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NASA Ames Research Center's 1970s-era space settlement project shaped a vision of the future.

Via Artsy:

In 1975, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, dreamt up ideas for habitats that could house human civilization in space. Rick Guidice was a freelance illustrator with a background in architecture when NASA tasked him with creating the artistic renderings.

While the diagrams Guidice referenced might have envisioned how humans could survive in outer space, his paintings depict a future where humans could thrive. Lush English gardens and glassy ponds fill the floating platforms of cylindrical space colonies. Spherical habitats are flanked by reflective surfaces that mimic sunlight. A cross-section of swirling structures reveal rich layers of agricultural farmland. This was NASA’s modernist fantasy of the future.

NASA Ames Research Center Cylindrical Colony

More on the settlement project.

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, offworld.

On Scouring

Back in 2013 Brian Green published a review of the Lunatec Trekr washcloth. My showers haven’t been the same since.

The Trekr is a simple nylon scouring cloth, measuring 11” x 11”, with an elastic loop for hanging. It’s the same material as a synthetic loofah, but being a flat cloth it doesn’t hold moisture. At the time Brian posted the review I was on a campaign to eliminate sponges and sponge-like things from my life. Any cleaning tool in the bathroom or kitchen that holds water becomes a Petri dish for bacteria, in humid areas especially so. I bought the Trekr to try at home, and it immediately earned a spot in my daily ablutions.

Lunatec’s marketing campaign for the Trekr revolves heavily around the cloth being “self-cleaning”, which just means that the material doesn’t absorb anything, dries quickly, and every time you use it you are cleaning it with soap and water. I think this claim is accurate, though I still throw them into the laundry every couple weeks, more as impetus to rotate the cloths than out of the need to clean them.

Shortly after acquiring the Trekr I learned that it was just a smaller take on the Salux cloth. Hailing from Nippon, the Salux is exactly the same material as the Trekr, but measures in at a longer 33” x 11”. The larger size makes it easy to scour your back, as demonstrated by the naked lady on their packaging.

I now own about half a dozen of the Salux cloths for use at home, and the same number of Trekr cloths. I throw a Trekr cloth in my bag whenever I’m showering away from home – travel, backpacking, at the gym, or after the axolotl tanks.

To use either the Trekr or Salux, I wet the cloth, give it a few gentle swipes across a bar of soap (it also works fine with liquid soap), and then start scrubbing from head to toes. The cloth lathers, cleanses, and exfoliates dead skin – which, as we learned from Gattaca is key to leading a successful life in our future eugenic utopia.

I have also tried the Lunatec Scrubr dishcloth, which is made of a thicker and more abrasive nylon. It is less exciting. I’ll occasionally use it to scrub a surface clean at home, but for backcountry dish cleaning the spatula reigns supreme.

This post was published on . It was tagged with review, ablution.

The score to Blade Runner 2049 failed to live up to the original, and is the only thing that prevented me from scoring the film 10/10.

But as an ambient soundscape, it excels. The soundscape creator wrote about his experience cutting, slowing, and mixing the score. I keep a copy of his audio on my phone and play it whenever I need white noise – concentration, mediation, sleep. It proved excellent on an airplane a couple weeks ago.

Ambiance

Luv loop via reddit.

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, audio.

Future Social Media Influencer

I ate lunch today at a park. There was a child, probably four or five years old, happily kicking a soccer ball around while his parents sat watching him from a nearby picnic table. Occasionally the parents would stop paying attention to the child and start talking amongst themselves. At this point the child would stop kicking the ball, and begin to scream “Look at me!” while stomping his feet. After a minute or so the parents would look back at the child, who would resume happily kicking the ball around – until the parents began talking again, at which point the cycle would continue.

At first I found myself thinking that the parents might do well to address this behaviour, but then I realized that this was an outmoded way of thinking. The parents were clearly setting the child up for a bright future in social media, where nothing is worth doing unless other people are watching you do it.

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Mobile Weather

Los Angeles is suing The Weather Channel for selling the data of mobile users. This behaviour shouldn’t be surprising. Most mobile software, from the operating system on up, seems to exist primarily to provide some base modicum of functionality in exchange for the privilege of fucking you in new and exciting ways.

There are exceptions to the rule. I starting using Arcus for mobile weather in 2014, and it seems pretty respectable. But it exists solely to display data from the Dark Sky API, which is something that a web browser is also capable of doing, thus raising the question: why install anything?

About a month ago I simply bookmarked Dark Sky‘s website and had Firefox add a shortcut to that bookmark on my home screen. Dark Sky’s website is responsive, so it works fine in any viewport size. I bookmarked the URL for my home location, allowing me to see weather at home in a single tap. Elsewhere, it required two taps: one tap to open the bookmark, and one tap on their geolocation icon to get the correct forecast for my current location.

I find Dark Sky’s data to be great for reporting on the hyper-local now. For reports that are wider in scope – either in terms of time or space – nothing beats the National Weather Service. They provide a mobile specific site that is perfectly usable on small viewports. Annoyingly, they don’t make use of the web geolocation API, instead requiring users to manually enter a location. When travelling I may not know what zip code I’m in or have a nearby address. To work around this I created a shim with a few lines of Javascript that geolocates the user, uses the resulting coordinates to build the proper NWS URL, and redirects the user to that URL. I also added support for building a Dark Sky URL so that I could avoid that second tap when not at home.

<!doctype html>
<html>
    <head>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Geoweather</title>
        <link rel="icon" type="image/ico" href="https://www.weather.gov/favicon.ico">
        <script>
            function geoWeather() {
                navigator.geolocation.getCurrentPosition(function(pos) {
                    var currentURL = new URL(window.location.href);
                    if (currentURL.searchParams.has('darksky')) {
                        var forecastURL = 'https://darksky.net/forecast/' + pos.coords.latitude + ',' + pos.coords.longitude;
                    } else if (window.screen.width < 800) {
                        var forecastURL = 'https://mobile.weather.gov/index.php?lat=' + pos.coords.latitude + '&lon=' + pos.coords.longitude;
                    } else {
                        var forecastURL = 'https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=' + pos.coords.latitude + '&lon=' + pos.coords.longitude;
                    }
                    var el = document.getElementById('result');
                    el.innerHTML = '<p>Forecast URL is <a href="' + forecastURL + '"> ' + forecastURL + '</a></p>';
                    window.location.replace(forecastURL);
                });
            }
            window.onload = geoWeather;
        </script>
    </head>
    <body>
        <div id="result"></div>
    </body>
</html>

Now I have two URLs bookmarked on my home screen that accomplish everything I need: one for NWS and one for Dark Sky.

Shortly after creating this shim I discovered that the NWS has a beta website that is intended to replace both the current mobile and standard sites with a consistent interface. This site does make use of the geolocation API, requiring the user to click an icon to get the current location. It is unclear why they have yet to deploy this to their main domain. It’s been available since August 2017 and the data on the beta site seems to be the same as the data on the standard site and the data on the mobile site. For now I’m sticking with the officially supported domains in my shim.

A locally installed weather program is useful if your requirements include lock screen widgets or notifications of hazardous conditions. Mine do not. These two bookmarks provide all the weather information I need on my telephone, and do so in a way that does not expand my attack surface in the way installing software does. They are indicative of the usefulness of this World Wide Web thing – an emerging technology that I intend to watch with great interest. I think it’ll go places.

This post was published on . It was tagged with android.