Weeknotes: 104

Work

This week I spent mostly in meetings; I got a small amount of refactoring done but that’s it in terms of dev work.

We had a few story mapping sessions, and now have a good idea of what’s needed for our MVP. Hopefully development on that can start early next week, as we’re still aiming for mid October as a launch date, so time is slipping away…

Finally, Issy Long left GDS this week, after being there for over 6 years. A tribute appeared in gov.uk/humans.txt for Friday.

Books

This week I read:

  • The Nun, by Denis Diderot.

    This is the story of a nun, abused by her parents and forced into taking her vows unwillingly, sending her memoirs to the Marquis de Croismare and asking for his help in escaping from her plight. The story doesn’t have a very favourable depiction of convents, where Mothers Superior are depicted as manipulative abusers.

    The story started as a practical joke played on the real Marquis, a friend of Diderot’s, involving an exchange of letters from a fictional nun; which Diderot turned into a novel afterwards. The edition I have has both the novel and the letters, I found the novel more enjoyable than the letters, but was impressed by how kind and generous the Marquis revealed himself to be in his letters.

  • The Mabinogion, translated by Sioned Davies.

    This is a collection of Welsh folktales, and trying to read all the Welsh names (even with a pronunciation guide at the front of the book) was maddening: nobody has any business being called “Hychddwn” or “Pwyll Pen Annwfn”. And don’t get me started on King Arthur’s shield, “Wynebgwrthucher”.

    The stories portray a very different time. In one of them Peredur, a knight of Arthur’s court, finds a woman crying in the forest: her husband has just been killed by a knight. So Peredur buries the husband, and goes with the woman to punish the knight. They fight, the knight is defeated, and begs for mercy. Peredur says:

    You shall have mercy on condition that you take this woman as a wife, and treat her as well as you have treated other women, since you killed her husband for no reason

    The knight then “sat the woman properly on a horse beside him”, and left. The woman makes no comment during any of this. Better to be married to your husband’s killer than to be single I suppose?

I decided to buy the remnants of all the book series I’m reading: I got all the remaining volumes of Nana, Malazan, The Culture, The Sprawl, and a few volumes of 20th Century Boys (some of the others might be out of print, so I’ll need to scour the second-hand places). I’ve spent a lot of money on books this year; maybe I can go the rest without buying any more…

Miscellaneous

I did some pruning of my “to-read” bookmarks, I started with over a thousand articles and papers and ended up with around 200. I’d built up those bookmarks over years, so it was like a trip back through time working through them all: lots of programming and tech (including announcements of “new” things from 2015); occasional clusters of self-improvement, organisation, and personal finance; random articles on things I thought were interesting at the time (like obscure mythological creatures); and overall a gradual shift from mostly tech to mostly game mastering.

Carefully considering so many bookmarks would have been infeasible, so I erred on the side of deletion and only looked at each one enough to get a sense of the overall topic. It helped that a lot of the older ones no longer existed (404s, inaccessible servers, or even expired domains). Some things I’d even bookmarked multiple times, one page I had bookmarked 5 times over the years! I also deleted all the papers and books I’d bookmarked during my Ph.D, figuring that if I’d not read them by now I probably wouldn’t be reading them ever.

So now I’ve got a much smaller, though still fairly large, set of browser bookmarks. Hopefully I can keep on top of them all now, and move things over to my bookmarks search engine as I read them.