Christ­mas Let­ter 2017


Sup­port Cre­ators: My Me­dia Ex­pe­ri­ence

I’m in the mid­dle of set­ting up a Home The­atre PC for my liv­ing room. When I’m done, it will back up files from our other de­vices, record TV from our an­ten­nae and re­move com­mer­cials, play mu­sic and Blu-Ray discs, play Steam games, and a few other tricks. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: The Dice Tower

Melissa and I have been into mod­ern board games for a few years now. We're hov­er­ing at around 100 games in our col­lec­tion, keep­ing about 95% of our pur­chases. The main rea­son for this great suc­cess rate is The Dice Tower. (more)

Christ­mas Let­ter 2016


Book Re­view: Flowers for Algernon

De­spite a bland plot and no great char­ac­ters, I liked it. Thought-pro­vok­ing. (more)

Book Re­view: I Am Legend

Not re­ally a book about vam­pires. A book about lone­li­ness. (more)

Book Re­view: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The first time I read this book was in high school. I saw this trailer for the movie, found out it was a book se­ries, went to the li­brary, and checked out the first vol­ume. (more)

Book Re­view: The Odyssey

Things I like: (more)

The Magic Thread

Too of­ten, peo­ple want what they want (or what they think they want, which is usu­ally "hap­pi­ness" in one form or an­other) right now. The irony of their im­pa­tience is that only by learn­ing to wait, and by a will­ing­ness to ac­cept the bad with the good, do we usu­ally at­tain those things that are truly worth­while. "He that can have pa­tience, can have what he will," Ben­jamin Franklin told us, and this French tale bears him out. (more)

Book Re­view: A Wizard of Earthsea

It might be be­cause I just read it, but I'm struck by a lot of par­al­lels be­tween The Rid­dle­mas­ter of Hed and A Wiz­ard of Earth­sea. Some ex­am­ples: (more)

Book Re­view: Heir of Sea and Fire

As good as the first. Look­ing for­ward to the third, and to even­tu­ally read­ing these to Ly­dia. (more)

Book Re­view: The Turn of the Screw

Not a fan of the writ­ing style. This book is twice as long as it should be. I did like the am­bi­gu­ity. (more)

Book Re­view: The Riddlemaster of Hed

The stan­dard hero for­mula is here: young boy with hum­ble back­ground, finds he has a Des­tiny, ini­tially re­jects it, goes on a quest, etc. (more)

Per­sonal Web­site Man­i­festo

I’ve had a per­sonal web­site for years. Back in col­lege I snagged bri­, put up some short pro­gram­ming ar­ti­cles, and ex­per­i­mented with HTML and CSS. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: Win­SCP

Win­SCP is the best Win­dows FTP client. That’s all. (more)

Book Re­view: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Stan­dard Poirot novel. (more)

Book Re­view: Now I Know

Mostly in­ter­est­ing sto­ries, al­though I knew most of them. Poorly writ­ten though; I’d sug­gest in­stead Paul Har­vey’s The Rest of the Story, by Paul Au­randt. (more)

Book Re­view: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Creepy, but sub­tly creepy. I re­ally liked the char­ac­ters; Mary Kather­ine is one of my new fa­vorite fic­tional char­ac­ters. (more)

Book Re­view: Slaughterhouse-Five

I liked this bet­ter than Cat’s Cra­dle, but it’s still more of an I-re­spect-it-more-than-I-like-it. The time-travel struc­ture and satire are good. The char­ac­ters are fine. I know Von­negut is con­sid­ered to be a hu­mor­ous writer; I guess we have dif­fer­ent senses of hu­mor. I’m hav­ing a hard time ver­bal­iz­ing what I did­n’t like; Von­negut just does­n’t click for me. I don’t think I’ll be read­ing any more of his books. So it goes. (more)

Book Re­view: Mere Christianity

Sim­ple, en­gag­ing, chal­leng­ing. I like Lewis’s con­ver­sa­tional style. (more)

Book Re­view: The Iliad

My jour­ney through the clas­sics starts with this great mas­cu­line epic! I en­joyed it more than I thought I would. Some things I re­ally liked: (more)

Book Re­view: Immortality, Inc.

