2014 Year in Review

topics: newsletter
created: 18 Dec 2014; modified: 08 May 2019; status: in progress; confidence: log; importance: 0


Technically, rewriting the site to use Hakyll-4 as a static site generator and converting the repository from Darcs to Git were major pieces of technical debt I needed to pay off. Painful, but it had to be done. I was also pleased to finish my annotated ebook of Radiance: I think it’s an unjustly obscure piece of literary scientific fiction which shines even more when the historical context is laid out. My public release of the Mnemosyne spaced repetition dataset is something I’m proud of—the last release was inaccessible despite being a throve of data on flashcards in the real world. The sort-key trick (Spatial locality for better file compression) was originally just a random command-line trick, but in working with the darknet market scrapes, I’ve come to appreciate how it yields major space savings. (I haven’t finished any writings on the darknet markets lately, but I have been amusing myself inordinately by trying to write some epigrams on them & technology in general.) My McCaleb email interview on MtGox helped set the record straight on Wikipedia about the history of MtGox. And not a moment too soon, given how toxic the topic is now for anyone previously associated with it. - do causal networks explain why correlation≠causation is so often true? - lithium orotate experiment finished: no effects positive or negative Treadmill spaced repetition experiment - Redshift self-experiment: screen-reddening software shifts bedtime forward by 20 minutes - Bicycle face - “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” - did Fifty Shades of Gray have only 4k readers as the original Twilight fanfiction?


Somewhat to my surprise, each month I was able to compile & send out a newsletter stuffed full of links and other things:

Putting them together was a lot of work, but thus far it seems to be worth it: I am up to ~450 subscribers, most of whom click on at least one or two links, and I suspect most would not follow the RSS feed or my Google+ profile.


2014 was an eventful year. Bitcoin continued evolving towards respectability despite the MtGox disaster (which I think surprised even the more cynical observers), and the technical possibilities continue to be explored (I particularly like sidechains and Truthcoin). The darknet market scene saw dizzying turnover as markets continued to rise and fall in the post-SR1 vacuum (although in many cases, the fall was no less than merited) with 42 new markets and more closures, not to mention various prosecutions. Monitoring them all, much less scraping them, has proven to be quite a challenge, but I now have fairly complete archives which I have distributed to a number of academics; with luck, I can do a public release in 2015. This all drew some media attention as well; I did interviews in person or over email with Mike Power, the NHK, and Erica Fink.

My dog died on 6 February. He was old and nearly blind but it was still sad. I got a new cat in June from the pound after considerable travails with local animal rescue groups. I spent time weatherproofing / sealing my apartment’s doors and windows (blacking out the bedroom windows and putting springs on the doors while I was at it), and upgrading the antique DSL Internet to a cable modem; while still pathetic by any First World country’s standards, it helps a lot. I also have been learning to bake sourdough bread—when I visited my sister in San Francisco, I really enjoyed the Bowdoin sourdough bread, and there seemed no reason I couldn’t learn to bake some myself. Some home improvements worked, others didn’t (the hammock seems to be a summer-only thing; and my data logger shows the humidifier was completely unnecessary—rather, excess humidity is causing mold), and the jury is still out on others (installing much brighter CFL light bulbs to counteract winter dimness).


Entries are sorted in descending order of how much I liked them, taking the top half.


Top books:


  1. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (review)
  2. Worm, wildbow (review)
  3. Radiance: A Novel, Carter Scholz (review)
  4. Diaspora, Greg Egan
  5. The Quantum Thief, Hannu
  6. Catch-22, Heller
  7. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Márquez (review)
  8. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened (review)
  9. A Clockwork Orange, Burgess
  10. Ra, Sam Hughes
  11. Echopraxia, Peter Watts
  12. The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Swanwick (review)
  13. Rogue Male


  1. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, Tooze (review)
  2. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (review)
  3. Past, Present, and Future of Statistical Science (review)
  4. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II (review)
  5. Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose, Thomas & Turner (review)
  6. Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber 2004 (excerpts)
  7. The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family, Bryne (review)
  8. The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, Hadamard (review)
  9. Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide? (review)







God is an Astronaut:


Kantai Collection: