From 64 Reasons to Celebrate Paul McCartney by Ian Leslie:

His unashamed “normality” was an act of inverted rebellion, as transgressive, in its way, as Lennon and Yoko posing naked. But neither fans nor critics saw it that way, and to this day it is Lennon who best fits our Romantic idea of a great man; tortured, difficult and deep. Long before it became commonplace for male public figures to hymn the joys of parenting, Paul McCartney was showing us a different way to be a man, and we have never quite forgiven him for it.

From How Might We Help Designers Understand Systems? by

Working with systems requires designers to consider context, connections, and consequences; parts and wholes; stocks and flows of material, energy, and information; transformations and feedback; the sources of inputs and the disposition of outputs; larger and smaller scales; longer and shorter periods; which groups and actions are empowered or inhibited; and other dimensions of systems.

In many practices, designers face a shift from designing discrete artifacts to creating conditions in which dynamic systems can thrive and evolve. Designers must embrace working with systems of systems (information-product-service ecologies, other socio-technical systems, and nature itself). They must also embrace designing conditions for others to design; the design of design (meta-design, developing platforms on which others build).

Wherever I can I prefer to work in the browser vs. tools like Figma. As the web platform grows (we seem to be in a sort of golden age at the moment) it becomes easier and easier to do my job with only the raw materials of the web.

Recently I’ve been working on a project at the day job that requires the use of something akin to layout grids in Figma. I was curious how difficult it would be to recreate this on the web.

It took longer than I’d like to admit to figure out the math, but with a single repeating-linear-gradient we can overlay a representation of our grid onto the page. I whipped up a class for this with support for specifying your own number of columns and gutter width.

In the spirit of blogging the things I want to remember:

.grid-overlay {
  --n: var(--columns, 12);
  --g: var(--gap, 16px);
  --c: var(--overlay-color, rgb(255 0 0 / 0.08));
  --column-width: calc(((100% + var(--g)) / var(--n)) - var(--g));

  position: relative;

  &:before {
    content: '';
    position: absolute;
    inset: 0;
    z-index: 1;
    pointer-events: none;
    background: repeating-linear-gradient(
      to right,
      var(--c) var(--column-width),
      transparent var(--column-width),
      transparent calc(var(--column-width) + var(--g))

Slap that class onto your grid container and presto, you’ve got some rails in place to keep everything lined up nice and neat.

A screenshot of a webpage showing a 12 column grid.

repeating-linear-gradient invokes strange powers

Once again I’m left marvelling at the humble power of CSS, and feeling grateful that we live during times when such an expressive yet simple visual language is spoken so ubiquitously.

Check out the demo on Codepen.

Conjurings of the harvest moon

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. The trees outside my apartment here in Oak Park are shining gold, and the air is starting to feel crisp and cold. Sweater weather, if you will.

A towering castle set against a blue sky and surrounded by trees with golden leaves.

Hashimoto Okiie, Autumn at Himeji Castle, 1949

Besides the weather and foliage, the best part of the season may just be its rituals. One of my favorites is an annual rewatching of Over the Garden Wall, which is the coziest, most endearing television series I’ve ever seen.

If the show is to teach us anything, it’s that things are not always what they seem.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to this wonderful exploration of vintage postcards that share a vibe with OtGW from the blog Weird Christmas (which is written by, get this, Craig Kringle). The entire site is dedicated to vintage Victorian Christmas cards, which Craig collects and shares online.

A vintage postcard showing figures with pumpkins instead of heads sitting around in a field. A sign in the center of the frame reads "Heaven and how to get there".

Weird Christmas

A few of the show’s scenes appear to take almost direct inspiration from some of the postcards in Craig’s collection. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

I recently discovered that a new animated series on HBO Max, Scavenger’s Reign, is based upon an animated short which appeared online 4 years ago by Joe Bennett and Charles Huettner.

The short caught my attention when it originally released for being a beautiful and wholly original bit of science fiction. Sometimes the internet, like the world, is full of serendipity, and you might rediscover something familiar just like you might stumble into an old friend at a crowded place.

The first six episodes have already premiered, and I’m hooked already. The style is something like a cross between Fantastic Planet, Sable, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

A still image from the HBO Max series Scavenger's Reign depicting a vibrant and verdant alien planet with a metallic robot standing in the center of the frame.

