Thoughts for the week’s end

Neko Case released The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You in 2013 and there was something about the mood on that album that I could completely zone out to with headphones while working in a loud environment. At the time, I would go to the student union at WSU and cruise through a bunch of code. When I took my headphones out a couple hours later, I felt like I was in a daze.

The last couple mornings have been filled with the sound of demolition work as our landlord took out our leaky shower to prep for a tiler. I’ve been able to sit at the table across the house with my headphones in, cruising through a bunch of code while listening to Jenny Lewis’s album from last year, On The Line, over and over. It’s extremely good.

The bass that plays—I can’t tell if it’s actually a bass or some other trick with a shattered speaker or something—at 3:37 and 3:48 on the track Dogwood stunned me enough that I kept going back to it. It’s really powerful.

The bass player credited on that track is Don Was and I spent more than a few minutes listening to other things on his list of credits to try and figure out if it was a thing. The track, Long Distance, off of Iggy Pop’s Avenue B album had similar bass-y vibes, but I wasn’t really sure and decided to get back to work.

I never thought until today whether “tiler” was actually a word. It is.

Don’t fall behind on tonight’s Iowa caucuses: Sign up to get alerts directly from our reporters as t…

A mobile notification from The NY Times, February 3, 2020 at 3:48pm PST

I almost laughed out loud when I received this notification from The NY Times on Monday. Fall behind?

I’m not sure what it is I fell behind on by not getting more alerts. I think I’ve grasped that Iowa was a cluster.

I did laugh out loud reading these recipes generated by AI.

It was also sometime around Monday that I saw the publication Delayed Gratification mentioned somewhere (I wish I remembered). It’s advertised as “slow journalism”: a “quarterly publication which revisits the events of the last three months to offer in-depth, independent journalism in an increasingly frantic world.”

I’m going to give it a shot because I appreciate the principle.

A bunch of nonsense somehow reminded me of early 2009, when Twitter was still innocent and Ashton Kutcher beat @cnnbrk to be the first account with a million followers. CNN was late enough to the game that it had just acquired the @cnnbrk account only a few days earlier—a previously unaffiliated account that had built up 900k followers just by tweeting CNN breaking news headlines.

Now every big news group writes full stories sourced almost solely on tweets that were sent just hours ago.

Not falling behind indeed.

Not everything needs an app. That could be a statement about the Iowa caucuses, but also!—I read the first half of Progressive Web Apps yesterday and, even though it’s a pretty high level overview, it provides some good food for thought.

I’ve been using Twitter’s PWA rather than the app for the last couple months and it’s been great. Every time I open the WordPress admin on my phone I think about how it’s not a PWA and in what ways I want to make it one.

I’m pretty sure there’s room for multiple apps. One of them specifically for simple posting without a bunch of options. Something to play with.

An important lens to look at Iowa with is how inaccessible the entire caucus process is to several groups of people. Washington state is using ballots state-wide for the first time this year and is pretty happy about that decision.

A very funny (🤔) thing about Washington is that primary ballots were still mailed out in previous years—that’s how I voted in the 2016 primary—they were just ignored in favor of the caucus results.

I literally found out today that my vote didn’t count.

Only a day after last week’s note, I discovered that TikTok is the reason the 1983 song, Break My Stride, was trending in Sweden—and continues to trend in many countries.

I came to this conclusion via Chris Heathcote’s weekly note, which I just learned of via things magazine. The BBC also wrote about it last week.

It’s interesting to think about the impacts that new mediums have on charts and other processes organized around old mediums.

Bonus: I also learned of Max Foster, a CNN correspondent who appears to have mastered how to be a 47 year old news person on TikTok.

This is a really nice coronavirus tracker (with a mobile version) from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins. An overview of the sourcing is in this blog post.

Is it a stretch to say that this is some of the best reporting done on the virus so far?

John le Carré was awarded the Olof Palme award this year and presented a beautiful, thought-provoking acceptance speech that reads as a biography of Olof Palme.

I’m a fan of Le Carré’s general use of language in his Smiley novels. This was heartwarming and inspiring to read.


Thoughts for the week's end

At 40, I haven’t yet reached “get off my lawn“, and I’m fairly sure I never will. That said, I have firmly and unabashedly established myself as “why aren’t you wearing a coat?” and “put on a hat, it’s freezing outside!

I’m nearing the half-way mark of The British are Coming, the first of a trilogy covering the American Revolution. It’s been very readable so far and I did not expect to be this captured by the story. War is obviously so much more complex than the sparse history lessons we get in high school.

