Spreadsheet Lane

I’ve just read this piece by Steven Levy on the early days of the spreadsheet. It was written when spreadsheets were brand new and offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. The conclusion caught my eye:

“Fortunately, few would argue that all relations between people can be quantified and manipulated by formulas. Of human behavior, no faultless assumptions – and so no perfect model — can be made.”

Thirty years on, and a bunch of very smart people are having a run at doing exactly that. Tech world got way too high on its own supply.



Webdesign Rules

Only use Javascript if CSS is not sufficient.

Only use CSS if HTML is not sufficient.

Only use HTML if plain text is not sufficient.

Use plain text.



Macbook Air

So, I bought a MacBook Air. Yes, the one with the terrible keyboard.

I found myself on the go a lot more those last few weeks, and I needed (=wanted) a way to do some light work. I have my iPad Pro, of course, but I've hit its limitations way too often. Namely, it is the year 2019 and I still can't run a local server on that damn thing. There are some workarounds, but they're all unsatisfying. Plus, no BBEdit. No current version of Transmit. No command line. At. All.

I prefer doing a lot of stuff on the iPad (drawing, obviously; but also tinkering a bit with music) and I really, really wanted to get to a point where I would need only one mobile device. Touch is a great input method for a lot of things. Heck, I even looked at those damn Surface machines. But Windows is a non-starter, Linux support is spotty, and I really, really love BBEdit. Never underestimate the productivity gains you get from knowing your tools well. Which means the only viable option for my situation was some sort of Macbook.

My priorities for the device were thusly:

  1. Lightness
  2. Price
  3. Speed
  4. TouchID
  5. Color Options

I ended up deciding between a 13" Pro and the Air, and yeah, so I bought a Macbook Air in gold (or whatever that color is). Sue me.

The plan is to use this thing for a year, hope that I don't run into any keyboard troubles, and then trade it in when they come out with a new design. Or get a new iPad once Apple deigns us worthy of a CLI on iOS (ha!).

Other than my (internet stoked) fear that the keyboard could break at any moment I really like it so far. It's quiet, reasonably fast (I've opted for 16 GB RAM), and I can sit on a park bench and work on web dev stuff without grumbling about arbitrary limitations on the OS level. I think the key travel is okay. It's not my favorite computer of all time (that's the iMac I'm sitting in front of most of the day), but it's good choice for a secondary device. Two (cautiously optimistic) thumbs up.



Free Comic Book Day 2019

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day and you know what that means: Free. Comic. Books! So get your ass down to your closest comic book store and hang out. But remember: the books are free for you, not for the stores. They still have to pay for them. Pick up something else why you’re there, would ya? Something new perhaps, something you wouldn't have picked up otherwise. Or something you've missed earlier. Pick up a trade.

For instance, since everyone is still in Endgame mode, I’ll give you a "mainstream", Avengers-style recommendation:

The Immortal Hulk Vol 1 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett

What's the pitch? The Hulk, presumed dead, can only come out at night to terrorize the bad guys. And terrorize he does. It's creepy, it's sad, morbidly funny, and there is some pretty gruesome stuff in it as well. If you're into horror comics, you will definitely like it. If you're into superheroes, well, it's still the Hulk! The tone harkens back to the early days of Marvel, which I appreciate. For my money it's one of the best comic series going at the moment.



Www Emulator

Seeing my website render perfectly (without CSS support, obviously) in an emulator of the first web browser running inside a current browser gives me all the feels.

It also gives me hope. If this groundbreaking idea of an always connected world could survive three decades, it can survive thirty more. At least.



Facebook Vs Rss Part 1

I tried to hook up a IFTTT shortcut to automatically cross-post feed items to my personal facebook account. Alas, Facebook doesn't allow that (anymore). You have to have a facebook page for that. It sucks, but I get why they did it from a business point of view. Facebook lives off engagement and they know exactly that you will see at least a few items in your news feed if you go there to post a link.

