Personal Picks of 2022

Previous installments: 2021, 2020.

Here are my personal picks for things that were new to me in 2022 that I decided to share here. I got the idea to do these pages from Michael Fogus. I enjoy looking through Fogus' page, and you can start with his The best things and stuff of 2022 if you want to do the same.

I build this page over the year as part of an effort to be more deliberate and mindful in the works I am engaging with. One feeling I had through the second half of the year could be summarized as "too much input, not enough output." We'll see if I manage to address that in the upcoming year.

Another feeling I had throughout the year that is not reflected in the contents of this page but was a constant companion regardless: precariousness. At all scales. From the large scale of the state of the world to the small scale of the state of my life. I am sure I am not alone in this, but I rarely find comfort in being part of an anonymous group. However, I hope sincerely, reader, that you are well.

A brief comment in resposne to all the machine learning generative nonsense (e.g. "AI art"). Technology is not inevitable. Individuals through their choice of efforts make technology happen. You do not get to avoid your responsibility when developing technology by arguing that "it will happen one way or another." The very people saying this are often the same people working very hard to make some sort of technology happen. If it's so inevitable, why do you have to work so hard or spend so much money? Some cool new thing (to you) or some new way to "extract value" from others' work is not necessarily "progress" for humanity. You are responsible for the consequence of your actions and the technology you help create.

One more thing before we get into the picks. I want to highlight Public Domain Day. If you haven't heard of it before, it's an (unofficial) day to celebrate works that have entered the public domain when their copyrights expires. With recent extensions to copyright, it wasn't until 2019 that works started to enter the public domain again. Here are some works entering the public domain in 2023 from the year 1927!

Table of Contents

Books

Blog Posts and Articles

Audio

Podcasts

Music

Theater

Videos

Projects

Projects that I found interesting or notable.

Reverse Engineering

I don't do reverse engineering much, but I enjoy reading about what others get up to.

Things I Learned

People

History

Quotes

Exhausted

Yeah, IPv4, I get you. I am also exhausted.

— @tamtararam@chaos.social

Good, fast, or cheap

In software development, there's a saying:

Good, fast, or cheap.

It won't be those things. You don't get any of them.

— @RadicalEdward@hackers.town

The Dunning-Kruger Prayer

Let me be smart enough to know how dumb I am and give me the courage to carry on anyway.

— Austin Kleon from page 134 of Keep Going.

Clever, but I think I would change it to:

"Let me be smart enough to know how dumb I am and give me the courage to carry on and the strength to reduce my ignorance."

But I'm probably taking it much too seriously, and despite the continuing risk of ruining the joke, I can't help but link to The Dunning-Kruger Effect is Probably Not Real from last year's picks.

Historical Information Overload

In 1852, Henry David Thoreau complained in his diary that he had started reading a weekly newspaper and he felt that now he wasn't paying enough attention to his own life and work. "It takes more than a day's devotion to know and to posses the wealth of a day," he wrote. "To read of things distant and sounding betrays us into slighting these which are then apparently near and small." He decided his attention was too valuable, and gave up reading the weekly Tribune.

— Austin Kleon from page 46 of Keep Going.

Some even earlier examples of information overload.

Early Fuzz Testing

Back in the mainframe days we tested Fortran compilers by feeding a random deck of punched cards into the tool. It's amazing how often crashes occurred, but this did lead to incremental improvements in the compilers. (The University of Maryland's Ralph compiler would abort after 50 compiletime errors and print out a picture of Alfred E. Neuman, with the caption "This man never worries, but from the look of your code, you should.")

— Jack Ganssle in issue 439 of The Embedded Muse

Purpose-built

Not enough people realize what an algorithm purpose-built to cater to their worse impulses will do to their ability to learn anything true or valuable about the world.

— @mhoye@mastodon.social

Create

When you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow and exclude people. So create.

why the lucky stiff

The train for the mind

Jobs supposedly claimed that he intended his personal computer to be a "bicycle for the mind." But what he really sold us was a (fairly comfortable) train for the mind. A train which goes only where rails have been laid down, like any train, and can travel elsewhere only after rivers of sweat pour forth from armies of laborers. (Preferably in Cupertino.)

