Fincher's Follies

Yeah… just let someone else host it

Dayworld by Philip José Farmer

Dayworld (Dayworld #1)Dayworld by Philip José Farmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun read. The setting is a future world where overpopulation has forced humanity to split up and 1/7 lives their lives in each day of the week. The remaining days, they are in a form of suspended animation. This story follows a “daybreaker” who go against the system to live in every day of the week, with a new and unique personality for each.

It was a fairly easy read, though there were times where I had trouble keeping up with all the names, especially since the main character ends up having 7! The premise was cool, and I definitely enjoyed it. It was a nice book to get back into the habit of reading with and to kick off making better progress on our reading list!

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The Twits by Roald Dahl

The TwitsThe Twits by Roald Dahl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a total cheater book for me. We started our large reading list on January 10th and this year has been so crazy with the growing family that I haven’t read a single book! I didn’t want to have to log a big goose egg, so I found one of the shortest books on our list and I ordered it, haha.

It was a very short read (like 1 sitting, just winding down at night) and I found it mildly entertaining. Not really sure I’m on board with it being part of a “must read” list like the one we are working from, but it was entertaining enough. More something that I could read to my kids in an afternoon or over a couple of nights.

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2017 Ford Fusion Energi – My First 1000 Miles

As a (now former) owner of one of the VW cheater diesels, I finally got the paperwork together to go through with the buy-back process. This means it was car shopping time!  When I got the Jetta, environmental friendliness was high on my list of priorities (little did I know). That remains true, and if anything, has strengthened! So I began my normal car buying process (spreadsheets for the win!).  I focused on hybrids and electrics, though Maricruz preferred a larger car as it would also be serving time as a munchkin carrier.  Not many large hybrids/electrics are available, and those either only get good gas mileage for an SUV (Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – 34/30mpg), are expensive (Tesla Model X – $77k base), or both (Toyota Highlander Hybrid – 30/28mpg and $47k base).  

Given this, I mostly focused on the larger hybrids and settled on the Ford Fusion. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go with the cheaper regular hybrid, or go ahead for the Energi (the plug-in version). I decided to go with the Energi SE because not only is the battery larger (ability to drive electric-only and longer range), but being a plug-in could give me a bit of a preview if I decided to make the leap into full electric next time we are in the market. It has been an interesting ride so far!

It took a few days of getting used to, but I have pretty well gotten into the habit of plugging it in when I get home and unplugging and putting away when I head out. Unfortunately, you aren’t supposed to use extension cords (most sites say you can if you get a very heavy gauge one), and our garage doesn’t have many accessible plugs. Luckily, I discovered that the garage door opener uses a normal plug and only uses one of the two available. It feels a little janky having the cable hanging down from the middle of the garage ceiling, but it gets the job done.

One of the things I really appreciate about the car is the amount of information at your fingertips. There are a wide variety of choices for information display (from “leaves” that grow when you drive more efficiently, to breakdowns of how you are doing with regard to different categories of driving and the resulting effects on efficiency), and I always love information! You can do some customization as well. In addition to dash readouts, there are also displays on the main media console you can pull up, like one that gives a diagram of your car and the current direction of energy flow (e.g. the battery is running the electric engine and cabin components, or the gas engine is running and also charging the battery).  I knew pretty soon I was going to have to make a post, because it just felt too geeky not to share! I had initially figured I would write up a post summing up my first tank of gas, but it turns out that was taking too long and I got impatient. So first 1000 miles it is!

I found that having all these readouts about how I was driving had a great effect on my driving style. I tend to like to go fast and drive semi-aggressively, but having so much information in my face indicating how negative an effect that was having has reduced me to grandpa-ness, lol. I definitely am much more aware of my accelerations and braking early, and I have realized some benefits for sure. As you can see in the photo, I averaged a whopping 229.6 mpg for the first 1000 miles, and used about 3/8 of my 14 gallon gas tank. I’d call that pretty impressive! Unfortunately, I don’t have a good method to determine exactly how much electricity it consumed for charging, but all I have read indicates that electric miles are notably cheaper than gas miles. 

With my conservative driving, I am getting pretty close to 28 miles in electric-only mode (which well exceeds the advertised 21 mile electric range). Only downside is that, when I have munchkin pickup duties, my daily commute is closer to 29 miles. So I can almost squeeze it out, but pretty consistently revert to regular hybrid mode near the end of the drive. I’ve explored some options to get that last little bit covered, but so far I haven’t seen a viable one.

One option I have found is to drive to the nearest free charger (~2.5 miles), but that means I have to use close to a full hour for lunch, plus it seems silly to add 25 miles a week to my driving just to charge. Alternatively, I’ve been exploring the solar panel option. While it doesn’t generate much, I think a solar panel in a Florida parking lot could definitely get me that extra mile on most days. It is just a matter of actually getting the electricity generated into that pesky battery! That or see if I can convince my job to put in some EV chargers 😉

Overall, I’ve been very pleased. The trunk is tiny, but I don’t really utilize it much, and the cabin is more spacious than the Jetta was. Plus, knowing that I am pretty confident that I made an environmentally friendly choice this time makes me very happy too! 

