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Links #119

Lea Verou on inline conditionals in CSS. Lots of interesting developments in the works for CSS these days.

Stitch People’s realistic hair cross-stitch techniques book. Cool.

John Durham Peters’ research techniques. “Write early in the morning, cultivate memory, reread core books, take detailed reading notes, work on several projects at once, maintain a thick archive, rotate crops, take a weekly Sabbath, go to bed at the same time, exercise so hard you can’t think during it, talk to different kinds of people including the very young and very old, take words and their histories seriously (i.e., read dictionaries), step outside of the empire of the English language regularly, look for vocabulary from other fields, love the basic, keep your antennae tuned, and seek out contexts of understanding quickly (i.e., use guides, encyclopedias, and Wikipedia without guilt).” I especially like the dictionary reading recommendation and need to make time for that more often.

Elan Ullendorff on an eighteenth-century map of Spain. Five hundred maps, actually. Delightful.

Madiba K. Dennie on how constitutional originalism is a dangerous, disingenuous ideology. “Originalism observes that white supremacy dominated the country’s past and reasons that it must also dominate the country’s future.”

Melissa Price’s English monarchy book. Enjoyed the design of this.

Caroline Cala Donofrio’s list of 40 things she needed to hear. Several good recommendations here, particularly the New Yorker one.

Ambuj Tewari on recent advances in machine learning helping computers to recognize smells. Cool.

Alexander Obenauer on the interfaces with which we think. I like the idea of decomposing computing into smaller blocks that aren’t wrapped in monolithic apps. Seems like a great concept, allowing for more interesting composition.

Sara Saljoughi on how to get unstuck. Yep. This has worked for me.

Rob McCormick on building flexible, fluid websites rather than using breakpoint-based media queries. (Since there’s always going to be a large variety of different browser sizes.) At some point I’d like to do this with this site.


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Links #118

Bronwen Tate on five ways to take a real break from creative work. Good tips.

Tjaart on the curious case of the missing period. A weird little SMTP bug.

Web lunch video with Maggie Appleton. Her comment about having no long-term overarching plan for her career resonated with me — with both my day job and my personal projects, it’s always been one step at a time. Once in a while I freak out about that and feel like I need to get things figured out, but as I look back, line upon line has been working out pretty well so far.

Douglas Adams on our reactions to technology as we age. This may have felt particularly apropos in context of how I feel about generative AI. Ha.

Sean Voisen on networked note-taking using tools like Obsidian and Roam. “I’ve found networked note-taking to be a practice that mostly overpromises and under-delivers.” I feel a little better about never actually linking my notes like I always intended to.

Who Can Use, “a tool that brings attention and understanding to how color contrast can affect different people with visual impairments.” This is great.

Jaron Schneider on Looking Glass’s new holographic spatial displays. Cool.


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Links #117

Hamilton Nolan on putting everyone into the grinder (metaphorically, don’t worry). “One of the most direct ways to improve a flawed system is simply to end the ability of rich and powerful people to exclude themselves from it.” Hear, hear. Via Tracy Durnell, whose post on equal systems being better systems is also good. I also liked and agreed with Hamilton’s post on nationalism being poison.

Louise Perry on the quiet return of eugenics. Interesting throughout. In reading this, I realized I don’t yet know what I think about polygenic screening. Something to mull over.

Mixbox, a library for paint-like color mixing. Very cool. I wish Procreate adopted this.

James Brown on Apple Intelligence. “Someone took all of the liberal arts people out of the room when they built this feature and let the Wall Street AI hype-men steer the ship. This isn’t a bicycle for the mind, this is a steamroller for the mind.” Count me among those who aren’t terribly excited to start getting emails from friends LLMs.

Rick Perlstein on conservatism’s endgame. “Note how conservatives talk in every generation about whatever it is they identify as the latest existential threat to civilization…. This is why I now describe the history of conservatism as a ratchet. It must always move in an invariably more authoritarian direction, with no possible end point but an apocalyptic one.”

