On Apple Maps

I keep giving Apple Maps a chance, but it just can’t seem to recalculate routes!

What happens right now, whenever I veer slightly off-course, is I see this triangle representing my car just moving along, departing from that nice blue line it was so close to just a moment ago.

Now if I can make my way back, things do resume, which is … better than if it didn’t. But there doesn’t seem to be any point where it goes “hey, I think you’re way off course now, let’s find you a route from where you are now“.

I do like the traffic-light-based directions, and telling me I’ve entered the parking lot … that’s a nice touch! … but seriously, without route recalculation, it’s hard to pay attention to these other goodies.

Dark Crystal

Here’s how it happened: I was browsing Netflix, got the usual nothing to see here. Oh well, what’s this Dark Crystal thing?

Two minutes in, I get the feeling, “meh, this is too childish, did I accidentally get into the kids’ section?”

But ten minutes in, I realize I’m watching some of the most visually arresting scenes I’ve ever watched — and this isn’t CGI, so someone has put in an absolutely insane level of effort to depict and capture this fantasy world!

Anyway that was episode one. Added the rest to my list.

Notion

I’ve always been prone to trying out new apps in the note-taking, information-herding, organizing, brain-storming, storing-and-finding space, not because I like shiny new things (I used to like shiny new things earlier, I don’t any more, I really don’t …), but because I’m always looking for that one thing that will magically “improve my flow”, help me write better, help me think better.

I had checked out Notion earlier, like I checked out a bunch of other things, but I think I didn’t give myself enough time with it, or perhaps I read too many reviews of what other people thought about it.

I tried it again recently, and I’m hooked. This is not just practically useful (in many, many, many ways), but also very satisfying in the sense of “I’m glad someone is doing this!”

As someone who’s also prone to wallowing in the “how did all the magic of the 60s and 70s come to this?”, I think this is a tool in the great tradition of Hypercard, of Xanadu, of Mindstorms, of the early intentions of Smalltalk, and of the legendary “mother of all demos” itself.

(As a minor aside, the only other such tool is Tinderbox, but that suffers to some extent from a lack of evangelism, and perhaps more from a lack of cross-platform-ness).

It’s not there yet (I understand the necessity of having an Electron app, but I’ll patiently sign up for the personal plan and wait a few years for the native app), but it has made its place as a tool to think.

(I expect I’ll have much more to say about this, over the next year)

Monthly Curations: August 2019

It makes perfect sense to say that the target demographic of English is English speakers—or more precisely, the target demographic of Modern English is Middle English speakers who wanted a few simpler rules, some continental vocabulary, following other contemporaneous European languages in not having þ and distinguishing i and j, etc. It was a relatively small change and very intentionally served a community of people who already spoke Middle English well. It was the Python 2-to-3 of English.

The target demographic of Esperanto, meanwhile, was the whole world: people who already had a language, people who already had a workable lingua franca in international contexts (French, later English), and in particular people who weren’t familiar with the European language patterns that Esperanto was largely based on. So it had limited success. A Japanese or Indonesian or Persian or Swahili diplomat not familiar with any European language would be better served learning French or English than Esperanto, because those languages are roughly equally foreign, there are many more resources for learning French or English, there is a larger community and more people to speak to, there is a larger corpus of works, etc. And an Anglophone or Francophone diplomat has very little incentive to learn Esperanto, either.

Modern Hebrew, on the other hand, had a well-identified target demographic: Jews from around the world migrating to the reestablished state of Israel who lacked a shared everyday language. Some liturgical Hebrew was already familiar to most of this population, and there was a strong cultural willingness to see a reestablished Hebrew language. So while it is in many senses a conlang, it was far more successful than Esperanto and now has a large community of native speakers.

So the question of whether a programming language—especially one that is so much like a conlang, not an incremental evolution based on use in practice (like the C standards committee accepting compiler-specific dialectal changes)—has a target demographic is a fair one.

Aerobie

Stumbled across one of these in a small gift shop and picked it up. I have to admit my ignorance at not coming across this before, but it flies amazingly smooth.

I mean frisbees fly too, but you have to flick it just right, and you have to teach kids how to throw it level. This in the other hand, flies pretty much however you throw it.

I was wondering why it does, and came across this old news article (1985, so 34 years old today!) about its invention.

As he looked into the Frisbee, Adler discovered that no one knew exactly why it flies as well as it does. The thick edges create turbulence which somehow makes the platter fly in a stable fashion (if you throw it correctly). But the edges also create considerable air resistance, or drag.

Apparently, The only way to fly straight and level is to get the center of lift over the center of the disk !!

The current form of the “Aerobie” is a later iteration of one big change: replacing the frisbee design with a shallow cone !

Interesting links: August 2019

Rubaiyyat illustration by Elihu Vedder (verses 37-39)
Rubaiyyat illustration by Elihu Vedder (verses 37-39)

Monthly recap (August 2019)

Sunset
Sunset

Major updates:

  • Towards the end of the month, we took a trip to Kauai
  • Got some work done in our kitchen (tiling the floor)

Minor updates:

  • Started out mildly embarrassing but ended rather well: treated myself to a Spa session (sauna/massage)
  • Met up with some friends of ours in Berkeley (and as a side effect, discovered the wonderful Berkeley Bowl market!)
  • My grandmother hasn’t been well 😦
  • Had a great view of the Milky Way on a cloudless night in Hawaii
  • Three birthdays this month

Watched/read/made:

  • Watched Angry Birds with Tara (we’re really getting into the “watching movies with her” groove this year!)
  • Also, Sacred Games and The Last Czars on Netflix