Ben Crowder


Not much going on here lately because I’ve had a fairly bad flareup of back pain since early Thanksgiving week.

(This is from my grade 2 spondylolisthesis at L5-S1, which I’ve had for nineish years now. Every once in a while I move wrong and get a flareup. The more flared up it is, the more back pain — mostly lower but often upper too — and the harder it gets to walk. When it’s really bad I’m hobbling around like a ninety year old.)

Lots of lying in bed on a heating pad trying to recover and to avoid flaring things up further. Lots of reading, but not much else outside of work. I’ve got a handful of projects in progress, though, that I’m hoping to get to a presentable state before long.

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In the Image of Our Heavenly Parents: A Couple’s Guide to Creating a More Divine Marriage, released today, edited by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, with illustrations by yours truly.

Title page of the book
Table of contents page
Doctrinal foundation page
Chapter illustration

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New artwork: On These Two Commandments.

On These Two Commandments

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Links #53

Lin Kayser on Hyperganic’s 3D-printed rocket engine using an algorithmically generated model. So cool.

Marcin Wichary’s Shift Happens, a book-in-progress about keyboards. Looks interesting!

Leah Rodriguez on NASA sending a person of color and a woman to the moon as part of the Artemis program. This is admittedly from back in April 2021 but I hadn’t seen it till now.

Relativity on how they 3D print rockets. I didn’t realize 3D printing rockets was a thing. Wow.

Miriam Suzanne on how our tools might be holding us back, in respect to CSS.

The 2022 Web Almanac.

Paul Stamatiou on product quality. Some interesting thoughts.

Blender Conference 2022 video playlist. Putting this here to remind myself to go watch these. I really struggle to make time to watch videos, though.

Christopher W. Jones on the earliest complete sentence in written Canaanite. “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.”

Chris Randall with a video of a Brocken Spectre. Whoa. That’s just…whoa.

A lyrebird impersonating an evacuation notice in Sydney.

The United Nations on the world reaching 8 billion people last week.

The Bledwel Test, a catalog of movies mentioning menstruation. A fairly short list.

The Artemis 1 rocket launch. It still blows my mind that we can successfully launch rockets into space.

Mandy Brown on time and rest. Yes.

UNSW Face Test. I got 69% (31/40 on the memory, 52/80 on the sorting). It’s surprisingly hard.

Ear2Face, which can take a photo of just an ear and create a photo of what the face looks like straight on. It’s nowhere near perfect but still startling how well it does.

Andy Matuschak on doing-centric explanatory mediums. If I recall correctly, Figma’s tutorials are all like this. It’s great.

ByteOverlord’s port of Quake to the Apple Watch. Wow.

Harry Vangberg’s Foreign Dispatch, a project to take ideas from code editors and apply them to writing in foreign languages. Cool.

Ethan Hawke’s TED talk on giving yourself permission to be creative.

NASA’s list of citizen science projects. Quite a few. Reminds me I need to read Mary Ellen Hannibal’s Citizen Scientist book.

David Heinemeier Hansson on the bubble popping for unprofitable software companies. I think the current model (unprofitability + VC funding) is completely bonkers. Also not a huge fan of growth capitalism, where you have to grow just to survive. This has been on my mind a lot lately.

Howard W. French on coastal west Africa over the next century. “By 2100, the Lagos-Abidjan stretch is projected to be the largest zone of continuous, dense habitation on earth, with something in the order of half a billion people.” Fascinating.

Christopher Ekeroth on little languages — DSLs — being the future of programming. I like this a lot. It’s a space I’ve thought about in the past, and this has nudged me back into thinking about it some more. (Little languages for generative art, text processing, web apps, etc.)

Roy Tang on word people and web people. I’m very much a word person, which is probably why I struggle to watch videos as mentioned above. Also very much a web person.

David Nield on SuperGPS, which apparently can pinpoint location to within four inches. Which would be much more exciting if we didn’t live in a world run by surveillance capitalists.

Chris Young on a new hybrid EV battery that can recharge in 72 seconds. Can’t wait till electric minivans come down in price enough that I can justify getting one.

Gabriella Gonzalez on the end of history for programming. Some interesting thoughts here. I’m not far enough into the functional programming mindset for this to resonate, though.

Jim Nielsen on natural language inputs. Love this. I’ve done a little of this on some personal apps but want to do more.

