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Robin Sloan

Changed the way I think about observation.

Stock and Flow

This was possibly my first big door into systems thinking. Such a useful concept.
December 29, 2018


A manifesto about returning to things we love. So great.
December 29, 2018

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

A great novel packed with interesting ideas. I stole the Codex Vitae for myself.
December 29, 2018

Codex Vitae

A book that captures everything that you think is worth knowing about your life. Doesn't have to be a real book.

Just finished Robin Sloan’s very fun book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel. Here are my Kindle highlights on it.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the idea of a Codex Vitae:

“And this is the other treasure. Following in the Founder’s footsteps, every member of this fellowship produces his or her own codex vitae, or book of life. It is the task of the unbound. Fedorov, for example, who you know”—he nods to me—“is one of these. When he is finished, he will have poured everything he has learned, all his knowledge, into a book like these.”

The Codex Vitae is something that special members of this fellowship “earn” the right to create, after rising up in the ranks. When written, it’s submitted to the fellowship, approved, and encrypted. 3 copies are made of the book, 1 goes to the central library, and 2 others go to branch libraries in other parts of the world. The key to the encryption is only given to 1 person, and it remains a secret until the writer’s death.

Such an interesting idea.

To pour everything you’ve learned into a book, to be made public upon your death. A sort of immortality, a summary of your life’s meaning and learning.

We should all do this.

I was sort of surprised to think about this and realize that we as a culture don’t do this very consistently or well. This, as in, summarize and store our most strongly held beliefs, our most …

Added to the Self-reflection pile.
Part of the Codex vitae project.
November 28, 2012

Look, look, look

Robin Sloan's Fish tap-essay / manifesto about returning to things we love.

One of the things I love on the internet is this tap-essay manifesto slash free iPhone story app by Robin Sloan: Fish. I return to it pretty often.

The premise is that we have a desire to return repeatedly to the things that we love. And that, on the internet, the deluge of information overload sometimes discourages returning much to individual things. Instead, we collect containers of things, and curations of things, because they’re always new.

I particularly love the full story of Agassiz mentioned in Fish. Enough even to want to save the actual text of it here. It was written by Samuel H. Scudder. Originally published, I think, in American Poems (3rd ed.; Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879). Enjoy!

“The Student, The Fish, and Agassiz”

It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the Scientific School as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and, finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that, while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.

“When do you wish to begin?” he asked.

“Now,” I replied.

This seemed to please him, and with an energetic “Very well!” he reached from a shelf …

Added to the Observation pile.
October 5, 2012

Buster Benson (@buster) is a writer and builder of things. If you're new here, check the about page or see my entire life on a page.


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