• micro

    ,

    books

    Finished reading: Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride 📚

    I absolutely tore through this book. Partially out of personal interest in McBride’s story, as she is my state senator and has a really good change to be the first out transgender member of the US House of Representatives, but mostly because she’s an engaging storyteller with an incredible story to tell.

    This is pretty clearly a political memoir, one written to give background as the candidate ascends in the public sphere. McBride is pretty transparent about her ambitions, but manages to be ambitious in a way that never feels transactional to me. She deftly is able to zoom out from a personal story to illustrate a policy point or value statement in a way that makes the connections obvious, and offers some insight into how she will govern that have since been demonstrated in her tenure in the state senate.

    Her “why” is incredibly clear, and I am hopeful she will be able to bring an undiluted version of it back to Washington.

    Wednesday July 5, 2023
  • micro

    ,

    books

    DNF: The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz 📚

    Huge fan of the author’s previous work, but I simply could not find an entry point. Too many characters, and the emotional stakes were too abstract. I made it about 100 pages in.

    Tuesday April 11, 2023
  • books

    Finished reading: Everything Is Combustible by Richard Lloyd 📚

    Downloaded this audiobook from the library after Tom Verlaine’s passing put me in a Television mood. It’s read by the author, which is usually great, but Lloyd reads as if the manuscript was written by someone else and placed before him shortly before the session began. His voice betrays no real attachment to any of the stories or people.

    It seems very important to Lloyd that the reader know he did a lot of drugs and had a lot of sex. Less important, however, was sharing what his relationship with any of his bandmates in Television was like. We eventually learn that he and Verlaine fell out over money and creative control, but Billy Ficca and Fred Smith are treated like furniture in Lloyd’s narrative.

    (Personally, I was also annoyed at how little insight was given into his time as a sideman for Matthew Sweet, but that’s neither here nor there. All we really learn is that Sweet loved video games and hated flying.)

    Overall, there’s some compelling stuff here, but poor editing and Lloyd’s own tendency to dive into metaphysical non sequiturs (like his vivid memories of being born or teaching himself how to not breathe as a child) mean the reader has to put in a lot of work to find them.

    Monday February 20, 2023
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Finished reading: The Idiot by Elif Batuman 📚

    One morning, on my way to a lecture on Balzac, it came to me with great clarity that there was no way that that guy, the professor, was going to tell me anything useful. No doubt he knew many useful things, but he wasn’t going to say them; rather, he was going to tell us again that Balzac’s Paris was extremely comprehensive.

    I am shocked at how well Batuman captures the overwhelming banality of one’s first year away at college. Every experience is simultaneously novel, intense and boring.

    Monday February 13, 2023
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Finished reading: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz 📚

    Still cooks.

    Thursday January 12, 2023
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Finished re-reading: The Perfect Pass by S. C. Gwynne 📚

    Inspired to pick it back up after the untimely death of Mike Leach late last year.

    Saturday January 7, 2023
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Finished reading: This Wheel’s on Fire by Levon Helm 📚

    Friday January 6, 2023
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Currently reading: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman 📚

    Once time is a resource to be used, you start to feel pressure to use it well, and to berate yourself when you feel you’ve wasted it. When you’re faced with too many demands, it’s easy to assume that the only answer must be to make better use of time, by becoming more efficient, driving yourself harder, or working for longer instead of asking whether the demands themselves might be unreasonable. … And it becomes a lot more intuitive to project your thoughts about your life into an imagined future, leaving you anxiously wondering if things will unfold as you want them to. Soon, your sense of self-worth gets completely bound up with how you’re using time: it stops being merely the water in which you swim and turns into something you feel you need to dominate or control, if you’re to avoid feeling guilty, panicked or overwhelmed.

    I’m only through the first chapter but I can tell this is going to be a corker.

    Thursday January 20, 2022
  • photos

    ,

    micro

    ,

    books

    Currently reading: Work Won’t Love You Back by @sarahljaffe 📚

    Good evening.

    Friday December 10, 2021
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Currently reading: The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner 📚

    Hard not to read this quote about AT&T’s testing of the Picturephone (an early telephone with video features) in the context of Zoom fatigue in 2020:

    When the AT&T market researchers asked Picturephone users whether it was important to see the person they were speaking to during a conversation, a vast majority said it was either “very important” or “important.” To phone company executives, this must have been deeply encouraging. Apparently the market researchers never asked users their opinion about whether it was important, or even pleasurable, that the person they were speaking with could see them, too.

