Book cover for Devil House by John Darnielle

★★★★☆

Devil House

by John Darnielle

Really enjoyed this. Better than Universal Harvester and on par with Wolf in White Van.

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Book cover for The Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford

The Atlas of AI

by Kate Crawford

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so much to pay for

how do I save when there’s so much to pay for?

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – Hand to God

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source-target icon #43 ~ fun with flowcharts

If I’m honest, I don’t wake up everyday thinking, “how can I help people build flowcharts today?”

Life is an unending, interminable, unrepentant, flow of dependencies. To do this, I have to do that. I can’t start something until I’ve completed something else.

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Book cover for New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

★★★☆☆

New York 2140

by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Book cover for Man Descending by Guy Vanderhaeghe

★★★☆☆

Man Descending

by Guy Vanderhaeghe

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Book cover for Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Undrowned

by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

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Book cover for Busy Doing Nothing by Rekka Bellum and Devine Lu Linvega

★★★★☆

Busy Doing Nothing

by Rekka Bellum and Devine Lu Linvega

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source-target icon #42 ~ decisions, decisions

On the decisions in filmmaking and data visualization projects.

“I’m sorry, Tom Hanks says you have dead eyes. We’re going in a different direction.”

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Book cover for Hell Yeah Or No by Derek Sivers

Hell Yeah Or No

by Derek Sivers

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Book cover for Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

★★★★☆

Small Giants

by Bo Burlingham

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source-target icon #41 ~ livin’ la vida datos

I read Living in Data by Jer Thorp and I loved it.

100,000 years ago, early humans were using a blend of red iron oxide, charcoal and bone marrow as a form of paint. Around 40,000 years later an improved mixture of materials such as sap, blood and berry juice was used on cave walls for creative depictions of hunters and herders.

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vocal point

Certain voices stick in your mind. It could be the tone or the surprising emphasis on certain syllables. Sometimes a timbre or an unusual gutteral inflection.

I swear I read an interview with John Darnielle where he recommended “staying out of the results” but I can’t find it now. I can hear him saying it though!

Stay owt … … of the re-sUlts

To me this means having a dispassionate relationship with your work and the effect it has on others. For an artist with a passionate fanbase like The Mountain Goats it’s classic “Death of the Artist” at play – your work will resonate in ways you can’t, and shouldn’t, predict.

For someone like me, it’s about working on something that resonates for me and assuming those vibrations will find a home – even at another wavelength – with others.

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Book cover for Raincoast Chronicles 11 by Howard White

★★★★★

Fantastic tales of whalers, loggers, hoax real estate and a cast of coastal characters.

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Book cover for Actual Air by David Berman

Actual Air

by David Berman

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source-target icon #40 ~ semantic surfing

Surfing networks, language curiosities and the growing world of "knowlege" "graphs"

Last week I took a long weekend to go surfing in beautiful Tofino. It’s still winter so there’s no way to avoid a thick wetsuit, hood and gloves. It’s been a few years since I last tried it and while I’m only marginally better than I remember, there’s something about the randomness and persistence of the waves that makes it addictive. Falling asleep at night I can still feel the waves rushing towards me (just before another mouthful of saltwater.)

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Book cover for The Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

★★★★☆

The Sputnik Sweetheart

by Haruki Murakami

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Book cover for Living in Data by Jer Thorp

★★★★★

Living in Data

by Jer Thorp

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hocket

Hocket (n)

a spasmodic or interrupted effect in medieval and contemporary music, produced by dividing a melody between two parts, notes in one part coinciding with rests in the other

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or console.log()

When debugging JavaScript I often find myself swapping arrow functions to old-school ones simply to log variables. But there’s no need! console.log returns undefined so one can simply OR a console.log call to get it to print out before the real return!

promise.then((response) => console.log(response) || response.data.test);

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source-target icon #39 ~ deep bluetooth sea

A web of plastic, ocean networks and too many crabs

One small but inconvenient pandemic shift is that I’ve found it to be much harder to leave the house without forgetting something. I’m not leaving the house as much, so it’s a novelty to do the usual wallet / phone / keys check. I stepped out to run some errands the other day under an overcast sky. I didn’t get very far before my phone vibrated to tell me that I’d left my keys behind.

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my wheel

I may be just reinventing the wheel, but it’s my wheel!

Hammerspoon: Handling Windows and Layouts

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Book cover for LaserWriter II by Tamara Shopsin

★★☆☆☆

LaserWriter II

by Tamara Shopsin

I expected to love this but the “cast of characters in a quirky company” vibe never quite landed for me.

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Book cover for Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

★★★★★

Four Thousand Weeks

by Oliver Burkeman

Okay, okay this is the first and last time management/productivity book I’ll read this year. But it’s pretty good! An antidote to the others, Burkeman describes the sheer finite nature of our time on this planet and makes recommendations to overcome the fatigue of overflowing todo lists.

Decline to clear the decks

Make it a conscious decision to “tolerate the discomfort” of less important tasks building up while you focus on the most important things.

The measure of any time management technique is: “Does it help you neglect the right things?” To take a phrase from financial planning you should pay yourself first and prioritise the things you want to do over the less important things you feel you should be doing.

Pitfalls of convenience

We have a dependence on technology that makes it convenient to eat, travel and live. Silicon Valley builds products to remove pain points but it’s the brokenness of everyday processes that make us human. By relying on technology to make every process smooth we remove the delicate social threads binding a network together, binding a neighbourhood together.

David Cain on happenstance

I happen to be alive, and there’s no cosmic law entitling me to that status. Being alive is just happenstance, and not one more day of it is guaranteed.

Warren Buffett

Make a list of the top twenty-five things that are most important to you. Top five are the crucial use of your time, discard the rest as they are just a distraction.

Idleness aversion

“Core ingredient of the modern soul.”

Developing patience

  1. Develop a taste for having problems
  2. Embrace radical incrementalism; focus on brief, regular actions over trying to do too much at once
  3. Originality lies on the far side of unoriginality, “stay on the fucking bus!”

Time is a “network good”

Value is derived from how many others have access to it too. Same for phones and social media networks.

Chain of centennial lifespans

Egocentricity bias

We look after ourselves to give the best chances of staying alive. This is in contrast to our sheer insignificance.

Five questions to consider

  1. Where are you pursuing comfort when you should pursue discomfort? Choose uncomfortable enlargement over comfortable diminishment.
  2. Are you holding yourself to standards of productivity and performance that are impossible to meet?
  3. In what ways have you accepted who you are, not who you think you ought to be?
  4. What areas are you holding back until you feel like you konw what you’re doing?
  5. Without worrying about actions reaching fruition, how would you spend your days? Do the next and most necessary thing.

Recommended steps

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source-target icon #38 ~ through a fog

Zooming out, finding commonality and the surprising benefits of having a foggy outlook.

Hello and welcome to my new subscribers! It’s been a while so just a quick intro to start: this is source/target, an occasional newsletter on network thinking. There’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom but I hope you’ll stick around.

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volunteering?.

The real-life impact of our technical decisions really hit home to me once again: my Mom had trouble volunteering and participating in her local community because somebody shipped the optional chaining operator in their production JavaScript.

The Optional Chaining Operator, “Modern” Browsers, and My Mom

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Book cover for Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson

★★★★☆

Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me)

by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson

This book was fantastic. A deep dive into how people self-justify their actions and the cognitive dissonance they are comfortable living with.

Pyramids

The guiding metaphor of this book has been the pyramid of choice: As soon as people make a decision, whether reasoned or impulsive, they will change their attitudes to conform to that choice and start minimizing or dismissing any information suggesting they chose the wrong option.

Imagination Inflation

more you imagine something, the more confident you become that it really happened—and the more likely you are to inflate it into an actual memory, adding details as you go

Benevolent Dolphin Problem

A fun shorthand example for confirmation bias.

There are stories of dolphins helping nudge shipwrecked humans to safety. To accept this as evidence they like humans we would need to know about cases where dolphins have caused harm and, ultimately, have killed humans. But

We don’t know about those cases because the swimmers don’t live to tell us about their evil-dolphin experiences.

Arrogance Control

At its core, therefore, science is a form of arrogance control.

Retaliation

We can all understand why victims would want to retaliate. But retaliation often makes the original perpetrators minimize the severity and harm of their side’s actions and claim the mantle of victim themselves, thereby setting in motion a cycle of oppression and revenge. “Every successful revolution,” observed the historian Barbara Tuchman, “puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed.” Why not? The victors, former victims, feel justified.

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photos/screenshots

photos are just screenshots you take of real life

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Eleventy Little

A project to build shouty little presentations using Eleventy. Makes text as large as possible and includes website screenshots, syntax highlighting and some basic theming.

