Mario Villalobos

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Eric Dietrich:

With a final vote Friday, Montana’s Districting and Apportionment Commission made it official: The state has a new congressional map, political lines drawn to define how Montanans are represented in the U.S. House through the 2030 election.

While the boundaries could still be subject to a court challenge, the vote represents the likely culmination of a monthslong districting process that kicked into gear when detailed 2020 census results were published in August, triggering a once-a-decade effort to recalibrate Montana’s political boundaries. The proceedings drew hundreds of publicly submitted proposals, days of verbal testimony at hearings in the state Capitol and thousands of written comments filed by residents across the state.

I’ve almost lived in Montana for 10 years, and even though my “California” politics are in the minority, this place has become like another home for me. Things got bad once Trump was elected (to be fair, things were bad everywhere once he got elected), but for the most part, I haven’t really felt like my politics ever put a target on my back. But seeing this:

This makes me feel personally attacked! What is this nonsense? The two markers on the map read “San Fransoola” and “Bozeangeles," portmanteaus for “Missoula” and “Bozeman,” respectively.

What utter nonsense! 😂

They used iPads. iPads. Matt Prior:

The standard way to digitise pages is using a flatbed scanner, such as those made by Zeutschel. They’re “the most reliable in the world”, says Boswell, “but they’re slow”. Flatbed scanners also don’t treat big bound antique volumes kindly. You have to pick up the entire volume, turn it over, flip a page and lay it back down – and the result is rather better if the spine is broken so the page flattens on the surface.

Autocar has duplicate copies of some old back issues, so treating them badly doesn’t matter so much, but there is a quicker and kinder method, which for these purposes works perfectly well. It just looks a little more basic: it’s a plank of wood with a hole in it, through which one aims the camera of an iPad. Place a volume beneath it, press the button. “Picture quality is on a par with a mid-range SLR camera,” says Boswell. That’s plenty for a magazine captured at close range.

And it’s so much quicker. Boswell’s team consists of four full-time scanners, who have taken from April time until, well, not long before now, to get through the collection. Computers do the rest. Optical character recognition software deciphers the text with “100% accuracy”, which makes the entire collection of issues searchable by keywords, and the picture is cropped and converted to a PDF automatically. Then there’s a quality-control check and, from this point, it’s all cataloguing and labelling issues by date.

Around 2010, I used a cheap flatbed scanner to scan hundreds and hundreds of paper documents I’d accumulated in my life up to that point. Ever since I purchased my iPhone (the iPhone 5 in 2012), I’ve been using these devices to digitize my life. I’m amazed that a major publication like Autocar, a magazine that has been “publish[ing] every week since 1895,” decided to digitize their entire archive using iPads. Add to it that they used “a plank of wood with a hole in it” is even more amazing to me.

It’s little things like this that makes modern life both so mind-boggling cool and scary at the same time. Scary in the sense of how fast the world is moving, how fast technology has progressed in just 10+ years. And again, add the fact that iOS 15 can automatically recognize text in all your photos, and yeah… 🤯

M.G. Siegler:

The problem with Facebook isn’t actually Facebook. It’s us. It’s human beings. The problem is that Facebook created the greatest tool ever to connect those human beings. And it has led to a world in which the local lunatic is now the global lunatic.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days, and I think what I’ve come up with is that there are two sides to extremism. There’s the obvious kind—the hateful and violent kind we’ve all been witness to the past half decade or so—but there’s also the not so obvious kind, the extreme kindness that feels transactional to me.

I’ve been feeling this a lot during the past decade I’ve lived in Montana, where the phrase “small town values” is worn like an unearned badge of honor, but I’ve also felt it lingering in the background in some online communities that I’ve dipped in and out of over the years. Don’t get me wrong, kind people are great, and we need more of them, but when someone online is kind to you and you don’t return the favor? Forget about it, man. That “kind” person or community kinda sorta turns on you because you broke this unwritten rule of automatic kindness that you didn’t follow.

Community is great, and we all need our clans, but an internet community? I think that’s the problem, and we as humans weren’t meant for something so big and complex.

