[T]he most intractable problems of the modern world, from climate change to political polarization, result in large part from an imbalance between the left and right brains.
Surveys are the new spam.
“How did we do?”
Every. Single. Time. You. Buy. Something. Online.
Guess what, everything was fine until you sent me that freakin’ survey.
The people developing and maintaining Mastodon have my gratitude for creating this sensible and people-centric alternative to the ongoing big-business Internet shit show, aka Twitter et al. So I joined Mastodon’s Patreon. It’s about time that I start putting my money where my mouth is.
I started using the beta of the DuckDuckGo browser for Mac a couple days ago. So far I love the speed. I’m actually impressed how snappy it feels compared to other browsers. I already have all manner of tracker and ad blockers with other browsers so it’s not that.
Aside that it’s low on features but it hasn’t been an issue so far. Back to basics, in a good way.
Airlines don’t worry about viruses, but boy don’t they worry about so many other things:
Two hundred strangers in a small tube in the sky, and any of them could be carrying a new variant of a deadly virus we still don’t fully understand? Who cares! A bottle of shampoo larger than 3.4 ounces? Put your hands in the air and don’t fucking move. That bottle could be carrying anthrax, or worse: expired shampoo.
I love McSweeney’s. 😄
It’s been over 3 years since I cut down my meat consumption in favour of mostly vegetarian and vegan foods. The most surprising thing to me is how normal it all is. We make the same food as before, just with different ingredients. It’s not complicated or weird and it tastes just fine.
War crimes is an odd concept. What the fuck are you talking about?
If two guys decide to settle an argument outside the pub, they get arrested for disturbing the peace, but if guys in suits decide to send young people bomb each other it’s fine?
Give me a fucking break. And don’t get me started on “crimes against humanity”. As if what we’re doing to the climate wasn’t one.
I don’t talk about it much, but the lack of critical sense in journalism is something that I think is really damaging to society:
[P]rominent national journalists relentlessly conflate things that annoy me […] with things that threaten democracy […]. While I understand the conflation on a human level, on a journalistic level your literal job is knowing the difference.
I’m five months in with the M1 Pro MacBook Pro. I haven’t heard the fan yet. I haven’t felt it warm yet. I can go for a few days without charging. That’s working with it daily in Xcode and Android Studio, often simultaneously, among other things.
This is the computer definition of not breaking a sweat.
Looking for a simple, no-frills, no-nonsense device I ordered a Murena phone with /e/OS pre-installed. Let’s see how that goes.
So here’s how I came to the realization that using oil for energy makes no sense.
We use oil because we can burn it. We make energy by burning it. That’s all it is. And you know when we started burning things for energy? Thousands of years ago. Thousands of years of evolution and technological advancement, and we still go around in our fancy cars by making repeated little explosions. Wanna go faster? More gas! More explosions! Queue in the Neanderthals.
Seems ridiculous when you think about it this way.
As a society, 0ur collective obsession with “the best” is getting out of hand. Sure something may not be the best. But idealism and looking for perfection is not the solution to most problems. A better question is, is it better than the current option? And we all know that there is always something better coming down the pipe anyway. Incremental progress is good. Let’s embrace it.
With all the problems that the world is already experiencing, Putin decided that invading Ukraine, killing innocent people, and adding to the suffering was what he had to do. What a shameful, reprehensible, disgusting, and sad excuse of a human being he is. I’m worried for my friends and the people of Ukraine, I’m sorry that the sensible people in Russia who don’t want this are going to pay a price, and I hope everyone is safe.
Here we go again. Climate shadow instead of climate footprint, yadda yadda yadda.
The people-are-responsible-for-climate-change trope has been more present in the media lately. It may be well-intentioned, but the larger and more important story is that business and industry cause climate change, not people.
I can change my habits but that won’t mean a dime if business and industry doesn’t change.
Since 2018, I’ve been posting both my social media quips and long form pieces to my own web site steveroy.ca.
I do cross-post the social media bits to other platforms, never forgetting to engage with people there. But ultimately, the source of truth for everything I post is my self-hosted site, where I own and control my content.
This last part is why it’s baffling to me that people and companies take residence on platforms like Facebook, ceding ownership and control of their voice.
I heard recently a saying that perfectly encapsulates this: Never build your house on someone else’s land.
Anyone doing creative work constantly has to fight the feeling that their work is no good. Even The Beatles.