Sharon McMahon on America’s rising sun moment. As someone who’s been feeling less optimistic about America’s future (cf. the previous link for one example), I found this a bit of hope in this post. Recommended.

Cirkoban, an interesting Sokoban + cellular automata mashup.


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Booknotes 3.12

Nonfiction

  • A Midwife’s Tale, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, published 1990. It’s about the diary and life of Martha Ballard, a midwife living in Maine in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I really liked it. Loads of interesting details about life in that time and place.

Fiction

  • The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion volume 3, by Beth Brower, historical fiction, published 2020. The series continues to delight. I’m enjoying the character development, too.
  • The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, by Ken Liu, sf&f, published 2020, read for book group. Overall, I liked The Paper Menagerie more. Also wasn’t quite in the mood for a short story collection, which no doubt skewed my reading (and was no fault of the book). That said, I liked the title story a lot, and the uploaded-consciousness stories were interesting.
  • The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion volume 4, by Beth Brower, historical fiction, published 2021. So good. Humor seasoned with sorrow. A solid deepening of several different parts of the story, and more connections coming together, too, which I loved.

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Links #116

Maciej Cegłowski on the follies of NASA’s Artemis mission. Really good. And sad that the project is so disappointing. (Obligatory disclaimer that this blog post does not represent my employer in any way.)

Jason Kint with a supremely satisfying set of newspaper front pages from this week’s big conviction.

Meredith Whittaker on AI. Quite good. Contrary to the initial appearance, by the way, it’s in English — just scroll down a bit.

Frank Force’s 256-byte raycasting system. Cool.

Matt Sephton on the early history of emoji, which have been around longer than I realized. I love the early pixel art style, too.

Maggie Appleton on generative AI forgeries, “buying fake William Morris prints on Etsy and other early signs of epistemological collapse.” Generative AI seems to cause more problems than it solves.

Slash pages, the new name for all those indie web page types (/now, /uses, /hello, etc.). I fully acknowledge that I may have gone a bit overboard on adopting these. But they’re fun!


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Booknotes 3.11

Nonfiction

  • The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power, published 2019. A memoir of serving in the Obama administration and as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Really good, right up my alley, liked it a lot.
  • Confessions of an LDS Sex Researcher, by Cameron Staley, published 2024. Not my usual fare, but the juxtaposition of sex lab researcher + member of the Church was intriguing. Good book. It might make more conservative readers uncomfortable, but I think it’s the kind of discomfort that helps you become a better person.

Fiction

  • The Hallowed Hunt, by Lois McMaster Bujold, fantasy, published 2005. Third book in the initial World of the Five Gods trilogy. So good — easily as compelling as Curse and Paladin. Great twist in the middle, too, and whew, that ending hit kind of hard for me. I love the portrayal of religion in this series, and I’m glad I still have a decent amount of Bujold left to read for the first time (looking forward to the Penric novellas!).
  • The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion volume 1, by Beth Brower, historical fiction (I guess? I’m not great at labeling genres), published 2019. A friend recommended these a while back and my wife read them and has been telling all her friends, who’ve all gone on to read and love them, and I decided it was time to stop missing out. Glad I did: this was delightful. Loved it, particularly the voice. Very much looking forward to reading the rest.
  • The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion volume 2, by Beth Brower, historical fiction, published 2019. I don’t often binge read these days — I like to space series out so they last longer — but I couldn’t help myself. (I also need to get caught up with my wife so we can talk about the series sans spoilers.) Witty and again delightful.

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Excited to see the first batch of songs from the new hymnbook show up this morning, particularly “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “What Child Is This?” (one of my most favorite Christmas songs). Also looking forward to learning the new hymns I’m not familiar with.


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Links #115

Vadim Kravcenko on aging code and the wisdom of old code. This was really good, and it’s not a viewpoint I see often. “The longer your code has been around, survived different cataclysms (read: business pivots), and evolved, the more robust it is. The team that has built it before you had time to debug, to optimize, to improve — the code has accumulated years worth of bugfixes that are in places you cant even imagine.”

