March 1, 2015
An annotated bibliograpy of sorts, of the role fantasy plays in science fiction. My recollection of ThunderCats, however, doesn’t quite match the author’s:
Surprisingly enough, one of the most successful and fully realized science fantasy properties of the late ’80s wound up being the ThunderCats cartoon. With supple, vibrant animation, a diverse cast of characters, and a mythos that wasn’t wholly prefabricated, ThunderCats came on strong, reveling in all the possibilities of both technology and magic — even though it served as the last whimper of the silver age of science fantasy.
Not surprisingly, Star Wars is the banner-carrier and ultimate downfall of outright science fantasy.
Charlie Stross asserts “some axioms about politics”:
13 - Security services are obeying the iron law of bureaucracy (4) when they metastasize, citing terrorism (6) as a justification for their expansion.
14 - The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there’s a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.
Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn’t need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don’t plead guilty.
Kathy Sierra responding to the latest cultural model hyped as the savior of silicon valley:
The last time skateboarding was a healthy model, the Macintosh did not exist. Skateboarding was my life. And in 1983 skate culture drove a stake through my heart.
Skateboarding can teach Silicon Valley what not to do, like a message from the future warning, “Here’s what happens when a domain in which women once thrived decides women aren’t worthy.” Yes, it’s complicated and yes, the sport became more extreme, but there’s a world of difference between a sport that says, There aren’t many women and one that adds … we made sure.
In the ’80s, skate culture devolved from a vibrant, reasonably gender-balanced community into an aggressively narrow demographic of teen boys. If you think tech has sexism issues, skate culture makes tech feel like one big Oprah show.
An illustration of a quote from Isaac Asimov about continuing to learn and create throughout one’s life. I read the Foundation books and everything else I could find by Asimov when I was younger, and recently picked up Foundation again. It’s no exaggeration that those stories about science and science fiction hugely shaped my interests and life story.
Dr. Drang’s response to the report that feeding peanuts to infants may reduce likelihood of developing peanut allergy captures my own mix of interest, encouragement and caution. My son has a number of serious food allergies, including peanut, and it’s not easy to manage. We would certainly wish to have been able to prevent these allergies from developing, and I watch research about potential desensitization very carefully. What people living with life-threatening food allergies need are good strategies and high levels of awareness among the public, and less misunderstanding of the severity of allergies. Dr. Drang writes:
In fact, I don’t believe the reported study turns conventional wisdom on its head at all. Most of the people I’ve met who don’t have a child with peanut allergies were already certain that the problem was, if not entirely in the heads of a group of Munchausen-by-proxy parents, then certainly due to kids being raised in environments that are too clean, too safe, and too antiseptic. For these people, it’s obvious that exposure to peanuts will toughen up a kid’s immune system, and it’s about time doctors recognize that.
A critical part of the study is the screening criteria that included only infants already at a high risk because of existing egg allergy or exczema, and that 76 screened infants were excluded because they already had strong skin test reactions. So this study tells us something, but not the whole story, about one path through which this particular allergy may develop. Unfortunately, just as Dr. Drang predicted, there are already responses like the following (from a self-identified physician) on the NEJM study:
As each of my five children has progressed through school we have seen tighter and tighter policing of what you are allowed to include in your own child’s lunch box. The research of the LEAP study team is wonderful as it may mean, as I have long suspected, that all of this molly coddling of our children’s diet has not only not made things better but has in fact made things which worse.
This winter in Flagstaff, a summary of some activities and events that come to mind:
- Yay, nice snow! Let’s get a season ski rental for the preschooler and we’ll be ski people!
- More snow over New Year, too bad, I have bronchitis.
- Day off: solo ski day, beautiful and fun.
- Six+ weeks of warm, dry weather make it feel like spring (meanwhile the east coast is getting utterly clobbered)
- Work, work, work – seriously, I’m getting a lot done around here. Feels good.
- Look, there’s hardly any winter going on in this place, so let’s go biking.
