Categories
Roundup

Inputs 2021

This year I’ve been keeping track of the books, films, and television I’ve been consuming. There’s a surprising amount!

My goal for next year is to have a lot more output – so starting in January I’ll start tallying, somehow, the creative work I put out into the world, in addition to the art I’m inspired by.

I use a ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 star rating system – you could think of it as a “recommendation” rating system:

⭐️

⭐️⭐️

⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t recommend this.

It’s good. I might recommend it.

It’s great! You should definitely see this.

Best of the Year

My personal award for best new film and TV show for 2021 are:

🏆 Best Television: Only Murders in the Building

Quirky, funny, mysterious, and unique. Steve Martin and Martin Short make a great duo, but the real brilliance happens when you team them up with Selena Gomez! Put this down on your list as a much watch, especially if you’re a podcast lover like me.

🥈Television Runner Up: Calls

A strange, suspenseful, and sometimes scary sci-fi. The thing that makes Calls unique is that visually, each episode looks like a music visualiser. The visuals match the story, but the story is told primarily with audio. The short episodes make it easily bingable in a night or two. Calls pairs very nicely with the Spatial Audio feature on your AirPods.

🏆 Best Film: Pig

Nicholas Cage at his best. This film has been compared to John Wick, but Pig is in another league. It’s a gritty, unnerving, and heartfelt love story, not a cookie-cutter action flick. Definitely worth a watch – this movie stays with you.

🥈Film Runner Up: Don’t Look Up

The very last movie I saw this year was fantastic – at least I thought so. Apparently it’s doing very poorly with critics. Maybe I’m particularly partial to political satire and meta narratives. The film has a unique visual style, interjecting stock footage into the story in a way that, surprisingly, really works!

Television

There’s been a lot of TV this year – not just my personal viewing, but a whole lot of quality television shows released. It’s impossible to keep up with prime viewing. We’re certainly in a golden age of television, and peak “streaming wars”. It’s easy to predict a rise in content piracy as more and more streaming services continue to release amazing content.

Despite this, I’ve pledged a television diet in 2022:

  • Finish the shows I’m still mid-way through
    • Morning Wars (Season 2)
    • See (Season 2)
    • Dickinson (Season 3)
  • Watch any new MCU television
  • Watch any new Star Trek television

That’s it. Nothing else. I’ll miss out on The Expanse, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and other favourites – but that’s a sacrifice I’ll happily make to make time for creative output.

But that’s all in the year ahead. Let’s take a look back at the television I watched in 2021.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Mythic Quest (Season 2)Wandavision (Season 1)The Office (Season 1—9)
Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Season 1)The Expanse (Season 5)
Loki (Season 1)Morning Wars (Season 1)
Black Space (Season 1)Calls (Season 1)
Mr. Corman (Season 1)For All Mankind (Season 2)
Ted Lasso (Season 2)Mare of Easttown (Season 1)
Star Trek: Lower Decks (Season 2)Marvel’s What If… (Season 1)
Dickinson (Season 1—2)Only Murders in the Building (Season 1)
The Premise (Season 1)
Invasion (Season 1)
Foundation (Season 1)
Dr. Brain (Season 1)
  • 33 total seasons of television
  • 387 total episodes
  • That’s slightly more than one episode for every day of the year!
  • If you allow for an average 40 minute episode, that’s 258 hours of television.
  • Most of that was binging The Office (the American version)

Film

I discovered a love for cinemas last year. “Me time”, for me, looks like sneaking out to a movie during the day, when the theatre is mostly empty, and seeing something on the big screen by myself.

Unlike television, the amount of film I’ve seen this year really feels like time well spent. It fills me up, somehow, and gives me ideas. TV feels more braindead, more couch-stoned.

One thing I did this year was to revisited the MCU (for the second time), but this time with my kids and Talia! They’ve loved it – it’s nice to have that shared context of a whole complicated fictional universe.

That said, there’s a lot of rubbish film in the MCU. I expect that my list of films for 2022 will contain a lot less in the one star column.

