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Recently in California

Mersey Beats
I'm going to try something new in 2015: I'm going to write at least a little about every book that I read. (Ok, I'm going to try. This isn't a job.) I just finished "Tune In", the first volume of a projected three-volume history of the Beatles by Mark Lewisohn. It was really surprisingly fascinating and I want to try to explain why before all the images and impressions the book created fade from my memory.

Why do you care about those old men anyway?
I feel like an apologia for Beatles fandom is kind of required at this point. They're so central to the rockist canon, such a touchstone for the type of reactionaries who would dismiss hip-hop, techno and everything living and vital that I care about in music, that caring about them enough to read a book on them (three books!) seems suspect.

First, a generic defense of the study of history:it's not only not opposed to a progressive outlook, it's an important part of any understanding of the present. I say this as foundation-laying, I doubt any of the three people reading this would disagree.

Second, a more specific understanding of the Beatles - actually grokking their context, their rise, their loves, hates and ambitions - helps in understanding them as a specific group of people operating in a specific context, reacting to the music around them, expressing a particular Liverpool sensibility. All the talk about them as "timeless, central to rock history, giants" just obscures who they actually were and why they did what they did.

Finally, their rise coincided with - helped bring about - the rise of a new kind of music, a new youth culture, a new music industry ... every stage of their story so far involves people doing things no one had ever done before. Even if you think rock would have reached more or less the same place without them, a lot of things changed in the Sixties and the history of the Beatles is a fantastic lens for viewing it.

I'm pretty sure you were going to tell us about a book
It's engagingly written, a tiny bit amateurish in the best sense of the word, astoundingly well researched but wearing that lightly, and packed with memorable quotes and scenes. Lewisohn does well sketching milieu, and this is the foundation of the book.

Say something about the Beatles? anything
They weren't fantastic musicians, Paul maybe excepted. Fantastic singers and songwriters, yeah. But it's funny to think about how many people yearning tiresomely for "musicianship" put the Beatles at the top of their list.

They wanted to make black music. They had other influences, but when Little Richard told them they had that "authentic Negro sound" I can't imagine how happy they must have felt.

They were direct, funny, often assholes. Lewisohn keeps emphasizing how they refused to do anything that felt fake, that they were always true to themselves. He maybe hits that point too hard but you do finish the book feeling that part of their success came from aggressive disregard for what other people wanted or expected. I'm not sure that I would have been friends with John, but I would love to have spent time in his company. Even just reading the book you get inspired by how original his behavior - all of their behavior - was. You start to feel it's possible to live life less by rote.

Finally, when the group starts producing great work (they definitely didn't always) there starts to be a steady stream of little eruptions in the book, the Beatles doing something new and amazing. I'm not sure how much of this is their musical originality. Maybe Lewisohn could have done more to show how novelty comes from recombination - but he already does quite a bit of that. Maybe they had something.

Filed for future travel plans
Having a local cook you dinner when you're traveling sounds like a good idea.


Content Forever
New test: if your essay has less value than an essay produced by a lazy algorithm maybe don't publish it.

Jolla / Sailfish
Mobile OS with a design that emphasizes spatial navigation, gesture-based interactions that work well on devices of varying sizes. Not beautiful but seems like there'd be something soothing about working on one of these devices.

Camlistore is a set of open source formats, protocols, and software for modeling, storing, searching, sharing and synchronizing data in the post-PC era.

Basically, this is designed to be How Individuals Store Their Stuff. Forever.

Ambitious, but it's from Brad Fitzpatrick, so it might actually work.

Interesting argument that display ads will come down in price eventually ... a lot
Social Advertising Economics. Implications for the future of FB/TWTR etc. He recently admitted to getting the timing wrong on this, but still thinks things will play out as predicted. He also thinks app install ads will come down in price, that they're inflated by VC-glutted startups looking for growth.

Instant Feedly add.

The mythical "install server apps as easily as smartphone apps" service

For Linux (dedicated box at home, EC2 instance, etc.) Currently mostly CMS, email and collaboration apps.

