This weekend was very exhausting, since a friend was visiting town, and we decided to walk from the middle of Brooklyn to the far side of Manhattan. I’ve also eaten more vegan meals than not this weekend. I miss meat.
- A fantastic, massive list of programming blogs from Dan Luu. See also Brent Simmons’s list of tech/power user blogs written by women.
- Truly good engineers can be described as “Smart, and Gets Things Done.”
- Making a drum machine with the Web Audio API. The app only works in Chrome and Firefox, but Safari has prefixed support.
- “It’s a well known fact that wizards love cats. Even evil wizards. And all wizards require spellbooks. So when a sorceress named Rigalene found a way to combine the two, she didn’t hesitate.”
- An excellent post on how sheltered nerds can be like Lovecraft in the worst possible way.
- Modern American politics is almost entirely reflective of the composition of early European immigrant groups.
- Yet another story of why tech is still awful for women (Google cache). The company mentioned is almost certainly Mixpanel.
Not much to say this week, except I’m not sure how much I actually enjoy writing. I read a blog post on ending a blog, and I’m not sure what my end state is. What am I trying to get out of writing?
Here’s some interesting links for the week:
- Carrying ten weapons while running and slaughtering enemies in FPSs (specifically, Doom) isn’t that unreasonable, according to MythBusters.
- The Onion on sexism at work: Woman Leaving Meeting Worried She Came Off As Too Competent.
- A collection of “brutalist” websites floated around social media this past week. I wouldn’t call them truly brutalist, since they all use extensive amounts of CSS, but there are some interesting site designs. I particularly liked the one that was just a Google Doc in an
<iframe>and the site for Bloomberg Businessweek’s design conference.
- A remarkably hard-hitting investigation into how fake “farm-to-table” tends to be.
I really wanted to like A Burglar’s Guide to the City. I’m an avid reader of BLDGBLOG, and the concept behind the book sounded quite interesting–see architecture the way a burglar does. And indeed the book does have a lot of interesting anecdotes, but it’s also very repetitive. Each chapter is a simple idea repeated over and over again. It was still an enjoyable read overall, but it wasn’t as great as I hoped.
I’d suggest checking out BLDGBLOG and a recent Gastropod episode on food theft first.
Also on Goodreads.
Kinfolk and the Desaturation Aesthetic
I recently read an article on how Kinfolk is “the last lifestyle magazine” and how it “created the dominant aesthetic of the decade with perfect lattes and avocado toast.” As someone who very much enjoys both lattes and avocado toast, I went out and purchased the latest issue of Kinfolk and read it cover to cover.
Kinfolk is boring. Outside a series of neat photographs (skip the essay), Kinfolk is a magazine full of bland, mostly white people posing and doing absolutely nothing of interest. The writing is dull purple prose, and even the photography is desaturated.
The thing is, Kinfolk really should appeal a lot more to me. I’m in my early twenties, live in NYC, drink a lot of and think a lot about coffee, and even own a record player. But why does that mean my life should be empty and devoid of color?
Okay, so maybe it’s just Kinfolk in particular that doesn’t sit right with me. Fortunately, the article I linked helpfully has a list of “Kinfolk’s Kin,” other lifestyle magazines that have sprung up around Kinfolk’s surge in popularity. One of them, Cereal, recently put out a new issue, which I recently read a rave review about. So, I trekked out to one of the few nearby stockists and checked it out.
Cereal, too, is boring. Admittedly, the paper and binding were very nice, but it suffered from the same problems as Kinfolk. The photos looked like someone laid tracing paper on top of them, and the prose was lifeless.
I just don’t get why this aesthetic is so popular. Maybe I just have shit taste. Anyways, here’s the most interesting posts/articles/whatever I encountered this week:
- Emoji do not belong to Apple and predate the iPhone: “Apple did not invent emoji”.
- I recently discovered Tim Urban through his posts on doing a TED talk and his excellent series on Elon Musk. He does really enthusiastic, in-depth explorations (sorta like Eevee, above) of a wide range of topics.
- Goblin Punch has an excellent post on “Least Priests, Pantheism, and God-Prisons”, based vaguely on religion in ancient Rome.
