Goodreads review • The Prince

The PrinceThe Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently I never clearly understood the term ‘Machiavellian’. I always assumed out of context that it meant being manipulative to the extreme. While the manipulative aspect is definitely still there, it’s a different form of manipulation. It’s when and how to manipulate, not to ignore it as it would not be right. That’s maybe a subtle difference, but it changes everything.

The world will carry on regardless of your good intent and you sometimes simply need to fight fire with fire. The Prince gives an overview of when such occasions might arise when in government (or in this specific case, while being a prince). Yet its lessons are applicable to different fields as well. Once that idea settles in, the book becomes a good read and (in hindsight not surprisingly) a potential strategy guide for the Civilization computer game series.

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Goodreads review • Making Sense of Color Management

Making Sense of Color ManagementMaking Sense of Color Management by Craig Hockenberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s a problem with Making Sense of Color Management. After reading it, you won’t necessarily feel better about the subject. In all seriousness, you might even despair a bit more having looked into a pocket dimension you could’ve done blissfully without.

However, Making Sense does give you some yardsticks to cling unto for hope. If you’ve ever run into the problem of graphics and web colours not matching up, or wondering why photos look ‘different’, this is what you need. Comes recommended if you work with digital graphics.

Unfortunately, it’s not a wholehearted recommendation as Making Sense assumes you are working on Apple hardware. If you work with anything else, this book will give you some rough basics. It feels like a missed opportunity to not turn this text into a more universal resource, but maybe that’s just nitpicking. Get it anyway.

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Instagram’s not-so-subtle change

Did you notice it? Did you open your Instagram app and declared: “hey, that’s different”?

For an app that was predominantly laser focused on mobile photography, it seems Instagram is aggressively trying to innovate and grow by breaking new ground (by, ironically, mimicking other products). To me, that subtle icon change in the navbar wasn’t so subtle. To me it was jarring.

Source: On Instagram’s Inverted UX Iceberg

Yes, the camera icon was swapped out for a plus sign. Ali rightfully suggests this has been done to be more universal understood by its now immense audience. Another more potent reason brought forward is that as Instagram is opening up to multiple forms of messaging beyond a single photograph, the camera icon itself becomes obsolete.

The plus is a more general way of saying “add content”. Which means that Instagram is not yet done with copying Snapchat. It may look towards other forms of competition. In the end, it might even start to incorporate Facebook functionality as imaging becomes even more important.

We don’t know how food works

In the Netherlands we’ve had a surge in the “to meat or not to meat” debate, thanks to one of the government agencies suggesting we eat less meat. As per usual, this draws all kinds of folk out of the woodwork extolling the benefits of whatever they deem to be correct.

Back in 2007, Michael Pollan produced a very common sense view on food and nutrition:

 

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice.

Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products.

That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat ”food.”

Source: Unhappy Meals | Michael Pollan

The article underneath the link is a long long-read, but worth the effort. Though we may think we’ve got food nailed down in terms of nutrients, we’re actually casting a very narrow view on it. Plants, meats and fruits all contain a multitude of chemicals influencing each other’s effects.

Sure, specific micro-nutrients can be traced back to a certain effectiveness. But it turns out extracting these micro-nutrients from food and consuming them separately (or adding them to other foods), does not provide the same nutritional value.

Add to that the blunder we made about the importance of fat, and a consequential overreliance on carbohydrates and we may have stumbled upon the recipe for cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

The article also adds some view about how and why cultural diets (Mediterranean, Japanese, I guess even Dutch) work. In the end we still don’t know exactly how food works.

Until we do, we shouldn’t just reminisce about how things were better in the past, we should eat like it as well.

On visualising data

Data visualisation is an increasingly important tool to explain what data is acually telling us. After all, seeing is believing. But what you want to get across is often linked to how you present it, and data is no different.

“Let the data speak” they say. But what happens when the data rambles on and on?

Source: One Dataset, Visualized 25 Ways | FlowingData

Nathan Yau presents a single dataset in 25 different ways and lays down some basics along the way in how to make data visualisation work.

Keep it in mind whenever these charts pop up in the media.

Nioh is an ode to the Soulsborne

Nioh

It has taken a suspiciously long time before anyone attempted to emulate the success of Demon’s Souls and its offspring the Dark Souls series. Only two years ago did Lords of the Fallen take a somewhat random stab at it (and died). From Software’s own Bloodborne was so similar that it spontaneously generated the “Soulsborne” genre name and wasn’t even regarded as a competitor. Maybe it’s simply too difficult a task to fill From’s shoes. Would be kind of poetic, wouldn’t it?

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“Turning CO2 to Stone”

It won’t help us reverse the effects of global warming fast enough, but there is a way to lock CO2 into a more permanent form.

At Iceland’s Hellisheidi Power Plant, Lamont hydrologist Martin Stute, Adjunct Senior Research Scientist Juerg Matter, and colleagues tried something different. They used CO2 captured at the power plant, and mixed it with water and hydrogen sulfide, creating soda-like carbonation, then injected the mixture into porous basalt rocks 400 to 800 meters underground. Basalt, which is created as lava cools, contains calcium, iron, and magnesium, which react naturally with CO2 to form solid carbonate minerals. Within two years, 95 percent of the injected CO2 had turned to mineral – far faster than the 8–12 years originally expected.

Source: Turning CO2 to Stone – Science Bulletin

A “cool” technique, but it might take a while for it to be adopted on a grand scale.

Good Omens Series Will Come in 2018

In 2017 we can use all the good omens we can get…

“Almost 30 years ago Terry Pratchett and I wrote the funniest novel we could about the end of the world, populated with angels and demons, not to mention an 11 year-old Antichrist, witch-finders and the four horsepeople of the Apocalypse. It became many people’s favourite book. Three decades later, it’s going to make it to the screen. I can’t think of anyone we’d rather make it with than BBC Studios, and I just wish Sir Terry was alive to see it.”

Source: Good Omens Series Will Come to Amazon and the BBC in 2018 | Tor.com

The Sun’s space weather

In case melting poles and intensifying weather within the confines of our own planet wasn’t worrying enough, we also need to keep track of the Sun. Because it might just fire off some harsh “space weather”.

A solar storm, though, could be responsible for an off-the-charts economic disaster. Global Positioning Systems, satellite services and electronic communication systems are all at risk from the solar flares known as coronal mass ejections.

But it’s national power grids that are seen as the most vulnerable earthbound assets, with a risk that power surges will overload transformers which are both expensive and difficult to replace. Changes in the earth’s magnetic field interfere with electrical currents and blow large high-voltage transformers, which take at least five months to build and are bulky to transport.

Source: How Space Could Trigger a Future Economic Crisis – Bloomberg View

The Sun giveth, the Sun taketh away. You’d think we’ve come incredibly far as a species, only to still be at the mercy of our original faith-inspiring celestial body.