Mary Rose Cook's notebook

The public parts of my notebook.

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Smiling tyrannosaurus

Smiling tyrannosaurus


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Every Frame a Painting: David Fincher

Every Frame a Painting: David Fincher

David Fincher - And the Other Way is Wrong on Vimeo


“People will say, ‘There are a million ways to shoot a scene’, but I don’t think so. I think there’re two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.”


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Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information

Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information


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Dinner and a movie

Dinner and a movie

Tonight, Lauren and I had planned eat out and see a film. But, wasn’t much on that was appealing and that we hadn’t already seen. So, we decided to go to Barboncino for supper and then watch a film on our projector. Tonight, our sitting room will be known as Franklin Ave Cinema.


We have picked five classic films that seem interesting, but that neither of us has seen before. Tonight, after going to Barboncino, we will watch the trailers for these films and pick one as our main feature. As a warm up to the screening, we will also watch five more trailers for upcoming films that we are excited about.


We will watch one of these five films:


Un Coeur en Hiver


That Man From Rio


Recommended by Alan.


The Maltese Falcon


Misery


Seven Samurai


It wouldn’t be a real cinema screening without some previews. Before the main feature, we will watch the trailers for these five upcoming films:


National Gallery


Laggies


The new Lynn Shelton film!


Fifty Shades of Grey


Blackhat


The new Michael Mann film!


Two Days, One Night


Recommended by my dad.


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How you know

How you know

How You Know


“I’ve read Villehardouin’s chronicle of the Fourth Crusade at least two times, maybe three. And yet if I had to write down everything I remember from it, I doubt it would amount to much more than a page. Multiply this times several hundred, and I get an uneasy feeling when I look at my bookshelves. What use is it to read all these books if I remember so little from them?”


“The place to look for what I learned from Villehardouin’s chronicle is not what I remember from it, but my mental models of the crusades, Venice, medieval culture, siege warfare.”


“The same book would get compiled differently at different points in your life.”


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Lauren playing SpyParty

Lauren playing SpyParty


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Gameplay trailer for Uncharted 4

Gameplay trailer for Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Gameplay Video - 2014 PlayStation Experience | PS4 - YouTube


The Uncharted games are like well-made Hollywood action films. Slight, throwaway, but a lot of fun.


In each generation of consoles, there has been a graphical effect that really stood out and reminded me “this looks way better than before”. In the last generation, it was the river water in Grand Theft Auto 4. In this generation, it is the way the foliage reacts to Nathan Drake passing through.


All the one-off animations really make a difference to the realism. The passing of the gun from right hand to left. Drake twisting the baddie’s gun away from his own head.


But the shooting, with its reticule and pulled in camera, is incongruous with the increased realism of the animation. As soon as Drake fires, it’s a game again.


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Blacksmith making a knife

Blacksmith making a knife

The Birth Of A Tool. Part III. Damascus steel knife making (by John Neeman Tools) on Vimeo


I wish it hadn’t been so pretentiously shot. I wish it didn’t have music.


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Incidental Complexity

Incidental Complexity

Eve Blog


Killer, fascinating description of the development of the Eve programming environment. I love how they are talking to non-programmers. I love how they are acknowledging that models like functional programming that simplify things for experienced programmers are not necessarily easier for new programmers.


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Michelangelo

Michelangelo


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Victor Chocquet, Cezanne

Victor Chocquet, Cezanne


I like how Cézanne gets the vainness of the swooshy hair. I like how a very corporeal cheek is made up of very unreal splodges of colour.


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Learning online

Learning online

http://christinacacioppo.com/blog/learning-online


A fantastic blog post about a woman spent a summer teaching kids to program. She used what she learnt about where the kids got confused by programming to build an IDE that was actually helpful to them.


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Green Arabia

Green Arabia

Green Arabia (Idle Words)


Maciej Ceglowski’s latest great travel memoir.


“My side of the table looks like someone has been repeatedly smashing my head into the food to try to get me to talk.”


and


“As the pile grows slimmer, its power wanes, until even fifteen-year-old Houthi rebel kids start fussing over its fine print.”


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The corridor and the corner

The corridor and the corner

http://killscreendaily.com/articles/pt-turns-corner-horror/


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Paul Rand, Thoughts on Design

Paul Rand, Thoughts on Design


A book about graphic design and the design of advertisements.


