Nudging people towards overlooked books with inspired recommendations

Liked How to Decide which Books to Recomend? by Sara Jakša (Blog of Sara Jakša)

But that also means, that if they are not willing to provide the context, I can decide to recommend whatever I want.

One good thing would be, if I could recommend the books, that are not normally read by other people.

It’s so hard to recommend books to people who haven’t read much and don’t know what they like! I love Sara’s perspective to see it as an opportunity to recommend less-read books outside of the usual titles you’d find on a booklist, or that “everyone” has read. And really, isn’t that what people are looking for — a book they can love, a story that really resonated with someone else? Book lists are a shortcut to taste, but have traditionally not been good at including titles written by women, queer folk, and people of color — so that’s another opportunity to point people to more diverse authors than the standard bestseller list too 🙂

(Like Sara, I would usually also recommend Uprooted 😉 My less popular readalike might be Swordheart by T. Kingfisher.)

Future Building Places Technology

Generative AI planning ordinances are for uninspired change

Liked Let the Robots Write the Ordinance by Ray Dubicki (The Urbanist)

Though touting its “remarkable precision and efficiency, providing urban planners and decision-makers with valuable insights and recommendations” the actual output of ChatGPT’s attempt to write a zoning ordinance will assure every planner that their job is safe.

I wasn’t expecting the urban advocacy blog I follow to get in on the AI debate 😂

The exercise, however, is quite useful. It uses the weaknesses of natural language processors like ChatGPT to highlight the weaknesses of planners.

So the bot is not drawing words from ordinances that successfully built cities. It’s drawing words from ordinances that successfully ran today’s political gauntlet and got adopted. There is no tie between the success of these words and the successful development of good neighborhoods. This is a best practices document in politics, not in urbanism. 

Emphasis mine.

Personal Growth Reflection

Describing an expansive existence

Liked Towards Better Postcards by JeremyJeremy (

Like the Inuit with all their words for snow and the Scots with all their words for rain, I wonder if, as we confront the tumult inside of us, we need an expanded vocabulary to describe the subtle differences among the environments of our selves. I think the LGBTQIA+ community, using a string of letters that marches on toward a plus implying always more, has made an important contribution here: recognition that once we begin to focus our honest attention inward, we find a world as diverse and worthy of vocabulary as the one outside…

Activism Comics

oh no

Liked webcomic name – disrupt by alex norris (Tumblr)

this call for change is too disruptive. you can protest as long as it doesn't disrupt anything and I don't have to think about it.

See also:

Distortion and distraction

Protest as public nuisance


Pretending AI can fix all the problems by pretending it’s not a problem

Liked AI machines aren’t ‘hallucinating’. But their makers are by Naomi Klein (The Guardian)

…what we are witnessing is the wealthiest companies in history (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Meta, Amazon …) unilaterally seizing the sum total of human knowledge that exists in digital, scrapable form and walling it off inside proprietary products, many of which will take direct aim at the humans whose lifetime of labor trained the machines without giving permission or consent.

“This is effectively the greatest art heist in history.” — open letter co-authored by Molly Crabapple

“This whole “this is how humans learn so whats the difference” thing while stealing so much data to make billions for a few dudes is so insidious.” — Timnit Gebru

See also: Link pairing: AI trained on stolen art

The Internet

The eerie coincidences of the Internet

Liked The Internet Thinks We Don’t Know Its Secret. But I Do. by Merritt Tierce (Slate)

What do I mean when I say the internet is reading my mind? I don’t mean simply that it collects my data and observes patterns and interacts with me by reconfiguring that data in ways designed to engage me… I’m also not talking about my awareness that Instagram is listening, that even when my microphone is “off” or my Instagram account disabled, I know other apps are listening, or my phone itself is listening, or such now-standard input-output cross-platform fence-jumping. I’m not even talking about how my phone is “looking” at things I see in the world… At all times, I understand that the internet is using data I somehow gave it, and that those processes and technologies are now too complex for me to track. But it feels aggressive to me, in the way it would feel aggressive if suddenly every kind of advertisement everywhere you went in the world was designed only for you.