I could obviously refrain from cross-posting, but I do have a few friends I will not reach otherwise. Maybe I'll write a blocker that cleans out everything but the little post box? I dunno.



Hype

The last time I was hyped up like this was when The Force Awakens came out. I have my problems with the movie now, but back then, in the sold-out theater, it was amazing. Nothing beats the midnight premiere of a beloved franchise with a bunch of dedicated fans. Really looking forward to tonight.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!


Marvel Before The Endgame

“We're in the Endgame now.”

It’s silly how much these Marvel movies mean to me. But if there's one constant in my life it's my belief that silliness is what it's all about. Going to see those movies with my friends, talking about them afterwards; those things were a huge part of my 20s and I will always remember that fondly.

So yeah, I've rewatched all the Marvel movies over the course of 2 months. Here are some random thoughts (and yes, there will be a ranked list at the end. Everybody loves ranked lists.):

That's about it. 21 movies in 10 years. I don't know what comes next, but it's been a pretty good ride so far. Let's bring on the ENDGAME!


And finally: the ranked list. Mind you, these are ranked according to my taste, which is subject to change.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Black Panther
  3. Thor: Ragnarok
  4. Guardians of The Galaxy
  5. Captain Marvel
  6. Captain America: Civil War
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Avengers: Infinity War
  9. Captain America: The First Avenger
  10. Iron Man
  11. The Avengers
  12. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  13. Doctor Strange
  14. Thor
  15. Ant-Man
  16. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
  17. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  18. Iron Man 2
  19. The Incredible Hulk
  20. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
  21. Thor: The Dark World


Siri Woes

I like Siri, but goddammit, every time I ask the runtime of a movie it asks me which version I'm referring to.

"Did you mean (insert movie)? Or (insert movie) 3D? Or (insert movie) Trailer #1?"

The normal one. Definitely not the trailer. Just pick the basic version and tell me. Or tell me the runtime of all of them. Either is fine. But asking me to specify the exact version is a pretty clunky design choice.



Clarity Over Cleverness

I'm editing the site generation scripts for publication right now and it struck me again that I don't use any JavaScript on this site. Or cookies, for that matter. I don't even use a “real” backend. It's simple text files, all the way down. I could of course generate each page dynamically when they're needed or pull the data from a database, but that would mean some performance overhead. It would mean bigger pages. And as I’ve said yesterday, that's not a trade-off I'm willing to make. Loading times and small page sizes are features too.

I get the impetus, though. I think code is cool, in a very visceral sense. There's something magical about programming a machine. But a lesson I've learned as I got older is that code is not the right solution for every problem. Sometimes a few chosen words, nice formatting, and a splash color is all you need.



Hello Again

I haven't written something on here in quite a while. Been busy with, you know, children. Also work.

The kids are bit older now and work is changing, so here I am. You might've noticed that everything looks different. Well, that's because it is. I left Squarespace and created my own static site generator in Python. I'm running a server and everything. Yeah, self-reliance! (Except for email. Fucking email.)

The plan is to release it on my github once all the kinks are worked out. It doesn't have a lot of features and you should probably not use it for your own site, but we can't have enough free and open software out there. I don't know, maybe someone else will be inspired to give the open web another shot? It's worth trying.

This homepage went from 3Mb on Squarespace to 36Kb with my own thing. A lot of that is the change in Fonts; I only use web fonts now and don't rely on outside stuff. It's a tradeoff, because I really like Futura. But some of it is less CSS overhead. The CSS for this site is in one file, as it should be. I don't think a purely text based site should make a dent in your monthly data plan. Computers are super-fast now and over the last few years we've spend that budget irresponsibly. Simple text pages should load instantaneous, no matter where you are on this planet.

I broke a bunch of links. I will fix that in the coming days. I just wanted to get the site up. You should subscribe to the new RSS feed.

I still don't have a comment section. I will never have a comment section. My homepage is not a platform, nor should it be.