- Biking is great! My old bike is old, so I got a new one. It’s a thing of beauty, but …
- I have to travel back east for work, then come home and get a cold.
- Winter is back. New bike waits in the garage.
- Sigh. Go for coffee because wife is home from her own work travel and it’s the first day off from work and/or child care in two weeks.
- Life is all right, gang. All right.
February 15, 2015
Workflow is a hot iOS app. (Obligatory Viticci link!) I love what people are doing with it. While I have some tinkery workflows that I experiment with, my favorite daily-use workflow is one I made for Huffduffer, Jeremy Keith’s wonderful podcast collector service.
(What’s Huffduffer? Briefly, it’s a way to grab one-off episodes of podcasts that you’re not subscribed to, watch others’ podcast feeds, and find interesting things related to what you’re listening to. It’s really fantastic, and you should go try it.)
Huffduffer provides a bookmarklet that works very well when you’re already in your browser, but most of the podcasts I want to add to my Huffduffer feed come to my attention via Twitter (currently, Twitterific). There isn’t a full-featured API that could replace this bookmarklet, so I used Workflow to do something sipmle but so valuable to me:
- Grab a URL as input
- Send URL to the HFDF bookmarklet
- Pop the output into Safari (where I’m already authenticated to HFDF)
- This comes back as a browser window where the bookmarklet has done its work to identify episode download URL and metadata
- I hit go and complete the addition of the episode to my HFDF feed.
The thing that sets this capability into the “whoa” category for me, is that the whole workflow is set up to work as an action extension, so all I have to do to invoke it is long-press a podcast URL in Twitterific to bring up the share menu, then tap “run workflow” and pick HFDF. It’s not quite as clean as it could be if there were a full API and app (in the style of Pinboard and Pushpin), but it feels far native than opening the link in Safari and then locating and running the bookmarklet. It’s one of my favorite things.
Another of my favorite uses (that I forgot to note when I published this the first time) is from within Overcast (and other podcast apps that enable the share extensions), where long-pressing on an episode link in show notes of one podcast can bring up the run workflow share action and then the Huffudffer bookmarklet for that link. It’s really slick, and a super-quick way to grab other shows that are mentioned within one show (assuming the creators post good show notes, of course).
You can download and try out my HFDF workflow for yourself. Enjoy!
February 8, 2015
Since the beginning of the year, work has been busy, very busy, and I find myself in something of a how-do-I-work transformation. I am getting stuff done, and I do mean happily cranking away. And I’m doing it all by scribbling on an array of sticky notes and a couple of pages in a notebook. No “system,” no “toolset,” no “workflow,” just a pencil. It doesn’t even sync!
I know, right? Like a barbarian. A productive-as-heck barbarian. In the office I had a long-running org-mode scheme that was falling into disrepair, and yet it’s hard to leave a system behind. The couple of weeks of being mostly away from work over the Christmas holiday gave me the mind-space I needed to just … walk away from the list of tasks and projects I was not-usefully maintaining and which was not helping me feel effective or organized in my work.
I’ve thought plenty before about this kind of retooling, but almost exclusively in the context of tooling up — adding sophistication, building workflow:
This matters because I get a lot of reward from using tools that are interesting, effective, and sophisticated. Doing one’s work is about more than the end deliverable, right? The process matters, too, and if I like doing the work then the product is better for it (not to mention I’ll do it again).
I suppose that all the same thinking still applies: The process still matters; right now that process is just very, very simple. Unlike the recent past, it’s not in my way in the slightest, which makes me quite happy.
But let’s differentiate the productivity-tools-urge from the tinkering-with-stuff urge: While at work I have reverted largely to the bronze age, I remain cheerfully hackerful at home, and spent a couple of happy hours yesterday experimenting with MailMate keybindings (yes, knowing I will be inevitably disappointed when I return to work and lose all of that capability). I expect this back and forth will continue, as I fit tools to current needs and ways of thinking.