Talia and I also watched through all the Daniel Craig Bond films in the lead up to No Time to Die. I hope that, whoever the next Bond is, the “series” is imagined as a longer story from the beginning – it’s that shared world building that I love the best.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Incredible Hulk (2008)The Courier (2020)Mortal Kombat (2021)
Captain America The First Avenger (2011)Godzilla vs Kong (2021)Soul (2020)
Thor (2011)Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)Promising Young Woman (2020)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)Cherry (2021)The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)
Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)Synchronic (2019)Nobody (2021)
Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)Wrath of Man (2021)The Father (2020)
Eternals (2021)A Quiet Place (2018)The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
Undergods (2021)Iron Man (2008)Luca (2021)
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)Moxie (2021)Black Widow (2021)
Iron Man 2 (2010)Pig (2021)
A Quiet Place Part II (2020)Death of a Ladies’ Man (2020)
Cruella (2021)The Suicide Squad (2021)
The Avengers (2012)Annette (2021)
Escape Room (2019)Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Iron Man 3 (2013)Black Panther (2018)
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)CODA (2021)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)Army of the Dead (2021)
F9 (2021)The Green Knight (2021)
Captain America: Civil War (2006)Free Guy (2021)
Cleaner (2007)Army of Thieves (2021)
Doctor Strange (2016) Venom (2018)
In the Heights (2021)Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)Finch (2021)
Slither (2006)Skyfall (2012)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)Spectre (2015)
Casino Royale (2006)Home Alone (1990)
Quantum of Solace (2008)Dune (2021)
Captain Marvel (2019)Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The Harder They Fall (2021)The Matrix: Resurrections (2021)
Red Notice (2021)Don’t Look Up (2021)
No Time to Die (2021)
  • 76 total films
  • That’s around 1.5 movies each week
  • If you allow for an average 120 minute movie, that’s 152 hours
  • One-third of the films I saw this year were set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • 37 of the movies I saw (about half) were released this year (2021)

Books

I didn’t award any book of the year, since I didn’t actually read any books that were released this year. So, instead, I’ll give an award to the best book I read this year.

🏅Book of the Year: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson)

The first of the excellent Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson. Whether the first or the third in the series is the better title could be referred to the DRS. Sanderson is a master of the fantasy genre, and his Mistborn series is masterclass on how to write, and evolve, magic systems. Most fantasy readers will have already read this, I imagine, but if you’re a fantasy fan and you haven’t – this absolutely belongs on your list.

Speaking of Sanderson, the start of 2021 was spent finishing the reading list I started in 2020: all the books that take place in his “Cosmere” universe.

I was a bit fantasied out after that – so I switched to my preferred genre of Science Fiction. Of course, no science fiction fan can truly call themselves that without having read the godfather of the genre – Asimov. So I put down the second Dune novel (it was a struggle anyway), and picked up everything in Asimov’s Robot, Foundation, and Empire series. I’m not quite through yet (only a couple of Foundation novels left), but I expect to finish with Asimov in early 2022.

Asimov has been great to read. Truly an all-time literary master. He can spin together sentences that drop your jaw with their simple complexity, and has created a “future history” that spans literally millions of years. Unfortunately, almost all his work is sullied by a distasteful misogyny that makes Asimov hard to recommend to a modern audience.

I must be a sucker for this shared universe business – between the MCU, Sanderson, and Asimov that’s the vast majority of my input this year.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Elantris (Sanderson)The Well of Ascension (Sanderson)The Final Empire (Sanderson)
White Sand Volumes 1—3 (Sanderson)Warbreaker (Sanderson)The Hero of Ages (Sanderson)
The Complete Robot (Asimov)The Alloy of Law (Sanderson)Prelude to Foundation (Asimov)
The Stars, Like Dust (Asimov)Shadows of Self (Sanderson)Forward the Foundation (Asimov)
The Bands of Mourning (Sanderson)The Midnight Library (Haig)
The Way Back (Shavit)
Nine Tomorrows (Asimov)
Caves of Steel (Asimov)
Dawnshard (Sanderson)
The Naked Sun (Asimov)
Foundation (Asimov)
I, Robot (Asimov)
Pebble in the Sky (Asimov)
The Currents of Space (Asimov)
Foundation and Empire (Asimov)
  • 24 total books
  • That 2 per month!
  • 20 were audiobooks
  • If you allow for an average 15 hour read / listen per book, that’s 360 hours

Total Titles
Total Stars
Total Hours

I’ve been asked how I possibly have time for such a long list. The answer is simple: I don’t have any social media habits. No Twitter, no Reddit, and definitely no Facebook or Instagram.

Looking forward, I’d like 2022 to include less TV, about the same amount of Film, and more Books (with a higher percentage of reading vs listening). I’d also like to use some of the extra time I’ve saved by cutting out a lot of television to do more creative work.

Categories
WordPress

What the FLoC?

The WordPress community has been discussing a proposal to force disable FLoC on all websites. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will lead anywhere.

Unlike the WordPress leadership, the EFF have strongly rejected FLoC due its privacy risks, and individualised profiling. The Brave browsers position is that FLoC “materially harms user privacy”, and the Vivaldi browser accuses FLoC of “unwittingly give away [user] privacy for the financial gain of Google”. DuckDuckGo went so far as to create a FLoC blocking browser extension.

Google seems to be having a hard time explaining that FLoC really isn’t as bad as it seems. When asked about the implications of FLoC in a Make WordPress Core chat on Slack, all we heard from Google representatives was political hedging and links to websites that didn’t answer our questions. And here’s a Twitter thread with the Google Chrome Developer Relations Lead that’s a microcosm of that experience.

