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The best things and stuff of 2012

Dec 26, 2012

Great things and people that I discovered, learned, read, met, etc. in 2012. No particular ordering is implied. Not everything is new.

hacker news discussion

also: see the lists from 2011 and 2010

Great blog posts read

Most viewed blog posts by me

  1. 10 Technical Papers Every Programmer Should Read (At Least Twice)My most popular post of 2011 was also my most popular of 2012 — go figure.

  2. Lisp in 40 32 29 lines of Ruby

  3. A functional programming influence graph

  4. Not enough

  5. My Clojure compilation series

  6. Our industry needs more…

Favorite technical books discovered (and read)

Favorite non-technical books read

  • Borges: A Life by Edwin Williamson — an account of the life of one of my favorite authors who was less messed up than I thought.

  • In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin — I’ve wanted to read this for years, but could never find an affordable copy. It was well worth the wait.

  • The Idiot by Dostoevsky — through some odd confluence of events I’ve never read Dostoevsky, so it was very nice to finally read this tense, yet approachable work.

  • Botchan by Natsume Soseki — written in 1906 in Japan this book has a surprisingly modern feel.

  • The Machinery of Life by David Goodsell — learned of this through Alan Kay and was blown away by it. Amazing illustrations and understandable explanations are a humbling inspiration for someone who’s tried to teach a technical topic.

  • The Purple Cloud by MP Shiel — unbelievably dark

  • The Star Rover by Jack London — in American high schools many kids are made to read London’s Call of the Wild. A truly progressive school would assign this gem.

  • The Rings of Saturn by Sebald — falls right in the vein of House of Leaves, Kafka, Ovid and the works of Borges.

Number of books read

a bunch

Number of books published


Number of books written

⅛ + ¼

Number of papers read

≈ 30

Number of papers read deeply


Language zoo additions

A scheme, a datalog, a Meta II, an Ur-Lisp

Favorite musicians discovered

Rishloo, Anika, Delia Derbyshire, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Stereolab, Ghost, Klaus Nomi, Television Sky, Silver Apples, Belong

Favorite TV series about zombies

The Walking Dead

Favorite programming languages (or related)

Clojure, ClojureScript, Haskell, Datalog, Ruby, Shen, JavaScript, Frink, Pure, Racket

Programming languages used for projects both professional and not

Clojure, Haskell, Java, Python, JavaScript, SQL, Bash, make, Ruby, C, Prolog, Datalog

Favorite papers discovered (and read)


Still haven’t read…

Snow Crash, Spook Country, A Fire upon the Deep, Ulysses, Programmer avec Scheme, Norwegian Wood, The Contortionists Handbook, Usagi Yojimbo and a boat-load of scifi

Best conference attended

Strange Loop

People met, read, worked with, followed, and/or corresponded with whom motivated and/or influenced me greatly and always made me think

My wife, my kids, Chris Houser, Rich Hickey, David Nolen, Stuart Halloway, Russ Olsen, Peter Seibel, Sam Aaron, Brenton Ashworth, Craig Andera, Brian McKenna, Outlaw Vern, Jim Weirich, Jeremy Ashkenas, Oleg Kiselyov, Dave Herman, Mahmud, Carin Meier, Ambrose Bonnaire-Sergeant, Phil Bagwell, and Reginald Braithwaite.

Favorite code read

Life changing technology discovered

State of plans from 2011

  • More Ruby — I pulled this off while working at Relevance but have scaled back since leaving. I do miss it from time to time.

  • Read more fiction — underway

  • (at least) one big software project — not a big one, although I have the seeds of a big one in place.1

  • More concatenative — huge fail

  • Make my way through the core.logic README — My trip through the README turned into an enormous yak shave. However, I think the core.logic plan was satisfied in other ways.

  • Pescetarianism (redux) — huge fail (again)

  • Website redux — partial success

  • — on hold

  • Super-secret project — the aforementioned seeds

  • Super-duper-secret project — this was in reference to Datomic

Plans for 2012

  • Ariadne (the super-secret project)
  • More concatenative
  • Participate in the PLT Games
  • No talks unless I have code to show

See you next year.


  1. I worked on a few big work projects that I’m proud to have learned from and I hope at least one will come open source one day. Another, a fairly large test framework, was also done by someone else much smarter than me so I decided to scrap what I had and just use theirs. I suspect it’ll be generally available sometime soon. 

5 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Chris

    Holy smokes, man. How do you get all this stuff done? Reading all this gives me the impression that you do little besides read and code.

    I’m curious to know how many hours a week do you put in “vegging out”? I think I do far too much vegging and not enough reading an coding. :|

  2. Maggie

    I’m soooo happy for you. And envious. The moment when one first discovers Klaus Nomi is magical. The wondrous consternation, the disbelief, and then its utter suspension.

    And Ulysses is overrated. Don’t sweat it.

  3. Nathanael

    I’d skip Snow Crash. Long story short: Online game is used as a trojan horse to deliver a virus to the brains of hackers themselves; it’s mutating virus that crosses from the virtual to the bio. And then the samurai swords come out. Very creative and cutting edge (written in ’92, it predates 2nd Life & WoW by at least 10 years). However, not Stephenson’s best writing. I think Cryptonomicon (the usage of “computers” in WWII to crack code) is a better subject and is better written.

    I’ll have to do some serious reading before I can comment on much else that you posted here. Thanks for links!

  4. Eric

    Great selection, but my bigger question is how on earth do you find all this time for reading with kids? My wife and I have our first, now one year old, and my reading has ground to a near-halt.

    Excellent stuff, BTW.

  5. @Eric

    find all this time for reading with kids?

    My kids are older. It’s definitely easier to find time now then it was when they were 1.

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