How a video game community filled my nephew’s final days with joy

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Michael Holyland was elated by the empathy, kindness and creativity of the team behind his favourite video game Elite Dangerous. Photograph: Mathew James Westhorpe

My nephew, Michael, died on 22 May 2019. He was 15 years old.

He loved his family, tractors, lorries, tanks, spaceships and video games (mostly about tractors, lorries, tanks and spaceships), and confronted every challenge in his short, difficult life with a resolute will that earned him much love and respect. Online in his favourite game, Elite Dangerous by Frontier Developments, he was known as CMDR Michael Holyland.

In Michael’s last week of life, thanks to the Elite Dangerous player community, a whole network of new friends sprang up in our darkest hour and made things more bearable with a magnificent display of empathy, kindness and creativity. I know it was Michael’s wish to celebrate the generosity he was shown, so I’ve written this account of how Frontier and friends made the intolerable last days of a 15-year-old boy infinitely better.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

A beautiful article which, despite its tragedy, does an excellent job of showcasing how video gaming communities can transcend barriers of distance, age, and ability and bring joy to the world. I wish that all gaming communities could be this open-minded and caring, and that they could do so more of the time.

Metropoloid: A Metropolis Remix

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Yaz writes, by way of partial explanation:

You could fit almost the entire history of videogames into the time span covered by the silent film era, yet we consider it a mature medium, rather than one just breaking out of its infancy. Like silent movies, classic games are often incomplete, damaged, or technically limited, but have a beauty all their own. In this spirit, indie game developer Joe Blair and I built Metropoloid, a remix of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis which replaces its famously lost score with that of its contemporaries from the early days of games.

I’ve watched Metropolis a number of times over the decades, in a variety of the stages of its recovery, and I love it. I’ve watched it with a pre-recorded but believed-to-be-faithful soundtrack and I’ve watched it with several diolive accompaniment. But this is the first time I’ve watched it to the soundtrack of classic (and contemporary-retro) videogames: the Metroid, CastlevaniaZeldaMega Man and Final Fantasy series, Doom, Kirby, F-Zero and more. If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare and a love of classic film and classic videogames, then you’re in the slim minority that will get the most out of this fabulous labour of love (which, at the time of my writing, has enjoyed only a few hundred views and a mere 26 “thumbs up”: it certainly deserves a wider audience!).

Imogen Heap: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

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In the second half of this video (directly linked), Imogen Heap demonstrates how she uses her Mi.Mu gloves as an expressive music manipulation tool, and then goes on to sing the most haunting rendition of Hide and Seek you’ll ever hear. The entire video’s great – in the first half she brings Guy Sigsworth up to sing Guitar Song, finally answering after 17 years the question “What if Frou Frou got back together?” – but if you only listen to the second half of this video then it’ll still improve your life.

@AndyReganCDF: I nudged you about this last week but you were at Glastonbury and I don’t know if you picked it up after you got back, so here’s a renudge.

I Staked Out My Local Dominos to See Just How Accurate Its Pizza Tracker Is

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It wasn’t that long ago that I stumbled across a piece in The Atlantic about how TurboTax uses bogus progress bars when completing a tax return. Since reading this, I got to thinking about the most important progress bar in my life — the Domino’s Pizza Tracker. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the Domino’s Pizza Tracker is the colorful, light-up progress bar in the Domino’s app that tracks each step of your pizza’s progress, from when it’s first being prepared until it arrives at your home.

Curious about its accuracy, I decided to stake out my local Domino’s. The plan is as follows: I’m going to place an order for delivery while hanging out in the restaurant, then compare each progress mark on the tracker with what’s actually happening with my pizza. Then I’m going to follow the delivery guy in my car until he arrives at my house, where my wife will be ready to receive him. For the record, I’m going into this hoping that the pizza tracker is not in fact a lie, but I’ll be honest, I do have my suspicions, so I plan to get to the bottom of this hunch.

Me, steely-eyed and ready to determine just how accurate the Domino’s Pizza Tracker really is.

I knew it! I totally knew it! I’ve long been highly-sceptical of Dominos’ Pizza Tracker ever since – long ago – Paul got me thinking about how much easier it’d be for them to have it just “tick along” than to actually, you know, track pizza. Still, I’m pleased to see some serious (?) investigative journalism into the matter!

I Put Words on this Webpage so You Have to Listen to Me Now

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Holy cow. I am angry at how people do thing with tool. People do thing with tool so badly. You shouldn’t do thing with tool, you should do other thing, compare this:

I am using tool. I want to do thing. I flopnax the ropjar and then I get the result of doing thing (because it’s convenient to flopnax the ropjar given the existing program structure).

Guess what suckers, there is other thing that I can use that is newer. Who cares that it relies on brand new experimental rilkef that only like 5 people (including me) know? You need to get with the times. I’d tell you how it’s actually done but you wouldn’t understand it.

Look at this graph…

Man, I hate the way that people are using tool as well. I’ve been using tool to do thing for a long time now, so my opinions count more than everybody else’s. Also, even though the way I use tool is still supported and will be indefinitely, I’m absolutely opposed to tool being able to be used in a new and different way that does thing that other people want. Why can’t they just learn to use tool the way that it’s always been used?

Y’all wanna hear a story about the time I accidentally transported a brick of heroin from Los Angeles to Seattle?

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…We decided to sell our bikes, and buy a 1979 Dodge Ram van. I want to say we paid like $600 each for it — $1200 all in. It needed a little work, but the important part was it was all easy stuff. We named the van Cassandra, and wrote our names on the door.