I am such a sucker for any media that takes world building seriously, and the world of Scavenger’s Reign is overflowing with details—flora, fauna, and environments as alien as you’ve ever seen. The ecology of Vesta Minor, the planet on which the show takes place, is just as much a character as the humans stranded there.

Since there seems to be an animation theme going here, I’ll briefly mention how excited I am for the upcoming animated Scott Pilgrim series on Netflix: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. I have a love for both the graphic novels and the 2010 film, whose cast will be returning to voice the characters in the new series.

Robin Sloan recommended the book Ghosts and Demons of India in his latest newsletter, and I picked up a copy of my own just in time for Halloween.

I love books that can be imbibed in small sips like a hot cup of coffee. Ghosts reads like an encyclopedia of creatures and spirits from the Indian subcontinent, and each entry conjures up the most vivid images. I have no idea the pantheon of ghost stories in India was so vast!

Allow me to recommend one of my favorite blogs of late, which excites me every time it appears in my RSS reader. It is the wonderful Going Medieval by Dr. Eleanor Janega, who specializes in “late medieval sexuality, apocalyptic thought, propaganda, and the urban experience in general.” How cool is that??

Dr. Janega uses their expertise to make comparisons and critiques between modern internet culture and that of medieval societies. One of their latest posts was sparked by the recent national test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) on October 4 in the United States, which caused everyone’s smartphones to scream in unison. If you’re like me, you found it surprising and terrifying despite the numerous warnings online in the weeks leading up to the test.

Some folks found it more than surprising, though, and used it as the basis for conspiracy theories related to 5G, vaccines, viruses, and the like.

We often like to think of medieval European societies as unenlightened, unintelligent, and superstitious, but Dr. Janega reminds us that we’re not much better ourselves. Many bogus explanations were offered for the Black Death, and the parallels with how people respond to public health emergencies today are eery.

Definitely go read the whole piece, it’s full of gems like this:

I have repeatedly heard people now refer to the fact that “medieval streets were full of shit” to explain the spread of the Black Death. This is interesting because it is 1) not true – most medieval cities tightly regulated the disposal of human waste very strenuously and 2) would be irrelevant anyway even if it were true (it’s not) because that’s not how yersinia pestis travels.

On sickness and conspiracy

While I was writing this up, Dr. Janega posted another banger just in time for Halloween: You are not, in fact, the granddaughter of the witches they couldn’t burn.

Robin Rendle recently shared how he views the browser as a printing press:

So I’ve never seen myself as a designer or engineer or writer, but as a third thing. It’s sort of pompous and silly to call myself this word though, so I avoid it, but deep down it’s what I’m always thinking whenever someone asks what I do. But here, in this secret society of the newsletter, I will admit to you:

  1. I’ve always seen the browser as a printing press.
  2. Because of that, I’ve always seen myself as a publisher first and then everything else second.

Robin Rendle, The Browser is a Printing Press

I couldn’t agree more. The power of the browser is not that it gave us the ability to write or create art or build programs, but that it allowed anyone to publish those things to the entire world.

The application of the web—design, engineering, writing—are all interests of mine, but for me they’re inevitably second to the printing press itself.

Speaking of Robin, be sure to check out his latest newsletter, The Cascade which focuses on the past, present, and future of CSS. Robin has been exploring new color features in CSS in the latest issues and it’s been a delight to follow along with.

In the spirit of publishing, I’ve been working on a little side project that is an ode to the written word.

While I appreciate the convenience of ebooks and audio books, I have always preferred to own and read physical copies. As a result, I’ve accumulated quite a few books that are becoming increasingly difficult to store and move around. I know at some point I’ll need to slim down my collection, but I wanted to preserve it in its current form.

To that end, I decided the place to start would be creating a database of all the books in my physical collection. I spent a few weeks inputting titles, authors, dates, ISBN numbers, page counts, and more metadata about the titles on my shelves. I still have a few boxes of books to go through and log, but most of my collection is now captured digitally.

I decided to use Airtable for this job, partly because it has such an easy to use API. I wanted to display my collection in a way that was more pleasant to browse than a spreadsheet, so I built my own little frontend for the database.

It’s still very much a WIP, and not as performant as I’d like it to be just yet, but you can take a peek at

A screenshot of a website displaying Chase McCoy's collection of physical books in a grid layout.

