in many weeks. This is NOT to say that I’ve been using the time WISEly, by any means. But…eh, I digress.)

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if it’s worth buying the book. I’m pretty sure I did that when it came out and skimmed through it really quickly. But I don’t recall enough to remember. And, since just about my entire library was lost in the move (well “lost” in that I deprived myself of it, not that it “went missing”. I know exactly where the hell it all went.)

There are treatments of the technique all over ye olde internet. But there’s really not much more to it than that. There are apps for your mobile device. There are websites and applications that will let you push a button and it will count down ’til the end.

If you have trouble getting things done, I highly recommend it.

“Alexa how much time left.”
“You have one timer with about 10 minutes left.”

Not bad. This would absolutely have taken me an hour of dithering if I hadn’t set a timer. almost 700 words in 15 minutes? If I could write fiction at that speed I’d be in great shape. *looks down* well…you know what I mean.

1/18/2017: (not) Live blogging

Well, see what I’d planned on doing was live-blogging the process of working through the GameMaker initial “my first game” tutorial, since the software itself was giving me such a hilarious amount of trouble. But trying to do one and write about it at the same time was just having the net effect of trying to mesh mismatched gears. I just ended up staring at the screen for a half hour.

It could just be that the tutorial itself is wonky. But that starts sounding suspiciously like “I don’t get it, therefore it’s stupid.” There are some weird inconsistencies. The file open dialog in one section of the IDE is custom-built. In another section it’s using the windows standard file open control.

Add to that the joy that it downloads the tutorial/sample stuff to the AppData/local directory, which is invisible from the custom file dialog, so I can’t navigate to it to grab the sprites and other game collateral.

That may very well be the extent of the weirdness, and it may all work out just fine once I get that stuff set up (i.e. once I move the downloaded stuff someplace sensible.)

But for a tool people rave about so damn glowingly, this is sure a metric fuckton of headache.

Lord knows there are other toolkits and such out there. But I’ll take a couple demos/tutorials to completion first before I close in on a final assessment.

I do want to finally get going on writing my first game though. I mean, I’ve been programming for nigh on 40 years and have never made one.

1/16/2017: Style, or the lack thereof

Blasting out that many catch-up posts in a day got my head in to what there is of my writing style….

and how disjointed and utterly directionless it is. Currently I’m just “stream of conscious”ing all this out there, which is fine. I mean, I’m not writing the great American novel here. but it took this couple/few weeks to be able to see the patterns start emerging again of what happens when I put words to paper with some regularity. It’s the kind of thing you (read: I) forget every time.

The stages are interesting and the re-emerge with the sine wave every time:

1. Getting words out there: This is when I’m just typing, much like this post (as I don’t have a particular topic in mind.) It’s lazy in all but the most basic “type stuff” sense.

2. Re-reading what I write and flinching: Sometimes I just never leave this stage. It’s when I can finally be arsed to look back at my work and start making judgments about it. This is far more rare than it ought to be.

3. Compulsion to edit: And I do mean compulsion. Once I start tweaking things for structure, moving paragraphs around and reading for …well…not quite ‘meter’ per se. But ‘flow’, I suppose. The 9/11 post is a perfect example of that. I reread it every once in a while and am more or less happy with most of it (though I did lose a bunch of edits, so the version that’s currently here is a bit back-leveled) I still want to gut it, add in a metric crapton of detail that never made it in, and generally add a pound of salt to a quart of soup. This, near as I can tell, never goes away.

4. Writing things I’m happy with: I…I’ve heard this happens to people. There are a couple little vignettes I can read and nod along with, seeing a tweakable moment here and there, but more inclined to leave well enough alone. I’ll have to see if I can dig some up and post them here. I’m pretty sure I’ve got something horribly close to everything I’ve ever written (no really, it’s a bit gross.) But having it and actually wading through it all are two entirely different prospects.

So I suppose the next thing for me to do is to start drafting out topic ideas, filling them in, and building them up while I’m posting along merrily. I’m not sure how it’s going to work. But, meh. Only one way to find out I suppose.