Some of the things Rand says are uninteresting because they are now so embedded in our culture that they seem obvious.


He describes the abstract shapes in his work as a way to suggest plastic (suggestive, interpretative, symbolic) ideas. But the form of his “abstract” shapes look dated. What he thought of as pure form was, in fact, a fashion.


Most of the ads that feature in the book appear without comment. This is a shame, because having him talk us through them would have been concrete and probably interesting.


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Rome Open City

Rome Open City

Not very good. The parts about domestic life were two-dimensional. The parts about the war were sensationalised.


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Lauren responds dubiously to my hip pop (not pictured)

Lauren responds dubiously to my hip pop (not pictured)


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Roller derby

Roller derby


On Saturday, my friend Ruth (aka Barbarolla in the London Rollergirls) took me to see my first ever roller derby. We saw a bout between Manhattan Mayhem and the Queens of Pain. We were supporting QoP because Ruth idolises Suzy Hotrod, one of their jammers.


The basic structure of the game is as follows. About five people from each team skate around an oval track. Each team has one jammer. This person must try and pass members of the opposing team. For each pass, the team scores a point.


The game itself is fascinating. Much like rugby or football, it is dominated by manoeuvring a thing from one place to another. The fact that the thing is a person doesn’t seem particularly important. What is important, and what makes it completely different from those other sports, is that the whole field is important all the time. In football, generally speaking, different players get involved as the ball moves to different parts of the pitch. Which is to say: control is handed over. In roller derby, because everyone is going round all the time, and because everyone can move so fast, all the players are involved all the time. This means that the game is a quick succession of setups around choke points. A group of players get into a blocking formation, the opposing jammer comes in and tries to get past them, aided by blocks and shunts from her own team mates. It’s all delightfully tactical. And there is a wonderful contrast between the vicious barges and elegant weaving.


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Frozen vs Al Pacino

Frozen vs Al Pacino

Instead of going to see a broadcast of the stage version of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, directed by and starring Al Pacino, my dad, in his infinite kindness, took my niece to a singalong showing of Frozen ♥


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Tangled

Tangled

'Tangled' Trailer HD - YouTube


I remember enjoying this a lot.


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Profile photo

Profile photo


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Bastogne

Bastogne


I’m rewatching [Band of Brothers](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Band_of_Brothers_(miniseries)). I’ve just seen episode six. It’s the one where Easy are besieged in the forest. It’s winter and there is snow everywhere. The soldiers have no proper winter clothing and spend most of their time dodging airstrikes or shivering in their fox holes or getting lost in the fog as they move from one part of the line to another.


The sense of place is really excellent. The programme is fuzzy about the geography of the staging area. I often find myself wondering, Where are those men in relation to those other men? What path did they take to get from that piece of cover to that emplacement? The Bastogne episode is similarly fuzzy on spatial relationships, but it is anchored by a back and forth between the nearest captured town and the line. The medic, the focal character for the episode, spends time shivering with his comrades. After a while, someone gets shot or blown up. The medic takes the casualty to the church that the French are using as a makeshift sick bay. The medic has a cosy exchange with the nurse working there, then goes back to the line.


This back and forth is strengthened by the sense of place. The snowy forest is hushed and anything farther than twenty yards is fogged away. It is weirdly tranquil. The viciousness of the conditions and the fighting accentuates the few flickers of closeness between the soldiers, and makes a sanctuary of the medic’s visits back to the nurse.


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Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy


I’ve been playing this on the PS4 for a week or so. I’m starting to see the shape of the game. You go into the castle. You go from room to room and use a mixture of timing and agility and lore to kill baddies. You die. You find treasure and spend it on either new abilities or new gear. Your heir inherits your abilities and gear. They also have some random characteristics: maybe they are tall, or strong, or fast, or sickly.


As you hone your motor skills, and as you improve the attributes of your lineage, you get better at surviving and gathering treasure. Thus, you can improve your skills and lineage further. All this is heading towards some goals that I haven’t glimpsed, yet: defeating bosses, areas, the castle.


It is fun, for sure. But there is a problem.