Not too long ago, Seth Clifford wrote about a similar productivity revision:
This is about my brain, understanding how it works, and more importantly, coming to grips with the fact that my brain will work differently depending on a variety of ever-shifting factors in my life. I’ve written before about giving up and settling on a trusted system, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that my trusted system is me, and I need to allow myself the flexibility to use the right tool at the right time.
Perhaps this doesn’t mark a long-term shift in how I work, but it’s an interesting and good place to be, at the moment. For now, as long as I have a pencil sharpener and a pile of sticky notes, I’m good to go.
After trying it out for a month, I pulled the trigger and bought MailMate this morning over a cup of coffee. Gabe Weatherhead has a very good features overview (now a bit dated but still relevant) of this powerful mail client.
Good software is worth paying for. Even though mail on OS X isn’t my hub of productivity that it once was (being that my day job is on Windows and all), I’m convinced that a mail client as good as MailMate is worth the cost. If you try it out, don’t miss the custom keybindings and hidden preferences. You can do a lot with this sucker.
Good Analysts are Doing it By Hand
John Foreman on surviving data science hype:
You know what can keep up with a rapidly changing business?
Solid summary analysis of data. Especially when conducted by an analyst who’s paying attention, can identify what’s happening in the business, and can communicate their analysis in that chaotic context.
Yep. We need infrastructure and cool tools to help us get the data we need, when we need it, but just as important is defining what that need is and having a deep understanding of what our information tells us. Without that, at best, we have lots of pretty pictures of trend lines, but no plan. #
January 25, 2015
An annotated list of some of the things I used, liked, appreciated, or got particularly good value out of in 2014:
Not Computering (intentionally put at the top)
In February last year I started on some physical therapy for my shoulder, long insulted by climbing accidents and then one particularly embarrassing skiing accident, then ossified by general mis-use. When I started, I couldn’t get that arm much above my head, and when I “finished” the official course, I was comfortable, not tentative, and confident that I wasn’t about to re-injure it. I can’t overstate how much this positively affected me, day-to-day. Picking up my boy, reaching around in the car, getting something off the shelf. I should have done this years ago.
Personal training is probably the other best thing I did for myself this year (critically enabled by having done the PT; I had to learn to fish before I could, something whatever). Seriously, Internets. It feels so good to be active and strong(er).
Good coffee and food and favorite places to share with my family and friends.
Pinboard and Pushpin: I used Instapaper less in 2014, replaced in part by Pinboard. Just about everything I wanted to read or wanted to save for later, ends up in Pinboard, and the great Pushpin app enabled a lot of this — saving via its iOS 8 extension, reading and finding new things in the popular list.
Minimal Reader: I ditched RSS for a while, but picked up an annual subscription to Minimal Reader last January, and have just renewed for another year. I see (via Twitter and Minimal Reader) that Glenn Fleishman has moved away from RSS, and I agree with basically everything he writes … but have nonetheless landed on continuing to use news feeds in addition to the rapid-fire flow and conversation of Twitter. I have a relatively small set of (active) feeds in Minimal Reader, which I put there because they reliably offer something that I don’t want to miss. If I happen to have read something via a twitter conversation before I come across it in Minimal Reader, then I just float past it; and I regularly clip longer items from MR into Pinboard or Instapaper in order to keep the RSS queue as more of an inbox than an actual place to read them.
Synology: I wrote about my Diskstation a handful of months ago. It continues to sit in my media center cabinet, quietly acting as my Time Machine destination and network storage for photos and videos. I’m very pleased with this, but there is one caveat: iTunes turns out to not like an always-on disk location for its media, so I have had some trouble maintaining that part of the solution, and for now have basically reverted to keeping iTunes media locally.
Backblaze: Having now used it for years, Backblaze is one of those things I just don’t really think about. I’ve used it to restore a pre-corruption iTunes library and to recover a bunch of ssh private keys, and I am secure knowing that it’s there putting up all my stuff just in case. The second caveat regarding the NAS comes in here, however: Backblaze doesn’t yet support it. I really want to fill this gap and hope they find a way to handle it soon.
