Books I read in 2016

Here are the books that I read in 2016.


  1. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill [deadtree]
  2. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (started in 2015) [ebook]
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  4. Consumed by David Cronenberg [ebook]
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness [deadtree]
  8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  10. We Are Not Good People by Jeff Somers [ebook]
  11. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire [ebook]
  12. Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey [ebook]
  13. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (reread) [audiobook]
  15. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwook [audiobook]
  16. Helen and Desire by Alexander Trocchi [ebook]
  17. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern [audiobook]
  18. The Lost Stars: Shattered Spear by Jack Campbell [ebook]
  19. Lord of All Things by Andreas Eschbach [audiobook]
  20. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch [audiobook]
  21. A Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn [ebook]
  22. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell [audiobook]
  23. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi [audiobook]
  24. The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais [deadtree]
  25. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin [audiobook]
  26. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood [audiobook]
  27. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders [ebook]


  1. The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing by Daniel Bergner (started in 2015) [ebook]
  2. Vicarious Kinks: S/M in the Socio-Legal Imaginary by Ummni Khan [ebook]
  3. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit [ebook]
  4. The History of Sexuality 2: The Use of Pleasure by Michel Foucault [ebook]
  5. Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality by Margot Weiss [ebook]
  6. If You Knew Then What I Know Now by Ryan Van Meter [ebook]
  7. Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish [deadtree]
  8. A Spy's Guide to Thinking by John Braddock [audiobook]
  9. Common LISP Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach by Edmund Weitz [deadtree]
  10. The History of Sexuality 3: The Care of the Self by Michel Foucault [ebook]
  11. Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt [audiobook]
  12. Smooke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty [audiobook]
  13. Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti [ebook]
  14. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti [deadtree]
  15. Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm [ebook]
  16. The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory by Julia Shaw [audiobook]
  17. Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills For Turning Conflict Into Cooperation by Becky Bailey [deadtree]

Quit Reading

  1. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky [ebook]
  2. The Best of Sexology: Kinky and Kooky Excerpts from America's First Sex Magazine edited by Craig Yoe [deadtree]
  3. Gynecocracy by Julian Robinson [ebook]
  4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (second attempt) [ebook]
  5. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart [deadtree]
  6. Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales by Ray Bradbury [deadtree]


Let's Talk About Coin Flips

There has been lots of talk in the last 24 hours about coin flips. If a precinct had, for example, five delegates to award and the caucus-goers were evenly divided between two candidates, they would award two delegates to each and toss a coin to see which of them got the fifth delegate.

Most of the social-media that I've seen in response has been either Hillary is the coin-flipping champion or Really? Coin flips?.

Long post in which I comment briefly on six-in-a-row and argue in favor of coin flipsCollapse )


Books I read in 2015

I managed to read even more this year than last. Here's what I read in 2015.

Interesting to note: I had a really hard time remembering whether I read some of these as deadtree books or not. If I read it as an ebook or listened to it as an audiobook but saw a full-color book cover for the book, then I have some vivid memories of holding the physical book in my hands as I read.



Fiction that I bailed out on before the end:

  • None

Non-fiction that I bailed out on before the end:


JIT Outrage and Lazy Dogma

For maybe obvious reasons, I've been thinking a great deal this week about the strong opinions people form on very little information. Even worse, people tend to fixate on a subset of the limited information they have available while actively ignoring the rest.

JIT Compilers

A number of modern computer languages have what are called Just In Time compilers, aka JIT compilers. With JIT compilers, a human writes source code in a human-readable form. There is usually then an initial compilation stage which does some simple validation and transforms it into a form suitable for interpretation by an idealized, imaginary computer. At some later point in time, the transformed version of the code is executed on an actual, real, live computer. The Just In Time compiler takes the transformed version for an idealized computer and turns it into actual code for this specific type of computer. With some super-fancy JIT compilers, the first cut at this is very basic with some modest assumptions as to how the code will be used. As the same pieces of code are run over and over again, a super-fancy JIT compiler might recompile the code with new assumptions (based upon past-usage) as to how the code will be used so that the code can be as streamlined as possible for the most-frequent or most-costly cases.

For systems without a JIT compiler, one of two approaches is taken. Some systems take the human-written source code and transform it for an idealized, imaginary computer and later emulate the imaginary computer using your actual, real, live computer. Other systems take the human-written source code and immediately transform it the whole way into code for your actual, real, live computer.

Those systems which emulate the imaginary computer sacrifice speed. Your computer cannot emulate the idealized computer nearly as fast as it could run its own stuff.

Systems which compile directly for the real, live computer sacrifice adaptability since they can only be run on computers which are almost identical (in hardware and operating system) to the one for which they were compiled.

