The Vesuvius Challenge 2023 grand prize has been awarded. It’s mind-blowing that we can read scrolls in that condition — lumps of rolled-up carbonized ash, as they put it. Bravo, fellow humans.
Andrés Aguilera’s drone footage of an Icelandic volcano eruption. Wow. It’s fascinating to see the new possibilities drones unlock. (And somewhat less fun to think through the dark side of what drones enable. I know that’s true of almost any technology, but still.) (I might not be a full optimist, guys.)
Ethan Dalool’s notes about paper. I love this kind of web page. The 1-bit dithered look for scans is appealing, and there are several other interesting ideas, including printing your own graph paper. (Reading this made me realize I need to simplify my note paper PDF page. I’ve also been thinking about making a web app to let people generate their own custom lined/graph/etc. paper PDFs.)
Simon MacDonald on issues with React. Yep. I’ve worked with React for a few years now (at work) and I wouldn’t say it’s a blissful experience. Reactive UI is nice. Bloat is not.
Heydon Pickering on utility-first CSS. If you can take the snark, this captures some of the reasons I’m not so much a fan of Tailwind. (Plus, I just really like CSS itself.)
Tero Piirainen on Tailwind. Okay, after this, no more dunking on Tailwind, I promise.
Andy Bell on MDN and the need for a new global documentation platform.
Chartwell, a font using OpenType discretionary ligatures to make several different kinds of charts. Impressive.
Jon Porter on Lenovo’s transparent laptop concept. Hmm. No.
AboutIdeasNow, a catalog of personal sites with /about, /now, or /ideas pages. After seeing this, I fleshed out my own now page so it isn’t quite so threadbare and also submitted it to nownownow.com. If you have a now page, by the way, email me a link — I’d love to see it.
/uses, a catalog of personal sites with /uses pages. I don’t have one. (Yet, anyway. I don’t know if I’ll add one. Maybe.)
Ross Wintle’s manifesto for small, static web apps. Yes! I would even go a step further and amend this to “don’t use a JS library” and “don’t use a build step,” but what can I say, I’m a minimalist.
Rosemary Meszaros and Katherine Pennavaria on the myth that Ellis Island immigration officials anglicized people’s surnames.
Hiawatha Bray on the future of silk. Loads of fascinating things in this. For example: “Vaxess is testing a skin patch covered in dozens of microneedles made of silk protein and infused with influenza vaccine. Each needle is barely visible to the naked eye and just long enough to pierce the outer layer of skin. A user sticks the patch on his arm, waits five minutes, then throws it away. Left behind are the silk microneedles, which painlessly dissolve over the next two weeks, releasing the vaccine all the while. The silk protein acts as a preservative, so there’s no need to keep it on ice at a doctor’s office. […] In testing, Vaxess found that flu vaccines stored in a silk patch at room temperature remained viable three years later.”
Emily Pontecorvo on the Impulse Labs induction stove. The stove is expensive, but this part was compelling: “And then you learn that the stove has a battery in it, which means that unlike most other induction stoves, it can plug into a standard 120-volt outlet. You don’t have to get a pricy circuit upgrade, or an even pricier electrical panel upgrade, to install it.” I hope this is the future of stoves.
Ink & Switch’s lab notebook for Patchwork, “a research project about version control software for writers, developers, and other creatives.” Interested to see where this goes.
Antoine Mayerowitz’s journey into shaders. A nice introduction.
John Hoare on the indie web. “If we want the indie web to flourish, the very first thing people need to get used to is actually browsing the web again.” More specifically, clicking around on people’s personal sites. I still do this and it’s delightful.
Dave Karpf on the myth of technological inevitability. Yes.
Stewart Brand’s book in progress on maintenance. Looking forward to reading this. Relevant in most parts of life, I think.
Jason Kottke on a massive ancient network of cities found in the Ecuadorean Amazon, built around 2,500 years ago. Cool.
Margaret Olsen Hemming’s interview with Jennifer Champoux about the Book of Mormon Art Catalog.
Nolen’s Talk Paper Scissors game, where you play rock paper scissors over the phone with strangers. Ha. (I have not actually played this.)
Maggie Appleton on ambient co-presence on the web. Yep. The introvert in me is, uh, 100% fine with the current lack of co-presence, but it would be nice to be able to toggle this kind of thing on from time to time.
John Gruber on ebooks vs. web pages, particularly the quote from Sebastiaan de With: “There are no good ebooks. The ePub file lacks all the delight of the beautiful website.” Good point. Food for thought… (This is relevant to an upcoming post.)
