For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’

– Rachel Carson

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Featured artist: iVan Haidutski

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 146!

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My iPhone’s photo memories algorithm recently presented me with a shot from 2001: it’s a much younger me, slouching over a messy desk, staring intensely at a 19-inch CRT monitor. Next to the monitor, a giant desktop tower with its CD-ROM drive open. I would share the photo with you but, believe me, that feral hair explosion on my head would break the internet.

As old photos do, it triggered a fair amount of nostalgia – about computers and the early days of the web. But above all, it made me think about how being online used to be so stationary.

Desktops were clunky gateways to the online world, fixed in one place. You’d sit down on your desk, boot up your computer to look at pixelated things for a while. A few hours later you’d power it down, get up and real life continued. You’d physically remove yourself from the click hole.

When I look at that early twenties version of me, I remember that screen time interrupted real life. Today, it feels like real life interrupts screen time. ‘On’ is the default now. ‘Off’ is a holiday – a temporary untethering, like taking off your oxygen mask under water. Only that breathing is actually easier without the gadget.

It’s brief moments like this when the bizarro world we’ve created catches up with me. Some time between then and now we realised that something unhealthy is going on. So we came up with apps that remind us to stand up at least once every hour or to look at a distant object for 20 seconds. We have apps that remind us to breathe.

I wonder what digital crutches we will rely on in another twenty years from now, when untethering may well be an even more exclusive privilege reserved to a lucky few. Whatever app or gadget we’ll be outsourcing bodily functions to, I just hope that it includes some cyborg head extension that puts an end to ghastly non-haircuts like the one in that photo. – Kai

 

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At Blackmill, we work with organisations and their people to solve cultural and business problems. Let us review your engineering practices to identify strengths and weaknesses to find areas for improvement. Through consulting, workshops, tech leadership coaching, and a growing community of leaders, we help you nurture a healthy culture that supports both the goals of your business and its people. Get in touch for a commitment-free chat!

 

Apps & Sites

Almanac →

Collaborative documents

At first sight, Almanac looks similar to Notion – an interactive document editor – but there are some distinctive additional features. For example, Almanac incorporates version control capabilities, popular in the coding world. You can also send approval requests before making changes public. Overall, an even more collaborative approach to Notion-like documents.

EpocCam →

Turn your phone into a webcam

The webcams of many laptops, especially MacBooks, are notoriously bad. With this set of apps, you can turn your iPhone into a better quality, external webcam to use on Zoom, Google Meet, etc. (Not sure if Android phones are supported, too.)

Cafecito →

Virtual coffee breaks with strangers

A lovely idea with a cute name: to fight pandemic-induced doom-scrolling and cabin fever, this platform connects vetted creatives from myriad backgrounds and locations with each other for a random 25-minute chat online. A serendipitous way to meet inspiring new people.

Sounds of the Forest →

A soundmap of the world’s forests

Lets appreciate forests before they’ve all turned to ashes! This map lets you dip in and out of the sound of nature, covering hundreds of unique locations from all around the globe.

 

Worthy Five: Ritesh Mandaliya

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Five recommendations by interaction designer and coffee enthusiast Ritesh Mandaliya

A piece of advice worth passing on:

Don’t get stuck on the details. Only allowing the perfect version of something to see the light of day can not only hinder progress, it may even stop you from doing your best work. Focus on speed and iteration: build, show your work, learn, improve. (Let Paul McCartney show you how it’s done.)

An Instagram account worth following:

Sam Cotton’s videos take you into a little parallel world where reality and his ani-mates come together, all wrapped in Aussie humour. It will change the way you look at things around you!

A recipe worth trying:

This Chilli Oil Noodles dish by Christy Nguyen is simple and heart-warmingly delicious. Perfect for a lazy winter night in.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

The Sizzle is an Australian-focused tech newsletter. For the price of a coffee a month, I get a daily summary of the last 24 hours of global tech news, mixed with special local deals on tech. Useful and convenient.

A quote worth repeating:

I once messed up my V60 brew and my coffe buddy said in response: “It is important to have shit coffee. It makes you appreciate the good ones.” Now I embrace the occasional bad cup while thinking about how to do better next time. I suppose there is a life lesson in there.

 

Books & Accessories CONSUME RESPONSIBLY

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Girl Decoded →

The quest for emotionally intelligent tech

The memoir of a woman breaking through traditional Middle Eastern values to lead a movement for emotional intelligence in technology. “Girl Decoded chronicles Rana el Kaliouby’s journey from being a ‘nice Egyptian girl’ to becoming a woman, carving her own path as she revolutionises technology. But decoding herself – learning to express and act on her own emotions – would prove to be the biggest challenge of all.”

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Beyond the Valley →

Toward a more democratic internet

Ramesh Srinivasan talks to community organisers, labour leaders, human rights activists and high-profile figures like Noam Chomsky and Elizabeth Warren to find out how we can repair the disconnect between producers and consumers of technology. “We may love the immediacy of Google search results, the convenience of buying from Amazon, and the elegance and power of our Apple devices, but it’s a one-way, top-down process. We’re not asked for our input, or our opinions – only for our data.”

 

Overheard on Twitter

The tech sector is where smart people go to make 6 figures for 3-5 years until they do acid, heal their trauma and realize they don’t want to do their jobs anymore.

@sashachapin

 

Food for Thought

Two economies. Two sets of rules. →

Read

What a fantastic, insightful piece that attempts to explain – in simple terms – why superrich entrepreneurs like Musk or Bezos exist and how they are playing by entirely different rules than the rest of us: “Why is Musk so rich? The answer tells us something profound about our economy: he is wealthy because people are betting on him. But unlike a bet in a lottery or at a racetrack, in the vast betting economy of the stock market, people can cash out their winnings before the race has ended.”

They Swore by the Diet I Created – but I Completely Made It Up →

Read

It boggles the mind. Alan Levinovitz writes an entire book exposing pseudoscientific nutrition claims of various diets, then adds his own satirical diet at the end to make a point and... some readers buy into it. The thoughts he shares about why this may happen include some interesting observations about the spread of misinformation. “Knowing that some people believe in the healing power of my satirical diet immediately after reading almost 200 pages on why they shouldn’t has left me deeply shaken. Changing how we communicate science can help, but it’s a Band-Aid solution. A real solution means changing education so books like mine are obsolete.”

I’m Not Scared to Reenter Society. I’m Just Not Sure I Want To. →

Read

The luckier ones among us can slowly see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel and now have to ask themselves whether they’re ready to re-enter the life they knew. “Once, years before the pandemic, when I had the flu and was laid up in bed, watching movies and drinking Theraflu, it took me a couple of weeks to realize that I was no longer sick; I had just grown accustomed to the flu lifestyle. I had an excuse to indulge the pleasures of slovenly indolence with a clear conscience. ... More and more people have noticed that some of the basic American axioms—that hard work is a virtue, productivity is an end in itself – are horseshit. I’m remembering those science-fiction stories in which someone accidentally sees behind the facade of their blissful false reality to the grim dystopia they actually inhabit.”

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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I lack the words to describe what exactly pulls me into the travel photography by Jacob Howard who tries to “capture the transitory and reveal the hidden”.

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Astoundingly beautiful paper sculptures made by artist Diana Beltrán Herrera.

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With its stunning setting and its remarkable sustainability features (net-zero CO2 emissions to build, net-zero CO2 emissions to run), this off-grid house near Sydney proves that a high-performing, comfortable home can have a minimal environmental footprint.

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Spitzkant is a serif type family with a large set of alternative character styles. “Pointed, sharp serifs and edges contrast with round and fine forms, making it very individual and expressive.”

 

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