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week notes

Last year I set out to rekindle my reading habit. That went well. This year’s reading has been enjoyable, but I’m not cozy with the ratio of non-fiction to fiction I’ve read this year…non-fiction (especially of the computing persuasion) far out balances the fiction I’ve read. I think this is mostly because I’ve been mired amidst a fiction book that I’ve found to be a slog…but enjoyable, too. I’d have abandoned it and moved on, elsewise. Onward!

Spring is quickly making way to summer here in Maine. The school year is fully geared up to end at any moment, and summer adventures are aching to start.

We don’t have anything huge planned this year — but we have more than we’ve had on deck for the past 5 years or so. I’m honestly a little anxious.

In an attempt to be more social, and not fake social-ness by occasionally posting these missives here, this weekend I was slated to attend an in-person game jam. Fate conspired against me, though, in the guise of an ill kid, and I was unable to attend. I was hoping to cobble together a game of some sort to help me think through what a simple game engine might be like implemented in apl, or another array language.

Here is a fun article on early computer art from Amy Goodchild.

Like so many other folks of late, my family has been deep into Zelda — but not the new Tears of the Kingdom game. We haven’t cracked that one, yet! We’ve been enjoying Links Awakening and Breath of the Wild.

…I joked about the Zelda games and pastoral art in another post a while back, I think, but can’t stop thinking about it in earnest now, especially Breath of the Wild, which literally features a flavor of pastoral art in cut scenes, all while relishing in an in-game art style that inches oh so close to romantic landscapes. Lots of juicy visuals to love.

Something left out of the original draft of this post:

I’ve started a fork of ngn-apl! My plan is to leave the core functionality in place, but to layer on some accessibility and mobile-friendly improvements to the web interface.

of array programming, lightsabers and some thoughts on permacomputing

A bit of this and that, some kind of mishmosh.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about array programming systems like J, K, Q, APL, and BQN. I’ve been intending to add a page to the wiki about them, but haven’t gotten to that yet. Consider this a little promise that I’ll do that sometime soon. I’m interested in array programming less because I think it’s particularly useful for me (it’s not) and more because I am captivated by the poetics it invites.

If I had a personal theory of programming (I don’t) it would be something like

programming is writing poetry that acts on input and data to cause a known effect.

Array programming systems invite a different sort of metre and verse to that poetry. They force ya towards something like haiku whereas most other languages want you to stick to a yawn inducing iambic pentameter.

Beyond that reading, I re-watched the original Star Wars movies — IV, V, VI — this past week with my older kid. Their reaction to them was skepticism, and being convinced that the Ewoks ate the dead Imperials after the Battle of Endor…which could be true?

A blog post I wrote a few months back at work got published. It is my attempt at sneaking in some thoughts on permacomputing into a more normal” setting. The timing of the post was oddly synchronous with a few things, one of which is my thinking a lot more about permacomputing:

A lot of the dialogue around permacomputing that I’ve seen seems intertwined with a certain aesthetic sensibility that is entangled with the demo scene and retro computing communities. While I think both these spaces are kinda rad, I think they’re specifically prone to a certain flavor of navel gazing…a flavor focused on specific tech stacks, and tooling, and apparent minimalism. It’s a flavor that leaves a gap in the conversation around what I’d call the why” of permacomputing.

Most of the conversations I see are hyper focused on the how” and what” of permacomputing. How” and what” cover the skeleton, we use X system running on Y reclaimed hardware.” The discussions that gesture at why” that I see tend to be like because it’s the more harmonious way to do computation given that we’re living amidst climate collapse.” And, while that is a great reason for choosing lower impact tools, I think the community generally misses what I see as the most important bit of permacomputing:

Let permacomputing be an invitation to question why and how much computation ought to be involved with a thing, and, if that computation is being used to increase or decrease the anomie between folks…and with what impact to the world?

My take on permacomputing is that it’s a way of approaching computation that’s further distanced from the goals of capitalism. It is an effort to re-imagine our tech landscape, and in so doing enchant it with values that support, for lack of a better word, balance.”

week notes

Some things of note, links mostly:

First and foremost, I found a suitable pinboard replacement in link hut! Shout outs to my buddy Bruno for the tip.

Here’s a bookmarklet I wrote to make it a bit more ergonomic for how I like to roll,

javascript:(function () {
  const tags = prompt('A space separated list of tags.');

That will snag any selected text and pop it into the bookmark’s description after it prompts you to enter some tags.

Next, a confession: those who know me know that I’m cynical about all tech. So, it should come as no surprise that I’m deeply cynical about the current bloom of AI, a la ChatGPT.

…well, curiosity got the best of me and I tried ChatGPT out.

And, honestly, I’m still pretty cynical about the whole vibe — I started to write some discombobulated thoughts about all that on my wiki but haven’t gotten anywhere with that line of thought yet — BUT, the thing I have found ChatGPT incredible for is that it has totally replaced my least favorite weekly chore! Menu planning.

