Ben Crowder

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Reading — Prints 2.1

Recent nonfiction reads

  • The Puzzler, by A. J. Jacobs. A fun book. I don’t really do puzzles myself anymore (my brain doesn’t like it), but I enjoyed reading about all the different kinds.

Recent fiction reads

  • The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Loved it. It took me a little while to warm up to it, but once the fantasy elements were introduced, I was there. Glad that there are two more novels and a lot of Penric novellas to come. (Plus the remaining Vorkosigan books I haven’t yet read, and the Sharing Knife series.)
  • Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire. Novella. Mixed feelings. It was unexpectedly sad to me, but the world seems interesting enough (portal fantasies are my thing) and I liked Middlegame (looking forward to picking up Seasonal Fears soon), so I think I’ll still try the next in the series.
  • Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor. Novella. Loved it. I really like Afrofuturism. Looking forward to the other Binti novellas and Okorafor’s other work.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers. Novella. I almost gave up on this a couple times early on, but it got more interesting once things started happening and I’m glad I stuck with it. Fairly philosophical. The permacomputing was nice to see, too.
  • A Warning to the Curious, by M. R. James. Basically a novella. Published in the 1920s. I don’t know that I felt particularly engaged (or scared) by the stories, but it was good to read something older.
  • A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow. Novella. Really liked it, especially the voice. And the intersection of fairy tales and modern people? Also my thing. (Which reminds me that I want to reread OSC’s Enchantment sometime.)

Books acquired since last post

  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story — Michael Lewis
  • A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich — Christopher B. Krebs
  • Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire — David Remnick
  • Whose Middle Ages?: Teachable Moments for an Ill-Used Past — Andrew Albin et al.
  • Skyward Inn — Aliya Whiteley
  • Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City — Andrea Elliott
  • Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion — Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Bob Andelman
  • Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy — Tim Weiner, David Johnston, and Neil A. Lewis
  • The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism — Dean Starkman
  • Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath — Heather L. Clark
  • Black Stone Heart — Michael R. Fletcher
  • The Sisters Brothers — Patrick deWitt
  • The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community — Mary Pipher
  • Cryoburn — Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance — Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen — Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Spirit Ring — Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem — Julie Phillips
  • Isaac Newton — James Gleick
  • The Wrinkle in Time Quartet — Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Shortest History of China: From the Ancient Dynasties to a Modern Superpower—A Retelling for Our Times — Linda Jaivin
  • The Element of Fire — Martha Wells
  • The Death of the Necromancer — Martha Wells
  • Summer of Blood: England’s First Revolution — Dan Jones
  • First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (and Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents — Gary Ginsberg
  • Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Computer Games — Sid Meier
  • Bandwidth — Eliot Peper
  • Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre — Heather Cox Richardson
  • The Umbral Storm — Alec Hutson
  • Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal — Nick Bilton
  • Summer Frost — Blake Crouch

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Prints 1.10

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 10.

Table of contents: Reading • Making • Links • Thoughts

After this issue, I’m going to split Prints up and go back to more of a normal blog format. I’ll still be posting the same content, just not consolidated into a single issue. (Though I do look forward to using the issue format again for something in the future.)


Recent nonfiction reads

  • Saints, volume 2. This took me a year or so, reading just on Sundays and only a few pages at a time. (I wanted to take it slow so that I’d finish around the time the third volume came out.) Loved it. Great series. Can’t wait to see how it ends!
  • The End Is Always Near, by Dan Carlin. I’m not a podcast person and haven’t listened to Hardcore History, but a couple people recommended this to me. Really liked it. This is the kind of thing I think about frequently. Also, the pandemic part was bittersweet (okay, mostly bitter) reading in light of Covid. (The book was published in October 2019.) That said, while Covid is certainly awful, I’m glad it’s not as graphic as some of the other plagues humanity has experienced.
  • Scotland’s Merlin, by Tim Clarkson. A look at the historical evidence for Merlin being from Scotland instead of Wales. (Spoiler alert: there’s fairly little evidence for anything at all from the sixth century A.D.) Enjoyed it, even if it felt occasionally repetitive. Also, did you know there’s a Myrddin programming language?

Recent fiction reads:

  • Vita Nostra, by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko. Another weird, mind-bending novel, this one in a Russian magic college of sorts. I think I liked it, maybe? (Though I wouldn’t say it was among my favorite magic school novels.) Sergey died two days ago, by the way.
  • Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson. Some parts I could do without, but Stephenson’s writing really clicks with me. Looking forward to reading the rest of his books (even if most of them are on the long end).

Books acquired since last issue

  • City of Bones — Martha Wells
  • The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life — A.J. Jacobs
  • El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America — Carrie Gibson
  • Reign & Ruin — J. D. Evans
  • The Atlas Six — Olivie Blake
  • Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx — Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  • Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia — Orlando Figes
  • The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution — Barbara W. Tuchman
  • Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures — Bill Schutt
  • Montaigne — Stefan Zweig
  • The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers — Tom Standage
  • Empire of Cotton: A Global History — Sven Beckert
  • Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction — Alec Nevala-Lee
  • The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century — Steve Coll
  • Young Stalin — Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman—from World War to Cold War — Michael Dobbs
  • Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less — Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
  • How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness — Russell D. Roberts
  • The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton — Jefferson Morley
  • The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert — Shugri Said Salh
  • The Business of Tomorrow: The Visionary Life of Harry Guggenheim: From Aviation and Rocketry to the Creation of an Art Dynasty — Dirk Smillie
  • Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture — Emma Dabiri
  • Here Is Real Magic: A Magician’s Search for Wonder in the Modern World — Nate Staniforth
  • On Assignment: Memoir of a National Geographic Filmmaker — James R. Larison
  • Cage of Souls — Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Devil You Know — K. J. Parker
  • The Last Witness — K. J. Parker
  • Miracles — C. S. Lewis
  • The Man Burned by Winter — Pete Zacharias
  • Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South’s Ancient Chiefdoms — Charles Hudson
  • Seasonal Fears — Seanan McGuire
  • Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across North America — Jack Nisbet



New story: “A Past Not Yet Forgotten.” This is the Retzi story I’ve mentioned before. Fantasy, about ten pages long. The form is a little experimental — for me, anyway.

And we have more art, this time a handful of illusions and a Blender piece. (Sidenote: for my non-religious art, I’ve decided to only post it here and not to Instagram or Facebook anymore.)

Penrose A
Penrose A. I wanted to take the SVG techniques I’ve been using lately and try them on a Penrose triangle. Voila. With this variation I was going for more of an inky look.
Penrose B
Penrose B. With this one, I was aiming for a more chaotic watercolor look. The lighting is intentionally different from that in A and C.
Penrose C
Penrose C. With this I was trying to get an old-book feel.
Café Wall A
Café Wall A. Another illusion piece, for fun. Whenever I’ve seen illusions like these, by the way, they’ve almost always been in black and white with crisp linework. I’ve enjoyed making more artistic versions. If you know of any other illusions you think might work with my style, let me know!
The Floating City
The Floating City. Not an illusion! Made in Blender with some lightweight Python scripting to generate the meshes. Used a random Gaussian distribution for the location and height of the buildings, which are just five-sided cylinders. Applied the texture in a postprocessing pass. (The fog was in the original render, though. Mmm. Instant drama.)

Current projects

Dagh (working title): Another fantasy story. I originally started writing this five or six years ago, but this iteration only shares a couple characters’ names. The outline is done and I have four pages written.

Religious art: Feeling blocked at the moment.

I’m figuring things out re: other projects. My back and neck haven’t been great lately, and I’ve still been dealing with eyestrain issues and resultant headaches. (I want to draw, for example, but my neck issues have made that prohibitively painful.) This may end up being a season mostly for writing and reading, since those are comparatively painless at the moment.

Kat Flint’s linocuts. Love watching these.

Matt Kirkland’s Dracula Daily. I admittedly unsubscribed after a few days because I wanted to get to inbox zero, but it’s a great idea.

Frank Force’s City in a Bottle. 3D renderer in JS in a tweet. Crazy.

PowerPoint karaoke. Heard of this for the first time. Sounds fun.

Extreme ironing. Humans are fascinating creatures.

Art Garfunkel’s reading list. He also has a list of his favorite books.

Matthew Butterick on the typography of the leaked Supreme Court PDF. Loved this.

Google on Noto Emoji, a new black-and-white emoji font. Much more my style.

William Kennedy in defense of the SPA. Ha.

Drew DeVault on his new Hare programming language. With how often I reference systems programming languages, I probably should actually do some systems programming sometime.

Dave Rupert on Steven Frank’s Gopher post. Ah, Gopher. Nostalgia! I still have a thing for old Internet protocols.

Tim Brown on CSS forces. Interesting idea.

Bartosz Ciechanowski on how mechanical watches are built. Loved this.

Chuck Grimmett on blogging.

