My Faults My Own

…willing to sacrifice something we don't have

for something we won't have, so somebody will someday.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and erstwhile student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: June 21)

A collection of things that I was happy I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Which technological advances have improved the working of autocracy? — The big innovation in authoritarian governance has been this: subsequent autocratic leaders, most of all in China, have found ways of both liberalizing and staying in power.

Blog: Schneier on Security | Free Societies are at a Disadvantage in National Cybersecurity — "I do worry that these disadvantages will someday become intolerable. Dan Geer often said that "the price of freedom is the probability of crime." We are willing to pay this price because it isn't that high. As technology makes individual and small-group actors more powerful, this price will


Review: Ready Player One

tl;dr: For yet another techno-corporatist dystopia, I found Ready Player One a surprisingly refreshing, hopeful, humanist story about uncynical protagonists whose only superpowers are earnestly caring about something. The visual effects are pretty well on-point, the action is well-done, and the dialogue is inconsistently but occasionally witty. I went in expecting the most vapid of action movies, and was pleasantly surprised.

I'd read plenty of thinkpieces explaining ways that Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One was shallow, bad, and/or problematic, but I had an evening to burn, so I went to go see it with a friend of mine.

I'm glad that I did; I enjoyed it a lot. (I'm going to say ~nothing about the 'and/or problematic'; just not going to go there today.)

spoiler note: Mild spoilers for references, worldbuilding, and visual style. No significant plot spoilers.


On its face, it's a effects-rich action-romp. And in that genre, it felt reasonably well-done, if not particularly deep (though it had its thematic notes, see 2A below)


Review: Terra Ignota

i. e., Too Like the Lightning, Seven Surrenders, The Will to Battle; excluding Perhaps the Stars

I have many wonderful friends who consume far more media than I can ever hope to keep up with, so I'm pretty much always inundated with recommendations that I know I'll never get to. But when the same book is independently recommended to me by a (grad student in philosophy) old friend from college and a (mathy, rationalist-y) work colleague, I'll sit up and listen. And shortly thereafter, buy the entire trilogy on my Kindle for airport reading almost on the spot. Which turned out to be a good choice.

My spoiler-free recommendation is that the trilogy is extant first three books of the quartet are a brilliant feat of worldbuilding with a triple-helping of shockingly clever philosophy stirred in, clearly pitched at nerds by a dyed-in-the-wool nerd sci-fi fan. Its stylistic quirks are sometimes charming and


Remembering Aaron Swartz

including a review of The Idealist, by Justin Peters

You haven't seen a roomful of students' eyebrows shoot up simultaneously until you begin your CS50 section with a content warning for suicide.

content warning: suicide.


It was the week we were covering web development and walking through a project that had students scraping an RSS feed to extract news stories geotagged as local. It was also Aaron Swartz's birthday.

And so it seemed wrong not to include, in that lesson, some words for the young visionary who was no older than some of my students when he invented the protocol we'd be using that week. It seemed wrong not to take the occasion to remind my students that the things they were learning could be used to literally change the world. And it seemed wrong not to tell the story about how federal prosecutors enforcing unjust laws hounded that young man until he took his own life.

And so I took


Review: Anathem

If you're looking for a short verdict on Anathem, you've come to the wrong place I thought it was excellent, and if you're the sort of person who reads this blog, you're highly likely to enjoy it, too. For reference, I enjoyed it significantly more than Snow Crash, the only other Stephenson I've read, which I would peg at "good, but not excellent". (Edit: I also enjoyed Anathem more than Cryptonomicon (excellent) and Seveneves (very good). Of these four, I enjoyed Snow Crash least.)

Proper review follows.


It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that at one stage in my life, my favorite book was Ender's Game. This is, as I understand it, downright conventional for intellectually gifted children of a particular age, if not actually a rite of passage. As Orson Scott Card writes in the foreword to the 1991 edition of Game:

[A] woman who worked as a guidance counselor for gifted children reported that she had only picked up Ender’s Game to read

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