brian nothling sings about SAD


This morning I saw this building post and swooned. I have an obsession with brickwork and the kind of ornamentation a building can have with the material. It always reminds be the story told about the famous architect Louis Kahn.

If you think of Brick, you say to Brick, ‘What do you want, Brick?’ And Brick says to you, ‘I like an Arch.’ And if you say to Brick, ‘Look, arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What do you think of that, Brick?’ Brick says, ‘I like an Arch.’ And it’s important, you see, that you honor the material that you use. [..] You can only do it if you honor the brick and glorify the brick instead of shortchanging it.

One reason I like this story so much is the emphasis on honoring the material. Being true to its capabilities and form. Bricks are to a building what pixels are to a screen in that each gives a pivot point to construct an image. It also shows the skill of the craftsperson. It’s remarkable to think that almost every surface of our built environment is touched by human hands.

Series of Tubes

My response when a non-tech person talks about how the internet works. Like when my mom felt dumb for not knowing the difference between a browser and a search engine. “It’s just a series of tubes, mom.” Which reminded me of a great link I had seen of all the underwater fiber cables running around the world.

This got me thinking, how big are these tubes? Wikipedia says modern cables are only 25 mm (1 in) in diameter. That just seems bonkers to me.

People Over Cars

A primary reason I moved to Germany is better transit planning. Granted so much of what we benefit from here came from over a century’s worth of work and I believe we still have a ways to go to live in better harmony with the earth. Part of earth first thinking involves prioritizing people over cars. Better sidewalks, bigger, better bike lanes, better runoff management, etc. You can pretty much bet that if it sucks for a human to walk through, it sucks for nature. Here’s a podcast about depaving and a video about sidewalks that came on my radar to make me think more about our urban environment and the way it relates to people and nature.


artist paints horse from the front



Toxic Work

I recently listened to the Reply All apology about their blindness to their own toxic work culture while reporting on the issues at Bon Appetit. This brought up so many thoughts about the nastiness that lies in not just our work cultures across so many industries, but also across society. Work is both a part of society and a reflection of the power dynamics that happen outside of it.

Being in tech, I hear so often how tech has a problem with sexism, racism, classism, ageism, etc-ism and the ugly power struggles that keep minorities on the fringe. I’ve always cringed when people describe these issues as if they are isolated to the tech industry and how they can’t wait to escape to something else outside of tech. My mind goes “…but where are you going to go where you can escape that shit?”. I’ve worked in a lot of industries and they are all fraught with varying degrees of the same grossness. Architecture. Retail. Automotive service. Foodservice. Construction. Union organizing. Yeah, that’s right, working as a union organizer was both the biggest eye-opener and disappointment (more like heartbreak) when power struggles reared their nasty head.

I see these problems as being rooted in individualistic, competitive, white supremacist capitalism that rewards those with power and punishes those without. The competitive nature of it is rooted in survival and pits people against each other, creating scarcity and environments that reward those that step over others to get up higher. We all must introspect and see how we blindly play into the game. When are we acting only for ourselves and stepping over others to get somewhere or actively pushing them down?

I grew up Presbyterian (Protestant Christian). When I was young I was nerdy, anxious and felt like an outsider everywhere I went. I found solace in the loving teachings of Christ and imagined how it could shape an inclusive community where everyone could be nurtured. However, my heart broke with every self-appointed Christian I met who used their religion as a means to cast judgment on people. It didn’t make sense to me why they would pluck out persecution rather than love from what the Bible had to offer. Eventually, their hypocrisy drove me away from religion altogether. Those early teachings left an imprint on me though. I can see it easily when I reflect on my values.

Such as the Golden Rule. In lew of having all the answers, I try hard to help create the environment I want to see and live in. One where mistakes are considered learning opportunities. Where feedback is encouraged and considered. Where basic needs aren’t questioned and it’s normal to support people in finding the right work-life balance. It should be normal to take care of yourself when your sick rather than powering through it. The healthy environment I want to be in recognizes no two people’s backgrounds are the same and supports a diversity of opinions, race, sexual preference, gender expression, haircuts, clothing preferences, etc. and they are appreciated and seen as people being their authentic selves. I want a place where people help lift each other up when they see someone falling behind, rather than taking advantage of it.