Tom Critchlow on increasing the surface area of blogging. My gut is telling me there are really interesting things still to be done with RSS and OPML.

Ton Zijlstra on OPML and federated bookshelves. I’m thinking about maybe making an OPML version of my reading page.

Patrick Tanguay on personal feeds. I would love better versions of this.

Tom Critchlow on triple-entry blogging. I still need to move my site over to a fully static site. (It used to be. I’ve gone back and forth over the years.)


Found last week that I’ve been pronouncing ophthalmologist wrong all my life, by saying “opp” at the beginning instead of “off.”

The live view in Find My [Friends; leaving it objectless makes my brain sad] in iOS 15 feels like magic. I somehow hadn’t heard about it when it came out and ended up accidentally discovering it when my wife upgraded her phone recently. We’re living in the future. (Though I’ve been reading This Changes Everything lately and I don’t know if the future is worth the cost we’re paying for it.)

We’ve started watching Old Enough on Netflix and it’s adorable.

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Prints 1.9

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 9.

Table of contents: Reading • Making • Links


Recent nonfiction reads

  • The Last American Aristocrat, by David S. Brown. Confession: I went into this thinking it was about Henry James. No. It’s about Henry Adams (grandson of John Quincy Adams), who I knew nothing about beforehand. It ended up being a much slower read, I believe because its prose was dense and less scannable. There were also some mildly confusing time jumps. Overall, though, I liked it and I’m glad I read it. Learned a lot about the late 1800s and early 1900s. Also picked up the word filiopietistic.

Recent fiction reads:

  • Network Effect, by Martha Wells. The full-length Murderbot novel. Really liked it. It was more horror in some ways, but still a comfort read. I’m going to be sad when I read Fugitive Telemetry and run out of Murderbot.

Books acquired since last issue

  • Shakespeare: The Biography — Peter Ackroyd
  • The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco — Marilyn Chase
  • First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance — Annie Jacobsen
  • Heir to the Empire — Timothy Zahn
  • Dark Force Rising — Timothy Zahn
  • The Last Command — Timothy Zahn
  • From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death — Caitlin Doughty
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate — Naomi Klein
  • A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty — Mimi Matthews
  • Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power — James McGrath Morris
  • Emerson: The Mind on Fire — Robert D. Richardson
  • Part-Time Gods — Rachel Aaron
  • Night Shift Dragons — Rachel Aaron
  • Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities — Craig Steven Wilder
  • An Eye for an Eye — Carol Wyer
  • The Puma Years: A Memoir — Laura Coleman
  • The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America — James Bamford
  • The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens—and Ourselves — Arik Kershenbaum
  • Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found — Suketu Mehta
  • The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth — Richard Conniff
  • Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence — Christian Parenti
  • The City We Became — N. K. Jemisin
  • The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal — Simon J. Knell
  • Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation — Anton Howes
  • Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle — Clare Hunter
  • Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages — Dan Jones



Some religious art:

When Our Heavenly Parents We Meet II
When Our Heavenly Parents We Meet II. More in the zoomed-in negative-space vein. I like how it feels more intimate and personal.
Why Weepest Thou? II
Why Weepest Thou? II. I know, I know, it also looks like a) an old floppy disk or b) a headphone-wearing creature with an open mouth which bears resemblance to my Nom Nom painting. Turns out these negative-space pieces end up looking like other things half the time.
By the Laying on of Hands III
By the Laying on of Hands III. Going back to full bleed. In hindsight, this maybe feels a little too zoomed-in to me.
My Yoke Is Easy II
My Yoke Is Easy II. More in the newer style. Not sure how I feel about this one, though. Also feels a bit too zoomed-in.
By the Laying on of Hands IV
By the Laying on of Hands IV. This is basically the same as the other. Felt like doing it at the time, now second guessing that decision. If it’s not yet clear, I have a complicated relationship with some of the pieces I make.
I Am a Child of God III
I Am a Child of God III. Inordinately pleased with the painterly look of the background. The mult-layer SVG technique is a new favorite for sure. This piece also looks to me like a crazed fox wearing a white-collared shirt and red robes. These are the perils of negative-space art!

Current projects

Retzi (working title): Ten minutes a day is still working spectacularly well, and I’m making good if slow progress. The first draft of this story is done (it’s only five pages), just need to do a final editing pass. Expect it next time!

Religious art: Got burned out on this and planned to take a long break, but that didn’t last. Thinking about using Blender more for texturing, like I did with Within the Walls of Your Own Homes, using both displacement/bump maps and sculpting. But I also really like the SVG techniques I’ve been using lately, so we’ll see.

Picture book: Haven’t really done much of anything on this (soon to be a common theme). Thinking about using the multi-layer SVG technique for the art.

Shadow art: Nothing to report.

Type design: Nothing to report.

Musical: I think I have the basic idea and some initial song ideas.

Film: Nothing to report.

Getty’s Persepolis Reimagined. So cool.

Julia Evans with a list of newish command-line tools. I’ll admit I have a weakness for these kinds of tools.

Ernest Blum back in 2008 on learning languages via interlinear texts. Mixed feelings on this.

Mermaid, a Markdownish tool for diagramming and charting. Intrigued, particularly from the genealogy angle (pedigree/descendancy charts).

Kottke on kaketsugi. Love this.

Jim Nielsen on ordering CSS declarations. Agreed. I’ve been using alphabetical declarations for a while and it’s worked well (and any exceptions are then obvious).

Rikako Murayama and Akiko Okamoto on new electric chopsticks to enhance salty tastes. I don’t know what to say, but I’m intrigued.

Isabel Slone on learning to sew at the end of the world. I still itch to get into sewing.

Rob Gardner’s “My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee”. One of my favorite songs.

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Prints 1.8

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 8.

Table of contents: Reading • Making • Links • Thoughts


Recent nonfiction reads

  • China in Ten Words, by Yu Hua. More personal than I’d expected going in, but I also didn’t know much about the book before starting it so that’s more on me. Fascinating, regardless. Learned a lot about the Cultural Revolution I hadn’t known before.

Recent fiction reads:

  • The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins. I’d heard that it was a bit weird, but I had no idea. What a batty book. Disturbing, too. (Consider yourself warned.) Outside of the disturbing parts, though, I liked it — loads of creativity and imagination, which is one of the things that draws me to fantasy.

Books acquired since last issue

  • Prosper’s Demon — K. J. Parker
  • Inside Man — K. J. Parker
  • The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia — Orlando Figes
  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt — H. W. Brands
  • Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justice — Noah Feldman
  • The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain — Maria Rosa Menocal
  • The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World — Jeff Goodell
  • Longshot: The Inside Story of the Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine — David Heath
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales — Oliver Sacks
  • Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary — Timothy Snyder
  • Brave Companions — David McCullough
  • The Tiger and the Wolf — Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Kill Shot: A Shadow Industry, a Deadly Disease — Jason Dearen
  • Terrible Swift Sword — Bruce Catton
  • The Imaginary Corpse — Tyler Hayes
  • Soulbrand — Andrew Rowe
  • The Hungry Dreaming — Craig Schaefer
  • Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man’s Tour of Duty Inside the IRS — Richard Yancey
  • The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England: 400–1066 — Marc Morris
  • The Druid — Jeff Wheeler
  • Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life — Sutton Foster
  • Lion’s Blood — Steven Barnes
  • Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence — Bryan Burrough
  • Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution — Iain McCalman
  • A Skinful of Shadows — Frances Hardinge
  • The Bird King — G. Willow Wilson
  • New York Times Complete World War II: The Coverage of the Entire Conflict — The New York Times
  • The Third Reich: A Chronicle — Richard Overy
  • War: A History in 100 Battles — Richard Overy
  • The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict — Donald R Hickey
  • Conqueror’s Blood — Zamil Akhtar



Pleased to announce the release of the first new story in way too long “Never to Return.” This is the Salviana story I’ve been working on for what feels like forever (though in objective terms I think it’s only been a few months). It’s a fantasy story and is about 15 pages. And it’s done! For real! Finally!

Some new religious art:

I Will Give You Rest III
I Will Give You Rest III. An attempt to use the new negative space style with the I Will Give You Rest idea. Personally, in hindsight I wish I had kept it monotone, but that’s just me.
Annunciation. I’d been wanting to do an Annunciation for a while. I know it’s super minimal, but I like it.
A New Star
A New Star. Another idea I’ve had stewing for years. The concentric circles (borrowing from the mustard seed piece I did recently) are what finally made it work.
The Lord’s Passover III
The Lord’s Passover III. I wanted to do a bolder, starker take on the idea. On this I also experimented with layering multiple rasterized SVGs, each with different random seeds, and ended up with the more painted look around the edges. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I recorded a process video for most of the making of this piece, just need to edit it and post it.
I’ve a Mother There II
I’ve a Mother There II. Lately I’ve mostly been doing the Heavenly Parents together on this type of piece, but I wanted to do one with just Heavenly Mother surrounded by her children.
As the Stars
As the Stars. Also a piece I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Part of me wonders if it needs a better center of visual interest.
As the Sands
As the Sands. Companion piece. Basically the same thing.
Love Your Enemies
Love Your Enemies. I started with this as a generic prayer piece using the negative space style, along with zooming in more than I usually do. Then I was reading the beatitudes in 3 Nephi and it became really clear that I needed to change the title (from The Soul’s Sincere Desire II) and also change the background color from pale blue to a more intense red. Of all the art I’ve made, this piece is one of my favorites. Especially the bold, imperative teaching in the title.