I like this quote from The Banality of Genius. A great read.
A good song or album – or novel or painting – seems authoritative and inevitable, as if it just had to be that way, but it rarely feels like that to the people making it.
Wow, these knitted products from Raw Color in the Netherlands are amazing.
“Communicating Climate Change through fabrics”
I love it.
Speaking of white privilege, here’s a confession. A couple weeks ago I was standing in front of the first aid section at my local pharmacy. I don’t know why then, why now, but it struck me that all the band aids are white. And I wondered what do people of color do? So I looked and indeed found (a few) appropriately coloured bandages.
I wasn’t seeing them until I thought to look.
Something to think about.
This title caught my attention today: All Your Favorite Cartoon Characters Are Black.
My white brain did not comprehend what was happening until I was half way into the article. I have never considered that people of color will perceive color in places where white people are discouraged from seeing it, imagined or not.
Untraining is a slow process.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It also happens that I’ve been developing software professionally for 25 years. I thought I knew what I was doing then, which could be said for both love and work. I can see now that I didn’t, not really. And that’s OK.
I may not be one of the cool kids anymore. But here’s one thing I’ve learned.
You have to allow for change. For yourself, definitely. But most importantly, for others around you. Especially the people you love and care about. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone you love is the freedom to change. Allow for them to try out ideas, evolve who they are, and even change their mind. Let them challenge you.
And when that happens, step up to the plate. Keep learning something new every day. Stay curious, challenge your assumptions, avoid stagnation. And that’s true for love and work too.
I watched Don’t Look Up on Netflix recently. It’s taken me a while to digest the movie and I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts into words. I still don’t know whether it’s all well-formed in my mind, but I do know that I would regret waiting any longer and remaining silent. After all, the climate is one of the things I spend the most time thinking about, and certainly one that I’m the most vocal about online. Honestly, I just don’t want to look back later and see that I failed to underline what is happening.
There are already plenty of good reactions out there for you to read, so I don’t intend to bore you with my take on the movie itself. If you’re curious how serious climate activists feel who have been begging the world to do something for 40 and more years, George Monbiot’s piece in The Guardian is a good place to start.
What I would like to do instead is take a step back and consider whether a movie about a civilization-ending catastrophe is supposed to be good in the first place.
The fact that critics don’t like the movie is completely irrelevant. Some things are just not meant to be evaluated and ranked. This isn’t meant to be a great film in the artistic sense. Criticizing its artistic value is like criticizing a real life event. Of course the characters’ reactions don’t make sense. Of course the plot is incredibly frustrating. That’s the whole point. Because what it portrays is what we are doing right now in real life. As the climate crisis becomes ever more dire every week, what gets media focus doesn’t make sense, and the people trying to raise the alarm feel incredible frustration.
Don’t Look Up is holding up a mirror and asking us to take a good long look at ourselves. If you have any doubt about that, the very fact that we are criticizing the movie is itself a meta reflection of the satire portrayed in the film.
Don’t shoot the messenger, the saying goes. In this case, it would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic that we are debating the artistic value of the messenger, instead of debating what to do about the message itself.
That mirror the movie is holding? Guess what, you’re not going to like what you see in it. Yes, many times while watching I felt like grabbing the closest object—the remote, the dog, the Christmas tree—and throwing it at the TV. It made me sweat, it made my heart race, it made me want to scream. And in that sense, Jennifer Lawrence’s character made perfect sense to me. If you care at all about what we’re doing to the Earth, this isn’t a comfortable movie to watch. You’re not supposed to enjoy watching it. If you do, you don’t get it and we sincerely hope a light goes on in your head. Because a sensible reaction would be to ask yourself questions. A good start is something along the lines of “what the fuck are we doing? What is wrong with us?!”
Questions. There are lots of them. I found myself wondering about the movie’s effectiveness. Is this the right movie for right now? If the goal is to wake people up—at the very least the oblivious people who are just cruising along while our way of life destroys the very air, water and soil we depend on—does it succeed at doing that?
The plot is definitely Americanized, the rest of the world being mentioned in passing with a lot of hand waving. Of course, considering the unprecedented craziness and navel-gazing we have witnessed coming out of the United States over the last 5 years, it’s arguably fair and well-deserved. But in this age of siloed Facebook nonsense, how many polarized people will actually be touched by such an angle? How many people will choose to sit through an anxiety-inducing watching experience, except those who are already sold to the magnitude of the problem?
