Books I Read in 2017

So I got tired of waiting around for Donald Trump to post his reading list of 2017 and decided to preempt him and post mine. I have a feeling his was just the outside of Happy Meals and gum wrappers anyways. Plus, this is the only post I make these days so I want to make sure and get it out of the way early in the year.

My goal was to read 52 books this year but probably spent too much time riding my bike. Maybe I'll do better next year.

Anyhow, highlights from this year were American War. Not sure if it was a documentary or a sci-fi novel.

And The Nix was a really funny surreal satire on modern life. I enjoyed it a whole bunch.

If you want to be absolutely terrified, feel free to dive into The Sixth Extinction.

  • The Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual: The Universal Guide to Bikes, Riding, and Everything for Beginner and Seasoned Cyclists by Eben Weiss (4 stars)
  • Home (Binti, #2) by Nnedi Okorafor (4 stars)
  • The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton (3 stars)
  • Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro by Phil Gaimon (4 stars)
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4) by Stephen King (4 stars)
  • Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream by Phil Gaimon (5 stars)
  • American War by Omar El Akkad (5 stars)
  • Dark Tower: Wastelands by Stephen King (0 stars)
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (5 stars)
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, #2) by Stephen King (4 stars)
  • The Nix by Nathan Hill (5 stars)
  • Loving Day by Mat Johnson (4 stars)
  • Angels Flight (Harry Bosch, #6) by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1) by Stephen King (4 stars)
  • A Darkness More Than Night (Harry Bosch, #7; Terry McCaleb, #2; Harry Bosch Universe, #9) by Michael Connelly (3 stars)
  • Trunk Music (Harry Bosch, #5; Harry Bosch Universe, #6) by Michael Connelly (3 stars)
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (4 stars)
  • Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy (5 stars)
  • Benediction by Kent Haruf (4 stars)
  • Eventide by Kent Haruf (4 stars)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (5 stars)
  • Hollywood by Charles Bukowski (4 stars)
  • Plainsong (Plainsong, #1) by Kent Haruf (4 stars)
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (4 stars)
  • Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga (4 stars)
  • Crosstalk by Connie Willis (4 stars)
  • The Last Coyote (Harry Bosch, #4; Harry Bosch Universe, #4) by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
  • Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (4 stars)
  • The Concrete Blonde (Harry Bosch, #3; Harry Bosch Universe, #3) by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
  • The Black Ice (Harry Bosch, #2; Harry Bosch Universe, #2) by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
  • A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder by Michael Pollan (3 stars)
  • The Last Good Heist: The Inside Story of The Biggest Single Payday in the Criminal History of the Northeast by Tim White (3 stars)
  • The Black Echo (Harry Bosch, #1; Harry Bosch Universe, #1) by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
  • Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2) by Ann Leckie (3 stars)
  • The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (3 stars)
  • Apex (Nexus, #3) by Ramez Naam (3 stars)
  • Crux (Nexus, #2) by Ramez Naam (4 stars)
  • Nexus (Nexus, #1) by Ramez Naam (4 stars)
  • Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2 stars)
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (4 stars)
  • Getting Started with Raspberry Pi by Matt Richardson (4 stars)
  • The North Water by Ian McGuire (4 stars)
  • The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (4 stars)

If you are curious, I use a python script to generate the list of books. (You'll need your Goodreads key in order to use it.) Then I just paste it into GNU Emacs.

You can see the other years here. I've managed to do this for 8 years running. Hooray for narcissistic me!

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Books I Read in 2016

Ah nuts. It's been a whole year without a single post here. Anyways, at least you get one post a year from me. That's more than some blogs I suppose.

Only 21 books this year! That's a grave offense. I must do better this year. Go 2017!

By far, the most terrifying (and timely) was "In the Garden of Beasts." Imagine watching the rise of Hitler, screaming about it and no one does anything. Imagine. It was much scarier than the Sarah Pinborough books.

Colson Whitehead's book was amazing. Heartbreaking and powerful all in one tiny book. Go read it now. I'll wait here until you get back.

And I cannot recommend reading "Weapons of Math Destruction" after watching "Black Mirror." That will drive you towards a life of digital minimalism where you'll be handing pieces of paper to people to securely deliver messages.

Without further ado, the books I read in 2016. See you next year (unless "Black Mirror" sets you off):

If you are curious, I use a python script to generate the list of books. (You'll need your Goodreads key in order to use it.) Then I just paste it into GNU Emacs.

You can see the other years here. I've managed to do this for 7 years running. Hooray for narcissistic me!

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Books I Read in 2015

Here it is! The annual post you have all been clamoring for.

In review, Kindred was a great book. Hot damn! Go read it now! And the book that's a huge interview with DFW was amazing. That reminds me, I need to see that movie.