Current projects

There’s some churn here as I’ve been trying to figure out which projects I want to work on. The new projects listed below are generally in areas I’ve wanted to work in for a while; some won’t stick, but I won’t know which ones till I try.

Retzi (working title): I’ve finally figured out a writing process that seems to be working. (Namely, aiming to spend at least ten minutes a day working on writing. It’s not much, but it’s a decent minimum that I can do every day, even on the days when everything is crazy. Also, outlining. I think I’ve got the hang of it now and can now stick with an outline enough to finish the work.) Now that I’ve finished the Salviana story (squeeeee), I’m worldbuilding/outlining this new Retzi story. This time I’m trying (limited) worldbuilding first, because I suspect that may be a better fit for how I come up with story ideas.

Religious art: I’m no longer worried about running out of ideas. For now I’m back to metering releases one at a time instead of releasing three or four at a time, to try to create a steadier stream of work. Should have several more pieces released by next issue.

Picture book: The only picture book I’ve made was more for infants and I’ve long wanted to do something that had an actual story. So this is that project. No idea what it’ll be yet.

Shadow art: An attempt to figure out what kind of art I want to make outside of the religious art I’ve been doing for years (which I plan to continue doing). I love the interplay of light and shadow, and this is a series where I paint just the shadows of different objects. (My Laying on of Hands piece is on the wall in my kitchen and to my eye it looks a little like a spotlight on someone from above, and I’ve wanted to do more pieces that really are that.)

Type design: I’m giving up on Hinterlight and starting a new typeface with simpler curves, which seems like a better idea during this stage where I’m still figuring out proportions and spacing and all that. Better to focus on the bigger picture first, rather than getting fixated on microscale point placement that doesn’t matter as much. I can always distress the curves programmatically later if I want, too. (The idea with Hinterlight was to create a typeface that looked like it had been printed by letterpress.)

Musical: Possibly a short musical, not sure yet. Planning to write the songs along with the book (the play). Something that feels like The Secret Garden intrigues me, but beyond that I have no idea yet what it’ll be about. It’s been a very long time since I wrote a play or a song and I’m excited!

Short film: To be more precise, a very, very short (30-second) animated film. Over the years I’ve picked up a small amount of Blender knowhow but I’ve wanted to actually dive in to rigging and animation to make something real. Also looking forward to scoring this and doing the sound.

This City Does Not Exist. A neural net imagines up satellite photos of cities.

Alex Tabarrok on Far UVC light and Covid. Intrigued.

High Assurance Rust, a book that teaches Rust by showing how to build ordered map and set implementations.

cool-retro-term. Love this.

Fig autocomplete for the terminal. I tried this but the constant popups for path completion turned out to bother me enough that I deleted it.

Lincoln Michel on conflict being only one way to think about stories. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Also planning to read Jane Alison’s Meander, Spiral, Explode soon.


A couple weeks ago I updated my to-do list app (Liszt) so that late every night it moves everything from my daily to-do list to my “someday” list. Each morning I review the someday list and move any items back that I plan to do that day. This change has been quite effective at getting me to stop avoiding my to-do list. (Before this, my list would accrete and become so long that I’d basically stop looking at it. Whereas now it’s wonderfully short each day.)

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Prints 1.7

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 7.

Table of contents: Reading • Making • Links • Thoughts


I recently checked out Standard Ebooks again and was pleased to see that they’re still going strong. I’m going to try reading older books exclusively on my Kobo, to see if that helps me finish them at all.

Recent nonfiction reads

  • Stretching the Heavens, by Terryl L. Givens. I heard about this biography of Eugene England via my friend Liz’s blog. Great book. Loved it — especially the theological parts — though England’s difficult relationship with the Church and with BYU was sad, particularly the end of the book.
  • On All Fronts, by Clarissa Ward, an international correspondent at CNN. I hadn’t actually heard of her when I saw her memoir on sale, but I love reading about journalism. This did not disappoint.

Recent fiction reads:

  • Last Argument of Kings, by Joe Abercrombie. Earthy and gritty (content warnings galore), but dang, this man can write. A satisfying conclusion to the First Law trilogy. I’ve already bought all his other books and look forward to them.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, by Nghi Vo. A novella. This was initially harder to read, but once I slowed down it was fine. I liked the attention to the material world with the descriptions of items at the beginning of each chapter. Overall, though, it wasn’t compelling enough for me to want to read the next in the series.
  • Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Also a novella, with an interesting dual point of view (sci fi from one, fantasy from the other). Liked it. Looking forward to reading the rest of his books, many of which I’ve already bought because I liked Children of Time.

Books acquired since last issue

  • The Knowledge Gap: The hidden cause of America’s broken education system—and how to fix it — Natalie Wexler
  • Hitler: Downfall: 1939–1945 — Volker Ullrich
  • The Historian — Elizabeth Kostova
  • The Broken Room — Peter Clines
  • The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley — Jimmy Soni
  • Daughter of the Wolves — K. S. Villoso
  • Jaeth’s Eye — K. S. Villoso
  • Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America — Annie Jacobsen
  • Gridlinked — Neal Asher
  • The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer — Neal Stephenson
  • Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas — Stephen Harrigan
  • Writing Your Story’s Theme: The Writer’s Guide to Plotting Stories That Matter — K. M. Weiland
  • Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration: Learn to Nurture a Lifestyle of Creativity — K. M. Weiland
  • Deepsix — Jack McDevitt
  • Polaris — Jack McDevitt
  • Zodiac — Neal Stephenson
  • House — Tracy Kidder
  • The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies — Ben Fritz
  • The Essential Scalia: On the Constitution, the Courts, and the Rule of Law — Antonin Scalia
  • Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom — Carl Bernstein
  • The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at The New York Times: The Institution That Influences the World — Gay Talese
  • Empire of Silence — Christopher Ruocchio
  • Tolstoy: A Russian Life — Rosamund Bartlett
  • The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Letters from Father Christmas — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part One — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings, Part 1 — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Treason of Isengard: The History of the Lord of the Rings, Part 2 — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings, Part 3 — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Sauron Defeated: The End of the Third Age: The History of the Lord of the Rings, Part 4 — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Children of Húrin — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Beren and Lúthien — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Fall of Gondolin — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo — J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles — Beth Pickens
  • A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift — Kate Griffin
  • In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin — Lindsey Hilsum

(In case you’re wondering, there was a sale for Tolkien Reading Day yesterday.)



Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength II
Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength II. I’d been wanting to do a new version of this idea, and the new style seemed like it would be a good fit. The white cross of negative space at the center was unintentional but I like the extra symbolism.
He Is Risen II
He Is Risen II. I wanted to do this idea in the new style as well. I like it, but I worry that it looks too much like “CO” (I should have had the left circle go all the way round, I think).
Faith, Hope, Charity II
Faith, Hope, Charity II. Confession: my brain always makes me think of an owl when I see this piece or its predecessor.
Tree of Life III
Tree of Life III. I’ve done other Tree of Life pieces in the past but not quite like this, and I liked the idea of doing a new one in this style — making it bright instead of dark.
One Eternal Round
One Eternal Round. I’d been wanting to do a one-eternal-round piece for years and it finally clicked. Quite happy with how this turned out, both conceptually, texturally, and color-wise.

Current projects

Salviana (working title): I’ve been making slow progress on the rewrite. Lately I’ve been aiming for 20 minutes of writing a day, and while I haven’t always hit it (especially the last few days when I’ve been on call at work), this seems to be the only way I really make progress on writing. Also, I need to finish this piece and start something else, seriously.

Religious art: I have a couple pieces I’m working on. Lately I’ve mostly been rehashing earlier work, which certainly has its place, but I’d like to come up with more original ideas that I haven’t done before. At the same time I feel like maybe there isn’t much room left for exploration in this space. I’m probably wrong in that.

Other: I’m thinking about doing another picture book, probably all black and white this time. Also thinking about doing a series of some kind in Blender, though I have no idea what yet. Still planning to do more alternate geography pieces. Typesetting old books (like the Letters of Cortés project) no longer seems like it’s providing all that much value, since the books are already out there and fairly easy to access. And work has been intense enough the past couple months that spending even more time building software after hours (projects like Bend and Marks) isn’t super appealing. I don’t expect that to last forever, though.

