Computer Files are Going Extinct

From Simon Pitt over at OneZero, emphasis mine:

“The other day, I came across a website I’d written over two decades ago. I double-clicked the file, and it opened and ran perfectly. Then I tried to run a website I’d written 18 months ago and found I couldn’t run it without firing up a web server, and when I ran NPM install, one or two of those 65,000 files had issues that meant node failed to install them and the website didn’t run. When I did get it working, it needed a database. And then it relied on some third-party APIs and there was an issue with CORS because I hadn’t whitelisted localhost. My website made of files carried on, chugging along. This isn’t me saying that things were better in the old days. I’m just saying that years ago websites were made of files; now they are made of dependencies.

Call me old-fashioned, but I do think things were better in the old days, so I’ll stick to static files and vanilla Python for my projects.

Writing is Thinking

The first time I read through Steph Smith’s Writing is Thinking: Learning to Write with Confidence, I thought it was fine. Then I read it again. The second time, I thought it was great — an interesting breakdown of a much more mature writing process than my own, that gave me some good ideas for writing more and writing better. I have not done much writing about writing since I started again, but I hope to; maybe something like this, about how Steph’s piece changes my process, will be my first.

The Best Time to Plant a Tree Was 20 Years Ago

I like to plan ahead, and so I think about long-term financial security even now, in my early twenties. As the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” When I decide to retire, I will get to say I chose the first.

The 8% Income Portfolio

The folks over at Seeking Alpha, one of my new favorite websites, posted an interest writeup on a portfolio that has outperformed the market since October, 2014. Check out the original article here. As I work to eliminate debt and build a nest egg, so that I can then invest and prepare for retirement early, this subject has become ever-more interesting to me. Seeking Alpha — clearly — has some great advice, from some smart people.

Why We Love the Airstream Flying Cloud

I have read a lot of Aaron and Jen’s work, but it took this video to make me realize how nice they had it. Their Airstream-Silverado combo makes for a great setup, which made me re-think my plan to build an LMTV-based RV. With $40,000 for a used Airstream, though, plus another $30,000 for a used truck to pull it, I would spend more going this route and get a less capable setup. The M1083 will give me more living space atop a chassis that can go almost anywhere — and a trailer, no matter how slick, just can’t compete with that.

First Crack Release Notes, September 2019

As I rolled into the last week of September, I started thinking about this post and how I have done almost nothing for it. I put a lot of work into some major performance wins last month, but lost almost all that momentum when I decided to write my own Instapaper-like read later service in September. It needs some more work before I release it, but I will. I did get a couple things done, though, even if I did forget to post this until the first week of October had already passed; I did not neglect First Crack entirely.

Building a Syllable Dictionary with Python

As most projects do, this one started small. I already had a way to preview Markdown files. Proofer also counts words, sentences, and paragraphs, then averages those values and estimates reading time. The script finds complex or overused phrases, and highlights repeated words, be verbs, and adverbs that make for weak writing, too. It also calculates the Gunning Fog Index, and scores for the Flesch-Kincaid reading ease and grade level tests. I built this script to give me a few more features than Marked, which I had used to proof my writing for years. It worked well, but runtime shot up if it had to process posts with more than a few hundred words. I set out to fix this, and ended up building an entire syllable dictionary in Python. Proofer has still not gotten any faster.

Land Shark Outfitters KISS Drawers

I like these drawers from Land Shark Outfitters. With big names in the space pricing their systems at well over $1,000, I love the idea of a polished product at half the price. My sleeping platform came out to about $600, with two sets of $215 36“ lock open/close slides and a $145 pair of 28” base mount slides. Having gone through that build process, though, and after seeing this system from Land Shark Outfitters, I think I could cut it in half. My 4Runner may have a Jeep parked beside it within the next year or two, so we will find out soon.

The Sum of its Parts

I have said it before, and I will say it again: if I had the chance to buy a new Defender 110 in North America, I would have a hard time saying no — even though I have settled on the LandCruiser 78 as my dream adventure platform. That classic aesthetic sucks me in every single time. So when I cam across Form Meets Function on Expedition Portal, where Chris Cordes details Heritage Driven’s Defender 110 restoration process, it happened all over again.

Let's Talk About LandCruisers

I spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about my rig, redesigning the Tacoma I want to build, and dreaming of adventuring. In one of these recurring dreams, I travel to far-flung places in a decked out LandCruiser 78. You may know it as the Troopy or the J78. I fear this will never become a reality, though, for a few reasons I touch on later. But that feeling did get me thinking. Why did I want a Troopy so bad? What would it take to get one? Would something else serve my needs better? Today, let’s talk about LandCruisers.

Survival & Backpacking Water Filter Tests

The folks over at ITS Tactical linked to a great review of popular water filters by Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply. They put a ton of work into this piece, and event sent water samples off to a lab for testing. Fantastic.

