Picocosmographia by William Van Hecke

This is the shelf of items and moments I have written thoughts about. You can also see the shelf of everything or the shelves of items by year finished.

The Vanishing Tower

Author: Michael Moorcock
Finished: 2024-04-15
Started: 2023-01
Status: Read

This one was a bit more of a slog than the other Elric I’ve read so far, but I do have pleasant memories of reading it on my phone in the back of an eight-person van carting two families around Tokyo in the earliest months of our arrival there.

The World Before Us

Author: Tom Higham
Finished: 2024-03
Started: 2024-02
Status: Read

Some exhilarating moments of truly being able to imagine the deep history of humanity, especially the simultaneous existence of distinct human species. In particular, I was dizzied by the colliding of history and prehistory in the story of Eugene Dubois who was working in Indonesia to discover human species from millions to hundreds of thousands of years ago, but whose work was interrupted by the Japanese occupation in World War II.

“惑星のさみだれ” 1

Author: 水上悟志
Finished: 2024-02-09
Status: Read

Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons

Author: Jon Peterson
Finished: 2023-12-17

This was quite boring in a welcome way, and just the thing I needed for bedtime listening after establishing the habit with Geddy Lee’s memoir: Interesting enough in its pop-culture storytelling, while also forgiving of drifting off to sleep and having to jump back the next night. It left me craving more history after Gygax’s ouster in 1985, especially about the seemingly explosive 2nd Edition era in the 1990s, when I got into the game.

H.M.S. Surprise

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Finished: 2023-12-13
Started: 2023
Status: Read

Another dose of pleasure, texture, and flavor to be infused into the rest of life. It’s astonishing to think that there are twenty of these.

My Effin’ Life

Author: Geddy Lee
Finished: 2023-12
Status: Read

What a treasure it is to get to hear directly from the single most influential creative person on my young self. I’m a better person, who’s had a better life, than if this guy hadn’t been there doing his thing. I could listen to him talk about everything, indefinitely.

A Brief History of Earth

Author: Andrew H. Knoll
Finished: 2023-11
Started: 2023
Status: Read

I’d still like to understand more about the deep, geological-time history of this planet, especially in light of my suspicion that our planet is very, very weird and lucky. Plate tectonics and our unlikely escape from runaway processes leading to snowball planet; mass extinction events repeatedly failing to wipe the planet; ramifications for the Fermi paradox.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers
Finished: 2023-11

I enjoyed occupying this chamber precisely like I expected to: stories that ask at every turn “what if everyone was flawed yet did their best to care for one another” rather than modern fiction’s usual “what if everyone was flawed and despicable”.

Mostly Harmless

Author: Douglas Adams
Finished: 2023-10-11
Started: 2023-10-02
Status: Read

From reading this final book when it came out, around age 11, I had an impression of it being darker and sort of resigned, compared to the zaniness of the prior ones. But upon rereading it as an adult, I found it to have a weird kind of hope and peace that fits well with my own understanding of possibility space and the multiverse.


Author: Bart Ehrman
Finished: 2023-10-11
Started: 2023-05-11
Status: Read

Just continuing my gradual reinterpretation of religious tradition as fascinatingly human history.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Author: Douglas Adams
Finished: 2023-10-01
Status: Read

I was shocked by how immediately compelling and fresh this felt, after the first three novels; especially with my prior memory of the series having the inverse sentiment. What was an unfamiliar and confusing “grown-up” tone back then made for a more mature, warmer, wiser experience this time.

韋国日記 11

Finished: 2023-09-22
Started: 2023-08-12
Status: Read

Ikoku Nikki is complete. I realized in conversation with a friend recently that much of what I love about this manga is that I have come away from it feeling meaningfully better-equipped in my own life. It’s not just entertainment or dwelling in a certain feeling or aesthetic, like much manga is — it’s got a philosophy of its own that’s worth learning from.


Old, Middle, and Modern English at Language Log; notable for a Beowulf translation reco from Cybulskie and the casually useful term “macrolanguage”.

Man's Search for Meaning

Author: Viktor Frankl
Finished: 2023-09
Started: 2023-09
Status: Read

Sign me up for the central idea of Logotherapy — that life is not about finding pleasure or even happiness, but meaning.