Eli’s December Adventure. Ah, I love dev logs like these. I used to write similar logs in text files when I was a young programmer. This makes me want to a) build some kind of larger software project and b) write a public dev log for it.
Alexander Obenauer’s lab notes. Love these. Lots of thinking about the future of the computing. When I’m in my research mode, these types of notes (well organized, detailed, etc.) are the kind of thing I wish I were producing. Note to future self: do this.
Sapling, “a highly experimental code editor where you edit code, not text.” Interesting idea!
Frederic Edwin Church’s painting Our Banner in the Sky. This type of art is a bit gimmicky, I know, but it’s still fun.
Mandy Brown on risks and benefits, with two angles that aren’t brought up as often. Great points.
Adam Newbold’s printable full-year calendar. I like that this fits on any size paper. This seems like perhaps a better way to distribute charts. (Though I do love the static solidness of PDFs.)
Patrick O’Keefe on some of the production design for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Fun. As I’ve said before, I kind of wish all comic book movies were done in this style.
Jenny Li on how to paint various textures.
Peter Gainsford on the camel, the rope, and the eye of the needle, making the case that the word wasn’t rope after all.
Spencer Ackerman on Henry Kissinger as war criminal.
Asun Álvarez’s interview with Victoria Goddard. Lots of interesting things here for those who’ve read Goddard’s books (or are curious about reading them).
Freight Text, the tasty font that Reactor (formerly Tor.com) is using for body copy.
Mitxela’s tiny spinny volumetric display. Cool.
Lipi’s Ikat Devanagari pixel font. Love this. And chonky pixels in general. (A byproduct of when I grew up, no doubt.)
Lea Verou on eigensolutions “Rather than designing a solution to address only our driving use cases, step back and ask yourself: can we design a solution as a composition of smaller, more general features, that could be used together to address a broader set of use cases?” Yes, this.
Oliver Burkemann on productivity techniques as a cupboard of tools and on using the tools that work for you. This was good for me to hear.
Jen Simmons on Interop 2024. Woohoo! A wonderful project. Very much looking forward to
Jonathan Hoefler on what generative AI might mean for typeface design. To be honest, I’ve soured on generative AI and don’t really find it interesting anymore. (Thus the lack of AI-related links lately.)
Angie Wang’s “Is My Toddler a Stochastic Parrot?” Ha. Sometimes it feels like it, but no, there’s a difference.
Andrew Plotkin about the newly discovered Infocom interpreter source code. Cool. (I say this as if I play interactive fiction regularly. Haven’t in decades. But I’m still nostalgic for it, I suppose.)
Bryan Braun on rejecting the algorithm and using RSS. Amen.
McKinley Valentine on physical actions. “I am increasingly of the belief that your brain doesn’t really understand that you have taken an action unless you move your body and/or other objects around in physical space. So if you prepare for a job interview by reading through your notes on a screen, that helps you in the actual ‘know what you’re going to say’ sense, but because you didn’t do anything your brain registers as activity, it still thinks you’re unprepared and ramps up its anxiety. I suspect you would feel much less anxious if you had a text-to-voice app read out your notes while you folded laundry or something.” Interesting idea.
Houses buried under tumbleweed in Montana. Wild.
Charlie Stross on why science fiction is a terrible guide to the future, and how billionaires and tech companies should stop trying to create those futures. “Because we invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale and they took it at face value and decided to implement it for real.”
Étienne Fortier-Dubois on complexity limits of fictional worlds. Agreed that most (if not all) worldbuilding is more simplistic than the real world, and that more complexity would be quite interesting. Past a certain point, though, you get complexity overload and the reader can’t enjoy the story because of All The Things. And even before that point, I’m not sure how often it truly matters; small stages can tell compelling stories. tl;dr Diversity of complexity is good.
Alex Chan on creating a PDF as big as the universe. Now you know.
@strangestloop on things that aren’t doing the thing. A good reminder. Nothing like getting your hands dirty.
Procreate Dreams, a new(ish) animation app. Haven’t tried it, but their painting app is well made, and this one looks cool.
Aleksandra Mirosław breaking the speedclimbing world record. Wow! She makes it look so easy. This also makes me glad that normal humans don’t scrabble up walls all the time. (Though if it were normal, maybe it would feel less unsettling.)
Chris on typing fast being about latency and not throughput. Agreed. I type fairly quickly, and there’s a definite difference in feel when I’m slowed down by a touchscreen or analog. Sometimes it’s nice to slow down, to have more built-in time to think about what I’m writing, but generally I’d rather be able to type fast and then take thinking breaks when needed.