- Calvin Godfrey reports on a culture where people eat dogs, steal dogs, and murder thieves, but no one wants to talk about it.
- Impossible, manufacturers of “Polaroid” instant film, are now making an instant camera too. I really like instant photos–I even have an old Polaroid camera laying around–but I’m not sure I’m hipster enough to buy this.
- In a similar vein as King James Programming, Classical Programmer Paintings pairs old oil paintings with captions describing the developers and designers they could be depicting.
- Recovering from
rm -rf *without
- Paul Graham gave a talk on “How to Make Pittsburgh a Startup Hub”. It might even happen before the Year of the Linux Desktop.
- The Allusionist is always delightful, but I particularly enjoyed the recent episode on the differing usage of “please” in the UK and the US.
I started off really disliking This Side of Paradise–every character in the book is conceited and selfish, but Amory is even more so. By the end of the book though, I couldn’t help but want him to succeed. The book is very well-written, especially considering it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel. The beginning is a little boring and stuffy, but it picks up a lot by the time the second book starts.
As a side note, this book reminded me a lot of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–Amory even reads it and finds himself “puzzled and depressed.” Remarkably, Fitzgerald’s Bildungsroman is even more experimental than Joyce’s.
Also posted on Goodreads.
I spend a lot of time reading stuff on the internet, and I often encounter really cool stuff that I want to share with other people. Rather than scattering these links between Pinboard, Tumblr and Twitter, I figured it would be nicer to collect them all in once place. Plus, I needed something to force me to post to this blog semi-regularly. Thus, here’s some of the most interesting things I’ve read and/or seen on the internet this week:
The map is acutally not the territory: the Chinese government forces mapmakers to offset their maps.
“Even your mom” is a sexist, ageist description often applied to games. What happens when a mother actually tries to play some modern video games?
American culture (the sort that’s taught explictly and implicity in elementary school) is the closest modern analogue to ancient religions.
The introduction and copious notes are really good, but they do remove some of the stories’ allure. Read the stories first. The stories are excellent–spooky and unsettling without ever veering into true horror.
Also posted on Goodreads.
Leonard Koren does a good job of stating wabi-sabi plainly and clearly. The basic, core concepts of wabi-sabi are nice. Unfortunately, in practice, wabi-sabi is pretentious false humility for the wealthy: like “Marie Antoinette’s playing shepherdess and milkmaid” but “much more serious.” To be fair, Koren does a good job of discussing this in the text notes, but at the end of the book, I have even less respect for wabi-sabi (and especially its practitioners) than when I started.
Also posted on Goodreads.
Debbie Chachra introduces the idea of “making” as a traditionally male domain. That’s a really good point that I hadn’t considered before, and the counterexamples proposed in the comments (cooking, homemaking) don’t really hold up.
However, I disagree with the central point of the article, that maker culture “risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others.”
Programmers Aren’t Special
In Silicon Valley, those that code undeniably get more pay and prestige. However, this is also true of lawyers at law firms, bankers at Wall Street, and doctors at hospitals. At any company, those who are most directly responsible for the main product or service are naturally those paid the best. And, at software companies, those people tend to be the ones writing the code.
That’s not to say those who perform other tasks at software companies aren’t doing useful work, it’s just that their work has a less direct impact on the company’s success. Similarly, if you look at programmers that work at financial companies, they are treated just like any other non-banker.
Making vs Non-making
Chachra states that maker culture considers non-making “repair, analysis, and especially caregiving.” I would say that more commonly, the antithesis of making is consumption–passively consuming that which others have made. (I also think that Chachra greatly misunderstood Ayn Rand. Rand was not denigrating teachers or caregivers, but those who did not contribute to society.)
American culture is heavily based on consumption–the average American spends nearly three hours a day watching television. But now that “making” is easily within the grasp of most Americans, whether it be through art classes at the local community college or, yes, learning to code online, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to encourage people to at least try making something. And, although Chachra seems to disagree with me, I think the true mark of a civilized society is one in which every person can, if he or she so choses, create something themselves.
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