Thoughts for the week’s end

The new Best Coast album, Always Tomorrow, is a nice rock album. I get some fun hints of Whitechocolatespaceegg era Liz Phair.

When I schedule a post in Gutenberg, leading zeros are stripped from the input for minute. This happens only in Firefox, which appears to treat input type="number" as an actual integer. Chrome seems to treat it as numeric, but accepts a string.

I reported the issue a little while ago, but ran into a nice article that explains why the Gov.UK design team went back to input type="text".

I hadn’t realized that inputmode="numeric" was a thing and I only vaguely remember seeing the pattern attribute before. Cool stuff!

I wrote up a silly question wondering if a roof spoiler would do anything to prevent heat loss. Jake responded with a great—”Spoiler alert”—and let me know it’s not a thermodynamics problem, but a heat exchange problem. He then lent me this super cool Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 pyrometer which I’ve been using to measure the temperature of pretty much every surface in the house.

I still want to sit down and do some math at some point, but the craziest thing I found is how most of our windows seem to do a pretty good job of being almost the same temperature as the walls on the inside. But! The skylight is always only a few degrees warmer than the outside temperature. So the nice window that lets in daylight appears to be allowing heat to just stream on through it as well.

So my guess is now that replacing that skylight would do more than a roof spoiler. Also, I’m buying one of these pyrometers because it’s super fun.

Another silly question hit my head that same day. How quickly does light pollution disappear?

It seems like it should be as simple as “at the speed of light”, but how far does that light have to travel before it doesn’t affect our theoretical view of the night sky given that our eyes would magically adjust immediately? Does light even work that way? I’m guessing milliseconds (microseconds?).

It’s fascinating to think that so few of us who live in or near cities have had the opportunity to see the Milky Way. And how upside down our world might feel if it appeared all of a sudden.

If I was the authoritarian mayor of a town.

Cars with GPS controlled speed limiters would be permitted on city streets. Others could park in lots at the edge of town and take a bus or tram to the center. The closer cars get to city center, the closer to walking speed the speed limiter is set. It would take you 5-10 minutes to drive through the center of a small town, and that’s okay.

A draft plan to reduce Pullman’s very car-centric Main Street down to two one-way lanes rather than three was approved by city council. I hope progress continues. It’s amazing how much land is dedicated to the movement of cars.

We watched David Byrne’s True Stories last weekend and it was so great. The general commentary on consumerism still fits after 34 years. The mall scene is a good preview.

When I posted a clip from the movie in Slack, Phil shared Byrne’s performance of I Wanna Dance With Somebody. It too is very well done and I’ve had the song in my head for almost a week now.

After watching that video, I looked up Byrne’s record label, Luaka Bop, and found both Bremer/McCoy’s Utopia and Domenico Lancellotti’s The Good is a Big God nice listens during the day. Marketing on band shirts works!

Thoughts for the week’s end

I knew nothing about land-grant universities before I started working at WSU. Of course Stephen promised me (and followed through on) a commitment to open source and I was convinced that we had an excellent opportunity to help people share their work, but I still had a lot to learn. I absorbed those lessons quickly enough that I felt comfortable giving a talk at WordCamp San Francisco a year later on how the ethos of open source aligns with the ethos of land-grant.

It may go without saying how much I believe that the ethos of free and open source software aligns with the University’s land-grant mission of advancing communities through the sharing of our work.

Me, resigning.

While I was poking around at some old documents this week, as part of the never-ending (or starting) task to organize things stored in the cloud, I stumbled upon the resignation letter I submitted when I left WSU and was happy to see that I even included my feelings there. That line was followed with some thinly veiled snark about hoping the university continued to embrace that ethos.

The web department may have been losing some of its ability to drive change—or I may have been sapped of the energy to fight for it, but that general ethos remains an important part of the greater institution and the people who work there. That’s why I still root for WSU and still love seeing stories like the one this week about the Bread Lab and it’s work in producing an affordable whole-grain sandwich bread. It’s cool to see a collective of bread producers around the country working toward a common goal.

I’m looking forward to trying out King Arthur Flour’s version of the recipe.

Speaking of land-grants, I’ve been absorbing the content from Colorado State’s massive billiards resource for the last couple weeks. It’s so great.

And! Brian Boyer’s tweet: “The best things on the internet are published by university extension programs.”

I’ll stop soon, I promise. But “Clipping a Dog’s Claws” was consistently one of the most visited pages in the WSU ecosystem. People want useful and accurate information. Land-grant universities share work with the community by definition.

I pulled out my very dusty from sitting on a shelf 2011-era Macbook Air so that I could connect a DVD drive via USB and two things…

How sad is it that the fancy expensive USB-C dongle for my Macbook Pro won’t supply the required power for this DVD drive to work.

But the real point is that the keyboard remains fantastic. I love typing on that Macbook Air and I’m happy that I’ve kept it around. If I ever decide to write a novel, this would be the laptop to do it on.