A fun run through a fu­ture where the af­ter­life has been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to ex­ist. The char­ac­ters are flat and the plot is­n’t es­pe­cially deep, but it’s in­ter­est­ing to see how a wide­spread be­lief in im­mor­tal­ity could change so­ci­ety. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: Inkscape

Inkscape is vec­tor-draw­ing soft­ware. Vec­tor graph­ics are dif­fer­ent than the more com­mon raster graph­ics. A raster graphic like a JPG says, “The top left pixel is blue. The next pixel to the right is red. The next pixel…” A vec­tor graphic says, “There’s a blue line from the top left to the right of the im­age. There’s a red cir­cle whose di­am­e­ter is half the length of the line.” (more)

Book Re­view: The Man Who Knew Too Much

G. K. Chester­ton is a won­der­ful writer. I’ve read and en­joyed his Fa­ther Brown mys­ter­ies. These short mys­ter­ies are OK; I pre­fer the Fa­ther Brown sto­ries. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: Launchy

Did you know on Win­dows 8 and 10 you can hit the Win­dows key then start typ­ing to search for apps, set­tings, and files? I’ve been us­ing Launchy to do just that since Win­dows XP. In fact, I still use Launchy, for two rea­sons: first, it’s faster than the Win­dows search on my five-year-old lap­top. Sec­ond, it in­cludes di­rec­to­ries in its in­dex, and I find my­self search­ing for di­rec­to­ries more of­ten than files. For it’s con­sis­tent great­ness, I made Launchy my Sep­tem­ber cre­ators do­na­tion. (more)

Book Re­view: Cat’s Cradle

Thought-pro­vok­ing satire. The parts about Bokonon­ism were kind of in­ter­est­ing. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: Book Cat­a­log

Hi, my name is Brian Koser, and I have a prob­lem. I can’t re­sist used book stores, used book sales, flea mar­kets…to be com­pletely hon­est I even browse through the used books at Good­will. 😳 (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: Paint.Net

You prob­a­bly don’t need Pho­to­shop. I cer­tainly don’t. For the ba­sic work I do Paint.NET is more than enough. You can work with lay­ers, ad­just col­ors, and do sim­ple ef­fects like blurs. For ba­sic im­age ma­nip­u­la­tion Paint.NET is the best, and that’s why I sup­ported it with my June cre­ators do­na­tion. (more)

Book Re­view: Three Men in a Boat

If P. G. Wode­house had writ­ten a trav­el­ogue, it would have been Three Men in a Boat. Jerome does give some his­tory of the towns along the Thames, and waxes elo­quent about the river two or three times, but the main draw here is the hu­mor. The dry, British, tongue-in-cheek hu­mor holds up re­mark­ably well af­ter 125 years. (more)

Book Re­view: Killing Reagan

An easy-read bi­og­ra­phy of Ronald Rea­gan, in­clud­ing with the ma­jor de­tails of the life of his would-be as­sas­sin, John Hinck­ley, Jr. I al­ready knew the broad strokes but it was good to fill in some de­tails. It was a lit­tle gos­sipy and shal­low, but of course it was writ­ten for a pop­u­lar au­di­ence. (more)

Pod­cast­ing, Start to Fin­ish: How to use a mixer



She smiled as the sounds of girl­ish gig­gles and laugh­ter fil­tered through the house. Her daugh­ters were hav­ing friends over for a sleep­over and were thor­oughly en­joy­ing them­selves. She was glad every­thing was go­ing so beau­ti­fully. First, they’d had a princess tea party, com­plete with cos­tumes, china cups and pe­tit fours. Then they’d watched a movie play­ing off a bed­sheet in the back­yard, and shrieked in mock ter­ror at the tires in the yard set to look like al­li­ga­tors (last mon­th’s pro­ject). Now they were lean­ing out of the teepees she had arranged in their bed­room, gaz­ing at the stars on the ceil­ing and dis­cussing which boy they thought was cutest. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: KeeP­ass

