Things That Shaped Me
I've been thinking lately about the things that made me the person I am; there's a lot of things I'd like to share, not because I'm enjoying them now but because they've contributed to my becoming the person I am today.
So. This page is intended as a blueprint of the person I am, though some of the things I like. Where appropriate I think I'd like to share stories behind these things that have shaped me, too, in an attempt to get closer to third things.
This is still under construction. I'm trying to keep a similar list of things that I've been enjoying this year here, too.
- My parents and sister, of course
- Faheem Rokadiya
- Aimee Skelton
- Griffin McElroy
- Merlin Mann
- Ze Frank
- Benjamin Bumpus
- Tim Storer
I recommend lots of things to lots of people (that’s why I make these lists now!) and I’m often asked where I find all of this stuff.
- xkcd forums
- This is one I began using when I was a teenager, and dropped around the time I came to uni, but a lot of the things on this list are from the xkcd forums; I came across it at a time when I was changing lots, and a lot of the person I am today is informed by these.
- I often wonder who I’d be now if I’d been on Something Awful instead, and a part of me is glad I wasn’t. The xkcd forums are, by and large, wholesome and friendly and clever and informative.
- I don’t understand why people don’t use rss. Get in touch if you don’t, and want to learn how.
- A wholesome and good podcast that gives me new things which often do shape me a little every single week. Lots of love for this source.
A note: some sources I used to use, and now actively avoid. The significant one that jumps out at me is Reddit, which — six years ago or so — seemed to mostly be interesting and supportive communities that couldn’t support themselves in the real world yet, but could build a critical mass and support themselves through the wonder of the internet.
That’s not the case today. Matt Alexander has referred to reddit as “the armpit of the internet” and I couldn’t agree more. There’s still great stuff there, and more power to the people who enjoy it, but I’m sad to say that the site that introduced me to running, fountain pens and birds with arms is something I actively avoid today.
I’m not interested in being the kind of person Reddit encourages you to be. No, thank you.
- Call Me Ishmael
- People leave this person a voicemail of the story of how one — and only one! — book affected them in a certain way. Touching and brilliant public art.
- Lots of Ze Frank projects
- His body of work generally really influenced me, but a good place to begin is [The Human Test]. His youtube channel or ted talks are a great followup to that.
- “What makes us feel most alone has the greatest power to connect us.”
- The The
- Liquid Tension Experiment
- Tally Hall
- Fiona Apple
- Flaming Lips
- Badly Drawn Boy
- Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Books & Projects
- House of Leaves
- The Inner Side of the Wind
- If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- The Book of Sand
I don’t read many webcomics anymore, and I don’t get affected by the ones I read, but Tom in his late teens ate this stuff up. These shaped my perspectives on stories and romance and how to live and what was interesting, and it’s telling that I got into them around the same time as I got into ergodic literature.
- A Softer World
- Questionable Content
- I don’t know how I feel about this now — the story’s gone through a number of changes, and I’ve dipped in and out at versions points over the last six or seven years — but it really brought me around to Slice Of Life as a storytelling dynamic and once I recognised it for that, it was interesting to read and reflect on.
- Red String
- This Is Indexed
- Rice Boy
- Dresden Codak
- YES, it’s cringy and dumb and tries too hard, and YES, that’s exactly why I like it. Evan Dahm must have a photo of 21 Year Old Tom on his desk and has every intention of pandering to him.
- Life's Irreducible Strucutre
- This fundamentally shifted my perspective on science. Before this, I completely rejected holism as a model of the world. Now I'm not so sure — which isn't to say that I accept holism, but that I approach that aspect of philosophy of science with a much healthier degree of humility, and skepticism for anybody who approaches the subject with any absolutism.
- (Polanyi is not excempt from that skepticism.)
- Aurelius' Meditations
- The canonical work on stoicism. I'm not a stoic, but the ideas behind it are interesting, and I do think that pondering them is a recipe for a life well lived.
- Philosophy: the Basics — Nigel Warburton
- I'm not much of a philosopher, but I think learning to interrogate the world the way philosophy permits a person to is crucial. This book was how I started, and I still think it's a brilliant introduction. Not too deep, but accessible and thorough enough for beginners on the points it does make.
- Reflections on Trusting Trust
- A wonderful paper that's a great introduction to beginning to think about security, and that kind of thing. Three pages of easy reading and insightful writing. The tone is well summed up in the quote:
I am a programmer. On my 1040 form, that is what I put down as my occupation. As a programmer, I write programs. I would like to present to you the cutest program I ever wrote. I will do this in three stages and try to bring it together at the end.
[ ... ]
In college, before video games, we would amuse ourselves by posing programming exercises. One of the favorites was to write the shortest self-reproducing program. Since this is an exercise divorced from reality, the usual vehicle was FORTRAN. Actually, FORTRAN was the language of choice for the same reason that three-legged races are popular.
- Wes Anderson
- Grand Budapest Hotel
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- Cool Hand Luke
- The Big Lewbowski
- I'm not sure whether this ought to be here, honestly...it informed my humour a lot, and it's a film I keep coming back to, even though I'm not entirely sure why.
- Going Deep with David Rees
- Dances Moving
- Ze Frank
- Hoo boy. Something about the way Ze puts life advice together has always spoken to me. This is a huge inspiration and guiding voice for me, and has been for years. His comedy’s good, his work connecting people is better, his advice is brilliant. (In my youthful, naive opinion.)
- Save the Date
- Gone Home
- Bionic / Bonanza
- The Adventure Zone
- Do By Friday
- You Look Nice Today