Archive for February, 2024

Profile of Vaclav Smil

The Walrus has a great profile of controversial writer Vaclav Smil, a prolific scribe of non-fiction about whom Bill Gates said “I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie.”

Smil is a complicated figure, often pitting himself against environmental activists. I expected to disagree with a lot of his points, but after reading the profile I find myself much more in sync with his views than I would have expected, particularly with his view that decarbonization of the economy is going to be problematic, if not outright impossible. It pains me, but I’ve thought that for years. I’ve gotten into more than one argument with positive-thinking people who told me straight-faced that our economy would be totally de-carbonized within a couple decades. I’m much more pessimistic, despite going to great lengths de-carbonize my own life.

As the profile reminds us:

Vaclav Smil has spent half a century provoking combatants on all sides to examine their assumptions.

Read the Entire Profile →

De La Savane Metro

What Class Are You Issac?

Erica Heilman’s incredible podcast Rumble Strip is a series of portraits of life in rural Vermont. Her most recent series involve her asking people what socioeconomic class they belong to. In her most recent episode, Erica asks 18 year old Isaac what class he belongs to. He expresses his feelings on coming from a lower class background incredibly well:

I would say that one key thing we overlook about class struggle is this social poverty. People of the lower class are deprived of these opportunities to express themselves because they don’t have time. I’m part of a government program, a trio program called Upward Bound. Its main purpose is to get first-generation, low-income high school students into college, and even though we have these programs, people don’t take advantage of them because they have other things they have to do. Most of the people in my senior year class they have to work, and they work because they’re poor, because their family’s poor, and they need money. Just because you’re you’re of a lower class or a higher class that you can still suffer in different ways, but I believe that opportunity is harder to come by when you’re in a lower class.

Visit the Episode Page →

Nick Cave on Motivation

In his mailing list, The Red Hand Files, this week, Nick Cave responds to comments from other artists about their troubles with motivation:

Every time I set foot in my studio, intentions blazing, I crumble with pathetic and flaccid paralysis. Do it, paint. No. Fuck. Why not?

And he responds with some harsh but useful words on what it means to do creative, artistic work:

What makes our particular job so exceptional that it requires inspiration or a muse to do it? We are artists and we labour in the service of others. It is not something we do only if and when we feel motivated – we create because it is our responsibility to do so. In this respect our occupation is no different than that of most people. Does an ordinary adult go to work only if they feel in the mood? Do doctors? Do labourers? Do teachers?

Read the Entire Response Here →

Trois Disques

Detail of Alexander Calder’s 21 meter-high sculpture ‘Trois Disques’. Taken in Montreal’s Parc Jean Drapeau.

Book: The MacOS App Icon Book

I don’t talk much here about my day job as a software designer at Rogue Amoeba, but this seemed too cool to pass up. Star Danish icon designer Michael Flarup has put together a beautiful book about the design of app icons on the Mac. Alongside the work of numerous talented designers are a few examples of my own work, for example the largest, most detailed, rendition of Audio Hijack app icon I’ll probably ever see:

The whole book is beautiful, and worth getting a hold of if you like looking at page after page of icon craftsmanship assembled in a handsome package.

Pre-Order Here →

Book: Dilla Time

Don’t sweat it if you don’t know who hip hop producer J Dilla is. I only had a rough understanding of who he was, and what his impacts on music were, before I read Dan Charnas’ amazing biography.

Dilla was a hip hop producer in the 90’s whose programming of drum machines brought in a style of drumming which nobody had ever really heard before. His beats were erratic and off time, which on those early drum machines took some effort to achieve. They weren’t quite straight time, and they weren’t swing time. They were in Dilla Time. He used this technique to give his music a slightly off, slightly drunk, even slightly unsettling feeling.

A great read, especially for those who love 90’s hip hop and sampling. Buy it at your small local independent book store.

National Gallery Stickers

The National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, uses stickers as passes. Put one on your lapel and go inside. As a side effect of this, as people left the gallery they stuck them to the lamp post outside, which led more and more to do the same.

Taken during my autumn trip to Ottawa.


This facade of a building in my neighbourhood went and fell down this week. Last June I thought the whole thing looked precarious, and took this photo of the temporary structure:

Parliament of Ghosts

From this New York Times profile of art in Ghana comes this photo of a beautiful space created by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, titled Parliament of Ghosts. What an incredible space.