Vittoria Elliott and Bopha Phorn on Cambodians using Facebook Messenger’s voice feature. Rest of World (the publication here) is intriguing.

A study from Elinor Amit, Shai Danziger, and Pamela K. Smith on pictures signaling less power than words.

Daniel Riley on the fifty best literary journalism books of the 21st century. The books on this list that I’ve read have all been great. Looking forward to the others.

Stephen Kell on some being meant for C (PDF). I admittedly haven’t read all of this yet, but it was interesting seeing an argument in favor of C since usually it goes the other way round.

Jeremy Wagner on using boring tech to build the web. Agreed.

Lincoln Michel on the one rule of fiction writing. Liked this. Remembering that you can do anything in fiction is hugely liberating and tends to make me excited to write. (Someday I will actually finish a piece again, I hope.)

Mike Crittenden on his stress list. I’ve been trying this and I think it’s working?

Nicole Nguyen on 5G draining your iPhone’s battery. Switched 5G off and we’ll see how it goes.

John Calhoun on building a calendar with a Raspberry Pi and an e-ink display. I keep wanting to do something like this — something related to reading — but haven’t yet figured out what. If refresh speeds were better I’d probably already have started.

Sculpteo does online 3D printing and laser cutting. (They were referenced in John Calhoun’s blog post.)


  • iOS 15.4 fixed the issue with the keyboard going missing in my PWAs! I was beginning to think it would never be resolved. The issue has admittedly resurfaced twice since I upgraded, but rebooting my phone fixed it each time.
  • I removed the watching section because it really isn’t that interesting to me.
  • With the recent news about the Moderna vaccine for kids under five, it’s looking like we might be able to get our two youngest vaccinated by mid-May instead of mid-July like we were expecting after the Pfizer delay. Alleluia.

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Prints 1.6

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 6.

Table of contents: Reading • Watching • Making • Links


Less reading than usual this time, thanks to work-related eyestrain and headaches that started a couple days after the last issue. Reading still hurts my eyes a little. Hoping it clears up soon! (If it doesn’t, I will of course be getting myself to an ophthalmologist.)

Recent nonfiction reads

  • I read about half of Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Guns of August but then the headaches latched on and started shredding my reading life. What I’ve read of the book so far is good, though the minutiae of troop movements did not hold my interest very much. I’m not sure if this is because I haven’t read much military history or if war books aren’t my thing. Haven’t decided yet if I’ll pick the book up again after my eyes feel better.
  • My Broken Language, by Quiara Alegría Hudes. I’d never heard of her before buying the book, but the combination of Puerto Rican heritage and theatre intrigued me. (My grandfather was from Cuba, and around fifteen years ago I wrote a number of short plays, got several of them produced, directed a couple, and took all of BYU’s playwriting classes.)

Recent fiction reads:

  • Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler. Whew. Post-apocalyptic books stress me out more than I want to be stressed out when reading. (I didn’t know this was post-apocalyptic when I picked it up. But I figured that out pretty quickly and yet kept reading, so…yeah.) It was well-written and compelling, at any rate. I still need to go back and continue the other series of Butler’s that I’ve begun.

Books acquired since last issue

  • Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World’s Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom — Jack Weatherford
  • Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House — Peter Baker
  • Cuba Libre!: Che, Fidel, and the Improbable Revolution That Changed World History — Tony Perrottet
  • Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS — Joby Warrick
  • The Honours — Tim Clare
  • Warship — Joshua Dalzelle
  • Winston’s War — Sir Max Hastings
  • Gulag: A History — Anne Applebaum
  • The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas — Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Wireless Wars — Jonathan Pelson
  • The Last Winter: The Scientists, Adventurers, Journeymen, and Mavericks Trying to Save the World — Porter Fox
  • Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat — Bee Wilson
  • The Billionaire’s Apprentice: The Rise of The Indian-American Elite and The Fall of The Galleon Hedge Fund — Anita Raghavan
  • Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters” — Kim Todd
  • Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man — Dale Peterson
  • Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 — Jim Donovan
  • The Expert System’s Brother — Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Expert System’s Champion — Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements — Sam Kean
  • Say Her Name — Dreda Say Mitchell, Ryan Carter
  • Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home — Boyd Varty
  • Juniper Wiles — Charles de Lint
  • The Wind in His Heart — Charles de Lint
  • Memory and Dream — Charles de Lint
  • Jack the Giant-Killer — Charles de Lint
  • The Little Country — Charles de Lint
  • The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann — Ananyo Bhattacharya
  • Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future — Pete Buttigieg
  • Margaret Fuller: A New American Life — Megan Marshall
  • Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World — Steven Johnson
  • A Spindle Splintered — Alix E. Harrow
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built — Becky Chambers
  • Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World — Thomas F. Madden
  • Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping — Matthew Salesses
  • Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts — Matt Bell
  • Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower — Roseann Lake
  • Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life — Steven H. Strogatz
  • On Stranger Tides — Tim Powers
  • A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America — Oscar Martinez
  • Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement — Tarana Burke
  • Toscanini: Musician of Conscience — Harvey Sachs
  • Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? — Robert Kuttner
  • The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography — Simon Singh
  • The Cunning Man — D. J. Butler & Aaron Michael Ritchey


We watched Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God concert on BYUtv. Enjoyed it — it’s similar to his Joseph Smith the Prophet, which I also like a lot. Realized during the end credits that the woman who plays Mary (the mother of Jesus) is a college friend from my undergrad years.

We’ve also been watching more BYU volleyball (huge surprise, I know) and the new season of Relative Race. And last night we saw Turning Red. Really liked it. The making-of documentary was also good. (I am such a discerning and nuanced and detailed media critic, if you haven’t noticed.)

Because of my eyes, I ended up spending more time than usual watching movies. Free Guy was popcorn for me — kind of fun, but the implausibility of software acting that way may have left enough of my disbelief on the ground to make the overall impression a little meh.

I don’t remember much of No Time to Die (already! it’s been less than a week!) but I think I liked it?

A Quiet Place Part II was another post-apocalyptic that was too intense to be enjoyable. Decent catharsis at the end, though. (I guess that’s the point. Still, it’s not something I really want to subject myself to very much. The premise of Old sounded interesting, for example, but then I watched the trailer and lost all interest in seeing the actual film.)


The eyestrain and headaches put a damper on things here as well.


A designish/artish thing:

Africa I
Africa I. My first attempt at doing an alternate geography map. Used Inkscape to draw the new outlines, then blurred and thresholded to make it look more analog.

Current projects

Salviana (working title): Making progress! I gave the characters some unique traits which had the unforeseen but in hindsight very understandable effect of bringing them to life in my imagination. It’s making all the difference. I’m tightening the outline and trying to make sure each scene is interesting and compelling. (And bemoaning how long this is taking me. I really need to reinstitute a daily quota goal, either word count or time. Without a goal, I never end up writing.)

Religious art: On hold for now. (Trying to keep my brain in writing mode.)

Alternate geographies: Also on hold.

Letters of Cortés: Also on hold.

The Princess and the Goblin: Also on hold.

Distressed PDFs: Also on hold.

Wesley on How websites die. Something I think about relatively often as well.

Cal Newport’s post on Brandon Sanderson’s advice for doing hard things. Good advice. (Also, Brandon’s announcement was crazy, and whew, that Kickstarter. His writing sadly doesn’t appeal to me anymore, but I admire his work ethic.)

N. K. Jemisin on book revisions. Planning to adopt her revision blueprint idea.

NASA is planning to drop the ISS into the ocean by 2031. Wow. Sad.

Quordle is a bit much, so I haven’t really played it after finding it.

Nerdle is also a bit much.

Semantle is brutal. I’ve tried two days in a row and haven’t managed to beat it.

Matt Webb on read-write science. Loved this.

Maggie Appleton on ad hoc reading groups. (It’s down near the end.) Definitely interested in something like this.

Derek Sivers on plain text files. Something near and dear to my heart even though I don’t really practice it.

Endurance22 found the wreckage of Shackleton’s ship. I still need to read Alfred Lansing’s book.

Matt Webb on inventing new wheels with weird new physics. Loved this.

Financial Times video on the Raspberry Pi. This made me want to take the couple of Pis that I own and finally do something with them.

Surma on WebGPU. I admittedly skimmed a lot of this, but it’s intriguing and I plan to come back to it later.

Tom Critchlow on the architecture of blogging. Enjoyed this.

Microsoft’s proposal for type syntax in JavaScript. Removing the need for a build process for this would indeed be nice.

Nilesh Christopher and Faisal Mahmud on village cooking channels on YouTube. Fascinating on several levels.

“Giant spiders expected to drop from the sky across the East Coast this spring”. Sheeeeeeesh.

Linus Lee on his Monocle personal search engine. Right now I’ve got several apps that each have their own searches (journals, notes, reading log, etc.) but consolidating search into a single unified place sounds very appealing.

