1491 #

Oct 17 2013

Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact.

This article later became one of my favourite books.

django-jsonview #

Jan 10 2013

I thought the JSONView class described in the last post was so useful I decided to release it on bitbucket. I’ve made it a bit more generic, so now it takes a method_name argument where you can specify which method returns the dictionary that should be served as JSON.

JSON and Django

Jan 08 2013

I needed to get some JSON data to display a chart, and this is how I ended up doing it:

from django.http import HttpResponse
from django.views.generic import DetailView
import simplejson

class JSONView(DetailView):
    def render_to_response(self, context):
        return HttpResponse(simplejson.dumps(self.object.json_chart()),

Then just import the JSONView as view, pass it a model that implements a json_chart method that returns a dictionary, and that’s it. Don’t even need to create a template.

This can keep your JavaScript neat and tidy without peppering it with Django template code. Now all you’ll need is the slug or id of your model, and you can construct a URL to get the JSON.

It’s times like this I love Django.

Mostly Paperless

Nov 26 2012

I’ve been trying to go paperless as much as I can, but I have to provide my accountants with printouts of my expenses and invoices etc, so I do need a physical storage as these accumulate before sending them off at the end of every quarter. The rest goes straight to the recycling bin.

At the end of the quarter then, I end up with documents in two places: on my computer I have a digital copy of everything[1], but it’s not clear which of those documents were already sent over and which need to be printed out. I also have a physical folder with everything that came in the mail and has been scanned - but missing a bunch of receipts I received online.

So, the documents that need to go to my accountants arrive in one of two forms: mail or receipts received in person, receipts downloaded or received by email as PDF, my own invoices. I assign one of the following states to them:

I hate labels, which also helps me be strict about this as if everything goes well every document should end up label free.

At the end of the quarter I just have to check two smart folders in sequence: one with documents that still need to be printed (red label documents), the other with documents that are ready to be delivered (yellow label documents). I go through the red list one by one and print them out and file away into the physical folder, changing their label to yellow in the process. Once the red documents are all gone, I move to the yellow documents.

Once all the documents are ready I select all the files in the second smart folder, then run an automator process that removes the labels and adds a spotlight comment of the form QXYY (i.e. Q112 is quarter 1 2012). That way I can later retrieve which documents I handed in in which quarter.

Mark as delivered Automator action. Clears the label and opens a dialog where I can enter the quarter number. This can be further automated with a TextExpander snippet.
“Mark as delivered” Automator action. Clears the label and opens a dialog where I can enter the quarter number. This can be further automated with a TextExpander snippet.

By creating this as a service in Automator, ‘Mark as delivered’ appears in the context menu for PDFs in Finder. So cool.

  1. I won’t go into too much detail about how documents are processed, you can find plenty about using TextExpander, Hazel, Automator and more by Googling around. Paperless is an excellent source.  ↩


Nov 23 2012

Really happy about the present I received in the mail from 1password: Paperless.

Thanks for the surprise gift, @1password, Paperless sounds like a great book. Gonna start reading as soon as the printer spits out the last page. – Me, on app.net

I’ve been listening to Mac Power Users on and off for a couple of years now, so much of it was already familiar to me – I even have a ScanSnap scanner because of their recommendation. But it was nice to see all these tricks in one place, and many of them were new to me, or pointed out nuances I hadn’t appreciated before.

I’m now busy trying to automate parts of my paperless flow in a new way, so I can easily retrieve all the documents my accountants need at the end of the quarter. If it goes well, I’ll post the details here in a couple of days.

The "Wizardry" of Nate Silver #

Nov 07 2012

On reason vs. punditry and the place of science in the world.

Science isn’t the cold, disconnected lab coat, floating alone near a few bubbling beakers. It illuminates our lives, if only we let it.

Alan Moore blew my mind

Nov 07 2012

On an episode of the Infinite Monkey Cage, Alan Moore combined the Anthropic Principle and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to suggest that since we’re looking back in time to when the universe was infinitely small, our observations affected it, and therefore retroactively created the habitable universe that we now observe.[1]

Mind. Blown.

  1. Another panelist butted in to point out that this has been called the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle.  ↩


Oct 03 2012

In Icelandic, means both money and sheep.

Old English feoh used to mean both as well, still exists as fee today, but no longer means livestock. In Dutch, however vee means cattle, but not money.

All derive from Proto-Indo-European *peku, which leads to modern Italian pecora meaning sheep, and a delicious cheese called pecorino, which can be found in better supermarkets for a small fee, and now we’ve gone a full circle!


Sep 25 2012

A Pizza Napoletana nearly everywhere in the world (except in Naples, but that’s another story[1]) is made up of:

* anchovies
* oil

A Pizza Napoletana I found in Iceland:

* pepperoni
* jalapeños
* onions
* peppers
* pineapple
* green pepper
* garlic
* oregano.