You should never reuse a pass­word. That means a dif­fer­ent pass­word for every com­puter and web­site ac­count you have. If you’re like me, that means over 100 dif­fer­ent pass­words to keep track of. There are two so­lu­tions to this prob­lem: (more)

Book Re­view: The Naked Sun

Take an Agatha Christie short story, add some sci-fi world-build­ing, and voilà, you get Asi­mov’s sec­ond ro­bot novel, The Naked Sun. (more)

S3­S­tat is ridicu­lously easy down­load track­ing for Ama­zon S3

Af­ter re­cently start­ing our pod­cast (Ten to One, where we make top ten lists about every­thing), one of our first ques­tions was: is any­one lis­ten­ing? Now, we’re just pod­cast­ing for fun, so we’re not con­cerned with get­ting a bunch of peo­ple to lis­ten. But we’re still cu­ri­ous. Since the pod­cast files are hosted on Ama­zon’s S3, I started look­ing into ways of track­ing down­loads. (more)

Sup­port Cre­ators: Dan Car­lin

I like books, blogs, pod­casts, and soft­ware. I’ve cre­ated some my­self (no books, prob­a­bly never a book). And I like to sup­port peo­ple who cre­ate things that I like. Free ser­vices are great, but if you made a use­ful and well-de­signed app, I’m happy to pay a few dol­lars for it. We also have a bud­get item called “Cre­ators”. It’s not a huge amount, but I make sure every month to give back to a cre­ator who’s given me ei­ther prac­ti­cal value or just en­joy­ment. In ad­di­tion I’m go­ing to start writ­ing about these folks each month as a fur­ther “Thank you”. (more)

Book Re­view: The Anubis Gates

If you’ve never read Tim Pow­ers, this is the novel to start with. I love his “se­cret his­to­ries”, where he finds pock­ets of his­tory with real-life un­ex­plained oc­cur­rences, then gives them a fan­tas­ti­cal ex­pla­na­tion. I love his char­ac­ters, es­pe­cially in this book. His plots are twisty and fun. (more)

Pod­cast­ing, Start to Fin­ish: Equip­ment


Book Re­view: Reaper Man

An­other ex­cel­lent Dis­c­world en­try. More wacky char­ac­ters, puns, deep thoughts, and touch­ing mo­ments. (more)

Book Re­view: The Prestige

If you haven’t seen the movie: it’s the story of two ri­val ma­gi­cians in late 1800’s Lon­don, each with their own lives and se­crets. Mas­ter­fully writ­ten; check it out. (more)

Book Re­view: Watership Down

The first two-thirds were a lit­tle slow, the last third was great. My fa­vorite parts were the rab­bit mythol­ogy sto­ries, rem­i­nis­cent of Bre’er Rab­bit. (more)

Book Re­view: The Phantom Tollbooth

Fun chil­dren’s book, com­pa­ra­ble to Al­ice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land. Lots of puns that will go over a child’s head but makes it fun for the par­ent. My fa­vorite part is prob­a­bly: (more)

Book Re­view: The Devil’s Dictum

I like al­ter­nate his­tory, and I like Amer­i­can his­tory, so The Dev­il’s Dic­tum was a good combo for me. The premise is that in­stead of Amer­ica be­ing founded by Chris­tians, it was founded by Sa­tanists. The re­sult­ing world some­times seemed over-the-top, but I kept think­ing, “Well…maybe it could have hap­pened like this?” And the au­thor men­tions writ­ing pulp fic­tion in the ac­knowl­edg­ments, so a lit­tle over-the-top is to be ex­pected. 😁 Most of the en­joy­ment for me was learn­ing the his­tory, see­ing fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters in un­fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tions, and try­ing to guess iden­ti­ties. I ac­tu­ally was less in­ter­ested in the plot than in read­ing about those “his­tor­i­cal” de­tails. Even so it was a page-turner and a quick read, and I’d rec­om­mend it for al­ter­nate his­tory fans. (more)