I loathe menu planning. It is weirdly stressful and we have a handful of interconnected constraints on our menus and it was exhausting for me for some reason. I always dreaded menu planning. Well, ChatGPT has solved menu planning for me, and I guess that is cool?

I said unto it: please suggest 4 week’s worth of dinners for a gluten free, vegetarian family of 4 including recipes and shopping lists.”

…and it worked.

Insane with power, I submitted the same request with some minor tweaks 6 more times. I used the responses to build an archive of recipes paired with shopping lists. I’ve added a few items, and I’ve made myself a little tool to randomize a menu and shopping list.

Now ya’ll know my shame.

My birthday happened this month, for it I got 2 lovely gifts:

  • Sandra fulfilled my birthday wish by making me a bespoke emoji of the 😬 face backing into a bush
  • a whole pile of video games

Among the games are two standouts:

  • Tunic
  • Eastward

Eastward is specifically amazing because it hits every button right for me — I’m a sucker for the type of story telling it engages, as well as for Vermeer-level pixel-art. The graphical story telling, and world building are all kinds of good.

Speaking of pixel-art, I continue to work on a little Game Boy game. To empower my doodling around with that while on work meetings I pulled together a little pixel-art editor.

Spring has been teasing us here in Maine. Hints of its arrival abound, yet it remains sloppy and gray outside…sock weather purists.

week notes

I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been concocting a recipe for vegan kugel, and rediscovering little features and edges of my website I’d forgotten I baked in. Like chocolate chips hidden in an oatmeal raisin cookie.

One chip most recently re-discovered: support for per-page custom styles?! All I gotta do is include an optional bit of meta data, bespoke-css, that points to a style sheet. I may play with this feature more. I do love myself some css. I can tell exactly when in my life I added this feature because these days I’d never call such a thing bespoke-css” — it would get a much more boring, terse label, like css” or styles.”

The kids have been home on school break this week. We’ve been having a lot of fun reading The Wind in the Willows aloud, and playing a bit of No Man’s Sky on creative mode. You wouldn’t think it, but each carry a really similar vibe. Cosmic-pastoral-localism?

In the last week notes I made mention of potty training; at first that was harrowing and seemed like it would never happen. Then, all at once, it did!

I continue to expand the newly formed wiki. My plan isn’t to catalogue everything and anything — outboard brain style — but to really only document stuff I find useful and that I want to keep track of for myself…that maybe will be useful for other folks, too? The acme page is probably most inline with what I’m going for.

For good times, check out ratfactors rad presentation on forth!

I’ve also been playing with babashka, reading it’s excellent companion book, babooka. Babashka is a wicked fast way to use clojure when you’d normally reach for bash.

week notes

It got a wee bit cold here in Maine this weekend. It was thankfully uneventful for us. We hung around inside and watched it get real cold outside. Our home faired pretty well, too. Honestly pleasantly surprised about that!

We picked this weekend to go all in on potty training — pantsless days, treats, rousing bouts of encouragement sung, and a lot of spot cleaning. Fueled by hubris, I thought we had this potty training thing down pat. In reality, it was that our first go round with it was supremely uneventful. We will perceiver.

I’ve been thinking many thoughts about how to fix this website. While I love its design and general vibe, I know it’s not all that accessible, and has some usability issues (so many tags!?). I don’t have a real idea what to do, yet, but maybe take this as warning? Changes are afoot…albeit a pair of slow, uncertain feet. Things I hope to figure out include

  • an equally quirky, but significantly more accessible design
  • a better way of revisiting past posts
  • and if I even wanna stick with this blog-ish format, or if I wanna move to something more like a wiki, or something altogether weirder!?

I recently asked a question on fedi:

Once upon a time I was an art history person. I thought for a long while I was gonna be a professor of it or something adjacent to it.

There’s a certain sort of art history writing that spends a lot of time establishing an ontology around what’s beautiful, and what moves make something beautiful.

These days, a lot of the nonfiction I read is about programming or computer science. It’s not unusual for a programming book to talk about beauty in code, or data, but the rules” for what makes something beautiful seem a lot more ephemeral, but usually related to elegance.”

For the code inclined among ye, when do you see code as beautiful? Do you?

This had a number of really interesting responses that I’ve been noodling on. If I was so bold as to condense them down, I’d say a connecting line between all the responses is utility.” In hindsight this makes total and complete sense — code ought to work. When I asked the question, though, I was in a really aesthetic frame of mind, so, was sorta surprised with how focused folks were on the code actually functioning over some aesthetic quality of the rendering of the code itself.

…but this may also be sign that my code is mostly garbage?

In my mind, regardless of what or how it works, C is less beautiful” than a lisp. There is an aesthetic to lisps that I find beautiful.