How did this happen?

  1. They call it a Pizza Romana.  ↩

White Eskimos #

Aug 27 2012

A bit of linguistic satire to start the day.

Did you know they have twenty different words for “coffee” but no word for “self-aware”?

Via Language Log


Aug 25 2012

“I’m going to be… an archaeologist!” I thought to my twelve year old self. I waited and was disappointed that yet again life failed to fade out and in again and I would find myself stepping out of some cool vehicle or the other, fedora hat and all, ready for the next Indiana Jones-like adventure.

This is something I will tell my daughter later, when and if she gets tired of childhood, that something like this in fact will happen – is happening – and one day she will look back and it will seem like she wished for this only minutes ago and she will think, “Wait, wasn’t I supposed to have a fedora by now?”

Little big car #

Aug 19 2012

“Marswagentje” doesn’t seem to fit any of these categories precisely. The Curiosity rover is small compared to many earthly vehicles, but it’s by far the largest of the Mars rovers, and it’s not tiny even by the standards of earth cars. It’s sort of cute and beloved, but the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t refer casually to the “cute little Curiosity roverling”, or whatever.

A brief little storytje about my favourite featurtje of Dutch, and about the little Mars roverling that could.

Compulsory post

Aug 18 2012

Compulsory post promising more frequent posts in the future. Also seeing if I even remember how this thing works.

Right vs Pragmatic #

Feb 27 2012

We often try to fight problems by yelling at them instead of accepting the reality of what people do, from controversial national legislation to passive-aggressive office signs. Such efforts usually fail, often with a lot of collateral damage, much like Prohibition and the ongoing “war” on “drugs”.

Great post. Especially the drawings.

Jonathan Hoefler @ Pivot #

Dec 06 2011

Love this talk. Especially his point on how, when adapting a print publication to the web, the idea that inspired the print should also be allowed to inspire the web.

Instead, we get things that make sense in print being forced onto the web, resulting in online brochures and links to .pdfs. “I’m not giving you what you need, I’m giving you what I have”. Yes. This.

Azienda Agricola

Nov 15 2011

Shooting down the Italian Autostrada the billboards make me want to get home and play certain boardgames.

Babette of Interlaken

Nov 12 2011

I’m currently engrossed in the Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco. I’m making copious notes and looking for hidden hints, if only for the thrill of learning more about the real first breakthroughs in psychology, the history of the unification of Italy and the origins of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But one character has eluded me.

The Prague Cemetery

You know nothing about Babette of Interlaken - worthy great-niece of Weishaupt, she who was called the Great Virgin og Swiss Communism.

Foucault’s Pendulum

Padre Bresciani has informed me that, representing the German Illuminati, Babette d’Interlaken will come, the great-granddaughter of Weishaupt, the grand virgin of Helvetic Communism, who grew up amid rogues, thieves, and murderers.

I wonder if Babette of Interlaken is Eco’s own invention, or if there is some historical basis for her. Most of the characters in the Prague Cemetery actually existed, but for Babette the only source I’ve found is Foucault’s Pendulum.

She does also seem to appear in an adventure by Hans Christian Andersen, but I’ve found no connections to the Bavarian Illuminati or Helvetic Communism in his works. Perhaps I’m not diving deep enough.

This is Not the End of the Book #

Jul 30 2011

Thought provoking stuff from the ‘curated conversation’ between Eco and Carrière.

A more interesting question, posed by de Tonnac, is whether “an unknown masterpiece might still be discovered.” Eco’s response is similar to the comments of the late critic Hugh Kenner. Kenner pointed out that if a copy of the Iliad turned up for the first time today it would arouse an archeological curiosity but little more. Eco agrees. “A masterpiece isn’t a masterpiece until it is well known and has absorbed all the interpretations to which it has given rise, which in turn make it what it is,” he says. “An unknown masterpiece hasn’t had enough readers, or readings, or interpretations.”

Via Language hat

Hobolobo #

Jul 05 2011

A brilliant use of parallax by Stevan Živadinović.

A Fresh Take on Contexts #

Jul 05 2011

An interesting idea from Sven Fechner. With smartphones, tablets and Internet access nearly everywhere, we are no longer limited as much by our physical location or the tools at our disposal. Most of what we need to do can be done wherever we are.

The decisions we make today in terms of the next action we engage in is determine by time and attention available. Whereby attention is a combination of energy and priority. Priorities are either imposed on us, but more often they are also a choice we make: “What is important to me?”

My “Anywhere” context is growing into a massive beast, but on the other hand using the techniques described in Creating Flow with OmniFocus has helped me rein it in. With a clever use of flags and start dates - a fairly brain dead task to be honest - you can choose what you want to work on on any given day, and then stay focused on that. I can see the use of being able to quickly jump into brain dead mode using Sven’s system on top of that.