On Friday, after my husband got assaulted, we spent hours searching how to wash off pepper spray (and then cleaning up). Finally after he’d taken like five showers we lay down to decompress and watch some TV. I’m bad at working the smart TV so it just randomly turns on on some Samsung channel despite my attempts to leave it on something inoffensive; a billiards tournament came on (something we’ve never watched). He left it going while I got ready, and two ads repeated: for laundry detergent and personal injury lawyers. Logically, we know it was a coincidence, but humans are so good at seeing patterns and causality — and that instinct is reinforced when sometimes it *is* true that the Internet is spying on you.

Getting Shit Done Learning

Demanding value from our time

Liked Do I Have Time for This? by Amanda Montei (Mad Woman)

One thing I am never not thinking about, though, is how all nonfiction today feels pushed into providing solutions to inexorable problems—and how our habits as readers, and what we want from nonfiction texts, increasingly reflect that “historically specific… method of valuing work and existence” that Odell explores. We want a book to be productive, a good use of our time.

I’m also thinking this week about scarcity— about how we want a book to do a thing for us, an activity to be productive, because we live with a scarcity mentality around time.

See also:

Discerning the value of note-taking

So Many Books



Future Building Technology

Who does AI work for?

Liked Will A.I. Become the New McKinsey? by Ted Chiang (The New Yorker)

If we cannot come up with ways for A.I. to reduce the concentration of wealth, then I’d say it’s hard to argue that A.I. is a neutral technology, let alone a beneficial one.

Today, we find ourselves in a situation in which technology has become conflated with capitalism, which has in turn become conflated with the very notion of progress. If you try to criticize capitalism, you are accused of opposing both technology and progress. But what does progress even mean, if it doesn’t include better lives for people who work?

Talking about AI is talking about the future of work is talking about the future of society.

Business Culture Writing

The creative industry loses when works become tax write-offs


Screenwriters and other creative industry folks lose residuals and portfolio pieces when shows and movies never get released. In the comments it also sounds like health care is connected to residuals?

This practice is another facet of the self-cannibalization that’s happening to the creative industry — which makes sense if studios truly believe AI will save them. If they think audiences will be happy to watch movies starring CGI Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis forever, it’s no problem not to invest in building up a new generation of actors. If they think generative AI will create good enough shows and movies, they can let go of their screenwriters and other technical staff.

Maybe audiences will be fine watching mediocre movies with the same actors and subscribing to streaming services with a huge catalog of nothingness if there are no other options… but I sure wouldn’t stake my entire industry on it. There are plenty of other options for entertainment besides movies and TV. People are already sick of the boring shit studios are making because they will only make guaranteed hits. Netflix is already facing stagnation in subscriptions. The giant library of crap approach worked for Amazon Prime because it was positioned as an add-on benefit to Prime shipping — people weren’t signing up just for the streaming service.

Ironically, I think studios are recognizing these trends… but see AI as the solution. That by switching from human labor to AI, they’ll go from making a handful of boring but reliable hits to releasing a torrent of mediocre content. Maybe that will even make their cruddy feature films seem more attractive in comparison.

See also: Solidarity with the writer’s strike ✊✍️

Political Commentary Society

They’re so close to right

Liked The Swivel-Eyed Loons Have a Point by Cory Doctorow (Locus Mag)

The idea that rich, powerful people are happy to enact extremely invasive, restrictive rules that they are not in any way bound by isn’t wrong. It’s actually very, very right… powerful people know better than to let a good crisis go to waste.

My QAnon relative keeps saying, follow the money. Yet he won’t follow the money to Trump or Clarence Thomas or whoever paid off that other dickbag Justice’s loans. This is (part of) why I hate Joe Manchin: I followed the money to his coal plant and watched him put his personal financial interests over the future habitability of the planet. I recognize that there is corruption of the elite class, but it’s certainly not limited to Democrats like he thinks. And when I follow the money at the big picture, I see it flowing away from people, to corporations, where it’s concentrated in the hands of mega wealthy executives.