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Saturday, May 27th, 2023

404 Page Not Found | Kate Wagner

Considering the average website is less than ten years old, that old warning from your parents that says to “be careful what you post online because it’ll be there forever” is like the story your dad told you about chocolate milk coming from brown cows, a well-meant farce. On the contrary, librarians and archivists have implored us for years to be wary of the impermanence of digital media; when a website, especially one that invites mass participation, goes offline or executes a huge dump of its data and resources, it’s as if a smallish Library of Alexandria has been burned to the ground. Except unlike the burning of such a library, when a website folds, the ensuing commentary from tech blogs asks only why the company folded, or why a startup wasn’t profitable. Ignored is the scope and species of the lost material, or what it might have meant to the scant few who are left to salvage the digital wreck.

Tuesday, April 25th, 2023

Typography Manual by Mike Mai

A short list of opinions on typography. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but it’s all fairly sensible advice.

Space Elevator

Scroll up to the Kármán line.

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

Rich Harris: Hot takes on the web 🌶️ - YouTube

I don’t agree with all of these takes-of-varying-spiciness, but Rich Harris is always worth paying attention to.

Rich Harris on frameworks, the web, and the edge

Wednesday, April 19th, 2023

What The Last of Us, Snowpiercer and ‘climate fiction’ get wrong - BBC Culture

I not only worry that “cli-fi” might not be an effective form of environmental expression – I have come to believe that the genre might be actively dangerous, stunting our cultural ability to imagine a future worth living in or fighting for.

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

Defaulting on Single Page Applications (SPA)—zachleat.com

This isn’t an opinion piece. This is documentation.

You can’t JavaScript your way out of an excess-JavaScript problem.

Thursday, March 9th, 2023

Some simple ways to make content look good - Set Studio

This is a terrific walkthrough from Andy showing how smart fundamentals in your CSS can give you a beautiful readable document without much work.

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

Sunday, March 5th, 2023

Light Years Ahead | The 1969 Apollo Guidance Computer - YouTube

This video was in my “Watch Later” queue for ages but I finally got ‘round to watching it this weekend. It’s ace! Great content, great narrative, great delivery—would’ve made a good dConstruct talk.

Light Years Ahead | The 1969 Apollo Guidance Computer

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

Fujichia: Sayable Space

This game is hard:

Sayable Space is a television game for 1 or more people, it consists of saying “Space” out loud at the same time as Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) during the intro to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or actually that’s just half of the game. The second half is saying “Space”, and the first half is remembering that you are playing this game.

Friday, February 10th, 2023

Why I’m not the biggest fan of Single Page Applications - Manuel Matuzović

I guess the biggest criticism here is that it feels like people who believe in the superiority of single page applications and the entire ecosystem focus more on developer experience (DX) than user experience. That sounds like a dangerous blanket statement, but after all these years, I never had the feeling that the argument “better DX leads to better UX” was ever true. It’s nothing more than a justification for the immense complexity and potentially significantly worse UX. And even if the core argument isn’t DX, other arguments like scalability, maintainability, competitive ability, easier recruiting (“everyone uses React”), and cost effectiveness, in my experience, only sound good, but rarely hold up to their promises.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

We’re all trying to find the guy who did this

Imagine the web is a storefront, React is a hot dog car, and here’s Create React App dressed as a hot dog:

HTML is the cornerstone of the web — so why does creating a “React app” produce an empty HTML file? Why are we not taking advantage of the most basic feature of the web—the ability to see content quickly before all the interactive code loads? Why do we wait to start loading the data until after all the client-side code has finished loading?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

Inside the Globus INK: a mechanical navigation computer for Soviet spaceflight

The positively steampunk piece of hardware used for tracking Alexei Leonov’s Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Monday, January 16th, 2023

Mars distracts

A few years ago, I wrote about how much I enjoyed the book Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Not everyone liked that book. A lot of people were put off by its structure, in which the dream of interstellar colonisation meets the harsh truth of reality and the book follows where that leads. It pours cold water over the very idea of humanity becoming interplanetary.

But our own solar system is doable, right? I mean, Kim Stanley Robinson is the guy who wrote the Mars trilogy and 2312, both of which depict solar system colonisation in just a few centuries.

I wonder if the author might regret the way that some have taken his Mars trilogy as a sort of manual, Torment Nexus style. Kim Stanley Robinson is very much concerned with this planet in this time period, but others use his work to do the opposite.

But the backlash to Mars has begun.

