Page Four

August 30, 2010


Aug. 30, 2010 nyc

The Box

A series of short interviews with people who make cool stuff, hosted by Tim Van Damme.

Aug. 24, 2010 podcasts

Confessions of a Tea Party Casualty

“We’re being driven as herd by these hot microphones—which are like flame throwers—that are causing people to run with fear and panic, and Republican members of Congress are afraid of being run over by that stampeding crowd.” Inglis says that it’s hard for Republicans in Congress to “summon the courage” to say no to Beck, Limbaugh, and the tea party wing. “When we start just delivering rhetoric and more misinformation…we’re failing the conservative movement,” he says. “We’re failing the country.”


Aug. 16, 2010 politics

Amazing Sword

Nine minutes of unadulterated awesomeness.

Aug. 13, 2010 anachronisms awesomeness

A Bookfuturist Manifesto

Tim Carmody:

A futurist (in Marinetti’s original sense) wants to burn down libraries. A bookfuturist wants to put video games in them.

Aug. 11, 2010 books publishing


Look, I love the SI Vault.1 But the reading experience induces headaches. If the tiny Verdana type2, flashing advertisements and general cruft don’t do it, then clicking through 11 pages to read a single Gary Smith story surely will.

Without Readability or Safari Reader, I struggle to finish even the most compelling stories. And that’s a shame. I’d readily pay for access to a well-designed Vault with a usable search function and logical architecture. (Oh, to easily browse by writer!)

But alas, for now I can only hope for something better.

[1] When I can get to and stay at the Vault, that is. First: Why does the homepage link, labeled “THE VAULT” right there in the banner, lead instead to the App Store listing for the magazine’s iPad app? How does that make any sense? Instead users must poke around for alternate entry points, head to a search engine, or manually enter the URL (if they know or guess it). Is a few more apps sold worth the frustrating user experience?

And second: Why send me away, again to the App store, when I try to read stories from recent issues? When I click a link that says, “Read all articles,” I expect a table of contents, and nothing else. Even if I were browsing the Vault on an iPad, this sort of deception wouldn’t be right.

[2] I’ll warn you now, don’t touch that text-size widget; the hideous result is far worse than the original. In fact, every article on sports tiny, sans-serif type. Who enjoys reading that?

Aug. 9, 2010 bookmarklets design webdev

Steps Leading Nowhere

As a student, high school often frustrated me. Math classes were particularly painful to sit through, for exactly the reason Tom Henderson savages, from the other side of the classroom, in this interview at Technoccult:

Many students want teachers to “show me the steps.”

They want a sequence of steps that they can perform that will give them an answer. This is not unreasonable; they know that their performance on exams, and therefore their performance on the All-Seeing Grade Point Average, is largely determined by being able to Do The Steps.

But “The Steps” are cargo cult mathematics.

The Steps are seeing the sorts of symbols that count as “right”, and trying to replicate that dance of steps. It turns out that the easiest thing in the world is to look at a student’s work, and tell the difference between “Knows what’s going on, made mistakes and dozed off” vs. “Can memorize steps, has no idea what’s going on.” […]

Many students want to know the formulas, so that they can float them on top of their short-term memory, ace the exam, and then skim them off. Why do they want to know that?

Probably because, for their entire mathematical careers, math has been a sequence of Steps, and if they get them wrong, they get red pen, bad grades, No No No Look What You Did. Plus, bonus, there is no apparent relevance of these algorithms other than To Get The Answer.

I don’t mean to sound condescending—because, as Henderson says, the system encourages Memorizing The Steps, and my classmates were, on the whole, far from dumb—but this is just the sort of flogging my ears and brain endured year after year. After a week, you knew exactly which students cared only about their grades and would never take a broader view of mathematics. They clutched their formulas and struggled with problems framed in any novel way.

And AP classes were the worst of them all: entire courses building toward one exam. A year’s worth of learning, reduced to a digit, 1-5. Nothing else mattered. The Steps invaded other classes, even those, like English, that should have inspired deeper thinking. (Yes, even critical essays were reduced to tired, AP grader-friendly formulas and checklists; in essence, we learned SEO for AP English.)

At some point, the system has to change. Just look at what schools have wrought: Students unprepared for collegiate rigor and who value only the end result.

“If you are not so worried about presenting yourself as absolutely unique, then it’s O.K. if you say other people’s words, it’s O.K. if you say things you don’t believe, it’s O.K. if you write papers you couldn’t care less about because they accomplish the task, which is turning something in and getting a grade,” Ms. Blum said, voicing student attitudes. “And it’s O.K. if you put words out there without getting any credit.”