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making slides with eleventy

I’ve previously used Tom MacWright’s big tool to make simple, text-heavy presentations with from plain HTML and a sprinkling of JavaScript. As someone who deliberates over slide layouts and procrastinates practice by tweaking text alignments it’s very helpful!

Preparing for a talk on the static site generator, Eleventy, I wondered if I could apply the same concepts to building a slide deck as I have for my Eleventy sites. The main benefits to me were to allow slides to be written in Markdown and provide a base configuration to sprinkle extra Eleventy magic like shortcodes in the future.

I tried a few approaches to massage the Markdown input into the format that made the most sense for Eleventy. I rabbit-holed a few times with the HTML transformations required and hacking the copied version of client-side big.js into something I fully understood.

Is it better than big? I don’t think so. Was it fun to build? Yes. Will I use it in the future? Probably!

Check it out over at eleventy-little.

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Eleven Reasons to Love Eleventy

On November 29th I gave a talk at the CambridgeJS meetup on a favourite topic of mine: the static site generator Eleventy. I gave it the listicle-adjacent title “Eleven Reasons to Love Eleventy” but I didn’t go to great lengths to declare what each of these were.

Slides and notes from my presentation are available but I wanted to spell out the bones of my talk and record the magnificent Eleven for posterity.

Simple & Flexible

Eleventy is a super simple static site generator. In short it takes input files like Markdown and converts it into website. Critically no boilerplate or JavaScript code is included by default which give a really great base to add whatever bits and pieces you wish to add to your site.

Unopinionated Templates

Unlike other static site generators, Eleventy supports many template languages out of the box. My preference is Nunjucks, a reasonably intuitive language to do a sort of meta-programming on top of whatever file you wish to generate.

Eleventy allows you to use a blend of different templating languages in one site. One benefit of this flexibility is that it makes the process of migrating over from a alternative generator a cinch: you can “progressively” migrate content and formats as needed.

Written in JavaScript

Eleventy is written in JavaScript and it’s easy to use the language to do core configuration of your site. Custom shortcodes – snippets that can be expanded into wider markup from a small string can also be written in JavaScript along with transforms. These allow you to transform your HTML before being output in your application.

The Eleventy documentation takes care to note it is not a JavaScript framework itself. By being in the JavaScript ecosystem, Eleventy allows you to leverage the depth and breadth of packages available on NPM.

As you define every bit of code and markup that ends up on your website you it’s not uncommon to find yourself writing more JavaScript used to generate your site than actually deployed to end users.

Pagination

Eleventy pagination makes it easy to split collections of materials into chunks for your site. It can also be used to create multiple outputs for the same input – I use it to generate OpenGraph images for social sharing and email markup for my newsletter.

Data Cascade

Underpinning every Eleventy configuration is a flow of data from a variety of different sources and blended together according to a hierarchy of inheritance. For the best summary of what this means check out Ben Myer’s full coverage.

Extensible

Eleventy doesn’t care about the other libraries and tooling you may wish to use. There are countless starter templates covering a wide variety, from Gulp to PostCSS, Tailwind to Vite. As an extra bonus many of these have full marks over on Google Lighthouse.

Plugins

There are a wealth of fantastically useful plugins for Eleventy. Many plugins are official ones solving real problems in convenient and modular packages.

To give two examples: Eleventy Image makes it easy to generate modern image formats and necessary markup. Eleventy Syntax Highlighting makes it easy to add language highlighting in code snippets without requiring client-side JavaScript.

Accessibility

The documentation and ethos of Eleventy prioritises and promotes accessibility when building websites. Official plugins like Inclusive Language normalize considering accessible language when writing content for an Eleventy site. As per the documentation (emphasis mine):

It’s very important that we take responsibility for the code we publish and deliver and strive to correct accessibility issues with the same veracity as a full service outage.

Fast

I’m a nosy web browser – whenever I come across a site that impresses me I reach for one of my favourite Firefox extensions: Wappalyzer. This takes an educated guess at the technologies used to build sites. A site built with Eleventy will have very few “tells” that give away it’s generator and it’s invariably the fastest sites that don’t have anything in their Wappalyzer results.

On the other (server) side – Eleventy builds are very quick to run and will provide pointers if particular configurations start to slow down the build.

Community

My experience with the Eleventy ecosystem is that of collaboration and camaraderie in the name of making great websites. The Eleventy community Discord is friendly and the regular Eleventy meetups are supportive and welcoming.

It’s Fun

Finally I find that the documentation and general ethos of Eleventy is fun – from the reassuring possum mascot to irreverant humor sprinkled around the documentation.

I like to say that Eleventy sites are “hand-crafted but not by hand.” By being in full control of the process outputs it’s fun to build sites that have everything you need and nothing you don’t.

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interactively delete all node_modules folders

npx npkill

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macOS keyboard shortcut for dictionary and thesaurus

CTRL + CMD + D

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great mistakes

My handwriting isn’t very good. You might even go so far to say it’s bad. I remember being told to write my name again and again at school as I couldn’t seem to get my cursive to a good enough quality for my teacher. After years of preferring to hammer away with the clacky safety of a keyboard I find myself reaching for a pen a lot more often than ever before. I scratch away with a feisty little compact fountain pen in a little journal and dabble with sketching pictures as a form of self-acceptance for a handwriting ability I was always ashamed of.

At this time of year my usual error is to coast into a “Christian” when I mean to write “Christmas,” but writing a handful of cards today my mind wandered and I slipped out a “great” when I meant to write “grateful.” I stared blankly at the page and considered scrapping the card in favour of a clean slate – a fresh card without evidence of err.

It’s hard to make this sort of error when typing an email. You may make typos but you’ll summon the squiggly reds and some forgiving, trusty backspacing will make everything okay. The tablet I use for sketching has a helpful undo button but every press and resulting removal of the last stroke feels like a cheat, a betrayal of the intent of the moment.

I leaned into the “great” mistake and made it part of the message with a splotch of extra ink. I don’t think it looked bad. In fact, in some small way, I think it made it better.

When writing a card my handwriting is me, writing a card, by hand. Making mistakes is okay.

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Book cover for Doing Content Right by Steph Wright

Doing Content Right

by Steph Wright

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Book cover for The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

★★★★☆

The Mom Test

by Rob Fitzpatrick

Short and sweet, the core few concepts in this book resonated with me and have clear applications in sales. The title and main conceit is a touch misogynistic, sure, but the author isn’t the first to recommend speaking to someone unfamiliar with a topic to gauge quality.

A recent New York Magazine article about the late “anarchic anthropologist” David Graeber, notes the use of his mother Ruth as an influence on his work:

Ruth herself never went to college. She was a constant reader, however, and years later, she was the audience her son kept in mind when he wrote. Graeber, Leve recalls, used to say that “if he understood something, he should be able to write it in a way that would be accessible and interesting to her.”

My main takeaway is that it’s easy to lead people to say the things they think you want to hear.

The Mom Test

Rules of The Mom Test:

  1. Talk about their life instead of your idea
  2. Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future
  3. Talk less and listen more

It’s easy to get someone emotional about a problem if you lead them there.

Good questions about them:

Avoiding bad data

“Venture capitalists are described as professional judges of the future” – I like that.

Sometimes people will discuss a problem that irritates them but they would have no intent of buying a solution to that problem.

that person is a complainer, not a customer. They’re stuck in the la-la-land of imagining they’re the sort of person who finds clever ways to solve the petty annoyances of their day.

It’s recommended to cut off pitches as early as possible:

Being pitchy is the dark side of the “seeking approval” coin. Instead of inviting compliments by being vulnerable, you’re demanding them by being annoying. It’s when you hold someone hostage and won’t let them leave until they’ve said they like your idea. Normally, compliments are well-intentioned. In this case, they’re just trying to get you out of their office. “Won’t-take-no-for-an-answer” is generally a good quality for a founder to have. But when it creeps into a conversation that’s meant to be about learning, it works against you.

Asking important questions

Avoid prematurely zooming – that is getting into the weeds hearing what you want to hear.

When you fall into a premature zoom, you can waste a ton of time figuring out the minutia of a trivial problem. Even if you learn everything there is to know about that particular problem, you still haven’t got a business

If you ask When he talked to farmers, he asked questions like, “Would you switch trackers if something cheaper and more effective was available?” That’s the same as asking someone whether they would like more money.

Commitment and advancement

It’s on you to get a commitment. This can take many forms:

Time commitments

Reputation risk commitments:

Financial commitments:

Good rule of thumb:

It’s not a real lead until you’ve given them a concrete chance to reject you.

Finding conversations

The author discusses some strategies to talk to potential customers about your idea.