Stanislav

Ship It

To the tune of Devo's "Whip It":

If the software mostly works
You must ship it
Bug reporter only lurks
You must ship it
Schedule made up by jerks
You must ship it

Now ship it
Into prod
Check it out
Changelog
Fast-forward
Merge done
Try to test it
It's not too bad
Now ship it
Ship it good

— @brion@bikeshed.vibber.net

I have right-clicked

This is just to say

I have right-clicked
the plum JPEGs
that were on
the blockchain

and which
you were probably
saving
as an investment

Forgive me
they were stupid
so ugly
and so worthless

— @matthew@mastodon.social

Entrepreneurship is like a carnival game

Entrepreneurship is like one of those carnival games where you throw darts or something.

Middle class kids can afford one throw. Most miss. A few hit the target and get a small prize. A very few hit the center bullseye and get a bigger prize. Rags to riches! The American Dream lives on.

Rich kids can afford many throws. If they want to, they can try over and over and over again until they hit something and feel good about themselves. Some keep going until they hit the center bullseye, then they give speeches or write blog posts about "meritocracy" and the salutary effects of hard work.

Poor kids aren't visiting the carnival. They're the ones working it.

notacoward

Metal Spirits

Electrons? Oh, you mean metal spirits?

We use metal strings to trap the metal spirits, and talismans of black sandstone engraved with tiny runic circles to harness their power.

Sometimes we replace the strings with totems made of layered metal, but those don't last very long on their own. We can also use light spirits to command the metal spirits at distance, but the metal spirits are the ones that do most of the work.

Before touching a powerful talisman, you must purify yourself, by touching a large piece of metal, so that any evil spirits present in your body do not destroy the talisman.

Many wizards possess special armbands that establish a direct connection to Mother Earth, to protect their bodies from such evil spirits.

— @eldaking@weirder.earth

The Truth

if you want to keep the truth from people, the only surefire way to do it is to ensure the truth is really complicated and boring

— @jk@mastodon.social

Computer Science vs. Computer Programming

Computer science is the study of a mathematical model which approximately describes the behavior of certain configurations of electrified sand.

Computer programming consists mainly of trying to get people to communicate successfully with each other, under conditions when at least one of them knows a little about the aforementioned sand math.

— @fool@mastodon.technology

On AI Generated Art

The easiest and most reliable strategy is to be ahead of all new technologies and champion them, because if you don't, you're a Luddite and you'll miss the wave.

Of course, every tool is permitted and AI is happening one way or another, but this species of it derives its entire value from the creative work of uncredited and unwilling participants. To highlight the obvious exchange going on; almost everyone who contributed to the value of AI image generation is now being exploited by it.

The most established will keep their jobs and status, and be hired by OpenAI, Adobe and Google to speak at big events about how empowered they now are by AI. PR campaigns will cynically tell us how AI helps historically disadvantaged groups. Everyone will clap, and more money will flow to these companies.

However, a theft has occurred.

Those now honing their craft will never have a chance to reach mastery, and will never get hired because a machine appears to do an equivalent job. "So let them use the machine", okay, now a generation is sold out to the benefit of a few corporations not because a - finer tool was invented, but because we found out how to make zombies of each other and charge money for it.

Creators will suffer in the long run, and instead of pointing this out, many leap to the defense of these companies and their practices. Few seem to question the cost of encouraging this scheme and who really benefits from it.

OpenAI's Dall-E touts "artistic styles" like hats to try on, a distinctly colonial attitude to the treasures of human creativity. If they had any respect for their sources they would credit them in proportion to their contribution, and would never declare ownership over the resulting works.

As long as their business model is selling tickets to take weird photos of big data, they are no better than grave robbers.

We make art for each other, not to enrich tech investors or to expand the repertoire of synthetic plagiarists.

David Oreilly via @jonny@social.coop

Truly a Golden Age

we are truly in a golden age of large international corporations extracting maximum value from beloved properties created decades ago

— @brion@bikeshed.vibber.net

You are a ghost...

You are a ghost driving a meat covered skeleton made from stardust riding a spinning rock hurtling through space.

