Ben Brooks On Hacking →

August 12, 2014 |

The point of all this is that you should never be afraid to hack away at things. I still hack away at the CSS on this site, and while the site is live I save the change and see what happens. Maybe the entire site dies because of that, or maybe it doesn’t — I don’t care. I don’t care because I am working at learning and those few minutes of a broken site won’t really matter to anyone in the long run, but it _will_ help me immensely.

Ben’s right on the money here. Which reminds me, there’s a bit of Wordpress hacking I need to do on this site myself.1

  1. I’m not entirely happy with how the link-formatted posts are being handled by the Wordpress engine. Right now, I need to manually add an “external-link” tag to the title of each post in order for it to be styled appropriately. I’m trying to find a way to automate the process, so that it’s easier for me to publish these posts.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Jean-Louis Gassée asks for better App Store curation in an open letter to Tim Cook →

August 12, 2014 |

Jean-Louis Gassée, on this week’s Monday Note:

With one million titles and no human guides, the Apple App Store has become incomprehensible for mere mortals. A simple solution exists: curation by humans instead of algorithms.

I couldn’t agree more. Human curation and an editorial selection of apps are becoming indispensable in today’s extremely crowded App Store. If Apple wants high-quality apps to thrive and independent developers to keep making great apps, this is the way forward.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Nobody needs to buy tablets any more, says Ars Technica →

August 08, 2014 |

Peter Bright makes an interesting case:

It turns out that tablets aren’t the new smartphone and they’re not going to provide regular sales at high price points. They’re the new PC; if you’ve already got one, there’s not much reason to buy a new one. Their makers are all out of ideas and they can’t make them better. They can only make them cheaper.

That’s a bold thing to say when we are less than a couple of months removed from a new generation of iPads. We shall see.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

So a thief tried to steal this guy's bicycle... →

July 30, 2014 |

After a long day at work in Times Square, I find my bike locked with a mysterious Kryptonite U-lock. It’s an old trick. The thief will come back in the dead of night, release their lock, and pop my chain with a bolt-cutter. But I ain’t givin up that easy.

This is awesome on so many levels.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

What's in a name?

July 28, 2014

The other day I read a very interesting article by C.A. Pinkham: The Gratuitous Injustice of American Tipping Culture. It was originally linked to by The Loop.

It starts with these words by William Scott:

“Unless a waiter can be a gentleman, democracy is a failure. If any form of service is menial, democracy is a failure. Those Americans who dislike self-respect in servants are undesirable citizens; they belong in an aristocracy.”

There are few things in this world that upset me more than seeing someone being a jerk to a waiter, or a hotel concierge. Unfortunately, on some occasions the American tipping system actually reinforces this behavior.

Less than 100 years ago, people genuinely believed that there was no such thing as “menial service” to an American, that waiters could be gentlemen, and that service didn’t mean servitude. They believed the idea of tipping was a fundamentally demeaning and classist notion of which they wanted no part. Since then, we appear to have come a long way down a road paved with good intentions.

What the hell went wrong?

I’ve always found the act of tipping to be inherently disrespectful. A culture that perpetuates this practice, in my opinion, is one lacking empathy at the most basic of levels. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with similar thoughts on the matter.

The entire article is well worth reading, but to me it brought up a different thought.

It’s no secret that in Spain we love the outdoor life: we regularly go out for drinks, eat out… heck, whatever it is, if it can be done out of the house, chances are that’s how we do it. This is particularly true when the weather is nice, which is to say most of the time. We spend more of our waking time in bars and restaurants that practically anywhere else, including our own homes. It’s a well-established part of our culture, and one that I appreciate immensely.

As a result, most people here are used to dealing with servers every day.1 There are no mandatory tips in Spain; instead they’re given out only occasionally. They’re meant as a token of appreciation for exceptionally good service, but they’re hardly a significant part of a server’s wage. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean servers aren’t sometimes treated poorly by customers. That’s something that happens in most developed countries, and fixing it requires more than replacing the tipping culture or making sure every server is paid a fair, dignified wage. That’s evidently a great place to start, but it’s only the beginning.

To me, it really starts with knowing their names. In my day-to-day life I probably interact with more than 20 or 30 servers on a regular basis. I know many of them by name, and some of them I call friends. I always try to make it a point to ask the name of every waiter (or waitress) I talk to. In my mind it’s just a basic show of respect, to acknowledge the other person as a human being and not just a nameless entity that’s there to produce whatever I need at that particular moment. It’s a little thing, sure, but in my experience it’s really appreciated and it goes a long way.