    Monday September 28, 2020
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Finished reading: Horror Stories: A Memoir by Liz Phair 📚

    If you were expecting a linear memoir Liz Phair, or “here’s what happened the night I wrote ‘Flower,’ you’re going to be a bit disappointed. Phair abandons the linear format that plagues many otherwise interesting memoirs and instead presents a series of stories that seek to answer the question “why are you like this?”

    She’s always direct, never pulling punches, even when she’s shining a light on her own behavior. She never apologizes, but rather presents her truth and leaves interpretation up to the reader.

    Being a huge fan of her discography isn’t required to enjoy this book; in fact, she devotes vanishingly few pages to it. Most of the musical discussion that is present in the book focuses on the aftermath of her 2003 self-titled record, and how exhausting and uncomfortable her brush with pop stardom felt for her. It never comes off as pity-seeking, but rather “these were the consequences of choices I made.”

    Sunday January 19, 2020
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Finished reading: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell 📚

    A few thoughts:

    • The “doing nothing” in the title isn’t just chilling, or conspicuous, performative self-care. It’s deeper and more profound than that, in a way I was not totally prepared for.

    • I was also not preparedness all for the academic rigor, complete with a web of primary sources. This is a substantial book.

    • (There is something somewhat ironic about reading this on vacation, as the author stresses the value of “resisting in place.”)

    • I’ve also been rereading “Franny and Zoey” on the beach (for the hundredth time, perhaps) and I keep coming back to this quote from Salinger, a quote so large I want to live inside it:

    “There’s a marvelous peace in not publishing, there’s a stillness. When you publish, the world thinks you owe something. If you don’t publish, they don’t know what you’re doing. You can keep it for yourself.”

    Anyway, I really want to think about this ideas that this book is posing. Like, really think deeply about them. And I get the irony of posting half-baked thoughts about this book, but this is maybe just part of my process of thinking now… And maybe that’s why I needed this book so badly.

    Tuesday July 23, 2019
  • photos

    ,

    micro

    ,

    books

    Front cover of “How To Do Nothing” by Jennifer Odell

    Working on it.

    Monday July 22, 2019
  • micro

    ,

    books

    Listening to the audiobook of Insanely Simple, in which author Ken Segall relays a story about Steve Jobs proudly demoing a “with special offers” version of OS 9 that would ship with a 60-second startup commercial, along with other ads throughout the OS.

    I’m going to maybe spend the rest of the day thinking about this alternate timeline.

    Tuesday August 28, 2018
  • design

    ,

    articles

    ,

    books

    The purely aesthetic form

    I’m about halfway through Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. So far, it’s a good read. It portrays Ive as someone with exquisite taste who was in the right place at the right time, willing to work harder and care more than his competitors. It never descends into hagiography (in spite of the sub-title), as many tech bios tend to do.

    Author Leander Kahney goes to great lengths throughout to express Jony’s distaste for “skinning” a product (applying surface-level design to something engineering had already created). In Ive’s design-centric mind, the “inside-out” method lead to compromised products.

    But let’s square that with this tale from the design of the original Mac Mini:

    The decision about the size of the case might seem trivial, but it would influence what kind of hard drive the Mini could contain. If the case were large enough, the computer could be given a 3.5-inch drive, commonly used in desktop machines and relatively inexpensive. If Jony chose a small case, it would have to use a much more expensive 2.5-inch laptop drive.

    Jony and the VPs selected an enclosure that was just 2 mm too small to use a less expensive 3.5-inch drive. “They picked it based on what it looks like, not on the hard drive, which will save money,” [former Apple product design engineer Gautam] Baksi said. He said Jony didn’t even bring up the issue of the hard drive; it wouldn’t have made a difference. “Even if we provided that feedback, it’s rare they would change the original intent,” he said. “They went with a purely aesthetic form of what it should look like and how big it should be.”

    This is… well, it’s not design.

    Design is solving problems within constraints. The characteristics of components, including price, are constraints. Without having a damn good reason to make the case 2 mm too small to fit a much less expensive 3.5-inch hard drive, you’re just decorating and playing artist, not designer. This is even more surprising, given that Ive is notorious for knowing and waxing rhapsodic about every last detail of his materials.

    Outside-in product development is just as problematic as the inside-out approach that Ive despised. In this case, it may have led to a product that was more expensive (or less profitable) than it needed to be. Given that one of the Mac Mini’s core benefits as an entry-level Mac was its low cost, this is baffling.

    Great product development is a true partnership between engineering and design.


    (Yes, I know. Jony Ive is perhaps the most celebrated industrial designer in the history of the field, and rightly so. And Apple has a track record of ignoring practical decisions in the pursuit of a product’s true essence. That doesn’t mean we can’t examine a particular design challenge they faced and learn from it.)

    Tuesday April 14, 2015