Be persistent:

Unless your plan is to sell your app via cold calls, the rejection rate is irrelevant.

Strategy for conversations is summarised as Vision / Framing / Weakness / Pedestal / Ask

Don’t mention your product, just your vision:

You’re an entrepreneur trying to solve horrible problem X, usher in wonderful vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z.

Frame expectations:

mention what stage you’re at and, if it’s true, that you don’t have anything to sell.

Show weakness:

give them a chance to help by mentioning the specific problem that you’re looking for answers on. This will also clarify that you’re not a time waster.

Put them on a pedestal:

show how much they, in particular, can help. Explicitly ask for help.

In terms of mindset, don’t go into these discussions looking for customers. It creates a needy vibe and forfeits the position of power. Instead, go in search of industry and customer advisors. You are just trying to find helpful, knowledgable people who are excited about your idea.

Running the process

When all the customer learning is stuck in someone’s head instead of being disseminated to the rest of the team, you’ve got a learning bottleneck. Avoid creating (or being) the bottleneck. To do that, the learning must be shared with the entire founding team promptly and faithfully, which depends on good notes plus a bit of pre- and post-meeting work.

Conclusion

You’re never going to be perfect, but it always helps to be better.

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Data journalism in a nutshell

There are some interesting things about this chart!

Habits of highly effective HN submitters

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karl pilkington

I keep thinking about Adam Buxton quoting Karl Pilkington.

People don’t like it if they think you’re trying too hard

It’s part of a podcast on Adam’s craft of writing silly jingles and he’s describing an encounter years ago where Karl gives him some advice at the XFM radio station.

(In that same episode Adam notes the value of sticking at something – persistency!)

I’ve started listening again to the recordings of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant & Karl Pilkington from their weekly show on XFM from the early 'aughts. I’m sure I’ve listened to the whole archive at least once – there’s an air of deep familiarity about the whole thing. Last night one comment stopped me in my tracks and made me feel old. In his usual laconic drawl Karl recounts being stopped in the street by someone asking if he practices meditation and “knows how to breathe.” There’s a pause and Karl says

I’m thirty

As well as being hilarious it’s shocking to me that Karl was just 30 as his fame was growing due to his exposure via proximity to Ricky.

Strange things can make you reflect on time passing, I guess this is just one for me.

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Interactively update all node modules

yarn upgrade-interactive --latest

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Book cover for Make Time by Jake Knapp

Make Time

by Jake Knapp

A few good insights to start but quickly devolved into listicle-worthy life hacks.

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newsletters I like

I get a small amount of joy from the handful of newsletters I subscribe to. Here they are in no particular order.

Drawing Links

Drawing Links is the newsletter I recommend to everyone. Subscribe for little comic strip vignettes from Edith’s day-to-day accompanied by high-quality recommendations and her sharp eye for humour.

Dense Discovery

Dense Discovery is a blend of productivity and design along with a smattering of climate and environmental coverage. It’s one of the more beautiful emails I receive and, arriving on Monday, it slots comfortably into my inbox as I start my week.

HN Blogs

This newsletter feels like a secret: Paul collates submissions to Hacker News that point to personal and independent sites. By avoiding the links that ascended to the front page it’s a helpful look at the nearly-made-its.

The signal-to-noise ratio is skewed slightly to the noise, but it’s smaller compared to the Hacker News firehose. I’ve found a wealth of interesting views and people through this newsletter.

Hello from Duncan

Duncan’s newsletter helped me appreciate the value of working in public. In it he recounts and discusses that which he’s worked on in the last 10 days. Since reading the reborn version of his newsletter I’ve understood better how I work and reflected on how I can be a better contributor to projects.

Reply All

I don’t remember actively registering for this newsletter and I stopped listening to Reply All a while ago but I let these recommendations slip into my inbox as they’re often good value. It’s funny to see the creep of Spotify links into the recommendations since the acquisition.

Today in Tabs

A relative newbie, it took me a few editions to appreciate the zippy, irreverent Today in Tabs from Rusty Foster. I’m since a convert, Rusty lives and breathes misanthropic internet and exudes equal parts joy and disdain for the world wide web in 2021.

Like an overstuffed tab bar of pages you promise you’ll read, each edition groans under the weight of itself. I always get a mixed wave of disappointment/relief when I reach the end.

An Irritable Métis

I love Chris La Tray’s writing and appreciate his perspective on some important topics. Arresting and disarming.

Exclusive Content by Megan Koester

Exclusive Content is exhausting. Acting as a biographical outlet, commentary on the dysfunctional comedy industry and scathing look at late-stage capitalism, Koester’s emails are an (un)healthy dose of anger and skepticism.

Unsupervised Learning

Daniel Miessler’s weekly email summarizing news on cybersecurity and technology was the first newsletter I subscribe to where I realized people were committing to writing and creating a newsletter.

Miessler does a great job at giving enough commentary on news to be helpful but not overbearing.

Where’s Your Ed At?

When I first read Ed Zitron’s newsletter I was turned off by his tendency to ramble. Recently, however, he’s truly knocked “it” out of the park with some head-turning takes on remote work and related topics. It’s refreshing to read someone so utterly committed to their takes and I like that.

Money Stuff

I subscribed to Money Stuff years ago but had to cut it loose after feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume and quality of this daily newsletter. I picked it up again this year during the GameStop chaos and find it a really rewarding read. Levine’s writing is superb and I’m constantly in awe of his voice and ability to explain. It’s also really funny!

Noah Kalina

I find this newsletter a little infuriating – it seems so effortless. Photographer Noah Kalina shares some photos and a short commentary on life’s mundane side quests. It always makes me smile.

Laura Olin

An airy mix of internet and art, Laura Olin’s newsletter is short and well-crafted.

Data is Plural

A fantastic newsletter and resource: Jeremy Singer-Vine curates and provides links to datasets available online. It’s an impeccable treasure trove of real-world data.

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instapaper bankruptcy

I love taking longform articles and newsletters over to Instapaper for some calm, distraction-free reading. But my backlog of articles was gnawing at me. Would I ever read everything in there? Probably not. I occasionally tried the “read a random article” in a vain attempt to slice through some ancient article artifact from 2019 but it was like bailing a boat with a teacup – a flood of pushes from my browser would offset any work I could skim away.

I have three solutions to this problem:

  1. Be more mindful about what I save – will I actually read this?
  2. Be more ruthless about not reading something if it doesn’t pique my interest in the first few paragraphs.
  3. Wipe out the backlog! There’s a helpful “Archive All” option. Since invoking that I feel so much better.

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wrong information

“We, and I personally, believe very strongly that more information is better, even if it’s wrong. Let’s start from the premise that more information, more empowerment, is fundamentally the correct answer"

Eric Schmidt

I can get behind this in an “information just wants to be free” sense but it’s a strange position. If we could easily classify and label wrong information as such then the existence of it could help explain actions and feelings. But that classification is hard and takes time, meanwhile that wrong information may be causing irreversible damage.

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source-target icon #37 ~ a net walk in the woods

Persistent pushing and finding networks in nature

This time last week I was halfway through a six hour, round-trip hike to an alpine lake. My partner had taken the week off and we’d climbed high enough to have hit some light snow about an hour ago. Our phones had been without signal for two hours, and we hadn’t seen another soul for three. Suddenly we came across a dank, magical grove filled with the most beautiful mushrooms I have ever seen.

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good/trash

Q: Sometimes it takes me forever to finish a comic because I’m constantly going through phases of “this is good, ppl wanna read this” vs “wow my stuff is trash and no one will want this.” Do you get phases like this? How do you stay motivated?

I think you’re essentially describing my base-level mental state while making comics. I honestly can’t imagine going through the process of making a book with unwavering confidence and self-satisfaction. It’s difficult, but I think the key to managing these kinds of “bi-polar” thoughts is to be as objective as possible. Make sure you’re not deluded in either direction, and try to evaluate your work in a way that’s critical but not defeating. I also think it’s useful to not obsess too much about how people will receive the work, and to instead focus on just making it as satisfying to you as possible.

Adrian Tomine

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files & folders

But even after presenting students with every metaphor in the books, Colling still isn’t positive that his students get what he’s talking about: “It feels like I’m having some success, but yeah, sometimes it’s hard to tell,” he says.

Without any point of reference Gen Z are struggling to grasp traditional file systems – File Not Found

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Book cover for Cathedral by Raymond Carver

★★★★★

Cathedral

by Raymond Carver

A wonderful collection of short stories. Carver’s spare, tight sentences draw a much more emotive picture than they have any right to.

Particular highlights for me were “Chef’s House,” “A Small, Good Thing” and “Fever”.

