Land line

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A rotary telephone from 1922, by .

I guess I should check the CyanogenMod blog more often. Apparently in August they created a Device Status roster which lists the devices which are supported as of the current build… my Galaxy Nexus is not on that list.

With Google gutting Android and Verizon making it harder to root phones, my options for a full-featured, Open-Source-capable smart phone are getting pretty slim.

My contract is up so maybe I could run Ubuntu Phone on T-Mobile with a used Galaxy Nexus 4. Who am I kidding, at this point I doubt Ubuntu Phone will ever see the light of day.

Or maybe I should get the Flame, Mozilla’s reference developer phone for Firefox OS. It actually looks promising, and it’s super cheap at $170! Honestly, I’m really considering it.

I could always go for the nuclear option: a land line. ::shudder::

Congratulations Robin and Renee

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Brides in their dresses with their daughters and son

Robin, Renee, and family, by .

I am so happy for our friends Robin and Renee, who just tied the knot!1 They are pretty incredible and I am definitely proud of them.

When I look at these women I see their accomplishments as entrepreneurs; what great moms they are to their kids; how courageous they are when faced with adversity; and what good friends they have been to us, and to many others.

If there’s anyone who should be married, it’s them. I’m glad they had the choice. Congratulations ladies!

  1. What a beautiful, intimate wedding they had… in Hawaii. We had planned on attending, but, you know, baby being born and all. 

Cable companies centralized the web

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In 2004 I hosted my website and email from my house. I had DSL with Qwest and as far as I know they had zero problems with the whole thing. I built my own blog and owned every scrap of data I generated. I was happy.

Later on I moved into a new house and had to switch to cable Internet with Cox. That’s cool, because faster Internet, but they block all the ports you need to be self-sufficient. Unable to continue doing it myself, I signed up with Dreamhost, migrated to WordPress, and pretty much stayed there until 2013.

And that’s how it happened1: those of us who were savvy enough to run our own sites were eventually herded2 into The Centralized Web. Those who weren’t, sealed the deal by virtue of ignorance.3 All because the cable companies decided to block port 80.4

To illustrate my hypothesis, lets pretend that the cable companies never started doing that; nerds world-wide can set up servers in their closets and serve their sites to the masses; unfettered access is given to the Internet tubes and we are all happy.

Circa 2004, it would have been too hard for Joe Shmoe to register a domain, set up a web server, and install some blogging software on the damn thing. Fast forward to real-life 2014, however, and things are completely different. Domain name registration is easier than ever. We have the Internet of Things.

Our refrigerators and thermostats can connect to the web with nothing more than a wireless password and an email address; We can stream HD movies through little hockey pucks with less effort than it takes to buy a hamburger; websites can be hosted from your desk.

With no blocked ports I could pre-install everything you would need to serve up a website, just like our little video puck. It could run entirely on open source software. All your data could be right there in your living room, in your control. Literally anyone and everyone could have a website, in perpetuity, without any technical knowledge. The web would be truly decentralized.

Now wouldn’t that be nice?

  1. IMO 
  2. Sometimes willingly, Hey look! Faster Internet on cable! 
  3. Implied consent that they didn’t care about hosting a website 
  4. And 8080, and 443, and 25, and 110, and on and on… 

Save the internet

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This won’t be boring I promise.

Everyone is talking about Net Neutrality and it’s all boring technical nonsense to most of us. Here’s the non-boring explanation for normal people:

A bunch of giant-ass companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast want to find a way to charge us more money for our already expensive and shitty internet service.

When I say our internet is garbage I mean it. If you could download a movie from Netflix right to your laptop it would take about 8 minutes here in the States. In Hong Kong it would take 3 minutes. Oh, and by the way, internet service in Hong Kong costs half of what we pay here.

But that’s not even the bad part! In order to charge us more for slow internet these giant-ass companies want to chop the internet up into “basic” and “premium” options. And just an FYI, “premium” is what we have now. Hell, they might even start packaging up our favorite sites and bundling access to them, just like cable. Get Google, Facebook, and Netflix for only $29.99 extra!

Most of us can’t even shop around for better service and prices from different internet providers. Fact is, the majority of us don’t have a choice. There simply aren’t any alternative options for most Americans.1

This really hits home for me because I make websites for a living. Under this new internet I would have to pay a fee to get my new social network or movie service in front of my audience. This just isn’t possible for the cash-strapped startups that are making our modern world awesome and fun.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to reclassify the internet as a “common carrier,” just like phone service. And the only way to do that, is by doing this. Blogging about it; talking about it; submitting comments to the FCC; whatever it takes to make the government do the right thing. If we don’t, we can seriously kiss the internet we know and love goodbye.

