Via this writeup in Fast Company, Dear Data is such a cool project. Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec are spending a year exchanging a postcard per week, in which they each draw a representation of a specific behavior or facet of their lives. The front side of the postcard is the drawing itself, and the back side describes how to read the visualization.

Both images by Giorgia Lupi from “Week 38: A Week of Negative Thoughts

One of the things that really makes me love this is the intentionality and immediacy of it. I used Reporter for several months, but fell away from it; it started to feel like something that would add value someday, but in an undefined way that didn’t keep me with it. By contrast, Stefanie and Giorgia are deciding on something very particular, measuring it and then drawing it all within about a week. Unlike so much “big data” they aren’t looking for a long-term pattern or a huge number of observations. Their illustrations are colorful and capture sparks of their personality while describing whatever they chose to measure; and the differences between their drawings are a reminder of the many ways to tell a story with a common theme.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed that my iPhone photos weren’t syncing as expected to my MacBook, and therefore not being picked up by Photostream2Lightroom and pulled into my library.

Well, thanks to google and this writeup by Igor I’ve found the answer: A quick restart of the sync process appears to have taken care of the issue.

Via Karen Cravens’ tilde club site I came across Plerd (and then Jason McIntosh’s set of super cool projects). Plerd looks cool, and seeing a tool similar to the one I use makes me want to clean up my own system and share it.

This analysis by Robert Yang hits so much of what makes Invisible, Inc. a great stealth game.

You can always lose more. Unlike every other stealth game, slow and patient observation usually means slowly suffocating death here.

Incapacitating many guards the first time is easy; but they wake up again! You have to carefully time using your stun guns because they recharge slowly over several turns. Likewise, taking enemies out for good is hard and expensive, because you may never again get more ammo for that gun (if you even have something that’s effective against their armor).

Because guards are rarely actually out of the game, every turn puts you in more danger of being overwhelmed, caught without the resources to get to your goal. It’s a constant struggle between pushing just a bit further and getting in way, way over your head.

Robert’s description of a perfectly-laid out plan foiled by one tiny unexpected detail is basically the game in a nutshell: Flashes of “I’m brilliant!” colliding with “OH NO!” and it’s a great, great time.

Looks like my pre-release Apple Music thoughts are mostly bust: No API so far, no good connection, no clear way to migrate existing playlists from other services such as Rdio.

And there’s more it doesn’t have, like any kind of coherent cross-device connectivity: No way to listen on the iPhone, then pick up the same playlist or album when I get home and open up my MacBook. The ‘Recently Played’ smart playlist occurred to me to be one way to get to this information, but it’s unreliable, usually omitting about seventy-five percent of the tracks I have listened to. This is honestly really puzzling, and frustrating, especially given Apple’s emphasis on hand-off between devices. Perhaps the recently played list only shows those tracks that are in my own, actual catalog? If so, I’m even more confused about how to think about “my” music versus the service’s catalog. It’s supposed to make that distinction irrelevant, but it seems to emphasize it in unpredictable places.

There are also some interface issues. This is a clicky, clicky application. (Rdio, which has become somewhat inscrutable sometimes, is so much cleaner.)

So why keep using it, when Rdio continues to behave the way I much prefer? Well, a couple of things: First, the curated playlists are good. They are well-titled, have useful descriptions, and the ones that show up in my πŸ’“ “for you” section are a pretty good match for my tastes. This is in contrast to everything algorithmic that I’ve ever tried, which just never felt right to me. I have been enjoying listening to them a lot.

Capturing this discovery, on the other hand, is tricky: Whereas when I have a connection going, and can return to the day’s plays and easily flag something that I loved, with Apple Music, if I don’t capture that right in the moment, I’m much more likely to lose it.

Also, Siri integration is slick. I mean, really cool. Driving in the car, I can just tell my phone to play me an album or a song, or a playlist. This has made impulse listening so easy and fun. And when my son requests his current favorite song from the backseat, I can just tell Siri to play it, no fumbling through playlists and menus to get to it. (On the other hand, he will quickly understand that I can no longer use “Dad’s driving, son, I can’t find ‘Fireproof’ for you right now.”)