Looking over it, I can see I spent a lot time reading books about productivity and work. There are a few books on here from the same topic that I didn't even finish. I guess 2015 was all about business time.

Also, no idea why I read Drop City followed immediately by Open City. City time? Drop City was good by the way.

So, here's the complete list:

If you are curious, I use a python script to generate the list of books. (You'll need your Goodreads key in order to use it.) Then I just paste it into GNU Emacs.

You can see the other years here. I've managed to do this for 5 years running. Hooray for narcissistic me!

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Org Exporting and Emailing

I use org-mode. I use Emacs. I send email using Emacs.

Thus, I really liked John Kitchin's post about sending email with org. It was almost perfect (to me). The only thing it didn't do was format the content before exporting. It just sent it out as plain org.

Thanks to his hard work, I just had to add a few bits to come up with this. Now I can get the cool line blocks around my code and execute the org-babel blocks in my headings before they get sent out. This is very helpful when sending out snippets of code and random command line effluvia.

(defun email-heading-after-export (backend &optional plist)
  "Send the current org-mode heading as the body of an email, after converting
it to the given backend.
  (setq *email-heading-point* (set-marker (make-marker) (point)))
    (let ((TO (org-entry-get (point) "TO" t))
          (SUBJECT (nth 4 (org-heading-components)))
          (continue nil)
      (switch-function nil)
      (yank-action nil)
      (send-actions '((email-send-action . nil)))
      (return-action '(email-heading-return))
          (plist `(:with-toc nil ,@plist)))
      ;; we do not  want the mark to interfere with export
      (message (format "%s" plist))
      (org-export-to-buffer backend "*org-to-email*" nil t nil t plist
      (switch-to-buffer "*org-to-email*")
      (let ((content (buffer-substring (point-min) (point-max))))
        (compose-mail TO SUBJECT nil continue switch-function yank-action
                      send-actions return-action)
        (insert content)
        (if TO

Now, I can email a heading as ASCII

(defun email-heading-as-ascii ()
  (email-heading-after-export 'ascii))

Or UTF-8:

(defun email-heading-as-utf8 ()
  (message "wtf")
  (email-heading-after-export 'ascii '(:ascii-charset utf-8)))

Even Markdown:

(defun email-heading-as-markdown ()
  (email-heading-after-export 'md))

You could even send email as HTML but there's no way I'm giving out the tips on how to do that.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the above. And thanks to John Kitchin! This code uses the same License.

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I made a toolbox

A Carpenter's toolbox

So, I finally got around to making the toolbox from the 1940's from St. Roy Underhill. Aside from making it a bit shorter (so it would fit in our storage), not making the base of the tray out tomato cans and using metal corner bumpers, I followed his directions to the letter. It was a fun project that I made entirely out of hand tools. No electrons were harmed in making this toolbox.

I opted to use poplar that I picked up at the local big box store because all the pine was knotty and crappy looking . All the hardware used on it, I got from Lee Valley. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the way it came out. And I got some nice compliements at Off the Saw last week.

Full toolbox

Learned a ton from this so that's good. For example, using a Stanley #78 Rabbet plane is not as easy as it looks. I kept going cockeyed with it. Also, resawing a 3/4" piece of poplar that is 30" long is not something you can do unless you have an afternoon free. Note to self: make a new friend who owns a bandsaw.

A corollary to this is that sharp tools are very important. The resawing probably would have gone quicker if my rip saw was sharp. And I gouged the side with my dull block plane.

Finally, I learned I really need to make a shooting board. All the cuts where I didn't use my Langdon mitre box, turned out all squirrelly.

But when all is said and done, now I have a nice little toolbox to carry my tools around the house.

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Books I Read in 2014

OK, here is the only blog post I seem to do these days: the books I read in the past year. I still haven't 100% automated this. Maybe next year.

The count was a tad lower this year, than yearspast. I spent a lot more time drawing in my sketchbooks this year than I did reading. I managed to do a sketch a day all the way up until October but then lost steam.

It's also late because I tried to finish Europe Central by William T. Vollman before the year ended. But my Kindle says I still had about 10 hours left last night so that didn't happen. Maybe it'll the first post in my next books I read post.

So, here's the list:

I ended up reading parts of the Harry Potter series to my kid (the wife and I alternate reading to him), so I just decided to re-read the whole damned series again this year to get the full package. Good thing too, because it turns out I forgot lots of things when I speed read it the first time through all those yeaers ago. I'm betting that the page count for this year is close to previous years because of those damned door stops masquerading as books.

Highlights of this year were And the Mountains Echoed and MaddAddam. I enjoyed The Circle while I was reading it but a week or so after I had finished, I realized it just left too many things unanswered. Not too sure about recommending that one. But you can't really go wrong with anything by Hosseini or Atwood methinks.

