January 2012 Archives

January 31, 2012

From Mlkshk #1

Some interesting things I recently found on Mlkshk:

January 30, 2012

I Thought It Was Real

Fragment of a conversation I had tonight with my daughter who is eleven so no longer a kid:

What were you watching last night?

Lord of the Rings.

Was it interesting?

Yeah, it was great. But, you’ve seen it, haven’t you?

But I was a kid. I thought it was real so I didn’t like it. It was too scary.

Well, we can watch it again, if you like?

Ok. Can we watch it together.


A few years back my daughter went through a stage where she found it difficult to grasp that what she saw in plays or films wasn’t real and wasn’t actually happening. This wasn’t really clear to us until we took her (by request) to USJ (Universal Studios Japan).

The day got off to a bad start with the Shrek in 4D experience. While other kids laughed it up, she shreiked. It was understandable. The spiders were pretty creepy.

Next up was the ET ride: probably the most kid-friendly thing in the whole park. She was fine until we took off slowly into space. I distinctly remember her screaming “Take me back to Earth!”. She wasn’t kidding.

We’ll give Fellowship a watch this weekend and see how she goes.

Some Books Might Be Better On Paper

Marco Arment on book formats:

Whether I’ve bought a book made of dead trees or encrypted bits doesn’t really matter, and I don’t think my experience suffers when I choose the bits.

This is true of books that are intended to be read straight through from start to finish: novels, biographies, and most non-fiction.

Last year, though, I bought a few ebooks that I think would’ve been better, for me, on paper: a guide to using my camera, one on how to use Lightroom, and Ethan Marcotte’s excellent Responsive Web Design.

They would’ve been better on paper for practical, not romantic reasons. I tend to read these kinds of technical or how-to books by first glancing through the whole thing, reading bits here and there. I get an idea of what the thing is, then attack different parts, rarely in order. If what I’m reading in chapter ten mentions something that I haven’t read (or something I’ve forgotten) in an earlier chapter it’s usually pretty easy to just flip through the pages to find what I’m looking for. And often I’ll pick up the book and start reading at completely different places.

Last year I bought no books on paper. I’ll continue to buy all my fiction and most non-fiction as ebooks. For any guides or techinical things, though, I think I’ll go for paper.

January 26, 2012

Tweetbot's Read Later Heaven

One of the things I like about Tweetbot is its support for multiple ‘read later’ services. You can use either Instapaper, Pinboard, Readablity, or Read It Later.

What I’d love, though, is to be able to use more than one service at a time. Flicking through my timeline I’d be able to send texty things to Instapaper and everything else, videos, pictures, sites, app recommendations and the like, to Pinboard.

Something like this:


Neat, huh?

January 25, 2012

Matt Gemmell's Ideas For iBooks Author

Matt Gemmell has some interesting non-textbook ideas for what people could do with iBooks Author. Some examples:

Choose Your Own Adventure. Books where you can select which path the story should take, making decisions so you’re more involved in the narrative. Previously, we did this by conditionally turning to one page or another.

Skill-training. Whether it’s genuine (like origami) or humorous (“100 things every man should be able to do”), it’s a lot easier to learn by watching and replaying rather than simply reading and looking. I could do with a bowtie-tying guide. This also has strong possibilities for martial arts, crafts, public speaking, law enforcement and more.

Cookbooks. Recipes, with interactive how-to videos for those tricky souffles or macarons. Or even for the non-tricky bits, to help those who are clueless in the kitchen.

Scraping Back Your Dignity

Flying beer and fists, coat hangers jammed into the holes left by broken antennas, and advice for a designer struggling with the weight of past promises.

I really enjoyed the latest episode of Let’s Make Mistakes.

This is the first time in ages that I’ve listened to a podcast all the way through for three weeks in a row. It’s not epically long, so I can listen to it in one sitting without feeling that I’m neglecting my kids, wife, job, or health. And Mike and Katie are, for me, fresh voices. I don’t really know know who they are, what they do, or what they care about, and it’s fun to find out about smart people.

January 24, 2012

Japanese Food Safety

From the New York Times article, ‘Japanese Struggle to Protect Their Food Supply’:

The repeated failures have done more than raise concerns that some Japanese may have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation in their food, as regrettable as that is. They have also had a corrosive effect on public confidence in the food-monitoring efforts, with a growing segment of the public and even many experts coming to believe that officials have understated or even covered up the true extent of the public health risk in order to limit both the economic damage and the size of potential compensation payments.

The Japanese government’s handling of food safety in the wake of the meltdown in Fukushima is like an inverted version of the boy who cried wolf. They’ve told us again and again that everything is okay, that they have the situation in hand, only to reveal later that perhaps things weren’t as okay as they thought but that now, for sure, things are okay.

Things are not okay.

January 22, 2012

Tap to Click

If you’d asked me two days ago if I clicked on my trackpad using the mechanical button or the one finger tap-to-click gesture, I’d have told you without hesitation that I was a button guy, that something about tap-to-click rubbed me up the wrong way and I’d disabled it ages ago.


I did a clean install of Lion yesterday and, even after I got my settings all in a row, something seemed wrong. Every step I took was slower and more cumbersome.

Now I understand why: I’d been tapping to click all over the place.

It seems that I never disabled tap-to-click after all, and that I actually use it all the time. As far as I can tell, there’s a certain class of things that get clicked with the button and another that gets clicked with the tap. How my fingers make that decision is something that I’m okay not knowing, for now.

Now I’m wondering what other things I unknowingly do? Am I a close talker? Do I spit on the ground in public? Do I unconsciously listen to one Eagles song for every ten indie-rock songs? The possibilities are terrifying.

January 21, 2012

Module 2: Water

What is water?

It’s a difficult question because water is impossible to describe.
One might ask the same about birds.

What are birds?

We just don’t know.

January 19, 2012

Owning Your Content

From Andre Torrez’s post What I Want To Read About:

Jekyll is a “blog-aware, static site generator” that has been around for over three and a half years. The idea is that you don’t need a centralised blog posting service to generate and host your static files, you can have them generated locally and pushed to a static web server.


These “own your content” apps are still in the toothpick and wad of gum stages, but someone is going to get this right and it’s not just going to be a great story but a new way of thinking about how we publish and own our content.

Last year I moved my blog from WordPress to Octopress, a static blogging system built on top of Jekyll. Thanks to the excellent documentation by the developer, Brandon Mathis, I was able to get things up and running in just a few hours. It wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t exactly easy, either. It was, however, definitely worth it. Aside from the technical benefits of running your site from static files —- it’s faster, more stable, and more secure —- it just feels better, less abstracted.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where these tools go in the next year. I haven’t been this excited about blogging since the early days of Edit This Page.

January 11, 2012

Mule Radio Syndicate

Mule Radio Syndicate is a new podcast network run by Mule Design Studio. It’s apparently:

Built with mountaintop vigor and spit tinged with coca leaves and the miniature bones of carrier pigeons that could not find their mark.

Just my cup of tea. I’m really looking forward to some of the shows they have coming up.

January 8, 2012

Dumb Brilliant Machines

Machines are dumb, but sometimes they do brilliant things because they can’t help themselves. They don’t talk themselves out of anything, and so they just go for it. No judgement whatsoever.

That’s Nick Zammuto on The Books’ blog talking about how they got the lyrics for Free Translator by running them back and forth through multiple online translation engines, a process that gave us verses like this:

Symmetrical foot in your mouth
and your high speed legs
Your knee-jerks a mark of distinction
It’s an elevator put-on

Also explains some of the charm of everyone’s favourite ebook lovin’ horse.

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