Benjamin Breen on using generative AI for historical research, to augment and not automate.
Andrew Burmon on police brutality leading to domestic violence. “Research into the private lives of cops suggests that that faith in the restraint of police officers on the job is founded at least in part on men who abuse their wives and children. And what percent of cops are domestic abusers is conspicuously quite high.”
Matt Webb on the subjective experience of coding in different programming languages. Fascinating. For me, different languages do feel different, but not viscerally, no code synaesthesia. Pity.
Baldur Bjarnason on Gall’s law, which is: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working, simple system.” I’ve been mulling over this a lot lately, both at work and for personal projects.
Eliot Peper on imagining the reader. “When you sit down to write and nobody’s in front of you, you forget that writing isn’t an end in itself. You forget that, even though you can’t see them, you are writing for someone.” When writing this blog I do usually keep in mind that I’m writing for y’all as a group (and what a lovely, diverse group of people!), but when I’m writing fiction I tend to forget all about audience. Something to work on.
The Church is creating an MTC in Bangkok! Wow! Did not see that coming. (And I’m late enough in posting this that the MTC is probably already up and running.)
Taylor on shipping finished projects. “Modern software devs aren’t really allowed to complete anything.” We do swim in eternal flux, but is that a bad thing? Switching metaphors: a living, breathing system requires feeding and attention, which seems fundamentally different from a chair or a pencil. There may also be a worthwhile distinction here between server-based software and downloadable desktop software. (Either way, though, this is why I focus more on art and typesetting with my personal projects. I like shipping finished products: no maintenance, which is a better fit for the limited free time I have.)
Lincoln Michel on making your novel more like Moby-Dick. “Why shouldn’t writers follow their obsessions and interests and strange ideas? The result is almost always going to be more memorable than an unthinking devotion to plot beats and character arcs.” I like this.
Hillary Predko on surgery trainers. That first image? Not cupcakes. (Seems like a great way to learn, though.)
Precondition on home row mods. Ooh. Interesting idea.
Benjamin Breen on the open-stack library. While I understand the move away from open stacks, it still makes me so, so sad. I’ve spent many an hour perusing shelves, letting serendipity guide me. There’s something magical about walking aisles lined with books. (This from a guy who pretty much only reads ebooks nowadays.)
Monaspace, GitHub’s new coding font superfamily, with a interesting “texture healing” idea. (Not sure how I feel about that, but glad to see innovation in that space.) I’m still using Go Mono.
Ben Werd on journaling in private with friends. I’d like this. This gave me a curious idea: an unlisted RSS feed with no web counterpart. Similar to the occasional RSS-only posts that some folks do on their blogs, but with post URLs that don’t actually go anywhere. Effectively private without having to deal with authentication. (For the paranoid, maybe each reader gets their own unique URL to make it easy to track down any leaks and give the whole thing an espionage vibe.) Maybe I’ll do this someday.
Dorian Taylor on programmable software being accessible software. In particular the bit about “no UI without API”: “Every meaningful thing you can do to the application state in the user interface should correspond to exactly one subroutine, appropriately parametrized.” Which makes me think about Blender’s Python API — whenever you do something in the UI, there’s a log that shows how to do that action via the API. (Or at least there was; I haven’t checked recently to see if it’s still there.)
Speaking of which, Blender 4.0 was released. The fractal noise on the Voronoi texture node looks yum. I’ll admit to being a smidge sad to see Inter replace the Deja Vu Sans as the UI font, but I’ll cope.
Robin Berjon’s series on reimagining parts of the web. The web tiles idea is intriguing.
Jeff Sandberg on CSS being fun again. I need to make time to get familiar with all the new dazzle in CSS land. (I’ve read about most of it, but I haven’t gotten it into my fingers yet.)
Julian Gough on cosmological natural selection and universes, um, reproducing. Look, I have no idea whether he’s right, but regardless: what a fascinating idea.
Devine Lu Linvega on computing and sustainability and permaculture. I think about this often — smaller, simpler systems, little VMs and emulators, and preservation. Not sure yet what it means for my work, but I hope to someday do something in this space.
Nate Bargatze’s “Washington’s Dream” sketch on SNL. Too true. We’ve enjoyed watching Nate’s stand-up comedy specials.
The most spoken languages in each U.S. state besides English and Spanish. Interesting!
Nabil Maynard on the handcrafted artisanal web. It delights me to see more people return to homesteading now that the glamorous yet shoddy apartment towers of social media have begun crumbling.