The US Postal Service announced new for 2021. One title especially caught my eye: "Mystery Message." Wow, a stamp with a hidden message. Sounds like something right up my alley.

According to the USPS explainer page, this stamp's hidden message is MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE!, as spelled out in a designer-ish semi-readable font. But as any serious puzzler will tell you, that's kind of a shallow mystery. Surely there must be another in there, an extra-myster…

Report: Mazes for Programmers

This book is about randomly generating mazes by writing computer programs. Before reading this book, I'd tried randomly generating some mazes, but no had pleased me: too many little nubbly dead ends. This book showed an algorithm (well, a few algorithms) that didn't have so many dead ends. (The secret, obvious when you hear it but I swear not s…

Report: Humble Pi

This book talks about errors and the consequences that follow. There are errors of , software errors (dear to my heart), and plain old computation errors. Some of these get pretty interesting. E.g., until I read this book, I thought the designers of the Millennium Bridge must be pretty darned incompetent. When pedestrians walked across the newly-constructed Millennium Bridge, it started to shake itself apart. Engineers have kno…

Report: Attack Surface

This novel is a sequel to Homeland and Little Brother. It's OK. It leans pretty hard on your suspension of disbelief; a major plot point involves some programmers being good both at hacking security and some gnarly AI. And there's an attempt at a complex character in a pretty-darned-plot-driven book. And… anyhow, this book is OK.


Maybe people here will understand my pun better than people on Twitter did.

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My morning thoughts: Put Stacey Abrams in charge of the vaccine rollout. If anyone can organize that shit, she can.

My evening thoughts: Put Stacey Abrams in charge of the Department of Homeland Security. If anyone can put down this insurrection, she can.

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In several of my university courses, we were taught about "the electricity grid". Just some connecting lines on a schematic. I was amazed to see the real-life grid on generated using #openstreetmap data. You can trace power from back to the source, and see the stages of voltages being stepped down.

Report: Satyajeet Bhargav (A Truth Seeker)

This book of short stories was described as "Like Sherlock Holmes but in old-timey India." This was apt. There are mysterious crimes. There are unlikely observations. There are dramatic denouements. This was a quick fun read.

A coincidence reported in a cousin’s Christmas letter: My cousin is married to a firefighter; one of their sons is also a firefighter. During this year’s California wildfires, both father and son fought the same fire (though they live far apart; one in Far Northern California, and one in Hella Further Northern California). You might think this was an occasion for amazing father-son bonding, but it wasn’t so. Though they were fighting the same fire, th...

Report: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

This comic has been racking up awards lately, but it's good nevertheless. It's little autobiographic bits from a cartoonist, but it's funny nevertheless. As advertised, it gets into the loneliness of the awkward people. Our hero fumbles conversations; he only expresses his emotions when there's nobody around to talk back.

Just in case you weren't yet sure that Adri…

Report: The Wizerd! and the Potion of Dreams

This goofy comic takes place in a Dungeons-&-Dragons-style universe, but doesn't get too grim. E.g., the authoritarian ruler keeps all the townsfolk locked up (veering towards grim…) until they can behave (suddenly less grim). It's a fun read with fun art, just what I was in the mood for.

Report: Ninth Step Station, Season 2

I read the next part of this cyberpunk buddy-cop series. It was fun. I gave up on waiting for it to come out as an ebook. It's published as a serial; in theory, each "season" of the serial gets re-published as an ebook, but that hasn't happened lately.

Cops investigate crimes in an occupied Tokyo; criminals are still sloppy, but it can be tough to catch them when occupiers and resisters keep messing things up.

I figured some stuff out that I hope to remember the next time USA presidential primary season rolls around.* Leading up to the primaries, people argue about electability. Pundits use to hand-wave away idealists' objections to milquetoast candidates. I think there's something to the idea of electability. But it doesn't make me want to listen to pundits. It makes me want to listen to people from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Because I'm Californian, I'...

Report: The Dark Net

[Content warning: oh gee whiz, the book has just about all of them.]

This book is a survey of sketchy places on the internet… and it gets pretty darned sketchy.

Some of it is mostly harmless. The author orders drugs from a market of pseudonymous folks, exploring how to track reputation in an illegal market. He hangs out behind the scenes at a camgirl show.

And there's the potentially-helpful / but still sketchy areas. He talks to fo…

You might remember back in 2018, I volunteered at a polling place in a house's garage up in the hills. I'm remembering it because in today's news, Lisa Gautier and her excellent garage polling place are written up in an article about San Francisco house garage polling places ( ). The article mentions Gautier's snacks, which were indeed much appreciat...

in person today. This might surprise my fellow Californians—California's dodging the pandemic by voting by mail this month. I was sent a mail-in ballot to fill in and return. But this month, the postal service has been pretty unreliable getting stuff to me. Maybe that ballot will eventually show up in my mailbox, but I got tired of waiting. So I walked down to the park across the street from San Francisco's city hall and voted. Voting took place in well-ven...

A while back, you might recall, I tried using the Randonautica app. The app chooses a random walk destination nearby. i got frustrated with the app and uninstalled it: when I switched between apps on my phone to snap a photo or what-have-you, Randonautica "forgot" my destination. ...

Instead, I'll use RandoWalk. It's a web app. I tap a button to tell the app where I am; I tap another button to ask it to choose a walking destination. Easy-peas...

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