You input time and you improve your ability: better motor skills, a better understanding of how the objects in the world work. This is satisfying because you are learning. But, the increase in avatar skill is much greater: more hit points, more spells, a sharper sword. This is unsatisfying because you are not learning.


In contrast, the ratio in Spelunky is the other way around. Though some small avatar improvements persist, the great weight of improvement occurs in the player’s ability to predict what will happen when they do something.


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Playing Carcassonne at the Recurse Center

Playing Carcassonne at the Recurse Center


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Starred Up

Starred Up

A drama about a volatile young offender who gets sent to a prison for adults. The documentary-like scenes about the mechanics of the prison - the hierarchies, the rituals, the mediums of exchange - were very good. The second half of the film felt far too plotty and causal, as the characters conducted neat, explosive relationships and said the words of the director and screenwriter.


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Ed Catmull talking about how Pixar makes films

Ed Catmull talking about how Pixar makes films

Ed Catmull: Creativity, Inc. Entire Talk - YouTube


Could I have said anything to myself at twenty years old that would have made a difference? And honest to God, I don’t know. I go through some examples in the book of things which I think are important. But that thing which I thought is powerful I later learnt meant nothing. One of them is that ‘story is king’. And we believed that. But then I realised that every studio said that, whether or not they were producing works of art or complete utter pieces of dreck. The phrase didn’t have any meaning. So my logic is then go to the next stage of that. Sometimes those things that are 'true’ don’t actually alter our behaviour.


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Abus de Faiblesse

Abus de Faiblesse


Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who has a stroke and slowly learns to walk again. She is marvellous: plucky, outraged, childish, bad-tempered, funny and appealing. The rest of the film is uninteresting.


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Central Park

Central Park


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Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity

I saw this at the Film Forum with Lauren on Saturday. It is a noir directed by Billy Wilder. It is simultaneously very funny and very unsettling. It is run through with Raymond Chandler (“Up in Medford, we take our time making up our minds.” “Well, we’re not in Medford now, we’re in a hurry.”) The leads are odious. The supporting characters are decent.



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Lauren and Mary make bread

Lauren and Mary make bread


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Blurred Lines

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines (ft. T.I. & Pharrell) HD with Lyrics on screen - YouTube


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I said to my niece, just before I left England and came back to the US, “I’m going back to America soon. I’m so sorry.” She said, “It’s alright, Mary”, and gave me a bigger squeeze than ever before

I said to my niece, just before I left England and came back to the US, “I’m going back to America soon. I’m so sorry.” She said, “It’s alright, Mary”, and gave me a bigger squeeze than ever before

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Functional JavaScript

Functional JavaScript

I have just finished reading this book by Fogus.


I enjoyed the section about implementing a generic tree traversal so it takes the function that should operate on the nodes. I enjoyed the exploration of chaining that made constructors and methods as first class as functions. I enjoyed it as another pass through functional concepts that have been crystallising in my mind for the last few years.


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Watching Winnie the Pooh with Lauren and Leon

Watching Winnie the Pooh with Lauren and Leon


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The Raid 2

The Raid 2

I enjoyed the first Raid film: elegantly staged martial arts where the violence has a satisfying crunch to it. But The Raid 2 is far superior because it is better at controlling the gaze of the audience.


To say the fight scenes are dances is sort of true, but sort of trite. Dances in films are often shot wide, and they are ensemble pieces which means there is only ever one thing going on. They’re like stage plays. In film, the eye can be directed and montage can be used to show that more than one thing is happening at once. Many people who make dance movies seem not to understand this. They seem blinded by the fact that the material originated as a play.


The film shows us real places with many things going on at once. This makes the film very immersive and, thus, visceral.


Part of the director’s skill is in choreographing elaborate set pieces with many concurrent sub-fights, and presenting them in a small number of extended shots. For example, there is a big punch up in the muddy exercise yard of a prison. The camera pans and dollies from fight to fight in a way that must have required a great deal of organisation. But the director is better than that. We are not seeing the proceedings through our naked eye. We see them through a camera that can do film things: zoom, frame, focus. At the end of one long shot, the camera finds two men trying to escape over a fence. It rises into the air as one of them climbs, shows him being shot, tilts up and zooms to see the prison sniper who fired the shot, and tilts back down to see the second prisoner get shot.


