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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Odds and Ends

1. I sometimes start the day by finding an incisive, humorous, or inspirational quotation. A favorite way of doing so is to think of someone who has created something I like or done something I admire and do a bit of searching.

Today's quest led me to the thought-provoking graduation speech given by Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame to his alma mater.

Here's a favorite passage:
If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I've found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I've had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

We're not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running. [bold added]
His explanation for why he didn't pursue merchandising more aggressively is good, too, despite the standard veneer of misplaced anti-capitalist sentiment.

2. My daughter had taken a picture for an art project and needed it printed out in greyscale. I opened an image editor and couldn't immediately see a way to do this. A search quickly found a way, but involved several clunky steps I'd either need to write down or context-shift to see again while trying to accomplish them.

Then I remembered that lots of conceptually simple things like this can be done with the command line tool ImageMagick. I immediately found the following:
convert ds/image.jpg -type Grayscale image_bw.jpg
This executed more quickly that just opening the GUI tool I was about to use. So I saved that snippet of code and can just use it again (or write a script) if I need to do this again in the future.

Yes, point-and-click makes doing many things easier, but this is one of many counterexamples I can think of. The written word and being decently organized are two tools that seem badly underutilized these days.

sky.jpg
Image by Janusz Maniak, via Unsplash, license.
Well, then Gus, why didn't you think of ImageMagick first?

That's a fair question. The answer is that on those occasions I used to do image editing, the GUI tools were simpler and better laid out. There was both less having to look simple things up and more ease in doing them. Now, it seems that the tools are ultra-capable, but badly laid out. At a certain point, the GUI just gets in the way.

I would say that past a point, all tools should have CLI or scripting alternatives.

3. A food writer reports on what space smells and tastes like:
...Even the scent of space comes back to food: some astronauts report it smells like seared steak.

My favorite bit of space-food obsession, though, is what I call "space taste." As in, what does space taste like? In 2009, astronomers were able to identify a chemical called ethyl formate in a big dust cloud at the center of the Milky Way. Ethyl formate happens to be responsible for the flavor of raspberries (it also smells like rum). Space tastes like raspberries!
I'd heard about the steak smell before, but the "taste" was news to me. The writer notes further that the flavor was used as the basis for a product, for sale only in Japan, called "Space Tea."

4. File under Titled too Well Not to Read: "The Prank Cursor That Resulted in an Employee Being Fired Before They Even Started." What a story!

It's also fileable under Too Short to Block Quote Without Spoilers, but I think I can get away with the punchline as a teaser: "[T]here was some discussion as to how the issue should be classified. Was it an 'off-by-one' error? Or maybe it was a 'bad pointer.'"

-- CAV

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