Running my own Flickr looks interesting.

The Grant Study
The Grant Study is part of the Study of Adult Development at Harvard Medical School. It is a 75-year longitudinal study of 268 physically- and mentally-healthy Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 19391944.

Valliant's main conclusion is that "warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on 'life satisfaction'". Put differently, Valliant says the study shows: "Happiness is love. Full stop."


Trip notes, part one: Copenhagen

The queen of Denmark (who loves the ballet and goes to nearly every new show) has a terrible seat at the Royal Theater: her box is right next to the stage, so everyone can see her, but she needs to practically lean out of her private box to see even three quarters of the stage. And that's what she does.

Two internets
I once read a Choose Your Own Adventure book that had an ending (a happy ending, I remember a picture of a shining city) you could only reach by exploring the book and opening directly to that page. You couldn't get there by picking options "if you follow the man offering candy into his van, go to page 10."

The internet's kind of the same way, there's the default internet of feeds telling you what's new what's happening, and the other internet you can only find by Googling for random stuff like Ferris Bueller's bedroom.

R.I.P. Mark Bell
20 years after Frequencies still vital and urgent:

What it's all for. Ken Downie posted "you made a difference" about Mark today and I felt a little odd about it. But on reflection, yes.

Ignore this and die
"People's trust in the cloud in technology is based on a trust that it will work predictably and at their direction." - @grimmlem

Google Glass: actually pretty useful for quadriplegics

Given what we know about software timeline estimation, "sprint" is a pretty bad rhetorical frame to use on the reg, right? Maybe it should be "a nice jog followed by dinner with your family". Then half the time it'll end up being a sprint anyway.

I wonder if there's ever been a software company that said "you know what, we're going to do everything slowly. 100% stop and smell the roses pace." But did a good job at what they did do.

"What was that non-sucky domain registrar again?"

Quick, not-fully-baked thought: Twitter's successful because it's a better place to have conversations than Facebook or Google+. It's public by default, so new people can join conversations. It doesn't have the fiddly UIs that Facebook and Google+ have for comments on posts (sometimes it feels like Facebook/Google+ let you have conversations in comments only grudgingly) partially because there is no distinction between a comment and a post.

I'm not really sure what role the 140 character limit plays here, if any. (It means that it's always easy to scan your feed without worrying that you're missing something, but that's more about the reading experience.) Keeps it flowing, keeps it about the conversation?

Safari on iOS sets the size and scale of the viewport to reasonable defaults that work well for most webpages, as shown on the left in Figure 3-9. The default width is 980 pixels.

Even if your page doesn't have any style information, or any size information of any kind. Just put a blob of text in a <body> tag and your iPhone will figure you must want to view it a tenth of an inch high.

Getting excited about the web again
I got your unified view of a conversation via federated personal sites right here

Rebel fortress at IndieWebCamp

Not sure I can handle adding a permalink back to my site for every Tweet though ...

My favorite tacos in LA

Federated online services
There's a decent definition of federation here, in the discuss of Gmail and AIM. Basically: people using service provider X can interact with people on service provider Y.

  • email
  • XMPP, eventually - although that didn't save it

If that definition is right, it only really applies to interactions that peer-to-peer, mediated by servers. But identity/ single sign-on is called federated as well, and is really just a peer-server-server interaction, so ...

You've got mail
email beat service-specific messaging once ...

1. Internet used only by geeks, with open (federated) email services
2. Internet commercializes, but new users shunted into closed, service-specific messaging, typically tied to their ISP (Prodigy, AOL, ... )
3. Service-specific messaging platforms add external messaging
4. Messaging becomes decoupled from ISP (usually, you have a family member somewhere with a address)

Arriving in Newport Beach
A pier in Newport Beach from the air


Visual CSV Fingerprint

Icon usability
"... if it takes you more than 5 seconds to think of an appropriate icon ..." then don't rely on an icon there. Nielsen/Norman on icon usability.

Ten degrees!
Somehow I missed that. Ten. ("Could", so maybe that's the upper end of their estimates.)