Maciej wrote Why Not Mars:

The goal of this essay is to persuade you that we shouldn’t send human beings to Mars, at least not anytime soon. Landing on Mars with existing technology would be a destructive, wasteful stunt whose only legacy would be to ruin the greatest natural history experiment in the Solar System. It would no more open a new era of spaceflight than a Phoenician sailor crossing the Atlantic in 500 B.C. would have opened up the New World. And it wouldn’t even be that much fun.

Manu Saadia is writing a book about humanity in space, and he has a corresponding newsletter called Against Mars: Space Colonization and its Discontents:

What if space colonization was merely science-fiction, a narrative, or rather a meta-narrative, a myth, an ideology like any other? And therefore, how and why did it catch on? What is so special and so urgent about space colonization that countless scientists, engineers, government officials, billionaire oligarchs and indeed, entire nations, have committed work, ingenuity and treasure to make it a reality.

What if, and hear me out, space colonization was all bullshit?

I mean that quite literally. No hyperbole. Once you peer under the hood, or the nose, of the rocket ship, you encounter a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ghoulish garbage.

Two years ago, Shannon Stirone went into the details of why Mars Is a Hellhole

The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many).

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the case for Mars colonisation is that its most ardent advocate turns out to be an idiotic small-minded eugenicist who can’t even run a social media company, much less a crewed expedition to another planet.

But let’s be clear: we’re talking here about the proposition of sending humans to Mars—ugly bags of mostly water that probably wouldn’t survive. Robots and other uncrewed missions in our solar system …more of that, please!

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Why Not Mars (Idle Words)

I’ve come to believe the best way to look at our Mars program is as a faith-based initiative. There is a small cohort of people who really believe in going to Mars, the way some people believe in ghosts or cryptocurrency, and this group has an outsize effect on our space program.

Maciej lays out the case against a crewed mission to Mars.

Like George Lucas preparing to release another awful prequel, NASA is hoping that cool spaceships and nostalgia will be enough to keep everyone from noticing that their story makes no sense. But you can’t lie your way to Mars, no matter how sincerely you believe in what you’re doing.

And don’t skip the footnotes:

Fourth graders writing to Santa make a stronger case for an X-Box than NASA has been able to put together for a Mars landing.

Sunday, December 11th, 2022

Artemis I | Flickr

NASA is posting some lovely pictures on Flickr from the first Artemis mission.

Flight Day 20: Orion and Our Moon

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Designing a Utopian layout grid: Working with fluid responsive values in a static design tool. | Utopia

James describes his process for designing fluid grid layouts, which very much involves working with the grain of the web but against the grain of our design tools:

In 2022 our design tools are still based around fixed-size artboards, while we’re trying to design products which scale gracefully to suit any screen.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Artemis rising

Two weeks ago I was on stage for two days hosting Leading Design in London.

Last week I was on stage for two days hosting Clarity in New Orleans.

It was an honour and a pleasure to MC at both events. Hard work, but very, very rewarding. And people seemed to like the cut of my jib, so that’s good.

With my obligations fulfilled, I’m now taking some time off before diving back into some exciting events-related work (he said, teasingly).

Jessica and I left New Orleans for Florida on the weekend. We’re spending a week at the beach house in Saint Augustine, doing all the usual Floridian activities: getting in the ocean, eating shrimp, sitting around doing nothing, that kind of thing.

But last night we got to experience something very unusual indeed.

We stayed up late, fighting off tiredness until strolling down to the beach sometime after 1am.

It was a mild night. I was in shorts and short sleeves, standing on the sand with the waves crashing, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness.

We were looking to the south. That’s where Cape Canaveral is, about a hundred miles away.

A hundred miles is quite a distance, and it was a cloudy night, so I wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to see anything. But when the time came, shortly before 2am, there was no mistaking it.

An orange glow appeared on the ocean, just over the horizon. Then an intense bright orange-red flame burst upwards. Even at this considerable distance, it was remarkably piercing.

It quickly travelled upwards, in an almost shaky trajectory, until entering the clouds.

And that was it. Brief, but unforgettable. We had seen the launch of Artemis 1 on the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever launched.

BBC World TV News interview of Ariel Waldman for the NASA Artemis I launch! - YouTube

This is so cool—Ariel was on BBC World TV News live during the Artemis launch!

BBC World TV News interview of Ariel Waldman for the NASA Artemis I launch!

Monday, November 7th, 2022

Aegir.org | Five Moons

In a way, I find these pictures—taken by someone from the ground with regular equipment—just as awe-inspiring as the images from the James Webb Space Telescope.