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Shallow

Shallow

This is probably a shallow observation. It is probably also mostly incorrect. Pure symbols in art are worthless. Their value increases as they become less symbolic and more representational. The pebble in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit represents only what the author imbues it with. Its properties are divorced from its meaning. It is divorced from real life. Which means it is impossible to relate to viscerally. The Broken Circle Breakdown has a pervasive theme of cover-ups: tattoo cover-ups, painting over the dead daughter’s wallpaper, putting bird silhouettes on windows so real birds don’t mistake them for air. Though the cover-up is also a symbol, it is founded on real acts that are driven by the desires of the characters. It is representational, and, thus, meaningful.


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The Last of Us

The Last of Us

I’ve been playing through this again while I’ve been in England for my brother’s wedding.


Three things have been prominent this time through.


The life that Joel has been leading is one of risk and reward. But the risk is always death, and the reward is always life. He dives into a flooded basement to see if he can find anything that will increase his chances of survival. He risks dying in the attempt.


I love the way that things get darker and darker and worse and worse.


Joel’s rage at the loss of his family is taken out on the people he shoots and bashes and stabs and bludgeons. This transforms into a feeling of protective rage towards anyone who would come near Ellie.


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Ethan Hawke talking about Boyhood

Ethan Hawke talking about Boyhood

http://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi586001433


Ethan Hawke is startlingly interesting in both of his segments in this piece about Boyhood.


[2m 10s] The idea is to do a portrait of a family through the eyes of their son. There is generally an artifice to any film about growing up. Even a great film like The 400 Blows has to pick one tiny moment and jerry-rig all the life events into that moment. What Rick decided to do was to study the period when we’re all formed around first grade when you start to have memories and start to have an identity, an ego. And how that ego is created by you, your family, your culture and the period you live in. It’s kind of like getting to make Ordinary People over twelve years.


[5m 50s] The really dynamic thing for me about my character is that he is perceived entirely through the eyes of a child. So you don’t really know what he’s like except for the way his son perceives him. Kids are funny like that. They don’t really know what their parents do. ‘What does your Dad do?’ 'Oh, he works in medicine.’ They don’t really know much about it. They don’t really think that much about you. They take you for granted. So I had to create a character that the audience is thinking one thing… It starts and he’s kind of a ne'er do well because he’s on the outside, like a lot of men are in divorce. You kind of get spun away because there’s an idea that kids should be with the mother. So you kind of operate as a satellite moon. And slowly he starts to show up more and more and figure out how to take part in their lives.


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Boyhood

Boyhood

[Boyhood (film) - Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boyhood_(film))


Absolutely jam-packed with touching, real moments.


The film isn’t nearly as satisfying as Linklater’s “Before” series. Satisfaction requires structure which requires meaning which requires causality which, over the span of twelve years, is not authentic. Which is to say: an arc would have felt too neat and phoney.


The film also suffered from a POV problem. Some of it felt like it was seen through Mason’s eyes. But most of it felt like it was through my eyes. It was a film about my memory of my childhood, rather than what my childhood was like when I lived it. The shot above is too wide to be from the perspective of the person sitting in the soil.


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How to play Street Fighter 2

How to play Street Fighter 2

How to play Street Fighter: a fighting game primer for everyone - Polygon


A deep dive into the tactics and strategy underlying all fighting games.


The game-specific minutiae is less interesting. There is no general truth in Capcom’s decision that you must adjust which buttons you press for a special move if your opponent happens to be travelling over your head.


But the more generally applicable observations are fascinating.


Ryu embodies all the important elements of fighting game characters because he can put into practice every generic battle strategy. He can control space. He can reap the rewards of anticipating what his opponent will do. He can press an advantage and riposte a pressed advantage.


This pair of zingers. “Throwing a fireball means putting yourself at risk in the immediate moment (by performing an attack with a long startup period) in order to gain an advantage once it’s out.” “The Dragon Punch is basically the anti-fireball; where the fireball sacrifices the present for the future, the DP borrows against the future in favor of right now.”


And a wonderful passage about anticipation. One player carries out a series of attacks to leave his opponent only a few options, correctly predicts how the opponent will respond and then punishes him for it.


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Dawn in Far Cry 2

Dawn in Far Cry 2


I listened to a fascinating podcast with Clint Hocking, the director of Far Cry 2. He spent a lot of time talking about the systems: the gun jams, the fire, the wildlife, the malaria.


