A Drive Through Central Florida

March 19, 2019 • #

We just got back this evening from a long weekend trip up to Jacksonville for medical follow-up and to visit with friends. It’s about a 4 hour drive from St. Pete, and I usually do a route that takes us up I-75 to around Ocala, then connect up to I-10 up US-301. Then the same route home in reverse.

The trip down 301 takes you through a half dozen tiny to small towns that are quintessential “Old Florida”1. On this drive down I thought I’d briefly document each of them with a photolog of sorts, for anyone unfamiliar with what rural Central Florida looks like.

In order from north to south as you connect between the interstates, you pass through:

  • Lawtey
  • Starke
  • Waldo
  • Orange Heights
  • Hawthorne
  • Citra

Lawtey is the first town you pass, it takes about 30 seconds to traverse from north to south Lawtey is the first town you pass, it takes about 30 seconds to traverse from north to south

Grannie's is a famous stop in Starke, one day we'll stop for a full-service lunch Grannie’s is a famous stop in Starke, one day we’ll stop for a full-service lunch

The Waldo Flea Market is a staple, we used to make trips there from Gainesville in college The Waldo Flea Market is a staple, we used to make trips there from Gainesville in college

Hawthorne is a frequent fuelling stop, for the Buick and the kids Hawthorne is a frequent fuelling stop, for the Buick and the kids

When you pass Citra's Orange Shop, you know you're about 10 miles out from 75 When you pass Citra’s Orange Shop, you know you’re about 10 miles out from 75

As you can tell, these are some small places. It’s always a reality check to see how relatively sparsely populated so much of the state is, and how different it is living even a couple hours from a major city.

  1. A few of them are also notorious as speed traps, with speed limits dropping from 65 to 35 over a quarter mile through them. 

David Foster Wallace interview with Charlie Rose.

March 17, 2019 • #

I’m currently reading David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, so I went back to look at some interview clips with him on his nonfiction writing. This one with Charlie Rose was excellent — I could listen to his thoughts on any subject, for hours:

Clearly a tormented guy, but his brain was on another level separate from the rest of us.

Weekend Reading: Mental Models, Git History, and Notion

March 16, 2019 • #

🧠 A Latticework of Mental Models

This is an excellent archive on Farnam Street with background on 109 different mental models — first principles, Occam’s Razor, probabalistic thinking, and many more. So much great reading material here to study different modes of thinking. Like writer Shane Parrish puts it, this latticework helps you “think better”:

The quality of our thinking is proportional to the models in our head and their usefulness in the situation at hand. The more models you have—the bigger your toolbox—the more likely you are to have the right models to see reality. It turns out that when it comes to improving your ability to make decisions. Variety matters.

Most of us, however, are specialists. Instead of a latticework of mental models, we have a few from our discipline. Each specialist sees something different. By default, a typical Engineer will think in systems. A psychologist will think in terms of incentives. A biologist will think in terms of evolution. By putting these disciplines together in our head, we can walk around a problem in a three dimensional way. If we’re only looking at the problem one way, we’ve got a blind spot. And blind spots can kill you.

💾 Git History

A neat tool for visually browsing git commit history. Scrolling through commits does a nice animation to show you graphically what’s changing from step to step. Here’s an example with browserify.

✏️ Notion Pages

Over the last week I’ve been messing around with Notion, a productivity app that seemingly can do everything — a combination personal database, word processor, spreadsheet, notes app, and todo list. I’m trying it out for note taking and writing (mostly), but it’s got some potential to be a personal wiki, an idea which has always intrigued me but never felt worthwhile to try to set up and maintain. This site has a bunch of templates for Notion to help get started for different use cases. Just browsing it shows the diversity of things you can use it for.

The New House

March 15, 2019 • #

New house

We closed today on our new house. It’s only about 10 minutes away from where we live now, but a nicer neighborhood, more space, a larger garage, closer to parks, with better school access for the kids. We’re excited about finally making this jump after talking about it for 4+ years. We’ve always liked where we live currently, the location and the house, but we’ve outgrown it with two little people now here. There’s been no packing or moving yet; we’re on our way to Jacksonville tomorrow for medical follow-up stuff. So all the fun moving will have to wait til we get back.

It’ll be nice to have a fresh start!

Pinboard

March 14, 2019 • #

I was a big del.icio.us user back in the day, pre- and post-Yahoo. For anyone unfamiliar, it was one of the first tools (before Twitter) for sharing web links and making bookmarks social.

