Unicode Shortcomings

The evolution of emoji is impressive and fascinating, but it makes for an uncomfortable contrast when other pictorial writing systems – the most commonly-used writing systems on the planet – are on the chopping block. We have an unambiguous, cross-platform way to represent “PILE OF POO” (💩), while we’re still debating which of the 1.2 billion native Chinese speakers deserve to spell their own names correctly.

via I Can Text You A Pile of Poo, But I Can’t Write My Name by Aditya Mukerjee | Model View Culture.

A really eye opening look at Unicode's missing content. A system which was designed to encode the languages of the world has some really gaping holes when it comes non western characters.

A memory desk

Memory Desk

This Memory Desk is a tool to record all the small items you write down once, but intend to forget tomorrow.

I've come to realize that I'm somewhat obsessed with how we remember the past. This is the latest installment in that series and a more serious attempt at furniture making. There are a hundreds of little things that we don't try to remember every year or even every week. Does the sum of all these tiny parts produce a new narrative on our lives?

1,100 yards of paper will record the lists, the phones numbers you call once, the pixel size of that box on that website, the street name of that business, and the long division you try to remember.

via ANALOG MEMORY DESK - Kirsten Camara.

Extremely cool idea. If I had a place to put one of these, I'd definitely do it. Blueprints available under a creative commons license, so you can build your own.

Microwaves Explained

The reason microwaves don't cook evenly comes straight from physics. When you continuously feed waves into a space—which is what microwaves do—you'll often have some "dead" spots:

In two dimensions, you get a similar but more complicated pattern.

via Microwaves.

All to answer the question of what's the best way to reheat Chinese leftovers. How I love 'What If'.

On Remote Work

As soon as you get beyond a few people, you are working “remotely”. If you aren’t in the same room you will have your main workflow happening through tooling. Yes, you can get together to meet face to face on topics, but that isn’t your general workflow.

via Why we run an open source program - Walmart Labs // TODO: Talk openly, develop openly.

I've never seen that so crisply and truthfully stated before. The whole article is pretty great.

The Expanse

Early in January I found out that the SyFy channel has a new TV series coming this year, called The Expanse. It's a story that takes place 200 years in the future. Humanity has colonized Mars, which has become independent, and set up mining / science operations on a number asteroids and moons. It's all based on a series of books that started publishing in 2011.

I decided to not wait for the series to air, and dive in on the books. 4 have published so far, and they all follow a narrative style, where the chapters flip back and forth between different character's perspectives. The first book is two character perspectives, all the later ones are four. Some people that have distinctly small sub roles in early books become a main point of view later. The way it's done makes it feel like a rich environment, you'll never know when players will return in the future.

I've really enjoyed the series so far, can't wait for book 5 to come out this summer. There are lots of really neat ideas in the books so far. The time delays on communication throughout the solar system, and what that causes. The "spinning up" of Ceres and Eros to provide centripetal artificial gravity on the inside. The use of Ganymede as both a Farming Planet, and where all the Belters go to carry their children to term (because it has a magnetosphere). And many more really interesting ideas that provide spoilers to  the big story arc.

Definitely worth a read.  And check out the trailer below for this coming to TV later this year.

Smart Home Woes

Gizmodo has a great piece on cheap home automation gone terribly mediocre. It's actually really interesting to realize how often we as humans need to relearn the idea of resiliency, durability, usability and in systems. Home automation is neat, and I've enjoyed playing with parts in it. But if your normal workflow requires a smart phone, you are taking a step backwards. Sadly, most of the solutions out there today head down that path.

A much better approach would be to put smarts directly into existing electrical structures (wall plates, switches), and ensure that all of them had physical manual override. Some of the zwave wall switches out there do that, to the best of my knowledge no one has done that with plugs.

I think a lot of the folks working on these solutions probably need to read The Design of Everyday Things. I promise if you read that, you'll never look at a phone or a wall switch the same way again.

 

Star Trek, Star Wars (and more) Cinematic Space Compilation

screenshot_145A wonderful 6 minute compilation of visually stunning clips from 35 amazing films, from 1968 to 2014, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens, Interstellar, Gravity and Guardians of the Galaxy.

This short film by Russian Video Editor Max Shishkin features music by Hans Zimmer (“Mountains” from the Interstellar Soundtrack); Lyrics (“Do not go gentle into that good night”) by Dylan Thomas; and Voice by Anthony Hopkins.

via Star Trek, Star Wars (and more) Cinematic Space Compilation.

Totally amazing remix of space scenes from various films. A testament to imagination, ambition, and special effects. I'll admit I've been jonesing for some new good space Sci Fi TV after watching through Babylon 5 again recently. Hopefully the recent management shuffle at SyFy will help.

Unpacking Back to the Future

If you want to be disappointed by anything in our real 2015 compared to what’s imagined in the Back to the Future movies, don’t be disappointed because we haven’t yet been given flying cars or hoverboards. Instead, be disappointed that the momentum of the cassette era has slowed, stopped, and even been rolled back; be disappointed that tech and media companies alike work with judges and law enforcement to take our machines and our culture back out of our own hands.

via Back to the Future, Time Travel, and the Secret History of the 1980s — The Message — Medium.

A way more interesting look at Back to the Future than complaining about flying cars. One of my favorite bits about the article is noting that Marty could plug his camcorder into the TV that existed 30 years prior. If we went back 30 years, we couldn't.

I suspect there will be a movie night soon.

 

The long and interesting history of East Palo Alto

Moreover, the questions being asked today about why the tech industry lacks racial diversity, and what the long-term consequences of gentrification are in the U.S.’s most economically vibrant regions like the San Francisco Bay Area are deeply intertwined in a way that is hard to perceive unless you step back.

This is a story of how two neighboring communities followed entirely different trajectories in post-war California — one of enormous wealth and power, and the other of resilience amid deprivation. It’s about how seemingly small policy choices can have enduring, multi-generational consequences.

A year ago, I told you my family’s history in Silicon Valley. Let me tell you another story.

from East of Palo Alto’s Eden | TechCrunch.

Great long form piece on East Palo Alto over the last 70 years. It makes you think about how national and state level policies play out in individual communities, sometimes in unexpected and undesirable ways.

Via Sean Collins on Twitter.

Dissecting an Infographic

This morning I woke up, made a cup of coffee, picked up my tablet, and took a quick look at Twitter. The following was in my twitter feed via retweet:

screenshot_140

 

Huh, that's interesting. We do often see media blowing things out of proportion. See: Ebola in the United States panic this fall. I was about to move on before I noticed the scale on the upper left.

2014 had less than 500 deaths? That can't be. The two Malaysian Air lines planes that went down this summer (one shot down and one lost entirely) had to have accounted for more than 500 deaths just together. They had no survivors.

Then I noticed the lower right corner.

screenshot_141

So I get things getting safer year over year, but there is no way that 2014 actually had an order of magnitude drop in crashes in one year. 10% decrease seems plausible, but not 80% drop.

That's because this infographic is from March (which makes a ton more sense). It's publication date is March 10, so we're really looking at 1/6 of a year at best in that final bar.screenshot_142

 

Note: the original author completely refuses to acknowledge he was wrong over the course of the twitter thread. Self denial is amazing.

This CNN article from right after the Ukrainian flight was lost on CNN accounts for 761 deaths so far as of end of July.

This year is still going to end up with less deaths than most years, it will look more like the early 2000s, and less like 2013. Not the worst year on record, but definitely not the safest either.

Various rambling thoughts from my personal corner of the internet