Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code


#13: Writing is Magic

It is so hard to communicate to another person what is in your mind. It is thee greatest endeavor to try, and the exercise of writing is on of the more concentrated efforts you can make to try. It is certainly true that writing is magic, in that provides clarity both for yourself and for others. There are very few other practices that, simply from the habit of doing it as often as you can, will make you a better thinker. But writing does that.

And one key to that is the friction of writing. The resistance that it brings to your mind that is uncomfortable. Your brain will even try to trick you into thinking that it is a waste of time. As I spend time writing this post I know no one else will read, I can somewhat believe that. But I will walk away from this more clear than when I started, and that is definitely not nothing.

Notes & Errata


I’ve been enjoying reading through entries in People & Blogs, which is more or less what it sounds like: interesting conversations with people that maintain personal blogs. There’s a nugget of wisdom in every single one, and they are fun, quick, reads.


Tom King’s Vision Series

Is just about the best damn Marvel books I’ve ever read. They are steeped in canon, but somehow still set apart from things. The prose rivals that of any great novel and the art is expressive and interesting and detailed. There is such a completeness to it all.

At the center of the story is what is at the center of many things when it comes to Vision. What is it to be human? What is it to love and be loved and to build a family and to be hated and to risk everything and to stumble and to fall and to dig a hole so deep you don’t know if you will ever get out. And what is it when all of that is wrapped in a superhuman, infallible package that cannot err and refuses to break course.

The P vs NP narration is an incredible series of quotes. And the final lines:

“That was very nice.”

“No. It was kind”


No one knows what the hell they’re doing

All those headlines about smart algorithms and machine learning and piles and piles and piles of data, and social networks still have no idea how to push the stuff people want to see to them. I mean they do. We just want to see the stuff our friends were posting. But that would’t keep us scrolling on the site, so they have to resort to dumber and dumber tactics to trick people into staying on site.

Case in point, a recent discovery on the Garbage Day podcast that Facebook is promoting a ton of content from a single blogger writing on a Christian Fundamentalist site in his spare time, simply because a whole lot of people are responding with the word Amen, thus making the content “look” positive and engaging.


After Revolution

A new book this week, The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m somewhat familiar with the story, though I had no idea it was this long (the audiobook is 47 hours). So I think I’ll be at this one for a while.

Alexandre Dumas was the son of a Haitian general born into slavery, turned French revolutionary who was one of the top generals for Napoleon before he lost favor and was temporarily exiled. Dumas based a lot of his characters on his father, who he had a deep respect for, though he only knew him for a very brief time. Of his father, he wrote:

 Still today, the memory of my father, in every form of his body. In every feature of his face, is as present to me as if I had lost him yesterday; it’s a fact, in short, that I still love him today; I love him with such tender affection, as deep and as real as if he had protected my childhood and as if I had the good fortune of passing from childhood to adolescence supported by his strong arm.

All of which is to say that the French Revolution is very much the backdrop for the book, and it is hard to not read it as a reverence for the revolutionaries, and his father for their convictions. Already in the first chapters, Dumas explorers the cost of being uncommitted in one’s own convictions, and the price of innocence in an unjust world.