I signed up for Pinboard around the time it launched. Creator Maciej Cegłowski had an interesting concept for making his service paid, a tactic that could allow it to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining and avoid the acquisition & stagnation that del.icio.us suffered at the hands of Yahoo after they acquired it in 2005.

When it launched it cost around $3 to join, a one-time fee to get in the door that could fund development and hosting, but most importantly deter the spam that plagued del.icio.us over time. His idea was to increase the signup fee by a fraction of a cent with each new user, which functioned as a clever way to increase revenue, but to also incentivize those on the fence to get in early.

I stopped using any bookmarking tools for a while, in favor of using Instapaper to bookmark and read later mostly articles and things. But a couple of things pushed me back to Pinboard recently. First there are all the items I want to save and remember that aren’t articles, but just links. Instapaper could certainly save the URL, but that’s not really that service’s intent. Second is the fact that I don’t even tend to use the in-app reading mode on Instapaper to read articles anyway; most of the time I just click through and read them on their source websites.

Since I’m keeping track of and documenting more of the interesting things I run across here on this site, Pinboard helps to keep and organize them. Pinboard’s description as an “anti-social bookmarking” tool is an apt one, for me. I have all of my bookmarks set to private anyway. I’m not that interested in using it as a sharing mechanism — got plenty of those already between this blog, Twitter, and others.

For mobile I bought an app called Pinner that works well to add pins right from the iOS share sheet, and also browse bookmarks. I’m liking this setup so far and finding it useful for archiving stuff and using as a read-later tool for the flood of things I get through RSS and Twitter.

Intuition, Expertise, and Learning

March 13, 2019 • #

The legendary psychologist Daniel Kahneman (author of Thinking, Fast and Slow in his wheelhouse, talking about human biases, decision making, and signal vs. noise.

A Neural Chernobyl

March 11, 2019 • #

The short story is the perfect format for science fiction. A genre that’s keen on high concepts that can be very interesting often finds itself overreaching when certain concepts can’t sustain themselves through a 400 page full-length novel.

Bruce Sterling, one of my personal favorite authors, thinkers, and self-described “futurist” is one of the best in the business with the format. Globalhead is one of these collections from the early 90s, an eclectic mix of stories of varied genres — speculative fiction, post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk, crime thriller, Victorian steampunk — I begin to wonder if there’s a subject Sterling hasn’t dabbled in.

Of the group of 13 stories collected in Globalhead, 4 or 5 stood out to me as memorable and established worlds and characters within that I could see carrying their own longer-form works. Here’s a brief breakdown of my favorites from the bunch.

Our Neural Chernobyl

This one is presented as an excerpt from a historical archive about an event that spawned a terrible, irreversable genetic virus. Gene hackers, in a effort to cure AIDS and other genetic diseases develop DNA modifications that give humans a massive boost in neural capability, but has disastrous side effects including giving the same boost to many other species of mammals (and spawns an intelligent raccoon society with its own advanced culture). It’s a short, humorous setup without much substance, but surprisingly thought-provoking.

The Moral Bullet

A speculative fiction piece (in collaboration with author John Kessel about what can go awry with positive medical breakthroughs. After a life-extending drug is developed, the world is fragmented into tribal bandit groups and rival factions looking to hoard and protect supplies of the drug. The world is shown through the eyes of a scavenger playing the groups off of one another to his own advantage. The twist at the end is pretty slick for a short story to pull off. The world-building here is excellent — this is one of the bunch that could likely hold its own conceptually as a standalone work.

Storming the Cosmos

This one is a sign of the times, a hallmark of the Cold War era in which Sterling was writing much of his best stuff during the 1980s. This is another one with a co-author, this time cyberpunk writer Rudy Rucker. The plot here is presented as a retelling of a secret, unknown event in the history of the Soviet space program1. It starts out as a fairly conventional science fiction story about a couple of space program engineers gets progressively more wild as they trek off to remote Siberia where a historical event unhinges the characters from spacetime. Like I said, Sterling can really sprint with a concept.

I’ve got copies of both Mirrorshades and Crystal Express, two other collections by Sterling that I’m eager to dig into. The first is actually an editing credit — cyberpunk stories penned by others and collected and annotated by Sterling.

  1. I just found out that this genre is known as “atompunk.”