Ode To Transit

Corona lockdown time has meant I walk a lot. I hestitate to even say it as a thing that someone else might read because it’s such a common thing that people are doing to get by. I queue up a podcast or moody music and the pup and I go forward with no destination in sight. It’s both a chore (pup has gotta go) and a necessity for my body and mind.

Yesterday I walked and started listening to an episode of The Daily. It was a reading of an article about the NYC subway and advocating for investing in it’s maintenance. As I listened, I walked past a group of young kids standing behind the rails of a bridge that spans the transit lines in Berlin and felt heartwarmed at their excitement over the S-Bahn traveling under their feet.

I have always loved public transit. It’s liberating to be able to go somewhere without driving or finding parking. I like listening to music, reading, people-watching or just daydreaming. Riding transit relieves some stresses; I don’t have to tend to the maintenance a car, pay for gas or fight traffic. Many years ago, when living in Cincinnati, I would load my bike onto a bus and head to work 8 miles away. After work I would ride home. While the trip took longer than driving it was exhilerating to experience the city in a new way.

The article describes transit as the equalizer in a city. It gives everyone, no matter their position in life, mobility beyond their neighborhood and a chance to expand their world. Now, living in Berlin, I get to utilize the city’s vast array of transit options. The network here is diverse and opens up both all the city has to offer and gives me easy ways to escape into the nature that surrounds Berlin. Transit has shaped my life and given me a connection to place in a way I would have never imagined.

Real World Javascript Performance Tips

I’ve been writing a large single page application using Angular that does a lot of data visualization. I wrote a post for New Relic about Javascript Performance tips that have come in handy for crunching through and displaying large amounts of data.

What I Don't Know

I've had a couple of moments today where I realized I should speak up about things I don't know. What I realized is that it's a signal that I need to ask for help and/or learn something new. I also realized that I'm not alone in how I feel. While it's scary to say "I don't know how to do something", really, speaking up is a strength. It gives voice to those people who feel the same way and haven't spoken up yet, or may never speak up. And points to assumptions and blindspots in education about the work we do. It's ok to ask the question (Or ye ole proverb: There is no dumb question). Especially in a space where we so often expect everyone to be an expert. There is probably always something to learn from someone else's questions.

So, here's what I don't know. Without any answers.

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Angular First Impressions & Resources

I cut my teeth with a Javascript MVC frameworks on the granddaddy of them all, Backbone. Managing a page's events, views and data away with a framework rather than just straight JS and JQuery was a godsend. The learning curve was steep though. There was a lot of confusion on the "right way" to do things and each app required a lot of boilerplate code that needs to be written. A year has passed and things on the JS MVC front have changed significantly. You can take a look at Addy Osmani's TodoMVC project to how the field has grown. Look at all those options!

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Collage Machine

I love this form of collage. Layer on layer each items builds to something new. A new dream. A new world. The transformation is unreal.

Tincr + Sass

In an earlier post I talked about using Tincr to help automate the frontend development workflow instead of flipping between the text editor and the browser. Tincr is great when you are working with straight CSS or JS but so often devs like the benefits of working with a compilation language, like Sass or Coffeescript. While we haven't gotten lucky enough for Coffeescript support in Chrome, Sass support is available.

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Niki & The Dove

I'm a sucker for Swedish pop bands. Niki & The Dove's songs remind me of Fever Ray, Tegan & Sara, Kate Bush, Bjork and Sinead O'Conner. I'm really enjoying their album. Their videos are pretty great too.

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Better workflow habits, Chrome Dev Tools & Tincr

Alongside Sublime Text, Chrome's Dev Tools are essential to my workflow when debugging and fine-tuning JS and CSS. As my work has moved more and more to the frontend of projects, I have noticed how much I flip between the text editor and manually refreshing the page in my browser.

I thought, there has to be a better way...

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