a blog by Sara Farquharson

what I'm reading this week: Nov 9

  • Getting back to What Every Programmer Should Know About Memory, Ulrich Drepper’s enormous paper about the foundational workings of computers. I keep putting it down and haring off on tangents about how much has changed since 2007, but I’ve promised my paper reading group that I will get through all 50-odd pages and summarize it.

  • Chelsea Troy’s three-part history of web API design is the first thing that ever made GraphQL click for me.

  • Not to diminish this 10-tweet crash course in GraphQL by Xiaoru Li, which packs a lot of information into few words, but still uses a bit too much jargon to be a good introduction.

  • Your period tracker might be sharing your sensitive data with Facebook

    • This seems obvious in retrospect, and with Google buying Fitbit, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I don’t really need to track my health data.
  • What If Your Team Wrote the Code for the 737 MCAS System?

    • I don’t write code for airplane controls, but the lessons of the 737 MAX and the Uber pedestrian death should be a reminder to all software developers that you are never just an engineer. Software has consequences, and we should be thinking about the effects of what we build.
  • Leisure, the Basis of Culture: An Obscure German Philosopher’s Timely 1948 Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Dignity in a Culture of Workaholism

    • To be honest I don’t think I could read this Josef Pieper book without considering it work, but the reviewer clearly enjoyed it, and I find it useful to occasionally reflect on how much I am conceding to the Cult of Productivity.
  • When a Cache is a Database, Vallery Lancey’s neat post about the importance of making correct assumptions about the availability of services in production.

  • Algorithms behind Modern Storage Systems, transcript of a talk by Alex Petrov

    • Coincidentally, yesterday my coworker recommended Petrov’s new book Database Internals, which is the same book mentioned in this 2018 talk! I was very tired when I skimmed this talk transcript, so I look forward to reading the book and understanding a bit better.
  • The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

    • This book was recommended to me, and I kept seeing people talking up the sequel, The Unicorn Project. I’m not sure I got a lot out of it, since I am already aware of concepts like DevOps and the novel is a little formulaic—but at the same time I did read the whole book in one sitting, so I can see how it could be a more engaging introduction to the topic than a dry textbook.
  • The first map of America’s food supply chain is mind-boggling

    • This reads to me as “how to disrupt America’s food supply chain” but maybe I’m just pessimistic
  • Switch: how to change things when change is hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath (audiobook)

    • The problem with reading one self-help book that debunks the theory of willpower exhaustion (Indistractable) is that every other self-help book published in the last 20 years uses willpower exhaustion as a foundation of their thesis, and Switch is no exception. This is probably my own fault for enjoying pop-science books in the first place. However, once I decided to let slide the dubious science and tortuous elephant-and-rider metaphor, there is some reasonable advice for how to implement change in an organization. Still have a few hours left in this one.
  • What happened to Hadoop

    • When I saw Urs Hölzle’s tweet saying RIP MapReduce I was a little disoriented, having just finished a Coursera course on Cloud Computing that taught MapReduce as an important topic in Big Data. In an effort to find my footing again I searched for a summary of the current state of data processing. This article about the decline of Hadoop is the closest to what I was looking for. I guess this tech still exists, but is used in managed services instead of directly? My main takeaway is that by the time a specialization becomes popular on Coursera, much of what it says is probably outdated.