The platform is the open web.

Work is changing. I've been with the same company for five years now and I feel the itch to strike out on my own again. I've worked on some side things and redesigned something for someone recently (#vague) that will be out soon. It was a lot of fun and a good indicator to where I want to go next. I'll have more to say once it's officially launched. For now I have to get the games and projects pages up and running. Onwards!



Discovery Revisited

“I am not disappointed in Discovery, because it is exactly the show I predicted it would be. It’s a pretty generic, “gritty” tale of redemption and shady machinations that has the title “Star Trek” slapped on it to sell to the base. There is a tribble on the desk of the captain, there’s Harry Mudd, there’s talk of the Prime Directive, warp drives, and Klingons. There’s Sarek. It supposedly takes place in the Prime timeline. Symbols.”

That’s what I wrote when I stopped watching the show after three episodes. Now that I’ve seen all of it, I would like to add this:

It didn’t get better, in some ways it got much worse. It was pointless. Way too reliant on “oh so clever plot twists”. There was no “there” there. It was all just plot progression. But that’s what “good” TV and “great” movies are now: Endless streams of pointless plot progression, that give the illusion of substance. Throw in a a cute speech about “hard choices we have to make” and some simplistic moral dilemma delivered in hushed tones and you’ve got a winner! Sure, maybe 5 years ago, definitely 10 years ago, I would’ve been all over this shit. You can certainly see that someone pre-planned all of it and that’s a thing. It’s writing. I get it. It’s just not my cup of tea anymore. And that’s not to say that you can’t enjoy it, or that I’m right. It just means that I’m probably out of step with pop culture for now. That’s not the worst place to be (except for when you’re trying to make games or something. oops.)

It’s not about the dumb, pandering Star Trek things, either, even though they got dumber and more pandering as it went on. It’s something more fundamental. It’s the cowardice of it all. I’m so tired of it. Take Captain Lorca, for instance. They build him up as this different vision of a Starfleet Captain. One that is hardened by the war, but underneath it all, he’s still an explorer. I could see that. I don’t like it, but I could see it work. That could be interesting. So they did that and all was well.

I’m just kidding. There’s no moral quandary or reexamination of Starfleet ideals because he’s literally an evil dude from an evil parallel universe doing evil things. Case closed. Federation off the hook. That’s not telling us anything. It is empty storytelling. It’s nothing. But it’s shot with long shadows and tilted angles and in slow-motion, so it must be “important”.

Sigh. I’m gonna stop now. I’ve spend enough time on this shit. I will probably do Westworld next, so get your pitchforks ready.



51Orehehtton

If I was a filmmaker, I would now officially be in my "making experimental short films right before the big break" period. Alas, I'm not a filmmaker and so it is just Wednesday. This game was for yet another game jam (The GameDev Networks Gooseberry Jam) and I'm very happy that I found the time to do it at all, what with having to care for two babies and all that.

You can check it out over on the itch.io page and if you dislike it, please tell me. In many words. Also if you happen to like it. I do appreciate feedback.



Star Trek: Discovery

When Discovery was first announced, I was asked by friends, who knew that I liked Star Trek, if I was excited that a new show would soon grace our screens. I said no, I am not excited. They were confused. “It will be full of symbols that will link it to the past,” I said, “but most likely shirk away from the type of ideas Star Trek was based around.” Again, confusion.

I am not disappointed in Discovery, because it is exactly the show I predicted it would be. It’s a pretty generic, “gritty” tale of redemption and shady machinations that has the title “Star Trek” slapped on it to sell to the base. There is a tribble on the desk of the captain, there’s Harry Mudd, there’s talk of the Prime Directive, warp drives, and Klingons. There’s Sarek. It supposedly takes place in the Prime timeline. Symbols.

