Review: The Scout Mindset, by Julia Galef

If you want to read this book, message me your address and I will send you a copy. If I could make every single person in the world read this book, I would.

“The Scout Mindset” is a book about how to be right more often. I don’t mean this in the sense of “how to convince people you’re right more often,” or “how to find new correct information.” There is a bunch of stuff you think right now that is straight up cookeydooks wrong, and this book is designed to help you get rid of some of those beliefs. The author argues that being right more often will probably make you a happier and more effective person, and then gives you some easy tools for doing that. It’s very readable, written in a conversational tone, interspersed with anecdotes that I got invested in. It’s short too, so it isn’t a huge time commitment. If you like the idea of being able to see the world a little more clearly, go read it.


When I told Andrew, my college roommate, that I was going to skip graduation because I didn’t think it would be fun he seemed puzzled. “It probably won’t be fun. Funerals aren’t fun, but I still go to those.”

For whatever reason this stuck with me. I mulled it over for weeks, like some sort of koan dispensed by zen master. I had always assumed that people participated in social rituals because of a vague autopilot; it hadn’t occurred to me yet that there might be value in a graduation ceremony. I had never examined how I felt about birthdays or Christmas or Mother’s Day, and what I was getting out of them. Or why some worked for me and others didn’t.

Let’s put aside for a second that a lot of holidays are fun. Everyone likes cake or pie or getting presents. But why have holidays at all? Why do we have cake some days and not others? Why not have cake every day?

Continue reading “Rituals”

Covid Risk

Something I wrote about Covid awhile back that might still be relevant as we crawl towards vaccination:

I’ve been talking to people about Covid recently and there’s a common theme: people don’t know if they’re worrying too much or not enough, but there is this constant nagging fear that they aren’t worrying the right amount. A few friends have told me they feel like they’re doing too much AND too little at the same time. Which I get! On the one hand, I don’t really know anyone who’s had Covid. It’s an abstract threat like nothing I’ve ever had to deal with. On the other hand we ground our entire society to a halt for it, so maybe I should freak out a little more?

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5 Kids Shows For Adults

When people ask me what shows I’ve been watching, I never know what to say. It’s not that I haven’t watched anything good; it’s just hard to explain that all my favorite shows from this year are targeted at nine year olds.

The thing is, these shows are good, even from an adult perspective. All of the kids shows I’ve watched this year manage to pull off character arcs that put most adult dramas to shame. I’ve laughed more, teared up more, and just had more fun watching kids shows recently than I have watching anything age appropriate.

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Review: The Bone Shard Daughter, by Andrea Stewart

After years of reading, I’ve developed an idea of what makes a quintessential high fantasy novel. From the first page it immerses you in its own unique world. You meet a cast of damaged yet likable characters and watch them grow and learn into better people. There may be degrees of good and evil, but you can tell which is which. And you know that in the end, things are probably going to be okay. I grew up on this sort of novel. 

The Bone Shard Daughter is a great example of this sort of story.

That’s not to say its derivative or boring. The characters are engaging, the world is cool. And after reading so much darker, grittier fantasy, it’s nice to come back to something that feels safe. Sure, bad things happen over the course of the book, they’d have to, but it wasn’t challenging the way some of my recent novels have been. I just sat down and enjoyed it, and I’m excited for the rest of the trilogy.

Review: The Locked Tomb Trilogy

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The slug printed on the cover of this book is “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” I have to point out that, as far as I can tell, there are zero lesbians. There isn’t a palace, and a vast majority of the book does not take place in space.

It’s spot on about the necromancers though.

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Review: Strong Towns by Charles Marohn

I don’t usually read non-fiction, but “Strong Towns” by Charles Marohn turned out to be surprisingly readable for a book about city planning. It piqued my interest because his reasoning fits so neatly into how I’ve come to see the world, but he applies it in an area I haven’t really given much thought. The conclusions he reaches are fairly dire, but I have been finding dire conclusions less and less surprising.

American cities, Charles Marohn tells us, are Ponzi schemes. Detroit’s collapse wasn’t special; it was just early.

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Yo mama Turing-completes me

You’re so statistically illiterate you thought p-hacking was when you cheat on a drug test

Yo mama is so religious she thought cross validation was asking what would Jesus do

You’re so clueless you thought a standard deviation was when you’re just, like, a little bit kinky

You’re so idiotic, you ran your epochs in a public school to increase the dropout rate.

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Review: The Stars are Legion

By: Kameron Hurley
Genre: Science Fiction

This book was recommended to me with the nickname “the ooey gooey book” and it did not disappoint. The Stars are Legion is a science fiction novel set inside entirely organic world-ships. I don’t mean like, ‘a Star Trek spaceship but it is slightly green tinged,’ I’m talking people drinking the ceiling mucus and doing surgery on their vehicles. The writing and story were both enough to keep me engaged, but didn’t really go beyond that for me. If you’re desperately searching science fiction for novelty and like the idea of bio-ships, I’d definitely say pick this book up! Just…be ready for it to be gooey.

Am I the Asshole?

