Larry Hosken: New

Book Report: The Beautiful Struggle

It's an autobiography of an African American nerd growing up in/around Baltimore around the time that I was growing up. This book has a lot of unexplained references. I understood some of the nerd references without having to look them up because I am a nerd of a certain age. But I missed plenty of them, too, because they weren't all totally easy. And figure that I missed 99% of the references which were meant for folks who grew up in the culture of Black Baltimore back then, son of an ex-Black Panther who passed down literature of the struggle… I read this mostly while riding buses and such; I pretty quickly gave up on looking up each thing I saw but didn't understand. Instead, I let the book wash over me. Thus, it was a fun read, but I didn't absorb much. I got some things out of it, some empathy. Like me, he grew up worried about bullies beating him up in school. Unlike me, his fellow nerds would pressure him into fighting so that bullies wouldn't get into the habit of picking on nerds. The way he explains it, you can see how that horrible dynamic played out.

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2017-07-22T18:41:34.602660

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even your mailbox

Matt Cleinman sent this out to some of the usual mailing lists:
Gather your team! Registration has just opened for the Hunt for Justice, an October solve-at-home puzzlehunt. Almost none of the puzzles are just paper—Teams will get a box full of clues to solve a quirky mystery with a whimsical van. And all money beyond expenses will be donated to the Innocence Project! An all-star crew of authors and designers are putting this on, including folks who have created/organized/written for Puzzled Pint, the game, NPR's Sunday Puzzle, the Berkeley Mystery Hunt, and many more events. Register today!
I'm one of the puzzle authors so be on your toes.

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2017-07-14T13:27:00.837959

Book Report: Kangaroo Too

Kangaroo Too is the yearlong-awaited sequel to Waypoint Kangaroo. There is science-fiction thrilldom; there is wise-cracking. There are folks figuring out how to act humanely amidst the paranoia of a military intelligence community after a war and some Philbyesque revelations… but that sounds serious, and really the wise-cracking is very good and should be sufficient to earn your enjoyment.

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2017-07-09T23:01:51.982979

Milestone: 32 Million Hits

Wow, it's the site's 32 millionth hit.(Well, sort of… remember a few months back I whined about how my then-web-hosting provider had messed up some things? I lost a few weeks' worth of logs then.) As usual, these "hits" aren't a measure of humans visiting pages; that count would be much lower. It's just requests to the website: every time a robot visits some page, the count goes up. If a human views a page that contains a dozen graphics, those graphics cause another dozen hits. So it's not as impressive as it sounds. But it's easy to measure so that's what I measure. We can take a look at the log:
45.33.89.177 - - [07/Jul/2017:08:26:47 +0000] "GET /new/atom.xml HTTP/1.1" 304 - "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_8_2; Feeder.co) AppleWebKit/537.31 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/37.0.2062.120 Safari/537.36"

IP address suggests this is coming from a server farm. The "Feeder.co" in the user agent got me to look at feeder.co, an app for reading "feeds", such as my blog's feed. Looking elsewhere in my logs, I think this is a bot that checks on my feed hourly for new material. Wow, can you imagine if I tried to blog hourly? Feeder.co is a feed reader app, which lets you choose several sites and shows you updates from those sites, like, for example, blog posts on this here blog. Feed readers are great. I use mine heavily. If you're not reading this in a feed reader, I'm kind of surprised that you're keeping up with me and with the things that interest you more than me and you're doing it all by hand somehow‽ Don't work so hard.

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2017-07-07T13:47:45.142783

Book Report: Scaling Teams

It's a book about managing and directing software developers. It's pretty good. It has a bag of tricks; it tells you which tricks are appropriate for which situations; it tells you symptoms of those situations so you know what you're dealing with.

I read a lot of management/business books for a non-manager. Did I ever tell you how that started? I was working at Geoworks, my first job out of school. For a while, a few of the more enthusiastic managers there started speaking weird jargon. They'd read a popular business book of the day, were trying to apply its lessons. That book was Thriving on Chaos, meant to help stodgy manufacturing companies adopt more adaptable processes. It didn't have so much advice that applied to our situation, but I'm still glad I read it. The next time someone told me my group should do something from the book, I could understand what they said and reply We already do that (but with the right Thriving jargon).

Dave Loftesness worked at Geoworks and got to see those eager-to-apply-techniques-willy-nilly managers running around. And then he went on to lead a bunch of folks there, including me. And then at a bunch of other places. Along the way, he figured out that a trick that works in one situation can backfire in another. When he co-wrote a book about managing/directing teams at a place going through growing pains, it's not just a one-size-fits-all set of to-dos. It's a set of things that can go wrong with directions on how to put them right.(Which can lead to other things going wrong, of course. You need more people, so you recruit people… and now those people step on each others' toes so you have to figure out how to organize them…) It's good stuff.

