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Rubenerd Show 377: The Golden Gate episode

Rubenerd Show 377

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27:51 – Join Ruben and Clara as they explore around Mission Bay in lieu of taking the Muni Metro T line, then across to explore the grounds of the Transamerica Pyramid, then over to a very foggy crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Intro news clip from KPIX5 CBS.

Recorded in San Francisco, California. Licence for this track: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution: Ruben Schade.

Released July 2018 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts.

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Self esteem, NSFW, artists, @dai1313

A Twitter thread made me think about a ton of things I’ve been trying to reconcile for a while, which deserved a proper blog post while I sit at this San Franciscan coffee shop like a good little hipster nerd.

Self esteem

Long-time tweeter @dai1313 retweeted artist @fkey123, which I liked and subsequently retweeted — view the artists’s original tweet for the full size:

It, along with this art and this political cartoon made me think how distant artistic skills seem:

How do people even art. The phrase “I can’t even draw stick figures” gets thrown around a lot… (via @dai1313)

This garnered a response from the one above:

Lol same. Hidden behind every great artist is 10,000 hours of sucking realllllllly bad at art. It’s the same as putting your passion for computers above and beyond your job.

There’s a lot of truth to that. There are so many things I’ve been fascinated to try: jujitsu, fencing, open-source software development; but have been scared away at the thought of being judged.

FreeBSD core contributor, podcaster, and author Allan Jude at AsiaBSDCon introduced me to Imposter Syndrome which definitely resonates. Even in projects or endeavours I’ve presented to the world, including this blog, I still feel like I’m faking it till I make it, when the real experts are out there experting.

Maybe that’s the double-edged sword artists and developers share: unlike others, we can toil in expletive-filled privacy until we’re confident enough to show the world; but then breaking out of that shell becomes a struggle.

Is this appropriate?

Which leads to the second comment by @dai1313:

Like I always feel a little hesitant to retweet art I find, partly because ‘SMUT’ and [I] know the normies aren’t down with that

It reminds me of this comic by H. Caldwell Tanner:

Anime fan: Whoa, what an insightful metaphor for the degradation of modern culture! Non-anime fan: Why isn't that girl wearing pants.

This applies to so many series, not least fan art. Gurren Lagann is widely considered one of the greats, but Yoko wears a bikini. My sister loved the comedy sci-fi Needless, but warned of “underwear everywhere!” on the part of the gents and ladies. Even a cultural revolution like Madoka Magica carries short skirt warnings by western reviewers — really.

Anime has a very different set of norms given its foreign context, but also decades of accumulated in-jokes and references. It’s reasonable for someone outside this bubble to find it weird or objectionable, even if I can’t relate.

(I was brought up to find people under physical duress with blood and gore far more objectionable, but western society prefers violence to wardrobe malfunctions. That’s fsck’ed, but also for another post).

Thus, I gradually chickened out over the last decade here, and avoided sharing art and series I was watching. I’m sad about that in hindsight; I’d love to go back and see what I thought of certain things at the time.

Do I keep self-censoring? Do I add a NSFW Read More link for posts that some might find questionable? Or do I get over the hangup entirely, and live with the potential shift of this site’s rating? I’m open to suggestions!

Artists respect

And the second part of that above tweet:

[..] but partially also like, it feels like I’m not properly crediting or it undervalues their work or something.

This deserves its own post. But in short, I completely agree, though it took me being in a long term relationship with an artist to make me appreciate it. It shouldn’t have had to.

San Francisco’s South Park

Nestled between 3rd and 2nd street near the Bay Bridge approach is South Park. That sentence structure was terrible; probably because I’m too relaxed. The street splits in two, and wraps around this cute urban park which I’ve found myself sitting at a few times.

At the eastern end there’s a Blue Bottle Coffee, the first of their branches I went to, which is outstanding.