I hope it’s more people than I think. Climate activism is very much about grinding away at the problem, in the same way that wind and water very gradually erode hard rock. Gaining traction is a slow process. Today we are nowhere near where we want to be in terms of mass awareness and societal action, but there has been constant progress nonetheless. If you had told me 10 years ago that the climate crisis would now be mainstream news instead of the purview of tree huggers and niche groups, I would not have believed you. Yet here we are considering a Hollywood movie on the matter.
So in that sense, yes, definitely, every single little bit that chips away at the problem is welcome. It’s not one single thing that will trigger the wave of awareness and willingness to act that we need, it’s a lot of small repeated ones. And if Don’t Look Up contributes to that, then it’s A Good Thing.
I have wondered whether the movie is accurate in its portrayal. I don’t know that “accurate” is even the right word here, but let’s run with it. Is Don’t Look Up accurate enough? Does it show us the true science? Are the shallow TV hosts and narcissistic politicians too over-the-top? Some people, critics certainly, if not people in the media, think that Don’t Look Up is at worse an exaggeration, at best a satire of our reality. And sometimes I agree. But then, I don’t.
You only need to read the reactions of a few professional scientists and life-long activists to know that, for some of us at least, this is all too real and dire. These folks are worth listening to. Just like other great people in the past whose convictions brought change we now consider obvious.
An angle I didn’t see coming, in the movie, is the fact that technology is pitted against science. Tech is described as the “big guys” and scientists are considered amateurs. It’s a revealing angle that underscores how, overall, we don’t really—or not completely—value science. It’s the nerd we all knew at school. It’s the mad scientist who plots to take over the world in our stories. It’s never glorified. That is reserved for the likes of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, our tech lords. But tech would not exist without science. Tech is only how science manifests itself in our daily life. And too many people don’t know that.
The treatment that the scientific method gets in the movie is especially frustrating. The scientific method is absolutely vital and central to everything that science represents, the very least as a tool for continually refining and polishing ideas. So the fact that the layperson doesn’t know about it, as mirrored in the movie, points to an important lack in our communication of what science is and how it benefits us. Maybe it’s time to realize that science is not the enemy.
In retrospect, I was reminded of Tomorrowland, the movie. At the end, David Nix from the future reveals that they tried to warn people of what was coming. But the people gobbled up the apocalypse with a large bowl of popcorn, and asked for more. That is an effective criticism of our love of catastrophe stories, but few people paid attention to that message.
Is Don’t Look Up a good movie then? No, not in that sense. But is it what we need? Is that how far gone we are? Well, maybe it is.
France is starting to ban plastic packaging of fruits and vegetables. The numbers seem to show that consumers don’t want it, bringing into question why the practice started in the first place. Let’s hope other countries follow suit. Canada, I’m looking at you.
Silly news title of the day:
UK shoppers shun plastic bags to save pennies not the planet, study finds
That’s capitalism 101: financial incentives always work. That’s exactly why it’s a good idea to charge for things we want to discourage people from doing, and why waiting for people to spontaneously want sustainable choices is the wrong approach.
Today Gruber posted a link to something he wrote 10 years ago, about his son and cherishing those moments when your kids are young.
And you know, sure it would be nice to go back to when my kids were kids. But they are adults today, and they still want to go to the movies with me, still want to play games and build Legos with me. In fact, we have been doing just that during these holidays.
I’m still cherishing those moments. Can’t complain.
This title says it all:
Some areas of the planet should belong to and be managed by the international community, not just one country.
For several years I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with me that I can’t hear what they’re saying in movies. At home I now often rewind and turn on captions.
Apparently it’s a real thing, not my imagination! And this piece does an amazing job at researching and explaining it. What a great read.
I feel better now. 😁
I’ve always been a big fan of The Beatles and am looking forward to watching Peter Jackson’s take. This quote from this piece in The Guardian captures how I feel:
Part of you is filled with regret: you want to urge the four of them to find a way to keep going, if only for a little longer; you pine for all the songs that went unwritten and unsung.
That reminds of Steve Jobs too. I sometimes wonder at all the things he would have come up with that we’ll never get to see.