Building My 4Runner Sleeping Platform

I chose the 4Runner for many reasons, and in part because I could take it off-road without expensive upgrades. I needed it to do more than just take me to cool places, though: I needed it to support me once I got out there, too. Because I had set my sights on the East Coast, I focused on gear to make that trip safer and more fun first, rather than new tires, bumpers, and recovery tools. As part of that process, I built a storage system and sleeping platform in my trunk. Today I want to talk about its conception, design, and construction.

Growth hacks: coffee with an experienced engineer you don't know

Gergely Orosz has some great advice for professional networking, for people who don’t do networking well.

“A surprisingly efficient networking method I found was doing cold reach-outs to more experienced software engineers, offering to buy them coffee or lunch. In exchange, I asked them to share their advice ... What I did not expect was this approach to be far more valuable than just a one-off networking session. In all cases, I had fascinating conversations on problems they were facing and found myself explaining the biggest challenges on my plate. ... developers buying coffee and having a chat with other, local developers is an underrate hack for professional growth. It is also under-used.”

Outfitting My 4Runner for Adventure

Today I get to spend some more time on one of my favorite topics, the vehicles you use to get the gear you pack to the places you want to go. I outlined the process that led to my 4Runner in Choosing an Adventure Rig, and today I want to talk about its loadout. In the first part of this article, I will talk about the gear that stays in my vehicle full-time; in the second, I will outline a basic packing list for a typical adventure.

How to Boost a Distributed Team

Ɓukasz Zuchowski has some great advice for making better distributed teams. This covers many of the things I have heard elsewhere. Some of these apply to centralized teams, too.

Choosing an Adventure Rig

Out of all the topics I want to tackle here, I feel most excited to talk about adventuring. Although my passion for it all but died out in high school, after seven moves in as many years, it reignited in college: when I had to decide whether my profession would be the anchor that kept me stationary or the means to a nomadic lifestyle down the road, I chose the latter. This choice has informed every major decision I have made since then, and will continue to influence my actions in the future. Today I want to talk about the first choice it touched, my decision to buy a new car, and the journey that led me to a 2018 Toyota 4Runner.

Rethinking Extinction

Stewart Brand, with a fascinating look at the results of conservation efforts amidst cries that the sky is falling:

“The trends are favourable. Conservation efforts often appear in the media like a series of defeats and retreats, but as soon as you look up from the crisis-of-the-month, you realise that, in aggregate, conservation is winning. The ecologist Stuart Pimm at Duke University in North Carolina claims that conservationists have already reduced the rate of extinction by 75 per cent. Getting the world’s extinction rate back down to normal is a reasonable goal for this century. Restoring full natural bioabundance in most of the world will take longer, however. It would mean bringing wildlife populations back up to the marvellous level of ecological richness that existed before human impact. That could be a two-century goal.”

We could all do with a bit less alarmism, and a bit more reality in its place.

Tesla's Autopilot found partly to blame for 2018 crash on the 405

The fact that anyone finds this surprising is mind boggling. The fact that anyone would use this as evidence that Tesla’s Autopilot system is somehow unsafe blows my mind. The authors cited two accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, meanwhile I pass an accident caused by an inattentive driver about once a month on my three mile drive from work back to my house. We would be lucky to have such an “unsafe” system driving our cars.

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

At over 16,000 words, Tim Urban has some good advice for choosing a career. Back in college, I used to shake my head at all the lost students around me. One of my friends said it was unrealistic to expect kids, fresh out of high school, to know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I argued that eighteen years was plenty of time to figure that out, because it’s not that hard:

Start with things you like, narrow your scope to things you do well, then filter based on viable careers. Smack that list with a hard reality check. Take those that managed to hang on, set them aside, and do some introspection. Identify your goals first, so you can rule out paths that will not get you to them. Hopefully a few careers remain. Identify what drives you last, so you can highlight the paths that will make you happy in the long run. Sort the few that remain by the amount of time and effort it would take you to get into that field and then become successful.

High school students should do this before they graduate high school, not after spending years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree just to to abandon it partway through — or worse, after spending years and tens of thousands of dollars on no degree, in an undeclared major, just to drop out to learn a trade. Choosing a career is not complex, nor even hard. Society does young adults a great disservice by telling them it is, and by allowing them to put off important life decisions until well into their 20s.

The Toyota BXD

Patrick George over at Jalopnik posted a picture of a Toyota BXD20 the other day, and I had to check it out. Kinja had a nice article about the vehicle. I would not say no to a BXD, but given the chance to build on a platform like this, I would just go with a similar AM General Humvee. AM General has built almost 10,000 per year since 1984 for militaries around the world, which has proven the vehicle’s reliability and made it readily available for cheap. With a few modifications, like locking differentials, I would have a similar rig for much less time and money.

Pre-rendering static websites with wget

What a cool idea from TJ Holowaychuk. For a while before I re-released First Crack, my static blog engine, I used a custom Node.js frontend to serve my site. I ended up overhauling the project to build a static website instead, but I could have just used this neat trick instead.