I’m hot and cold on Rdio, but continue to use it just about enough to keep paying for it. When friends or twitter contacts recommend something, it’s so easy to go check it out, and it provides streaming access to most of my library that I ever want to listen to. It’s great. I’m not a big fan of the UI anymore, as it has gone somewhat over the line from minimalist to obtuse, but it’s navigable enough that I can put up with it for the good selection. (I’m thinking I will give iTunes Match a try this year, though, as I continue to want to buy the music I really like, so I won’t lose it as it comes and goes on streaming services. I have a long malformed musing post somewhere about wanting to make the things I listen to and read somehow tangible for discovery by my son, when he’s ready to explore them, and having them all-digital doesn’t yet seem accessible for that.)
(Most of my friends use Spotify, and I use re/spin to import their playlists into Rdio. It’s awesome. Try it!)
1Password: Well geeze. Best software purchase ever? I’ve now bought this multiple times through multiple updates and devices and I never think twice about each paid update. I just make a small invocation and light incense once a week that I will never forget my master password, because I literally know almost none of my passwords anymore. The iOS 8 extension pushes 1Password close to the heart of every activity on my phone and tablet just as it had previously done on the Mac. It’s just indispensable, and if you’re not using it then you are likely doing it wrong.
MailMate: Apple’s Mail app started to misbehave on me this year — possibly some interaction with my mail server and/or ISP, but it was enough for me to start looking at other mail applications. MailMate is fantastically powerful, making my only reservation about it is that I’m not enough of a power user for it. But if you value a quality application, this is just an excellent thing. Custom keybindings, filters and smart mailboxes for the win.
Tilde Club: What a serendipitous thing to happen into, and what a great thing for Paul Ford to start rolling.
cTiVo: Hey, you can download from your TiVo to your Mac, and it’s easy! With my new Mac it’s even pretty fast to transcode them to AppleTV format. I’m routinely downloading shows to either save and make room on the TiVo’s drive, or to put on the iPad for a trip. cTiVo will “subscribe” to shows, too, so you can automatically download and transcode episodes as they come in. Detects commercials, too!
PhotoStream2Folder: I wrote about this recently and it’s still doing exactly what I want: Frictionlessly pull pictures from my iPhone’s photostream and drop them in a folder that’s monitored by Lightroom on my MacBook Pro. It doesn’t solve video, and I’m accumulating some video that I need to download and deal with through the old way, but it’s hugely valuable nonetheless.
January 19, 2015
Recently I was having a beer with a friend from work and he asked, “So, what’s your thing? What are you really into?” It was a provocative question because he and I have worked together for several years and have a pretty good relationship, so the idea that he wouldn’t know much about what makes me tick sort of took me by surprise. It really made me pause.
He’s a board game guy, like a level 18 board game geek. Once every few months I make it to his place on a Saturday afternoon to play some games with him and a handful of others. I’m mostly casual; they’re pretty hardcore, like the guy with a remarkably elaborate packing system for his Arkham Horror sets, which is totally okay, just not so much my thing.
So despite being really into plenty of things, I paused when asked. My coworkers don’t really see that much of my non-work life and interests; despite believing in sharing and celebrating nerdy enthusiasms, turns out I’m not a really big sharer, myself. I’m quiet; it shouldn’t surprise me that having worked with someone for a few years, he wouldn’t really know what I dig.
I might have gushed: I’m into hobby coding, programming tiny things only for myself, blogging and online communities, all things internet and sometimes the internet of things, personal web pages, twitter and tinkering with APIs. I’m an IT guy, and I work with deeply IT people of various kinds, yet many of the things that feel to me to be such natural elements of being into computers for so long, growing up with them and working with/on/around them — like twitter, blogging, and RSS feeds full of nerds — just aren’t resonant with most of them, or at least most of the folks I spend most of my time working with.