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plangent

Plangent (a):

(of a sound) loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.

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Book cover for This Census-Taker by China Miéville

★★★☆☆

This Census-Taker

by China Miéville

Odd little book, quite unsettling.

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Book cover for The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories by Various, Jay Rubin

★★★★★

I’ve been picking this up every other week since I was gifted it last Christmas and I finally finished it with a burst of completionism. It’s a beautiful curation of Japanese short stories from between 1898 and 2014 translated to English. I enjoyed all of them with the exception of the gory “Patriotism” by Mishima Yukio.

It was so rewarding to read each short story before flipping back to the commentary from Murakami. I now have a much deeper appreciation for Japanese literature and will definitely seek out some of the further reading.

Here are my favourite short stories in this collection:

Kono Taeko – In the Box

This is a story of a petty grudge and sheer irrational behaviour. I loved it for the lack of explanation and the domestic yet unpredictable setting.

Natsume Soseki – Sanshiro, Chapter 1

A strangely nostalgic tale of transition to a big city.

Tanizaki Jun’ichiro – The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga

The book starts with this novella of sorts: a mildly unbelievable but alluring mystery that slowly unravels.

Genji Keita – Mr English

I enjoyed just how mundane this story was. A tale of work politics and salarymen.

Betsuyaku Minoru – Factory Town

An allegory with a plausible backbone. Written in 1973 but could have been published in the last decade.

Uchida Hyakken – Kudan

This short story was from the section entitled “Dread” and describes a Kafka-esque world of transfiguration and misunderstanding. Haunting.

Sawanishi Yuten – Filling Up with Sugar

An unsettling depiction of the decline of a relative to a fantastical disease. Pay close attention!

Seirai Yuichi – Insects

A heartbreaking account of the fallout from atomic warfare, wonderfully crafted and deeply evocative.

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source-target icon #36 ~ cold chains of criticism

cold cooling chains, courage-based community and unsolicited criticism

* knock knock *

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Book cover for Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil

★★★☆☆

I was pretty cynical about this at first as I thought I’d heard it all before. I think this should be required reading for anyone working with data. I can’t shake that the injustices created by the use of data as described in this book are just the tip of the iceberg.

Just like with Humankind’s homo puppy I winced at the use of the WMD acronym, a purposefully overloaded term.

Three factors to systems deemed “Weapons of Math Destruction”

  1. Opacity: Are the rules of the system transparent to those that are being judged and analysed?
  2. Scale: Does the model have the capability to grow exponentially?
  3. Damage: Is the model unfair? Does it have a “pernicious” feedback loop that only makes it more unfair?

Clopening is when a worker is scheduled to both close a location at night and then re-open it in the morning. This can be stressful and result in an erratic schedule for workers balancing a number of responsibilities.

A large amount of Facebook users believe the algorithm behind the scenes is just presenting factual information and isn’t tailored to them.

In 2013, when a University of Illinois researcher named Karrie Karahalios carried out a survey on Facebook’s algorithm, she found that 62 percent of the people were unaware that the company tinkered with the news feed. They believed that the system instantly shared everything they posted with all of their friends.

I wonder if this is still the case eight years later?

O’Neill uses the phrase “birds of a feather” a few times to discuss how members of the same social network will often behave in similar ways. One example is that they may click on the same ads on Facebook.

Some recidivism analyses use this concept and inadvertently encode bias by taking acquaintances, jobs and credit rating to predict behavior. This sort of data would be inadmissible in court.

Interesting dataset alert:

A few years ago, MIT researchers analyzed the behavior of call center employees for Bank of America to find out why some teams were more productive than others. They hung a so-called sociometric badge around each employee’s neck. The electronics in these badges tracked the employees’ location and also measured, every sixteen milliseconds, their tone of voice and gestures. It recorded when people were looking at each other and how much each person talked, listened, and interrupted. Four teams of call center employees—eighty people in total—wore these badges for six weeks.

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Get bundle identifier for macOS app

osascript -e 'id of app "Name of App"'

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sententious

Sententious (a):

given to or abounding in excessive moralizing

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Book cover for How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

★★★☆☆

How to Pronounce Knife

by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Enjoyed these stories on their own but all together they felt a little heavy-handed.

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Split-second feedback

It feels nice to feel wanted and equally bad when you don’t feel wanted, even if the matrix through deciding you’re unwanted is literally “the numbers are the same or slightly lower than before.”

I personally (and presume others do too) find myself adding way too much stock to people’s willingness to do these things naturally - if someone doesn’t retweet something, it’s a split-second decision likely based on whether it immediately made them laugh or happy, or resembled something they deeply care about. That split-second decision is genuinely meaningless to them - they can (and will!) move on almost instantly. Still, in the grand scheme of content, these minor social media moves are so significant to people in such an outsized way that I believe drives them a little bit insane.

How Our Need For Attention Online Drives Us Crazy – Ed Zitron

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Book cover for The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga

★★★★☆

The Courage to Be Disliked

by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga

The dialogue is a little clunky and I need to do some reading around Adlerism but there were quite a few “aha” moments for me in this book. It was a library loan but I picked up a copy to give myself more time with it.

causation/purpose

Etiology is the study of causation while teleology is the story of the purpose of a given phenomenon, rather than it’s cause. In Adlerism we don’t think about past “causes” but instead about present “goals.”

Lifestyle is the tendencies of thought and action in life.

No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on.

A life-lie is the state of coming up with all manner of pretexts in order to avoid life tasks. e.g. “I’m busy at work so I don’t have enough time to think about my family.”

Separation of Tasks

All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.

Adlerism denies the need to be recognized by others, one must not seek recognition. You are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations. Do not behave without regard for others – separation of tasks. All interpersional relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or having one’s own taks intruded on.

The life tasks of interpersonal relationships are:

  1. “Tasks of work”
  2. “Tasks of friendship”
  3. “Tasks of love”

We need to think with the perspective of “Whose task is this?” and continually separate one’s own tasks from other people’s tasks.

Who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about by the choice that is made?

Intervening in other people’s tasks and taking on other people’s tasks turns one’s life into something heavy and full of hardship.

All you can do with regard to your own life is choose the best path that you believe in. On the other hand, what kind of judgment do other people pass on that choice? That is the task of other people, and is not a matter you can do anything about.

Horizontal and Vertical relationships

Horizontal relationships are relationships where members have equal standing whereas vertical relationships are those where one member has greater power, authority, knowledge or wisdom over the other.

Don’t praise or rebuke: praise is passing judgement from someone with ability to someone with no ability. By praising we are making vertical relationships, not horizontal ones. All healthy relationships should be horizontal.

The more one is praised by another person, the more one believes they have no ability.

Go from praise to gratitude.

Community

When Adler refers to community, he goes beyond the household, school, workplace, and local society, and treats it as all inclusive, covering not only nations and all of humanity but also the entire axis of time from the past to the future.

The scope of community is infinite! People are never truly alone or separated from community and cannot be.

You must consider yourself part of the community rather than the centre of the world. The goal of personal interpersonal relationships is a feeling of community. Use separation of tasks to “unravel the threads of the complex entanglement of one’s interpersonal relations.”

When running into difficulties in interpersonal relationships, one should zoom out and “listen to the voice of the larger community.”

Dots

Life is a series of moments called now, not a linear map from birth to the top of the mountain.

Think of this as a line drawn with pencil, if you magnify enough it’s made up of tiny dots. These are the now.

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Book cover for Humankind by Rutger Bregman

★★★★★

Humankind

by Rutger Bregman

A very readable, refreshing look at human nature. I didn’t expect to enjoy this quite so much. The author covers a fascinating array of studies and historical examples to show that, contrary to popular belief, people tend towards being good.

I cringe a little at the repeated reference to homo puppy – the moniker given to the empathetic humans we evolved to be.

Ten Rules to Live by

  1. When in doubt, assume the best
  2. Think in win-win scenarios
  3. Ask more questions
  4. Temper your empathy, train your compassion
  5. Try to understand the other, even if you don’t get where they’re coming from
  6. Love your own as others love their own
  7. Avoid the news
  8. Don’t punch Nazis
  9. Come out of the closet: don’t be ashamed to do good
  10. Be realistic

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slowly nodding

“Someone said: ‘Well, you do it now, don’t you? Because you’ve got the costume’. I was just slowly nodding,” says Denson.

Sometimes you find yourself with the costume, slowly nodding.

‘A Loveable Anarchist’: The Oral History of Mr Blobby

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Book cover for Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

★★★★★

Project Hail Mary

by Andy Weir

Reading them in quick succession it’s hard not to blend the worlds of Project Hail Mary, Three-Body Problem and Ministry for the Future into one. Speculative near-future fiction with climate overtones, spaceships and a hope for cooperation between the entire human race.

