Tom MacWright


Happy 2023! I wrote my “2022 in review” in my paper journal and will write about some retrospectives on how the business and such have gone, but for now, let’s keep this traditional, a good old-fashioned Recently.


This month’s theme, looking back on it, was feminism, and so I read Bad Sex, which was on quite a few best-of-2022 lists. It was fine, but mostly whetted my appetite for the books that it referenced. The Right to Sex on the other hand, was a perfect sort of thought-provoking thesis that explored a bunch of surprising topics with a lot of intellectual power.

I’ve been experimenting with switching from my usual setup - Feedbin for RSS and Instapaper for read-it-later, in favor of Readwise Reader, which does both, and more. Readwise feels flashy and has an expansive feature set that’s executed surprisingly well. It has more of a “startupy” feel relative to my old tools, but interestingly Readwise is bootstrapped too. I suspect I’ll stick with it - the only pain point so far is that I heavily used Instapaper’s “send to Kindle” feature, and Reader lacks that.

Which brings me to things I read online. How Not to Play The Game by Matt Levine - a follow-up to his big Crypto Story - is just as spectacular. I enjoyed this paragraph a lot:

The regular financial system is built up from things in the real world, things that have some practical value and produce some reliable cash flows. A synthetic collateralized debt obligation of mortgage-backed securities is a very abstract bit of financial engineering, but it is the output of a complicated machine, and the inputs to the machine are people who live in houses sending monthly checks to pay for those houses. There’s a lot of math and judgment involved in structuring and pricing the thing, but there is also a house. The value of a synthetic CDO tranche can go to zero, but the value of all the stuff that goes into the machine can’t go to zero as long as people need houses.

This sort of connects to a recent story about how Twitter’s rent shenanigans are causing bonds against the building to fluctuate. It turns out that financial products often have some tether to reality.


Bullet Train screengrab

My favorite movie this month was, far and away, Bullet Train. It’s not good, really, it’s fine, but it’s a particular kind of movie that’s just really easy to enjoy: a romp. It’s like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, it’s just a fun film to watch.

In shorter-form video, this video about free soloing a rock wall with Alex Honnold managed to be scarier than Free Solo. And this YouTube channel about retro computers is deeply satisfying.


I’ve been listening to a lot of Polyphia still, and their honestly ludicrous new album. It’s all so over-the-top and virtuosic but fun.


I announced a bunch of open source tools and drawing improvements in Placemark, then folder organization for maps, and circles. My article about ActivityPub went around and I had a fun time talking to my friend Ben Klemens for an article about the technology in Ars Technica.

I’ve just started working on a Figma plugin under the Placemark name that makes a certain kind of map possible within Figma for (I think) the first time - a purely vector-based, fully open source and open data plugin. You could say it’s 1% of MAPublisher, for 0% of the price. I’m not sure where that experiment will go, but I’ll have a use for it in my own projects and it’s nicely scoped so that it can just be open source & server-free for the time being.