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Prints 1.5

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 5.

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


Recent nonfiction reads

  • In the Camps, by Darren Byler. A look at the Uyghur concentration camps in China and the surveillance technology that enables them. A sad, maddening read, but an important one. Pretty short, too.

Recent fiction reads:

  • The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey. I actually read this before last issue but didn’t realize I’d forgotten to include it until the day after the issue. Which may have been my subconscious at work, since I don’t know how I feel about this book. Well written, interesting enough, just not my favorite. Maybe it had to do with the characters? (It wasn’t the biological aspect of things.)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark. A novella. I liked Ring Shout more, but this was still good (I love stories set in the Middle East) and I’m looking forward to reading A Master of Djinn.
  • Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi. Another novella. Liked it a lot. It was sad and frustrating and rough (in the sense of difficult, not in the sense of poorly crafted, because it wasn’t) but important. One of the reasons I read is to vicariously live lives very different from my own, to try to expand my empathy for others. Felt like this helped with that.

Books acquired since last issue

  • The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme — John Keegan
  • A World Beneath the Sands: The Golden Age of Egyptology — Toby Wilkinson
  • Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific — Robert D. Kaplan
  • Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth — Rachel Maddow
  • Pandora’s Star — Peter F. Hamilton
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last — Rachel Aaron
  • The Gathering Storm — Winston S. Churchill
  • Their Finest Hour — Winston S. Churchill
  • The Wind’s Twelve Quarters: Stories — Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Grand Alliance — Winston S. Churchill
  • Closing the Ring — Winston S. Churchill
  • Triumph and Tragedy — Winston S. Churchill
  • Ambergris: City of Saints and Madmen; Shriek: An Afterword; Finch — Jeff VanderMeer
  • Dead Astronauts — Jeff VanderMeer
  • Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process — John McPhee
  • American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution — Harlow G. Unger
  • At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War — Michael Beschloss & Strobe Talbott
  • My Broken Language: A Memoir — Quiara Alegría Hudes
  • Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine — Thomas Hager
  • News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media — Juan Gonzalez & Joseph Torres
  • Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East — Daniel Levin
  • Fortune’s Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt — Arthur T. Vanderbilt
  • Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic — Scott Gottlieb
  • Who Fears Death — Nnedi Okorafor
  • Wakers — Orson Scott Card
  • Lagoon — Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Justice of Kings — Richard Swan
  • Haiti: The Aftershocks of History — Laurent Dubois
  • The Body Scout — Lincoln Michel
  • Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools — John C. Whittaker
  • The Nothing Within — Andy Giesler
  • Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader — Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe — Walter Isaacson
  • Steve Jobs — Walter Isaacson
  • Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America — John M. Barry
  • Bloodrush — Ben Galley
  • Queens of the Crusades: England’s Medieval Queens Book Two — Alison Weir
  • On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist — Clarissa Ward

And yes, I am so, so painfully aware that I’m acquiring books far faster than finishing them. I’m more and more aware, too, that when I inevitably die someday, I’ll leave behind me thousands of books that I really wanted to read but never got the chance to.


More volleyball. We also enjoyed Nate Bargatze’s two standup comedy specials on Netflix.


I upgraded Chrome (which I use in coordination with Paged.js, because Firefox doesn’t support different page sizes yet) and the case of the missing lines seems to have cleared up. I also checked Historia Calamitatum and it thankfully wasn’t missing any lines. Still something to watch out for, but I’m glad it’s not happening all the time.

I’m thinking about building a small system called Ink (a name I’ve used before for other projects that didn’t materialize) for bookmaking, where I can have a single canonical source for each book and easily export both EPUBs and PDFs. Still mulling it over, nothing serious yet.


Le Morte d’Arthur, by Thomas Malory. Available in EPUB. This is the original Middle English text and orthographically it’s a trip. I’ve been wanting to publish this for a while, though I haven’t even read it yet. (It’s around 1,400 pages, by the way.) At any rate, I’m happy with how the cover turned out — I used one of the IM Fell fonts, then blurred and thresholded it in Affinity Photo to get some faux ink spread.

And some more art:

Narrow Is the Way
Narrow Is the Way. A horizontal take on my Choose Ye This Day piece. In hindsight it looks a little too much like a flag to me.
Neither the Day nor the Hour
Neither the Day nor the Hour. On this I was trying for something more abstract than Oil in Their Vessels. I have some ideas for how to improve it further.
For the Remission of Sins
For the Remission of Sins. I originally had three panels but realized I can probably get away with just the two. I like the light aesthetic here, which I think led to some of the later pieces in this issue.
Before the World Was V
Before the World Was V. Aiming for more of a woodblock print feel here. Used Cirque to generate the circles, edited the SVG to add some turbulence/displacement filters, exported it to an image with Inkscape, then blurred and thresholded it in Affinity Photo to simulate ink spread before adding some final light texture. I’m excited to explore this method more.
As a Grain of Mustard Seed
As a Grain of Mustard Seed. I’d long wanted to do a mustard seed piece, but putting a single small circle on the canvas didn’t seem like enough. Finally got the concentric circles idea, and then it all came together.
Pillar of Light II
Pillar of Light II. Exploring the new woodblockish style some more. Overall, I’m happy with how this one turned out.
Ninety and Nine III
Ninety and Nine III. Fun fact: just after I posted this everywhere, I realized I’d accidentally put 100 circles in the group of sheep. Whoops. (Fixed it, at least on here and on Society6. You can still spot the extra sheep on Instagram.)

Current projects

Salviana (working title): I’ve mostly been avoiding this, though I did start yet another new draft. I feel like I’ll be writing this story the rest of my life and I don’t even care about it all that much, which seems like maybe a good indicator that something needs to change. Hoping to figure out a new angle that’ll help me care more about the story, and hoping to hurry up and finish it so I can move on to another story. But if that doesn’t happen soon, I’ll just backburner it and try something else to try to get some momentum back.

Religious art: Planning to explore the woodblock style more. (I’m using that term loosely here, but it’s how I think of it and basically what I’m aiming to achieve.) Also, I’m thinking about putting together a handful of small scripts that’ll automatically add turbulence/displacement filters to SVGs, render the SVG to PNG via headless Inkscape, and handle the blur/threshold bit via Imagemagick.

Pack: I wrote this in Python with a different algorithm and it’s ridiculously slow. Sigh. On hold for now; I may just keep using/modifying Cirque.

Letters of Cortés: Felt like doing this next instead of The Green Fairy Book. (Itching to do more history.) I’m basing my edition on the 1908 Francis Augustus MacNutt translation, though mine strips out everything but the five letters themselves. Planning to do both EPUB and PDF. I’ve typeset an initial version of the PDF (using Paged.js) and I’m about 4% of the way through proofing it.

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald: I remember a wonderful numinous feeling when reading this when I was younger, and I’m hoping to recapture that feeling a little (while fully expecting to fail). Also planning to do both EPUB and PDF. Just started on this, so I’m prepping the text and getting basic formatting in place.

Distressed PDFs: Lately I’ve been playing around with taking clean PDFs typeset with crisp digital fonts, exporting the pages to images, and distressing the type through a combination of techniques (to make it look older or printed with letterpress), then tracing it again (with potrace). This admittedly obliterates the copy-and-pasteable text inside the PDF and is totally inaccessible, but for things intended to be printed (as opposed to used digitally), it’s probably okay. Getting decent results so far, just exploring the process. Hopefully I’ll have something to show next time.

Alain Galvan’s review of shader languages. Covers HLSL, GLSL, MSL, and WGSL.

Worldle has been fun. I prefer playing with the map turned off. I’ve also enjoyed Globle and Quordle.

Matt Webb on Project Daedalus. Especially loved the pulsar aside at the end.

Roy Scholten’s and Martijn van der Blom’s letterpress prints with Lego bricks. Mmm.

Martin Treiber’s online traffic simulator. Created a traffic jam pretty easily.

Matt Cambion on personal websites as self-portraiture. I sometimes feel like my site has gotten a little less personal, but the recent typeface/color change has helped with that.

The Yesterweb zine. Enjoying this.

Disney Animation on their filmmaking process, using Encanto as the example. (I still have We Don’t Talk about Bruno stuck in my head.)

Hidreley Diao’s AI-generated photographs of cartoon characters. Some of these are pretty good.

Lincoln Michel on genre as story engine. This resonated a lot and will hopefully help me get my writing act together (by figuring out which engines I’m using to power my stories). His LitHub article was also good.

Atlas Obscura’s map of unique restaurants. Can’t wait to start exploring some of these.

Zadie Smith on writing. Reading this made me think that maybe I’m really just not an outliner.

Chris on how to make MPAs that are as fast as SPAs. Some interesting ideas here.

Wikipedia page on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So sad.

