5 minute read

I’ve been meaning to do a retrospective of sorts for the past few years, each time I postponed it until it made no sense any more. Here goes.

2017 was a rough year for me. On the upside:

  • I got to visit America for the first time.
  • I visited Barcelona for the excellent Curry On conference.
  • I read a whole bunch of books.
  • I listened to a whole lot of music and at last managed to do some music rehearsals once again.
  • I started the Athenian chapter of Papers We Love with a friend.
  • We co-organised the Athens Clojure meetup.
  • I played board games weekly.
  • I started excercising regurarly and became more strict about my bedtime. This has possibly been the most important thing I did for myself in 2017.
  • I started writing some posts here.

Best articles and blog posts I read

Thanks to pinboard I can easily look back on articles and blog posts I read in 2017.

  • The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time I’ve been using this list whenever I want something good to listen to while I work or study.
  • Book Review: Eichmann in Jerusalem by Scott Alexander. I don’t always like Alexander’s style, but his commentary here as well as the parts quoted from the book made me order it instantly.
  • How we structure our work and teams at Basecamp by Jason Fried. Fried clearly knows what he’s talking about, and I enjoy how he and DHH go against the normal SV ethos of working yourself to death. We tried both 6-week cycles and 4-day summertime weeks at work with (I believe) great success.
  • Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber by Susan Fowler. I don’t think I need to say much here. Before the Weinstein scandal broke out, we found out how terrible the culture at Uber was.
  • Recipe for a Great Programmer by Nathan Martz. Martz’s advice is concise and to the point.
  • The world beyond batch: Streaming 101 by Tyler Akidau. Whenever someone asks me about streaming systems, I recommend they read this blogpost and its followup. Akidau first defines the problem, then the old solutions, and finally gives a very nice description of how the Dataflow model works.
  • So You Want to Be a Wizard by Julia Evans. In the same as Nathan Martz’s post, Julia Evans gives a really inspiring description of what it takes to be a truly great software engineer.
  • Reversing the Technical Interview by Kyle Kingsbury. The amazing Kyle Kingsbury (of Jepsen fame) destroys the whole concept of a technical whiteboard interview with this hilarious post.
  • Once We Listened to the Beatles. Now We Eat Beetles. by Tyler Cowen. I didn’t find the time to read Cowen’s book The Complacent Class, but this article gives the gist of his thinking. I think his arguments about complacency are relevant not only to America, but to the western world in general.
  • Inside the High Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend by Steve Silberman. It’s now been more than 10 years since Jim Gray disappeared without trace. This is an old but really excellent article describing how the tech world mobilized in an effort to track him down. Gray’s contributions to computer science cannot be overstated, but this story would be amazing either way.
  • #define CTO by Greg Brockman. This blog post has really influenced my thought on how the engineering branch of a tech company should be structured.
  • When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy by Susan Dominus. I’ve spent part of the later half of 2017 thinking about experiments, validation, statistical significance, and repeatability. Then the New York Times published an article describing the crisis that has hit behavioral sciences the past few years. Not even Kahneman was immune.

Favorite non-technical books I read

I read 32 books in 2017, 5 more than in 2016. I hope that in 2018 I read more than 40.

  • The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World by David Deutsch. This was, by far, the most influential book I read all year. Deutsch discusses the philosophy of science, creativity, quantum physics, evolution, politics, and art, unified under his theory of optimism and fallibilism. Problems are inevitable, problems are soluble.
  • The Method: A Personal Account of the Tortures in Greece by Periclis Korovesis. A really important memoir of the brutality of the Greek military junta (1967 - 1974).
  • The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop. A truly inspiring description of the history of the personal computer, starting from Turing and going all the way through MIT and ARPA to XEROX PARC and Apple. A shame it is not in print any more.
  • The Third Wedding by Costas Taktsis. A truly suffocating description of lower middle class families in Greece during the early 20th century. Possibly one of the greatest novels ever written in greek.
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. While I do think that Gladwell tends to oversimplify things a bit so he can fit them under his theory, this is a book full of good stories, and Gladwell is one of the greatest storytellers alive.
  • High Output Management by Andy Grove. This small book helped me a lot on how to think about management, and how we tend to underestimate its importance.

Favorite technical books I almost read

I spent a good chunk of 2017 studying Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. Then I put it on pause to start reading Designing Data-Intensive Applications. Both have helped and influenced me massively, and I do look forward to finishing them in 2018.

Favorite music I listened to

  • Hüsker Dü - their discography. This was the soundtrack of my 2017.
  • The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. This was the soundtrack of my summer.
  • LCD Soundsystem - American Dream. This was the soundtrack of my visit to NYC.
  • Lorde - Melodrama.
  • Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
  • Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference.
  • Ex Eye - s/t.
  • Víkingur Ólafsson - Philip Glass: Piano Works.
  • Lots and lots of rembetika.

Favorite TV series I watched

  • Homicide: Life on the Street
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • You’re the Worst
  • Red Oaks
  • The Deuce
  • Seinfeld
  • Gilmore Girls

Favorite board games I played

Favorite podcasts I listened to

  • Conversations with Tyler
  • The Ezra Klein Show
  • EconTalk
  • Rationally Speaking
  • The Arsecast
  • Shut Up & Sit Down

Looking forward to in 2018

  • Playing more music. I have a couple projects (rembetika and garage punk - I know) underway, I hope they pan out.
  • Reading more books. History, software, philosophy, novels, poetry, the backlog is huge!
  • Organizing monthly Papers We Love meetups.
  • Learning a new programming language. Haskell probably. Or OCaml?
  • Playing board games. I swear this is what keeps me sane, at times at least.
  • Learning some chess.
  • Open sourcing a bunch of code.
  • Writing more blog posts.
  • Watching the final two seasons of the Leftovers.
  • Travelling a bit more. In Greece, Europe, and hopefuly America.