I'm a software person at Prodigy. My COVID projects are currently Pizza & Bread.

Seeing XCode Cloud at WWDC really makes me think I should have better tests for Lemur. I feel like SwiftUI would make testing a lot easier.

Bring Back Captain Planet

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It’s been 31 years since Captain Planet and the Planeteers was on TV. It was somewhat influential to my upbringing. My childhood self had awareness that the planet could use some help and there was actually something people could do about it.

Now that I have a kiddo of my own, I’m wondering what it would be like if you revamped this for today. Some rough thoughts in no particular order:

  • Just make the whole thing about climate change.
  • Jeff Goldblum is still working and is crazy enough to agree to reprise his role as an enormous rat-based villain. (Maybe he’s anti-vax and so wasn’t vaccinated against the Great Rat Pandemic).
  • Whoopi Goldberg could still rock Gaia with her eyes closed.
  • The show should probably focus more on actual non-fiction issues than the original show. Maybe for a slightly older audience. But it could demonstrate the issues of the day the way The Magic School Bus demonstrates science.
  • We’ve come full circle enough that Captain Planet can keep the green mullet.
  • Greta Thunberg as Gaia’s assistant? She could just play herself.
  • The relevance for today is kind of shocking. The planet is in even more danger now. And while the original show was backed by data, there’s so much more of it to draw on for climate change. You could do a whole episode on how recycling doesn’t work as well as we think or a two parter on carbon capture.
  • Ma-Ti with the Power of Heart needs a revamp along the lines of Karamo from Queer Eye. On Queer Eye the guy who originally did “Soul” never knew what his role was so he would reorganize your CD collection. Modern Queer Eye figured out that the role is to make people cry. I don’t know what Heart does, but Ma-Ti needs some work.
  • In at least one episode they have to save the day without needing to call Captain Planet just to prove that we have agency without relying on magic (Captain Planet was inside us all along).
  • The Planeteers all need awesome vehicles so the show can sell a load of toys. Proceeds donated to help fight climate change.
  • The original show tried to dumb things down for kids by focusing on specific villains doing specific bad to the environment (Jeff Goldblum is dumping toxic waste again). I think for modern sensibilities we could get a lot more systemic. How is the deck stacked against the Planeteers? As You’re Wrong About would say: it was capitalism all along.

I could go on forever. Let’s inspire the next generation. The Power is Yours!

The Planeteers

“On Wednesday, CNBC reported that Trump’s blog has shut down less than a month after its launch.”

Only a month? I’m curious what he didn’t like about it vs. Twitter. I bet he thrives on likes and wasn’t getting the dopamine hit.

I think I’ve been letting my 5-year-old watch too much YouTube. Today he told me he was “Sponsored by Mattel™”. He’s also started speaking to his YouTube audience that only he can see…

Lou’s Rum Cake

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In April, my grandfather, Lou Siminovitch, passed after 100 incredible years.

He was famous in science circles for significant contributions to the study of genetics, the mentoring of hundreds of scientists, and sending letters to people to tell them how to do their jobs better. Later in life, the relationship he had with his wife provided fuel for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, the largest prize for theatre in Canada. He was honoured with the Order of Canada, the Flavelle Medal, and a slew of other awards. Personally, he had an incalculable impact on my worldview, ethics, motivations, and personality. He was a giant of a man.

But since he passed, the thing I keep thinking about is the rum cake. Of all his accomplishments, Lou wasn’t a great cook. It wasn’t an area that he was particularly interested in — a distraction from more critical pursuits. But he found himself in need of something he could bring to events he was invited to. Supposedly, some decades ago, my grandmother clipped a recipe for a rum cake out of a magazine and Lou made it ever since.

For as long as I can remember, he always had the ingredients to make this one cake on hand. They’re shelf stable, so they occasionally gathered dust. But if an event came up and he needed to bring something he’d whip up a rum cake the night before.