女の園の星 3

Finished: 2023-08-11
Started: 2023-08
Status: Read

50 Years of Text Games

Author: Aaron A. Reed
Finished: 2023-07-21
Started: 2023-06-17
Status: Read

I so looked forward to reading an entry in this book each night. It offered a warm welcome-home from a hobby subculture I’d been adjacent to since playing and building text games in the 1980s. This is how I want to replace the otaku-lifestyle video games I said farewell to over the past couple of years. Next I’ll go back, comb through the hundreds of games mentioned, and compile a list of titles to try.


Author: Neal Stephenson
Finished: 2023-06-15
Started: 2023-04-20
Status: Read

2023 fortress reread. I don’t reread books often but I needed something familiar and guaranteed to be enjoyable, a fortress to return to while otherwise delving many dungeons in other areas of life. I could have set up some elaborate project for choosing just the right book to revisit, but that itself would have been a dungeon. This stood out from the Kindle library screen and before I knew it I was well into it.

It was even more captivating and enjoyable the second time around, and has joined its sibling Anathem on the “personal canon” shelf. Stephenson has both a myth-making mind and a scientific mind, and loves to show us again and again how real heroes and gods, resonant with our spiritual instincts, could come to be in a rational universe.


Athletic day complete, with old-fashioned headache and soreness following. Watched “Working”. The new YES album is pretty all right. Booked the rest of our itinerary to Hawaii and Japan, opting to pay to shift from misery into potential enjoyment.


Reconfiguring my keyboard life after realizing the Planck’s one broken socket can be worked around. Hoping to lower barriers to more casual writing.


As of last night, I own four one-way plane tickets. As of today, I have signed a letter terminating my employment in one country and reëstablishing it in another.


Apple Park with R to say farewell to decades worth of devices. Processed the last of the Sentimental Stuffs. Contemplating the ethos of Heisei Moe and the symbols to enshrine in one’s Lass Room of the Soul.

女の園の星 2

Finished: 2023-05-02
Started: 2023-04-06
Status: Read

Sometimes I forget that I have a sense of humor that can be reached by media; but this series is sparking it repeatedly.


Passed the event horizon at work. Major progress on making the move official with the company; significant progress on the thing; unloaded the very last of the video game paraphernalia (to Canada, Spain, and the Retro Fix); processed the sentimental stuff drawer. Started broadcasting Time Stand Still. Getting serious about move timing scenarios.

Post Captain

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Finished: 2023-04-16
Started: 2023-01-14
Status: Read

An ordinary good book is pleasurable while you read it. But O’Brian seems to be able to create an experience that continues to deploy enjoyment throughout the day, as you reflect back on it. The echo of having read it last night, and the promise of getting to read it again tonight, infuses life itself with additional texture and flavor.


Fixing the photo library metadata, wiping a stack of aged Apple devices, gathering up Playstations, and generally just keeping balance while sliding towards the move. Considering symbols: Lass Room, Limbo, and the Refactory.


Rental management call; tax call; two encouraging meetings about the thing; sold the bed from the study / guest room where most of my life progress has taken place over the past three years.


Motivated to burn down the list of tasks to do before moving.


Easter festival and parade; selling off furniture and compact discs; classic protracted software setup unruining sessions (photo library metadata and lost At2 reloc site).


“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” into “Solsbury Hill” at the plant store, while kids went inside the Miko Coffee trailer for the first time. A sort of crescendo to this spring break chapter marker.


Almost certainly going to do the thing. The main person of the thing is requesting that I, in particular, do the thing.

女の園の星 1

Finished: 2023-04-05
Started: 2023-03-16
Status: Read

Every panel is a micro-masterpiece of warmth and quiet hilarity.


Appreciating the past; surviving the present; making decisions about the future. 87% chance I’ll make the change, up from 65% yesterday.


Reflective family-oriented spring break has begun. Significant-seeming game of Blokus.


Mom is in town; our first family visit in four years. She says none of us seven kids were anything like R.


Celebrated the new Clammbon album by reminiscing on how their music has been woven through my life for these 23 years.