Either way, without a JIT compiler, there is never an opportunity to revisit the initial assumptions about how the code would be used. Any optimization has to be done up front before the code is ever run.

As a real-world example, suppose that I have decided to write all of my email in Esperanto from now on. You might set up a filter on your mail-reader that invokes a translator when it goes to display any message from me so that you can read it in Klingon rather than Esperanto. This is Just In Time translation. The message sits in your Inbox in Esperanto. When you read it, it is transformed into Klingon. If, later, you decide that your preferred language is Elvish, you just have to re-open the message to get it in Elvish instead. The alternative, not-Just In Time version would be that I have the filter set up on my end so that when I write a message to you, it gets translated into Klingon before it gets sent. It sits in your Inbox in Klingon. Even after you've moved on to Elvish, that message will be in Klingon.

Lazy Evaluation

Most programming languages have an Eager evaluation model. With an Eager evaluation model, you can safely pretend that when you see multiple function calls in a row, the functions will be called in that exact order. For example, in the following code, the function foo() would definitely be called before the function bar().

   y := foo();
   x := bar();
   return pair(x,y);

With a Lazy evaluation model, when you see a call to a function, all you are really seeing is a promise to call that function if its value is every actually needed. As such, in the code snippet above, if there is something that foo() does with the global state of the program that bar() requires be done before it is invoked, you might end up out of luck. The model hasn't guaranteed the order these two functions will be called.

As a real-world example, imagine that you tell me to subtract the year Hannibal crossed the Alps from the year Madonna won her first Grammy Award and then write down my favorite color. I might search Google to find out when Hannibal crossed the Alps and when Madonna won her first Grammy Award. I might search for either one first. I might just write down my favorite color and not bother subtracting anything. I have done Lazy evaluation. If I were doing Eager evaluation, I would have had to look up when Hannibal crossed the Alps before I could even consider the question of when Madonna won her first Grammy Award and I would have to do the subtraction before I even considered what I should write down as my favority color.

I like to think of Just In Time compiling as lazy evaluation of the make me a version for my actual, real, live computer function. You don't actually need code that can be run on an actual, real, live computer until you are really, truly, about to run the code on an actual, real, live computer. If no one ever runs that code, there is never a need to compile it.


When do we form opinions? Are our opinions pre-compiled or compiled Just In Time? Are our opinions evaluated Eagerly or Lazily? At what point do we need an opinion?

Is the strength of our opinion correlated to the strength of the evidence we possess? Is our opinion taking into account how it is actually going to be used in this situation, or is it based on modest assumptions on how opinions are generally used?

Certainly, before flaming someone online, we have to have formed an opinion. Was it a Lazy opinion where we decided to comment and used all of the available information to form the opinion? Was it an Eager opinion where the opinion was already formed well before it was needed for this comment?

I, personally, have almost no drive whatsoever to flame someone online. As such, when the question is Should I respond (with vitriol) to this blog post or comment?, I never need to try to calculate an opinion. When I do try, I find that I'm stretching my opinion over shockingly wide gaps in the landscape to try to make very sparse evidence cover very large ground.

I have been realizing this past week though, that I do calculate opinions early and on little information on other questions like Should I go to this event? or Do I want to talk to this person? I close many doors with barely a glance as to what's behind them.

It is time to flush the caches. It is time to recompile the routines that were compiled with very little information on how they'd actually be used.


Books I read in 2014

I managed to read even more this year than last. Here's what I read in 2014.



Fiction that I bailed out on before the end:

Non-fiction that I bailed out on before the end:


Quote of the Day

Men have always had to pay for sex—in money, marriage, respect, long-term commitment, or willingness to help raise children.Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim

It's not clear to me whether men have to give up some of the respect that would otherwise be theirs, have to respect women, or both to get sex. I feel like I should understand this before I go any further.

Also, it's manifestly clear that women do not incur these costs. Um.


Lies are not statistics...

I am reading Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim. One of the author's contentions is that despite large amounts of propaganda to the contrary, men generally do want sex more often than women do. To this end, she cites some surveys that asked the question: Do you wish there were more sex in your current relationship? The numbers seem pretty clear after age 20 that men more often feel there should be more sex in their current relationship than there is. The only way that I feel the numbers might be misleading (assuming no reporting errors) is that if women are far more likely to draw the distinction between more sex and more sex in this relationship.

So, fine. But, then the argument jumps the shark when it goes on to talk about the number of sexual partners men have in their lifetimes versus how many women have in their lifetimes. I almost crashed my car last night thinking about how wrong this argument was. I was trying to find the right analogy and totally believed while doing this that the cross-traffic at my intersection had a stop sign. I got some angry honks, but that's way better than getting hit. And, it's way better than the math in this book.