I don’t know why this is the thing that I’ve been thinking about the most since he passed. I think it’s just something that I loved about him. It’s so utilitarian and yet thoughtful. Lou was all about striving for excellence. But his focus wasn’t on being a world class chef, it was about being a world class scientist. He didn’t have a huge range he could draw from, but he could make this one excellent rum cake, and that would do. It allowed him to focus on the things that he really felt were important, while also sharing some joy.

And it really is a ridiculously excellent cake.

Lou’s Rum Cake

Ingredients

The recipe calls for having a Bundt pan. You can do it without one, but it’s much better (and more traditional) with one. And then you’ll be ready to make huge 60’s-style jello moulds.

Cake

  • 1 box of golden cake mix
  • 1 box of vanilla pudding
  • ½ cup of cold water
  • ½ cup of dark rum
  • ½ cup of oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of pecans

Glaze

  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ¼ cup of dark rum

Directions

  1. Set oven to 350º F
  2. Grease and flour the Bundt pan.
  3. Place pecans at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Mix together all the cake ingredients and dump into the pan, and bake for one hour.
  5. About 15 minutes before the cake is done, make the glaze. Add the butter, sugar, and water into a pot. Bring to a boil while stirring vigorously. Boil for a few minutes and then take off the heat and add the rum.
  6. While the cake is still hot, poke a bunch of holes in the top with a knitting needle or a chopstick. You want enough holes that the glaze can drip into the cake, but not so many that when you turn the cake out it’ll fall apart. Drizzle the glaze over the cake (and into the holes).
  7. Allow the cake to cool and then turn out.

I’m really hoping that SwiftUI is more baked this WWDC. For every app I can think of it’s just not ready. There’s either missing APIs or when you start to do anything outside the path of a demo app you hit bugs that need difficult or impossible workarounds.

My son has been getting into “Who Would Win” books where they compare the characteristics of animals and then put them into a mock fight. I’m so tempted to write a simulation model. The books do one to one, but I’d love to test 1000 hornets versus a T-Rex.

Googling whether or not you can get Apple TV on the 3rd generation Apple TV is… not possible.

“We’re creating the entire amount of commerce on the store, and we’re doing that by focusing on getting the largest audience there,” says Cook.

This quote is indefensible and infuriating. The entitlement is going to be ringing in the ears of every developer watching WWDC.

Finished 📚 Back in the Frame: A great read about the joys of getting back on a bike as an adult. I learned a lot from the way that Jools describes the feeling of being a black woman in white-male dominated cycling. And Jools’ love of cycling is contagious. 🚲

Some People Are Still Hurting

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This week my mind keeps floating back to a post written by Kottke from early in the pandemic:

Some people feel helpless & anxious.

Some people are bored.

Some people are self-quarantined alone and are lonely.

Some people are realizing that After will be very different from Before.

Some people are really enjoying this extra time with their kids and will miss it when it’s over.

Some people just got off their 12th double shift in a row at the hospital and can’t hug their family.

The whole piece is worth reading. It was written in March 2020 when we were all scared and trying to surf the waves of uncertainty. I think of the COVID articles I’ve read this is the one that has stayed with me the most.

Here in May 2021, there’s so much to look forward to: the vaccines are rolling out and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a sense that post-pandemic we’re going to have a massive economic and lifestyle boom.

But today, things are still hard for most people. We need to continue to be empathic for the disparate ways in which the unyielding pressure of these years affects everyone, including ourselves.

Start Small

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I have a pattern I want to look out for and avoid.

When I have a habit I want to start, I bring the baggage of an expectation of what it would mean to do the final version of that habit. For instance, if I want to start running, I bring the expectation that a “proper run” is at least 30 minutes, or at least X fast, or at least 5 days per week. But, the critically important thing is just starting the habit. It’s way better to run for 3 minutes a day, slowly, twice a week than to push myself hard at the beginning, burn out, and never do it again.

I find myself doing this all the time. I can see the end goal of where I want to be, and I try to skip the steps that have to be done in order to build up to the full habit. This applies in fitness, in hobbies, and in programming.