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Yet another blogging engine

Since David Lynch can revive Twin Peaks, I figure I can relaunch this dormant blog. I've redone this site and ditched the old Jekyll static site generator and decided to try out a different generator named Pelican that's written in Python.

I never bothered to learn Ruby so when I ran into trouble with Jekyll, getting it fixed was painful (to me). To Ruby programmers, probably not so much. Since I'm a Python programmer, hopefully I wont' have as much trouble when things go off the rails. Har har...rails...ruby...get it?

Frankly, porting it over was kind of a pain in the arse. I had to jump through a whole bunch of hoops with custom scripts and Pandoc (which is a pretty incredible piece of software) but that's all for a different post.

Welcome to the new site. Sorry if I spammed your feed reader with all my new article ids. Hope you still love me!

And I want some of that damn good pie.

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Books I Read in 2013

It's that time of the year again where I finally stop blowing off blogging and write something. I should really whip up a script to do this since it's using the Goodreads API. Then I'd never touch my blogging software again!

So, withtout futher ado, in reverse chronological order, the 29 books I read in 2013:

Books I enjoyed this year were Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (you could say that 2013 was the Year of Connie Willis for me...she's great!), Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon and The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.

Oh, and Beloved. Jeez that book was crazy good. I might read it again in 2014.

If you really want to stay abreast of what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads. Otherwise, see you next year!

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Books I Read in 2012

Oy vey. So, it seems like I only post here once a year and it's only to list books that I read. Well, at least I'm consistent right?

I kind of went undead crazy this year what with reading the two Justin Cronin books as well as Colson Whitehead's foray into post-apocalyptic zombie prose.

Favorites from this year include (in no particular order) Et Tu, Babe, Empire Falls, The Tiger's Wife and Perdido Street Station. The Art of Fielding was really entertaining too though the ending was very strange.

Full disclosure: Most of the book links on this page are Amazon affiliate links so I get to pay off my bookie that much quicker if you buy something.

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Using Pandas to stalk your neighbors

I picked up the book Python for Data Analysis as I've been seeing it mentioned in quite a few places. And so far, it's great. A very good high level overview of using Pandas. No, not the cute kind of pandas. I'm talking about the Python library for data analysis. Derp.

Anyhow, I decided to dive in and see what I could find out about my neighbors. Chapter 9 of the book goes into analyzing the 2012 Federal Election Commission Database so I loaded it up:

>>> import pandas as pd
>>> fec = pd.read_csv('P00000001-ALL.csv')

Looking into the data, there is some garbage rows. I grabbed all the Culver City zip codes (well, the zip codes I care about) at least:

>>> zips = fec.contbr_zip.unique()
>>> mask = np.array([str(x).startswith('90232') for x in zips])
>>> fec[fec.contbr_zip.isin(zips[mask])].contbr_city.value_counts()

I don't know if these come from bad data from the contributor or from the FEC so I'm just going to include everything based on zip code.

>>> culver = fec[fec.contbr_zip.isin(zips[mask])]
>>> culver.contb_receipt_amt.sum()

Fifty-eight grand! Nice going Culver City!

Now let's see who got the money:

>>> culver.pivot_table('contb_receipt_amt', rows='cand_nm', aggfunc=sum)
Huntsman, Jon                      4500
Obama, Barack                     50381
Paul, Ron                           500
Roemer, Charles E. 'Buddy' III      110
Romney, Mitt                       2850

That's kind of interesting...Huntsman got more money from the 90232 than Romney.

Now, let's check out the occupations that contributed the most:

>>> culver.pivot_table('contb_receipt_amt', rows='contbr_occupation',
... aggfunc=sum).order(ascending=False).head(10)
RETIRED                               7272.0
ACCOUNT MANAGER                       5000.0
PROFESSOR                             2800.5
PRESIDENT & C.E.O.                    2500.0
GALLERY OWNER                         2500.0
BOOKKEEPER                            2500.0
HOMEMAKER                             1971.0
INTERIOR DESIGNER                     1500.0
WRITER                                1410.0

Retirees going large. That's kind of interesting. Let's look at that.

>>> culver[culver.contbr_occupation == 'RETIRED'].pivot_table(
... 'contb_receipt_amt', rows='cand_nm', aggfunc=sum)
Obama, Barack                     7162
Roemer, Charles E. 'Buddy' III      10
Romney, Mitt                       100

Maybe I misunderstand our local retirees (at least the ones I've met) but this was surprising to me. I really expected Romney to come out on top.

I think that's enough peeking into my neighbors contributions habits for one night. I have to say Pandas makes this sort of thing really easy. I've only scratched the surface here. There's lots more that one can do (mathematically speaking) with Panads. Python for Data Analysis gives you a really good introduction to Pandas and then the webiste fills in the gaps.

Python for Data Analysis and Panads get two thumbs up from me. Thanks to O'Reilly and Wes McKinney.

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