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December 2023 Bakery

December 2023 Bakery

This is the second installment of my bakery of thoughts and I'd like to explain my vague intention here. I've stopped posting on social media after re-evaluating the pros and cons of this practice this year.

I am thinking of these bakery posts as basically everything I would have put in a pithy sub-250 character tweet this month, but all in one place and on my own website. Sometimes I'll go over 250 characters because on verynormal.info I am verified.

Half baked

Some written thoughts, but not enough for their own post

I've begun to reread Robert Caro's masterpiece, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, which according to many is in strong contention for the greatest book ever written. If you are skeptical, you can read the introduction, which on its own is an unbelievable triumph of writing.

One hallmark of Caro's style is that he uses short sentences to punctuate his narrative. It adds rhythm almost like reading iambic pentameter. In the intro he writes of Moses and power:

In the beginning - and for decades of his career - the power Robert Moses amassed was the servant of his dreams, amassed for their sake, so that his gigantic city-shaping visions could become reality. But power is not an instrument that its possessor can use with impunity. It is a drug that creates in the user a need for larger and larger dosages. And Moses was a user.

"And Moses was a user." It's such a mic drop sentence.

Sometimes Caro will separate paragraphs with this type of short knock out punch style.

... No mayor shaped New York; No mayor - not even La Guardia - left upon its roiling surface more than the faintest of lasting imprints.
But Robert Moses shaped New York.
Physically, any map of the city proves it. The very shoreline of metropolis was different before Robert Moses came to power...

"But Robert Moses shaped New York."

Suffice it to say, I am savoring this re-read.

While the language is aesthetically remarkable, it is still form in service of function. The story of Moses' early years is familiar. He is a spoiled rich kid who wants to do good. His parents were active in the Society for Ethical Culture and before that Reform Judaism. They supported the burgeoning Jewish camping movement. They lived in Manhattan.

In Moses's time, his idealism led him to get involved in Progressivism and city government. My idealism brought me not into government in lower Manhattan, but much further uptown to teach in the South Bronx.

Moses took his licks as a young adult and learned from them. He found Alfred E. Smith and Belle. Moskowitz, who "began to teach him how things got done." While I did not have my civil service rating system rejected, as Moses did, I did get cursed out by my share of adolescent public school students. Civil servants did not care Moses went to Yale and my students certainly did not care that I went to the University of Michigan. Nor did it matter in the eyes of the targets of our reformist zeal that both of us wrote theses as capstones of our academic careers.

And I too found my mentors. And I have grown disillusioned and even scornful of my time teaching.

Under Belle Moskowitz's tutelage, Bob Moses had changed from an uncompromising idealist to a man willing to deal with practical considerations; now the alteration had become more drastic. Under her tutelage, he had been learning the politicians way. Now he almost seemed to have joined their ranks. More, he was openly scornful of men who hadn't, of men who still worried about the truth when what counted was votes. He was openly scornful of reformers whose first concern was accuracy, who were willing to devote their lives to fighting for principle and who wanted to make that fight without compromise or surrender of any part of the ideals with which they had started it. Bob Moses was scornful, in short, of what he had been.

Yes, the man who built New York is just like me.

My bookshelf is a page on this website that lists the books that I have read over the years that I keep thinking about. The end of the year is a good time to look back at my What I read in 2022 post to see what I'm still thinking about. Books that stay in my thoughts I add to my bookshelf. From 2022, these books are: The Dream Machine, Advanced Marathoning, Fierce Intimacy, and The Silmarillion. Next year, I'll review What I read in 2023 and see what with more perspective ascends to the bookshelf.

I ran 2,589.9 miles this year. I had set a goal at the start of the year to hit 2,600 miles, but I'm not going to beat myself up about the 10.1 miles, which is like 1 or 2 more runs. In 2024 I'd like to hit 2,600 miles. If I can avoid illness and continue to enjoy the forbearance of my wife, I should hit this no problem.

The mileage is not really the goal. It is a large portion of the means by which I achieve my true goal - a marathon personal record, which is currently 03:24:33. In 2023 I improved my marathon time from 03:43:14 to 3:32:03. It feels within reach. A 3:10 would get me a BQ, but that actually seems out of reach as of this writing.

Quarter baked

A sentence or two and a piece of content.

I love the idea of conceptual compression. Here's the next example compressing complexity that has me really excited. In memory job queues are part of basically all modern web application. But, it turns out modern solid state hard drives are fast enough to handle this functionality and it's stupid simple to setup.

I had the experience of setting up a Stripe integration using the Checkout product. I was super proud (not that I had anything to do with it at all) of the easy-to-follow documentation and tooling. I'm not quite ready to share exactly what needed a Stripe integration, but if you are curious reach out.

I like the effort > output > outcome > impact model introduced in this article on measuring developer productivity.

Measuring developer productivity? A response to McKinsey
The consulting firm came up with a methodology they claim can measure software developer productivity. But that measurement comes at a high price – and we offer a more sensible approach.

Big fan of this guy.

What I’ve learned this year
Lessons of 2023


Naked links.