James Clear writes about this in Atomic Habits:

“What matters is the rate at which you perform the behavior. You could do something twice in thirty days, or two hundred times. It’s the frequency that makes the difference. Your current habits have been internalized over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions. New habits require the same level of frequency.”

Simply put, repetitions are more important than the size or quality of the habit. When I want to do something new, I’m going to start by designing the easiest version of that thing and then figure out where it can fit in my life and how I can make it a habit. Only then should I slowly ramp up to the bigger, better, more rewarding scale.

I was also reminded of the concept this week by discovering the Hybrid Calisthenics YouTube channel. In it, creator Hampton demonstrates a series of exercises that allow people to ramp up their fitness to be able to do push-ups or pull-ups, but he starts from the idea that you’re an absolute beginner with no inherent fitness. The videos are extremely refreshing in a world where fitness is often exclusionary.

Everyone needs to start somewhere and the best way to get to your end goal is often to cut yourself a break and start small.

My five-year-old: “I learned from YouTube that all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are girls, and so now I don’t even have to learn that from school!” 🦖

I’m glad Twitter now seems to have a functioning product department that is willing to try new things. But, it hurts that the concequence of their long product drought was that they shuttered Vine. They didn’t just sunset a product, they sunset a community.

I managed to get my hosted micro.blog backed by a CloudFront CDN (with some hacky use of Hugo’s replace function). Next step: something to resize these enormous images.

I’m setting up a CDN and my son is asking me to buy him a T-Rex toy. It’s weirding me out that I’m doing both things at the same time from the same company.

OmniFocus 4 Beta

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Learn OmniFocus has a First Look at OmniFocus 4 coming on the heels of Omni announcing the beta.

TLDR: Switching to SwiftUI is allowing Omni to build new components for the iOS platforms that are much more akin to what we get on the Mac.

The iPad and iPhone versions of OmniFocus are great for quick entry or checking a list but I find they are not as easy to think in or work in as on the Mac.

The rapid editing of tasks and notes on display in OmniFocus 4 is a huge step in closing this gap. It also feels aligned with the design style of touch interfaces that have you directly manipulate your content without switching between modes.

I’m really impressed at Omni’s willingness bet on the modern Apple frameworks. SwiftUI still has very rough edges. It’s courageous for them to embrace it this early. That said, this looks like a great demo of the power of SwiftUI to raise the bar and provide consistent interfaces across all platforms.

Along the lines of being a better app to think in, my one wish list item for OmniFocus 4 is better note handing. Things does a better job of integrating notes fields into projects so that the source of truth about a project can stay in one app. At a minimum, I hope they at least make the font size in the notes field adjustable.

Smart Home Standards “Matter”

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We have some details on the new smart home alliance (now called Matter).

Stacey Higginbotham:

With Matter, consumers won’t have to research if their Nest cameras will work with their Schlage locks or if their HomeKit compatible sensors will also work with Alexa, for example. Developers won’t have to keep up with multiple ecosystems and integrations. Initially, this will only work across a limited number of devices, but those devices include lighting, blinds, HVAC, TVs, access controls, safety & security products, access points, smart home controllers, and bridges.

I’m half surprised it took this long for these companies to do this, and half surprised in this era of intense competition that this happened at all. Either way, it is a win for consumers. All the big players are involved (even Phillips Hue!)

That said, I bet it is still at least another few years before smart home technology goes truely mainstream, and I hope that before it does this alliance can put some more privacy protections in place. Companies selling cheap smart home tech on Amazon aren’t really motivated to invest in privacy without some external pressure.

That’s an ambitious exclamation mark. It’s like they think you’ll be genuinely excited about being tracked.

For the record, I didn’t even know my grocery store app had ads.

I kind of love that Trump has a blog. I’m unlikely to spend time reading it, but I hope this encourages more people to consider creating an internet garden of their own. I’m curious how long it takes him to stretch out beyond 280 characters.

Today’s nugget of knowledge from my 5-year-old: “Holes in a car, not so bad. Holes in a boat, VERY bad.”