A website can be a bookshelf

Now I feel much more comfortable donating some of my books knowing that I’ll always be able to look back over my collection.

I hope this season find you well. With reverence to the Great Pumpkin,


From You Can't Fake the Core by Ava:

Sometimes what we want is impossible. The life you want to live is not the life that wants to live in you. And to be become who you actually are, to honor your calling, your feelings, your joy, requires you choosing the life that wants you back.

From Glimpsing God by Nadia:

I worry that being immersed in a world of hungry, gaping maws, grasping for ideas – any idea – to gobble up; to compulsively transact in ideas for status, money, and friendship; pulls me further away from the divine somehow. Chasing ideas can be just as materialistic as chasing money or power.

In recent years, I've begun to suspect that a life consumed by ideas will not bring me closer to the divine. The freedom I seek, it seems, doesn't lie in my laying about, steeped in my own brain, but rather in the stillness I've found in the more mundane moments of my life. In these moments, there is no euphoria, nor even any active reflection on gratitude or happiness. Rather, it's the sense of just being – the absence of introspection – that brings me peace.

From Essay: TikTok's Eurocore Summer by Kyle Chayka:

The conversation you are participating in, even the primary experience that you are having, exists there, online. You’re not eating; you’re having Girl Dinner. You’re not cleaning your kitchen; you are taverncore. Your family isn’t rich; you’re just a coastal grandmother. The mood makes real life more interesting, or at least interweaves it more with life online, where feedback is instantaneous and it’s easier to keep score.

From my website by

But I am a big believer that a blog should be embarrassing! That’s like half the point of a blog, to be wrong about things ruthlessly, over and over again, to stumble in front of a crowd of strangers and hope that they at least smile at your attempt.

From The Making of Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner:

Here I am, as free as it's possible for anyone to be free to travel, work, fall in love – and I'm holding back, like I'm waiting for my life to start. This is my life. It's not a preparation for anything -it's the thing itself. I have got to remember that.

Everyone has their own particular form of self-destruction. Mine, I'm starting to think, is standing outside myself, watching myself live my life, turning my face so as to give the cameras a better angle, and thus missing the whole thing.

From On Successor States and Websites by Dr. Eleanor Janega:

Over at twitter this dance was happening but with weirdo right wingers. They were always mad because no one likes them because they are hateful, stupid, and have absolutely no rizz. Because they only know other weirdo right wingers IRL, however, they were convinced that there was some sort of nefarious plot to dunk on them online and they wanted to know when Twitter would acknowledge them, the biggest victims known to man. At the head of this was, of course, your man there Elon who is mad that he isn’t funny. He became convinced that there was an army of bots or something making fun of him and he demanded to know why twitter was letting people be mean to him. “You say that you want weirdo right wingers to be on this site and yet! You allow people to be very mildly mean to them!!! Even when they are the richest man on the planet! So much for free speech, etc.” Anyway, he accidentally got forced to buy twitter for too much money because he is quite stupid, and now here we are.

In a week that has contained the revelation that aliens are real and have visited our planet, the most exciting news may actually that 3 researchers in Seoul, South Korea claimed to have synthesized a new material that is a superconductor at room temperature and ambient atmospheric pressure.

I’ll leave it to others to discuss the implications of this, but if true it could turn out to be the greatest physics discovery of my lifetime.

It could also, of course, turn out to be false, and plenty of doubts are already being cast about the results and the researchers. But at this moment there are people all around the globe trying to replicate the findings, and we may start hearing about the results in a matter of hours. Some of them are even live-tweeting the effort. There’s an exciting energy of discovery and optimism stemming from this finding.

Just another reminder that every day is science fiction.

From The Lost Thread by Robin Sloan:

An indus­tri­alist might soon purchase Twitter, Inc. His substan­tial success launching reusable space­craft does nothing to prepare him for the challenge of building social spaces. The latter calls on every liberal art at once, while the former is just rocket science.

From I Miss the Internet. by Joan Westenberg:

And that brings me to the heart of it. I miss the internet. But to a degree, I also miss the person I was back when I had it; the person who had more energy and more fucks to give, who wasn’t quite so jaded by it all.

I miss the wide-eyed curiosity, the unbridled excitement, and the audacious hope we brought to our early digital voyages.

We’re seeing a surge of platforms self-sabotaging and choosing to suddenly restrict access to their content. These are all blatant attempts to trap users by digging a moat around the communities that they’ve created.