Finally, I really like the unification of my own library with the Apple Music catalog. While I continue to share the feeling that it’s often unclear what the status of my own music is 1, it’s great to be able to can mix something from my home catalog with a playlist from Apple Music when I’m out with my iPhone. Another benefit of this integration is that I’m listening to my own old playlists from iTunes once again. There are tracks there that I haven’t listened to in years, and my only excuse is that iTunes became such a bloated and byzantine mess that I tried as much as possible to avoid it. Now that they show up in Apple Music, I am really, truly enjoying them.

I think Apple has done something very smart with the long free trial of the service. If they iterate quickly on some of the interface details and expand on the cross-device support, during this time when they service is still free, I think they’ll have something competitive and compelling. I hope that they do, because there’s a lot here to like, but I’m not turning over my keys to Rdio just yet.

Oh, one more thing: I didn’t like the “play blah blah in Apple Music” cruft that the app adds to a URL that you share from it, so I made a quick and dirty Workflow share extension that copies a track, playlist, or album URL to the clipboard. Here it is.

  1. Is it in the cloud? Is it ‘matched’ or purchased, will I lose my canonical copy somehow? Is something happening with my metadata while I’m not looking? [return]

I love the big game lists that Rock Paper Shotgun puts together, and this massive list of RPGs is a fine example of the form. Baldur’s Gate II, FTL, Dungeon Master I mean Legend of Grimrock, Eye of the Beholder, Ultima VII, Pool of Radiance … the list goes on, with references to good contemporaries to the classics.

I don’t remember how I came across Zen on Dirt, but I love reading these travelogue adventure accounts. Don’t miss the Continental Divide Trail epic.


This is a post without a title.

Last year I made a few totally uninformed notes about Apple’s purchase of Beats, which we now know is resulting in the upcoming Apple Music – a curated, streaming radio and music streaming service that looks functionally (so far) a lot like Rdio and Spotify.

I use Rdio a lot, and I was thinking while I was driving around this morning about a couple of things that I hope Apple Music eventually will offer. The first is a hook to to scrobble the songs I listen to. has continued to be one of those services that I just keep using. I like being able to gets its view of my musical history, and I’ve also connected it to slogger, so I have an ongoing log in my Day One journal. I would miss not having that ongoing record.

Here’s the important one, though: Apple needs to realize, especially with their intent to launch an Android app, that their target customers are already using a streaming service, and they have to help them cross the river. They need to carefully consider the maturity of services that they’re competing with: If a Spotify friend posts a playlist, I can use re/spin to build the same playlist in Rdio. And if I’m to migrate outright from Rdio, how will Apple help me move my playlists, favorites, and collections? I hope for an API, because that will also help me get my hook. I guess we’ll have some idea in a few days. Fingers crossed.

I love this Metafoundry piece about the effect of supply chain and manufacturing loss on post-apocalytic clothing:

No supply chain means that, at least in the short term, the local clothing stocks will be a major determinant of what people wear. Where I live (the northeast US), that means cheap and ubiquitous t-shirts patchworked into everything, for a start–making quilts out of a hundred thousand unneeded t-shirts. Notions (zippers, hooks, buttons etc.) will be cannibalized from worn-out clothes–even cheap zippers bring together out-of-reach precision metallurgy and polymers, and reliable YKK zippers will be sought and prized. Speaking of polymers: Patagonia and North Face and Gore-Tex outerwear will be prized heirlooms, the most valuable garments made of durable, functional and irreplaceable technical synthetics (especially needful in New England winters). No supply chains means no polymers, nor much by way of dyes (most of which are derived from petroleum), which means returning to fibres that can be grown (and grown locally, initially). Plants or animal products like wool, as well as leather (probably not black, though) and fur. This was nicely captured in Mad Max: Fury Road: the Vuvalini of Many Mothers, who gardened, wore handwoven-looking scarves and fabrics in colours consistent with vegetable dyes.

