Migraines, and Other Mellifluous Melodies
I spent most of this weekend incapacitated by one of the worst migraines of my life. Curiously, it wasn’t preceded by an aura—a short-lived visual impairment that, in my case, usually occurs as blurring at the center of my vision (which, annoyingly, prevents me from reading for an hour or so) and is telltale sign of coming migraines. But it did feel like I had a knife sawing back and forth through my right eye—curiously, according to Wikipedia, most migraines are strictly on one side or the other—for a bit more than 24 full hours—it usually lasts no more than two or three hours, or about the length of a long nap—and it’s still a bit sore even now. Anyway, that’s my excuse if the content this week is a bit iffy 🙂
The art this week is from Sherry’s Inktober challenges—go follow her on Instagram!
What I’m Watching
Sherry and I finished Evangelion, or at least got through the TV ending (End of Evangelion will probably have to wait for last weekend). I still love the ending, but that’s probably because it completely throws out the text and focuses on the subtext about depression instead, which is certainly an… interesting move, but at least in this case really works in my very humble opinion.
We’ve been playing Ugly Delicious in the background and it’s just lovely. David Chang, celebrity chef of Momofuku, comes across as being a bit of a bro-y asshole, but also a very relatable bro-y asshole? He strikes me as being that guy in your friend group that kinda gets on your nerves but is just too fun to go out without. And this results in some fascinating interactions—the most interesting parts of the show are arguably the little moments in conversation that the camera lingers on, like when he awkwardly asks a Domino’s deliveryman that he’s tagging along with if Domino’s has the best pizza, or when he visits a friend’s place for dinner and they start talking about having a family while being a celebrity chef. I’m not sure that I’d want to watch it too actively, but as background to lean over and watch for a minute or two before going back to cooking it’s 👍
We also watched the first episode of the new season of Netflix’s Abstract, featuring Olafur Eliasson, who I vaguely knew for bringing icebergs to the middle of London. I’m vaguely skeptical of a lot of contemporary art—I don’t much care for Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons—but the interesting dichotomy I found here was that Eliasson’s work is powerfully affecting even while Eliasson himself… doesn’t make a lot of sense? In most of the interview segments he spouts vague platitudes about how the world is changeable as soon as you realize it is or whatever. Ironically, he also spends a lot of time talking about how his art is really cocreated by the audience, and most don’t have a set “meaning” but encourage various interpretations, so I almost wish the show had stuck to “just the facts” and let the works speak for themselves—which they really do!
What I’m Reading
I’m about a third of the way through Number One Chinese Restaurant and it’s just completely failed to hook me. I think I’ll really struggle to finish it, especially after Sherry finished it and declared it “decidedly mediocre”—I might just return it to the library. The writing style just isn’t very engaging, and most of the characters are decidedly unsympathetic; not necessarily a problem, of course, but in this case it just totally kills any motivation I had to keep going.
I’m still making my way through Days of Rage and From the Maccabees to the Mishnah.
For some reason I went back and finished Zero to One. It’s… real not great. Peter Thiel strikes me as the kind of person that’s contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, with Zero to One supporting propositions like “maybe monopoly is actually good?” and “maybe the Unabomber was actually right?” Well, I say “supporting”, but the book is so short (being adapted from a series of lectures) that most of the propositions are merely proposed and not actually argued. There’s definitely some interesting thought in there, and when Thiel sticks to what he knows (funding and founding startups) the advice is on firmer footing. But I also felt like I had wasted two and a half hours of my time to get golden nuggets of wisdom like… “if you’re starting a startup, picking your cofounder is really important”. Which, sure. If you are interested in reading it, I would recommend Slate Star Codex’s review instead, which I don’t remember actually reading, but which is almost definitely than both this review and the actual book combined.
What I’m Listening To
I tried the new Bon Iver album i,i and didn’t care for it (that’s really a theme for the past two weeks, huh?). I also didn’t really like 22, A Million either—I appreciate that Justin Vernon and co are trying new things, and I feel like I should like the albums (the comparison to Kid A, my favourite album of all time, is quite apt, after all), but they just haven’t clicked. I might revisit them in a few months—I hated Weezer’s Pinkerton the first time I heard it, but a year or so later I had to admit it’s just as good as the critics say. It’s also possible that I associate Bon Iver too much with For Emma, Forever Ago, which is one of my favourite albums (I have a lot of favourite albums) so maybe I’ll never truly appreciate the later stuff. Oh well.
Following a random YouTube link, I ended up spending a big chunk of the week listening to the late-60s British folk rock band Pentangle. They’re nice, in that late-60s folk rock band way.
I just found out that Cui Jian and Dou Wei are (newly?) on Apple Music, so I guess I’ll be spending the next week listening exclusively to early 90s Chinese alt rock 🙃
What I’m Learning
I’ve been working through Beautiful Racket by Matthew Butterick. It’s a pretty decent introduction to Racket and, in particular, building domain-specific languages (DSLs) with it. I do think the book is pitched at a silently strange level, though—I feel like it would be largely incomprehensible to anybody not already fairly well-versed in Racket (or at least functional programming) and programming language development already, but it’s sometimes worded and organized as if targeted at complete newbies. Also, Butterick comes across as a, er, strong personality, and the book is pretty openly Racket propaganda. And the lack of exercises makes me slightly sad (but, I mean, I also can’t complain). Still, I wanted to learn Racket, and this is arguably the best place to start.
I’ve also been following along with Paul Hudson’s 100 Days of SwiftUI. Although not really aimed at professional iOS developers (but, really, am I a professional iOS developer?), it’s still been a nice course so far—I see why his earlier 100 Days of Swift is considered a de facto standard.