Ben Crowder

Prints 1.2

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 2.

Table of contents: Reading • Watching • Making • Links • Thoughts

Reading

After reading four nonfiction books at a time, I’ve dropped back down to one at a time (along with one fiction at a time). Reading more books concurrently felt like a way to get through the slow more easily, but I think it made it worse. I definitely wouldn’t have finished Bede’s Ecclesiastical History any time in the next month or two if I hadn’t focused on it. One at a time also has the advantage of being cognitively easier, which feels better on my brain.

I predominantly read books written in the past fifty years, but as I’ve mentioned, I’d like to read more books written before that narrow sliver of time. (Thus the Bede.) To that end, I’m hoping to try to have every fourth book (or so) be an old book. Planning to try some Roman historians next, and maybe some English chronicles as well.

Goodness, there are lot of books I want to read. Mount TBR’s growth is certainly more than linear. Hopefully not exponential yet, though.

With my (extremely meager) writing, I tend to measure my output by the number of words written. Getting one or two thousand words down marks a really good day for me. Well, for comparison: last year I read approximately 9.4 million words — around 25,000 a day. (While the comparison interests me, it is of course not fair. Creating is usually more time-intensive than consuming, something I need to remember more often.)

Recent reads

Nonfiction:

  • Kassia St. Clair’s The Golden Thread was fascinating. More wide-ranging than I expected, across both time and space. I absolutely want to read more about textiles — very open to recommendations.
  • As alluded to above, I went full Bede and finally made it to the end of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People a few days ago. If you care deeply about what day Easter is observed on, this is the book for you. Slow reading at times, but I liked it and I’m glad I read it. Also, the old place names were delightful. A small sample: Infeppingum, Ythancaestir, Streanaeshalch, Paegnalaech, Lyccidfelth, Cerotaesei, and Adtuifyrdi.

Fiction:

  • As with the first in the series, I liked the anthropological/linguistic angle in Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace. My brain found it very reminiscent of C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner — so much so, in fact, that my imagination kept replacing the Teixcalaanlitzim with Cherryh’s atevi aliens. (This reminds me that I need to continue the Foreigner series sometime.)
  • I enjoyed Martha Wells’ Rogue Protocol, third in the Murderbot series. The novella length is perfect for me. These are light, easy reads, too.

Books acquired

A new experimental section, inspired by David Allen’s book posts. It’ll be embarrassing (I buy a ridiculous amount of books) but I like books enough to want to include it. Keep in mind that I mostly buy ebooks on sale, and I also work at a company that has an unlimited books benefit, which I am clearly putting to full use.

Books acquired since last issue, in acquisition order:

  • The Black Coast — Mike Brooks
  • The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization — James Lacey
  • Termination Shock — by Neal Stephenson
  • The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson IV — Robert A. Caro
  • Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge — Helen Rappaport
  • The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped — Paul Strathern
  • Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy — Margaret Sullivan
  • Win at All Costs: Inside Nike Running and Its Culture of Deception — Matt Hart
  • Betsy Ross and the Making of America — Marla R. Miller
  • Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States — Jonathan Levy
  • Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe — Thomas Ligotti
  • Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition — Buddy Levy
  • They Said They Wanted Revolution: A Memoir of My Parents — Neda Toloui-Semnani
  • The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy — Charles R. Morris
  • The Brothers Karamazov (Pevear & Volokhonsky translation) — Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier — Benjamin E. Park
  • The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone — Brian Merchant
  • How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization — Mary Beard
  • A Practical Guide to Conquering the World — K. J. Parker
  • Ember Rising — S. D. Smith
  • Ember’s End — S. D. Smith
  • China in Ten Words — Yu Hua
  • Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House — Rachel Maddow
  • The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985–1993 — Jordan Mechner
  • Leonardo da Vinci — Walter Isaacson
  • The Cloud Roads — Martha Wells
  • The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds — Michael Lewis
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure — Michael A. Lupoff
  • Facebook: The Inside Story — Steven Levy

Wordhoard

Another new experimental section: words I’ve come across in my reading that caught my interest.

The polite thing to do here would be to include definitions, but looking words up is half the fun, right? I’m also leaving out the language — some of these are from a French dictionary, for example — and I’ll leave the list unsorted to boot. (If you think I’m just being irresponsibly lazy here, you’re not wrong.)

  • maltote
  • IOOF
  • chapfallen
  • gage
  • marivaudage
  • rodomontade
  • mulct
  • flitch
  • electuaries
  • on eyre
  • condign

Watching

I don’t feel like I watch enough of anything to warrant a section here, but that’s probably not as true as I think, so here we are.

Enjoyed Encanto (still have the music stuck in my head), Ron’s Gone Wrong, the Loki series (so weird), and the Assembled documentary series (I love love love making-of documentaries).

Tried The Book of Boba Fett but I really struggle to enjoy Star Wars at all anymore. Back when The Mandalorian came out, I bounced off it as well. (Guess which streaming service we subscribe to, by the way.)

Lately we’ve started watching BYU volleyball games, which has been fun.

Making

This past run (as in a run of days, which is what I’m calling the time period between issues, at least for now) my back has been worse, which makes some type of work (like art) more painful/difficult. My day job has also been very busy, leaving me with fairly little energy left over in the evenings. End result: not much project work.

Current projects

Salviana (working title): I’m close to finishing the new outline. It incorporates a lot of what I already have in the first draft (which is a nice change; usually my revision outlines end up changing everything). Hoping to finalize it soon so I can dive in and make the revisions.

Retzi (working title): On hold while I finish outlining the Salviana story.