Two teams of American climatologists published research confirming that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun to collapse, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program released its third National Climate Assessment, which noted that average temperatures in the United States had increased by between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, predicted that in the absence of human intervention those temperatures could rise by another 10 degrees during the coming century, and attributed recent adverse weather events such as floods and droughts to climate change caused by humans.

Harper's Weekly Review, May 13, 2014

Making local filesystem blog integration work
The goal here is to have my local notes repository (text files in Dropbox accessed via Notational Velocity) and my blog (my de facto note-taking solution for years) be the same set of stuff with different views.

  • Don't try to make sync work. Sync never works. (Or rather, let Dropbox handle syncing.) Dropbox is the system of record and it pushes out to other services. That means if I want to be able to create / edit posts from the blog interface I'll need to have them call the Dropbox API.
  • Notational Velocity and the blog have different conventions for outlining, need to be reconciled.
  • Should be able to crosspost to FB and Twitter
  • Convention: #fb #tw #tpc in the title xpost to Facebook / Twitter / blog
  • Problem: Facebook and Twitter items don't have titles.
  • Means finally moving to flat categories, once and for all.
  • Can I get Twitter replies / FB comments to come back the other way?

Your darkly gleaming Monday links

"He believed then that human life was infinitely perfectible, eliminating these conditions?"

"There remained the generic conditions imposed by natural, as distinct from human law, as integral parts of the human whole: the necessity of destruction to procure alimentary sustenance: the painful character of the ultimate functions of separate existence, the agonies of birth and death: the monotonous menstruation of simian and (particularly) human females extending from the age of puberty to the menopause: inevitable accidents at sea, in mines and factories: certain very painful maladies and their resultant surgical operations, innate lunacy and congenital criminality, decimating epidemics: catastrophic cataclysms which make terror the basis of human mentality: seismic upheavals the epicentres of which are located in densely populated regions: the fact of vital growth, through convulsions of metamorphosis from infancy through maturity to decay."

"It's not about the drop, it's about the build." - Kasima

Gawker bans Internet slang

SPARK talk on affordable housing in SF
  • Tim Colen, Executive Director of the SF Housing Action Coalition
  • Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations

We build very little housing - near the bottom of the top 100 cities, with our economy near the top.

"Housing for whom?"

We mostly build housing for rich people. Disagreement about whether we build enough even here.

Crazy, increasing wealth gap.

Proposal: build housing targeted at specific income levels, rent-controlled. We build 75-80% of what we need for low income. Main problem is middle income - hit maybe 12% of our target here in the 2000s.

Down payment assistance program does a great job.

Disagreement about whether Seattle is a model - they build a lot more housing, prices still climbing, still have an affordable housing problem. But it's 30-40% cheaper than here - can get an "apodment" for $400 a month.

80% of the building on 20% of the land.

Demand's not gonna stop. Planners are saying SF will reach a million people in the next 20 years.

Current housing developments were approved 5-6 years ago during the last planning cycle.

"What if we are successful in massively increasing housing supply but it's primarily market rate?" - it's not hard to do better than building 2,000 units a year.

1990-2012 - authorized 45,000 units of housing for construction. We built 36,000. Why aren't developers building what's been approved if the problem is permitting obstructions? Huge numbers of them are in 3 developments - Hunter's Point, Park Merced and Treasure Island (all have plenty of subsidized housing) - apparently capital markets have decided for whatever reason that these aren't attractive?

Over 35 years have built 30,000 permanent affordable housing units. We have several thousand more via public housing and section 8. We have a significant amount of rent-controlled housing. This works well.

We're gonna need more money to subsidize building housing for low income people for whom housing can't be affordably built. (Implication that this money should come from new developments targeted at the rich.)

"Why does SF have to take everyone? Why can't we build more on the peninsula? It's a regional problem." A1: well, SF has the best transport infrastructure. A2: there's the expectation that we're going to build 98,000 new units over 25 years (dude thinks this is crazy.) I mean, think about the infrastructure needs - we're dramatically underfunded here.

