Friday Links: 14th October


About to start reading The Straight-A Conspiracy, by Hunter Maats (yes, it is aimed at teenagers. Yes, I am not one of them. Shut up).

Finished reading Think Like An Engineer, by Guru Madhavan. A little disappointed. The writing is a bit ADD — too much switching between topics to keep the reader interested (a la Smartcuts, by Shane Snow). I didn’t learn as much about engineering concepts as I wanted. Plenty of terms are used and emphasised, but not clearly explained.

Obama’s essay from an issue of Wired he guest-edited (I’m cynical about how much was truly him, but whatever)

You generally have to be mental to think you can succeed in the restaurant business. Particularly in NYC

What my current Amazon wishlist looks like (edited to remove Kindle and second-hand books for simplicity, in case my parents use it to buy my Christmas presents)


Friday Links: 7th October


Found out this week that Dances with Wolves author Michael Blake died last year. I’m not a fan (I haven’t seen the film, never mind read the book). But I enjoyed his interview in a book I revisit occasionally, Oscar-Winning Screenwriters on Screenwriting, so I’ve returned to it.

As I’ve been geeking out on space stuff recently, I’m about to re-read one of my favourite articles of all time, A Comet’s Tale, by Tom Bissell.

(Also, here’s Elon Musk announcing Space X’s schedule for sending people to Mars by 2025. Yes, that)


I listened to #wethepeoplelive (terrible name) to hear drunken comedian Hannibal Buress blow up at author Sam Harriss as they discuss. I stayed for rest, an enjoyable interview (also featuring Joe Rogan)

A pretty thorough collection of hip-hop diss tracks (Spotify link)


Friday Links: 30th September


I’ve just started Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. The author got some publicity recently when Elon Musk publicised Bostrom’s theory that we’re probably living in a simulation. Not sure whether that’s covered in the book or not. Nevertheless, a good, at times tough, read so far.

Books set in the Homeland universe: Carrie’s Run, and Saul’s Game, both by Andrew Kaplan. I know, I’d normally turn my nose up at novels based around a TV show too. And I’m not that interested in Homeland as an entity anymore. But both books are well reviewed (although the bar might be set quite low), I need something to read in bed at night that I don’t need to think too much about, and they were £1 each (Poundworld, holla).

I continue to be obsessed with This week it’s the post about Space X’s announcement about colonising Mars (naughty words ahead), and this one on the Fermi Paradox

Other shizzle:
Sam Harris’ TED Talk about AI

For the third or fourth time, I listened to Radiolab on DNA editing with Crispr. This time I’m thinking about something they only touch on relatively briefly — the idea of a real Jurassic Park becoming more plausible


Brief Film Thoughts: Chappie

I am a cinema sage with a great number of friends. So I’m often asked for film recommendations. If I suggest Chappie, they’ll ask what it’s about. These ‘friends’, however, simply cannot match my genius. Recognising their inferior intellect, I give the reductionist answer: “It’s Short Circuit meets Robocop”.

While watching, I tried to ignore my Robocopian thoughts. Then I saw the Moose, which is a straight-up copy of Robocop’s Ed-209. There’s being overt with your inspirations. Then there’s letting others do the hard work.

I edited these notes weeks after seeing the film, so I might have some plot points wrong. But did Moore (Jackman) really think that causing one model of his company’s robots to fail would make his model more attractive to their customers? If I bought a PC from Dell and it exploded and burnt down my house, I wouldn’t phone Dell to place another order for a different computer

My favourite part was when Chappie was ‘born’. His body language perfectly conveyed recognisable child-like fear*. If someone whispered to him, he’d whisper back, which is what a kid would do. I also loved that his ears fell back when he was scared

* Chappie was ‘played’ by Sharlto Copley, star of District 9. At least according to Wiki (I’m too lazy to look elsewhere), Copley acted in scenes and was used as a reference by the animators, though he wasn’t actually motion-captured

Many films can get away with tonal disparity. Yet after all the comedy moments throughout, it was difficult to get involved in a serious, dramatic shootout at the end. And was I supposed to feel for Ninja, who’d done nothing but bad things throughout the film?

Great set design for Ninja and Yolandi’s home. Totally over the top

Would Ninja and Yolandi really allow Deon to go home? They’ve just got this police superweapon, but they’re happy to let it’s creator go about his business, even though he could rat them out at any time?

Briefer Film Thoughts: The Martian,

Space spoilers ahead

Brilliant film, although the ending was the least interesting part. My viewing of The Martian got interrupted, so I ended up watching the final few scenes two days after watching the rest. I wonder if that’s why I was less engaged. I’d been tense about Watney heading into orbit, even thinking about his chances of survival throughout my day. I really thought there was a possibility that, after all he’d gone through to survive, he might still fail at the very end. But when I actually witnessed his salvation, I wasn’t hugely engaged, despite being so into the film earlier.

The intentionally shitty soundtrack worked and fitted really well. I’m not sure what that says about films

The book this film is based on was first released for free on the author’s site. It feels like an internet book, if that makes any sense. I haven’t checked if they’re in the book or just the screenplay, but quotes like “space pirate” and “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this” seem very much like the kind of thing you’d read online

Eric Weinstein was spot on in calling The Martian ‘the ultimate high-agency movie’. Many protagonists have a puzzle to solve, but few have as many, and as many practical ones, as Watney did

Friday Links (Elon Musk Edition), 16th September


The Prisoner’s Dilemma, by William Poundstone
We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider
And some Standard Grade maths book that’s harder than I expected

I’m all about the Musk of Elon right now, so:’s tremendous four-part series in Musk (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4)
WBW again, this time on the Hyperloop


Musk (surprise) interviewed at The Code Conference


Master storyteller Cal Fussman on the Tim Ferriss Podcast