From the context, it seems clear that, for the purposes of the surveys involved, sexual partner means sexual partner of the opposite sex. The book says that survey after survey shows that, on average, men have two to three times the number of sexual partners in their lifetime than women have. It cites this as evidence that men want sex more often or just more than women do.

Let's do the math. How do we calculate the average number of sexual partners men have? We ask every man, How many sexual partners (of the opposite sex) have you had?. We sum up all of those and divide by the number of men surveyed. How do we calculate the average number of sexual partners women have? We ask every woman, How many sexual partners (of the opposite sex) have you had?. We sum up all of those and divide by the number of women surveyed.

Assume for a minute that we were able to survey a whole, closed population. For every woman on a given man's list of female sexual partners, that man is on her list. This is true for every man. For every man on a given woman's list of male sexual partners, that woman is on his list. This is true for every woman.

Some part of your brain is probably trying to figure out a way where if things were imbalanced enough... if there were a few really active women and lots of moderately active men or some such thing, it might still work out. It doesn't. It's like saying that on average Canadians enter two to three times as many buildings as they exit each day.

Where does this leave us? This means that for it to be true that men have two to three times the number of sexual partners in their lifetimes than women have, either:

  • Men live two to three times as long as women,
  • There are two to three times more women than men, or
  • Some combination of the two

None of that is borne out by the demographics. Women live longer than men and make up a (slightly) greater proportion of the population.

What do the surveys show then?

It may be there are a few women with anomolously high numbers of sexual partners who also manage to slip through the cracks of the survey. This seems highly unlikely. Even if true, it doesn't bolster the argument that men want sex more than women do.

It may be there are a few men with anomolously high numbers of sexual partners who manage to get picked for all of the surveys. This seems highly unlikely. Even if true, it doesn't bolster the argument that men want sex more than women do.

It may be that men and women differ in how well they remember the number of sexual partners they have and that one group is or both groups are systemically wrong in exactly the right way to make this impossible statistic. This seems highly unlikely. Even if true, it doesn't bolster the argument that men want sex more than women do.

It may be that women, in general, have a narrower definition of what constitutes a sexual partner than men do. This doesn't seem unlikely, but it also doesn't bolster the argument that men want sex more than women do.

It may be that there are societal pressures for men to inflate their numbers (even on anonymous surveys) and/or for women to deflate their numbers (even on anonymous surveys). I think it's undeniable that this is the case and could easily account for the whole of the two to three times factor. It still doesn't bolster the argument that men want sex more than women do.

If I were arguing that Canadians prefer being indoors to outdoors and cited a statistic saying Canadians enter two to three times as many buildings on average as they exit each day, I should be pilloried.

I'm not saying men do or do not want sex more than women do (or that Canadians prefer being indoors or out). I'm saying that citing these surveys as evidence of an argument either way destroys your credibility.

I don't know if I can keep reading this book.


My #YesAllMen Pledge

I have been reading through #yesALLwomen threads and #notALLmen crap. I've been trying to think of what best I can contribute to move the ball forward. Here's my first step.

#YesAllMen Pledge

I recognize that misogyny is pervasive in our society. I recognize that circumstances and privilege make it hard for me to see all of the ways misogyny affects the lives around me (even my own life). It is with this in mind that I pledge:

  • I will believe you when you tell me you were victimized/diminished by misogyny;
  • I will strive to see misogyny so you will not even have to tell me;
  • I will call people on their misogynist behaviors/attitudes when I see it;
  • When you call me on my misogynist behaviors/attitudes, my first words will be acknowledgement and apology;
  • When you point out misogyny that I have missed, I will thank you and strive to see that form of misogyny and others like it from that moment forward; and
  • I will never attempt to justify misogynist behaviors/attitudes: even partly, even my own, and even when there are worse examples in the world.

Further, as a parent, I will strive to raise my children to do the same.

Every time misogyny is beaten back, wonderful fruits blossom in its place. How great it would be if the oppressed/repressed could freely contribute their gifts and talents into making this a better world.

Misogyny diminishes us all.


Books I Read in 2013...

I've read a great deal more since I've bought a NOOK GlowLight than I ever have before. Here's what I read in 2013.



Fiction that I bailed out on before the end:

Non-fiction that I bailed out on before the end:

For most of those books, I have reviews on Goodreads, but feel free to ask me more about any of them.


One thing about my wife....

There are many, many things to love about my wife eyelid. One that I'm not sure I've ever mentioned to her before is this....

eyelid has an amazing aptitude for grokking stories and the characters in them. When I read a book, I tend to float along letting the characters do what they do and letting the story go where it goes. Even with just a few seconds of catching her up on the plot of what I'm reading or watching, she immediately calls out how/why some character action lacks any motivation or is out of line with the rest of the character. She's incredibly insightful and fast. It amazes me each time.

Just one of the ways she keeps amazing me day after day.


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