The thought I keep going back to is how much communication was required and how absolutely slow it was—especially when transatlantic. I was similarly fascinated during Moby Dick at how whaling vessels at sea for years might trade letters from general mail bags intended for someone on the ship or where that ship was heading.

And in degree, all this will hold true concerning whaling vessels crossing each other’s track on the cruising-ground itself, even though they are equally long absent from home. For one of them may have received a transfer of letters from some third, and now far remote vessel; and some of those letters may be for the people of the ship she now meets.

Moby Dick, Chapter 53 – The Gam.

So of course I now want to read a history of mail delivery. I searched a bit and landed on this bibliography of material in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries National Postal Museum Branch, which has a large list of books that seem topical.

The one that immediately stood out is Alvin Harlow’s Old Post Bags: the Story of the Sending of a Letter in Ancient and Modern Times, written in 1928. There’s barely any information about Alvin Harlow or the book online, but the description is right on, so I’ve ordered a used copy and we’ll see where that takes me. 📮

Out of 59 total, this is only the fourth US presidential election we’ve experienced through Twitter and (effectively) Facebook. It’s just the sixth since more than half of the US had internet access. And it’s the sixteenth (effectively) that can be considered televised, though really only the eleventh since 24 hour news became a thing and the sixth since Fox News and MSNBC arrived to compete with CNN.

What does that mean? I’m thinking it’s along the lines of: we receive an onslaught of information daily, we haven’t really figured out how to process that information as a collective, we don’t appear to be getting better at it, and campaigns will just keep doing what they do to take advantage of that.

I reread The Butter Battle Book this week after a very interesting conversation about politics and super PACs and whether it was okay to do what it takes to win this election with the tools at hand even if you disagree with them in principle.

It remains a very good book.

This new research on the effectiveness of espresso grind size was surprisingly interesting to read even though I skipped a bunch of the math.

In a nutshell: a coarser grind may provide a more consistent flavor even though it’s widely accepted (assumed?) that a finer grind leads to a better extraction and taste. The authors acknowledge that taste can’t be objectively measured, and that coffees may need to change accordingly, but they make an interesting case for what a reduction of coffee bean use by 25% would mean financially and ecologically.

In Twitter’s early-ish days, Brizzly was a site that—among other things—provided explanations (with an API!) for topics that were trending. I’d like something similar for music charts—like, why is the 1983 song, Break My Stride, suddenly charting in Sweden?

Also, I didn’t realize that Brizzly came back! This time around: “Type what you’d like to say in the box and it instantly disappears when you send it.”

It’s interesting how when we first started Happy Prime, the total number of items that were even available to focus on was like 5. A couple years in and I look around and realize the number of items grew quickly.

My immediate reaction is that a larger number of items should lead to more stress. My counter-reaction is that the variety of those items has probably helped inspire confidence that things are working and thus less stress.

In a locked down train station, a homicide detective conducts an interview with a tormented monkey.

If you have 17 minutes and a strange and endearing fascination with David Lynch, “What Did Jack Do?” is for you.

You’re welcome. 🙊

Thoughts for the week's end

The facial recognition is completely out of control story from the NY Times was a terrifying way to start the week. It’s also not new. Previously terrifying: 2019 and 2018.

This whole piece on publishing in the last decade is really good. I hadn’t ever thought of ordering from Barnes & Noble as a way of pushing back against Amazon. I’ll keep IndieBound and the used bookstore down the street as my new defaults, but it’s nice to log other options.

The Washington Post’s candidate matching quiz was interesting. I matched with Warren for 14 of 20 questions. Biden and Buttigieg tied for last place at 7. How I match with Warren but agree more with two billionaires than Joe and Pete will remain a mystery. 🤷🏼‍♂️

I’ve barely paid attention to the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, but enjoyed reading Steve’s “MLB and the Astros Billionaire” and Om’s “Just get paid & our culture of lies“—both interesting and comprehensive takes.

I appreciate Steve’s idea of a post-season ban for cheaters. Om agrees the billionaire isn’t being blamed enough, though seems to put a bit more pressure on the players than I would.

How players act in these scenarios brings to mind Tyler Hamilton‘s excellent “The Secret Race“, in which he talks about cycling being the one thing he wants in the world and how hard it is as a newcomer to speak up when the veterans around you are all cheating. And then all of a sudden you’re in it and the circle continues.

The money is different in the MLB—I’m guessing fewer major league athletes are living out of vans—but the general pressure to comply must be intense.

