Friday links, early September edition

Posted in Links at 11:40 pm by

  • When to Pick Persimmons and How to Preserve Them [Mother Earth News]

    Persimmons, September 2017

    While cutting down some dead trees at the office in advance of Hurricane Irma, my father and I stumbled upon a persimmon tree, complete with orange fruit. When I asked Siri how to tell when the persimmons were ripe, she suggested this article—which prose, as I began reading it, led me to ask “When was this written!?” As it turns out (clearly visible on desktop, less so on mobile), the article is dated September/October 1970.

  • You Are the Product [London Review of Books]

    Technically, this is a book review of several recent books about Facebook and other social/tech companies, but John Gruber headlines it thusly: “John Lanchester on Facebook: ‘The Company’s Ambition, Its Ruthlessness, and Its Lack of a Moral Compass Scare Me’” Gruber adds, “John Lanchester’s lengthy essay on Facebook for the London Review of Books is well worth your time.” (Lengthy, indeed; I am still working my way through it, but it has definitely been worth my time so far.)


Midweek links

Posted in Links at 6:19 pm by

Well, link singular, again.

  • Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? [The Atlantic]

    There are many effects of a technological development, some positive and others negative. We know many of the positives of smartphones because they can be discerned quickly, when we experience them (and proceed to laud them). The article touches on others that have taken time to discover (US teens are physically safer and have a lower birth rate now than in the past, in large part because of changing behaviors influenced by smartphones); I also think about the articles I’ve read about how smartphones have empowered young women and “liberalized” the dating/matchmaking practices in many conservative Middle Eastern societies. But there are some clear downsides to smartphones, as well—some of them innate in social media that are amplified by the ubiquity of smartphones—that the article reveals and discusses.

    Mostly, though, I think about my friend’s six-and-a-half year-old daughter asking her mother one evening if she could read when they got home; it is a wondrous thing when a child loves to read so much that limits or ground-rules are required—and I hope nothing ever comes along to diminish that love in her life :-)


Friday links, late August edition

Posted in History, Links at 6:00 pm by

Well, link (singular), again:

  • Enlightenment Technology [ongoing by Tim Bray]

    Tim Bray provides a review and commentary on economic historian Joel Mokyr’s 2016 A Cul­ture of Growth: The Ori­gins of the Modern Econ­o­my (which attempts to explain the origins of the belief that progress was a good thing and why the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe and not in Asia, given that, circa 1500, both regions were more or less on the same level technologically—short version, according to Bray’s reading, mostly a series of “for­tu­nate his­tor­i­cal ac­ci­dents”).

    I wasn’t familiar with the book—I’m sure, had I remained in academia, I would have had to slog through it—and I’m sure there are some great reviews from historians to recommend, but I felt the 15 or 20 minutes reading Bray’s piece was well worth the time.


Friday links redux

Posted in History, Links at 6:36 pm by

  • The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe [The New York Times]

    I found this piece incredibly moving: the dedication of these engineers—some now in their 80s!—to one of humankind’s greatest scientific endeavours, in the face of ever-shrinking resources, changing priorities, and the passage of time in which the knowledge and skills needed to keep the Voyagers working are becoming one more of humanity’s “lost arts.”

  • Dellinger Grist Mill

    The Times piece reminded me of another of humanity’s lost arts, which in this particular case also has a connection with our space program. In the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina sits the Dellinger Grist Mill, the last small, water-powered stone mill left in North Carolina, dating from the turn of the last century (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998). Jack Dellinger, fourth-generation Dellinger miller, restored the mill and operates it today in retirement. In the 1950s, Dellinger left the family farm and mill, served in the Korean War, and then became a software engineer for IBM. There, he wrote control software in Huntsville, AL, under the direction of Wernher von Braun, for the Saturn V rockets used in the moon landing, before finally returning home in the late 1990s and putting generations-old, nearly-vanished milling techniques back into production.