I wandered to that coffee shop and through this park on my first day here, it was just what my 16+ hour jetlagged mind and body needed :)

LAX, delayed LAX, now SFO

Clear icon from the Tango Desktop Project

I wrote about Clara’s American Airlines LAX adventures yesterday. And my otherwise positive LAX experience day before, which I can see was not done by knocking on wood. Today, I got this:

Expect longer security checkpoint lines at San Francisco Airport

As you get ready for your flight from San Francisco Airport, please note that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint lines may be longer than normal.

We recommend arriving at the airport earlier than usual to allow enough time to get through security. Also, to help make the security screening process as smooth as possible, please ensure that you’re familiar with our carry-on baggage policies:

No mention of why. Maybe they have me on record as opting-out of the full body scanners, and a groping takes longer.

Scrolling to get to content

Why does it take so long to scroll to the content of a contemporary site in 2018? Take this otherwise great post from The Outline. It takes about 1,300 pixels, or two hits of the spacebar on this MacBook, to reach the text of the post we’ve all come to read.

It looks superficially beautiful, and can be mitigated by tools like Instapaper, but I’ve got to think its an accessibility concern. That, and the 30+ externally hosted scripts and includes that are baked into it. As I wrote in May:

[E]mphasising beauty in place of other attributes leads us to all sorts of accessibility, performance, and privacy problems. But I suppose you can’t argue [those sites aren’t] pretty!

If we’ve decided huge, inefficient sites are the norm, the least we should have are responsive layouts that account for smaller devices. Not to sound cynical, but it’s almost as though responsive design was explicitely invented for this!

To their credit, the newsletter subscription box appears inline on the page, not on a lightbox popup. Everyone should be doing this.

A revised LAX post

Photo of the Theme Building at LAX, taken from my phone

Yesterday I wrote:

I’m sitting at gate 9 in one of LAX’s domestic terminals, and it’s lovely. Proper chairs, power points, carpet, nice and quiet. People have told me horror stories about LAX, but either they’ve cleaned up their act, or I’ve had a string of very good luck the last few times I’ve been through here. But I digress.

Evidently, like a proverbial fallen ladder that some inconsiderate person must have walked under, the universe couldn’t let that stand. Clara’s flight was more than ten hours delayed by the time she took off from LAX back to Sydney. Overnight.

She said she understood that planes will have mechanical issues; the bigger issue was a lack of communication. Their gates were constantly being changed, once to one that didn’t even exist. Staff had no idea what was going on, and getting any kind of status update was like pulling teeth.

So LAX is fine, until there’s a problem, and it falls apart. Sounds like Sydney Trains. My dad avoided the airport like the plague; maybe I’ll heed his advice and travel to Vancouver or San Francisco instead, and only fly LAX domestically.

The theme building is still pretty cool, though.

Positive Southwest booking feedback

Southwest logo

People are so quick to jump online and whinge about negative experiences, so I thought I’d make a specific effort to post positive ones when they occur.

Last week I booked flights for a quick trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Southwest, on recommendation from a colleague. I chose early Monday morning and late Friday evening to maximise my time there. The website was straight forward, booked, click click, got an email confirmation and an SMS, done.

Then I read the confirmation email… and my heart sank faster than the freefall lift that injured my shins back in Sydney. I’m looking at you, Eastern Elevators. I’d booked the flights the wrong way, with late night on Monday and early morning Friday!

Phone calls are the absolute worst things ever, so I had a poke around on the website. Low and behold, under Trips was a Change Flight link. Within half a dozen clicks I had the new flights booked, and at no cost, and without having to talk to anyone.

This may be normal, but it was a novelty for me how easy this was. Nice one!

Wasting writing talent on finance

I’m sitting at gate 9 in one of LAX’s domestic terminals, and it’s lovely. Proper chairs, power points, carpet, nice and quiet. People have told me horror stories about LAX, but either they’ve cleaned up their act, or I’ve had a string of very good luck the last few times I’ve been through here. But I digress.