Religious art: My Their Work and Glory piece is in a new exhibit, The Sacred Feminine in LDS Art & Theology at the Center for Latter-day Saint Arts Gallery in New York City, open January 14 through March 6. (It’s in under the alternate title Their Work and Their Glory.) I’ve tried a few ideas for new work but haven’t come up with anything I’m happy with. I suspect I may have reached the end of my time exploring this type of art; a pivot to some other kind of art is probably best. Also, in case anyone’s curious about scale here: in 2019 I sold 15 prints, in 2020 I sold 183, and in 2021 I sold 196 (all on-demand through Society6). I haven’t done any marketing and don’t care to.

Other art: I played around a little with Procreate 5.2’s new 3D painting functionality. Itching to do more with that and realized I need to get better at modeling in Blender first. (I did end up playing around with geometry nodes a little. Nothing to show for it yet.)

Charts: I’m thinking about making a Latin endings chart. It would show -ae, for example, and then list out all the grammatical possibilities for that suffix. Not sure yet if it’s actually a good idea; still in the exploratory phase. (Still haven’t actually done anything beyond writing down the idea, to be fully transparent.)

Bane: Backburnered for now. I’m not sure designing a general-purpose language interests me enough right now to continue with it — at least not one that’s basically just an amalgam of other languages. If it was innovative enough, though, then perhaps.

Marks: I’ve decided to go with making this a DSL instead of a VM. Random ideas for it that I haven’t really thought through yet:

  • Leaning towards declarative instead of imperative (ala POV-Ray, Lilypond, OpenSCAD, etc.)
  • Special focus on path manipulation (iterating through paths, moving points around, filters for roughening paths, etc.)
  • CSG/Boolean support
  • Not sure if this is purely generative or if modifying existing SVGs (for example) would also be part of it
  • Custom brush strokes defined through functions, with controls for falloff, opacity, etc.
  • Paths and points as primitives, along with being able to define new primitives (just functions, really)
  • Not sure yet how much will be vector vs. raster
  • Reference implementation built in JavaScript

Bend: I’d been trying to figure out the curve-editing commands more abstractly, but it was hard to latch on to and I didn’t get anywhere with it. Recently, though, I tried writing user stories — e.g., “I place a point, pull out a control point, and then place another point up and to the right with its control points extended” — and already it’s helping anchor things enough that I’m making (slow) progress again.

Hinterlight: A typeface, previously known as Hinte. I started it months ago (designing it in FontForge) but abandoned it because I am not at all good at type design yet. Recently I resurrected the project, with a few new process ideas that will hopefully help: using Paged.js to generate proof PDFs and then proofing those on my iPad (in Documents, using my Apple Pencil to make annotations). I feel like it’ll still take a long time before I get any good at type design. Baby steps.

Projects I’ll probably never do

  • A protocol (parallel to HTTP, Gopher, Gemini) that lets you broadcast one word per day. An exploration of the idea of really slow communications. This would possibly lead to some suspense (“Which way is this sentence going to go? I won’t know for weeks!”), but more likely it would just be insanely boring. Still, smaller, simpler protocols for alternate nets interest me. (I do still plan to get a Gemini server up at some point.)
  • Take a medieval chronicle and publish it in blog format. Probably posted all at once, but possibly in “real time” with a contemporary day for each year in the chronicle. Someone has probably already done this.

Brandur on using Docker for local development. Reproducible deterministic environments are worth it, I think. But I’m all for getting rid of complexity where possible.

Mapbox on their adaptive projections for interactive maps. Loved this.

TinyGo, a Go compiler for embedded and WebAssembly. (A stripped hello world gets down to 10k.)

Where Is Webb, a nice info page showing the current status of the Webb telescope.

James Padolsey’s Break the Bubble escape chamber. A recommendation service for books you probably haven’t read by people who read books like you.

Tom Scocca on how long it takes to caramelize onions. From 2012 but still good.

Dinwar on how geologists think. Found this fascinating.

Moxie Marlinspike on crypto. For whatever reason I’ve had zero interest in blockchain/crypto/NFTs/etc., but this seems a level-headed take.

Molly White on blockchains. Also a level-headed take.

PrinceJS, a web-based recreation of Prince of Persia (which I played as a kid). Works on mobile, too.

Stanford Carmack on subordinate that usage in the Book of Mormon. His research into the Early Modern English syntax of the Book of Mormon is fascinating.

Christopher Moore on a meteor that hit Tall el-Hammam 3,600 years ago. More particularly, it’s about how they deduced that this happened.

Women in Type, a research project showcasing women’s contributions in type history. (Fonts, that is.)

Patrick Tanguay’s list of friendly indie micropublishers. I love lists like this.

Kevin Kelly on ideas wanting to be shared. This resonated with me.

Kevin Kelly’s 99 additional bits of unsolicited advice. Also, I wish I’d had the foresight to register bc.net back in the early days of the web.

Julio Merino’s EndBASIC project. A web-based interpreter modeled on QuickBASIC with a DOS environment. Nostalgia! (It’s not quite the same as what I programmed with as a kid, but still nice.)

Anthony Warner on botulism and Botox. The stats toward the end blew my mind.

Thoughts

On that iOS keyboard bug I mentioned last issue: if I open Safari, go back to Home Screen, and then reopen my PWA, the keyboard returns. A little quicker than killing the PWA, though still obnoxious.

Some random small horological musings on advantages analog clocks have over digital. Analog is spatial: time takes up space, so you can see the size of it at a glance, along with relationships between intervals. With digital, you have to do some basic math first and it’s still more abstract. Also, analog clocks make me less concerned about the exact time — within a few minutes is usually acceptable. (These thoughts bubbled up when I decided to change my watch face from digital to analog.)

Realized I’ve had this website for over half my life.


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