This is the most fun I’ve had on the Internet in some time.

Seriously, lots of fun.

Three Moves Ahead has had a couple of shows lately that I’ve really enjoyed. First up was their interview with some of the crew from Klei, makers of Invisible, Inc. and previously of Mark of the Ninja. I really loved Mark of the Ninja, and when I heard this interview I couldn’t resist picking up Invisible, Inc., too.

It’s so great: Turn-based stealth that combines the isometric X-COM perspective and some of its combat elements with bits of the turn-by-turn dynamics of Frozen Synapse and the push your luck action of FTL. Which isn’t to say it feels derivative; it just uses some familiar elements in such a great, fun way.

Also, it’s a tiny bit forgiving, at least while you learn the ropes, unlike FTL or Frozen Synapse: On the beginning difficulty level, you have five “rewinds” that you can use to back up to the beginning of the previous turn, and they come in so handy when you misplan, lose two agents in one round, and need to back up and think about What You’ve Learned.

After a very dry winter, we’ve had cold weather and repeated rounds of snow and rain this month, enough that this May looks to go on record as the 10th wettest in Flagstaff weather history. I complain a little, because I want to ride my bike and sit on the porch, but we do need the moisture. It makes for a spectacular scene, too. Also, I love the view from my twelve-minute commute. (This is when I don’t ride my bike to work.)

Wunderlist is a super application and my wife and I use it for almost everything list-like. But I don’t love adding items to lists using the web app’s interface: I want something non-clicky that I can capture items to from anywhere. So I was quite happy to find that they offer a developer API!

Getting a developer account and openauth key for your own sample application is easy, and with a little tinkering I put together a pair of Alfred workflows for adding items to my inbox and grocery lists.

Add to Wunderlist in Alfred - screenshot

I’d like to improve on the workflow so that it can call an external config file or shell variable instead of having the auth key hardcoded in the workflow as it is now; that will let me share the thing as a package, too. Meanwhile, if you want to try this out, you’ll need your own developer account and sample application with authorization key from Wunderlist. Then you can make an Alfred workflow that runs the following in bash (insert your own CLIENTKEY, ACCESSTOKEN, and LISTID):

curl -s -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -H 'X-Client-ID: CLIENTKEY' -H 'X-Access-Token: ACCESSTOKEN' -d '{"title":"{query}","list_id":LISTID}' -X POST ''

Pretty sweet.

She writes about Adams on the 14th anniversary of his death:

I was honest about one thing, at least: I don’t use that pen for anything besides fiction. I’m not the type of person who collects memorabilia: I lent my signed Mostly Harmless to a friend in high school and never got it back and never really minded. My copies of most of his books are in shambles, read to shreds. But I’m precious about that pen. It won’t be used to write a shopping list while I’m alive. The artifacts of reading are comfortable, disposable; the artifacts of writing are amulets and alchemist’s tools.

Or, trying to be a better man in tech

Notes prompted in part by the scale of inequality offline and abuse online, most specifically against women in technology. I have no illusion that my writing at this personal site has impact, influence, but it’s important to me to write some of this down and toss a small rock in an already-swirling rapid.