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

The PostmortalThe Postmortal by Drew Magary
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A pretty fun read. Written as a journal from a single protagonist explaining what goes on in his life (and the world) as a cure for aging is developed. Not a very uplifting story (lots of kinda terrible stuff happens), but it is an easy-to-read narrative that has some interesting explorations of possible outcomes were something like this to be developed.

It was a good book for me to start getting back into reading more consistently, and will hopefully provide a decent springboard for my next book, which will be a list book!

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Colorizing Bash Command Line Output

Currently, a great majority of my professional development is in Perl.  Additionally, we have had a focus on building more robust unit test scripts for the code that is written.  Especially as the tests have started growing pretty large, I started looking for ways to make the test output a bit more readable.  Since these are built using existing perl packages like Test::More, I am somewhat limited in my customization choices.  When looking for possibilities, most of the answers that I found were code that you could add to your script to do the colorization.  Unless I wanted to build custom versions of the packages we use, that wasn’t the best option.

I also looked into multitail since I had used that for colorizing some log outputs, but it never seemed well suited for taking the output of a single-run script.  Not only is scrolling around a bit awkward, but it doesn’t tend to like to leave the output available after the run. Multitail does ok if you first redirect the output to a file, then multitail that file, but that is a bit more difficult to swing if you don’t want be switching between windows (plus it leaves a file that you’ll need to clean up at some point).

What I ended up going with was this script.  The nice thing about it is that it could be pretty easily tailored for whatever script for which you wanted to colorize the output. As it is currently written, it makes the output of Perl’s Test::More .t files a lot clearer and nicer to look at!



To use it, I run something like perl test.t 2>&1 | ./ which results in output like this.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 5.57.37 PM

I’m sure that I could do some more customization, but I was pretty happy with how it turned out. It colorizes the different statements that we tend to have, and catches kill signals so your colors will reset to normal if you kill the run before it finishes. If I do make any updates, I’ll add them to the gist (which happens to also be my very first gist!)

This Is How You Die by Ryan North et al

This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death (Machine of Death #2)This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death by Ryan North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another awesome collection of short stories! This is the “sequel” to Machine of Death (if you haven’t heard of either I would check out that one first). Not only is it a really interesting concept to begin with (a machine that gives you a cryptic message about how, but not when, you will die), but this second volume really took the concept places I would never have dreamed on my own. While I wouldn’t say it is necessarily superior to the first volume, I did feel like it really broadened the horizons of how this idea could blossom.

Another nice aspect is that, because it is a collection of short stories from different authors, if you find yourself reading a story you aren’t fond of it will be over soon! Downside is that some of the ones you really enjoy you just want to keep going!

Overall, it is a great read and a stunning exploration of human creativity (and morbidity)!

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I hope I have been remembering the Goodreads version of the 5 star scale as I have rated previous books. 2 stars is “it was ok”, which I feel sums up how I felt about it. It was mostly easy to read, but the subject matter was boring. Constant blathering about the lives of the rich and worthless. Almost like a good writer created their interpretation of a few episodes of the Kardashians.

This was, again, one of those times where I assume there is some deep underlying meaning that I am missing that is detracting from my enjoyment. Perhaps I need to read some academic summary to understand why this book made it to “classic” status, but for now I think I will be ok. Maricruz and I will likely watch the movie soon since we both read the book, so here’s hoping I enjoy that a bit more!

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What If? by Randall Munroe

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The subtitle really sums it up well. Randall Munroe takes ridiculous questions that are submitted to him and does his best to provide scientifically sound, yet thoroughly entertaining, answers. Some examples include whether you could make a jetpack with downward firing machine guns and what would the moon look like if everyone in the world shined a laser pointer at it at the same time. I was familiar with a lot of the questions from his blog, but it had been a while since I read the answers, and it was nice to read some new ones as well.

Definitely the kind of book that I couldn’t put down until it was done, and usually the answers weren’t too long so I could sneak in a few of them whenever I had a bit of free time. I certainly highly recommend!

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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m sure that this is one of those books where the characters are some metaphor for some global commentary, but outside of that it was just a simple, kinda sad story about (**SPOILER**) a big oaf who isn’t understood by those around him so his best friend has to kill him to protect everyone. It was an easy, but definitely not uplifting read. Only real positive was that it was a easy one to knock off the reading list!

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The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human NatureThe Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a shift from some of the more casual books I’ve read in the recent past! This was an extremely interesting exploration into the history and origins of the language we use, like why certain words work in forms that similar words don’t (one can fill a glass with water, but not pour a glass with water), cross-cultural similarities, and even a chapter about profanity. The only real downside was that it was a very academic read. That is not an inherently a bad thing, but lately I may have preferred something that felt more like a respite than an intellectual exercise. I think many of my more linguistic friends would really enjoy this, but it would be accessible to most anyone. Just be prepared to put your thinking caps on! It is almost like a well-written textbook. Nearly as information-dense, but not nearly the dry read that most of them are.

I started it a while back and made it about halfway through before getting distracted with life. Glad to be able to pick it back up and finally make it all the way through! Looking forward to following this one with something a little more mindless, haha.

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