Writing and Talking

Over the years I've wrote and talked about a number of things, mostly technical. I haven't been very careful about keeping an index of these things, since to me they feel like a kind of rocket exhaust. Anyhow.


"Build Good Software: Of Politics and Methods"

I wrote this essay in 2017 to accompany a keynote I was invited to give at Lambda Days. I think a good deal of the software industry is dominated by a kind of unreflective techno-utopianism which I find to be both deleterious to the public good and harmful to the process of becoming good at writing software as a civilization. There are seeds in this work of my later interest in communal anti-mammon Christian social thought, though I didn't really have a sense of this at the time of writing. That would only come after a serious reading of Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Nachfolge".

Anyhow, the essay is still something that I'm proud of and I'd probably approach it in a broadly similar fashion today.

You can read it online here

"Hands-On Concurrency with Rust"

This is my first book for Packt. You can find it here. I wrote about the process of writing it here, why and how I did it. Fun project.

"Systems Programming for Normal People"

This is my in-progress book for No Starch press. The idea is to introduce systems programming for practicing software engineers that may not have had opportunity to work down-stack but would like an inroads. I am also trying to orient the book toward what I see as the reality of systems programming today: migration of complex kernel workflows into a hybrid userspace model, minimization of memory copies, containerization and distribution.


The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer

This is probably my most watched talk. I had previously spoken at Erlang Factory conferences on, well, Erlang things and was invited by the Code Mesh folks to let loose a little. I was very interested in the hardware of the Apollo project at the time -- as a result of David Mindell's "Digital Apollo" book -- and spoke about the architecture of the Apollo guidance computer, a quirky little machine even for the time. There are some factual errors in the talk but overall I'm still a fan. London is quite a bit around the world from Berkeley, California and I was very tired. I've subsequently learned how to hide my notes from the audience, allowing me to avoid weird little goofs, but I hadn't hit on them here yet. Ah well, such is the peril of live performance. Amusingly this is one of the few talks I've given twice and the second time I had hit on my note method but the secondary screen failed, denying me my notes yet again.

You can view this talk online. The second version is here.

Getting Uphill on a Candle: Crushed Spines, Detached Retinas and One Small Step

This is my favorite talk I've ever given. In 40 minutes I give a history of aeronautics from the Wright Brothers' flight through to the Moon landing. I recall my goal at the time was to describe how long-term technological change happens -- something I'm very interested in -- as well as push just how much information I could deliver to an audience in one sitting. If I remember correctly there are some 200 slides in the talk, so it's more like a very slow animation. You can view this talk online.

I later gave a PechaKucha variant of this talk, but not in public.

Build Good Software: Of Politics and Methods

More detail in this section.

You can view this talk online.

Why Things Fail

Bruce Tate and I were doing a video series for a while called "Why Things Fail". One of my research interests is the failure of complex systems and this series is me and Bruce having a conversation about one serious failure in-depth. We've recorded three videos so far. We had planned to talk about the Dust Bowl but that got interrupted.