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Things I read over the last week. At first glance this week might appear to have a theme of “everything is broken!” but I prefer to read it as “look at all these things we can do better!”.
But the cultural tides are strong. Building a company on Django in 2020 seems like the equivalent of driving a PT Cruiser and blasting Faith Hill’s “Breathe” on a CD while your friends are listening to The Weeknd in their Teslas. Swimming against this current isn’t easy, and not in a trendy contrarian way.
For the last month I’ve found myself subconsciously jumping on “easier” tickets where I feel a high level of expertise (CSS tasks, layouts, prototypes) and I’ve struggled to get through tickets that have a high learning curve or cognitive load. Those deep work tasks are hard to sustain when reality, in the form of kids or breaking news, comes crashing through my door. That’s where the broader concept of Flow is helping me. If I understand the psychology correctly, lowering the challenge level raises my relative level of skill and that gives me a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable world. I’m able to move fast and not break things.
A thorough (and well illustrated) explanation of how static site builders like Gatsby work.
One of my favorite books is To Engineer Is Human by Henry Petroski, particularly the stories of uncaught or seemingly minor issues that went unconsidered that resulted in catastrophic failures. I don’t think there’s a software engineering equivalent (if there is, let me know!), so I have to find them in news articles like this.
Chris Coyier had a somewhat related tweet this week. You’d think operating systems and software would fundamentally get image formats and text formatting correct, but it’s been an ever-repeating problem since computers had screens.
While nearly every other developed nation supports child care as a public good, the United States treats child care providers as private enterprises — more like gyms than K-12 schools. ... The child care sector, like your favorite fitness enterprise, is propped up mostly by private dollars paid into the system.
There’s a whole Greatest Hits album worth of things that parents in the US get screwed on compared to other countries, but the #1 best seller is the fact that child care between the ages of 0 and close to 6, basically one third of the time the child is under your care, is on the individual structurally and financially. I have a lot of other thoughts on this but they mostly involve 🤬 so I’ll stop here for today.Permalink
CSS continues to improve, and browser support for modern solutions continues to grow, so all the ways you used to do things might have better versions today.
“But what if the problem is juicy and we can’t solve it through an asynchronous discussion?”
My response to this is to still default to an asynchronous discussion because asynchronous discussion makes it clear when it needs a meeting. Many people aren’t agreeing. The Slack thread is 148 messages deep and no one made a decision. These signals mean that the discussion needs to be a meeting.
I find what people are trying to do here with Notion super interesting. Notion can create a URL for any page you make, but it’s styled like Notion styles it, and it gets metatags as Notion decides it should. So people are using undocumented Notion APIs to build their own sites using Notion data, or cloud functions to take public Notion pages and build a site from that.
Notion has promised to release an official API “soon” but I think what’s driving people to jump the gun is that it’s UI is astronomically easier to use than almost any headless CMS out there I can think of, both in terms of constructing the information architecture and editing content. Technically there are a lot of differences, e.g. if you used Notion as a real time content source I think you’d be very sad, but I can at least hope that the UI and ease of adding content structures is something other CMS solutions adopt.
My first Macbook was also my first laptop with a camera in it, so I asked a somewhat dumb question when I was buying it, which was, "can the camera take pictures?". I think what I was asking was essentially what the app Photo Booth is, but the sales person at the Apple store, for some reason, thought I wanted a camera to make stop motion videos. They said they weren't sure if it could, but that would be cool. I agreed. I never tried but I can imagine it would have been not cool, since the camera on those plasticBooks were about .1 megapixels and shoved in the top of the lid making for some awkward angles.
Jump forward 14ish years and the little pocket computer I take everywhere has both a camera good enough to use for stop motion videos and the processing power to edit them. We've been rebuilding my childhood Lego collection lately, so I used some minifigs as actors. The wizard's... hat... was from an earlier video.
I later tried to get the child to help me make a stop-motion video her mother might appreciate on a certain day that's upcoming, but she didn't seem to impressed by moving picture technology. I stitched these together using Stop Motion Studio which is straight up amazing at the cost of free.Permalink
Plenty of maps mess up New England states because they're small and the states are small, but to have so much room and end up here... I dunno. This does at least depict (sort of) my long standing opinion that the nub should be part of New York and Long Island should be part of Connecticut.
Late last year my wife started a new podcast called Shelf Love.
I built her a website. It was not good. It worked, but brought us both great shame.
To be fair, at the time there wasn’t a lot of content, and most of what she needed/wanted from it was theoretical. But, time has passed, and now there’s 38 episodes with many more to come, a blog, and a newsletter.
Beyond a visual refresh, the back-end of the site was changed from pulling episode content from Storyblok to pulling it directly from Simplecast which means content isn’t living in two places. Storyblok is still in play for page content and blog posts. It’s also still a GatsbyJS site distributed through Netlify.
Anywho, go check it out.
Some site updates:
I probably broke some stuff too, so if you see something, say something.Permalink
There’s a bookmark folder in Safari across all of my devices titled “HTML/CSS”. I don’t use bookmarks that much, but I did when I was first getting interested in web development. I’ve gone back to Safari on all of my devices lately, mostly to use handoff and have consistent sharing options, and I thought it was time to take a look at those bookmarks and see what was worth keeping.
