3 min read

Brand New Eyes

Hi Friends,

This has been a busy week, between pushing myself a bit at work to try keeping project timelines on track, to working on starting my new blog on carbon removal, and I guess starting this newsletter, too. I'm tired, but in a (mostly) good way. I feel like the future is full of opportunity, and I'm excited to start a couple new projects.

For my carbon removal blog to succeed, I feel that I'm going to really need to embrace being a beginner again. I haven't done that in years, and it's not the most comfortable thing. I think the last time I was really a beginner at something I was serious about learning was a decade ago when I started to learn how to write code. Since then I haven't had to go back to that uncomfortable place, when progress is slow and anything you can produce is pretty crap.

(Maybe I'm also a beginner at blogging? I don't really mind publishing crap, though. Writing is just inherently rewarding.)

What I'm Reading

At the moment I have like way too many books going. I'll list them all here and then maybe needing to have something new in this section next week will help me commit to narrowing focus and just finishing them.

  • The Dream Machine, M. Mitchell Waldrop: Stripe gives this book to every new employee. It's an incredibly detailed history of the research and design evolution of the computer throughout its origins in the 20th century. I've come to think of it as a sort of Game of Thrones for computer history, since it seems every ten pages a new character is introduced. Quite dense, quite long, but engaging and informative nonetheless. It's taking me a while to get through but I'm enjoying it.
  • White Teeth, Zadie Smith: This is Smith's debut novel, which she wrote at 25. It's about two families who are very different but come together due to circumstance. It's about identity and how ethnicity and tradition and internal desires influence the decisions we make and therefore the people we end up becoming. I'm like halfway through. The writing is hilarious and crisp.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston: This one's about a young black woman in post-Civil War America. I'm not far enough into this one to have a good grasp on what it's about. So far she ("Janie") has run away from one constraining marriage, and found herself in another one. I'm getting the feeling that the story is going to be about Janie learning to be independent in the face of a world that doesn't want her to be. I might finish it this week since I want to know what happens and it's not too long.
  • Thinking In Systems, Donella Meadows: I'm only a chapter into this book but I already kind of love it. It's about putting frameworks on the systems that govern the world around us. It's about how pretty much anything you look at is a system, and how looking a little closer or at a slightly higher level will show you systems in systems, systems of systems. The models given in the book are simple, elegant, and intuitive, and I can see it becoming a really practical set of tools that I reach for often.
  • Software Engineering at Google, Winters, Manshrek, and Wright: I'm reading this as part of my ongoing effort to become a better software engineer. You can go a long way in this industry just by being good at writing code and being nice, but to push beyond the "senior engineer" level, you need to be able to grapple with increasing levels of complexity. That doesn't come naturally to a lot of people, including me, so I'm putting in extra time and energy towards learning those skills.


What I've been listening to recently.

  • Brand New Eyes, Paramore: This has been my favorite album for much of this year. It's motivating and inspirational, and I needed that this spring when I was burnt out of my current job, going through the interview gauntlet trying to find my next opportunity
You can't be too careful anymore
When all that is waiting for you
Won't come any closer
You've got to reach out a little more


Open your eyes like I opened mine
It's only the real world.