The plan was easy: We’ll drive up the Pacific Coast highway, and camp all along the way. We took the middle seats out of the van, so we could sleep in it at night in case it was raining. Then we went to REI to get hammocks for hammock camping.

£20 for a boiled egg, one piece of toast and a mug of tea?

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Egg and toast

£20 for a boiled egg, one piece of toast and a mug of tea?

The story of a modern London cafe…

(Read to end of thread before commenting!)

An amazing thread well-worth reading to the end. Went in expecting a joke about hipsters, millennials, and avocado-on-toast… finished with something much more.

The problem with single page apps

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Single-page apps (or SPAs as they’re sometimes called) serve all of the code for an entire multi-UI app from a single index.html file.

They use JavaScript to handle URL routing with real URLs. For this to work, you need to:

  1. Configure the server to point all paths on a domain back to the root index.html file. For example, todolist.com and todolist.com/lists should both point to the same file.
  2. Suppress the default behavior when someone clicks a link that points to another page in the app.
  3. Use more JavaScript—history.pushState()—to update the URL without triggering a page reload.
  4. Match the URL against a map of routes, and serve the right content based on it.
  5. If your URL has variable information in it (like a todolist ID, for example), parse that data out of the URL.
  6. Detect when someone clicks the browser’s back button/forward button, and update the URL and UI.
  7. Update the title element on the page.
  8. Use even more JavaScript to dynamically focus the content area when the content changes (for screen-reader users).

(Shoutout to Ashley Bischoff for those last two!)

You end up recreating with JavaScript a lot of the features the browser gives you out-of-the-box.

This becomes more code to maintain, more complexity to manage, and more things to break. It makes the whole app more fragile and bug-prone than it has to be.

I’m going to share some alternatives that I prefer.

Like – it seems – Chris Ferdinandi, I’ve got nothing against Single Page Applications in their place.

My biggest concern with SPAs is that they’re routinely seen as an inevitable progression of web development: that is, that an increasing number of web developers have been brainwashed into thinking that they’re intrinsically superior to traditional multi-page websites. As Adam Silver observed the other year, using your heavyweight Javascript framework to Ajaxify your page loads does make the application feel faster… but only because the download and processing time of the heavyweight Javascript framework made it feel slow in the first place! The net result: web bloat, penalising of mobile users, and brittle applications with many failure points.

Whenever I see a new front-end framework sing the praises of its routing engine I wonder how we got to this point. After all: the Web’s had a routing engine since 1990, and most efforts to reinvent it invariably make it worse: less-accessible, less-archivable, less-sharable, less-discoverable, less-reliable, or several of these.

Look After Lorcán

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Lorcán on a swing

This is Lorcán. Lorcán has cystic fibrosis (CF) Lorcán is two years old. Lorcán has been fighting a potentially life shortening lung infection for the last six months and treatment isn’t working.

There is an amazing drug called Orkambi made by Vertex that is not funded on the NHS, this drug could help Lorcán and thousands of others. Over 240 people in the U.K. have died waiting for it to become available. Vertex and the U.K. government are letting people with CF die because of a disagreement over cost.

Parents have had to find an alternative way of getting these drugs for their children and the Cystic Fibrosis Buyers Club have found a generic copy of the drug that individuals can legally import, it is a fifth of the cost. This is however still beyond what we can pay.

I’ve previously shared (one, two) content about my friend Jen‘s two-year-old son Lorcán, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, as well as joining in the #strawfiechallenge earlier this year. A particular aim of Jen has been to get access to a drug that could add decades to her son’s life, but which isn’t being made available on the NHS. Running out of options to get access to medicine that could dramatically improve her kid’s quality of life and prognosis, she’s now set up a GoFundMe and is soliciting donations.

If you can help, even just a little, please do.

Berlin 8:00 a.m.

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This explorable features an agent based model for road traffic and congestion. The model captures a phenomenon that most of us have witnessed on highways: phantom traffic jams, also known as traffic shocks or ghost jams. These are spontaneously emergent congested segments that move slowly and oppositely to the traffic. The explorable illustrates that phantom jams are more likely to occur if the variability in car speeds is higher:

So, if say 90% of the cars try moving at 120 km/h and 10 percent at 150 km/h, everyone might end up going 80 km/h on average. Whereas if everyone travelled at about 120 km/h no reduction of collective traffic flow occurs.

Traffic simulator

This is the best demonstration I’ve ever seen of the creation of phantom traffic jams. Playing with the (interactive) model, you can set up scenarios and watch how they affect traffic throughput. When everybody drives at 120km/h, everything’s fine. But when everybody drives at between 120km/h and 150km/h, traffic jams occur which result in everybody having to slow down to less than 120km/h!

This counterintuitive fact is hard to explain to people, but this interactive model makes it perhaps a little bit easier.

(There are, of course, other – more human – factors that result in an increased frequency of phantom traffic jams, but mathematicians are rarely concerned with what happens in the real world!)

Go play with the interactive.

The last Soviet citizen: The cosmonaut who was left behind in space – Russia Beyond

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Alexander Mokletsov/Sputnik

Sergei Krikalev was in space when the Soviet Union collapsed. Unable to come home, he wound up spending two times longer than originally planned in orbit. They simply refused to bring him back.

While tanks were rolling through Moscow’s Red Square, people built barricades on bridges, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union went the way of history, Sergei Krikalev was in space. 350 km away from Earth, the Mir space station was his temporary home.

He was nicknamed “the last citizen of the USSR.” When the Soviet Union broke apart into 15 separate states in 1991, Krikalev was told that he could not return home because the country that had promised to bring him back home no longer existed.