Fear nothing.

Via @1974Hamilton@glasgow.social

In every tool...

Remember, in every tool, there is a hammer.

— Mark Buck

As quoted by Adam Savage on page 267 of his book Every Tool's a Hammer, where Savage further goes on to explain:

What [Mark Buck] meant was that every tool can be used for a purpose for which it wasn't intended... He also meant that until you learn to see what tools can do beyond their stated purpose, you can't quite be a maker.

I'm not comfortable with that minor gatekeeping at the end, but it is important to learn your tools well enough that you can be creative (but still safe) with them when the need arises.

A world where computers make art...

A world where computers write and make art while human beings break their backs cleaning up toxic messes is the exact opposite of the world I thought I was signing up for when I got into programming

— @jalefkowit@octodon.social

An example of human beings breaking their backs cleaning up toxic messes.

Law of the panopticon

Law of the panopticon
The more connected a network gets, the more criticism everyone gets.3

Avery Pennarun

I shall pass through this world but once

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Stephen Grellet

Poems

Atlas

There is a kind of love called maintenance,
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

U.A. Fanthorpe

The Humming Bird

I laid a humming bird to rest this morning.

We found it on the deck beneath the feeder.
Probably one of our regular visitors.
One broken wing the only clue.

Someone said to put it in the garbage.
That hurt my heart.
Humming birds demand so little in life and so much less in death.

I carried the little bird in my hands to a corner of our yard
and covered it in leaves,
trusting to nature the work that remained.

I said a little prayer that I hoped someone someday might say for me:

   Thank you for the pleasure of your company.
   The universe was better for having you in it.

I got up and spared a moment's thought
for all the humming birds that fall where I never see.

Anonymous

No one ever said what to do with the keys

Teacher. Seventeen. Cosmo
Girl. Church lady, Bus-Stop
Auntie. No one
ever said explicitly

what to do with the keys
we should clutch
in our knuckles.

Between his eyes? In the dark
area of his impulse?

His brain?

Do I kill him?

Kill him?

Olivia Cole

Words

Growlery
A place to retreat to, alone, when ill-humoured.
Entrainment
"Entrainment, a term that originated in biology and then spread to the social sciences, refers to the alignment of an organism’s physiology or behavior with a cycle; the most familiar example would be our circadian rhythm."

Memes

Simply Having...

Yamaha Execs: "Get McCartney a CS-80. Imagine what a Beatle would do with all of that power"

Paul: "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time"

Yamaha: "Shit".

I actually saw this at the end of 2021, but I had already published my 2021 picks. Anyway, these are my picks. I do what I want.

Via @craigmaloney@octodon.social

Behold the field...

Medieval tapestry in which somebody is gesturing to the right while others appear to look on. Embroidered is the text "Behold the field in which I grow my fucks. Lay thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that it is barren."

Via Wylie Beckert in her article On Series on the Muddy Colors blog.

Vince McMahon Reacts...

Via @nerdtronics@mstdn.starnix.network

Trying New Things...

Via @derek@sunbeam.city

Scenario Spoilers

Technically not a meme, but it has popped up occasionally on my social media. It's from the July 1997 Wired. It's a sidebar on an article about how great the future is going to be. Those were items that could spoil the future. It's an exercise for the reader how many of those spoilers may have happened already.

Hey, friend, listen

Via @stevelord@mastodon.social

Look at me

Oh that wolf is too on the nose.

Via @david@pl.seahorse.sh

Special skills?

Via @aseva@chaos.social

Philanthropy

Via @argumento@hispagatos.space

Christmas Spirit

Via @linuxgal@techhub.social

The World's Water

Not really a meme, but definitely another one of those pictures worth a thousand words.

Via Astronomy Picture of the Day.


  1. Thanks to @EdS for determining the identity of Barrie Sherman, who is not introduced in that clip. I was able to confirm it is Barrie Sherman by looking at episode 6 of The Mighty Micro as seen here.
  2. I have a feeling I have actually seen this video before, but I can't quite remember when. So watching it again in 2022 was like seeing it for the first time.
  3. Not to imply that this increase in criticism is evenly distributed by any means.