  • My race and gender do not complicate my position in my job and the cultural things I spend my time doing, but gender and other statuses profoundly shape the experience of others. Having listened to and read those experiences, I am more aware of my charmed life as a White Guy in Tech, conscientious about the opportunities I might help make real or unintentionally block and why it matters that I try to help: because diversity where I work makes that work better, and because it helps to improve — perhaps by an incremental margin but a difference all the same, if successful — the lives of people facing structural and deeply-entrenched inequality. This by itself is an outcome that I value.
  • My own experience is richer for having a broader perspective on those of others.
    • I am better for it, and I’m trying to say that in a way that sounds as least selfish as possible: having a broader perspective is enriching, not limiting; it is not zero sum, it does not “take away” what is special about me or my life, and it makes more room for others.
    • I acknowledge that I am lucky in many ways that so many others are not: I have a good job, one that I like and which is rewarding; I have a home and supportive family; stability; safety. When I do something online (or in the office, for that matter) that activity is not marked by my race and gender the way it is for many.
    • Just as I want to be able to express myself, so should I help those around me. This is restricted in environments marked by marginalization, where we are uneasy being open and expressive.
  • I wrestle with staying out of the way vs joining some conversations because I recognize that these spaces are fraught with co-optation, risk, and safety concerns – emotional and physical.

    • Flickering the Gaslight by Gersande La Fleche shows how high the stakes are. Posting here is one way to engage without claiming space in one of those ongoing conversations. Lily Benson has written a good primer on how to engage.
    • Justice Points ep# 93, “We’re Already Here” and Episode #38 of Less than or Equal (with Kahlief Adams) have powerful conversations about allies and privilege.
    • Leigh Alexander has a guide to being helpful
    • And I remind myself that whatever solidary benefit to me of participating (“being an ally”) is not the point.
    • Having spent a lot of time getting advanced degrees in a field in which structural inequality is a core tenet underlaid with decades of quantitative findings, the facts of this inequality are something I have long understood. Yet I am still struck when I see it enacted by men so viciously mocking the difficulties of women in technology and culture, so quick to use violent imagery and ugly slurs against those who are outspoken and visible.
    • This is also one reason the “everybody is awful on the internet” argument is so tremendously hollow. This gets trotted out frequently in defense of awful online treatment of women (and all marginalized groups). At Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Alisha Karabinus takes apart this “notion that everyone gets threatened in gaming”:

    We cannot conflate targeted harassment of a woman (or all women) with general incivility in online discourse because not only are the bases not the same, but the impacts, too, are vastly different. In other words, we’re not talking about hurt feelings or trash talk here. We’re talking about pervasive, damaging behaviors that can impact an entire culture, and behaviors we rarely address or speak about honestly.

    • Another often-used justification is that all people in geek culture feel abused, marginalized and left out. Not only does this reflect an obvious and staggering lack of empathy (justifying being abusive and awful by claiming to have at one point felt bad yourself), but it’s a weird historical artifact at a time when gaming and once-niche entertainment are multi-billion-dollar industries, and STEM training/jobs are sucking all the air out of most other kinds of education and work. Geeks are inheriting the world, gang, and it’s high time that those of us who had a hard time in school because we were interested in video games|comics|programming|computers understand that so did most everybody else, albeit for different reasons, and so many have it so much worse.
    • I have stinging memories of not feeling like I belong,1 and I am fortunate to have found a community of like-minded BBS nerds (men and women) at a key point in my growing up.
    • Yet: However difficult my experience, it critically is fundamentally different from that of someone truly marginalized by institutional sexism, racism, or other discriminations.
    • I think about things that I can do to change this space positively. I can be conscientious about making opportunities and including voices. I have some opportunity to do that where I work, and I try to do so, conscientious that my impact is greater among those I know than in a twitter conversation. Meanwhile I keep listening, though I know that’s not enough. I’m taking seriously the admonition from that Justice Points episode about amplifying good rather than boosting the conflict.

Better voices

In addition to the links noted above, here are a few starting points for more, from people who are better at this than I, and a couple of recent points of research and culture war intersections that are illustrative of what’s going on.