Robin Rendle:

I can be whoever I want and no-one can tell me otherwise. I can be funny or dark, a romantic or a raging goth. I can be a typographer, a web designer, a poet. Tomorrow? My accent can change, the colors revert, typefaces flipped inside out; I can change everything about this website and reimagine who I am. Edit the bad or worrisome or downright embarrassing stuff out, throw away the unsavory stuff, until I’m only showing you me at my very best.

So what you see here isn’t me.

In a bit over 200 words, Robin articulates something I’ve been feeling lately. I’m constantly changing, constantly rethinking my behavior, my thoughts, my likes and dislikes, my mindset and view of the world.

I’ve slowed on my blogging because I want to redesign my website again but oh my god I don’t have the time for that right now, but gosh dangit I want to so much. All I’ve been doing the past month is working on my school’s website redesign, and I’ve learned so much. Not just about web development, but about design and typography and even my own aesthetic and sensibilities.

Every time I read something a new, whether it’s from a book or from the web, I add it to my mental library of facts and ideas and opinions, and I let it do its thing up there. If it improves something I thought I knew, then great! If it contradicts with something I thought to be true, that’s great, too! We humans are very good at holding contradictory thoughts in our heads at the same time. If it makes me angry, then it makes me angry, and if it makes me happy, it makes me happy.

I don’t get those stubborn types of people who feel it’s a weakness to change your mind. Why live your life like that? I don’t get it. Maybe it’s just an American thing? More reason to travel the world!

There’s really no point to this post, and that’s okay. I needed to write things down to see what happened, and I liked what happened. So let’s go and post this thing.

Earlier this year, I moved my site from Micro.blog to Cloudflare Pages, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made when it came to this site. Sure, I had to learn Hugo, some HTML, and a whole lot of CSS, but when is learning ever a bad thing? I wanted full control of my site without any handholding, and that transition helped me achieve all my goals.

If you want to do the same, I suggest watching this recent video by Coder Coder. She runs through starting your own Github repository, how to connect Cloudflare Pages to it, and how to start pushing your code online. Knowing how to run my own website has been one of the best skills I’ve ever learned, and I hope more and more people learn how, too.

And this can all be done for free. No recurring memberships, no condescending handholding, just pure freedom. The way the web should be.

Ivana Saric, Axios:

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education approved a measure Thursday mandating eligible students in the nation’s second-biggest school district to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It’s the first major school district to require vaccines for students — a move that may set a precedent for school districts across the country to follow.

[…]

What they’re saying: “The science is clear – vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said in the press release. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.” 

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write about the coronavirus since Axios stopped tracking active cases back in June, but that is not to be. We’re three weeks into our current school year and already we’ve had multiple cases of COVID-19 spreading throughout our student body and faculty. Because I live in a Republican-controlled state, all the important choices are being left up to the parents to make. We don’t have any mask mandates, we don’t have any quarantine mandates, we don’t have anything we can do to make our school safe. Masks are optional; quarantines for close-contacts are optional; vaccinations are optional.

In my experience, when we leave choices up to the masses, the masses will choose to protect themselves first. We are selfish. We care more about our rights than yours. This is America in the 21st century and it’s goddamn heartbreaking. In our school, because our leaders aren’t leading, our parents are having to make choices they don’t want to make. They want their children to be safe, but they also don’t want them to be bullied because they’re wearing masks when others aren’t or because they chose to stay home during the football game instead of going out there to play with their team. People would rather play a game and risk infecting so many others than doing the right thing and cancelling these events for the sake of the community.

I’m so glad President Biden has mandated COVID vaccines for all federal workers, and that the Los Angeles school district has done the same for their students. The country needs to follow their leads and control this godforsaken virus.

Jay Peters, The Verge:

Apple’s next big fall event will take place on Tuesday, September 14th at 1PM ET, the company announced. The event, which carries the tagline “California streaming,” will be another virtual event broadcast from Apple Park.

[…]

New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros equipped with the company’s custom-designed chips and an SD card slot are also rumored to be on the way.