I’m annoyed at how often I’ll reach for Twitter on any given day, so I added their AS number as one of Facebook’s in the script I use to block all Facebook traffic. My laptop is now Twitter and Facebook free.

I think I’m getting closer to wanting to find an alternative way to read Twitter. By turning off retweets and reducing the number of people I follow, there’s much less to keep up with.

And it worked! I updated this post with the above, closed the tab, and then immediately tried to open Twitter. Habits!

Donating to the ALA and FTRF 📚

I’d like to believe a bill like Missouri’s HB 2044, the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act”, has no chance of passing. State legislators often introduce things to spark headlines.

That said, Missouri is Missouri. (Sorry, Missourians)

Each public library shall establish a parental library review board

The board shall be composed of five adult residents of the public library’s geographical area.

The board shall determine whether any sexual material provided to the public by the public library is age-inappropriate sexual material.

The board may order any material deemed to be age-inappropriate sexual material to be removed from public access by minors at the public library.

Any public library personnel who willfully neglects or refuses to perform any duty imposed on a public library under this section, or who willfully violates any provision of this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year.

Selected sections from the full text of HB 2044.

There’s much more text in the bill, but that’s the gist. Parental boards are formed to determine what books should end up on a future “can you believe this book was actually banned back then” lists. If a librarian provides access to a banned book, they pay a fine or go to jail.

Anyhow. The American Library Association has a page with a very large number of projects you can donate to. Seems like as good a time as any.

I’m allocating part of my donation to the “Freedom to Read Foundation”, which is listed under the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and “supports the right of libraries to collect – and individuals to access – information“. The FTRF has its own site as well.

And I’m allocating another portion to the “21st Century Fund”, which is unrestricted and gives the “ALA the flexibility to respond quickly to unanticipated challenges.”

I’ve bookmarked HB 2044 to check in on it every once and a while, though I’m hopeful it remains in its current form (or disappears) as just another reason for me to show my support for libraries. 📚

Webmentions work log 20200117

I hadn’t taken a close look at the IndieWeb comments documentation when I marked up the latest version of comments for this site last week. Today I’m going to follow some of the advice Chris had and stare closer at some prior art.

My first objective is to remove all of the unnecessary classes added to comments by WordPress through comment_class(). To aid in helpful front-end styling, things like odd, even, bypostauthor, and a handful of others are automatically added. I’m doing anything fancy, so I removed pretty much everything and went with a default of class="u-comment h-cite".

Much of the markup around this has things like u-like and u-url and h-cite and I knew there had to be some reasoning, but hadn’t bothered to actually dig in to what it all means. Today I found the documentation for microformat prefixes and everything makes a lot more sense. Go figure.

This list is mostly a reproduction of the one on that page.

  • h- for root class names like h-entry or h-cite
  • u- for URL class names like u-url. This makes the least immediate sense to me because I’m putting things like u-like and u-mention at the <article> level rather the URLs it wraps, though that might be the intention—this container has URLs.
  • dt- for datetime properties, which I use on the <time> element.
  • p- for plain text.
  • e- for element tree properties, or basically: contains HTML.

I’m happy I spent some time actually staring at this. I’ve been “familiar” in the sense that I’ve used the markup for years, but I haven’t paid close enough attention to things like p- and e- prefixes.

My initial version of comments had the comment text wrapped in a .comment-content container. I first switched that with .p-content today before reading the prefix spec. Because I made the decision to add paragraph markup to webmention content and allow things like URLs, I decided .e-content would be the most accurate fit and switched things again.

I then noticed a comment by Tantek on the IndieWeb comments page saying that .h-entry is probably better for comments written on the actual site while .h-cite is best for comments that have a canonical location elsewhere. I went ahead and added a detection for “standard” comments and injected .h-entry for those.

WordPress’s comment type detection is um, yeah.

The comment_type column can be empty, “pingback”, or “trackback” by default. I think this column alone is probably the most annoying thing about even starting with comment types. I left a comment on the associated ticket along those lines.

For now I assume comments that have no comment_type and have a meta key of protocol with the value webmention as added by the webmention plugin are in fact webmentions. Those use .h-cite and other comments with an empty comment_type use .h-entry.

Things are looking a bit cleaner in the source now, or at least making a bit more sense. I’m going to ship that and head over to watch some basketball and stew on why college athletics don’t have URLs to individual events. 🙄

I’ll plan on creating a post type this weekend that I can use for dedicated replies and likes. Sounds like a party. 🎉