I clearly feel passionately about Net Neutrality and I’m trying my best to support the cause by throwing up a big banner on Sept 10th. Please click it. At the very least check out this funny video and read up on it before it’s too late.

  1. That’s also why it’s so expensive—because monopolies will do what they do best and extort their customers. That’s also why we have laws which are supposed to prevent monopoloies… unfortunately, especially in this case, monopoloies have a lot of money to burn on persuading politicians to agree to this madness. 

First thoughts

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Most everything here is a first thought: it’s stream-of-conciousness, edited in real-time, but mostly unedited. It’s captured as it happens, or briefly after. It’s raw and emotional. Maybe it doesn’t make perfect sense, but surely it conveys the mood.

It’s all practice—a warm-up, for nothing.

It’s compost on the pile, feeding into itself and sprouting new first thoughts. Some of it is garbage that shouldn’t have been published; Other parts are kitchen scraps fermenting away in the archives, building into new ideas and taking on a life of their own.

There are no set topics; themes emerge over time. You never know what you’re going to get. Here’s how Elizabeth Spiers puts it:

…this is a personal site, and it’s going to have the sometimes awkward oscillations between the serious and the frivolous that any personal site would. Which probably makes for an inconsistent, not terribly coherent read. I don’t feel bad about that, because this is not a discrete media publication; it’s just a reflection of my interests, thoughts, moods, etc. And even in the context of stand-alone media publications, I think that sort of dissonance is relevant.

I’ve been reading Writing Down the Bones. What a nice little book.

Fucking conversational

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I feel like Elizabeth Spiers had her laser sight aimed directly at my forehead when she wrote about using trendy words in conversational writing:

I attribute the seeping of these words into the professional work of people who consider themselves serious critics to the fact that they’re told to write “conversationally” and they take that to mean that they should write exactly like they speak–or text, or email. But “conversational” is really a reference to overall style and tone.

I believe I have severely misunderstood what conversational writing means—and here I thought it meant to write as if you were having a conversation (I’m actually not being sarcastic right now). As if that wasn’t enough, she had to turn her sight toward my favorite word of all time…

one I find personally irritating: fucking as an adjective… “fucking” as an adjective generally makes a writer sound angry on the page, even if that’s not the intention. (It’s also unoriginal and betrays the writer’s seemingly limited vocabulary.)

No! Not that word! I’ll stop saying “totes”, I swear it, but not fucking! Oh! the horror.

OK I get it. I sound like a 14 year old. Point taken.

This blog is punk

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Punk kids with pink mohawks and leather jackets sitting outsite

Youth Culture – Punk 1980s-1990s, by .

I started this blog because it was fun and interesting and it was a great way to express myself. Today, I do it for the very same reasons, but I also keep it going for idealogical reasons. This blog is punk.

I write here to take and maintain control of my online identity and the words that I write. I write here because I don’t have a say in what happens with my words anywhere else. On Twitter, Medium, Tumblr, or any other social network, my words can be used however that company chooses to use them. They can be used as an advertisement—my tacit endorsement for a product or service that I may not even care about; they can be used for onboarding new users or engaging existing users without my consent; they can be used for profiling me, my preferences, psychological makeup, etc.; they can be used for… well, whatever a corporation in the year 2014 wants to use them for.

This blog is a respit from the corporations and governments that wish to harvest my words for their gain. It is a safe-have from The Algorithm—the filtering and propagation of content based on what sells, or engages, as it were. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Take Fred Wilson for example:

There is something about the personal blog,, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.

In fact, there’s a whole movement centered around this very idea, called the IndieWeb, which bills itself as “a people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.” You can’t get any more punk than that.

Perfect underlines

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This post on Medium/About Medium has the perfect description of the perfect link underline:

The perfect underline should be visible, but unobstrusive—allowing people to realize what’s clickable, but without drawing too much attention to itself. It should be positioned at just the right distance from the text, sitting comfortably behind it for when descenders want to occupy the same space

They threw away a great solution there toward the end of the article though1, which is too bad because it really looks nice. The idea was to use a combination of background images, gradients, and text-shadows to create the underline and knock out space around the descenders. To be fair, I don’t think this is an original idea.

I was reading a some post over on Typekit when I noticed their underlines. When I looked closely I realized the descenders had been cleared and they looked fan-freakin-tastick! I busted open dev tools and, sure as shit, there was the background image, gradient, and text-shadow approach in use. I immediately decided I would snatch it up and claim it as my own.