The language on the Singapore Wealth Builder website is being wasted writing financial news. This is from their latest news on the United Overseas Bank:

Could it be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Despite the challenging operating conditions and the toxic loans from the ailing oil and gas industry, UOB stock had an enthralling fairy-tale run, surging from $17.20 in 2016 to $30 in 2018. It certainly seemed that nothing can stop the explosive form of UOB stock price, until the recent short-selling activities and property measures halted the majestic run.

6 July 2018 would be remembered as Black Friday for local bank and property stocks as Singapore government sent the market into a devastating tailspin with the announcement of additional property cooling measures. There was chaos in the stock market as bank and property stocks suffered from carnage.

Imagine if they were a sports commentator, or a science fiction writer.

As an aside, I’ll always resent UOB a little for buying the similarly-titled OUB, and thereby withdrawing one of the all time great logos to be used by a Singaporean company; this deserves its own post. And also, because the queues for UOB ATMs were always far shorter than the ones for DBS/POSB.

That was a lot of initialisms; another thing Singapore is known for. FYI.

The NASA X-59

Mockup concent photo of the X-59 flying over a rural town

I was ecstatic to sit in the cabin and cockpit of Concorde in 2016; albeit one on static display at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York. The idea that commercial supersonic planes would ever fly again in my lifetime seemed impossible.

There have been economic reasons precluding further development, but noise was as big a factor. Sonic booms generated by Concorde limited it to flying over the ocean between coastal cities; relegating it to New York to London and Paris over the Atlantic. The same route as the ocean liners of yore that I will also likely never get to experience. No Blue Riband runs for me; it’s a tough, tough life.

But there’s research being done to address the sonic boom. Jim Banke of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate announced this research last week:

NASA’s newest experimental aircraft, designed with quiet supersonic technology and intended to help open a new era in faster-than-sound air travel over land, will forever be known in the history books as the X-59 QueSST. [..]

Now under construction by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company at its famed Skunk Works plant in Palmdale, Calif., the X-59 QueSST is designed so that when flying supersonic, people on the ground will hear nothing more than a sonic thump – if anything at all.

I’m fascinated to see how they pull this off. Presumably one can’t just pull off sonic boom from a plane; it’ll take engineering prowess and ingenuity to accomplish its removal.

Santa Monica and Savage Garden

Stereotypical shot of laptop with Coffee Bean cups I've been taking here for years

I’m blogging today from Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles. This is an important place for Australians, for several critical reasons:

  1. It’s the setting for the closing song on Savage Garden’s 1997 eponymous debut album, Savage Garden. Hence my description of it being eponymous, you silly goose.

Wait, that’s only one reason. But my point stands! I was in primary school in Singapore in 1997, and heard those faux-American accented Australians singing in every shopping centre I went to. I hear it now, and it immediately takes me back.

Terrible photo of the Savage Garden cover next to the pier

From the song:

In Santa Monica, you get coffee from
the coolest places on the promenade.

Check! Well, we’re at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the promenade, not sure if that counts. But this chain means a lot to me; I spent a large part of my life hanging out in them when I was going to school in Singapore, and again in Malaysia. Most of the blog from 2005-2009 was written from those coveted tables near power points on a first generation MacBook Pro, when I wasn’t studying in Adelaide.

Those years were tumultuous, in as much they could be for a sheltered expat. Home? Where/what is that? I still don’t know the answer.

Back to the song:

In Santa Monica, on the boulevard,
you’ll have to dodge those inline skaters
Or they’ll knock you down

Those quintessentially awesome 1990s lyrics have long since given way to four new realities. First, I had to look up how to spell quintessentially. Second, self-entitled blogging experts claim you’re not supposed to start sentences with first, second, or other numbers. Third, you’re also not allowed to use skates, likely on account of the required, aforementioned dodging:

No skating!

And lastly, those skaters all gave way to electric scooters you can rent. I love scooters and badly wanted to try one, but I didn’t have a helmet. You may not need one, but I’m just enough of a klutz that it’d be a good idea.

Savage Garden, regroup and make more music. Maybe you could come back here and update your song to talk about the new Metro Line, or how while everything else looks so much different compared to 1997, chances are the jetty looks exactly the same.