Please, let’s put away the “FLoC tries to make advertising more private” argument. No. FLoC makes fingerprinting easier than ever, not harder – your cohort ID is just another data point to help pick you out of a crowd.

Worse – FLoC reveals interest data to websites who already have your personally identifiable information (wherever you’ve signed up with your email address, for example). The inevitable outcome is that your interest data will at some point be made public. Imagine a world where dark web markets sell databases of email addresses linked to their interests and the URLs they’ve visited!

The issues with FLoC extend far beyond privacy. You think Twitter bubbles are a problem now? FLoC enables an entire web that’s bubbled specifically for you. News sites could show alternate versions of articles based on your cohort. Community groups might limit new memberships based on your algorithmically defined interests. Ecommerce stores will change their prices based on the websites you’ve visited recently.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that perverse incentives have a habit of leading to perverse outcomes. Nobody wants to trust Google, or any other company with a business model rooted in manipulating you with personalised advertisements. Nobody is falling for the “Interest-based Targeting” parlance. It’s just a poor attempt at rebranding “Personalised Ads” after years of bad press.

John Gruber puts it perfectly:

Just because there is now a multi-billion-dollar industry based on the abject betrayal of our privacy doesn’t mean the sociopaths who built it have any right whatsoever to continue getting away with it. They talk in circles but their argument boils down to entitlement: they think our privacy is theirs for the taking because they’ve been getting away with taking it without our knowledge, and it is valuable.

Here’s an idea, Google. Stop planning the future of the web on Zoom calls with your advertising tech mates. There’s a simpler solution. Give browser users the ability to choose exactly who they want to share their data with, and for what purposes, rather than going behind our backs to be neatly arrange us into cohort clusters for advertisers to conveniently target.

If Google cared about user data privacy, they’d give users the agency to choose when and where to share it. You’ll never see this mockup implemented in Chrome, because it undermines the real goal: to sell more ads.

Information used for tracking must belong to the users whose behavior and interests are being tracked, not to Google or advertisers, no matter how anonymous the data is made to be. Data ownership means the right to say who gets what data and when, as well as understanding what it’s going to be used for and how long it will be held. That basic right is one which Google, and its ad-tech buddies, aren’t willing to grant.

Algorithmic profiles powering personalised ads might be good for business, but they’re bad for the web.

Categories
DIY

Blue Yeti Shock Mount Ikea Hack

I’ve been shopping around for a microphone arm and shock mount for my Blue Yeti mic. The cheap ones don’t support the weight of the Yeti, and the expensive ones are expensive.

So instead, I hacked an IKEA TERTIAL Work Lamp ($15 AUD), and with a few extra pieces, created my own.

Rather than assembling the lamp, I took to it with scissors, chopping of the bulb fixture and unthreading the power cable. Then I threaded the USB cable for the microphone, ready to plug in.

Next, I got to the 3D printing. This mount from Thingiverse did the trick very nicely. To “float” the microphone in the shock mount, I just clipped in black hair ties!

Unfortunately, the standard springs on the TERTIAL weren’t quite up to the weight. After a little trial and error, I found that replacing just one of the top springs with a C-143 size extension spring (14.3 x 76.2 x 1.372mm) provided the perfect balance.

As a bonus, my mic stand is now the exact same shade of grey as the HEKTAR work lamp on my desk.

Categories
Design

Phygital

By day, my Product Design work is purely digital. I work in the limitless realm of Software.

By night, I’ve been experimenting with Physical Product Design, modelling and 3D printing all sorts of useful widgets.

The cross-over between Digital and Physical worlds is lots of fun.

So when Lior, my 8 year old son, presented me with a drawing of a character he imagined, I had the idea to try to bring it to life as a physical object!

Lior’s Pokémon inspired character, based on a sunken treasure chest.

I’ve tried modelling on a pancake screen, and for really technical designs with precise tolerances, that works great. But when it comes to quickly bringing to life a unique, messy, interesting character, I jump into VR.

Using the Valve Index and Microsoft Maquette, I 3D modeled Lior’s flat drawings. Modeling in VR is a game changer. It allows me to design spatially, physically moving around my room and around the character, drawing and shaping in three dimensions.

Then I export the model, and open it in Blender, to clean up and properly scale.

The result gets exported as an .stl file, and sliced by UPStudio, before being sent to my Upbox to be made real!

For the finishing touch, I wanted to paint it. To help me know which colours to use, Lior recreated his original drawing on his iPad.

I’m not the world’s greatest painter, but I gave it a good go. Here’s how it turned out!

Categories
Photo

Grainy-Day Portraits

These B&W portraits were shot in 2014, using the 1969 Minolta Hi-Matic 5. They’re super grainy, and a bit scratched up / dusty. This is because I developed them myself, in my wardrobe!