Here is the basic application of this approach:

a {
  text-decoration: none;
  color: #e0470d;
  background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear,left top,left bottom,color-stop(50%,transparent),color-stop(50%,#ddd));
  background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top,transparent 50%,#ddd 50%);
  background-image: linear-gradient(to bottom,transparent 50%,#ddd 50%);
  background-repeat: repeat-x;
  -webkit-background-size: 2px 2px;
  background-size: 2px 2px;
  background-position: 0 90%;
  text-shadow: 1px 0 white,2px 0 white,-1px 0 white,-2px 0 white;

a:visited {
  color: #983009;

a:focus, a:hover {
  color: black
  background-image:-webkit-gradient(linear,left top,left bottom,color-stop(50%,transparent),color-stop(50%,#aaa));
  background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top,transparent 50%,#aaa 50%);
  background-image: linear-gradient(to bottom,transparent 50%,#aaa 50%);



And that’s it: beautiful underlines that look amazing.

  1. On grounds that using a bunch of text shadow would not be performant. Some commenters pointed out that only a few would shadows would be needed which would probably negate any performance concerns (if there were actually any founded concers to begin with at all). 

Standard markdown is standard

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Yay, Markdown got a standard! Here’s the TL;DR:

Standard Markdown Common Markdown, as it’s called, is a “Flavorless Markdown” based on consensus gained by comparing 20+ flavors of Markdown, and some sound judgement from John MacFarlane. It has a formal spec, test suites, and implementations in portable C and JavaScript, all available on Github. A bunch of awesome geeks from Berkeley, Meteor, Github, Reddit, and Stack Exchange made it happen.

My questions are:

  1. How will language extensions such as footnotes, tables, and emoji be supported? Currently this isn’t clear, although it’s on the radar.
  2. When will some of the organizations mentioned above begin migrating from their current implementations to Standard Markdown?

Read the official announcement on Coding Horror. :clap:

Update: Standard Markdown is now Common Markdown. And now for a giant-ass rant:

Jesus christ. The stupidity of the Internet never ceases to amaze me. A huge effort was put into making a solid version of Markdown for the world to use. Gratis. And what happens? People bitch and moan about the fucking name until Atwood is forced to change it. What a way to say thanks. What could have had an amazing impact on the community-at-large is now mired in drama. Way to go assholes.

I agree with this comment, from the discussion on the apology post (which should have never had to be posted):

I really couldn’t disagree more with all this.

John Gruber created a bastardized specification and ignored it for years. Meanwhile, Stack Exchange, GitHub, and others essentially “forked” Markdown and made it applicable and useful. So crucial a tool as Markdown was left up to the wilds of the internet to determine what it would become and how applicable it would be.

If the license really states that Markdown is his trademark, well that sucks, but it sounds like he’s just mad because one of his abandoned software projects became really popular and everyone else got the credit for it.

It’s embarrassing that you have to change your domain name and the name of the collaborative effort going on.

John Gruber may be against this effort, but the rest of the world is for it. We’re sorry that you’re upset, John, but your lack of involvement seems to indicate that you didn’t care until you perceived that you lost something.

Additionally: hey John Gruber! Go fuck yourself. I was really excited about this. You’re an asshat.

Update: Nope. It’s called CommonMark now, because Johnny-boy decided in this one instance it’s not OK to use the word Markdown in the name. Could this get any more petty? Once again, Atwood is being nice. Whatever.

Elements of criticism

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I recently fell in love with The Elements of Style1, especially the illustrated version. Quickly thereafter a web search revealed the criticism of Geoffrey K. Pullum, in the essay 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice. Turns out he’s not really a fan of good old Strunk & White. At first I thought it was a drive-by criticism; a one-off critique by a scholar with no follow-up. I realize now, that he has followed up.

These kinds of authoritative debates always frustrate me when I run into them: because everybody is right—and authoritatively so. I am always left wondering who to trust, which perspective is right, and where to turn next.

My current approach to these types of super-debates is to ask the following three questions:

  • Do each of the essay’s assertions make clear logical sense? Are there other sources which validate its claims?
  • Is the essay old? If so, it may be outdated. Has the author followed up with anything related recently?
  • Does the author have sufficient credentials at the time of writing? What about now?

It’s only fair that I apply these guidelines equally to both the original source, as well as the source of the criticism. In this case:

  • The assertions mostly make sense to me, an untrained writer
  • The actual text was last updated in 1999, there have been no follow-ups since
  • Strunk and White are dead, although they both were fairly qualified

The conclusion should be clear, Pullum is probably right. So what are some modern, simple, grammar books worth checking out?

  1. I really don’t know how it has evaded me all these years, but maybe for the better?