What made Star Trek special was the utopian vision of the future. It was a world were people came together to explore for explorations sake. No Star Trek was perfect: Sexism was a given until Gene Roddenberry, uh, died (Yes, that includes you, TNG!) and flared up again every once in a while after that. The messages were sometimes flawed, confused, or ham-fisted. But through it all, a vision of the future was presented in which we overcame our earthly problems to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go…

Discovery goes where hundreds of shows have gone before. It’s trite, slow, and, quite frankly, not very interesting. I don’t like or care for any of its characters. I don’t find the super warp drive interesting. I don’t want to see a rehash of the Klingon War. And I especially don’t care about the “operatives in the shadows that enable noble explorers like Kirk, Picard, et al”. It might be about Section 31, it might not be (I’ve seen the fan speculation). It sure feels like someone went “Optimism isn’t grown up enough. This is grown up!”

Granted, I’ve only seen the first three episodes, so it has room to improve. But I don’t think it will, because a) I don’t think the show runners or the people watching feel that anything is wrong with it and b) the type of show I enjoy is rarely in vogue (just look at the numbers for Twin Peaks: The Return). If you enjoy it, fine. More power to you! There’s an endless stream of this type of storytelling right now, so enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t, so I won’t be tuning in again.



Turning Thirty

I’m nine years old today. Why is everyone screaming? It’s the booze. It gotta be. They only ever come together to drink and to air dirty laundry. I don’t enjoy my birthdays. My friends have parties where they invite everyone over. We only ever have family gatherings that end in boozy screaming.

I’m fourteen years old today. I could choose my guest list. I didn’t invite anyone, except for an aunt I really like. She’s not really my aunt, a cousin on my father’s side, and she doesn’t drink as much. Her husband works with computers. I spend my first few minutes on the internet at their place. They haven’t arrived yet, but my grandparents have. Invitation be damned; family comes first. They don’t listen to me when I tell them that they should wait with the cake. They just eat. My aunt hasn’t arrived yet.

I’m eighteen years old today. I’ve been living in this shack for the entire summer. I was kicked out of the house just after New Years. My family isn’t talking to me, my friends are busy with school. I haven’t been to school in two years. I’m celebrating with a dude I met over the summer. He won’t stick. The shack is a Laube, a sort of allotment garden between train tracks. Germany is weird. I guess people need space away from the city, but with easy access to transportation. Life is weird. Where am I going next?

I’m twenty-one years old today. I have a few friends. Well, my then-girlfriend has friends. And I have people I met at the comic book store. They won’t stick. I made this big invitation and handed it to the people. I think they laugh behind my back. It seems silly, but it is what I do. We hang out at a bar, and everything’s seems good. We drink cheap drinks and I get a bunch of comics. On the way home I misread a cue on the bus and almost start a fight. The dude spit in my face. It’s not all good. I’m ashamed.

I’m twenty-four years old today. I’m hanging out with my friends. This is third set of people in five years. They will stick. We’re drinking beer, we hang out at a shitty bar. I start to feel like my life is moving in a direction that is not altogether bad.

I’m twenty-seven years old today. I’m bombing at Lagari. I started doing stand-up comedy a few months ago, and it’s taking over my life. I let everything slide and manically pursue the laughter. It’s like a drug for me. I can’t control it. I know that I need more balance. I don’t want to face that fact, though, so I drink. I drank last night and arrogantly assume I could kill tonight. This isn’t the worst bombing of my short-lived career, but I’ll always remember it as a Moment. The host remains gracious throughout, but I know he must be pissed. I would be pissed. I am pissed.

I’m thirty years old today. I have a steady job, I work on video games on the side. I’ve got ideas for scripts. I’m firing on all cylinders. Our two baby boys, Ben and Freddie, were born two weeks ago. They are in the hospital, because they were born ten weeks too soon. They are the coolest dudes I’ve ever met. Going to the hospital every day is exhausting, but soon we won’t have to anymore. They’ll be home. I have balance now. I do my creative stuff, I take care of my mental health, and I spend time with family. My chosen family. My girlfriend, our sons, my friends. Life is good. Bring on the next decade.