It’s so weird that I bought a DVD drive in 2020 and signed up for Netflix DVD for the first time in 15 (?) years just so that I could rent a movie that I used to own but got rid of because “you’ll be able to stream everything in the future!” 🏴‍☠️

When I first starting writing these weekly posts, the ' character was in the title. For the last couple of weeks that ' has been converted into a when I save the first draft.

I’m not versed enough in Gutenberg’s organization to know where to look. In the olden days, I’d use git bisect to figure this out in a few minutes. Check out a revision, refresh, check out a revision, refresh. The world of node_modules makes me think this is less easy now.

I need to spend some time figuring out the right workflow for the new world.

Very excited to learn this week that the back of a Google Pixel 3 shatters just as well as the front. 🤦‍♂️

It may be that this phone is cursed. I dropped my Pixel 2 and broke the screen, but because it was already paid off I went ahead and waited out the few months until the Pixel 3 was released rather than pay the fee for the replacement.

Then I dropped the Pixel 3—at less than a year old—and shattered the screen. This time I was well within the replacement period, so I paid $99 for the exchange. But the refurbished phone I received had a strange issue where it would flash bright green repeatedly.

Google kindly sent another (I think new) phone to replace that one, but in the day or few that I had both, I was carrying the old one because I hadn’t yet transferred all of my 2FA stuff and it fell out of my bag while I crossed the street and went straight down a sewer drain.

That was a strange feeling. It was like I had thrown $900 into a sewer drain.

Luckily, Pullman’s sewer drains aren’t secured shut in any way and Michelle and I were able to find it. Here I am, 3 months later, and the replacement has a shattered back!

I’m grateful that I pay $5/month for the extended warranty and that Google only charges $99 to replace a cracked screen/back. And I’m grateful that the replacement will be here almost 24 hours later.

But yeesh, let this be the last time!

Of all the people in the world to go to bat for… Rod Blagojevich? As a resident of Illinois for my first 31 years, I feel personally attacked.

There was a moment when we were told Bloomberg might run for president when, even as a fairly staunch anti-billionaire, I thought to myself… “maybe?”

Of course, then—ignoring, for now, the person he is—his campaign started buying influence via meme (sorry, two weeks in a row with that one) and anyone sitting back to calculate the math of what it means to be a political candidate “worth” 60 billion dollars can come to the conclusion that the campaign can effectively last forever while spending gobs more money than anyone who is not a billionaire.

So, okay. That’s irritating and disgusting and not the world I want.

After Wednesday night’s debate, Bloomberg’s campaign released a doctored video that implies all other candidates stared blankly when Bloomberg talked about being the only one that had started a business.

Which gets under my skin so much more than I should allow it to. A person with virtually unlimited campaign funds intentionally spreading misinformation to millions of people to influence an election in his favor. Four years after an election that was swamped with intentional misinformation. 🤮

I still think of Project Nebraska every time I get snarky.

We were walking in the neighborhood tonight—it’s actually getting warm enough and light enough for evening walks!—and saw our first Bloomberg 2020 sign in a yard. My snark came out as: “I wonder how much he paid them to put that up.”

On a positive note, I finally finished Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, who I hadn’t read before. I don’t think I understood much of the book’s references, and it took me a while to read, but it was interesting in many parts and contained a handful of moments I was not expecting that caused me to actually say “oh shit!” out loud while reading. 📚

Thoughts for the week’s end

I tweeted the most clever tweet of all time in reaction to Bloomberg’s meme buys:

“The muck has run amok.”

The combination of words is so obvious, but the only other actual mention of this phrase I can find on the internet is in a reply to a house pond cleaning question—almost as clever.

The story of how the CIA owned a company that made and distributed encryption machines and cipher devices to other governments and then at back and listened is so disturbing and amazing.

For every argument that happens in public around “the danger of” versus “the need for” backdoors in encrypted systems, there are probably dozens of other instances where it just happens in plain sight.

These stories always remind me of Simon Singh‘s very interesting and readable The Code Book, a very nice tour of cryptography’s history (until the 1990s). It’d be fun if he wrote an update to cover the last 20 years.

Nicole He used AI to generate interview questions for Billie Eilish on behalf of Vogue. Billie played the part well and gave some nice answers.

“Who consumed so much of your power in one go?” struck me as such an utterly deep ask. Pondering something like that may be good for looking out in the future.

Also: Nicole He has the best personal domain: 🍕

Unfortunately (or fortunately?),, like, is one of those that appears to be already claimed but forever unused.

If I’m not careful, I’m going to think of another way of comparing all but unused “premium” domains to all but abandoned properties on main street.

We watched Parasite during the Oscars last week and it was absolutely deserving of every award it won and more. The way it unfolded was just fantastic. This overview of watching Parasite as a Korean, with an understanding of the linguistic nuances, makes it that much more impressive.

I’m looking forward to watching more of Bong Joon-ho‘s movies. We’ve had The Host on our list for a bit and I remember really thinking about seeing Snowpiercer several times, but also thinking it was too campy for some reason. Time to move them both up in the queue!

I’m playing pool again and it’s the best thing ever. There’s a draft post for that!


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. 🙊