Rust 1.59.0 has some nice inline assembly support. (I say that as if I use assembly all the time. I don’t. I’ve hardly done anything with it. But maybe someday!)

The Liminal Librarian blogs book reviews from a fictional point of view. Love it.

Timothy on how to read the ECMAScript/JavaScript spec. Something I keep meaning to get to.

Interview with senior JS dev. Hahahahaha.

Tom MacWright on the indie web and books. My reading list is still my favorite page on this site.

Ink/Stitch, machine embroidery software based on Inkscape. Intriguing. I’ve never done embroidery but have been thinking about trying it (by hand), or maybe crochet or cross stitch. I have no idea what the difference is between these three. [Googles it.] Oh, cool. I’m interested in trying to execute some of my art using hand embroidery. Also interested in knitting and crocheting for making textiles. I have no idea how well my back and neck will do with any of these, so it may just be wishful thinking, but here’s hoping.


None this time! An empty skull bids you goodbye.

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Prints 1.4

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 4.

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


Recent nonfiction reads

  • Dealers of Lightning. A great history of the glory days of Xerox PARC. Very much up my alley, the kind of book that makes me itch to do original barebones computing research. PARC having to build their own computer first before they could start on their research was wild. I didn’t know Alan Kay’s wife wrote the screenplay for the original Tron. Or that people thought for a time that the stegosaurus had two brains.
  • The Dawn of Everything. Amazing book about social organizations in prehistory and social inequality and more. All meat, no fluff, too. The schismogenesis idea is convincing. I somehow hadn’t heard of Nostratic before, or of skull portraits (creepy!), or a lot of other things in here. I especially liked the Mesoamerica parts (which I hadn’t realized were covered).
  • A Collection of Sacred Hymns, selected by Emma Smith. Read as part of proofing. Some of the textual changes between this text and our current hymnbook were interesting, like “the Lord will come” instead of “the Lord has come” in “Joy to the World.” Also, there are a handful of hymns that really haven’t aged well.

Recent fiction reads

  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. Ishiguro’s writing works well for my brain. That said, of his books that I’ve read so far, I think this was probably my least favorite, but I’m still looking forward to reading the rest of his works.

Books acquired since last issue

  • Nikoles — Rachel Neumeier
  • Tarashana — Rachel Neumeier
  • Keraunani — Rachel Neumeier
  • The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream — Charles Spencer
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 — P. Djèlí Clark
  • The Black God’s Drums — P. Djèlí Clark
  • A Master of Djinn — P. Djèlí Clark
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz — Erik Larson
  • Practicing History: Selected Essays — Barbara W. Tuchman
  • The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes — Scott Wallace
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63 — Taylor Branch
  • Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive — Carl Zimmer
  • Black Sun — Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Crime and Punishment (Pevear & Volokhonsky translation) — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe — Laurence Bergreen
  • Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation — Ken Liu
  • The Wizard Hunters — Martha Wells
  • The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story — Nikole Hannah-Jones et al.
  • The Fallen Stones: Chasing Butterflies, Discovering Mayan Secrets, and Looking for Hope Along the Way — Diana Marcum
  • North to Paradise: A Memoir — Ousman Umar
  • Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II — Jennet Conant
  • Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern — Jing Tsu
  • How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America — Clint Smith
  • Notes on a Nervous Planet — Matt Haig
  • Wilson — A. Scott Berg
  • Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law — Mary Roach
  • Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation — Peter Cozzens
  • It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump — Stuart Stevens
  • Rage — Bob Woodward
  • Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could — Adam B. Schiff
  • Wheelock’s Latin, 7th Edition — Frederic M. Wheelock and Richard A. LaFleur
  • Rejiggering the Thingamajig: and Other Stories — Eric James Stone
  • Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism — Terryl L. Givens
  • Fugitive Telemetry — Martha Wells
  • Sourdough — Robin Sloan
  • The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America — Greg Grandin
  • Fantasy Worldbuilding Workbook — M.D. Presley
  • The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 — Alan Taylor

In case you were wondering: I have a dedicated allowance specifically so that I do not blithely empty our family bank account buying books. (My idea.)


  • ruche
  • tettix
  • anadromous
  • corvée
  • peonage
  • fracasado
  • cocles
  • impercussus
  • nanus
  • gelasinus
  • gausapatus
  • Nilotic
  • amphictyony
  • tumuli
  • metropole


Mostly BYU volleyball. Some Olympics. The Assembled episode on the making of Hawkeye. And Tenet. (Mind-bending as expected.)


It’s been a lot of survival mode the past couple weeks, but somehow I still managed to get a few things finished.


A Collection of Sacred Hymns. The first hymnbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, compiled by Emma Smith. Available in EPUB. I got this ready for Project Gutenberg five or so years ago but never did anything with it till now. Nice to finally get it out the door.

I somehow got back into art mode last week and finished a handful of new pieces:

In Remembrance II
In Remembrance II. For this one, I wanted to take the square and circle sacrament idea and render it in black and white.
In Remembrance III
In Remembrance III. An exploration putting Christ and us in the piece as well, though not overlapping like I did with Of These Emblems II.
In Remembrance IV
In Remembrance IV. Same idea as with III but in the lined style, and a little zoomed in for visual interest.
Loaves and Fishes II
Loaves and Fishes II. I wanted to do a new loaves and fishes piece in a more standard format (my first was very wide-format). Figured I should also include Christ this time, too. Wrote a quick Python script to place the small circles in concentric rings. What I didn’t do this time but what I’ve just realized I want to do soon is add a little random jitter to the circles so they look slightly more organic.
Christ Visits the Nephites IV
Christ Visits the Nephites IV. Revisiting this in a more monochromatic style. I like the subtle thin concentric circles, and the white-on-grey look.
To Fulfill All Righteousness II
To Fulfill All Righteousness II. Also aiming for a more monochromatic take. This time I moved the dove triangle partially off the image, to symbolize more of an open connection to heaven.
Hearts of the Children III
Hearts of the Children III. This was an idea I’d had sitting around for several months. Modified my Cirque app to make it. I’m not sure if the lines are as legible as they could be, though, so I’ll probably be iterating more on this idea later on.
Before the World Was IV
Before the World Was IV. My goal with this was to do a rendition with both the interlocking circles and a more monochrome color scheme (as opposed to the yellow/gold I’ve used in the past). I like how the end result feels soft and cuddly.
Their Work and Glory IV
Their Work and Glory IV. For this, I wanted to take Their Work and Glory but do it with circle-and-triangle figures instead of just the triangles. I really like how the earth turned out. I plan to do another of these with interlocking circles for the Heavenly Parents.
Till We Meet Again II
Till We Meet Again II. I love the colors on this one, and I wanted to have one with both Heavenly Parents included. Still not sure how I feel about the composition, though.
First Vision XV
First Vision XV. Wanted to try a light, pastel triangle First Vision.
Thou Shalt Be Clean
Thou Shalt Be Clean. Finally, a piece that isn’t just an iteration on earlier ideas! My take on the Naaman story. This might be the first time I’ve used overlapping shapes to represent passing time. With these red circles, by the way, I always worry that they’re starting to look too much like slices of pepperoni.

Current projects

Salviana (working title): I’ve fallen off the wagon on this, other than deciding to revise the outline yet again (to make the story shorter; it was more novella-length before). I also keep running into existential crises about writing fiction, which isn’t helping at all. Hoping to conquer that.

Retzi (working title): Figured out the central concept. Mostly on hold while I figure out the Salviana story, though.

Religious art: I’ve got several more ideas I’m working on.

Pack: A new Python library for circle packing that I can use for these art pieces. (I’ve been modifying Cirque for each piece that needed the circles, but I want something more sustainable and ergonomic.) More to come once I’ve gotten into it more.

Marks: On hold for now.

Bend: On hold for now.

Hinterlight: On hold for now.

Journal PDFs: On hold for now.

Morte d’Arthur: Decided to do this as an EPUB after all. There’ll be some lightweight editing to do but I think overall it should be a pretty quick project. (I’ll be trusting the source edition, which means I don’t plan to check each word against a printed edition to guard against typos. I feel a little bad about doing that, but proofing books in other languages is so, so much slower. I’ll still do a quick skim through the book to look for obvious errors, though.) Planning to write a script to download the source text, split it into chapter files, and do whatever global transformations need to happen. (I used to do that mostly by hand in Vim, but on the hymnbook project I found that writing a Python script is not only more mentally interesting but also much better on my wrists as far as RSI goes. Automate all the things.)

Green Fairy Book: On hold until I finish Morte.

Marcin Wichary on bug fixes in Figma. In reading this, I realized I probably like fixing bugs even more than writing new code.

Lauren Budorick on implementing shadow spread in Figma. Nice deep dive.

Clive Thompson’s weird old book finder. I’ve wanted something like this ever since reading his piece on rewilding your attention. Clive also wrote about why he built it.

