Jef Claes

On software and life

27 Dec 2016

Consumed in 2016

I’m keeping the tradition alive, sharing how much I’ve consumed over the last year highlighting the things that stood out. 18 books, 8 movies and 9 shows. Looks like I consumed more than other years, which probably also explains why I produced less after-hours.


I finished the Dark Tower series after 3 years. Following Roland Deschain and his ka-tet throughout the 8 books has been an epic adventure. Finishing Harry Potter by the time I was 18, I had little hopes to be ever dragged into such a long and captivating tale ever again. The Stand, another epic by Stephen King is also high up on my list. I’ve seem to have taken a liking to stories that are set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which the antagonist is not necessarily a horde of zombies.

Control the things you can control, maggot. Let everything else take a flying fuck at you, and if you must go down, go down with your guns blazing. - Stephen King, The Dark Tower

Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society’. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home. - Stephen King, The Stand

Culture and Empire and The Psychopath Code by the late Pieter Hintjens were thought provoking, yet easy reads. I wish more authors could break apart complex problems in such an understandable fashion. Pieter’s ability to research any given topic and to build a convincing case is a skill I’d like to acquire one day.

For the sake of argument, let’s divide society into four roughly equal chunks. We have the bandits, who specialize in taking from others. Then, we have the beggars, who specialize in getting something for nothing. Middle management, perhaps. Then, we have the bureaucrats, who specialize in making rules and keeping things organized. Finally, we have the bakers, who specialize in making things that other people need. - Pieter Hintjens, Culture and Empire

When the cost of secrets held by one person or group outweighs the benefits to society, then it’s right that those secrets be leaked. Security does not just trump Liberty, he takes her into a dark back alley, violates her repeatedly, and then beats her senseless with a heavy stick. - Pieter Hintjens, Culture and Empire

As far as technical books go, I’ve been mostly reading about things that are relevant to my current job. I learned most from Site Reliability Engineering and SQL Server 2012 Internals. They are long, very slow reads, but the information has a depth to it which is hard to get by in other formats. In retrospect, I often wonder if I might have been better of reading them more selectively though.
Covering the same domain, I finally got around to reading the classic Release it! This book was published in 2007, and it shows. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. It’s fascinating to see how much the infrastructure landscape has changed over the years. Knowing where we’re coming from deploying and running large systems helps me understand why we’re doing things in a certain way today.


The Revenant. If you’re looking for a rich storyline, you might end up disappointed. However, it’s the high quality cinematography and breathtaking scenery that make this film. I’m a sucker for the romance of the American frontier though.

Snowden. Not a documentary, but a Hollywood picture telling the story of the most disputed whistleblower of the century. To be fair, having worked with government tech over the years, I used to be ignorant of the fact that a government agency would be able to acquire the talent needed to build and run a mass surveillance system successfully. Being Belgian, I totally ignored the fact that in other countries there are some really smart people patriotic enough to serve their country no matter what. Although I read up on the subject when it was early days, the massive scale of it all hit me like a ton of bricks halfway through the movie. Generally I’m pretty excited to work in a field that has changed how we communicate, distribute and do work in such a small period of time. However, it has become more and more apparent to me that the centralized nature of the things we build and use, is also a huge threat to our freedom. It’s crucial that we learn from this incident, and grow towards a world where pardoning Snowden is the obvious thing to do, and in which the people in power toying with our privacy are the outcasts.

I think the greatest freedom that I have gained, the fact that I don’t have to worry about what happens tomorrow, because I’m happy with what I’ve done today. - Edward Snowden


I got around to watching the first episode of Westworld yesterday, and my expectations are sky-high. Friends have been hyping me up over this show since the first episode.

Earlier in the year, I watched Narcos and Stranger Things. Netflix focussing more on content creation instead of rapidly expanding their portfolio with third party content might pay off big time. Both shows bring high quality, bingeable content.


This American Life has been a favorite of mine for a long time. The Monday morning commute almost becomes enjoyable. Almost.

Software Engineering Daily is the podcast that I use to break out of my technological echo chamber. The pace at which these have been published is unheard-of. Five days a week there’s a fresh one hour interview with a high-profile guest involved in building incredibly interesting systems at scale.

Being the accidental DBA at work, the SQL Server Pain Relief podcast has been compensating for the lack of people I know that have first hand experience running large, high available and performance intensive SQL Server production systems.

If there’s anything I really missed out on that I should watch or read, let me know!