The main character in this jarred on me at first but reading around I appreciate that Weir’s “gee-whiz” schoolteacher is a tongue-in-cheek inversion of the sweary protagonists of his previous books.

Really enjoyed this, appreciated the thorough science, twists and dedication to an idea.

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Book cover for The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

★★★★☆

The best translations into English do not, in fact, read as if they were originally written in English. The English words are arranged in such a way that the reader sees a glimpse of another culture’s patterns of thinking, hears an echo of another language’s rhythms and cadences, and feels a tremor of other people’s gestures and movements.

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Book cover for A World Without Email by Cal Newport

★★★☆☆

A World Without Email

by Cal Newport

A book of two halves. I loved the first part as Newport described how email overtook as the dominant communication method for businesses, despite being inferior to traditional methods.

A misjudged reference to The Tragedy of the Commons marked the beginning of the book’s decline. The author describes common Kanban tools, provides some introspection on writing the book and finishes by rattles off a few productivity life hacks.

The bits I liked the most echoed Newport’s advice in Deep Work and Digital Minimalism.

Technological Determinism happens when we allow technology to control how we act and behave

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source-target icon #35 ~ gold/silver/bronze

Exploring the various types of networks from the Tokyo Olympics

I used to work with someone who would take weeks off work to do nothing but watch the Olympics. Summer or winter he would close the blinds, order takeout and multi-screen his way through a slew of sporting excellence. He was predictable like that.

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peripatetic

Peripatetic (a):

Walking about or from place to place; traveling on foot.

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Book cover for Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

★★★☆☆

I had high hopes for this book at the start but my enthusiasm waned towards the end. The optimism of the spunky, tech-savvy protagonist and ease in which he could achieve his goals soon grew weary as the mystery slotted into place.

I was surprised how much the book aligned with my interests, in particular data visualization, typography and cryptography. It reminds me there are many people interested in the intersection of these topics.

The fawning Google-worship proved too much. The undeserved, magic code-breaking scene betrayed what is otherwise a reasonable “hard” science fiction fantasy book. The fantasy-novel-in-a-novel failed to escape it’s use as a plot device and a vehicle for some cringe-worthy geekery. Oblique references to Harry Potter were apt considering the author’s fondness for Dumbledore-adjacent names.

All that being said I did enjoy this and I’m not sure why I’m being so harsh. The book just seemed to go off-the-rails a third of the way through and never recovered.

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Book cover for Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, Tahl Raz

★★★★☆

Never Split the Difference

by Chris Voss, Tahl Raz

I wasn’t sure at first but this turned out to be a good listen. Lots of helpful considerations for successful transactional conversations. One undercurrent in the book was that a strong negotiation strategy is simply to buy time and extract information from your “counterpart” to aid the process of reaching an agreement.

Labelling is an interesting idea. Effectively calling out something for what it is without ascribing blame.

It seems that …

rather than

I think you …

Harks back to non-violent communication with the aim of being as non-judgemental as possible.

Similarly I liked the example Voss gave of showing contrition early if you’ve done something wrong. Getting ahead of the situation and keeping in control.

Mirroring is a remarkable active listening device with a clear benefit.

Voss recommends leaning into the conflict that’s at the core of any negotiation and to see it as a collaborative process to reach agreement.

Calibrated questions should be used early and often in negotiations. Voss’s favorite is the oft-repeated

How am I supposed to do that?

but any open question that draws information out of your counterpart is worth using. Questions starting with “how” or “what” will spark a cooperation for both sides to agree.

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being wrong

I should emphasize that this is not investment advice and I am probably wrong? Like, one, I’m wrong about every prediction I make, and, two, in this case there keep being articles quoting professionals saying “this is going to be a wild one” and you should probably believe them instead of me. I am just laying out my thinking here so we can understand how I’ll be wrong.

Matt Levine

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Book cover for The Elements of Style  by William Strunk

The Elements of Style

by William Strunk

There were a few humorously archaic references in this book, but for the most part it holds up 100 years later!

Here are the main rules that stood out to me, most likely because I flout them all.

Usage

  1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's
  2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.

Oxford comma, I don’t do this but perhaps I should?

  1. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas

I do a lot of parentheticals. Good core rule to remember.

  1. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a co-ordinate clause.

So before the and or but. I need to do this.

  1. Do not join independent clauses by a comma.

If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.

Or a period.

  1. Do not break sentences in two.

  2. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject

e.g. about the subject of the sentence:

Walking slowly down the road, he saw a woman accompanied by two children

vs. referring to the woman

He saw a woman accompanied by two children, walking slowly down the road.

Composition

  1. One paragraph to each topic
  2. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, end it with conformity with the beginning
  3. Use the active voice as it’s more “direct and vigorous”

A common fault is to use as the subject of a passive construction a noun which expresses the entire action, leaving to the verb no function beyond that or completing the sentence.

e.g. A survey of this region was made in 1900 vs. This region was surveyed in 1900.

  1. Put statements in positive form
  2. Use definite, specific, concrete language
  3. Omit needless words
  4. Avoid a succession of loose sentences
  5. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form
  6. Keep related words together

The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.

  1. In summaries, keep to one tense
  2. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end

Words to avoid

Certainly, can (instead of may), factor, feature, interesting, so, sort of, kind of, system, very, while

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Book cover for Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

★★★★★

Such a Fun Age

by Kiley Reid

My recent reading list tracks Tom Macwright’s closely, mainly because I see he’s rated something with five stars so I go to the library website to add it to my holds. But I forget to pause the hold until some reasonable date in the future, the book arrives at the library and – bam – I start it in earnest.

This book hooked me. The sharp character observations along with the grey areas of intent and purpose made it a magnetic read. I respect the ending but it felt a little unresolved.

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Book cover for On Writing by Stephen King

★★★★★

On Writing

by Stephen King

This was really good. A very clear, cogent take on the craft of writing. It almost made me want to start writing a novel.

On distractions

… I’m sure all writers feel pretty much the same, no matter what their skill and success level: God, if only I were in the right writing environment, with the right understanding people, I just KNOW I could be penning my masterpiece

In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters. And the larger the work looms in my day—the more it seems like an I hafta instead of just an I wanna—the more problematic it can become.

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Convert YouTube videos to podcast feeds

ListenBox

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Run Prettier on all files in a repo

npx prettier --write "**/*.js"

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Book cover for Healing Back Pain by John E. Sarno

Healing Back Pain

by John E. Sarno

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Book cover for The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe

★★★★☆

The Last Crossing

by Guy Vanderhaeghe

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source-target icon #34 ~ what tufte tells us

A look at network graph design through the lens of Edward Tufte

Edward Tufte has informed and inspired data practitioners for, literally, decades. A lot has been said about his forthright opinions on information design and one can draw a direct link between his work and the attention to detail many aspire to when they create visualizations for consumption.

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Book cover for Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

★★★★☆

Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid

We are all migrants through time

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Douglas Coupland on ending Zoom calls

I’ve been Zooming a lot this year, like everyone else, and I always end my calls by closing the lid of my laptop. Maybe that’s all death is: the laptop closing, nothing cosmic, just a gentle click as we stop using our app.

I love this. It’s like putting a landline handset down on or snapping a flip phone shut.

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Book cover for Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

★★★★★

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

To have a “thin ear” is to be too easily swayed by the advice of others.

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Book cover for Talk to Me by Dean Nelson

★★★★☆

Talk to Me

by Dean Nelson

I don’t have any plans to interview anyone but this was a good read on the things to consider if I ever do. The tone was a touch smug at times but it was a breezy read with plenty of anecdotes to help it flow.

Finding a way in

Nelson suggests finding something unusual that proves you have done your research and shows the interviewee that they are in safe hands. One example digs into the craft – Nelson asked about a particularly long sentence in something Gay Talese had written. Looks like it’s reproduced in this article.

Heat and Like

Heat for heat’s sake or heat for light’s sake

This is referenced a few times, the first time as quoted from Chris Wallace. I really like it. “Heat for heat’s sake” is something that’s pleases an audience. I liken it to virality online and pushing for controversy. “Heat for light’s sake,” however, is the process of “making things a little bit difficult for the object of your scrutiny in order to really try to help the audience understand.”

In my comparison to online discourse this would be drawing attention to something in a non-confrontational way for the purposes of greater awareness.

Open Questions

Unsurprisingly open questions are lauded as important devices for getting good answers from interviewers.

What kind of father were you?

What do you think?

There are also lots of examples of asking questions that you already know the answer to in order to keep in control of the interview. This is a powerful technique when combined with the knowledge you’ve learned “on backround.” But if you don’t know then stick to open questions:

Did it change you in some way? How so?

