If you’re looking for my science blog instead, it’s here.
Minox Redux: A Cheap, Easy Developing Reel
Several years ago, I posted a description of a film photography hack I’d thrown together to develop Minox film. Make magazine picked it up and linked to it, and since then I’ve gotten occasional feedback from folks who’ve found it useful. Unfortunately, in my various site changes I broke the images that went with it. Thanks to reader Brian Wood for pointing this out to me. Here’s a new version of the post with the pictures restored.
What to Do with a 10-year-old MacBook Air
Keep using it. But not as a Mac. Apple is in the business of selling new hardware, and while their computers often last longer than cheaper Windows machines, they still suffer from the planned obsolescence endemic to the tech industry. For Macs, it happens in stages, as described on Apple’s page about “Vintage” and “Obsolete” devices. My mid-2011 MacBook Air is well down the latter list, so if any of its model-specific parts break, it’s unrepairable.
My Free Audiobook Page
It looks like I’m starting to build up a decent set of chapter and short work contributions on Librivox. Anyone who wants to check them out can now find a continuously updated page of my free audiobook recordings there. The ones without a “Download” link are still in the editing process.
Another of my Librivox audio contributions is now online, in which I read the chapter on Sir Henry Morgan in Edward Keble Chatterton’s book Daring Deeds of Famous Pirates. Check it out here. Listening to some of the other narrators, I think I’m reading too fast, so I’ll try to slow down my pace a bit on the next project.
First Audiobook Project
Responding to peer pressure from my wife, I’ve started getting into audiobook recording. I wanted to do some low-stakes pro bono work to iron out the workflow before holding out my services for hire, and after finding the delightful community of open-source hippies at Librivox, I jumped into several collaborative projects. My first published audiobook contribution is now online there. I read Chapter 11 of “Prowling About Panama,” a 1919 travelogue.
Building a Cat-Resistant Christmas Tree from Pegboard
Setting up our fake Christmas tree this year, it became clear that a problem that surfaced last year was going to persist. Oliver’s kittenish playfulness has hardly subsided even as he’s grown much larger, and now we had ten pounds of cat climbing the tree, mashing down the branches, and threatening to dislodge and break any ornaments we dared to hang. Switching to a natural tree would, if anything, make the problem worse.
Book Review: Hell's Well
Think of a disaster movie. Any disaster movie. Whatever the central threat, from Godzilla to malevolent extraterrestrials to climate catastrophe, there will be at least one scene full of people behaving at their worst: looting expensive luxuries from abandoned stores, smashing windows, screaming in panic, shooting at their neighbors. According to Hollywood, society is just one bad event away from near-total collapse, unleashing the Hobbesian wolves of our worst impulses and setting everyone against everyone else.
Pick of the Week: 50 Reps
Thanksgiving is over, and whether they traveled (inadvisably) to a big family dinner or did the responsible thing and stuffed their faces at home, many Americans are feeling even more over-fed than usual now. In normal years, this is when gyms start to fill up with newly enthusiastic exercisers. With a huge second wave of COVID-19 now sweeping the country, though, what are we to do? I previously recommended a great video game that can dish out a steady supply of vigorous workouts, but that requires a $400 console and at least some comfort with the basic concepts of gaming.
Pick of the Week: The Long Game
March of this year featured an extraordinary coincidence in the video game industry. Almost simultaneously, two games came out that seemed tailor-made for our suddenly isolated lives. One, the latest Nintendo blockbuster in the “Animal Crossing” series, invites the player to retreat to a tropical island and build their personal paradise. It’s a world full of adorable characters and unchallenging tasks, where the most valuable commodity is something many people now had plenty of: time.
Pick of the Week: More is Less
Hope Jahren’s latest book begins at the beginning: her beginning, that is. Born in 1969, her parents picked her first name with typical Midwestern directness, expressing their own hope that their daughter would live a life of plenty, a life better than theirs. Like most parents in our culture, they wanted their child to have more. The rest of the book focuses on how our culture has defined that goal, how we’ve pursued it, and what those choices are costing us and our own descendants.
Pick of the Week: Dinner with Atmosphere
In our household, I’m responsible for the food. Breakfasts and lunches are easy, as none of us mind eating the same simple things for those meals day after day (oatmeal in the morning, granola bars at noon for me), but dinner is a perpetual challenge. That’s our family meal together. It needs to vary from night to night, and be tasty, nutritious, and filling. But I really don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen every day, so with the exception of an occasional gourmet hobby project on the weekend, these high-quality dinners also need to be quick.
Pick of the Week: Cartoon Colonialism
No matter what your relationship is to video games, from seasoned e-sports professional to baffled grandparent, you’ve heard of Nintendo, and probably have at least a general idea of the types of games they produce. You likely even know at least some of their characters. So immense is their fame that the Prime Minister of Japan, looking to capitalize on one of his country’s most recognizable exports, appeared dressed as Mario at the Rio Olympics in 2016.