The one device I’ve been craving for the past year or so has been a new 16-inch MacBook Pro. I’ve outgrown my 11-inch iPad Pro from 2018, a device I thought would be my primary device for years to come. I’ve edited and managed all the photos I’ve posted to this blog on it and written every entry on it, but I’ve run Hugo and written the code for this site on my Mac mini that’s sitting on my desk at home. I want something powerful and portable to do all my work on, including things I only dabble on at the moment, like filmmaking and web design, and a new MacBook Pro would do it.

If Apple announces this device, then you best believe they’re getting all my money, and I can’t wait to give it to them.

This news breaks my heart:

Three members of Chromatics have announced the end of the electro-pop band. Ruth Radelet, Adam Miller, and Nat Walker signed a statement that was shared on Radalet and Miller’s Instagram accounts. “After a long period of reflection, the three of us have made the difficult decision to end Chromatics,” the statement reads. “We would like to thank all of our fans and the friends we have made along the way—we are eternally grateful for your love and support.”

I first heard of Chromatics when After Dark was released back in 2007. I was in college then, and I spent much of my free time downloading and listening to all the music I could get my hands on. Since then, I’ve purchased more of their albums, with Closer to Grey (embedded above) a particular favorite.

Kill for Love is another favorite:

I give all the members of Chromatics my best.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve spent some of my free time going through Essential Craftsman’s series on how to build a house on YouTube, and I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it. For a long time, I’ve had it in mind that someday I wanted to build my own house, and even though it feels like a crazy and far off idea now, I’m hoping that one day I will have a hand in building a home that will last generations. Granted, I don’t know how to use any construction tool outside of a hammer, so this might be something that will take a lifetime to pursue. But hey, nothing worth doing is easy. I am very grateful, though, to know more about drainage and surveying and plumbing and electrical and everything else that comes with building a home. That knowledge feels empowering in the best sense of the word.

I started to spend my time on this because I’ve been at something of a midlife crisis this summer. I’m afraid of tomorrow, of next week, of next year, because I feel like time is moving way too fast and I still don’t know how I want to spend it, and every minute lost scares the shit out of me. I’m slowly (very very slowly) building myself back up, and I’m hoping I come out of this stronger. I just don’t know what I want to do with my life anymore, so I’m pursuing every little interest I’ve ever had in my life, from these crazy ideas to the impossible ones. I want to find that thing or things that say, Yes, this is what Mario was born to do or whatever, because right now I feel lost.

I really resonated with Rachel Syme’s article in this week’s New Yorker magazine. She writes about our collective fetishization of setting and meeting deadlines, with the cult of productivity types who wake up at 5am and meditate and write in their bullet journal and drink spinach smoothies and do yoga for an hour before they’re ready to tackle their day. It’s all bullshit. “Everywhere you look,” she writes,

people are either hitting deadlines or avoiding them by reading about how other people hit deadlines. This may seem like a sly way of marrying procrastination with productivity (you’re biding your time learning how to better manage your time), but, no matter what, it’s an exhausting treadmill of guilt and ostentation, virtue signalling, and abject despair at falling behind.

I’ve been trying my hardest to slow down recently, to savor life, to battle my ghosts and fight for the life I want to live, so it was a breath of fresh air to read that I’m not the only one who sees it all as an “exhausting treadmill.”

I was also a bit giddy to read this section on Jenny Odell, the author of one of my favorite books of the past few years, How To Do Nothing:

Odell has her moonier moments, and she isn’t always stating revolutionary ideas. Her goal is to bring back patience, which she sees as our most neglected and underappreciated virtue. Still, she has a surprisingly fresh rationale: being patient isn’t just about changing how we do things, it’s also, more fundamentally, about changing how we see things. Breaking the “cycle of reactions” we’re usually beholden to, she explains, opens a “gap through which you can see other perspectives, temporalities, and value systems.” If the common fear is that a lack of productivity will narrow the possibilities of our life, Odell is here to tell us the opposite. With our eyes always fixed on a prize, we’re missing the bigger picture. What good is “the deadline effect” if it’s blinkering us, keeping us from a more expansively defined potential?

Bringing back patience is an honorable goal, and I’m better served practicing that than working my ass for a deadline that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to become the Red Queen.

Fortunately, Jenny Odell has a new book coming out called Inhabiting the Negative Space. It comes out in August. Can’t wait.

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