Inside Tom's Head - November 2021

07 Dec 2021

Not a whole lot to report for November. I made a list of some of my favorite board games that’s slightly different from most top 10 lists. I’m still enjoying my new job and have started work on figuring out what I want the next 15-20 years of my working life to look like. I started using an Upright Go and have been using it. I’m not sure if it is quite what I had hoped, but my experience has been generally positive and I’ll have more to say about it in the future. In other news, the hot tub that we ordered back during the summer is now fully operational and is amazing. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading, watching, listening, and thinking about for the past month.

  • I don’t know how to feel about Exploding Kittens purchasing Happy Salmon from North Star Games. The article mentions them reimagining the game, which has me a bit worried since it’s kind of perfect, but watching the video for Throw Throw Burrito gives me hope.
  • Harry Connolly has some interesting stuff to say about the teen romance subplot in Stranger Things. I honestly hadn’t given it much thought when I watched it, but now I want to go back and rewatch it.
  • I’m pretty far to the left, so the first time I ran across Strong Towns saying that cities need to “turn a profit”, my reaction was not great. However, if by “turn a profit” you really just mean that cities need to collect more in property taxes than they spend in order to have nice things, that’s an idea I can get behind. Dear Winnipeg has a pretty solid introduction on the idea in Holy Leaping Dollars, Batman! which builds on their 2020 post, Accounting 101 for Councillors, Mayors and Free Press Columnists. Of course, a central pillar of the American identity is wanting services but not wanting to pay for them, so it isn’t clear where we go from here. Either way, it doesn’t make sense to have the argument about what government should spend money on until you can come to agreement about where that money comes from in the first place. Maybe our property tax receipts should be more detailed so that people can see where the money goes?
  • I honestly don’t do much in the way of image sharing, but this site kind of makes me want to.
  • Although there is often vocal opposition to bike lanes, Janette Sadik-Khan reminds us that the politicians who build them keep getting reelected.
  • Rene Herse Bicycles makes a compelling argument that we should focus on the quality of the things that we produce and consume, rather than the quantity. “Buying less may not sound like much fun, until we really think about it. If we buy fewer things, we have a larger budget for each item. That’s a fundamental shift, from ‘more’ to ‘better.’”
  • NPR had an interesting write-up of how effective plastic bag bans really are. I agree with it, for the most part, and agree that cotton shopping bags are probably not great. However, it is a pretty narrow analysis, since getting rid of single-use plastic bags is as much about stopping pollution and not incentivizing more fossil fuel use (as covered in season 6 of the Drilled podcast) as it is about reducing direct emissions. I do agree with the article, however that simply taking single-use bags would be a better way to go, as it would have roughly the same effect while provoking less backlash.
  • Vox had some thoughtful coverage of the environmental objections to meat alternatives such as Impossible meat. The short version is that, even if you have concerns about how Impossible is producing its meat, it’s really hard to be worse for the planet than beef. Sure, in a perfect world we would replace all meat with legumes, seitan, and jackfruit, but even as a vegan I still love an Impossible burger every once in a while.
  • Cory Doctorow points out that the corollary to “if you aren’t paying for the product you are the product” doesn’t necessarily hold up. Exhibit A: Vizio makes more money spying on its customers than it does from, you know, selling TVs. The original argument is still true, for companies like Google and Facebook you are the product, not whatever service you are using, but just because you’re paying someone doesn’t mean they respect you. I’ll keep preferring paid services over free ones, but just need to be a bit more careful about it.
  • This article about the origins of the Oregon Trail computer game makes me a little sad. Not because the creators didn’t get rich off of it, but because the education industry still hasn’t capitalized on it. Why can’t we teach history through games (digital or cardboard)? Why can’t I roleplay my way through the American revolution in class? Why can’t I play a game that forces me to learn something about history to advance? I’m not saying that we should abandon books and lectures entirely, but rather that it seems like there is so much more we could be doing but aren’t. In 50 or 100 years, people are going to look back and wonder why it took us so damned long to do education better.
  • Matt Webb has some thoughts on the second order effects of the quiet streets initiative in London. His speculation about pricing for roads is particularly interesting. Where my mind ended up going was, what if all roads were toll roads? What if we could basically determine traffic through pricing? Of course, there are some major issues with the idea, but given that we currently aren’t adequately funding roads it’s an interesting way of thinking about it.
  • Semi Co-Op has a wonderful comic about enjoying yourself while learning a new game. I’ve long said that if you aren’t having fun when you’re losing, you’re either playing the wrong game or playing with the wrong people. Competition and the drive to win is great, after you learn how to play.


  • We watched Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on hulu. It was a lot of fun, but I feel like they tried to go too big in season 2 and it lost a lot of its charm.
  • I read the follow-up to A Deadly Education, The Last Graduate, which I also enjoyed the heck out of. Not a huge fan of the cliffhanger ending, though.
  • Apparently Django Wexler wrote a short novel (or maybe a novella) about giant robots, called Hard Reboot. I got a copy of the audiobook from the library and had a good time. Not my favorite of his books, but still well worth a read. I really want to write a giant robot story, but won’t unless I can figure out something that’s not dystopian future war, arena battles, or mecha just being part of the setting.
  • I found myself thinking about Gridlock’d, recently, which I watched back in the ’90s. I somehow remember it being funny, but while it has a couple of moments and was very well done, 2021 me has trouble finding any humor in a gritty kafkaesque movie about drug culture.
  • Okay, I know that critics panned it, but Red Notice was a pretty good time in my book. Then again, I’d watch Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot together in just about anything.
  • Gunpowder Milkshake was what I wanted John Wick to be, though maybe that comparison is a bit unfair. In any case, it was a lot of fun and had some heart.
  • I mostly watched Army of the Dead because I heard good things about Army of Thieves, and it was surprisingly good. It has a long runtime but I never really felt like it wore out its welcome.
  • We watched Sex, Drugs & Bicycles on Kanopy. It was interesting, but spent a lot more time on the approach to sex and drugs in the Netherlands, and not a whole lot on the bicycles, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as Not Just Bikes (which doesn’t really cover sex and drugs, to be fair).
  • I finished reading A World Without Email. It was really good, and I’m still processing it, but it seems likely that I’ll incorporate a lot of it into my approach and probably end up rereading it at some point. If you’re interested why the modern workplace sucks, this is a good place to start and has a lot of good suggestions. What the book doesn’t cover is that even for professions that aren’t strictly knowledge work (such as library operations) email has still ruined things. We can do better.
  • My 2021 playlist on Apple Music.
  • My board game plays for 2021.