I can think of 3 obvious reasons why this might all be happening now as opposed to any time over the past decade:

  1. The content on social media platforms is valuable for AI training, and platforms want to capitalize on or keep that value for themselves.
  2. The recent, high-interest-rate environment has companies cutting costs in ways they might not before, and subsidizing API access for third party developers is no longer a bill they’re willing to foot.
  3. The bad behavior of platforms is creating a more competitive environment as new challengers spring up (Bluesky, Posts, Mastodon, and Threads all come to mind).

Those seem obvious, but are they really the cause? Is it one more than the other? Or something else entirely?

I wonder how much of this trend is really just a domino effect of CEOs realizing that they can get away with screwing over their users because they saw Elon Musk (or some other robber baron) get away with it.

From The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok by Cory Doctorow:

"Monetize" is a terrible word that tacitly admits that there is no such thing as an "attention economy." You can't use attention as a medium of exchange. You can't use it as a store of value. You can't use it as a unit of account. Attention is like cryptocurrency: a worthless token that is only valuable to the extent that you can trick or coerce someone into parting with "fiat" currency in exchange for it. You have to "monetize" it—that is, you have to exchange the fake money for real money.

This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they're locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they're locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.

Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two-sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

Working for the platform can be like working for a boss who takes money out of every paycheck for all the rules you broke, but who won't tell you what those rules are because if he told you that, then you'd figure out how to break those rules without him noticing and docking your pay.

Humane (the mysterious company founded by ex-Apple executives) has finally revealed the name of the product they’re hoping to ship this year: the Humane Ai Pin.

I’m as skeptical as the next person about AI and wearables and really anything with as much hypebeast marketing as this product has received. But if I put my skepticism aside for a moment I’m able to appreciate this for what it is—a group of people trying to create a new kind of computer and computing paradigm.

There’s a bit of footage out there of the device in action, but regardless of the specifics I think it’s essential that we never stop asking ourselves what a computer could or should be.

From Martina Plantijn Design Information · Klim Type Foundry by ⁵:

To curate means to care, not to make a list. We like to remember those who start things, but the real work of archives and institutions is the maintenance and continuation of them. Starting something is easy, caring for it over centuries is hard.

From Qualities of Life by Erin Kissane:

To be alive in the sense found in A Timeless Way of Building, a system would have to:

  1. avoid piling unresolveable stresses onto the people inside it,
  2. maintain its own aliveness through self-sustaining evolution and repair, and
  3. avoid worsening the life of the systems around it, ranging from peer-level technical systems to things like “civil society.”
From by

Business—ownership—does not contribute to production. It can only earn revenue through sabotage. Without the fences, the toll booths, the armed guards, the enshitification, then owners do not earn any profits. Capitalism must constantly make things worse than they would be if we were free to produce to meet our own and each other’s needs.

From Hello Again, Seattle by Venkatesh Rao:

Part of me suspects that 2009-19 was something of an invalidated cache of a decade, outside of the main continuity of history; a premium mediocre cul-de-sac of speculative collective existence. A decade that was all noise and fury, signifying nothing. A decade destined to be largely forgotten, much like the 90s.

This is more than a place; it’s an embodied set of personal memories. Memories that exist against the eerie backdrop of the now-ephemeral-feeling zero-interest-rate decade with all its frivolities. Memories destined, perhaps, to be lost to cultural amnesia along with the rest of that somewhat embarrassing period.

Still, it’s unsettling to be reminded that you’ve consciously chosen a life in the slow lane, marked by spectatorship, contemplation, and what looks like idleness from busier perspectives. A life filled with what seem like consolations rather than prizes when viewed from the perspective of a more intensely lived one. It’s not unpleasant to live this way, but it is certainly unsettling to be correctly seen to live this way by a thoughtful observer. I once tweeted, “you have no obligation to be interesting or useful to the world,” and I’ve certainly lived by that thought. But I guess I’m now seeing that life reflected in an honest mirror, and I’m doing a bit of a double take to understand what I’m actually looking at.

From The Dream of the Personal Machine by Kyle Chayka:

The young heroes of these shows got agency from their devices, too — the devices were representations, perhaps, of their control over their own lives and the adventures they were on, something that I desperately wanted. If you had the device, you could do anything, go anywhere.

