Tufte, a new style for Mint#

Tufte, a new style for Mint, from Rob Goodlatte. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best style going; it’s as if Rob sat down with me and built it at my direction (read: I really, really like it).

The mystery of the daytime idle: Why aren't you working?#

At any given hour on any given workday, well, it turns out it’s not a workday at all. Not for these hordes roaming free, anyway. By rights our parks and movie theaters and stores should be minor ghost towns between 9 and 5 – chanced upon by the occasional tourist or late-night bartender but otherwise peaceful. Instead, they’re inexplicably packed. I didn’t doubt that the packers had sound explanations. I just wanted to hear them.

How to survive in a black hole#

[I]n general your best bet is to turn on the rocket’s engine – you’ll never escape, but you’ll live a little longer.

I'm smitten with Lightroom

May 21, 2007

Let me just go on the record as saying that Lightroom is an absolute joy to use. Well done guys, well done. Yes, this little two-sentence post probably should have been relegated to Twitter, but, well, sue me.

Scarab beetles and the influence of genes on the predictability of proportion#

The competition between developing weapons and testes is the most obvious aspect of the evolution of these beetles, but the quieter underlying competition between reliability/canalization and flexibility/plasticity may well be the more significant force in evolution: it constrains the range of morphology that is possible in development.

Live Ink

May 19, 2007

Earlier this week I came across a product/concept called Live Ink, which purported to increase both your reading speed and comprehension. I was obviously a bit skeptical, but my interest was piqued enough to give it a shot, and, after having enjoyed using it for the last few days, I thought I'd mention it here.

From copy the company sent me:

In simple terms, by focusing our reading attention, Live Ink helps people read with greater comprehension and retention, with more efficiency and less effort. Live Ink does three things that improve our ability to visually process text: 1) displays text in shorter lines; 2) breaks text in grammatically meaningful segments; and 3) indents text to cue the brain to the relative importance of phrases within a sentence.

The concept really resonated with me, especially in light of my disdain for ‘wide' sentences (see Death to liquid layouts).

If you've checked out the Live Ink site and are interested, but are using Linux or Mac OS X, you may have noticed that they don't yet offer a Mac/Linux client (I'm told it will be months before such a client is available). However, there does exist a [very] beta Firefox extension, which is what I've been using for the past week. While the extension really isn't "public," you can e-mail Adam, their VP of marketing, to request an account.

I should caution you, as he I, that the extension is beta, beta, beta and has been in development only a few weeks. When it works, it works well, but it will definitely break when the markup or characters it receives deviate from what it's expecting. There's also currently a 6000-character limitation, which means that any highlighted text beyond 6000 characters does not get parsed (i.e., if the article is long enough, you may have to parse it in chunks); this will be fixed.

Remember, if you're a Windows user (I'm sorry) you can simply download the actual client, which I'm told does not suffer from the ailments found in its newborn, OS-agnostic progeny.

Shaping the future, a talk by Charlie Stross#

‘Being lost’ has been part of the human experience ever since our hominid ancestors were knuckle-walking around the plains of Africa. And we’re going to lose it — at least, we’re going to make it as unusual an experience as finding yourself out in public without your underpants. […] Engineers and programmers are the often-anonymous architects of society, and what [they] do now could make a huge difference to the lives of millions, even billions, of people in decades to come.

Manufacturing belief#

In Wolpert’s view, religion has given believers an evolutionary advantage, even though it’s based on a grand illusion.

Geeky rare-earth magnets repel sharks#

[S]harks dramatically avoid magnets made from neodymium, iron and boron. The magnets even rouse sharks from tonic immobility, a coma-like state induced by turning them upside down.

Wasted words

May 13, 2007

There's nothing like losing a few hours of your life to writing about a solution for something you later realize is a non-issue. I'm referring to my documenting the recent move I made from iView MediaPro to Aperture1 (I was putting together something similar to From iPhoto to iView MediaPro), and the hoops I jumped through to make it happen.

Turns out that all of my effort was ultimately for naught (or, more accurately, just wasn't needed), because limitations that I thought were inherent in Annoture, were, in fact, non-existent. And just like that, a 2500-word post decayed into this admonishment. Had I read the readme file I wouldn't have wasted half a day preparing my collection for the move; I could have simply run the app and walked away. Moreover, I wouldn't have wasted the other half of the day coming up with a solution and drafting a post explaining both how it worked and why I thought it was needed.

Lesson: don't always assume so much.

  1. I should point out that I had no real desire to move to Aperture, but instead wanted to get everything into Lightroom, Adobe's latest photo-everything tool. However, I couldn't find a semi-automated way of making that transition, and so Aperture became the bridge (pardon the horrible pun) between the two.    

Son, I'm actually an idiot

May 13, 2007

I wonder how long it's going to take my future kid to figure out that I don't know everything, and that every time I say, "we'll talk about it later," I'm actually just buying time to Google the question. I predict not long.

In the field of battle, robots are a soldier's best friend#

Now that our creations display elements of intelligence, […] the bonds humans forge with their machines are [very] impressive. Especially when humans credit their bots with saving their lives. […] The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

A quirky look at our quirky species#

I have called this discipline ‘quirkology’ - the use of scientific methods to study quirky human behaviour, or quirky methods to probe weightier topics.