Always end an interview in this way

This is a surprising question to most and even if someone has a “conventional” name confirming regardless will ensure that the printed result won’t upset them in some way. At the least you will prove that you’re thorough.

Give your source a chance to tell you something that they were hesitating to bring up.

I love this because it’s all about referrals and loops. “There’s always someone who knows more, someone behind the scenes, someone who isn’t quoted or sought out very often.”

Leaving the door open with a source is likely to pay off in the future.

Creativity budget

As per Anne Lamott,

each of us has a hundred dollars of creativity to spend each day. How will we spend that hundred dollars? If we just have two hours available to write today, we could spend some of that time on the internet […] Then we can focus on getting our work done—wisely spending the remaining dollars.

You can’t bank this money, “You get a hundred dollars today”

The interview is not about you

Above all a good interviewer leaves their ego at the door. An interview is not about the interviewer. In the same vein one should learn to be comfortable with silence if it helps draw out interesting details from a source.

An audience with…

When interviewing and unsure about your source you should consider your audience and try and focus on one person in particular. Consider what they would want to know from this source and take away from the interview. This holds for all writing.

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Pushing an empty commit

git commit --allow-empty -m "Trigger notification"

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vituperative

Vituperative (a):

a vituperative spoken or written attack is full of angry criticism

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Book cover for The Alignment Problem by Brian Christian

★★★★★

The Alignment Problem

by Brian Christian

An engrossing, cogent look at Machine Learning safety

Reinforcement learning

Imitation Game

Imitation and aping, it’s more of a human thing than an ape thing

Professor Procrastinate & Moral uncertainty

BOGSAT

Bunch of Guys Sitting Around a Table

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source-target icon #33 ~ everything is an infographic

A mild conviction on infographics, loosely held

If you were feeling charitable I suspect I could persuade you that everything is an infographic.

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sastrugi

Sastrugi (n):

parallel wave-like ridges caused by winds on the surface of hard snow, especially in polar regions

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Book cover for The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

★★★★★

The Ministry for the Future

by Kim Stanley Robinson

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It opened my eyes to the new realities of climate change but matched those realities with some thought-provoking, optimistic steps we could take in the future.

I found myself marking lots of pages with interesting ideas and collated them below.

Gini coefficient

The Gini coefficient is a measure of income or wealth disparity in a population, typically given as a fraction between 0 and 1.

0 is the coefficient if everyone owned an equal amount, 1 is for if one person owned everything and everyone else nothing.

The Gini coefficient for the whole world’s population is higher than for any individual countries as there are so many more poor people in the world. It’s roughly 0.7 for the world.

Monocausotaxophilia is the love of single ideas that explain everything – “one of humanity’s most common cognitive errors.” The Gini coefficient is a good example of this, some countries have the same coefficient despite a large difference in the average annual income. We should consider the spread between the richest and the poor.

Cognitive errors

Foreshortening is a common perceptual distortion.

When standing under a cliff in the mountains and looking up at it, the cliff always appears to be about the same height—say a thousand feet or so. … Only when you get miles away […] can you actually see the immense height …

Other cognitive errors include “anchor bias (you want to stick to your first estimate or what you have been told) and ease of representation (you think an explanation you can understand is more likely to be true than one you can’t).”

The book mentions an “excellent circular graphic display of cognitive errors” – it could be this graphic but it doesn’t quite match the description.

Another one from later in the book is the “availability heuristic,” in which you feel that what is real is what you know.

Secret actors

Hebrew tradition speaks of those hidden good people who keep the world from falling apart, the Tzadikim Nistarium, the hidden righteous ones. In some versions they are thirty-six in number, and thus are called the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, the thirty-six righteous ones.

They emerge and act when needed to save their people before sinking back into anonymity. They are exemplars of humility, if someone were to proclaim himself to be one of the Lamed-Vav, this would be proof that actually he was not. The Lamed-Vav are generally too modest to believe they could be one of these special actors.

The stories of secret actors are the secret action

Paradoxes

The Jevons paradox is that increases in efficiency in the use of a resource lead to an overall increase in the use of that resource, not a decrease. Originally written in reference to the history of the use of coal.

At this point it is naïve to expect that technological improvements alone will slow the impacts of growth and reduce the burden on the biosphere.

2,000 Watt Society

The 2000-watt society is an environmental vision, first introduced in 1998 by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zurich), which pictures the average First World citizen reducing their overall average primary energy usage rate to no more than 2,000 watts (i.e. 2 kWh per hour or 48 kWh per day) by the year 2050, without lowering their standard of living.

Carbon coin

The book posits a carbon coin, or carboni, a cryptocurrency backed by central banks to reward and promote ecological actions. I’d like to learn more about this potential for cryptocurrencies, it sounds fascinating.

Hazards

Some of us talked about the bathtub graph. People doing dangerous things make mistakes when they’re first learning it, and then when they’ve known it forever. Theses were the two periods with higher rates of accidents, while the in-between was a stretch of low accidents.

Avoidance

One pathologicial reaction, a form of avoidance, has been called The Masque of the Red Death Syndrome, after the story by Edgar Allan Poe. In the story, a group of privileged aristocrats, isolated in a castle on a peak above a countryside devastated by a plague, stage a masquerade to distract themselves, or to display indifference or defiance to their eventual fate.

A silent masked stranger then appears and stalks through the party, and few readers are surprised when this stranger turns out to be death itself.

Even more extreme pathological responses to biosphere collapse are possible and have been observed. Some who feel the end is near work to hasten it, or worsen it.

Götterdämmerung Syndrome ~ the Goddamning of the world or “twilight of the gods.”

Shorting civilization & assorted quotes

Yes. You can short civilization if you want. Not a bad bet really. But no one to pay you if you win. Whereas if you go long on civilization and civilization (therefore) survives, you win big. So the smart move is to go long.

You could literally fill a medium-sized encylopedia with the good new projects already invented and waiting to scale.

Are your machines learning?

Data mining tells us things we wouldn’t have known unless we did it. That could be called artificial intelligence but it’s what we used to call science. What we have really is computer-assisted science. Best to call it that. It’s getting stronger. But we have to figure out what to do with it.

Mail delivered by Lions

Charles Fourier was a French utopian with followers in France and America. There were communes based on his ideas. For him the animals were very important—they were going to join us and become a big part of civilization.

So at one point he says, The mail will be delivered by lions.

After a cursory look online I can’t find anything about this but it’s a nice idea.

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Book cover for The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

★★★★☆

The Mountains Sing

by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

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Book cover for Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

★★★★☆

Bird by Bird

by Anne Lamott

I listened to this on audiobook and loved the thinly-veiled contempt throughout. Lamott had a world-weary, bitter outlook on many aspects of writing so it was remarkable how inspiring I found the book in it’s totality.

Writing is labour, any other idea is romantic

Radio KFKD

I need to bring up radio station KFKD, or K-Fucked, here….If you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo.

Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open, and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is.

Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.

The unconscious

My friend Carpenter talks about the unconscious as the cellar where the little boy sits who creates the characters, and he hands them up to you through the cellar door. He might as well be cutting out paper dolls. He’s peaceful; he’s just playing.

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Send to Workflowy

I use Workflowy a lot but it’s not great for quick capture on the go. This is an unofficial API to make that easier.

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tall dog, short fountain

I don’t remember the last time I used a public water fountain on a run but I do remember using them. It’s a sunny day, I’m sweating profusely and dehydrated, perhaps planned or maybe stumbled upon, it’s a welcome pause.

Here in Victoria a lot of the public water fountains are encased in stones and cement. There’s often a bowl at the top with a button for operation and a mirrored bowl at the bottom for dogs – it makes a pleasing Z-shape to the eye. I say the bottom bowl is for dogs, I occasionally see people walking rabbits on a leash nearby but I’m not sure they use the fountain. During the pandemic I’ve settled into a running route that has at least three of these water fountains but for various competing reasons (winter, COVID) I haven’t touched them.

On a run a few weeks ago I saw a tall dog drinking out of the human end of the fountain. This dog was very tall, it’s head was comfortably above the basin and his owner/enabler had pressed the button. I thought back to the many times I’ve used water fountains in the past, how I’d been told they were unclean but how I’d used them anyway. Was the assumption today that the fountains weren’t being used due to COVID so why not? It’s unclear. Perhaps the dog was simply too tall to bow it’s head to the ground? It’s a possibility but perhaps unlikely. The bottom bowl was left alone.