Yesterday, for example, we went to a nice Italian place for a late-afternoon cup of coffee. It was a quaint little restaurant owned by Marco, a young italian man with a full beard and an infectious smile. I started taking to him and he turned out to be an exceptionally charming man, so much so that what was supposed to be a 20-minute coffee turned into a two-hour conversation and a few new friends made along the way. This is the sort of present that anyone willing to set their prejudices aside can get every day, if they only take a chance.

The truth is, some of the most interesting people I’ve ever known work behind a bar. I’ve always believed it takes a certain character to do that job well, and I deeply admire them. Perhaps it’s a romantic notion carried over from a different era, back when a waiter, a taxi driver or a hotel concierge often represented your best bet to fix almost any pressing matter. Got hungry at 4 a.m.? No problem. Need to find the only place in the city that stocks a particular brand of whisky? Easy. Want to find out the name of the beautiful woman you saw on the elevator that morning? You got it. This uncanny ability to problem-solve beyond their job description often earned them high praise and respect from their patrons. Ironically, their appreciation was often expressed by means of a generous tip, but this tip was a different animal entirely: a gesture of respect through and through.

Unfortunately, that era is long gone, and those well-intentioned tips have evolved into the demeaning practice we see today. The good news is, the true professionals are still there, if you know where to look. I always find refuge in these characters when I’m far from home; a knowing smile and a nod from a bartender is all it takes to bring me right back to a happier place. Luckily I have a keen eye for spotting them, and I can never resist the temptation to approach them and share in a bit of their story.

To come back full circle, we would all be better off if tips didn’t exist. It’s an embarrassing system, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. It’s also just part of a bigger problem so if, like me, you feel like a complete jerk every time you tip, the only advice I can give you is this: try to connect with the person, and respect the job; theirs is a profession bearing a long tradition of excellence and discretion. Ask them what their name is. Shake their hand. You’ll be surprised to see what a difference it makes. Talk to them like actual human beings, and stop thinking for a second about what you want. Then, when it’s time to tip, do it generously, and don’t forget to thank them. It’ll take a bit of practice, but eventually you’ll stop feeling like a jerk.

  1. I was hesitant to use the word “servers” because in my head it’s already tainted. However, I refuse to concede this point and hereby reclaim the right to use this word with all the respect and appreciation it deserves.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system →

July 23, 2014 |

Rich McCormick, The Verge:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has confirmed that his company will amalgamate all major versions of Windows into one operating system. Speaking on the company’s quarterly earnings call today, Nadella told analysts Microsoft will “streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system.” Describing the implications of the change, Nadella said ”this means one operating system that covers all screen sizes.”

Sounds great.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Shawn Blanc updates "Delight is in the Details" →

July 23, 2014 |

Delight is in the Details is packed with practical advice, tips, encouragement, inspiration, and insight. Resist the prevailing tide of “good enough” work that leads to forgettable products and a dissatisfaction in your work life. This book and interview series will teach you how how to reach for excellence and find joy and delight in the journey.

Shawn’s excellent bundle for people who make things includes an ebook, an audiobook, an interview series, videos and much more. It’s also on sale for the next 24 hours, so grab one while they’re hot.

For the past weeks I’ve been getting a few preview emails from Shawn with bits and pieces of the new stuff and let me assure you, the update is massive. By itself, the new content alone would easily justify buying the entire kit again. However, if you’ve already bought Delight is in the Details you won’t need to spend another dime to get the update.

That’s a seriously classy move, but then again this is Shawn we’re talking about. I would expect nothing less.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

"As a general policy, don’t give a shit" →

July 22, 2014 |

David Cain:

I have known people who will tell stories, repeatedly, about some unpleasant twenty-second interaction that happened to them years ago, and which they evidently never stopped giving a shit about. I’m sure you have witnessed this too. Don’t fall for this madness. As a general policy, don’t give a shit.

I’ve long subscribed to this policy and in my experience, life gets a lot easier when you just don’t give a shit.

Via Andrew Cox.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Count to ten when a plane goes down, by John C. Beck →

July 22, 2014 |

On this day, I highlighted her workstation and hit the F6 key to reset.  But my screen went temporarily black and then seemed to be starting again.  I realized that I had mistakenly hit F7 and reset all the workstations in the embassy.   This realization didn’t bother me much, because no one except the Agriculture section secretary was usually on the computer system this early in the morning. But then all hell broke lose.

Awesome story about how important and fragile the information chain is when an international crisis hits.

Via Daring Fireball.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