Posts tagged book

Beautiful Racket

programming, language-design, racket, lisp, scheme, DSL, book, textbook

The idea of a pro­gram­ming lan­guage that can be molded by its users—I like the phrase lan­guage exten­si­bil­ity—is almost as old as our old­est pro­gram­ming lan­guages, given the his­tory of macros in Lisp. So why isn’t every­one already using macros to extend lan­guages? Like garbage col­lec­tion, macros may seem like a cool idea in prin­ci­ple, but with too much over­head to be prac­ti­cal (but with the over­head in pro­gram under­stand­ing, instead of pro­gram exe­cu­tion). Like first-class func­tions, macros add an extra dimen­sion to code that may seem too mind-twist­ing for an aver­age pro­gram­mer. And like a type sys­tem, the the­ory behind hygienic macros may seem too daunt­ing to be worth the extra guar­an­tees that hygiene pro­vides. Maybe so. But Beau­ti­ful Racket makes the case that the time for lan­guage exten­si­bil­ity has come. That’s why this book is impor­tant. It’s not an abstract argu­ment about the ben­e­fits of macros or a par­tic­u­lar style of macros. Instead, this book shows you, step by step, how to use Racket’s macro sys­tem on real prob­lems and, as a result, get a feel for its ben­e­fits.


David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy

bureaucracy, book, book-review, David-Graeber

Bureaucracy is a utopian project: like all utopians, capitalist bureaucrats (whether in private- or public-sector) believe that humans can be perfected by modifying their behavior according to some ideal, and blame anyone who can’t live up to that ideal for failing to do so. Bureaucracy begets bureaucracy. Every effort to do away with bureaucracy ends up with more bureaucracy.


Redeeming the Octopus - the most remarkable creature of our nightmares

book, review, octopus, consciousness, science, non-human

It’s not surprising that it has taken us a long time to reappraise the octopus, imbued with such mythical awe, as what it really is: an intelligent animal with entwining arms so filled with neurons that each of them possesses a separate personality. In the current nature writing boom– fuelled in part by new scientific discoveries – the revision of the octopus is just one in a series of natural histories, of creatures from corvids to cetaceans, which indicate that our awareness of other species is expanding exponentially. As an interviewee in Sy Montgomery’s remarkable book declares, “It’s really only in the last 20 years we could even be having this conversation. We’re only starting to understand animals.”

Overwhelmed | Brigid Schulte

overwhelmed, book, doing nothing, time pressure, time, work, play, leisure

Overwhelmed is a book about time pressure and modern life. It is a deeply reported and researched, honest and often hilarious journey from feeling that, as one character in the book said, time is like a “rabid lunatic” running naked and screaming as your life flies past you, to understanding the historical and cultural roots of the overwhelm, how worrying about all there is to do and the pressure of feeling like we’re never have enough time to do it all, or do it well, is “contaminating” our experience of time, how time pressure and stress is resculpting our brains and shaping our workplaces, our relationships and squeezing the space that the Greeks said was the point of living a Good Life: that elusive moment of peace called leisure.

Design Fiction: “Speculative Everything” by Dunne & Raby

book, review, bruces, design, deisng fiction, speculative everything, Dunne & Raby

Much remains unclear. Does “critical design” have “users” or an “audience?” Does it have “patrons” or a “viewership?” Is it a craft, or some form of activism? It’s also unsettled whether its main concerns are, or should be, functional prototypes, diegetic special FX, speculative online videos, design-museum dioramas, or performance art and/or experiential happenings. It’s hard to believe that any designer, however Eamesian and polymathic, will ever be good at doing all these things at once.


review, russel davies, objects, magic, play, book

“The meditations on objects I offer here will indeed often suggest that they can be seen as what in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe would have been called ‘emblems’, allegories of human life, implying pocket homilies on love, time, hope, error, striving and death. As such, they give us work to do as well as being merely available for us to work on. And yet, their power comes entirely from us.”

Book Review: Against Security

book, review, security, security theatre, fear, perception, schneier

A lot of psychological research has tried to make sense out of security, fear, risk, and safety. But however fascinating the academic literature is, it often misses the broader social dynamics. New York University’s Harvey Molotch helpfully brings a sociologist’s perspective to the subject in his new book Against Security.

Review: Dark Mountain, Issue 3

dark mountain, review, book, dougald hine, paul kingsnorth, ecocentrism

Importantly, this is not simply a theoretical argument: it’s a debate that has divided the green movement cleanly in two. On the one hand are what Doug Tomkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit, calls “the tech-optimists” – those who believe, in the words of the Dark Mountian manifesto, that “the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’”. And, on the other, those who see wholesale systems collapse as a necessary step on the path of change. Tomkins, who, along with his wife Kris, abandoned his career in business and dedicated his life to buying up and protecting wild land across Latin America, describes wind turbines, for example, as “the icon of techno-industrial culture”. He goes on to observe: “The way of thinking that would create those windmills is the way of thinking that caused climate change in the first place.”–3/934