Link: Aqua Screenshot Library

This is for the UX and UI nerds out there: the Aqua Screenshot Library. It’s a collection of various windows, dialogs, screens, and other UI elements in Apple’s Aqua interface in each major version since the Mac OS X public beta. I’ll be curious to see how they handle cataloging Mojave, since there’s light and dark modes for everything. It’s really interesting to see how the interface has continued to evolve (and which aspects remain largely unchanged). You can really see where and how this:

Became this:

Link: Bourdain Confidential

Found via Kottke, Maria Bustillos has an excellent interview with Anthony Bourdain, from not too long before his death. I’m late on the Bourdain train – I hadn’t really caught any of his shows or books, and only started exploring it all after seeing how impacted people were by his passing. By every account, though, he sounds like someone I would have sincerely enjoyed, and I always appreciate the stories and insights and approach he seemed to bring.

A few favorite bits:

I do not need to win. I am not a competitive person. I need to survive.

Were you ever?

Never. Sports, fucking hated them. Always hated sports. Again, it goes back to that Sixties thing… I just wanna fucking survive. I don’t need to be number one. I don’t need to beat the fuck out of somebody. I don’t need to be ahead. I just want to still be here at the end of the fuckin’ day, doing what I’m doing, without anybody hassling me.

(I hear ya. I’m inherently not a competitive person — which isn’t to say that I don’t like to succeed, but it’s almost never a competition for me, and trying to turn it into one is a surefire way for me to stop giving a shit.)

I also really liked:

Look, the minute everybody in the room agrees with you, you’re in a bad place, so I’m a big believer in change just for its own sake, just to show that you can change, to move forward incrementally, but ain’t nobody gonna make everything better. Whoever has the intestinal fortitude or the megalomaniac instincts, uh, sufficient to lead any kind of a revolution will inevitably disappoint horribly.

And, of course, talking about the sublime little human moments, the ones that immediately become special to you but are so hard to describe why:

I do find that my happiest moments on the road are not standing on the balcony of a really nice hotel. That’s a sort of bittersweet—if not melancholy—alienating experience, at best. My happiest moments on the road are always off-camera, generally with my crew, coming back from shooting a scene and finding ourselves in this sort of absurdly beautiful moment, you know, laying on a flatbed on those things that go on the railroad track, with a putt-putt motor, goin’ across like, the rice paddies in Cambodia with headphones on… this is luxury, because I could never have imagined having the freedom or the ability to find myself in such a place, looking at such things.

To sit alone or with a few friends, half-drunk under a full moon, you just understand how lucky you are; it’s a story you can’t tell. It’s a story you almost by definition, can’t share. I’ve learned in real time to look at those things and realize: I just had a really good moment.

Link: Patterns for Organization of Writing

Over at A List Apart, Richard Rabil writes Order Out of Chaos: Patterns of Organization for Writing on the Job, which drills into some of the core concepts behind organizing your writing. Considering my current profession (and continuing interest in information architecture), I found it pretty topical.

Recently I had an extremely frustrating user experience. While consulting some documentation to learn about a new process, I encountered a series of web pages that gave no introduction and dove straight into undefined jargon and acronyms that I had never heard of. When I visited related pages to get more context, I found the same problem. There was no background information for a newbie like me. The writers failed in this case to anticipate my questions and instead assumed a great deal of prior knowledge.

Don’t make this mistake when you design your structure. Like a journalist, you need to answer the who, what, where, when, how, and why of your content, and then incorporate the answers in your structure. Anticipate common questions, such as “What is this? Where do I start? What must I know? What must I do?” This sort of critical reflection is all the more important when organizing web content, because users will almost certainly enter and exit your pages in nonlinear, unpredictable ways.

Link: Balancing Time

Over at CSS Tricks, Sarah Drasner has a nice article going over some productivity tips (in particular if you’re the type of person who likes to have a lot of projects happening at once). For instance:

Push outside of your comfort zone, but slowly

Work on a few things that you know and understand, and a few things you don’t. We should foster personal growth in our projects, but without some semblance of comfort, it’s easy to get discouraged. Let your projects push the limits of your boundaries, but don’t go overboard. Give yourself a foundation to spring off before floating into space.

Megaquests and Goals

William Van Hecke has an evolving article discussing their approach to productivity called Megaquest. The name may sound a little silly, but the concept is a good one. Read the article for details, but the gist is to have a large, long term goal (intentionally abstracted into a perfect moment or period of time) that informs the other work you take on. That jives with my own views on broader goals, and feels good to have some validation from others who’ve come to the same conclusion.

In particular, I really needed to hear this:

The moment can be specific or fuzzy. You might already have an idea of the details you want to realize, or you might just know the kind of things you want to have in place later in your life. The megaquest can come in and out of focus as your situation and your values shift. But it should always give you something distant and meaningful to hang quests on.

