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The best things and stuff of 2014

Dec 29, 2014

Great things and people that I discovered, learned, read, met, etc. in 2014. No particular ordering is implied. Not everything is new.

also: see the lists from 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

Great blog posts read

Most viewed blog posts by me (20K+ viewers)

I’ve been scaling back on blogging this past year and have tried something different instead – Read-Eval-Print-λove. That said, there were a couple of high-traffic posts on my blog.

  1. 10 Technical Papers Every Programmer Should Read (At Least Twice)My most popular post of 2011 was also my most popular of 2012 and also of 2013 and also of 2014 — go figure.

  2. Timothy Hart, Rest in PeaceTimothy Hart was the father of LISP macros.

Favorite technical books discovered (and read)

  • Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform7Inform7 is a perspective-altering programming language. It’s nearly the pinnacle of languages that are informed (hah) by the types of problems that they’re attempting to solve. Beautiful.

  • Object Oriented ForthHonestly, I can’t think of better tech literature available than those written about Forth.

  • Ruby Under a MicroscopeI’ll honestly say that I went into this book expecting the worst. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was done that the book is a fairly nice dive into the Ruby internals. I’m frankly shocked that a book like this was even published, but once again the long tail reigns supreme; much to our benefit.

  • Programmer avec SchemeI read this in a marathon 3-days during Strange Loop 2014 thanks to Nada Amin, who hauled it all the way across the planet for me to read. I’d really love to get another chance to go through it and digest it, but I did like it very much on my first pass. My favorite part was that while the prose was French, the code too was “very French” also!

Favorite non-technical books read

  • Ulysses by James Joyce — I finally got around to reading this and wow am I glad that I did. It took me a month to read and tended to dominate my other parallel books at the time, but it was worth the effort. Leopold Bloom is now one of my favorite anti-heroes from fiction.

  • How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re BuiltIt was this book that made me (finally) realize that some of the best programming books are not about programming at all. As a result I’ve cut back drastically on my “language-specific” programming books1 and have sought programming-relevant books instead.

  • Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate PoliticsThe most lucid outline of feminism that I’ve found so far.

  • Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro JodorowskyI’ve always been an admirer of Jodorowsky’s films and graphic novels, so when I saw the cover I knew that I had to read this. I was not disappointed. The book is filled with spoilers, so beware.

  • BlindnessAnother book that could have been easily subtitled ‘Humans are terrible.’

  • How to Travel with a Salmon and Other EssaysI couldn’t put this book down. Eco’s wit is impeccable and had me giggling at 2am.

Number of books read

a bunch

Number of books published


Number of books written


Language zoo additions

JS relational algebra thingy and Black

Favorite musicians discovered

Mississippi John Hurt, Memory Tapes, Black Ace, The Pilgrim Travelers, Mildred Bailey, Baby Huey and the Babysitters (via mrb_bk)

Interesting games discovered

  • CatchupThe link conveys my thoughts on this beautiful game. Huge thanks to Zeeshan for all the games this year.
  • Koi-KoiA game that when you’re done you’ve created something beautiful.
  • SplendorThis is considered an “engine-building” game that would appeal to many a programmer IMO.
  • EntropyQuite possibly my favorite game discovered this year even though I only just found it. Pure beauty in conception and execution. This is one of the few games that I wish I had thought of first.
  • Alfred’s WykeA strange little game that baffles me how anyone could have even thought of it.
  • UndercutA sinister auction game turned on its head.

Favorite TV series about zombies

The Walking Dead

Favorite programming languages (or related) I’ve hacked

Clojure,2 ClojureScript, Haskell, Datalog, Frink, Racket, Erlang

Programming languages used for projects both professional and not this year

Clojure, ClojureScript, Java, JavaScript, Datalog, Haskell, Python

Programming languages that I’m dying to explore next year

  • BlackAfter seeing Nada Amin’s keynote I was compelled to run out and find out more about Black.
  • IdrisIdris is
    probably the most exciting language that I’ve seen since I found Clojure.
  • LFELisp. Flavored. Erlang. Need I say more?
  • Squeak and/or PharoIt’s time.
  • Inform7A lovely language meant for creating interactive fiction, with a syntax that’s pseudo-natural.
  • JoyI’m in constant fear that this language will be forgotten.

Number of papers read

≈ 12 (again, a very slow year for me in the paper department)

Favorite papers discovered (and read)

Still haven’t read…

Snow Crash, Spook Country, A Fire upon the Deep, Norwegian Wood, The Contortionists Handbook and a boat-load of scifi

Favorite conference attended

Clojure/conj 2014

Favorite code read

  • Om (Clojure) — A manifestation of the ideas in the paper “Worlds: Controlling the Scope of Side Effects 3
  • Z3 (Verilog) — Learning about Inform7 has gotten me interested in exploring the Z-Machine more deeply. It was good timing when I discovered this project to create a hardware impl of the Z3 machine. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s gotten me motivated to try.
  • Dominion (Haskell) — For some reason my favorite Haskell programs to study tend to be game implementations. I suppose they have the right mix of logic, complexity, data structure considerations, and I/O.
  • Black (Scheme) — I recommend reading the code side-by-side with the paper (listed above).
  • type-systems (OCaml) — The fruit flies of type system theory. A nice place to start learning the subject IMO.

Life changing technology discovered

  • None.

State of plans from 2013

Plans for 2015

  • Publish (at least) one issue of Read-Eval-Print-λove
  • UCT in Clojure
  • Treaps in Clojure
  • Release secret project Phenomena
  • Publish a card game of my own design
  • Implement Lines of Action in an interesting language
  • Contribute to other peoples’ OSS projects more often.

Onward to 2015!


  1. And I’ve made it a personal goal to limit the “language-specific” books to those written before 1995. 

  2. This is the first year in my career that I wrote more Clojure code than the sum of code in all other languages used. 

  3. I would love to see great ideas in papers more widely implemented. While Om is a truly practical system, I think that said implementations need not be. 

9 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. conrad

    Thanks for the games section – I’ll be visiting/browsing

    I recommend you move “A Fire Upon the Deep” higher in your to-read queue. It’s a classic with atypical excellence in both the space opera and the deep thoughts parts of the story.

  2. Addy

    +1 for effort. Great lists …

  3. There are too many books to read! Read Snow Crash while it’s still ripe!

  4. Bubba Jones

    Dude, last year you said you were going to read Snow Crash, and this year you say you still haven’t read Snow Crash. I think it’s time to read it – such a good read.

  5. frank

    Wow. Probably the best blog post I’ve come across this year. Nice collection of stuff. Thanks!

  6. brian

    Wow, I’m stunned you seem to have found Feminism is for Everybody worthwhile. I found it to be an incredibly bad book given the goal set forth in the introduction, which was to be an accessible introduction to feminism. To me, FifE was a long series of accusations, unsubstantiated assertions, and notes about historical squabbles between factions within feminism.

  7. Dax Fohl

    No interest in Elm at all or Qi/Shen?

  8. Excellent post. I was inspired to do one of my own (hopefully it sees the light of day soon). I wasted the better part of a day chronicling all of the books I read last year. Add another vote for Snow Crash. I’ve read several other Neal Stephenson books since that one, and have never been let down.

  9. troika

    Brian, your criticism of Feminism is for Everybody is about as vapid as they come.

    Knowing that it irks you and yours speaks volumes about the quality of the book.

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