If you aren’t familiar with “Am I the Asshole?” you should check it out. It’s a subreddit where people go to, well, find out if they’re assholes or not. They post a description of their situation, and the rest of Reddit judges them. The posters can be anywhere from outrageous villains (“Am I the asshole for telling my adopted brother that he’s not entitled to my time because he’s not my real brother?”) to clear victims (“Am I the asshole for taking back the beer I bought for a party from which I was uninvited?”), and it’s up the readers to decide which is which. The most common judgements are YTA (“You’re the Asshole”) and NTA (“Not the Asshole”), with ESH (“Everyone Sucks Here”) and NAH (“No Assholes Here”) making rare appearances. Once judged, people will do anything from listening and trying to make amends to yelling at the people who called them assholes.

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Review: Online Works

Friendship is Optimal (Short)
Author: iceman…/frie…/prologue-equestria-online

Friendship is Optimal is an interesting little short story you can find online about the potential complications one can have with a misaligned AI. If you’re not used to thinking about “what might happen if an artificial intelligence wasn’t _exactly_ aligned with our goals,” you might find it interesting. If you are familiar with the concept, you might laugh at My Little Pony take on it.

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Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Author: Jim Butcher

This book is fun. It’s pure Jim Butcher goodness. Things blow up, there’s cool magic, the good guys are all stand up people, the bad guys are hateable. If reading N. K. Jemisin is like eating lemon roasted salmon on a bed of quinoa and then sitting and meditating for an hour, this is like eating an entire chocolate cake and then jumping in a bouncy castle. There’s a wizard who can’t handle doorknobs. There is steampunk sky ship naval combat. There are sentient cats who are at no point explained but are somehow plot critical. It is wonderful chaos.

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Review: The Goblin Emperor

Author: Katherine Addison

Did you know there is a genre called “Fantasy of manners”? I sure did not before reading this book. And you know what? I’m okay with it. The genre uses a typical fantasy setting, but is centered around high society and social conflict. And that sure describes the Goblin Emperor to a t. There were maybe two action scenes in this entire book, and I think the narrator fainted during one of them. I’m not even clear if there was any in the world. One of the main conflicts in the book is getting a legal body to vote on building a bridge. Not passing the vote mind you, just getting them to vote on it at all.

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Review: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy

It’s hard to describe the thing I liked most about Spinning Silver. The best I can do is say that Naomi Novik set out to make a brand new, novel length fairytale (think old-school, not Disney) and she absolutely nailed it. It’s the kind of story I could imagine an old woman telling her village over the course of a winter’s night. Nothing about it is derivative though; it’s brand new and familiar at the same time.

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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author: Hank Green
Genre: Science Fiction?

“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” follows April May, a walking collection of the worst millennial stereotypes, and her life after getting famous via a viral video. At some point there are also aliens, but that’s almost background to the actual story. In fact, for me the science fiction elements were the weakest part of the story. I was there to watch April May self destruct under the sauron-eque gaze of the public eye, and I was not disappointed.

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Review: The Broken Earth

Series by N.K. Jemisin
Audio book: Decent

So sometimes I go to Goodreads to make fun of one star reviews for books I like. It’s kind of a vapid way to spend time, a way of feeling superior to people you disagree with without any of the actual risk of having to engage with them. You can skim what someone wrote and go “ugh, she just doesn’t get it,” and that can sometimes be fun.

The reviews for The Broken Earth Series were different, though. The primary complaint people seemed to have was that the books were too dark. “Too much child abuse to be acceptable.” “the book is just too darkly misanthropic.” “Why did she have to have so much senseless violence?”

Because the book is about systemic oppression. Because you can’t write a book about an entire people being hated and dehumanized without children being beaten to death. Jemisin isn’t deciding to perpetrate these atrocities; Jemisin is telling the story, in her way, of things that have actually happened. And finding reviews that are either asking that she not tell these stories, or that she somehow make them more palatable, infuriated me. (One review was a woman saying she was glad the books existed, she just simply didn’t have it in her to read them; that I can understand)

The Broken Earth series is a set of three fantasy novels, following a woman named Essun after discovering her son dead. It’s a good story, with plenty of interesting background, world building, and magic. The prose is good, but isn’t perfect. The plot makes sense, but feels a bit meandering. Some of her choices, like telling the story in second person, can be a bit hit or miss. But all of that is unimportant compared to how much substance there is to this book. Few fantasy novels have made me think about the real world as much as this one did.

I’d love to say “you absolutely have to read these books,” but some of the issues I had with the writing prevent that. If you’re a fantasy reader though, I think you should definitely check them out (especially if you sometimes think “I’d really like a book with a mostly female cast”).

Review: Children of Time

Adrian Tchaikovsky

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “It’d be really nice to read a series of disconnected shorts describing the path social spiders might take on their journey to civilization, and perhaps, the stars,” then this novel will do a fantastic job scratching that particular itch. Otherwise, you’re probably safe skipping Children of Time.

Review: Born a Crime

By Trevor Noah.
Audiobook: Narrated by the author. I’d prefer to listen to it.

Born a Crime is fantastic. Trevor Noah somehow manages to blend together musings about racism, a picture of South Africa under apartheid, and some truly ridiculous childhood stories into a consistently funny series of essays. I laughed a lot. I learned way more about the apartheid than I did in my U.S. public school. I cried at one point.

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