Picocosmographia by William Van Hecke

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

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 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.