After my oncall piece last week, I went oncall. And of course, proceeded to have the most page-heavy, interrupt-driven, chaotic oncall week I’ve had in recent memory. So it goes. If I can distill any things I learned from it, that piece will be in your inbox soon. And: I’ve promised you performance reviews, I’m going to give you performance reviews.
But for now, my brain’s OOO. Let’s talk holidays!
A Holiday Edition?! From a Tech Substack?!
Why not? We’ll start on-topic, and then gradually but surely lose the plot entirely.
Software engineering things you can spend your company’s education budget on
Chelsea Troy has preorders for her courses. She did this specifically so people could use education budgets before the end of the year. Chelsea’s an engineer, a writer, and she also teaches at UChicago. I cannot recommend her work or her teaching highly enough.
An annual subscription to by . If you’re not already reading it, that is. Kent wrote a book, over the course of two years of Substack posts, and it’s damn good (and he’s got two more up next). Start with the chapter on Cohesion, then start from the beginning and go in order.
Crafting Interpreters by Robert Nystrom is the most gorgeous book on my bookshelf, tech or otherwise. It’s wonderfully typeset, and it’s also extremely informative and a great book. This book is delicious, which is a really odd way to describe a book, but if you’ve seen this book you know what I mean.
Engineering Management for the Rest of Us by Sarah Drasner is up next on my tech reading shelf. Plus, it is also gorgeous, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews.
Techy, but not quite
These are things I really like that fall into either the “vaguely related to tech” category, or things that I think you might like if you’re into tech? I won’t explain myself further.
Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath. This book has had the largest impact on my career by far out of all the books I read this year. If you want to start seeing the world in systems, and then learn how to make those systems better, this is the book for you.
Anything from Button Shy Games, including the Patreon. Current favorites are Ugly Gryphon Inn, ROVE, and Food Chain Island. I discovered Button Shy late this year and I love everything about it. Card games that play like board games! Games that are solo-only or have a solo mode (important if you live in a household where nobody wants to play a board game as often as you do)! Convenient form factor, you can throw a bunch in a backpack! Board Game of the Month on Patreon, where you can get new games every month! Affordable price point ($12 a game) if you want to try a couple out!
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. “In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.” Aren’t we all trying to become immortal through our work? I’ve got this set aside to dig into tomorrow.
Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Weiner. I read it in 2020, and immediately read it all over again. If you’ve felt any of the following in relation to tech, this book is for you: ambition, accomplishment, ambivalence, trepidation, aspiration, disillusionment, hope, distrust. This book will stay with you for a while.
Other things on Substack!
by . She’s an exceptional writer, and always, always makes me think. I tried to round up a couple of my favorites here for you, and I couldn’t. She is a treasure. She talks about structures of power, and wealth, and celebrity culture, and office culture, and the return to work, and so much more. She was my first paid Substack subscription, and I will read her work until either I die or she stops writing.
by . It’s an exploration of home, but it’s also an exploration of everything outside the home, and how it bleeds into the home. Meg wrote about the Twitter beds! She’ll smash your existing ideas of what is and goes into a home, and then she’ll help you rebuild the future in the image of what could be.
by . Cheryl’s writing is everything. It’s beautiful, and heart-wrenching, and perfect, and devastating. If you’re feeling complicated feelings about the holidays, you might find some comfort in her post The Beauty of What Is.
by . Dr. Lappas is a writer and ethnomusicologist, and she was one of my favorite professors at Berkeley, teaching an American history course through the lens of music. She’s now at Sacramento State University. I love her storytelling, and I always learn so much from her work.
Other things that I love for a variety of reasons
Beeswax everything, from Honeyrun Farms. I got given their unscented lotion bar as a gift and started using it as a lip balm, and I’ve never been happier. Since then, I’ve tried a bunch of scents (all great), gotten a balm that’s fixed my cracked heels, and some gorgeous soaps.
A puzzle subscription from Completing the Puzzle. Honestly, I’m just mad I didn’t think of it first. They send you a puzzle, you do the puzzle, you pack it up (they include the return packaging and the return label), you send it back, and they send you another one. If you love doing new puzzles but don’t have any more physical space to put them, this is for you. It’s genius.
A really nice hand cream. It’s cold, and dry, and there is nothing better than finding a nice luxurious-feeling thing to rub on your hands. Everyone’s preferences are different, and you don’t have to spend a ton of money. My personal faves are this one ($22) which sits on my nightstand, this one ($11) that sits on my desk, this one ($31) that’s fancy and makes a great white elephant gift, and a friend recommended this one ($58) that I’m going to try next.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. My dad recommended this book to me, and while I was expecting to enjoy it based on its front-page sentence (“Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” - Charles Stross), it blew me away. This book has something for everyone: the worldbuilding is unbelievable, it was so, so funny, and it was wholly original. I loved it so much!
A cookie press! We’ve had such a good time with this thing. If you want shaped cookies but don’t want to store a bunch of cookie cutters, this could be your solution.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. An astronaut wakes up on a spaceship, but he doesn’t know who he is, and he has to figure out how to save humanity. If you like books that start with a question, unspool themselves as you figure out what’s going on, and take you on a bunch of twists along the way, you’ll love it.
And that’s all she wrote. Over the next two weeks, I’m taking a vacation from full-time-job and spending time with my family. There will be books, board games, and lots of food. Maybe I’ll write a lot, maybe nothing at all. I’ll be back soon. And whatever holidays you and your family are celebrating, and however you’re celebrating them, I hope you have a relaxing and restorative time!
Things that have made me smile over the last week:
A Totally Normal Interview With Author Emily St. John Mandel (Slate), which is short and a ton of fun even if you don’t have a clue who Emily St. John Mandel is. Journalism! It’s a wonder.
Time Has No Meaning at the North Pole (Scientific American)
We went to see Beetlejuice, The Musical last week. It was so, so much fun.
Clue is coming to the San Francisco Playhouse! I have never seen it on a stage, but I adore the movie and I love the game.
And, this last one didn’t make me smile, but it sure did make me feel some other emotions:
I’m such a sucker for first person listicle type things, and this was a great version of that!