I like loops and cycles. The feeling of resolution when something comes back to where it started. Or the synchrony of two plans coming together. I don’t like carrying things when I run so on multi-hour routes I’ve resorted to stashing a coin for a convenience store refuel. I sometimes daydream about leaving a bottle at a strategic point and looping back halfway through my run. I never do it, I’m concerned it would look suspicious or – more unlikely – be tampered with in some way.

Last week I saw a human sweep a little, short dog into their arms before holding them above the water fountain. Perhaps this dog was simply too short for the dog end of the stony-Z? As he lapped at the stream I thought how the fountain would look untouched once the thirst of the terrier was quenched.

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Book cover for Here (graphic novel) by Richard McGuire

★★★☆☆

Here (graphic novel)

by Richard McGuire

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Book cover for On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu

★★★★☆

On Fragile Waves

by E. Lily Yu

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Book cover for Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism

by Greg McKeown

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Book cover for The Infinite Machine by Camila Russo

★★★★☆

The Infinite Machine

by Camila Russo

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source-target icon #32 ~ graph rot

Rest in peace Yahoo! Answers, node deletion and introducing scraphs

I’ve never asked a question on Yahoo! Answers and now it’s too late. The site was put into read-only mode and was wiped clean off the internet on Tuesday.

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beavers

The sound of running water appears to stimulate dam-building, and the sound of a leak in a dam triggers them to repair it.

Wikipedia

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Book cover for Intimations by Zadie Smith

Intimations

by Zadie Smith

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Book cover for No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

★★★☆☆

No One Is Talking About This

by Patricia Lockwood

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Book cover for A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

★★★★★

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Book cover for Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

★★★☆☆

Jonny Appleseed

by Joshua Whitehead

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Book cover for Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami by David Karashima

★★★★☆

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source-target icon #31 ~ bridges, maps & memories

Historical network visualizations over maps, a map of Reddit and a new website

It’s Leonard Euler’s 314th birthday today. In network circles the grandfather of graph theory is perhaps best known for his 1735 solution to the problem known as the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. Using novel graph theory techniques Euler was able to show that a route across the seven bridges without crossing the same one twice was impossible.

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Book cover for Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes

★★★★☆

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Graphical excellence

complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.

that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the shortest space

graphical excellence is nearly always multivariate

And graphical excellence requires telling the truth about the data

Data-Built data measures

Using the data itself to plot data “increases the quantitative detail and dimensionality of a graphic”

If we are going to make a mark it may as well be a meaningful one. The simplest—and most useful—meaningful mark is a digit. (Tukey)

Examples:

Color guidance

Color often generates graphical puzzles. Despite our experiences… the mind’s eye does not readily give a visual ordering to colors.

Greyscale shades show varying quantities better than color.

Multiple layers of information

  1. What is seen from a distance, an overall structure usually aggregated from an underlying microstructure.
  2. What is seen up close and in detail, the fine structure of the data
  3. What is seen implicitly underlying the graphic

Consider the viewing architecture of a graphic.

Data-ink ratio

Data-ink is the non-erasable core of a graphic, the non-redundant ink arranged in response to variation in the numbers represented.

data-ink ratio=data-inktotal ink used to print the graphic\texttt{data-ink ratio} = \frac{\texttt{data-ink}}{\texttt{total ink used to print the graphic}}

Whitespace

Even part of the data measures can be erased, making a white grid

range-frame

the frame of a graphic can become an effective data-communicating element simply by erasing part of it.

should extend only to the measured limits of the data

Data density

Taking into account the size of the graphic in relation to the amount of data displayed yields the data density:

data density of a graphic=number of entries in data matrixarea of data graphic\texttt{data density of a graphic} = \frac{\texttt{number of entries in data matrix}}{\texttt{area of data graphic}}

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re/starting a blog

Whenever I stumble upon a personal blog with years of archives and I feel a wave of jealously. I wish I’d committed to my false-start blogs in 2005, 2010 and 2015. I can’t help but look at others’ entry dates spanning back in time, sometimes measured in decades and think that it’s too late. It feels pointless to commit to a personal blog in 2021.

But what’s stopping me? I hope to still be around in a decade and more. If I can’t go back and start in 2010 why not start now?

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Book cover for Bad Island by Stanley Donwood

Bad Island

by Stanley Donwood

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source-target icon #30 ~ cryptopunk'd

Blockchain applications and CryptoPunk NFT Graphs

In this week’s (very late!) source/target I’m exploring a rare, quirky attribute and transaction graph of high-value collectables.

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Book cover for How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

★★★★★

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Book cover for Indistractable by Nir Eyal

Indistractable

by Nir Eyal

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Book cover for Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work

by Cal Newport

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source-target icon #29 ~ funghi di bosco

Just in case you haven't read enough about NFTs yet.

It’s a kind of game and it’s a game where you have points.

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Book cover for Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Tyll

by Daniel Kehlmann

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source-target icon #28 ~ typo-graphy

Font pairings, slime mold & MC Hammer

One piece of lore about Steve Jobs, mainly perpetuated by his 2005 Stanford commencement address, was that his early exposure and interest in typography set him on a path of innovation and attention-to-detail that, ultimately, fuelled the growth of Apple.

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Book cover for Visual Explanations by Edward Tufte

Visual Explanations

by Edward Tufte

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Book cover for How Not to be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg

How Not to be Wrong

by Jordan Ellenberg

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source-target icon #27 ~ thinking linking

undefined

There’s a reason it’s called link analysis: Graphs are links. Looking and analyzing graphs without links is using a laptop without an internet connection or meeting people without forging relationships.

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Book cover for Beautiful Evidence by  Edward Tufte

Beautiful Evidence

by Edward Tufte

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source-target icon #26 ~ self/titled

Looking back and looking forward

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about newsletters. I’ve been reading a lot of newsletters and reading about a lot of newsletters, but most of all I’ve been thinking about them.

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Book cover for Shantytown by César Aira

Shantytown

by César Aira

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Book cover for Familiar Face by Michael DeForge

Familiar Face

by Michael DeForge

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Book cover for The Man Without Talent by Yoshiharu Tsuge

The Man Without Talent

by Yoshiharu Tsuge

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source-target icon #25 ~ points make networks

Exploring a network of shared links from popular newsletters in 2020

Back in December of 2019 I received an email from Air Canada alerting me that I hadn’t reached some modest minimum number of points for the year and would therefore be losing my “status”. I was mildly disappointed but understood that I wasn’t travelling enough for whatever status I’d missed out on to make a tangible improvement on my life.

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Book cover for Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna

Year of the Rabbit

by Tian Veasna

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Book cover for The House of Owls by Tony Angell

The House of Owls

by Tony Angell

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Book cover for Algorithms to Live by by Brian Christian

Algorithms to Live by

by Brian Christian

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source-target icon #24 ~ half year hyperlinks

Exploring a network of shared links from popular newsletters in 2020

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Freedom Hospital by Hamid Sulaiman

Freedom Hospital

by Hamid Sulaiman

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Book cover for Fire on the Water by Scott MacGregor

Fire on the Water

by Scott MacGregor

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source-target icon #23 ~ twelve links of graph-mas

A collection of interesting links to close out the year

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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source-target icon #22 ~ youtubecore

A graphy look at YouTubeCore

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

Little Eyes

by Samanta Schweblin

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Book cover for Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

Uncanny Valley

by Anna Wiener

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Book cover for Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

Killing and Dying

by Adrian Tomine

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source-target icon #21 ~ international phonetic ales

IPA Graphs: where linguistics and hoppy beers collide

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph

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source-target icon #20 ~ migration

Taking a look at some migration visualizations

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph

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Book cover for Unbuilt Victoria by Dorothy Mindenhall

Unbuilt Victoria

by Dorothy Mindenhall

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source-target icon #19 ~ graphs are life

Wondering about graph visualizations of life

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph

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Book cover for How to Measure Anything by Douglas W. Hubbard

How to Measure Anything

by Douglas W. Hubbard

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source-target icon #18 ~ the graph returns

Building a 3D graph of Studio Ghibli movies

I’m Christian (👋) and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph

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Book cover for Showa 1953–1989 by Shigeru Mizuki

Showa 1953–1989

by Shigeru Mizuki

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source-target icon #17 ~ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This week in source/target I’m installing Perl, admiring graph-iti and learning about graphs in other languages.

This week in source/target I’m installing Perl, admiring graph-iti and learning about graphs in other languages.

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Book cover for Bandwidth by Eliot Peper

Bandwidth

by Eliot Peper

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Stuff I use – macOS

I’m ruthless when it comes to the apps and tools I use. I could have used a piece software for a decade but if it becomes unmaintained or lags behind an alternative I’ll drop it. I’ll also try anything out in the name of a potential productivity or minimalism improvement. Here are the applications and software that have made the cut. For now.