Stable Diffusion v2 is out.

Matt Welsh with a cautionary tale about using Rust at a startup. While I do like Rust, this take makes sense to me.

Nat Friedman is hiring a tech lead to help solve an archaeological puzzle. Mildly gimmicky but still fascinating. I wonder what it is.

John Scalzi on weaving the artisan web by blogging. I look forward to more people blogging post-Twitter. I love blogs so much.

Thai Wordle. I already know I would not be very good at this.

Spline, a browser-based collaborative 3D modeling app. I remember hearing about this a while ago (before it launched, I think), and it’s nice to see how far it’s come.

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Matt Webb posted about a book blogging thing from days of yore, and I figured I’d have a go at answering it.

How many books do you own?

Somewhere around 1,500 physical books and 3,200 ebooks. I haven’t counted recently.

What is the last book you bought?

The Comanche Empire, by Pekka Hämäläinen. (Purchased five hours ago.)

What is the last book you read?

Rob Wilkins’ biography of Terry Pratchett. (Which I’ll talk about in my next recent reads post.)

What are five books that mean a lot to you?

This question was hard, not only because there are a lot of books but also because my brain is completely awful at retrieving things this way. There is no index on those columns. And what does “mean” mean, anyway? But here’s the best I can do right now:

  1. The Book of Mormon, for spiritual guidance and being my daily companion through life. This was the easy one.
  2. The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis, for its depiction of the afterlife at the end. I don’t remember it being a particularly long part of the book (I haven’t reread it in ages — sixteen years this month, apparently), but that ending always made me cry. If I read it again right now I’d probably think of my dad and almost certainly cry some more.
  3. The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper. I haven’t reread this in ages either (eighteen years next month), but what a book! One of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read, at least in my memory. I’m a little wary of rereading it in case it doesn’t hold up now that I’m older, but wintertime is the perfect time of year for reading it so I’ll probably try it soon.
  4. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein. I’ve written before about its pivotal effect on me.
  5. How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith. I’ve also written recently about this book, which has also been pivotal for me.

I won’t tag anyone, but if you do this on your blog, send me a link!

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New artwork: Before the World Was VII. Exploring the idea of using semicircles to represent Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. (The other ways I’ve tried so far include interlocking circles, yin/yang shapes, whole circles, triangles, and circle-and-triangle figures.)

Before the World Was VII

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Grief hit a little bit harder the past few weeks and made reading more difficult.

Recent nonfiction reads

  • The Anna Karenina Fix, by Viv Groskop. A short, enjoyable survey of Russian lit. The part that stuck with me most: “[Ann Patchett] describes reading Anna Karenina at the age of twenty-one and believing that Anna and Vronsky were the most charming, romantic people in the world and that Kitty and Levin the most boring, pathetic people in the world. She writes, ‘Last year I turned 49, and I read the book again. This time, I loved Levin and Kitty… Anna and Vronsky bored me.’ As we get older, she concludes, ‘we gravitate towards the quieter, kinder plotlines, and find them to be richer than we had originally understood them to be’.” I feel like I’m getting to that point, where I’m more interested in quieter, kinder plotlines.
  • Out of the Software Crisis, by Baldur Bjarnason. A bit more prescriptive than I was in the mood for. I also haven’t run into a lot of the programming culture he describes. That said, I did find a couple of the ideas interesting: first, programming as a branch of design rather than engineering — more like filmmaking than bridge building. I’m still thinking on this and haven’t yet decided whether I agree. Second, programming as pop culture, with a neverending stream of faddish new technologies. This one resonates with me. It’s exhausting. The older I get, the better “use boring technology” sounds.

Recent fiction reads

  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Some parts have not aged well at all, and there are definitely some cringey bits, but ignoring all that, overall I liked it. (This in spite of cyberpunk not being an aesthetic I really care for.) Interesting ideas, and the linguistic angle appealed to me.
  • The Golden Enclaves, by Naomi Novik, third book in the Scholomance trilogy. Not as good for me as the first two — in fact, I almost gave up a third of the way in, and then again two-thirds in. I struggled with the voice, which surprisingly started grating on me for some reason. But I still liked some of the reveals later in the book.

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New story: Bag Field. About twenty pages long, fantasy.

I started writing this story in March 2021 but didn’t get very far. Picked it up again at the end of August and here we are. Ten minutes of writing a day is still working well, by the way, especially when I look back at the year — six stories finished, roughly 90 pages together. Much better than not finishing anything. (That said, I do hope to spend more time on writing going forward.)