One respondent said,

I find code beautiful when it has an internal grain, a style of its own, whatever that style may be.

That struck me. I’ve read about the idea of code having grain” before, and find that an interesting way to describe the tactile nature of programming systems when compared to one another…C to lisp, forth to pascal.

Since the new year I’ve finished a few books. I’m trying to read more fiction than nonfiction this year. I re-read The Hobbit with the family, and an unremarkable, but enjoyable book, the second in a series, Eyes of the Void, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I liked the first in the series better than this second one, but it was fun, and I’ll most likely end up reading the third installment soon enough.

715 Creeks by Cristin Milioti is a song that has been in heavy rotation while I work lately. It is a cover from Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.

Occasional notes

If they aren’t weekly, I guess they’re occasional?

3rd repair procedure to fix brain bleed was a success. I have a few more scans and follow ups, but, knock wood I think I’m through at this point.

I’ve spent about a week laying low and taking it easy navigating some wild pain, but that is subsiding now. I watched a bunch of stuff. It was a nice change of pace. I don’t typically watch much television or many movies. Stand outs (all things I revisited) include:

  • Michael Clayton
  • Point Break, the original one
  • John Carter of Mars, straight up…this movie is awful. The book is pretty awful, too, but they just don’t make bananas sci-fi like this any more
  • Bee and Puppycat, this one was weird — I’d seen it all through and loved it…I was surprised to see how different the Netflix version is from what I remember.

I’ve continued reading about and exploring some array programing languages. I find them fascinating. I doubt that I’ll ever do much with any, but they’re fun to think through and make me wanna play with combinators in other settings…also, matrices.

Another language recently stumbled on is lil. It is a scripting language baked into a cool little project called Decker. Learn even more about it.

The language is strange, and exciting — it allows for some interesting combinations of imperative, functional, and array programming styles.

No doubt ya’ll have heard about the goings on at Twitter. I haven’t been on Twitter for years, but do love myself some fediverse-action. Lately it has been getting some attention.

A cool mastodon trick for anyone wading into the waters for the first time:

I’ve used the fediverse for years and ended up moving from server to server a few times. It is useful to have a quick shorthand for folks to find you without always giving them your exact handle — if you have your own website you can use that as a form of identity without needing to host your own server!

To pull this off you need to add a file at <your personal domain name>.tld/.well-known/webfinger

Paste the contents of https://<name of mastodon instance>.tld/.well-known/webfinger?resource=acct:<your user name>@<name of mastodon instance>.tld into the webfinger document on your server. From there, you are cooking with fire!

You can then search for and your main account will show up in the results. It is sort of like an alias.

NOTE <anything>@<your domain>.tld will trigger this. As far as I know there is no way to lock it to a specific handle, since, this isn’t really a feature as much as an easily exploited bug of the lookup system.

No super notable links of late. On a meta note I use to collect and organize links; I’m growing a wee bit concerned about pinboard is withering on the vine. I recently tried to export my gigantic archive from it and…no dice? Days later I emailed support and no response. Anyone have favorite alternatives? Either pay-for, or self hosted. Ideally I’d like it to be able to grab the linked content. I’ve used wallabag in the past and wouldn’t mind returning to it, I’ve just been slowly trying to back away from self hosting services and pinboard seemed oh so reliable when I moved to it a few years back.

Link logging

Me, On The Screen: Race in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I am a big fan of Austin Walker — I love his writing, and the way he GMs games on Friends at the Table. In this piece from 2013 he explores and contextualizes the importance of inclusive representation in games and play through the lens of Animal Crossing. Seeing this is even cooler being familiar with the hundreds of hours of actual-play he has coordinated and helped to produce since it almost all highlights the importance and power of representation.

Other people’s weeknotes

A list of people’s weeknotes. Weeknotes may be peak-blog. I adore them.

10 Nonhumans That Are Legally Humans

A list of things that are legally recognized as humans but that aren’t actual humans.

The ultimate guide to DuckDuckGo

A list of all the things DuckDuckGo can do for you.

Application Holotypes: A Guide to Architecture Decisions

A list of holotypes which help to form the basis of a taxonomy for web applications.

These next two items go hand-in-hand and absolutely fascinate me. Things like this make me want to go for a PhD just because I’d love the time to write thousands of words about what it takes to bring the physical to the digital…and exploring what it then takes to physically maintain the digital” replication of the physical object.

Hand Job Zine and Mass Digitization Files

A collection of zines exploring the labor of digitization (and who does that labor).

Dancing the flip-flop

flip-flop (n.) the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back, often more than once.

That’s pretty abstract. Here’s an example recipe:

  1. Carve a statue out of stone. PHYSICAL
  2. Digitize your statue with a 3D scanner. DIGITAL
  3. Make some edits. Shrink it down. Add wings. STILL DIGITAL
  4. Print the edited sculpture in plastic with a 3D printer. PHYSICAL AGAIN