I told him about my tilde.club network visualization, which required a brief visit to first principles: Here’s a bunch of people who put up tilde web pages; oh, a tilde page is this convention for home pages; home pages are something I’m into. Then I gave an explanation of what the network graph shows and why I would think it might be cool enough to spend several weekend evenings tinkering with, and a quick demo on the screen of my iPhone. Not sure he got it, though. On a cool exercise in parsing XML to produce a map of beer styles, Gabe Weatherhead nicely sums up the impulse to do this kind of thing: “It’s not super-useful. But, then again, this was never about the problem. It was always about the problem solving.”
Over at But She’s a Girl I find some familiar thoughts about being too much geek (or perhaps, really, about being a different sort of geek among other geeks):
That — in a nutshell — is why this blog is a lifeline for me. Many of you are fellow geeks and share my enthusiasm for ridiculously geeky things like building documents with embedded statistical output. You are my kind of people. Plus, on the internet, I can’t see the eyes of those of you who are not interested in geeky things glazing over with boredom and despair as you read this.
Yes. And while I share the notion that this online space is a lifeline, one of the things I want to do for myself this year is to be more open and expressive about the things I enjoy, in order to find more local community and friendship in it.
Making a Play Plan
I like this piece by Ben Kuchera about managing one’s leisure time and making goals for play & culture in order to avoid “fun” turning into “homework.” I’ve started aggregating books, comics, games and music into a feed that I can pipe into a thedash dashboard. This helps me keep track of all that stuff and also acts as a check against overpopulating it.
Look, Ben notes and I agree that this is like the first worldiest of first worldie dilemmas — oh, my, so many free-time activities! Woe — but pulling back a little bit, this is also about being thoughtful about how I spend my time. Not a bad thing to keep in mind as we careen into one more year.
Gaming Blogging, or Writing About Gaming
Among the games I played over my winter holiday (which got me thinking about all the Games of Christmas Past, and stewing on a post chock full of nostalgia about that), I have so far had a great time with Endless Legend. It’s a complex “4X” turn-based strategy venture, and I spent some time writing up an Endless Legend gameplay journal about my experience so far.
Another Webmentions Implementation
It’s really fun to come across these, both from a perspective of opportunities to replace or improve my implementation as well as just seeing more threads within this community.
I Huffduffed this great discussion with Jeremy Keith weeks ago, and am just now catching up over my holiday vacation. Jeremy talks about some key tools, and his explanation in particular of the way
rel="me" relates to IndieAuth finally made sense to me. He also points to Known, a hosted or self-hosted platform with microformats, webmentions, and other indieweb elements as core capabilities. Cool!
To me, there’s definitely a through-line between these tools and platforms, and the kinds of activity sparked by Tilde Club and the Other Tildes. While the tilde clubs diverge in some senses, they share the indieweb notion of cobbling something together to scratch one’s own itch, sharing and spreading around that capability, and enabling likeminded people to tool around, tinker, and express. For me, they both represent some of the community and sharing that have been underlining much of my enthusiasm for first BBSs, later usenet and home pages and all things internet, for the past so many years.
Go forth and make/write/play, huh? Okay!
Why I Don’t Have a Personal Site ▹
If you give a developer a domain, they’re going to want to host a site on it. But where should they host it? They’re probably going to need to do some research on hosting. But they can’t decide on hosting until they figure out how they’re building the site. They are really familiar with this framework but since they have full control maybe they should experiment with this other framework.
Abandoned in Place
Photo: Launch Ring Restored, Launch Complex 34, (Apollo Saturn) Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida – Roland Miller
Roland Miller is a family friend and I grew up with many of his photos in the house. He has been working on a project titled Abandoned in Place for more than twenty-five years. He is documenting in photographs the facilities and structures that were the foundation of the U.S. space program, like launch towers, gantries, factories, control rooms and panels.
Roland’s Kickstarter for an Abandoned in Place photo book is almost home! If you are interested in space, science, history, or photography, this is right in your sweet spot and I encourage you to check it out. You can get the book — with essays and memories from space program scientists and astronauts and writing by Ray Bradbury! — along with signed prints, and help preserve the stories and images of these places that are gradually being lost to time and the elements. Go go!