Utilities

Homebrew

I used the indispensable Homebrew package manager to install most of the software on this list. I don’t like the way it tries to update everything before running the command I want it to. Otherwise it’s perfect.

Karabiner-Elements + Hammerspoon

I use these in a few ways integral to how I work. I bind CapsLock to ^++ and use it to launch all my apps with a single keyboard shortcut. When pressed alone it counts as a single ESC press. I’ve replaced the use of various window management tools over the years with a home-baked approach cobbled together in Lua.

AltTab

I’m not sure how it’s happened but my +TAB muscle memory has been miscalibrated to fail me almost every time. It could be because I often use +W to hide an application window which then makes it impossible to un-hide from the +TAB.

I found AltTab last week and it’s a game-changer. Another Open Source tool, the aim of the software is to replicate the Windows Alt-Tab pane but it’s the most feature-complete and responsive application switcher I’ve ever seen.

The thumbnail previews are nice but overall my favourite feature is preventing the pane from showing applications which don’t have any visible windows.

In defiance of the name I’ve mapped it to +TAB and I’m never looking back.

Keeping You Awake

Useful for when you want to keep a recipe or similar open without the screen dimming after a while.

BitWarden

I used standalone licenses of 1Password for over a decade but couldn’t bring myself to finally stump for a subscription to an app that seems to be getting worse by the year. BitWarden has been an admirable replacement that syncs across all my devices (macOS, iOS & Android) with minimal fuss. After using it for a few months I bought a modestly priced subscription.

Menu Bar

Battery Indicator

A customizable replacement for the stock battery indicator. I can’t remember the core reason I started using this but it’s nice.

Dato

This helps me keep track of a number of timezones and has a dispensable keyboard shortcut for quick-at-a-glance checks. Just like Battery Indicator it’s very customizable and works well.

Aware

The product design restraint on this tool is remarkable: it has a single feature.

Aware keeps a running total of how long you’ve been actively using your Mac. That’s it. It doesn’t force you to take a break or shame you for getting lost in some code, it’s just a simple reminder of the time you’ve invested in the current task.

Dozer

I used to use Vanilla but Dozer is an actively-maintained Open Source alternative. It allows me to hide all the menu bar cruft that I don’t always need visible.

I’m not sure why I insist on making the menu bar as clean as possible but this helps me with my #goals.

Productivity

Workflowy

After extensive evaluation of other notetaking tools I always slip back to Workflowy — and for good reason. The multi-platform app now houses, as a non-exhaustive list, my many todo lists, nodes, writing outlines, meal plans & newsletter planning.

The keyboard shortcuts are a little janky and the iOS experience leaves a lot to be desired but the reliability, collaboration, minimal interface & longevity puts it ahead of alternatives.

Firefox (Nightly)

The slow decline of the multi-platform browser landscape is depressing. Despite some missteps, Mozilla’s Firefox is still a competent choice and Nightly has a sweet logo.

This could be a separate post but my “couldn’t live without them” add-ons are: uBlock Origin, Intention, Hide Feed & Auto Tab Discard.

aText

There are thousands of “text expanders” or snippet tools out there. My pick is aText for the one-time cost and flexibility. This has saved me countless hours of typing: any text I copy-paste more than once goes into aText.

Development

Sublime Text

After a few years of using VSCode I’m back using Sublime as my daily driver. The visual cruft and overstuffed sidebars of VS Code were becoming a little too much – I missed the simplicity and speed of a native text editor. There’s more setup required and the plugin ecosystem is a little stale but it feels good to be back.

Sublime Merge

My use of Sublime Text for years led me to use Sublime Merge on release. I love the keyboard-oriented interface and native app experience. As a mediocre git user who often resorts to fresh clones to avoid reading the docs Sublime Merge is a dream to use.

Is it necessary? No. Does it feel nice to use good software? Yes.

RunJS

This provides an efficient, iterative runtime scratchpad for NodeJS/JavaScript without making me spend my entire life in Dev Tools. RunJS helps me be a little more atomic about my development and is the closest I get to writing tests for my personal projects.

kitty

I’ve been seduced by the raw speed of this GPU based terminal emulator. I didn’t notice the latency when typing with iTerm2 but now it’s painfully obvious.

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source-target icon #16 ~ medium/message

Maps, medium, messages, gender & re-opening schools

This week in source/target we look at the boundaries between mediums, messages, maps and territories. #16 is a slightly more dense & rich chocolate cake than usual—let me know what you think.

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Book cover for Embassytown by China Miéville

Embassytown

by China Miéville

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Book cover for Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Non-Violent Communication

by Marshall B. Rosenberg

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source-target icon #15 ~ analytics hotel

Graph analytics fundamentals, space station inhabitant networks & a delightful mind-mapping tool

This week we take a look at a graph of space station inhabitants, showcase a mind-mapping tool built with love, and go back to school with the fundamental question: “why bother using graphs at all?”

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Book cover for Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

Radicalized

by Cory Doctorow

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source-target icon #14 ~ benedict cumbergraph

Learning about the Turing Test for Graph Drawing, GraphQL federation and math rock recommendation graphs.

I’m Christian and this is my bi-weekly (fortnightly?) newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Sandworm by Andy Greenberg

Sandworm

by Andy Greenberg

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source-target icon #13 ~ good designs

In this edition I bring a good/bad design technique to life in graph form and continue to curate the curators.

In this edition I bring a good/bad design technique to life in graph form, see the future impact of climate change across the USA and continue to curate the curators.

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Book cover for Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Design of Everyday Things

by Donald A. Norman

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Book cover for Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg: This Is Our Territory by Gidigaa Migizi (Doug Williams)

Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg: This Is Our Territory

by Gidigaa Migizi (Doug Williams)

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source-target icon #12 ~ linking back

In this edition I build a view to connect my callbacks, explore the love lives of penguins and tour a sharp hierarchy of cheeses around the world.

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Book cover for Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits

by James Clear

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Book cover for Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter

by Blake Crouch

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source-target icon #11 ~ what do song lyrics look like?

In this edition: I walk through a visualization tool for taking a closer look at your favorite songs, think about what it means to be a crab and explore the lineage of citrus fruit.

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source-target icon #10 ~ moderation part 2

More Reddit moderator graphs, networked-thought and citation maps

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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source-target icon #9 ~ moderation part 1

An introduction to moderation graphs

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Vancouver Island emoji weather

I built my first Twitter bot: an account that posts the current weather on Vancouver Island in cute little emoji form.

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Book cover for 9 Stories by J. D. Salinger

9 Stories

by J. D. Salinger

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source-target icon #8 ~ knowledge

Thoughts on the Knowledge Graph Conference

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Permutation City by Greg Egan

Permutation City

by Greg Egan

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Book cover for 100 Days in Uranium City by Ariane Dénommé

100 Days in Uranium City

by Ariane Dénommé

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source-target icon #7 ~ crazy walls

Crazy walls and other graphs in movies

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph. I had too much stuff I wanted to write about this week so rather than overwhelm you all, I decided change tack and focus on some particularly visual topics.

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Book cover for Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet

Turn the Ship Around!

by L. David Marquet

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Book cover for Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

Shortcomings

by Adrian Tomine

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Book cover for Creation by Sylvia Nickerson

Creation

by Sylvia Nickerson

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source-target icon #6 ~ food webs

Food webs, source code repositories & online events

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph. This is number 6 which means we’re (somehow) a quarter of the way through 2020.

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Book cover for Blankets by Craig Thompson

Blankets

by Craig Thompson

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source-target icon #5 ~ code

Digging into using graphs to analyze source code

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Maggie Garrison by Lewis Trondheim and Oiry

Maggie Garrison

by Lewis Trondheim and Oiry

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Book cover for Beverly by Nick Drnaso

Beverly

by Nick Drnaso

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source-target icon #4 ~ contact

N

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Off Season by James Sturm

Off Season

by James Sturm

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Book cover for Brother by David Chariandy

Brother

by David Chariandy

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source-target icon #3 ~ origin/destination

A closer look at origin/destination plots, the graph landscape of 2020, Pokemon & more.

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Digital Minimalism

by Cal Newport

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source-target icon #2 ~ passion

This week on graph newsletter source/target I cover inspiring work from @anvaka, an ace comment explorer and more.

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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Book cover for Most Human Human by Brian Christian

Most Human Human

by Brian Christian

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source/target graph newsletter

I started writing a graph visualization newsletter in 2020 and I’m still at it. It comes out every other Thursday.

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source-target icon #1 ~ roaming

The first edition of source/target, a graph newsletter from Christian Miles. Networked thought, disinformation, Twitter follower networks & more.

Hi, I’m Christian and this is a newsletter with interesting content and links orbiting the world of graph.

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