Grid is a great learning tool but no longer supported.
Oct 19, 2019 Pencil 3.1.0 is released
I set a goal to read 40 books in 2019. I didn’t hit it.
I did come a lot closer than I thought I would though, ending up at 30 books, with two in progress as I write this, one of which I might finish by the end of the year. Some notes on what helped me read way more this year than the year before:
Alright, let’s move on to the books I actually read.
This is, fortunately, a relatively short list.
I’m not sure these need to be separated out, but these ones all have pictures with the words.
All of these are perfectly good books, but they’re a lot of words around a main point that’s maybe a five paragraph essay.
There’s a few books in this category that I started but have not finished nor given up on (Code Complete by Steve McConnell being the big one), a lot of work related books I read in very short sessions when I’m looking for something specifically relevant to what I’m doing.
This week is my last week as a software developer at Education First. I’m off to something new, but before going I wanted to take a look back at my first EF trip. I went on two trips while working at EF (Spain first, then Ireland and the United Kingdom), but my very first one was as a customer, back in high school, when my Latin class went to Italy on a tour now called Bell’Italia.
When I went looking for some sort of evidence of that trip to Italy, I realized all of the pictures I took had never made it to any form of modern computing storage — they were still saved on some floppy disks back at my parent’s house. The timing was fortunate though, my parents were coming up for Thanksgiving anyway, all I needed to do was order a USB disk reader off of Amazon.
Technical aside: The floppy disks are from Mystic Color Lab, where we got all of our film processed, circa 1999 (take that, Y2K!). The pictures were processed then scanned, and saved at a mind-blowing 600×400 resolution. If I remember correctly that was close to what you got from a low end digital camera at the time, and it probably gave them some overhead to always fit 1 roll of film on 1 floppy disk. I think our computer at the time had a 800x600 display so I’m sure they looked great on it. Impressively, all of the 20 year old disks could be read without issue, but sadly no one seems to know where the printed copies of these photos are, so 600×400 might be the best I’m ever going to have of these. Also worth mentioning, two years later I had a digital camera that took pictures at 1280×960 and Mystic Color Lab was out of business.
Of course I’m not in any of these pictures, so there’s no proof that I really went except for me having these random pictures of Italy, but I assure you I did. It was maybe the most memorable experience from high school, even before finding these photos I knew what was on all of them, and it was one of the primary motivations for wanting to work at EF. I’m sad to go, but I’m excited about what’s next, and I’m betting that they’ll pop back up in my life when my daughter is old enough to travel.
kids playing soccer in an alley in Venice, which is peak Italy as I remember it
Michelangelo’s workshop in Florence
light from the center hole in the Pantheon
Spanish Steps in Rome
Florence from the Duomo
Venice from St. Mark’s campanile
the picture every Latin student has to take, from Pompeii
St. Mark’s square
the countryside around, if I remember correctly, Assisi
I took my daughter to see Spirited Away at the local theatre today, part of the Studio Ghibli Fest 2019 , reshowing the films on big(ish) screens. Some thoughts:
The dad in the movie is peak dad. When they’re driving down the dirt road at the beginning of the film and Chihiro says they’re lost, he responds with “Don’t worry, I’ve got four-wheel drive.” and proceeded to floor it. Again near the beginning, when the parents are eating all of the food, and Chihiro warns them that they’ll have to pay, he replies with, “Don’t worry, you’ve got Dad here. I’ve got credit cards and cash. “ The dad is emblematic of the themes that carry through the movie, that technology doesn’t solve problems and money isn’t the answer to everything, but they nailed that in all of three lines from him.
That said, the dad’s Audi is pretty nice. Those late 90s A4s were a classic style.
My daughter was terrified of the parents turning into pigs. It is scary in a “this is just too weird” kind of way, and the close up of the pig parents is intentionally horrifying, but I didn’t expect her to react so strongly to it. What I realized as the movie went on is that Chihiro doesn’t get a break for a long time. Until she washes the river spirt (which is, in itself, creepy) she’s dealing with weird monsters, terrifying heights, and the emotional drama of having watched her parents turn into pigs and being forced into indentured servitude. Compare that to something like the The Lion King, where Simba watches his dad die and 20 minutes later he’s singing “hakuna matata”.
My daughter, I think because Halloween is coming up, started listing the things she isn’t afraid of the other day, which went something like “not ghosts, not goblins, not alligators but I am afraid of crocodiles a little bit” and I guess she can add her parents turning into pigs on there with the Nile crocodiles now.
The only other movie we got to see this year for the Ghibli Fest was My Neighbor Totoro. It was definitely the better pick to see with a 4 year old, but even in that one there’s an extended scene where everyone thinks Mei has drowned, and while Totoro is fuzzy he’s far from warm and fuzzy. We missed Kiki’s Delivery Service but I’d like to watch it with her at some point, I recall it being the most Americanized of them, but who knows what parts I’ve forgotten that she’ll find strange.Permalink