"SF used to have a laid-back ambience ... they're going to tear down Mount Sutro! The city has become so stressful."

Barcelona, London, etc all 3-4x as dense as SF.

"That mindset 'San Francisco was perfect on the day I moved here.'"

"Seems like developers are choosing to pay into the fund rather than build affordable housing." Housing Action Committee guy believes it's more like 16 out of 17 building rather than paying.

Very hard to get into housing built under Inclusionary.

Ellis Act. Huge increase in no-fault evictions. But: 270,000 housing units. 300 Ellis Act evictions. (Wait, really?)

Legislation to legalize illegal units. Legislation to legalize secondary units (in-line units) - what are these?

West Portal has a 26-foot height restriction.

Spoonfeeding yourself R
Datacamp looks like a really slick interactive way to learn R.

What I Want From a Blog
  • To continue to use this as my home base - homebrew CMS, archive accumulated over years.
  • To selectively cross-post to Tumblr, Twitter, whatever
  • To be more usable on mobile one down
  • To have an interface that lets me see social interactions from Tumblr, on-site comments, maybe Twitter/FB shares, all in one place - ideally, the same place I consume RSS
  • Basically I want to blur the line between reading and writing, and I want to interact with the walled gardens without being trapped there
  • (stretch goal) integrated with Notational Velocity Making local filesystem blog integration work

"the many ingenious ways that life propagates itself"
Discussion of Anna's show at the Arnold Arboretum.

"Pack it up," Henry Ford said, "the car's had it."

image of a dude shooting up from underwater

New machine setup
Since I've done this twice in the past 24 hours ...

  • Dropbox / Google Drive
  • Notational Velocity
  • Adium
  • SizeUp
  • f.lux
  • MS Office (meh)
  • change Terminal font to Consolas 13
  • log in to all the websites


Freemind, Omnigraffle, Spotify, VLC

Getting closer to the bottleneck now
graph of SF sunrise and sunset times over time

Those are months along the bottom, read up: sunrise at 7, sunset at 9, etc.

Rain check
Worked late on a project at work that requires integrating with a lot of other products. Spent time reading requirements docs, trying to understand how it might fit together. It's possible this isn't going to work out - people might decide the risks aren't worth the reward. That's actually ... fine. Take feedback, iterate, make sure we're headed in the right direction. But figuring out the direction sooner is better, so I missed the Wire concert.

Trying to sleep, one of my roommates was up late singing along with her laptop in another part of the house. Not sure how you can hate on that, so I went with it. Still got up early and met up with the Mission Cycling guys for the pre-dawn Headlands raid. Haven't been climbing a lot so I was one of the last ones to the top of Hawk Hill. View still spectacular, bombing back down still an adrenaline rush. Water started coming down, just a few drops at a time, enough to have me rushing home, acting antisocially through the Wiggle (which I really gotta stop.)

Dinner tonight, a walk tomorrow, signing a lease Thursday, happy hour and a birthday party on Friday, no clue on Saturday.

Just wanted to get a picture down of what it looks like when it's working out.

"Its Been A Week Since The Carnival"

"Like Your Ideas. We Live In A World Where People Dont Even Like Their Own Ideas, That Why You Have People Copying One Thing Thats Working So Much"

Laurie Anderson on Lou Reed

It was spring in 2008 when I was walking down a road in California feeling sorry for myself and talking on my cell with Lou. "There are so many things I've never done that I wanted to do," I said.

"Like what?"

"You know, I never learned German, I never studied physics, I never got married."

"Why don't we get married?" he asked. "I'll meet you halfway. I'll come to Colorado. How about tomorrow?"

"Um don't you think tomorrow is too soon?"

"No, I don't."

Enthusiasm Loops
How not to burn out

  • Enthusiasm comes and goes
  • That's ok
  • "Fortunately you can replenish your enthusiasm. For me, I replenish enthusiasm by 'shipping'. By shipping I mean I get tangible pieces of a project out to an audience."

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