Palm Pilots came out in 1997 and the first BlackBerry in 1999. I remember wanting one of these devices even as a 12-year-old, when I would have had no use for the kind of calendar planning and to-do list making that made up most of its functions. Boring, adult stuff! The devices were clunky, their screens were plasticky, and they used styluses. But still there was this ineffable appeal to holding a gateway to a digital world in your hand — though I don’t think I could even conceptualize getting the internet on a portable device at the time, since this was the era of dial-up.

From All This Unmobilized Love by

About 25 years into the social internet era, we’ve seen weirdly little experimentation with social forms at scale. Most of our emerging networks have been driven by the workability of technical forms: chat, forums, feeds, galleries, streaming video, two or three variations on comments, and increasingly powerful (and decreasingly transparent) recommendation engines.

From Ways of Being by James Bridle:

Fungi and plants are not simple stores or servers; they too are individual life forms with their own disposition and agency. In thinking about the strange and wondrous life of other beings, we must be careful not to fall back into such reductive, anthropocentric models. Nevertheless, of network theory, and perhaps more importantly the idea the power of universal, scale-free networks, is that it allows us to appreciate these forms in ways we were incapable of doing before. This is a gift from the technological to the ecological: a way of seeing and thinking the natural world which emerges from the things we have crafted for ourselves.

One such clonal wonder is Pando, an aspen living in Fishlake National Forest in Utah. At ground level, Pando looks like a forest. They take the form of more than a hundred acres of quaking aspen trees; 47,000 tall, slender trees with white bark and black knots, whose leaves turn shades of brilliant yellow in the autumn. But in fact Pando is one individual, a single organism, in which each tree trunk is a shoot from a single root system. They are one of the largest and oldest individuals on Earth.

No wonder then that the poet Richard Brautigan was moved to imagine 'a cybernetic forest / filled with pines and electronics / where deer stroll peacefully / past computers / as if they were flowers / with spinning blossoms'.

While the machines we are constructing today might one day take on their own, undeniable form of life, more akin to the life we recognize in ourselves, to wait for them to do so is to miss out on the full implications of more-than-human personhood. They are already alive, already their own subjects, in ways that matter profoundly to us and to the planet. In the words often attributed to Marshall McLuhan (but more properly ascribed to Winston Churchill): ‘we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us. 23 We are the technology of our tools: they shape and form us. Our tools have agency, and thus a claim upon the more-than-human world as well. This realization allows us to begin the core task of a technological ecology: the reintegration of advanced human craft with the nature it sprung from.

Ecological thought, once unleashed, permeates everything. It is as much movement as science, with all the motive, restless energy that word connotes. Every discipline discovers its own ecology in time, as it shifts inexorably from the walled gardens of specialized research towards a greater engagement with the wider world. As we expand our field of view, we come to realize that everything impacts everything else – and we find meaning in these interrelationships. Much of this book will be concerned with this particular ecological thought: that what matters resides in relationships rather than things - between us, rather than within us.

From A Brief History of Creativity by Elan Kiderman Ullendorff:

The relationship between creativity and power becomes so strong that it allows for two seemingly contradictory things to occur in parallel: when exercised by the managerial class, it is used to grant capital (think: the deification of the startup founder), and when exercised by the working class, it is used to deny capital (think: the frivolousness ascribed to arts education). Relatedly, the ultimate manifestation of this relationship is the creative logic of social media, wherein users create the content and platforms reap the monetary rewards.

From Life After Language by

Here is the thing: There is no good reason for the source and destination AIs to talk to each other in human language, compressed or otherwise, and people are already experimenting with prompts that dig into internal latent representations used by the models. It seems obvious to me that machines will communicate with each other in a much more expressive and efficient latent language, closer to a mind-meld than communication, and human language will be relegated to a “last-mile” artifact used primarily for communicating with humans. And the more they talk to each other for reasons other than mediating between humans, the more the internal languages involved will evolve independently. Mediating human communication is only one reason for machines to talk to each other.

From Stewarding Design System Contributions | by Nathan Curtis | EightShapes | Medium by

So many people! So many opinions! Which opinions really matter, anyway? From which teams? A contributor may neither have relationships nor own critique agendas. And those open, visible community venues are a risky place to be vulnerable. It can seem dangerous and beyond their control.

A steward’s best response? “Leave that to me.” The steward must know how to trigger the routines and involve people who matters most.