  • Isometric: This post started out being called “How Isometric Made Me a Better Person” but that seemed too naval-gazing even for a blog post. I got to know Steve Lubitz and Brianna Wu casually back when we all hung out on, and have had a great time as well as learned a lot from everybody on the show. It’s a gateway to a lot more than games; this post and the voices on these issues that I have found stem in large part from listening to it.
  • The Cool Gamer Girlfriend and Permission to Try by Maddy Myers (and a related conversation on Isometric #50)
  • Model View Culture is producing a lot of sharp work on these topics from a bunch of points of view: disability, hacker culture, feminism, race, more.
  • Shanley’s My Statement is a scary illustration of just how bad it can be.
    • It is only one of many, many such stories, from all industries.
  • Not Your Mama’s Gamer, a collective of authors behind such things as the #yesIplay tag and a ton of interesting writing (making super podcast, too).
  • How conservatives took over sci-fi’s most prestigious award, a glimpse into the current culture war that’s particularly emblematic of how regressive and fundamentally politically conservative so much of these attacks are.
  • The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM, because it’s not as simple as a “pipeline problem.”
  • How Hollywood Keeps out Women, because it’s not as simple as a “tech industry problem.”
  • Mel Chua, On the diversity-readiness of STEM environments: “But I have always wondered what I might have grown up into, if I had learned STEM in an environment that was ready for me — without me having to fix it first.”

  1. Hell, I still struggle with this, but I’m mature enough to know I’m not the only one. [return]

I really like the thinking that Joel Dueck is spinning up around privacy and facilitating payments to make building stuff online economically viable without ads. He proposes some legal and architectural tools, but notes that:

Focusing on the nuts and bolts of the web itself, looking for technical solutions, is not going to be enough to counteract these broader trends. And as I’ve said before, simply appealing to people to change their personal habits of internet usage is insufficient and ineffective. What is needed is a principled re-adjustment of the entire playing field — a political solution to a political problem.

Elsewhere, he remarks that if the economics of blogging do collapse1, he will “feel as though we lost something valuable — a truly democratic chance for people to sustain their lives through the pursuit of literacy and self-expression.” I thought about this same thing this morning, and I contemplated the worth of continuing to write and post here. The “community”, such as it was, of bloggers and readers, is much changed from when I started posting to my old home blog, way back in the pre-social media days. But here I am, all the same, tapping away. For those of us who were into this before services ate everything, it’s kind of a hard habit to break.

I really like this episode of Three Moves Ahead on the 4X Genre. I haven’t played a ton of 4X games myself (my most recent experience being a whole bunch of Endless Legend a few months ago), so I’m only passingly familiar with most of the games they chat about (even Civ! I know, I know!), but this is still a really accessible conversation that touches on a lot of interesting elements of these games: Balance between the different phases of the game, the rare expertise required to build 4X mechanics, and the difficulty of innovating in storytelling within these games. They also talk about the often uncomfortable assumptions made in most 4X games, of an unspoiled world ready for exploitation and civilizing in the service of a conqueror (reflecting on the problematic “explore, exploit, expand, exterminate” label, too), and imagine a game in this style that could really explore things like postcolonial conflict.

It’s a fun and wide-ranging discussion and I’m looking forward to listening to more from Three Moves Ahead and Idle Thumbs.

The One-Minute Test

Via Jeremy Keith, a method of wrapping up a meeting by asking for concrete reactions in just a minute:

  1. What was the big idea? (What was the most important thing you heard at the meeting?)
  2. What was your big surprise? (What was the thing you saw or heard that surprised you the most?)
  3. What’s your big question? (What’s the biggest unanswered question you have at this time?)

I’ve been in meetings that ended in a similar way and found it to be a really positive way to conclude. One spin on that final question that I have liked is to ask “who will you share this question with” or “where do you go next with this idea” — It’s very satisfying to generate a specific kind of next step that’s social and/or active, and it encourages a much more engaged conclusion that might not otherwise come out of some meetings.

The Spark File

Steven Johnson on keeping a bin of ideas, “hunches” and snippets of writing:

But this kind of inventory doesn’t quite convey the most interesting part of the experience, which is the feeling of reading through your own words describing new ideas as they are occurring to you for the first time. In a funny way, it feels a bit like you are brainstorming with past versions of yourself. You see your past self groping for an idea that now seems completely obvious five years later.