Bridgy by Ryan Barrett is another fantastic-looking and new-to-me tool for spinning up your own piece of the indie web. I’m really excited for the possibilities presented by it and webmention.io, both of which I found via Jeremy Keith. His Indie web building blocks post is one more great primer on how all this works.
I have so much to do. #
Webmention.io is a super idea, basically webmentions as a service from Aaron Parecki, with code offered for runnning your own server. This looks lots more sophisticated than my implementation, and, hey, idea: This kind of mechanism might be a great way for sites (like mine!) over at the Tilde Clubs to turnkey implement webmentions in an otherwise limited server environment.
Maybe that’s something to tinker with this weekend!
Paul Ford had this idea, opened up a pop-up unix server called Tilde Club
and invited friends and strangers to come put stuff on it. It’s pretty cool. I’m ~schussat over there.
September 28, 2014
I’m a long-time Lightroom user. Since its beta release it has been the place where my photos go. I have a slew of export actions and have hacked together methods of varying sophistication (such as the export script that produces a tiny gallery) to accomplish what I want to do. I dug into the data that Lightroom gives me about my photos, too: See, the Lightroom database is sqlite, and one can pull all kinds of things from it, such as this network map of my keyword relationships, or my then-annual exploration into My Year In Metadata.
Way back when I was running an Android phone, I had scripts and smart galleries to help sync photos from that phone into my Lightroom library and later populate galleries to sync to my iPad. It was pretty high-tech, you guys.
This is all a way of noting that I’m very much at home working on my photos in Lightroom, so that even when I got myself my first iPhone a couple of years ago and could get photos from the device onto my MacBook Pro, I didn’t have much use for iPhoto. Photostream wasn’t muh of a solution for me, because, until I recently got a shiny new Mac, I had a version of iPhoto that predated it; my cloud photos couldn’t magically sync to my laptop unless I invested in iPhoto, and I didn’t really want to do that. So I put up with periodically plugging in the phone to the Mac (horrors) or, later, using Dropbox’s photo upload capability, to get pictures out of my phone and into Lightroom.
Point is, there was still friction. But I think now I have a solution, thanks to the good photostream syncing that I now have on the new MacBook Pro with a current version of iPhoto, plus this great and now indispensable tool: PhotoStream2Folder. PhotoStream2Folder basically does what it says on the tin, and does it well: Identifies photos in your photostream (optionally within a specified range) and moves them into a usable location on your file system.
The Lightroom trick? Lightroom can monitor a directory and automatically import anything that lands in it. So with PhotoStream2Folder I just set up its output folder as the directory that I already have monitored from Lightroom. The next part is pretty close to magic: Within moments of landing in my photostream, new images are automatically in Lightroom. The mental overhead is just gone. I tried this in my kitchen: Took a photo of a cup of coffee (because I do), then wandered over to the MacBook Pro on the counter; the photo was already in my Lightroom library. I went to the Sunday farmers market, shot a bunch of photos with the very impressive iPhone 6 camera, and when I opened up the computer upon arriving home, all the photos were in my library, ready for me to edit, share via my extensive and baroque variety of Lightroom export/publish presets, no iPhoto interaction, copying, or re-importing required.
One more thing: If iPhoto is importing my photostream images, too, won’t I end up with a bunch of duplicates? Very good question. Fire up iPhoto preferences > iCloud, and turn off “automatic import.” Then iPhoto will display photos from your photostream, but not import them into your catalog, and they’ll “age out” over time. Meanwhile, all those images will be seamlessly added to Lightroom, where you really want them.
The author of PhotoStream2Folder, Laurent Crivello, asks a small donation via paypal if you find the tool useful. I think it’s awesome, and want to stress that it can be used for anything, not just Lightroom; if you simply want to get photos out of your photostream, without relying on iPhoto as your photo management application, this is your go-to. With one quick solution it has taken all of the mental overhead and friction out of managing the photos I shoot on my phone.