Sold the “gaming” club chair we’ve been hoping for over a year to find a new home for. Gave away dozens of Copics, tubes of acrylic paint, bottles of Dr. Martin’s ink, watercolors, oil pastels, et cetera. Contemplated wholesomeness.

What’s Our Problem?

Author: Tim Urban
Finished: 2023-03-26
Started: 2019-09
Status: Read

I agree with most of the points in the book, but spent most of the book frustrated by how the points were made. Given the argument of the whole text, I expected more nuance, complexity, and compassion throughout.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Author: Douglas Adams
Finished: 2023-03-26
Started: 2023-01-10
Status: Read

Rereading this series along with my cousin Steve, after last reading it together in 1992. This story is so well-worn in my mind, through rereads, the Infocom game, the television show, and so on; that I barely noticed it going by. The theme that emerges for me as an adult reader is the absurd contrast between the overwhelming grandiosity of reality and the idiotic banality of life in it. The book itself is wry and hip, while no character is more than incidentally admirable; from clueless Earthlings to vastly powerful extra-dimensional beings.


Eating at Mendocino Farms with neighbors yesterday; recital and pizza at the park today. Eventful and exciting kid times. Wrist getting much worse. Heart being dumb. USCIS paperwork. Gaming out Tokyo solar power scenarios.


Sent 15 consecutive money transfers to the builder in Japan.


Turning crisis into tropical opportunity. Koikeya chips, Onna no Sono no Hoshi, Toki Asako. Wrist brace and a heap of ibuprofen.


Visited the office and felt its immensity all over again. Took an important phone call that felt symmetrical with one from seven years ago. Got a house timeline and made some major move plans.

韋国日記 10

Finished: 2023-03-15
Started: 2023-02-13
Status: Read

Ikoku Nikki is quickly becoming an emblem of what I want manga to be. Each character is treated with love. Each scene is handled with grace. The entire stack of books exudes poetry and warmth. The message is delivered again and again: the world is hard and absolutely worth it.


First in-person work engagement in three years was wine at the top of a windswept, tree-littered mountain. Tonight’s texture: giving the only like to a calm discussion of the heartfelt comical manga 女の園の星 receiving the Japan Media Arts Festival social impact award.


Revised my translation of Kimi wa Boku no Mono, probably the most pivotal single song of my life. A reasonable palate cleanse after 45 minutes of Everything Everywhere All At Once, which is going to take some trying to get through. And such a cleanse is needed, as I hope to rest reasonably well before my first in-person work function in over three years.


Revamped one of the earliest songs on Dramatickers, Pan Mitsu. I still have vague memories of initially working on this: probably on the night shift at ShopKo HQ, wishing I was back in Tokyo, and struggling with the linguistic resources available to me at the time.

If Loud Aliens Explain Human Earliness, Quiet Aliens Are Also Rare

Author: Robin Hanson, et alii
Finished: 2023-03-13T00:00:11-07:00
Started: 2023-03-11
Status: Read

Mostly glad I read this paper behind the popular grabby aliens model in order to find elements which my disagreement with generates ideas for a fiction project I’m pursuing. Most centrally — I sure do philosophically dislike the principle of mediocrity, and I don’t at all buy that expanding into the galaxy ends up looking like a worthwhile thing to do for advanced civilizations.


Consolidated the identity of my blog, Heta no Yokozuki Sekai 5, into my newsletter, Microcosmographia, since they had gradually become the same thing. The HnS name had a long history across LiveJournal, Vox, Movable Type, Wordpress, and Hugo.


The story idea “ADCE” came to me while playing with the kids and trying to endure illness. Captured as much of it as I could.


The Garden of Eden translated by Dov Greenwood

A translator’s only choice is to have faith in their target language, and thankfully, English is deserving of that faith, its pastiche of root languages lending dozens of options for vocabulary and sentence structure.


Got a Shortcut working to create Picocosmographia entries in one step.


Read a lot of AI doom from Erik Hoel and David Chapman.

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry: The Nitpicks of Power

Author: Bret Devereaux
Finished: 2023-02-04
Started: 2023-01
Status: Read

This series developed quite a bit my understanding of wanting stories to feel grounded in reality and like they are made of consequences. For me it completes a sort of trilogy of critiques of modern Tolkien screen adaptations, including Lindsay Ellis’s series about the Hobbit films and Moviewise’s video about the main Jackson trilogy.

