Links 2021-03-24

There’s a lot of them this time.

Ebooks: It’s Complicated

This article (archive) by Dan Cohen explores the missed opportunity in ebooks. Ebooks had a lot of potential to radically change the way we read. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. Complicated licensing rules and siloed ebook stores ruin the user experience of obtaining and finding books, even if the experience of reading them is quite good.

I’ve been reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy which includes a prediction of future computers which are able to access any piece of information instantly. It can access works of fiction, scholarly articles, and even the journals of dead people (made in the same type of machine). We probably have the technology to make such a machine right now but we can’t because of the issues mentioned in this article.

I found this article via Robin Sloan’s blog.

On The Experience of Being Poor-ish, For People Who Aren’t

Resident Contrarian wrote an essay about what it’s like to be on a low income in the U.S.A. (archive). It’s a good read; interesting to compare with other places in the world.

Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny

This article discusses the change in Hollywood films and their portrayal of sex and romantic relationships (archive). It argues that hero’s bodies in big budget films (particularly superhero films) are getting more and more perfect but less and less sexy. They are less sexy because there is no vulnerability. Their bodies are tools, not part of themselves.

When I watched Avengers: Endgame I was disappointed with the way “fat Thor” was treated. Amongst a cast of overly dramatic, edgy, brooding, superheroes, Thor sitting around losing his health, drinking beer, and playing video games was the most realistic and relatable depiction of dealing with failure (or maybe it’s just me). The movie decided to just play it up for cheap gags and Marvel humour. A missed opportunity.

Rethinking the JavaScript ternary operator

I am always wary of the ternary operator. James Sinclair made a great writeup explaining when and when not to use it (archive).

The Value of University Food Gardens

Dr Cathy Sherry at The Planthunter wrote about the importance of university food gardens (archive). It seems a bit pointless to be teaching students about plants, agriculture, or environmental issues when most of them have never grown a plant before. My university (Flinders University) didn’t have any kind of student accessible garden despite being probably the only South Australian university with the campus space to do so. I wish they did.

How I self-published a professional paperback and eBook using LaTeX and Pandoc

This post (archive) by Dan Grec outlines his setup for publishing both an ebook and a physical book using a makefile, LaTeX, and Pandoc. Pandoc is a great tool and I’ve often thought about the best way to use it to publish in multiple formats. You could modify this flow a little bit and publish to the web as well.

Writing Small CLI Programs in Common Lisp

Steve Losh wrote about his setup for quickly and conveniently making command line programs that end up in $PATH (archive). You could quite easily adapt this for any programming language you like. I enjoy flexible systems that let you write your own programs easily but it always feels like your own utility programs feel separate from “officially” installed programs. This is a good pattern for alleviating that separation. It also includes docs that work with man.

Infinite Procedurally Generated Mandalas

Someone on Github has made an endless, procedurally generated page of Mandalas (archive). Pretty cool.