[…]

You might not get the moment. Plenty of things won’t go as expected. Plans will change. Your ideas about what you really want will change. Some variables might never fit perfectly into place. The moment is, in fact, a macguffin — a catchy plot device to keep you moving toward putting everything in its place. So the secret, which you shouldn’t think about too hard, is that it doesn’t really matter if you get it. What matters is that the more earnestly you pursue a truly perfect moment, the more you put everything in its place, the more nearly perfect moments you’ll have along the way.

I’ve been feeling kind of aimless lately, and struggling to figure out whether my idea of who and how and where I want to be is still what I want. It may be that I never actually get to that exact moment, falling into sync with myself in an Ohayō moment, and expecting to do so is unreasonable. At its core, it still feels like a good moment to strive for, but are some of the surrounding details changing? Maybe. I need to do some long thinks, I’d say. But maybe that’s okay.

The Rise of the New Aristocracy

Out of The Atlantic, a lengthy but worthwhile piece on how The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy. If you’ve been paying attention, the concept probably isn’t a new one to you, but it’s still alarming and eye-opening to see it all laid out at once.

Some choice bits:

The sociological data are not remotely ambiguous on any aspect of this growing divide. We 9.9 percenters live in safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, have shorter commutes, receive higher-quality health care, and, when circumstances require, serve time in better prisons. We also have more friends—the kind of friends who will introduce us to new clients or line up great internships for our kids.

These special forms of wealth offer the further advantages that they are both harder to emulate and safer to brag about than high income alone. Our class walks around in the jeans and T‑shirts inherited from our supposedly humble beginnings. We prefer to signal our status by talking about our organically nourished bodies, the awe-inspiring feats of our offspring, and the ecological correctness of our neighborhoods. We have figured out how to launder our money through higher virtues.

Also:

You see, when educated people with excellent credentials band together to advance their collective interest, it’s all part of serving the public good by ensuring a high quality of service, establishing fair working conditions, and giving merit its due. That’s why we do it through “associations,” and with the assistance of fellow professionals wearing white shoes. When working-class people do it—through unions—it’s a violation of the sacred principles of the free market. It’s thuggish and anti-modern. Imagine if workers hired consultants and “compensation committees,” consisting of their peers at other companies, to recommend how much they should be paid. The result would be—well, we know what it would be, because that’s what CEOs do.

And:

Nowhere are the mechanics of the growing geographic divide more evident than in the system of primary and secondary education. Public schools were born amid hopes of opportunity for all; the best of them have now been effectively reprivatized to better serve the upper classes. According to a widely used school-ranking service, out of more than 5,000 public elementary schools in California, the top 11 are located in Palo Alto. They’re free and open to the public. All you have to do is move into a town where the median home value is $3,211,100.

[…]

With localized wealth comes localized political power, and not just of the kind that shows up in voting booths. Which brings us back to the depopulation paradox. Given the social and cultural capital that flows through wealthy neighborhoods, is it any wonder that we can defend our turf in the zoning wars? We have lots of ways to make that sound public-spirited. It’s all about saving the local environment, preserving the historic character of the neighborhood, and avoiding overcrowding. In reality, it’s about hoarding power and opportunity inside the walls of our own castles. This is what aristocracies do.

Also, he got the automatic defensiveness spot on:

In part what we have here is a listening problem. Americans have trouble telling the difference between a social critique and a personal insult. Thus, a writer points to a broad social problem with complex origins, and the reader responds with, “What, you want to punish me for my success?”

In part, too, we’re seeing some garden-variety self-centeredness, enabled by the usual cognitive lapses. […] Human beings of the 9.9 percent variety also routinely conflate the stress of status competition with the stress of survival. No, failing to get your kid into Stanford is not a life-altering calamity.

It’s a lot to take in, but there’s a lot there that needs to be thought about. I’m not entirely sure what the answers are — as the author points out in the article, historically when things get this unequal, the leveling process is violent and destructive. Ideally, we’ll find ways to get back to greater social and economic equality and mobility that don’t require bloody revolution or total economic collapse, but the only ways I can think involve people getting over themselves and not being selfish assholes to each other. That seems naively idealistic in an era where self-centered sociopathy seems distinctly on the rise. Sooner or later (and I suspect sooner), something is going to have to give.

Instagram “Flops”

Just to get this out of the way: when I say “flops,” I’m not talking about posting a picture that gets no likes or anything like that. I’m talking about a new type of account/method of communication that’s been popping up. The Atlantic has an excellent article talking about this: Teens Are Debating the News on Instagram.

It’s interesting. On one hand, I’m fascinated by just how much each generation strives to find a place of their own, to discuss and grow among their peers. It’s like weeds — life will find a way, and will make use of whatever environment they have available to them. Couldn’t they use forums, or Facebook groups, or blogs, or tumblr, or any of the other tools that have already come up that are arguably better suited for discourse and sharing thoughts? Maybe, maybe not. Many kids have very limited spaces for a sense of autonomy and privacy. Their web browsing is monitored by schools and parents, their phones have parental controls on what can and can’t be installed. So they make do with the tools they have available. There’s a critical mass of their peers on Instagram, and it’s generally accepted by parents and schools to have on your phone. So you use the tools you have. A big part of me says “fuck yeah, good job kiddos.”