The Biggest Ideas in the Universe — Space, Time and Motion

Author: Sean Carroll
Finished: 2023-01-13
Started: 2022-12-05
Status: Read

For decades I’ve been reading physics books that purport to explain the nature of the universe without including inscrutable equations, but that end up requiring the reader to trust that the math undeniably and elegantly leads to this or that conclusion. It came gradually clear that in order to feel the significance of what we know, one really needs to understand the math at least somewhat, not just stories about the math and the people who discovered it. This book is the first of a promised trilogy from Sean Carroll, who was already one of my favorite science explainers. I appreciate his willingness to at least sometimes start from the most fundamental principles of what we know rather than defaulting to telling the historical sequence of who discovered what when and then who later found something more fundamental. The idea of the series is to cater to people who want to make the effort to understand the math, but don’t plan to study it at an academic or professional level. That’s me! After reading this I feel a dramatically deeper understanding of what is going on in the universe than any physics book has ever given me, and understanding the universe is one of my elementary particles of meaning.


Got a new system running that merges my old “Shelf” project, which was easily in its tenth incarnation, most recently as a rickety Python apparatus; and Picocosmographia, this microblogging setup in Hugo. I will mainly write about books and other long-form works, but can also share the occasional bare thought.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Author: Douglas Adams
Finished: 2023
Status: Read

2023 re-read with Cousin Steve. The darkness and cynicism about humanity came through much more strongly for me this time, and while the experience was enjoyable I found myself left wondering, “so what do you propose we do about it, then?”

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Author: Douglas Adams
Finished: 2023
Status: Read

2023 re-read with Cousin Steve. This was my favorite as a kid in the 90s, which is unsurprising given the surreal wackiness.

The Weird of the White Wolf

Author: Michael Moorcock
Finished: 2022-12-30
Started: 2022-12
Status: Read

Felt the crustiness more prominently in this volume of some of the oldest Elric stories. The iconic imagery, esoteric mythos, and personal significance offset the grim nihilism. It does feel like delving to the primal roots of Elden Ring, Shin Megami Tensei, and of course a thousand D&D campaigns.

The Fortress of the Pearl

Author: Michael Moorcock
Finished: 2022-12
Started: 2022-11
Status: Read

Came back to my almost lifelong aspirations to get into Moorcock, ignited probably around 1989 when I saw my brother’s copy of The Cornelius Chronicles. I had tried once during a college librarygoing stint in 2003, then again upon visiting the prodigious Moorcock section at Powell’s in 2004, and then once again while making my way through Matthew Colville’s back catalog of videos about the history of gaming and geekery in 2021. The new Elric Saga omnibus editions are precisely what I needed to navigate the absurd tangle of titles and revisions. The story itself, being chronologically early but written much later, was refreshingly mature and thoughtful while still having the same surreally hip fantasy aesthetic. The Dream Realms in particular, and Elric’s passage through them, seem to be well-crafted allegories for common thought traps and how to avoid them.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

Author: Becky Chambers
Finished: 2022-11
Started: 2022-10-26
Status: Read

I needed something comfortable after the harrowing trek through Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past. This science-feelings story seemed to build upon the argument Graeber puts forth in The Dawn of Everything — namely that human societies are wildly weird and flexible, with no single correct or natural configuration. Reading that primed me to be more willing to believe in the post-gluttony solarpunk utopia it presents, though heck if I know how we might get there peacefully.


Made Picocosmographia. The idea was inspired by sben’s blurt!, and assembled from an apparatus of Shortcuts, Ulysses, Working Copy, Gitlab, Netlify, and Hugo, all on an iPad in bed while sitting up with a kiddo suffering from night terrors.

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry: Bread, How Did They Make It?

Author: Bret Devereaux
Finished: 2020
Started: 2020
Status: Read

I believe this was my introduction to ACoUP and its delightful blend of accessibility and academic rigor. This marked a renewed interest for me in getting to know the people of history.

Inner Work

Author: Robert A. Johnson
Started: 2023-03-27
Status: Reading