    Jack Dellinger currently offers informative tours touching on rural life in NC, milling, historic restoration, and the space program, and grinds local corn into meal, grits, and polenta; if you’re going to be in the area, consult the calendar on the website or email him to see if the Mill is open. Highly recommended!

  • What It’s Like Growing Up as a Girl in the Gaza Strip [National Geographic]

    Switching gears, last weekend’s National Geographic photo-roundup email included this story about a photojournalist’s work documenting the lives of girls and young women in Gaza. There’s also a Kickstarter campaign to get a book of her project published (there’s currently about a week-and-a-half left in the campaign and the book is already almost three-quarters funded).


Friday links

Posted in Links at 11:38 pm by

Well, link (singular):

My friend Jill has said for years that I’m about 70 years old :P


The Old Web: Follow-up

Posted in History, Links, Software at 11:59 pm by

Today’s comments on Tim Bray’s post that I linked to yesterday have been very interesting, both as to the scale of link rot and efforts underway to ameliorate it (you should read those comments if you have not done so).

One commenter on ongoing also linked to two recent posts by Bret Victor; the second one is a incisive examination of the web’s permanence/impermanence problem that I briefly wrestled with before closing yesterday’s post with congratulations to Zeldman. (You should really read Victor’s post.)

Tuesday update: In Tuesday morning’s comments on Bray’s post, Andy Jackson of the British Library links to their study of URLs in their archive, where one of the conclusions is “50% of the content is lost after just one year, with more being lost each subsequent year” (emphasis mine).


The Old Web

Posted in History, Life, Links at 11:59 pm by

Two somewhat-related items:

  1. Zeldman’s website turned 20 today. (Next year it’ll legally be able to drink!)
  2. Tim Bray looks at hyperlink decay among the outgoing links on his own website, ongoing.

After reading link 1 and before opening link 2 this evening, by coincidence I took a quick pass through my own website (a mere eight and a half months younger than Zeldman’s—which came as quite a shock to me!—and which at one time was published using some of the same tools as Zeldman’s, namely PageSpinner and Fetch) and noticed, particularly on the What’s New and About this Site pages, a large number of broken links. Most links were either to “Classic” Mac OS applications or to long-shuttered websites and Internet services. (I also noted the “What’s New” and “About this Site” pages were rather out-of-date :P More repairs needed on this old house!)

As a historian in the digital age and yet a private person, I’m not sure how I feel about the apparently-increasing pace of link rot—on the one hand, loss of potential sources is nothing new, and on the other hand, the presence of impermanence in an era where many claim “once it’s on the Internet, it can never be deleted” is something of wonder. Instead of digging into the struggle between those two ideals, I think I’ll end with a universally happy thought:

Congratulations to Zeldman on 20 continuous years of online publishing!



Posted in Camino, Links at 11:00 pm by

Some years ago now, long after nearly all web standards people had adopted Firefox or Safari, the great CSS guru Eric Meyer was (still) a Camino user. In that capacity, I interacted with him a few times in my role as a member of the Camino team.

Today I join with the global community of those who knew or were influenced by the Meyers in presenting a #663399Becca border on افكار و احلام (and background on the main ardisson.org landing page) as a mark of remembrance for their young daughter who tragically passed away last Saturday.

I have no more words.

(Via Jon Hicks)


Public Service Announcement: Flag Etiquette

Posted in Life, Links at 5:40 pm by

A reminder to those of you who display the American flag on a flagpole at your home, place of business, or other location:

The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.
          —4 U. S. C., §7 (emphasis added)

Public Service Announcement: Traffic Safety

Posted in Life, Links at 5:03 pm by

If a traffic signal is not functioning at an intersection, all drivers must treat the intersection as if a stop sign is posted for all directions.
          —2010 Driver’s Manual (GA)

This public service announcement brought to you by those of us who do not wish to be killed or injured in chaos at an intersection where power to the traffic signal has been lost.