But then there’s the other hand. The approach leaves a lot to be desired, and the limitations of the tool they chose to use create some inherent flaws in what’s happening. You are effectively signal boosting hateful things by posting them as flops, and only those who bother to read the comment beneath the image will even know that you are posting it to call out the behavior rather than to endorse it. It requires inside knowledge of what a flop even is in order to understand the context, in a medium that is far more broadly shared (it’s not like the images are segregated, they’re woven right in with the rest of your feed or in discovery). There’s also the factor of the psychological impact of immersing yourself in the negative – it has a toll.

A lot to mull over, here.

Wil Wheaton Talking About Depression

I’ve quoted or linked to Wil’s depression posts numerous times over the years. Partly because his take on it resonates with my own, partly because I think awareness is important and worth signal boosting. His recent (ish, this was posted in May and has been sitting in my queue for a while) talk about living with chronic depression is another great example, and worth reading.

I was a worrier growing up (and to a lesser extent, still am), though not to the degree he experienced. I will say, in more recent years, it’s been manifesting as more social anxiety, which ain’t great, though I’m at least aware, and haven’t gone full hermit. But the chronic depression, that I definitely get. For me, it’s been sort of a low-grade background radiation in my life. The default level is functional, but present, and then sometimes there’s spikes or troughs where it’s more or less noticeable — more or less manageable. (I doubt this is news to anyone reading this, but if it is: hey, yep, and if I ever seem worn out and a little distant when we’re talking, 95% of the time this is why, and not anything you said or did. If you type “depression” into the search bar for this blog, you’ll see I’ve written about it a fair bit.)

It can be a little intimidating to publicly post about grappling with depression. Potential employers or romantic partners or friends may see this, and not take it positively. Also, exposing parts of yourself in any way on the internet these days can be a little scary. But I think it’s important. As Wil says:

Finally, we who live with mental illness need to talk about it, because our friends and neighbors know us and trust us. It’s one thing for me to stand here and tell you that you’re not alone in this fight, but it’s something else entirely for you to prove it. We need to share our experiences, so someone who is suffering the way I was won’t feel weird or broken or ashamed or afraid to seek treatment. So that parents don’t feel like they have failed or somehow screwed up when they see symptoms in their kids.

Interview with Philip Glass

Via Kottke, The Atlantic has a nice interview with Philip Glass. It’s interesting, sort of a quick snapshot into his life growing up and the early days of his career. There are bits that feel a little melancholy to me, talking about his brother who passed on, or his father, while you can sort of imagine him lighting up talking about his time in Chicago or driving cab.

Something in particular I really liked:

To this day, among my earliest memories was someone would give my father $5 and he’d hand them a record. So the exchange of money for art, I thought that was normal. I thought that’s what everybody did. I never thought there was anything wrong about making money.

That’s kind of important, and I can relate (my parents ran a photography studio when I was growing up, and I also grew up in a worldview where people were paid for art). If you spend even an hour browsing various artists’ tumblrs and twitter feeds, you’ll inevitably run into stories of rude people at cons or in commission requests simply expecting art to happen for nothing. It’s dumb if you take even 30 seconds to think about it, but it’s prevalent. It’s nice to see it get called out that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Neil and Kazuo Talk Genre

Not sure why it resurfaced now, but from 2015 over at the New Statesman, there’s a delightful interview between Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro, discussing genre and class and escapism and all sorts of interesting things. Well worth the read, and feels pretty topical even now.

KI I don’t have a problem, necessarily, about reading for improvement. I often choose a book because I think I’m going to enjoy it, but I think also it’s going to improve me in some sense. But when you ask yourself, “Is this going to improve me?” what are you really asking? I think I probably do turn to books for some sort of spiritual and intellectual nourishment: I think I’m going to learn something about the world, about people. But if by “improving”, we mean it would help me go up the class ladder, then it’s not what reading and writing should be about. Books are serving the same function as certain brands of cars or jewellery, in just denoting social position. That kind of motivation attaches itself to reading in a way that probably doesn’t attach itself to film.

Many of the great classics that are studied by film scholars are sci-fi: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Kubrick’s 2001. They don’t seem to have suffered from the kind of genre stigmatisation their equivalents would have done in book form.

NG I remember as a boy reading an essay by C S Lewis in which he writes about the way that people use the term “escapism” – the way literature is looked down on when it’s being used as escapism – and Lewis says that this is very strange, because actually there’s only one class of people who don’t like escape, and that’s jailers: people who want to keep you where you are. I’ve never had anything against escapist literature, because I figure that escape is a good thing: going to a different place, learning things, and coming back with tools you might not have known.