Baldur Bjarnason on keeping up with web development. Good advice.

Artificial tear glands in a dish that can cry. Now hook that up to some realtime sentiment analysis of Twitter trends or something.

The making of the new LOTR series title. Much as I love CG, these analog effects make me happy. (At least until I think about how much it costs and how many people don’t have enough to eat or clean water to drink.)

Etymology of crescent. Ha.

Kori Michele’s infinity zine. Cool idea.

Chemists can now turn carbon dioxide into a solid. I know this isn’t what they actually did, but I’m just imagining someone breathing out and a black lump of carbon dropping to the ground, over and over again.

Wood you can fold and mold. A potentially more sustainable alternative to plastic.

CadQuery, a Python alternative to OpenSCAD.

Words better known by men than by women and vice versa. Also, a similar table for the US vs. the UK.


My kids and wife have been sick this week. Thankfully tested negative for Covid but — atrocious surname pun incoming — positive for corvid. One of the kids also got a minor concussion, which was scary, but luckily they’re doing okay now.

Found out this week that I’m actually a staff engineer, one level higher than I thought I was. Ha. (I knew the level number I was at and thought it was on our new career ladder, but it was on the old one.) Shortly thereafter I got slammed by a wall of impostor syndrome. Whenever that happens, by the way, I find that studying my craft almost always helps. So I’ve been reading the React source code. Nice to see that it’s all just code, and code I can understand, too.

Bought Warbler Text and Fern Text from David Jonathan Ross’s Font of the Month Club. Mmm. A few months ago I bought FF Clifford, Whitman, Sirba, and Aluminia (Electra), and I’m realizing now that I haven’t yet done anything with them. Time to fix that! Also, I’ve been thinking about typesetting a Jane Austen novel using Fanwood Text. I don’t think I can overstate how much I love text typefaces.

Recently learned that I can set a keyboard shortcut in macOS to toggle the menubar. I usually leave it hidden, but I often check the time and this makes things a little easier.

Ran across this chilling quote on the Wikipedia page for scurvy:

During the Age of Sail, it was assumed that 50 percent of the sailors would die of scurvy on a major trip.

And these stats later on the page, from Jonathan Lamb:

In 1499, Vasco da Gama lost 116 of his crew of 170; in 1520, Magellan lost 208 out of 230; … all mainly to scurvy.

The reason I was reading up on it, by the way, was curiosity about what people in Europe did to avoid scurvy in the winter, when fruits weren’t as available. The answer:

Apart from ocean travel, even in Europe, until the late Middle Ages, scurvy was common in late winter, when few green vegetables, fruits and root vegetables were available. This gradually improved with the introduction from the Americas of potatoes; by 1800, scurvy was virtually unheard of in Scotland, where it had previously been endemic.

Finally, unrelated to scurvy, a quote from The Dawn of Everything which has stuck with me:

One of the things that sets us apart from non-human animals is that animals produce only and exactly what they need; humans invariably produce more. We are creatures of excess.

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Prints 1.3

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 3.

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


Typos in books used to bother me a lot. They don’t anymore. (Unless it’s an utter avalanche of them.) Still can’t read books with bad typography, though. Relatedly, I’ve begun reading physical books again, for typographic variety.

I used to like thrillers with secret conspiracies making for amazing plot twists. Now, though, I see how a conspiracies-behind-everything worldview can really mess people up, with dire ramifications for society. Seems like at least some of that worldview stems from stories about conspiracies. I have no evidence for this assertion — it’s just an idle thought — but to me it feels compelling enough that I feel uncomfortable reading conspiracy thrillers even though my story-eating brain loves those tasty plot twists.

One of the delights of having loads and loads of books in your house is forgetting you have some of them and rediscovering them later.

Lately I’ve been thinking about books as software updates for my brain, a way to inject a load of training data into my neural net. (I think I’ve mentioned that before. It’s still something I’m thinking about.)

Recent reads


  • Jordan Mechner’s The Making of Prince of Persia journals, 1985 – 1993. (I have a thing for makings-of.) Interesting to see what’s changed since the ’80s and what hasn’t.
  • Anthony DePalma’s The Cubans, about life in Cuba since Castro took power. My grandfather was born in Cuba. While he left around ten years before the revolution, I still have cousins living there. The conditions are not great. The sinking of the 13 de Marzo was horrifying. This book, though, was really good.
  • Eric Gill’s An Essay on Typography. There’s a fair amount of social commentary here, which I bounced off of the first time I tried to read this, years ago. Now, though, the critique of industrialism resonated with me. Some strong typographic opinions here, too. More and more I’m of the mind that even word spacing is more important than an even edge, so ragged right is probably the future for any books I typeset going forward. This book was set in Gill’s Joanna, and I was intrigued by the left single quote (riding low at x-height) and the running heads (italic lowercase with Roman initial caps, which was how italics were used long ago but you don’t see it much these days) (also, this book was published in the 1930s). While reading this I kept itching to run to my laptop and design some type. Gave in a couple times.
  • John Boardley’s Typographic Firsts: Adventures in Early Printing (the edition that just barely came out). It’s all about innovations in printing — the first printed books, first time printing in gold, first printer’s marks, first time printing music, etc. Right up my alley. Things I learned, in no particular order:
    • Blockbooks are a thing (using woodcuts for the text as well as any decorations or illustrations).
    • The word miniature comes from minium, the Latin name for a red form of lead oxide.
    • The shape of T-O (orbis terrarum maps). I think I may have seen this before but had totally forgotten about it.
    • Loved the conical-projection Ptolemaic map from the Nuremberg Chronicle, though I’m not sure why.
    • The atlas was named by Mercator after a Mauritanian king, not the Greek Titan.
    • Criss-cross comes from Christ-cross. (Which seems blindingly obvious in hindsight.)


  • Martha Wells’ Exit Strategy, novella, fourth in the Murderbot series. Enjoyed it. (This was after bailing on two other novels after reading around 400 pages across them both, so it was nice to come back to a comfort read.) Looking forward to reading Network Effect.
  • P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. Also a novella, one that felt as substantial as a novel. It’s about hunting down monsters that are disguised as Ku Klux Klan members, and wow, I really liked it. More fantasy like this, please.

Books acquired since last issue

  • Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China — Leslie T. Chang
  • What Can a Body Do?: How We Meet the Built World — Sara Hendren
  • Embassytown — China Miéville
  • Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century — John B. Thompson
  • How Music Got Free: A Story of Obsession and Invention — Stephen Richard Witt
  • Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World — David Sheff
  • Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia — Robert Lacey
  • The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time — Jeffrey D. Sachs
  • The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty — G. J. Meyer
  • The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization — Vince Beiser
  • Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty — Dan Jones
  • Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour — Barbara W. Tuchman
  • Where Good Ideas Come From — Steven Johnson
  • Golden Gates: The Housing Crisis and a Reckoning for the American Dream — Conor Dougherty
  • The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding — Robert Hughes
  • Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe — Nancy Goldstone
  • Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers — Daniel Ellsberg
  • Mythology — Edith Hamilton
  • How Money Became Dangerous: The Inside Story of Our Turbulent Relationship with Modern Finance — Christopher Varelas
  • Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War — Stephen R. Platt
  • Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age — Stephen R. Platt
  • The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves to Sand Worms, the Words Behind World-Building — David J. Peterson
  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t — Nate Silver
  • The World: A Brief Introduction — Richard Haass
  • Certain Dark Things — Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960–1963 — Michael R. Beschloss
  • His Master’s Voice — Stanislaw Lem
  • In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language — Arika Okrent
  • In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony — Darren Byler
  • Paradox Bound — Peter Clines
  • No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram — Sarah Frier
  • Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire — Brad Stone
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants — Bill Bryson
  • Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos — Priyamvada Natarajan
  • My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey — Jill Bolte Taylor
  • Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance — Michael R. Beschloss


Words I’ve come across lately:

  • jointure
  • donnybrook
  • banditti
  • sus
  • hopepunk
  • chrysography
  • neume

Unicode corner

An experimental new section, where I a) read part of the Unicode spec and b) jabber about it to y’all. Years ago I read the first few chapters and generally enjoyed it, and I like the intersection of tech, type, and languages, so here we go.

Decided to start with chapter 21, on notation systems. I’ll only talk about the points I found interesting.

Unicode doesn’t specify physical dimensions for Braille, which makes me wonder how many different standard sizes of Braille there are, and whether large-print Braille would be easier to read or harder/slower. (From some cursory research it looks like each country might have its own size standard, but international Braille is a thing so maybe sizes are more uniform.)

I didn’t know Common Musical Notation (CMN) was the name for what I think of as standard Western music notation. The Unicode characters for music are focused on inline use (which makes sense), so there’s no pitch encoding. Nice use of combining characters, though of course there is a small set of precomposed characters as well. Also interesting that the accidentals are in a different block — I ran into that with Coptic, which re-uses characters from the Greek block. Apparently RTL music at least some of the time mirrors the clef sign — but not the note heads. Ties and slurs and such are encoded with just beginning and ending markers, which makes sense because ties and slurs and such have variable length. I’m less familiar with the 18th-century ornamentation but it looked interesting.