I get the same experience from occasionally going back to the scattered output of my years of blogging and notes-file-keeping: at various times using web sites, planner-mode, org-mode, Moleskines, Field Notes, and now here. What Steven has probably done more smartly is keep most of that in one place. In that time I’ve been a number of things, or at least two, having moved out of academics into the work I’m doing now.

Learning Vim in 2014

God help me, I’m learning another text editor. I’m not sure why; seemed like it could be interesting or engaging, which it is. I think it all started when vim was the available default over at when I was heavily involved there. Maybe it’s a way to make up for having ditched emacs at work for now?

Ben McCormick’s excellent series is an introduction to the nuts and bolts as well as the philosophy – see his Vim as Art in particular on that score. I’m exploring the whole thing repeatedly as I make my way. I idly trolled on Twitter how learning Vim was like turning your text editor into an RTS. Now I think I really like that idea and the way it makes me think systematically about what I want to do with my editor. It’s cool.

It’s a nice bit of serendipity that I caught up with this piece on newsletters and the new market for specialized writing by Glenn Fleishman on the same day that stellar issues of two favorite subscription newsletters arrived in my inbox: 6 49: Focus Past Infinity by Charlie Loyd, and Metafoundry 30: Confusion Matrices by Deb Chachra.

And as it happens they’re both writing insightful things about clothes and their tight ties to our social and economic worlds: Charlie thinks a bit about supply chains; Deb, the pervasive rules that profoundly shape the meanings of women’s choices of clothing.

Some instability with my web host the past week or so prompted me to think about the state of the backups of my online spaces. I spent some time today getting backup scripts working on the host, and found that, based on the file dates, the last time I worked on this was about a year ago. Yay, me. After troubleshooting them for a little while I now have some functional backup scripts to tar up my web directories and my databases. Then I set about burning most of the morning getting my Synology to grab the backup from the host.1

Because I’ll forget and no doubt have to do this again, I took a few notes:

With passwordless login to the Synology, and from the Synology to my host and backup server working, finally, I could test executing my backup scripts from the shell on the Synology. Lo and behold, it works! In the “Scheduled Tasks” section of the Synology control panel, I set up these scripts to execute the remote backup and periodically download the resulting files:

Runs twice weekly:

/usr/bin/ssh kaizen 'cd ~/backup-scripts; ./backup-mysql-databases; ./backup-files'

Runs weekly:

/usr/syno/bin/rsync -av --progress strongspace:arlington-backup/ /volume1/Archive/backup/kaizengarden

Why not run these daily? Because these sites don’t actually change all that much. Downloading the full backup weekly is plenty, if not outright overkill, since the most frequently-changed part of the site is all markdown files stored in dropbox and synced when I re-publish. Why not schedule the backup to run via cron on my host? Because this works, and I was already in the Synology shell experimenting, so it was easy to not have to log in to the web server. (And last time I worked on the backup scripts at the host, I remember some kind of problem with running them via cron; some kind path or environment thing interacting with tar, I think. So this got around that, too.)

I did the same for my stuff over at, too. This didn’t require any backup script, since I just have a single directory there; I just rsync the whole relatively small thing into a backup folder on the synology here.

  1. It’s not actually directly from the host. My scripts pack up the tar archives and rsync them to my backup location at Strongspace. [return]

I’ve previously noted my Huffduffer action extension for Workflow, but it didn’t occur to me at the time to include the link to my profile at Huffduffer. So, there it is. If you’re a fellow duffer of huffs, I’d love to see what you’re saving there, too.

A few weeks ago we had a sudden reappearance of winter, but unseasonably warm weather has returned, and with it, the season for biking in the woods – which happen to be basically across the street.

Life’s pretty good, gang.

Pizzicletta is a Flagstaff gem, serving up some of the best pizza you’ll find anywhere.

And homemade gelato, like this basil and chocolate/sea salt duo.

I don’t get there often enough, but made it in last night to finish off a fine, warm spring day.