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A few new pieces of art.

He Will Deliver Me, about David and Goliath:

A small red circle next to a large red circle.

Everlasting Covenant:

A large white circle above a large red circle.

Nevertheless II, another Gethsemane piece:

A red circle on a dark background.

By Day and by Night, about the pillars of cloud and fire. I’d tried to do this piece multiple times in the past but it never clicked for me until I brought the pillars together at the center.

A tall white rectangle and a tall golden rectangle at center, flanked by a light blue background at left and a dark blue background at right.

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Links #52

Jillian Hess on Robert Caro’s notes. I wish there were an ebook version of The Power Broker.

Cory Doctorow on how to leave dying social media platforms without ditching your friends.

Simon Willison on recommended software engineering practices. I like a lot of these.

Two-Minute Papers on Google’s Imagen Video. It’s a crazy new world we’re in.

Ben Rugg’s Stable Diffusion for Blender addon that takes a prompt and a scene and generates images.

Aleksandra Artamonovskaja on women working with generative art. Of the pieces shown, I think my favorites are Iskra Velitchkova’s, Aleksandra Jovanić’s, Anna Carreras’s, Helena Sarin’s, and Nadieh Bremer’s.

Kelly Turnbull on a fake bomb detector filled with dead ants. This delighted me.

Yoz Grahame on “table” in American vs. U.K. usage. Ha.

Bob Cesca on a visually stunning political ad. Loved this.

MadMaraca’s gorgeous voxel art. More on her site.

John Earnest’s Decker project, a contemporary re-imagining of HyperCard in some ways.

Robin Sloan with an epilogue on his Spring ’83 protocol experiment.

Matt Baer on building for the Tidbyt. Cool!

SolidPython, a Python library that compiles to OpenSCAD.

libfive, a library for solid modeling. Intriguing.

Ben Werd on blogging. Blogging gives me so much joy.

Simon Willison on what to blog about.

Keiran Paster on language models that can write prompts. Uncanny.

Vasilis van Gemert on how our web design tools are holding us back. I’ve experienced this as a frontend engineer implementing Figma designs. The current state of things is better than it was years ago, but there’s still a noticeable gap.

Claire L. Evans on the architect Christopher Alexander.

Everest Pipkin on building worlds in Roblox. Anthropologically fascinating.

GANcraft, a paper on using AI to render Minecraft worlds in higher-resolution 3D. Decent results, too!

Matt Webb on the Minecraft generation and voxel-based thinking. Food for thought here.

Jack Rusher’s list of classic HCI demos, in a lovely classic-Mac style.

Raph Levien on Minikin and open source text layout engines.

Melissa Wiederrecht’s gorgeous Sudfah generative art project. These are great.

Melissa Wiederrecht on her even more gorgeous Take Root piece.

Samuel Arbesman on emergent microcosms. Some fascinating projects here.

Bert Chan on Lenia, a continuous cellular automata project based on Conway’s Game of Life.

ALIEN, an artificial life simulation program. The video is especially breathtaking. Wow.

Alok Singh on what it’s like dissecting a cadaver.

Rafael Shimunov on the Eli Lilly fiasco on Twitter. That didn’t take long.

Rosa Astra on Twitter impersonation. Yes.

Lincoln Michel on trite physicality in fiction. Hear, hear. I’m guilty of this.

Rob Stenson’s ST2, a Blender addon that adds support for OpenType and variable fonts and makes good typography possible in Blender. Rob also made coldtype, which I linked to a while back.

Nicholas Rougeux’s Geometric Primes series. Love these! Especially the first two collections. Mmm.

Brent Simmons on life after Twitter. I feel a little lucky in that I’ve already been off Twitter most of the past few years.

World map on its side. Wow.

Blessed, an unofficial guide to the Rust ecosystem. (To make up for the standard library being small.)

Erika Koth Barrett’s interview with Jenna Carson about being the first Latter-day Saint chaplain in the U.S. federal prison system. Fascinating.

Max Böck on the IndieWeb for everyone.

Rach Smith on being tired of timelines. Agreed. I too miss the level of interaction I had back when I was fully on Twitter years ago, but interacting with people via RSS and email is gentler enough on my brain that it’s very much worth it in my mind.

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