There is magic in the way, after a gunfight is over, birds begin tweeting, you hear a stream flowing, and tranquility descends. And there is magic in the way you have to adapt your tactics from moment to moment as each hare-brained plan goes wrong.


Hocking had a fascinating anecdote about curtailing the way they designed the animal behaviour. Some people at the company were troubled that players would wantonly shoot up the fauna in the forest. He said they tried lots of things, including letting the player pet the animals. Eventually, they just made shooting an animal as boring as possible. You fired and the animal died like a cardboard cutout falling over. Its body wouldn’t respond to any further shots, and would soon dematerialise. He said this meant players might shoot one animal, but would never shoot a second.


(A note about the image. I rather disingenuously lowered my gun when I took the screenshot. It looked far less beautiful and evocative with a disembodied pistol sticking out into the frame. Which says something about the way games approach the expression of meaningful experiences.)


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Neil Druckmann talking about writing the story for The Last of Us

Neil Druckmann talking about writing the story for The Last of Us

IGDA Toronto 2013 Keynote: Neil Druckmann, Creative Director & Writer, Naughty Dog - YouTube


I love the way he describes each story iteration and why it failed. Many talks have this format, but his reasoning was is very precise.


I loved what he said about the tension between achieving top-down desires (a beautiful symbol that resonates throughout, trying to get the characters to a certain place for gameplay reasons) and maintaining the internal logic of the story and characters.


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The Godfather

The Godfather

I saw The Godfather parts one and two at the BAM cinema last summer. I took a packed lunch of pasta with spinach, tomatoes, pesto and parmesan, and blackberries and cherries for pudding.

I loved the first part. It’s a high quality soap opera with guns that is anchored by the meaningful, strong ties of family and heritage.



The second part is mostly a shallow plot about gangsters and money, strays from the family and, as a result, is really not very good.


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Very complicated feelings to do with the airport, the beach, perfume, luxury, blonde hair and impeccability

Very complicated feelings to do with the airport, the beach, perfume, luxury, blonde hair and impeccability





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Nidhogg

Nidhogg

Really digging Nidhogg, a new fighting game on the Mac and Windows. It pares swordfighting down to stances, rolling, throwing and leaping. It feels super delicate.



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The Met have uploaded 400.000 high-resolution images to their website. This means you can go to pages like this and see details like this

The Met have uploaded 400.000 high-resolution images to their website. This means you can go to pages like this and see details like this


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Joel Spolksy, Stack Overflow podcast #53

Joel Spolksy, Stack Overflow podcast #53

Episode 53 | StackOverflow


MIT recently changed their introduction course that everybody takes to learn programming. It’s taught by Abelson and Sussman and they have a book called the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs and it’s written in Scheme and it’s what they call a very bottom-up approach to computation and you build from there. And it was all very interesting and it’s still a great way to learn progarmming. But they recently replaced it with a course about programming robots and they do the programming in Python. And the great thing about robots is that the wheels slip and the APIs are badly documented and you can’t really program anymore from the bottom up. You have to program experimentally. You have to devise an experiment, and before you run it, you have no idea if it’s gonna work in the real world - you just have to try it. And that’s really what GUI programming, any kind of API programming has been like almost since the beginning of time. Just all kinds of complicated interactions you forgot about and never really thought about. And they just thought that was a more realistic introduction to the art of computer programming.


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Chinese Puzzle

Chinese Puzzle

The third film in Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy. It suffers in comparison with the first two because its messy meaningfulness comes from more plotty plotlines: a visa marriage, a sperm donation. But it is just as funny and warm.






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Lauren’s portrait of me. Pretty accurate, really.

Lauren’s portrait of me. Pretty accurate, really.


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Debug podcast with Wil Shipley: from NeXT to Delicious Monster

Debug podcast with Wil Shipley: from NeXT to Delicious Monster

Debug 19: Wil Shipley from NeXT to Delicious Monster | iMore


A fascinating interview with Wil Shipley, the programmer who founded Omni and Delicious Monster. Touches on both companies, OmniWeb, Delicious Library, contracting for NeXT and contracting for the NSA. I greatly admire Wil’s work ethic and sense of software design.


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