Regarding Brain Crush

Why You Should Follow Julia Evans on Twitter

Recorded on August 24th, 2016

If you’re at all interested in programming, you should follow Julia Evans (@b0rk) on Twitter. I don’t know if I got lucky and hit her feed at just the right moment, or if she’s just delightful like this all the time. I believe it’s the latter, because no matter how far back I scroll, there’s fun, creative, nerdy stuff. Her enthusiasm for learning and sharing is contagious and makes me want to be a part of it. I’m bound to get smarter the more I read and try the stuff she advises.

If you also like zines or any kind of handwritten art, you’ll especially love her recent posts where she’s effectively live-blogging her programmer’s notebook in zine format:

So her tweets are pretty great. And then you dive into her blog and read stuff like this: “How Do You Decide What to Work On?

^^^^^This is what I like to call “secret-decoder-key” goodness.

Aziz Ansari Would Prefer No Photos With You

Recorded on August 22nd, 2016

Aziz Ansari 2012 Shankbone

Freakonomics Radio recently re-ran this interview with Aziz Ansari. As you might expect, he is devastatingly smart. He co-wrote a book called Modern Romance (which I have not read) about the reasons that people date and marry today and how the rituals and methods behind those have changed from olde times. It sounds like less of an Aziz-standup book than one about a subject he was interested enough in to do actual research on.

So, smart dude, and one who freely admits his weakness for reading too much of the internet and wasting time on Facebook. And that makes me appreciate even more his distaste for taking photos with fans when he’s out and about. It’s not that he’s too good for it. It just gets in the way of being with his actual friends, and the photos aren’t that important anyway:

And you know, if people ask for a photo I have like a nice way of telling people, “oh I’d rather not take a photo but what’s your name? Thank you so much for watching my work and I’m genuinely very appreciative.”

And:

So it becomes this whole thing. So you can either do that or you can have this real moment with a person where you say, “hey, how are you? Like, what’s your name? Like, thanks for watching my stuff. And I’m happy to do that.” That feels like a real thing to me.

Note to self: Resist the urge to take photos when I meet my celebrity heroes. Some people may be very cool with it. For others, it’s just one more annoyance in a long day, and would I really want to be the source of that? What would it prove anyway? That we’re now buds? No. It would prove that we were both in front of the same camera at the same instant, but not much else. Why can’t we be secure in the authenticity of a moment with another person, where we talk and listen to each other and we don’t ask them to give us yet one more thing?

Blog Obsession: The Serial Mentor

Recorded on April 5th, 2016

By way of Eddie Smith’s recent post about blogging with Jekyll, I followed the trail to The Serial Mentor, the blog of Claus Wilke, Professor of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin. The gateway drug post for me was his take on Goodbye Squarespace, Hello Github. After that, I couldn’t look away from his excellent posts on writing, such as the brain-nourishing Avoiding the official style, and To write well, learn how to read. He’s not afraid to dig deep into a topic to give you thoughtful reasons and examples of how to do things better. My Instapaper queue is getting quite a workout. I just hope I can keep up.

Wilke has a nice collection of some of his posts assembled in what he calls a virtual book — collections of blog posts that may have constituted the book he’ll likely never write. There’s good stuff in there that you might not uncover as easily otherwise.

I especially enjoy the frequent peeks into the world of academia and research. Lots of Wilke’s stories and writing examples include passages from scientific articles and journals. Most of it should be way over my head (like The one time I failed to parasitize an established clinical researcher), but his writing makes it relatable. It’s refreshing to step outside of my comfortable RSS-feed clubhouse of lifehacks®, software development, and web design, and learn about how people get a whole different kind of work done.