Interesting and/or cool stuff I've come across from art, design, technology, photography, movies I've watched and liked and, occasionally, my thoughts.

The photographs taxi driver Joseph Rodriguez took while driving around New York City are now available as a book. I've previously shared this series, published by New York Magazine.

What the FFT

Marcin Wichary wonderfully writes about discovering an obscure technique for sharpening and de-moiréing old images using FFT or Fast Fourier Transform.

I also loved this bit:

I’ve always had this theory that any long-term project requires two ingredients: things you’re good at, and things you want to learn. The first group gives you a feeling of accomplishment and mastery. The other one? It keeps things interesting.

via Pixel Envy

Chef del Mar

The very best chefs are not mere cooks, they are also chemists, engineers and of course, artists. Ángel León is one of these, always curious, always looking to find new ways to create culinary sensations.

He wants to go deeper to find something you didn’t know existed: “What’s more hedonistic, eating something no one on the face of the earth has ever tried, or eating another f-cking spoon of caviar?”

Cádiz’s native son has dedicated his life to the sea, Chef del Mar, the locals call him, approaching the ocean like most chefs approach the farm. Seafood is not just fish and mussels, there’s also plants with roots and leaves and fruit and one of these is chef Léon’s latest focus - Zostera marina.

But now, he believes he’s discovered the centerpiece of his ambitious dream: fields of rice stretched out for miles of paddies, the feathery stalks - protruding from the sea itself. Scientists have long identified seagrasses as one of the most vital ecosystems in the fight against climate change, but what few knew is that those blades of grass also contain clusters of small, edible grains with massive potential.

With more research, effort, and with any luck, eelgrass could be cultivated at scale and since it grows in salt water, which most of the water on Earth is, there is room to grow.

via Time Magazine
photo courtesy of Paolo Verzone—VU for TIME

Window House by FARATARH Architectural Studio in Iran. Photo © Nimkat Studio.


There can be too much light.

Today I learned: a Kugelblitz is the (theoretical) phenomenon where the concentration of light (or heat, or radiation) is so intense that it warps spacetime enough to spawn a black hole.

Further down the same Wikipedia rabbit hole I learned of the concept of black hole starships — using black holes as an energy source for interstellar travel.

Staying hydrated while dulling the pain.

Noted, May 2021

Collected bits and pieces I've noticed this month.

Signal ad campaign reveals creepy tracking, gets them banned

The secure, privacy focused messaging app Signal created a series of ads that cleverly exposed the data Facebook has on you to target the advertising you see. You'll never see these ads on Instagram though, cause Facebook swiftly banned Signal's ad account.

I loved this last bit:

So, here are some examples of the targeted ads that you’ll never see on Instagram. Yours would have been so you.

NFTs Weren’t Supposed to End Like This

Anil Dash writes about the origins of NFTs and how the original ideas behind it were, let's say, more noble than the inevitable reality of most things tech and crypto.

The idea behind NFTs was, and is, profound. Technology should be enabling artists to exercise control over their work, to more easily sell it, to more strongly protect against others appropriating it without permission. [...] But nothing went the way it was supposed to.

Bertone porn

This Docubyte ministe celebrating (mostly, I think?) Bertone designed concept cars is gorgeous. Check out their other stuff as well.

Create better links

A link is a promise, not a surprise.

Rian Rietveld writes at length about creating better links on the web from choosing better copy instead of "Click here", to design considerations for better accessibility.

Create better anchor links

More link talk from Amber Wilson, this time about crafting better anchor links and the accessibility pitfalls to look out for.

Portfolio update

Almost forgot, I created a little logo for a food truck called Van Der Fritt.

Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017)

Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)

Noted, April 2021

Collected bits and pieces I've noticed this month.

Om Malik has some samples of what happens when computational photography meets (more) artificial intelligence — Apple's ProRAW image format combined with Adobe's new Super Resolution feature.

Huum, an Estonian design sauna heater maker has won two more Red Dot awards, very cool! I mean hot!

You should buy a whole chicken, really. I've never considered eating the cartilage, until now, and learned there's a piece of chicken called the oyster.

Microsoft is planning to replace Calibra with a new default font in Office apps. I never really liked Calibra. (via The Verge)

In other things Microsoft, a concept design that doesn't feel like a concept — reddit user u/Alur2020 re-imagines the Windows File Explorer UI. (via The Verge)

Hackers for Dear Leader: The Incredible Rise of North Korea’s Hacking Army

"In Conversation: Mads Mikkelsen" in The Vulture had this nugget in it:

"My approach to what I do in my job — and it might even be the approach to my life — is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film. It is the most important thing. I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important."

"Waves of Abandonment" The number of neglected abandoned oil wells in Texas alone is startling, the result of lax regulation and jerks running oil companies.

"When New Yorkers Were Menaced by Banana Peels" A brief history of slipping on banana peels in New York.

Noted, March 2021

Collected bits and pieces I've noticed this month.

Terminal bonsai

John Allbritten created this little thingumbob that lets you grow a bonsai tree in a terminal window.

The difficulty of doors in video games.

I don't think I've ever given much though to doors in video games, unless they act real weird - badly designed doors are just as annoying in video games as they are in real life. Well designed doors on the other hand should be forgettable and achieving this in a video game is harder than you might think.
"Why game developers can’t get a handle on doors", The Verge

The booze shader

Another thing that's hard to get right in video games is liquids and still stay within a reasonable performance budget. Vfx developer Matt Wild nailed it for Half-Life: Alyx, I especially loved this clever bit of performance optimisation:

“When I shake a bottle, [the liquid] kind of wobbles around a bit. So we make it wobble around a bit, inasmuch as the wobble looks about right.”
It’s this wobble that initially delayed the shader, as there wasn’t an efficient way to get the information into the game. In the end, the performance cost was negligible, because Wilde’s colleagues at Valve realized they could store data in the shader’s vertex color.

"Why the bottles in Half-Life: Alyx look so dang good" Polygon

Pictures of apps and websites

I've long been of the opinion that modern design tools are lacking or perhaps even misguided. While I admit that big strides have been made in reducing the amount of work designers have to do to get an idea to a working product, we are still largely making pictures of apps and websites. It's much easier these days to link these pictures to quickly prototype an idea and describing specs for developers has largely been automated, but at the end of the day it's still pictures of apps and websites.

I was reminded of this again when I came across this article by Carol Chan on how to construct complex variants in Figma. I mean, 288 card header variations? Sure, a card header may very well have this many variations and the design should be robust enough to handle them elegantly, but there must be a more effective way to go about this. Working closer to actual code and trying to break the component while testing and then iterating on it perhaps, not making 288 pictures of the component.