Amy Harris on being “a single and childless woman in a church that is so focused on marriage and child-rearing.” A good perspective on family.

Daniel Huffman on making Blender relief maps less Blender-y. I’ll admit to liking the aesthetic of those maps, but that’s looking at them as art; from a cartographic angle, yes, it’s a bit much. This also made me want to make more maps in Blender.

Loz Blain on an underwater bicycle. Cool.

Mandy Brown on the practice of bookending your work days. I’ve done something vaguely similar to this (well, half of this) and it’s been helpful. I think one of the most helpful techniques I’ve adopted at work has been keeping a log of what I work on. When I come back the next day, or even just from lunch, it’s so much easier to pick up where I left off. Externalizing memory makes context refreshes smooth.

Jonathan Beebe on how JavaScript got good. Yep. I really enjoy writing JS these days.

And I’ll like it even more if this do expressions proposal makes it into the language. I’ve wanted this (instead of those awkward nested ternaries) for a while. Hope it happens!


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Links #114

Chris Burnell on an /interests page. Cool idea. I’ve added one. (I have a small list of my interests listed on my about page, but I like having more space to talk about things — even though it carries an increased risk of becoming exceedingly boring.)

Tracy Durnell on how developing taste requires intentional attention. I especially like the push/pull idea. And other people’s recommendations are how I find pretty much all the books I read these days.

Modal, a programming language based on string rewriting via substitution rules. A little mind-bending.

Anna Andersen on how some people ended up accidentally running for president of Iceland. UX matters!

Alin Panaitiu’s woodworking projects. Every once in a while I think about ditching tech and becoming a carpenter instead. The fact that I haven’t built anything with wood since I was seven has not stopped me from thinking this.

Jan Nicklas’s text-box-trim examples. Ooh. I like this. I hope browser support comes around.

Michelle Barker on using color-mix to generate shades of grey. Cool. I need to spend some time playing around with newer CSS features.


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Things on my mind #11

  • The length of the list of books I want to read: so incredibly long and growing longer almost every day, all while the number of days I have left on this earth continues to shrink. I’m more aware of this than ever. I’ve started making lists of books I want to make sure to read before I die. (I will add here that I have no reason to believe my death is imminent.)
  • I need to get outside more often. It feels good.
  • For a while I was stalled on reading The Power Broker and Shift Happens (because of length, and because they’re physical books and I’m not as good at reading long physical books these days), but then I set myself a goal of ten pages per day per book and it has made all the difference.
  • I got a Boox Palma. I tried to like it. I failed. I returned it. The resolution was noticeably worse than on my Kobo Libra, I couldn’t find an app that gave me what I wanted (page numbers + custom fonts), I didn’t like the fiddliness of it being a full tablet, and after a handful of page turns it looked like a bad photocopy. I still read on my phone 99% of the time, but the Kobo Libra is the best ereader I’ve found so far.
  • A mouth is kind of like a third hand sometimes.
  • A few weeks ago I retypeset my “Will I Leave a Legacy?” song in MuseScore. Way fun. I like typesetting music.
  • Gathering these thoughts into a single post (vs. writing individual posts) means I’m less likely to go deeper into any one of them, especially in this list format, where I’m effectively constraining myself to a single paragraph per topic. Maybe I should go back to smaller posts.
  • Thinking about whether I should start writing weeknotes on here again. (I see weeknotes as different from these things-on-my-mind posts, though I realize there’s often some overlap.)
  • I hit my first year mark at Planet Labs.
  • Apparently LOTR isn’t on my reading log, which surprised me. I must have read it before I started tracking. Thinking about reading it again, partly because I want to read it as an adult and partly to have it on the reading log.
  • Periodically I wonder how I can do more good in the world. I don’t know what the answer is. My brain wants it to be some kind of project, something I can make, but I suspect most of the time it’s more in the vein of being kind to those around me and mourning with those who mourn and offering a listening ear. The good news: I can do that regardless of how flared up my back is. (Because the back pain does limit what kinds of projects I can work on.)

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