phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Thursday, Thursday, Friday

Three things coming up later this week in NYC:

On Behalf of Lifeonbehalfof.life

I helped build a website with the Other EPA encouraging you to submit a Public Comment on the EPA’s draft 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, which presently has no mention of Climate Change.

The deadline to submit your Public Comment is tonight, 11:59pm ET!

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Never Use Futurawww.subtraction.com

Khoi Vinh on the book Never Use Futura:

I’m so happy to see this new book by designer, writer, and historian Douglas Thomas all about the typeface Futura which, it’s worth noting, predated Helvetica by three full decades—and it looks as beautiful and timely as ever.

Futura is probably my favorite typeface that ships with macOS by default. It’s one of the few bundled with an OS with more weights than just Regular and Bold.

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Grid Correctionsvimeo.com

Grid Corrections shows, as Curt Meine puts it, “places where theory and reality meet.”

Geoff Manaugh, writing for Travel + Leisure:

De Ruijter soon learned that these kinks and deviations were more than local design quirks. They are grid corrections, as he refers to them in a new photographic project: places where North American roads deviate from their otherwise logical grid lines in order to account for the curvature of the Earth. You could drive out there your whole life, de Ruijter realized, and not realize that certain stop signs and intersections exist not because of eccentric real estate deals, but because they are mathematical devices used to help planners wrap a rectilinear planning scheme onto the surface of a spherical planet. In order to avoid large-scale distortion, the Jeffersonian grid—shorthand for the founding father’s 18th-century geometric vision of six-square-mile township parcels, intended to guarantee equal and democratic land-distribution nationwide—is occasionally forced to go askew.

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How gerrymandered is a district?mike.teczno.com

Michal Migurski is working on a project for measuring legislative gerrymandering. Redistricting shenanigans can be detected from current, historical, and proposed legislative districts.

PlanScore is doing two things to address partisan gerrymandering.

We are creating score pages for district plans to provide instant, real-time analysis of a plan’s fairness. Each district plan will be evaluated for its population, demographic, partisan, and geometric character in a single place, with backing methodology and data provided so you can understand the number. We’ll publish historical scores back to the 1970s for context, current scores of proposed plans for voters and journalists, and dynamic scores of new plans for legislative staff who are designing tomorrow’s plans.

We are also assembling a collection of underlying electoral data from sources like Open Elections, elections-geodata, and other parallel efforts. Our goal is to provide valid scores for new plans in any state. As we await the outcomes of gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin and North Carolina, voters and legislative staff in other states are wondering how to apply new ideas to their own plans. In 2020, everyone will have to redraw their maps. PlanScore will be a one-stop shop for district plan analysis.

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The past is our burdenmapzen.com

Aaron Cope on Who’s On First (which I also work on) and the responsibility that comes with naming things.

We have been blind to the fact that the First Nations were already here living on these lands long before the European settlers arrived. It is important to recognize that we have not been passive in our blindness but brutally deliberate. First out of malice and then later out of negligence and more recently out of shame.

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“We thought we were gonna change the world”medium.com

From Mike Monteiro’s One person’s history of Twitter, from beginning to end:

Their goal was giving everyone a voice. They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant. That’s Twitter’s original sin. Like Oppenheimer, Twitter was so obsessed with splitting the atom they never stopped to think what we’d do with it.

Related: more Twitter-related news from the Civicist.

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ftrain at twentywww.ftrain.com

Paul Ford continues to be an inspiration, even if ftrain.com isn’t as active as it once was. You really should go read the archives if somehow you haven’t explored them before.

20 years is arbitrary nonsense. A blip. Our software is bullshit, our literary essays are too long, the good editors all quit or got fired, hardly anyone is experimenting with form in a way that wakes me up, the IDEs haven’t caught up with the 1970s, the R&D budgets are weak, the little zines are badly edited, the tweets are poor, the short stories make no sense, people still care too much about magazines, the Facebook posts are nightmares, LinkedIn has ruined capitalism, and the big tech companies that have arisen are exhausting, lumbering gold-thirsty kraken that swim around with sour looks on their face wondering why we won’t just give them all our gold and save the time … In the spirit of this thing I won’t be editing this paragraph.

Thanks for sharing what you know!

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Escape from distractionland

I recently added some scripts to my work laptop designed to help me break out of my reflexive “cmd-T, T, enter” keyboard habit. That keyboard sequence loads up my Twitter timeline in a new tab before I’ve even realized what’s happening. I’m untraining myself out of habitual social media grazing by enforcing a rigid schedule.

Based on Mike Rugnetta’s excellent write-up, I basically hijack my Mac laptop’s /etc/hosts file on a daily interval from 10am to 6pm, with a one hour lunch break at noon. I’ve modified his approach slightly, since I tend to edit my /etc/hosts file regularly for web development, and can’t be bothered to maintain two separate copies of it. Instead of swapping between two different hosts files, I use sed to modify the file in place.

In my hosts file I have a couple lines that look like this at the beginning of the day:

# distractionland
# 127.0.0.1 twitter.com mobile.twitter.com api.twitter.com instagram.com mltshp.com

The rule starts the day commented out, so up until 10am it’s still open season on my wandering attention. Notice that you can stack up a bunch of hostnames after the IP address, there’s no need to make a separate line for each one. I recently deactivated my Facebook, so I don’t need that one in the mix any more.

My first script /usr/local/bin/disable-distractions blocks access to Twitter, et al by uncommenting the line:

#!/bin/sh
sudo sed -i .bak -E 's/^# (127.0.0.1 twitter.com.+)$/\1/' /etc/hosts

The script creates a backup file hosts.bak and then removes the comment like this:

# distractionland
127.0.0.1 twitter.com mobile.twitter.com api.twitter.com instagram.com mltshp.com    

The second script /usr/local/bin/enable-distractions comments the line back out, unblocking the websites:

#!/bin/sh
sudo sed -i .bak -E 's/^\s*(127.0.0.1 twitter.com.+)$/# \1/' /etc/hosts

The -i flag for sed is for “inline” editing, and the -E activates extended regular expression syntax. The edit command uses the form 's/.../.../', which basically reads as “search for … and replace it with …” The first … is a regular expression matching the line, and the second … either prefixes the line with # or removes the #.

I use the launchd daemon to call these scripts using four .plist files according to a daily schedule:

  • 10am: disable-distractions
  • 12pm: enable-distractions
  • 1pm: disable-distractions
  • 6pm: enable-distractions

Note that the computer must be running at each transition time, or the scripts won’t fire. But I can always just invoke one or the other from the command line if needed.

The launchd configuration is handled by four .plist files saved in my /Library/LaunchDaemons folder. Once everything was set up I activated them like this:

sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.phiffer.workday-start.plist
sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.phiffer.workday-end.plist
sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.phiffer.lunchbreak-start.plist
sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.phiffer.lunchbreak-end.plist

I’ve found this “one simple trick” has been effective at managing my novelty-seeking brain. Each time I absent-mindedly load up a blocked page I take a deep breath and close the tab. For now I’ve chosen not to block my feed reader, so I’m keeping up with the weblogs I subscribe to much more regularly than I did before. Keep on posting, friends!