The Bible on Broc­coli

Matthew 14:16-19 (more)

Book Re­view: Dimension of Miracles

Di­men­sion of Mir­a­cles seems like an ob­vi­ous in­flu­ence on Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the Galaxy…ex­cept for the fact that Dou­glas Adams did­n’t even know of it un­til af­ter he had writ­ten his story. When he did even­tu­ally read this book, he said, “It’s like read­ing my­self.” I’d say it’s a lit­tle more philo­soph­i­cal, a lit­tle more mea­sured, and nearly as much fun as H2G2. Ap­par­ently one of Neil Gaiman’s fa­vorites (he in­tro­duced Sheck­ley and Dou­glas Adams to each other). (more)

Book Re­view: Wyrd Sisters

Other than per­haps Mort, the first great Dis­c­world novel. Pratch­ett does Shake­speare with all the sly nods, quirky char­ac­ters, puns, and so­cial satire we love him for. (more)

Book Re­view: Ready Player One

I’m not sure what I was ex­pect­ing, but I was ex­pect­ing bet­ter than ju­ve­nile nerd-fan­tasy fan fic­tion. (more)

SILO: Snakes on Sticks

I’ve started book­mark­ing the in­ter­est­ing Wikipedia ar­ti­cles I stum­ble on. You’ll see them pop up here with the pre­fix “SILO”: “Stuff I Learned On­line”. En­joy the tid­bits. (more)

Book Re­view: Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain

Quick, name a his­tor­i­cal British naval of­fi­cer. Now name an­other, this time not Nel­son. (more)

Book Re­view: Anathem

Wow. (more)

Pocket Su­per­com­puter

Now that I have a su­per­com­puter in my pocket (cur­rently a Google Nexus 5), life is less clut­tered. I no longer need to carry: (more)

Book Re­view: Dreaming in Code

Dream­ing in Code is a glimpse at the world of com­puter pro­gram­ming, its cul­ture and its his­tory, through the story of the team that built Chan­dler. Chan­dler was sup­posed to be a rev­o­lu­tion­ary ap­pli­ca­tion; in­stead it cost mil­lions of dol­lars, took years to build, and was barely used be­fore the com­pany shut down. (more)

Book Re­view: Inferno

To re­view Dan­te’s In­ferno would be the height of ar­ro­gance. It’s 700 years old; it’s one of the most revered lit­er­ary clas­sics of all time; you should read it. (more)

Book Re­view: Flight of the Angels

Flight of the An­gels is Chris­t­ian sci-fi, an un­crowded genre. The premise is that, with Chris­tian­ity now il­le­gal, a colony of Chris­tians must re­main hid­den to stay alive. Some work to se­cretly help them, oth­ers to find and kill them. (more)

Book Re­view: The Design of Everyday Things

An ex­cel­lent book on de­sign. Nor­man in­tro­duces con­cepts such as af­for­dances, map­pings, and con­straints, and then gives prac­ti­cal ex­am­ples with ob­jects such as doors, tele­phones, and light switches. An ex­am­ple of his ob­ser­va­tions: (more)

Book Re­view: American Heroes

This col­lec­tion of es­says on the Pu­ri­tans, Quak­ers, and Found­ing Fa­thers has some in­ter­est­ing ob­ser­va­tions: (more)

Ten Char­ac­ter­is­tics of My Spouse

In honor of Valen­tine’s Day, Melissa chose to do this list of things we love about each other. Melissa ranked her list; Brian just al­pha­bet­ized his. (more)

Book Re­view: Dune

If you said, “Name a clas­sic sci-fi novel”, I would prob­a­bly say, “Dune”. I’ve felt ob­lig­ated to read it for years, and did start it once only to quit about a hun­dred pages in. The same thing nearly hap­pened again; in the mid­dle of the book I lost in­ter­est and set it aside for a month or two. And yet, you can see that I’ve rated Dune five stars out of five. So what gives? (more)