A “show me the steps” mentality, in any discipline, encourages uniformity, not originality; this glut of plagiarism, then, shouldn’t be surprising.

In any case, Henderson’s Punk Mathematics book, which spun out of the positive reaction to the above interview, sounds brilliant, and I’ve pledged my support, as much for the ethos as the book itself.

Aug. 6, 2010 books education math


Craig Mod:

The story begins on March 29, 2010, 10:18pm JST, when a woman sitting in her Brooklyn apartment pushed the first domino. Her $65 pledge kicked off a monthlong fundraising effort that would culminate in a room full of hardcover books, a publishing think tank and the means to begin experimenting with books on the iPad. Oh, and this essay.

Aug. 6, 2010 books community publishing

Marco Arment on the Kindle

In short, he loves it, even post-iPad.

With the new models priced so aggressively, I’ll probably pick one up myself.

Jul. 30, 2010 ebooks kindle publishing

The Top Idea in Your Mind

Paul Graham:

I realized recently that what one thinks about in the shower in the morning is more important than I’d thought. I knew it was a good time to have ideas. Now I’d go further: now I’d say it’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.

Jul. 28, 2010 creativity ideas

HTML5 for Web Designers

Got my copy yesterday. A lovely production, as expected.

Jul. 8, 2010 books html5 webdev

FontShop’s Educational Docs

This amateur designer enjoyed the PDFs immensely.

Jul. 7, 2010 design typography

Responsive Web Design

Stunning. I’ll be adding this functionality to the Chronicle this week. And Jon Hicks’ implementation is equally inspiring.

Jul. 6, 2010 css design webdev

Pondering Friendship Online: Focus on Intimacy

Glenn Fleishman for TidBITS, astute as always. Read Adam Engst’s take, too.

Jul. 5, 2010 socialmedia

Born to Run

McDougall provided just the kick in the pants I needed to start running again—and insight into why I ever stopped. A truly inspirational book.

Jun. 30, 2010 health running

Today’s Guardian

Phil Gyford on the making of his experimental newspaper site.

Jun. 15, 2010 journalism webdev

Dave Pell Nails It Again

Tweetage Wasteland has become one of my very favorite blogs.

I am in awe of the social graph and the power of sharing. But I am worried about group think and a growing inability to be alone. I worry that someday my entire world will be shared, annotated and generally infringed upon by everyone I’ve ever met (and maybe a few hundred million folks I haven’t).

Don’t miss the kicker, something I’m strongly considering.

Apr. 27, 2010 privacy socialmedia

I Walked the Brooklyn Bridge Without Facebook

Couldn’t stop nodding my head while reading this. A nice compliment to Jaron Lanier’s outstanding You Are Not a Gadget.

But to the essay, I must add: There is a choice, even today. Want some solitude? Then turn off the phone.

Apr. 17, 2010 books privacy socialmedia

The iPad Screen is Not Your Desktop Screen

Craig Mod’s follow-up to his excellent iPad essay.

Mar. 29, 2010 apple ipad publishing webdev

SitePoint Podcast: Building Communities

With guest Derek Powazek.

Mar. 16, 2010 community webdev

Web Standards for Ebooks

Joe Clark, writing for A List Apart:

People are finally noticing what was staring them in the face all along—HTML is great for expressing words. The web is mostly about expressing words, and HTML works well for it. The same holds true for electronic books.

Mar. 10, 2010 ebooks publishing webdev

Sleep is Death

A storytelling game for two players by Jason Rohrer.

Mar. 8, 2010 games storytelling

John Gruber on Ad Blockers

It’s not enough to ask readers not to block ads — you’ve got to work hard at providing ads that readers actually enjoy, or at least aren’t tempted to block.


Mar. 7, 2010 advertising

Joel Spolsky Shutters His Blog

Spolsky will update Joel on Software for the last time March 17.

Great stuff from the Inc. column:

In retrospect, Joel on Software was essentially a small, perfectly targeted magazine for programmers with a certain pragmatic philosophy toward software development. It was also free advertising for my company, but the advertising actually looked a lot more like editorial content than anything else; the most popular post I ever wrote, for example, was about how technology companies should never, ever rewrite their code from scratch.

Once I had built an audience among programmers, enough of them turned into customers that I was able to get my bootstrapped company off the ground.

Make your site an indispensable resource—something people care deeply about—and the community you’ve built will support you.

Mar. 7, 2010 blogging

Hacker News: Ars Technica and Ad Blocking

Good thread with many salient points.

Mar. 7, 2010 advertising