or learn more

The best things and stuff of 2017

Jan 2, 2018

Great things and people that I discovered, learned, read, met, etc. in 2017. No particular ordering is implied. Not everything is new.

also: see the lists from 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

Great blog posts read

Most viewed blog posts by me

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

  • Pascal at Applea post where I explored some of the history of the Pascal programming language through Apple’s history. Some great authoritative commentary occurred. More exploration needed.
  • Computer Archeology: The Intelligent Machines Journal – Issue 1 Dec. 78I sometimes read old computing journals and try to reason about them from my present perspective. In this post I explored the first issue of the journal that would eventually become InfoWorld.

Favorite technical books discovered (and read)

I’ve intentionally reduced the number of technical books that I consume, but there are a few that I “found” in 2017 that are stellar.

  • The Implementation of Prolog by Patrice Boizumault – I took some time to explore Prolog implementations in the first half of the year and this book was indispensable. It’s a niche topic for sure, but if you’re into it then few books match this gem.
  • Beneath Apple ProDOSContinuing my computing archaeology efforts I found this amazing book of old Apple ProDOS hacks.
  • The Architecture Machine: Toward a More Human EnvironmentFor many of the early years of computing machines a main idea driving many in their efforts was the idea of using computers as mind amplification and augmentation. Negroponte’s book explore this notion of augmentation with and eye towards human/computer partnership.
  • Clause and EffectIn my opinion this is the best introduction to Prolog that I’ve read so far.
  • Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at MicrosoftIn many ways it’s the standard non-technical tech book with tales of overnight coding heroism, broken people, and broken families led by the now legendary (infamous?) Dave Cutler.

Favorite non-technical books read

  • Finite and Infinite GamesA game that masquerades about games but that’s really about life. Fascinating read.
  • Eichmann in JerusalemAnother triumph by Arendt and a perfect companion to The Origins of Totalitarianism. An interesting read for these modern times.
  • How Green Was My ValleyThis is a classic that somehow flew below my radar my entire life. The book describes the trials and times of a humble rural valley intersecting with industrial sensibilities.
  • Babel-17A nice sci-fi find though it’s one that I’ve put off reading for years. This plays in the same space as the recent film The Arrival, but does so along a slightly different vector.
  • The Time Traveller’s WifeA love story masquerading as a science fiction novel but one that tackles both with incredible feeling and thoughtfulness.
  • The Lathe of HeavenMy favorite sci-fi discovery of the year about a man whose dreams shape reality and those who would take advantage of such power. Riveting!

Number of books published


Number of books written

1.05 – Wrote a pamphlet of card games that I sent out to friends and family and started on the 3rd edition of The Joy of Clojure

Favorite musicians discovered

Interesting tabletop games discovered

  • Sidereal Confluence : Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian QuadrantThis is the best board game release of the year in 2017, in my opinion. Combines trading and negotiation with resource conversion (think term-rewriting) to make a truly compelling 90-minute experience.
  • BugA new abstract strategy game by one of m favorite designers Nick Bentley about an ecosystem of polyominoes eating each other.
  • FUSEI’m not a huge fan of dice game, but FUSE adds a realtime element to the game to simulation bomb defusing. Great fun for players of all ages and gaming experience.
  • Optimates et PopularesThe boutique publisher Hollandspiele is doing a lot of good things these days, but their best game in my opinion is this game of political intrigue in the waning days of the Roman Empire. The game is very tight and the loser is often the person who makes the first mistake.

Favorite science fiction TV series

Black Mirror

Favorite horror films discovered

  • The Babadook
  • The VVitch
  • Train to Busan

Favorite programming languages (or related) I hacked on/with

Clojure, Prolog, Rust

Programming languages used for work-related projects

Clojure, ClojureScript, Java, Datalog

Programming languages (and related) that I hope to explore more deeply

  • RustOSDev in Rust. Need I say more?
  • PonyA very interesting language inspired by Erlang with capabilities built in to boot.
  • NimA “systems” programming language that looks superficially like Python but with some nice static guarantees, multiple compilation targets, and relatively clean FFI.

Favorite papers discovered (and read)

My paper reading has taken a big hit lately thanks to various reasons but here are a few that I enjoyed.

  • Inventing the LISA user interface by Perkins, Ludolph, and Keller (WWW) – I’m perpetually interested in retrocomputing topics, especially those with lessons that extend into modern system design considerations.
  • Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm by The DeepMind team (PDF) – How a neural network taught itself to become the best Chess, Shogi, and Go players of all time.
  • LINCOS: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse by Freudenthal (PDF) – How can designing a language to communicate with aliens help us to design computing systems? Some interesting ideas around the discovery and presentation of new ideas.
  • Programming a Problem-Oriented Language by Charles Moore (PDF) – Chuck Moore’s thesis on Forth and its design and core philosophy.

Still haven’t read…

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

Favorite technical conference attended

Strange Loop 2017 (St. Louis)

Favorite code read

  • A blockchain in 200 lines of codeI love fruit-fly code and this one really helped me to understand the fundamental ideas behind how blockchains work.
  • Minoca OSI’ve returned to exploring operating systems development and found this code base very lucid for study.
  • ClojErlA nice Clojure to Erlang compiler in the early stages. Has helped my understanding of Erlang.
  • Gopher OSAn effort to write an OS in Go…
  • Go bare bones…and the base ideas behind writing Go closer to the metal.

Life-changing technology “discovered”

  • The Instapaper App’s text-to-speech capabilityI haven’t read a blog post in a year, but instead have let my Instapaper app read them to me. I now listen to posts and such while jogging and walking. It’s not very good for code-heavy posts however.

State of plans from 2017

  • Dive back into Prolog – Refamiliarized myself with the language.
  • Restore my personal PLZoo – Code restored and cleaned.
  • Read 100 booksDone
  • (Finally) Start a hardware project. – Obtained materials for a Morse Code keyboard but did not start yet.
  • Write six blog posts – Total fail, but did explore Twitter threads as a medium with mixed results.
  • Attend one tech conference – I attended two: Strange Loop and Clojure/Conj.
  • Two installments of Read-Eval-Print-λove in 2017 – only one, but I am proud of it.
  • Listen more – An ongoing effort.

    Plans for 2018

  • Write another little book of games to send to friends and family.

  • Give one talk.
  • Explore mentorship more seriously.
  • Write 6+ blog posts.
  • Create a hobby programming language.
  • Read 100 books, including Don Quixote
  • Play more 18XX games.
  • Rethink and reorganize my website.

Onward to 2018!


6 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Delighted to see Babel-17 on here; also prods me to get on with Lathe of Heaven.

    Also: at this point you should put off reading Snow Crash until your deathbed.

  2. Sorry to be nitpicky, but you’ve used “this year” to refer to both 2017 and 2018 :)

  3. Ghost

    Thanks, Waiting every year for your best-things article

  4. Do read A Fire Upon the Deep and follow it up with the two prequels. You won’t be disappointed.

  5. Nathan

    I second A Fire Upon the Deep!

  6. I have mixed reactions seeing “Finite and Infinite Games” praised in your list.

    I bought it many years ago, but while I found the idea interesting, and even if it is fairly short… I didn’t finish it.

    Reason: it looks (to me) that the author just kept repeating and reformulating the same core concepts over and over. It would have been great as an article, but it could not really fit the “book” format.

Reply to “The best things and stuff of 2017”