I kind of wish I hadn't got this book on Kindle; there are multi-column tables that didn't fit so well on my tiny Kindle screen.

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2017-07-03T21:45:06.680045

Curtis Chen has a new novel out and a new game-ish thingy to provide some backstory. Go visit www.kangaroo2.com to learn more about the novel Kangaroo Too. And then visit __.kangaroo2.com for the game-ish thingy. As with the previous Kangaroo novel, the puzzle to figure out the "__" is on the book cover.

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2017-06-26T00:52:13.394777

Book Report: It's Complicated

It's about teenagers using social networking sites… Speaking of social networks, I'm lahosken@mastodon.social on Mastodon. What? What was I talking about?

Right, the book It's Complicated. It's about teenagers using social networking sites. Parents are scared plenty of what might happen to their teenaged kids on social networks, scared by news reports. (New technologies keep coming along, but fear is always a great way to sell news content.) Teenagers want to spend more time on social networking sites since their scaredy-cat parents won't let them hang out anywhere besides home or school. (Well-meaning parents reading this book might think: I will fix this. I will let my kids hang out at the mall. Good for you, but the kids will still want to stick to social networking instead: none of their friends' parents will let them out of the house, so there's nobody to hang out with at the mall.) This book lets you know that modern teenagers have it pretty tough. There were things in this book that scared me. E.g., these "digital native" kids think that whatever they find via Google is true because Google is a good site. Google is a good site, but it's not good at finding the truth; it's good at finding pages that are relevant to the topic. If I search for "Luke Skywalker", the first result I find has a lot of information about Luke's story, no doubt lovingly gathered by fans… but if I didn't know Luke was a fictional character when I started reading, I might not figure it out from what's written there. And that's a topic where folks aren't lying on purpose.

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2017-06-16T13:35:52.439630

This morning I tried out the Metaverse augmented reality game, which might or might not still be in beta, depending on where I read about it. In this game, you wander around looking at a map on your phone. There, you might see things you can interact with. There weren't any of those near my apartment; but I hopped on a bus, rode around until I saw a Kanye West head show up on the map, and then hopped off the bus so I could play with the head.

To play, I needed to get kinda close to the Kanye head on the map and then tap it. Unfortunately, the game expects you to get pretty close to the head, and this was a "bouncy" neighborhood for phone location-finding. After some frustrating minutes walking up and down the same stretch of sidewalk, I eventually convinced my phone I was in the right place. When I clicked the map's Kanye West head, my phone switched to an augmented-reality-camera view where the giant head of K.West gave me a quest (get it?): to help feed his ki(tty). Kanye sent me off to find T.Swift, who had cat food.

Looking at the map again, there weren't any Taylor Swift heads in evidence. There was another Kanye head. As I walked closer to it, moving across the map, I spotted a Taylor Swift head. After taking a couple of minutes and then giving up on trying to convince my phone I was near the second Kanye, I made my way over to the Taylor Swift head. There, I got cat food.

I suspect that the eventual plan is for me to bring the cat food back to Kanye. In the game, my character has an Inventory, now with cat food. When I re-visited Kanye, he didn't realize I had cat food—he just re-asked me to go get some from T.Swift.

I liked that this game has a quest mechanic, one that has me walk around rather than stay in place fiddling with my phone. I didn't like that the game expected me to get so close to places of interest, closer than is easy in a "bouncy" area. And I suspect the game is still in beta; I suspect that's why my character still has that cat food. Anyhow, this game shows promise.

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2017-06-11T18:37:24.645745

Book Report: How to Ruin a Record Label and Punk USA

It's two books about Lookout! Records, the East Bay record label. Before I read these books, I had the broad outline. Lookout! Records had the excellent luck to publish the first Green Day music. And they also published a bunch of East Bay punk music just as East Bay punk was getting popular. They were a hardscrabble punk label, then money poured in. They tried to start doing things the "proper" way, lost everything, eventually stopped producing new music. Reading these books filled in some of the details. I found it interesting, but maybe because I was seeing some of these things happen, albeit from the outside. E.g., back in the day I wondered "Why is this band The Donnas getting promoted so much? They are not that good." Apparently, that's one abyss that Lookout! dumped plenty of money into. (I shouldn't make it sound like I disagree with all later-days Lookout! decisions. They made good albums by The Phantom Surfers. Making comedy surf albums wasn't exactly true to the label's punk roots, but I liked those albums. So: I can't throw stones at the Lookout! folks. No reason to think I could have kept their label afloat.)

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2017-06-02T13:21:49.121587

At work, we'll soon move to our new San Francisco office. But for now, we're in a co-working space in a mall. In the morning, I walk through the mall. It's not open for business so early, so it's nearly empty. But it's not quite empty and it's rather echo-y. So I walk through this cavernous space while listening to echoes of a far-off janitorial cart. It's unlike other places I worked and I wanted to make sure I remembered it before we move.

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2017-06-01T04:35:28.658689

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