Yesterday was one of varying degrees of angst and worry—the kind that, though not entirely gone, dissipates gradually with solitude and sleep. So, feeling (somewhat) better today. T was quick to remind me of environmental influences: it’s been frigid the past few days, and overcast or snowing otherwise; the extra friction (layers, steeling yourself, and so on) to a good outdoor experience has been part of bringing me down. Perhaps I need to embrace being dormant (or read Austin Kleon’s other posts on seasons).
Of course, another way to cope is by distracting yourself with interesting links—of which this week yielded plenty:
- Was a major budgeting error in Virginia the result of Excel? It’s entirely possible! Despite mindboggling investments into fancy ERP systems like SAP, so much decision-making and calculation happens with Excel, which is then manually re-entered into the ERP system. An early project at CDS dove into the idea that spreadsheets were the “human API” gluing together otherwise automated(ish) systems—Waldo lays out the many risks with such an approach.
- A thoughtful, practice-informed piece on access to born-digital archives like email. Found the privacy and ethics considerations—especially the cultural differences between, e.g., the US and the UK on the question—particularly interesting. Ryan has long shared the idea of analysing a department’s power structures not through its org chart, but through a network analysis of its email—if only government email was sufficiently preserved and accessible to enable something like that!
- Summary and reflection on an interview with Maryanne Wolf about reading—with helpful reminders about all the ways reading is not inevitable, of its myriad forms, and more.
- Some fun posts on the history and workings of the financial system, by Patrick McKenzie, with a few interesting tidbits on approaches in different countries: credit cards as a legacy system (with link to an account of the first major general purpose American credit card); the infrastructure behind ATMs.
- Julia Evans, following her post on floating point problems, listing some common problems with integers.
In book-reading news, my book club’s discussing Gideon the Ninth today, which I loved. Last night I started reading Outline by Rachel Cusk. It probably didn’t help the melancholy, but it’s drawing me in all the same.
All the best for the week ahead!