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Five Things: April 29, 2016

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Five For 4/29

Okay, I really am doing this for a second week in a row, even though it’s a bit late.

The week in me:

The web payments book is continuing slowly. Currently, I’m writing about how to set up administrative users, which I’m convinced that most people are penny-wise and pound-foolish about. (“It’s the admin users, we can train them”, yeah, I’ve said it too).

I also did a medium post about agile, communication, and the like, which doesn’t seem to have gotten out there much, but you should probably read it anyway.

I also somehow got people to say some nice things about Rails 4 Test Prescriptions on Twitter. You should read that too.

Thing One: A book!

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen. Every year, it seems, there’s one book I read that stands out for the sheer audacity and weirdness of its premise. I usually call that my “if you only read one” book, as in “if you only read one book about anthropomorphic sentient elephants who can talk to the dead and are part of a space empire of other anthropomorphic species, make it Barsk.

You probably are either all-in or totally out based on that description. (We do eventually learn how all the talking animals came to be, if that helps. Or hurts). The elephants, who have been exiled to a single planet, are the sole creators of the drug that lets some people speak to the dead. The rest of the alliance has basically had enough and are willing to go to great lengths to recover the drug. In addition to being totally bonkers, the book is really clever, the characters are memorable, and the ending lands. So pretty much everything I look for in a book.

Thing Two: Hamilstuff

You are just going to have to deal with a lot of Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda stuff, sorry. In addition to writing a song about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis for John Oliver’s show, he also performed what I guess you’d call a mash up of Hamilton and Sweeney Todd for a charity event this week. It’s the tune of the opening to Hamilton to the story of the opening to Sweeney Todd. If you are me, which none of you are, that’s just about the greatest thing ever.

Thing Three: Old Developers

A couple of interesting blog posts this week on different sides of the age spectrum. Adrian Kosmaczewski posted a transcript of a talk about being a developer after 40, a topic that has been of keen interest to me for about five years. Adrian and I started our professional careers about a year apart (I started later). Anyway, I agree with most of this (though I don’t hate open spaces as virulently…)

Thing Four: Young Developers

On the other side, Ryan Bigg on hiring juniors, a topic that’s also been of keen interest to me for some time. I agree with pretty much all of this, too.

Thing Five: SF Is For Everybody

The founding editor of one of my favorite sites, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 is stepping down to work on her fiction full time. (Consider this a recommendation of her last novel, All The Birds In The Sky). She ended her time by recounting the founding principles of io9, including science fiction belongs to everyone. Please read.

Five Things From: The Week of April 22, 2016

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Let's try something new this week. At least new for me. If, by new, you mean, "haven't done it in few years".

Five Things From, listened to, or encountered that I want to pass along. The "five" is more of a guideline than a rule.

We'll see how long this keeps up:

First, A Word From Our Sponsor

That's me, I'm the sponsor. This week's Medium post is a comparison between my first RailsConf in 2008 and this years' through the simple expedient of making you guess which talk titles come from which year. (Spoiler: I deliberately chose ambiguous ones).

As you probably don't know, I'm working on a new book for Pragmatic. Title's not set yet, but it's about handling payments on the web and all the variously logistics and aggravations that entails. The initial draft is 50% done, which means it goes for technical review. I'm hoping it will go into beta toward the end of the summer.

Onto the things:

Thing One: A Book!

Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire. The setup for this book is, frankly, brilliant. It takes place at a boarding school populated by children who have had portal fantasy adventures (think Narnia) and have been rejected by the other world and are trying to cope. There are a lot of discussions of belonging and being an outsider. It's a heartbreakingly beautiful premise in a heartbreakingly beautiful book. There's a plot, yeah, but the characters and tone are everything here.

Thing Two: Another Book!

The Edge of Worlds, by Martha Wells, which is, I think the fourth novel in the Raksura/Three Worlds series. Wells is one of the best at describing a particular kind of weird world, with unusual species (the main characters are all shape-shifting lizard-people who live in a colony that is somewhat bee-like). She delights in creating bizarre and uncanny parts of the world for them to explore, and in creating interesting characters to stay with. You should read this. Well, you should probably start at the beginning, but eventually, you should read this.

Thing Three: Big Ben!

The NPR Podcast How To Do Everything had a brief chat with the person in charge of maintaining the clocks of the UK Parliament, including Big Ben, and now I know exactly how much you can adjust the speed of the clock by adding a single penny to the weight of the pendulum.

Thing Four: Hamilton!

If you are me, one of the interesting things about the musical Hamilton aside from how amazing the music and lyrics are (I’ve become a big fan, okay?) is that it presents Hamilton as kind of the progressive hero of the Revolution. If you are about my age, and took a Revolutionary War class in college from, say, Pulitzer Prize winner David Hackett Fischer, then that idea seems, weird? This article from Vox explains a bit about how interpretation of the Revolution, and especially Hamilton and Jefferson, has changed over time.

Thing Five: Tech Things!

If you liked my video about floating point numbers you might be amused by this quick bit about rounding and Apple’s environmental initiatives by John Graham-Cumming

This medium article by Tom Whitwell about media pricing was interesting. The big recent flap for me was TextExpander moving to a very expensive subscription model, though I think they are grandfathering in existing users with enough of a discount that I’ll be able to justify continuing use. Pricing is hard. Ask me about ebook pricing someday. Then run.