Book Re­view: Think Like a Freak

If you lis­ten to the Freako­nom­ics pod­cast you can skip the book; it’s ba­si­cally a “great­est hits” col­lec­tion of the last cou­ple years of episodes. Per nor­mal for Levitt and Dub­ner, the con­tent is fas­ci­nat­ing: how did a thin Japan­ese man shat­ter a long­stand­ing hot dog-eat­ing record? How can you bait ter­ror­ists into re­veal­ing them­selves? (The au­thors ex­e­cuted this feat with some de­cep­tion in their pre­vi­ous book.) Why did one multi­na­tional re­tailer con­tinue to spend mil­lions on news­pa­per ads they knew were in­ef­fec­tive? This book won’t rad­i­cally al­ter how you see the world, but it will shift it a few de­grees. (more)

Book Re­view: Freakonomics

A great in­tro­duc­tion to be­hav­ioral eco­nom­ics. The au­thors chal­lenge the con­ven­tional wis­dom—on sub­jects such as cheat­ing, crime, and child rear­ing—in a fun and en­gag­ing style. Af­ter this book, you won’t just think about these top­ics dif­fer­ently; you’ll think dif­fer­ently. (more)

Book Re­view: Don’t Make Me Think

The sem­i­nal web us­abil­ity book. Krug states at the be­gin­ning that you’ll read this book and say, “I al­ready knew that,” and he’s cor­rect if you’re not a be­gin­ner on the sub­ject. One ex­am­ple: users should al­ways be able to see if some­thing is click­able (or tap­pable) with­out hav­ing to ac­tu­ally click or tap. Even with­out any earth-shat­ter­ing rev­e­la­tions, it’s a quick read with good re­minders, and I’d highly rec­om­mend it to any­one in web de­sign or de­vel­op­ment. (more)

Ten Top Ten Lists

I like mak­ing top ten lists of every­thing. Melissa is­n’t as big on lists (she did­n’t have a fa­vorite color or an­i­mal un­til I made her choose), but I think she’s com­ing around. 😁 Here are our top ten Top Ten lists we’re go­ing to post here on (more)

Book Re­view: On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides was the in­spi­ra­tion for the fourth Pi­rates of the Caribbean movie; please don’t hold that against it. (I haven’t seen the movie, but I know the only points it shares with this book are the char­ac­ter of Black­beard and the main MacGuf­fin). (more)

Book Re­view: The Martian

Good sci-fi premise. Lik­able char­ac­ter. Ser­vice­able writ­ing. (more)

Book Re­view: Doctor Who: Shada

I like Doc­tor Who, but just the new se­ries, and not enough to read any books. I imag­ine com­pared to other Doc­tor Who books this is pretty good. (more)

2015 → 2016

Squishy goals are bad. When you set a goal, like a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion, it should be con­crete. In­stead of “I’m go­ing to eat health­ier” your goal should be some­thing like “I’m go­ing to eat un­der 2000 calo­ries six days per week.” (more)

Christ­mas Let­ter 2015


Top Ten Punc­tu­a­tion Marks

I like punc­tu­a­tion marks. Why? Well…maybe be­cause they shape lan­guage so much while go­ing mostly un­no­ticed. Maybe be­cause they’re never spo­ken* and their names are un­known to lay­men, giv­ing them a mys­te­ri­ous air. Prob­a­bly just be­cause they look nice. Here’s my fa­vorite ten, from 10 to 1. (more)

Christ­mas Let­ter 2014



Chil­dren are al­ways watch­ing their par­ents. I re­mem­ber watch­ing my dad as he watched the nightly news on TV. I would sit there and think, “Why would you watch the news when you could watch car­toons? When I’m an adult, I’m go­ing to stay up late and watch car­toons.” (more)

home3 dice images quill spoon-knife