Just BYU volleyball, both women’s (last season) and men’s (this current season). I haven’t seen Tenet yet but want to.


Minor epiphany this past week: for me to care about a project I’m working on, it has to feel innovative in at least some small way. While I don’t know that I want innovation to be the sole lens I look at my work through, it matters enough that I need to make sure I account for it going forward. (By consciously acknowledging what the innovation is on each project, that is, and culling the projects where I can’t come up with anything new.)

I haven’t done a good job at bringing innovation into my writing, however, and I suspect that’s one of the reasons I’ve struggled to produce much there. Still thinking through what might work for that. I should add, by the way, that it doesn’t have to actually be innovative in the world, it just has to be something I personally haven’t seen before.

Reading about printer’s marks in Typographic Firsts made me realize I hadn’t said anything on here about my initial attempt at a publisher’s mark, used on the title page of my recent Historia Calamitatum edition. It’s nothing special, and I suspect I’ll rework it soon, but it was fun to make. (By the way, it wasn’t technically an initial attempt. I’ve used a couple other publisher’s marks in the past, back when I was making books under my Riverglen Press and Quillfire Studios imprints.)

Current projects

Salviana (working title): Figured out who the narrator needs to be and got the outline finalized enough to start drafting. With the voice change, it made more sense to start from scratch (though I hate doing that, which is why I want to get good at outlining). Five pages written so far, and it’s going well. I need to resurrect that create-before-consume idea (already abandoned! I like reading!) to put more time in on this, though, because it’s slow going when I only spend a few minutes a day on it.

Charts: Haven’t done anything here yet. Still thinking about making that Latin ending lookup chart, though I worry it might always be incomplete enough that it wouldn’t be useful. (I’ve also been out of the Latin-study frame of mind for a long time.)

Marks: The main update here is that I’m now seeing this as a DSL not only for purely generative art, but also as a DSL for modifying input paths — e.g., pass in an SVG or a font glyph, modify it, and then re-export it. A slightly more concrete example: take in a font glyph, split its paths into small segments of equal length, move each segment’s start point along its normal (out if it’s odd numbered, in if it’s even), and union random small circles to it along the way as well. This all comes from my interest in making digital things look analog. Also, as far as going with a DSL instead of a library in a general-purpose language: while a DSL might not be able to do everything a general-purpose language can do, it can make certain tasks easier; and you can always use a general-purpose language to create the DSL code. Anyway, I’m still writing up explorations for how this Marks language should work. Nothing worth showing yet.

Bend: Still slow progress here, haven’t spent much time on it. Decided to decouple cursor movement from moving the current selection. I need to come up with more user stories to guide the language design.

Hinterlight: I’ve done a couple of revision passes. Type design is still hard, and I still haven’t produced anything I’m happy with, but I think I’m getting a little bit better at making curves look smooth and not janky. (I need to look at existing fonts in FontForge to see how their curves are set up. That should help.) The new proof setup (Paged.js to generate, iPad to proof) is nice. FYI, my focus with Hinterlight has been to design a typeface that looks like it’s been printed with traditional processes — ink spread, rounded, less sharp and clear, more in the vein of the IM Fell fonts. But I’m starting to think it might be better/easier to design a digital font and then use Marks to modify it to get the look I want. Still deciding. Also, I’ve been running into posture-based neck pain issues both with proofing and with the type design work itself. Need to figure that out.

Journal PDFs: I added Paged.js to my Leaf journal app so I can easily export annual journal PDFs for any of the years I have journals for. It’s working fairly nicely, except that sometimes the last line on a page will disappear. I haven’t managed to figure out yet if it’s Paged.js or Chrome dropping the line, but either way, it’s problematic. (There was a similar issue related to hyphenated final lines, with a fix in the comments, but this one is still unsolved for me.)

Morte d’Arthur. I’m planning to make a Middle English edition of Malory’s Morte, for fun. If I can figure out the Paged.js issue I may do a PDF, but at this point I’m leaning toward doing just an EPUB. Originally I was going to first write Caxton, a shiny new replacement for my md2epub script, but I realized that md2epub works fine and I don’t actually have a real need to replace it. (I’ve thought about using pandoc instead, but the same principle applies.)

Andrew Lang’s Green Fairy Book, to go along with the first two books in the series. This’ll just be EPUB. (Getting Kindle books to look good outside of Amazon’s enhanced typesetting ecosystem is a losing battle, so I’ve given up on that.) Also, I’m looking at Green and Morte as a way to figure out better, more sustainable ways for me to make books — avoiding RSI, mainly. This will probably take the form of a text processing DSL ala Fledge, possibly with a more verbose and more user-friendly replacement for regular expressions.

Projects I’ll probably never do

  • A self-contained wireless plotter, basically a DIY Logo turtle. Probably with a Raspberry Pi Zero W running it. Maybe with Legos for the chassis and motors. An arm to hold the pen, and some kind of DSL to control the movement.
  • Paper speaker (copper tape) that can somehow read its audio data from printed marks on the same sheet of paper. (No idea how this would actually work.)

Ploum on a computer built to last fifty years. I like the offline-first idea, and the peer-to-peer idea is intriguing.

Steve Lord on the hundred-year computer. Similar idea. Permacomputing is my jam.

Collapse OS. Even if an apocalypse like this never happens, these projects fascinate me.

The Manager’s Handbook on giving feedback. Good suggestions.

SimulaVR on why VR computers are better than PCs/laptops. Whether it’s AR or VR, something in this vein feels like the future and I want it.

Matt Webb on social gradients. This was good. I need to read A Pattern Language, too.

Joe Pinsker on not apologizing for being slow to respond. Food for thought.

Tracy Durnell on writing metrics. I think she’s on to something.

Lincoln Michel on writing the right words, not the most words. Also good.

Lincoln Michel on the plotting vs pantsing false dichotomy. Useful.

Charles Brooks’ photos from inside musical instruments. Lovely and a little haunting.

Tom Watson’s wiki trivia game was fun.

Brian Potter on why skyscrapers are so short. I don’t know that I agree with him that we should build taller, but I’m also super afraid of heights.

Natashah Hitti on the Norimaki taste synthesizer. I’m assuming at some point I’ll have to mute smells on Zoom calls.

Ryo Tada’s Fulu project, a haptic fingernail. I’m still not entirely sure how it works, but it looks interesting.

Alise Fisher on the Webb telescope arriving successfully at L2. Yay!

Janelle Shane with some New Year’s resolutions generated by AI. These are great.

Jason Fried on presence indicators in apps like Slack. Agreed. After reading this, I set my Slack status at work to always be away (with my manager’s blessing and with letting my team know).

Lincoln Michel on why you need to read fiction to write fiction. Yup.

Max Böck on making free stuff (on the web). I am clearly in favor of this. Sidenote: I am becoming less and less of a capitalist as I grow older.

Merriam-Webster on what ‘sus’ means. I haven’t heard it in the wild yet but I’m looking forward to!

Paul Karasik on studying something you love in depth. This is good.


I made Siri fast on my phone again (it had gotten incredibly slow) by turning off content suggestions. Also sped up the Reminders app by turning it off in iCloud and back on again, and moving all my items to a new list.

I totally forgot about macOS Monterey and still haven’t upgraded yet. I used to be a day-one adopter on these OS upgrades but in recent years I’ve gotten burned too many times. Still trying to decide if I want to chance it.

Some of the career paths I wish I could have tried in addition to the one I have, in no particular order: writer, editor, journalist, graphic designer, illustrator, 3D animator, artist, typesetter, lawyer, professor, detective, private investigator, architect, city planner, publisher, think tank researcher, archaeologist, anthropologist, physicist, biologist, geologist, astronomer, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, aerospace engineer, materials engineer, roboticist, cartographer, lexicographer, set designer, technical writer, carpenter, blacksmith, sculptor, geographer, historian, baker, tailor, potter.

When I see other people behaving badly, I now tend to think of them as having gotten their mental software into a glitchy state. I don’t yet know all the ramifications of thinking about people this way, or whether I’ll continue with it, but one advantage I’m finding is that it dissociates the behavior from the person. (When I say state, I’m thinking of software state while a program is running — temporary and not innate. And yes, rebooting humans is harder.)

For my website, I’m now leaning toward sticking with my Linode instead of moving everything to Render. Running my own VPS is more hassle, sure, but it feels more indie to me…and apparently that matters. I do plan to start over soon with a new Linode where I can keep on top of upgrades more regularly, though.

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Prints 1.2

Welcome to Prints volume 1, issue 2.

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


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


  • 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.


  • 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


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


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.


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 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.


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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