Unbelievable words for incredible times in The Guardian:
We could destroy the machines that destroy this planet. If someone has planted a time bomb in your home, you are entitled to dismantle it. More to the point, if someone has placed an incendiary device inside the high-rise building where you live, and if the foundations are already on fire and people are dying in the cellars, then many would believe that you have an obligation to put the device out of action.
Climateer is an app that I recently released in the iOS App Store. As the tag line says, it’s an attempt at making climate change something you can see, something you can monitor to make up your own mind about what’s happening. Whether that will prove to be successful is still up for grabs, but I thought it would be interesting to explain the story behind it.
I started working on bits of code that eventually turned into Climateer about 3 years ago. I was tinkering with a much smarter form of social media where each post could be programmed to be interactive and to perform actions. That is itself an idea that merits its own post, but for now let me just say that one of the ideas was that a post could fetch data and display it graphically.
I had done a proof of concept of a post that, given:
- A URL to a source of scientific data.
- A regular expression describing the data format.
Would download the data and display it in a graph. That was all good and exciting but the smarter social media idea itself required more resources to pull off than I could put together and that effort just sat there unused.
A little while later, I was preparing for an upcoming climate march. Increasingly feeling like something has to be done to communicate the importance of what is happening, I was trying to think what I could do. And I thought of the smart post proof of concept in which I had used the CO₂ data from the NASA Vital Signs site.
I just wanted people to see the CO₂ level. I thought I’d just make a quick app that displayed the creeping CO₂ level in a Twitter-like timeline. So I wrote code that downloaded the historical data, extracted the data points, and displayed each one as a “post”. Reusing the graphing code from my proof of concept, I even made it possible to tap on each one to view the full CO₂ level graph.
I went to the climate march with this app in my pocket. I don’t know what I was expecting. I had put it together at the last minute so there had been no time to make it a shippable product, let alone submit it to the App Store for review. I also chickened out from showing it to anyone there because it seemed silly to show it to people who obviously already understood the urgency of the situation.
So I came home and continued working on it.
I added support for the global sea level data. I also did some UI work like adding pull to refresh to update the timeline.
And that was nice so of course I didn’t ship it. I added support for RSS feeds, not because it was super important, but just because parsing RSS feeds in Swift using XMLCoder is so much fun and displaying an RSS article in a WKWebView is so easy.
And then I realized it didn’t make sense for all these data sources to be built into the application. Oh the horror of having to ship an update each time I wanted to display something from a new source. So of course I created a JSON file on my web site that listed all the data sources, and modified the app to dynamically update its internal list from there.
I was happy with that. Did I ship it? Of course not. Greta linked to the Global Footprint Network and off I was adding overshoot days as my next pet feature. However this one was not a simple x/y data set, so I had to devise a new mechanism to describe it in my JSON source file in a way that the app could display.
That totally worked. My app was now able to handle different types of data sources while having minimal knowledge of them built-in. The next logical step then was to not ship it and implement the ability to extrapolate the data for cases where the available data did not extend all the way to today.
Obviously I could have polished what I had built up to that point and submitted it to the App Store. But there is so much climate information out there, each one more tantalizing than the previous one. This time I set my sight on the MCC carbon clock. Because displaying how much time we have left until doom was obviously a hard requirement to make this a shipping product. And at this point the app is agnostic, so I had to invent yet another way to describe this to the app without hardcoding it in.
This rigmarole of adding features went on for over two years. These episodes were interspersed with periods of polishing work that consisted partly of me repeating that if I can just finish x then I can ship it. But then I another possible feature caught my attention. This process is of course a very important part of software engineering that many developers out there who work on personal projects will handily recognize.
Over time I added support for entering personal notes, iCloud syncing, displaying country flags, showing temperature data, running the app on iPads, running the app on macOS, properly attributing data to their original sources, exposing customization settings, navigating the timeline with a scrub bar, displaying explanations of the data, and accepting donations. I also made countless iterations on the user interface. Not mentioning the making of an app icon that I thought I could stand looking at every day.
As time went on, the added complexity was not helping my case. Implementing features and moving to others without completely finishing the previous ones is rarely a recipe for success. The more features you have to polish, the more daunting the shipping effort seems to be. There was also the added anxiety that while I was doing this, climate change was continuing to get worse.
All that to say you sometimes have to just go for it. There is a ton of polish I feel is still missing in Climateer version 1.0. Better onboarding. Better UI. Better graphs. You name it. But at the end of the day, I’m happy it’s out there and I really hope some people find it useful.