Tenday Notes 11 Aug - 20 Aug 2021

Tenday Notes 11 Aug - 20 Aug 2021

Every ten days I share a quick digest of what I've been working on. Here's the latest. More in the series here. Want them in your inbox? Sign up.

Things are busy for me right now. I'm currently working on an extremely short-deadline sonification project for a large US company, a long-term editing job on a large scientific report for a large US charity, a deep analysis of some survey data and a map-based web design project for Possible, a bit of visualization work for a UK startup, preparing for the launch of my dataviz membership programme, my usual writing commitments for Minecraft.net, and trying to progress a few little art projects in the background.

It's a lot of stuff, but the plates are all still spinning at the time of writing, at least in part thanks to my excellent collaborators. I'm enjoying the busyness too - I like having a lot of stuff going on, and it's always when things quieten down again after a busy period that I find I need to watch out for my mental health.

This busy state will last more or less all through September to about the end of October, and then it should calm down a bit. After that I'm not planning on taking on any more work before the end of the year - just meeting the commitments I've already made, taking stock and having a breather.

Bikeshedding. Yak Shaving. Rubberducking. Bus factor. Dogfooding. Five tech industry idioms worth knowing.

5 Commonly Used Idioms in the Tech Industry
Bikeshedding, rubber ducking, dog fooding, bus factors, yak shaving…what the heck are my colleagues even saying?

Your actions, tiny as they are on a global scale, do make a difference when it comes to climate change - and it's because they're infectious. Here's a good explainer from Annie Lowrey in the Atlantic.

All That Performative Environmentalism Adds Up
Don’t depersonalize climate change.
What communities do, laws reflect—this is another reason to act on climate change, and urgently. “We’re part of a society, where people interact with companies, companies interact with the government, and people interact with the government. And in all of these cases, the interactions go both ways,” Jonathan Gilligan, a physicist and a climate-change researcher at Vanderbilt University, told me. “Each part influences another.” Many climate activists believe that changing social norms around carbon-intensive behaviors makes the likelihood of dramatic climate-change legislation in the future more likely, not less.

Read the rest.

Bipsi is a web-based tool for making small, game-like story worlds, where a character explores a world and interacts with its inhabitants.


One of my favourite bands of the 00s indie boom, and probably the band I've seen live more than any other, is British Sea Power. Or, as they're now known, Sea Power.

The band has changed its name, which was always a ironic reference to imperial nostalgia, at least in part because irony is very much out of fashion. This is okay - it's normal to feel weird today about things that felt fine one, five, twenty years ago. Times change and people change.

They write:

In recent times there’s been a rise in a certain kind of nationalism in this world – an isolationist, antagonistic nationalism that we don’t want to run any risk of being confused with. It’s become apparent that it’s possible to misapprehend the name British Sea Power, particularly if someone isn’t familiar with the band or their recordings. We always wanted to be an internationalist band but maybe having a specific nation state in our name wasn’t the cleverest way to demonstrate that.

And they also add that the problem isn't the British Isles.

We’d like to make it clear that removing the word “British” does NOT indicate any aversion to the British Isles whatsoever. We all feel immensely fortunate to have grown up in these islands. Several or our songs are filled with love and awe for this place. We do love these lands. We all still live within the British Isles, but we are now just Sea Power.

For my part, I'm really happy to see them freely drop an aspect of their identity that made them uncomfortable. Oh, and their new single is really rather good.

If any of you have a musical leaning, we're looking for people to cover, remix or resonify tracks from Loud Numbers for a remix album later this year.

Amateurs are very welcome! I'm pretty much an amateur too and I'll be making one. You can reply to this email, or shoot us a message on numbersloud@gmail.com.

XKCD's Global Average Temperature Over My Lifetime is a masterpiece of data storytelling.

Global Temperature Over My Lifetime

Finally, here's one to file under "trivial given the circumstances, but interesting nonetheless". US soldiers watch the withdrawal from Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield through the lens of Pokemon Go (published about six weeks ago).

Soldiers watch the US withdrawal from Bagram Airfield through the lens of Pokemon Go
Digital rodents and abandoned Pokemon presided over the streets of Bagram Airfield on the day news broke that U.S. troops had left the base.
Screenshots of Bagram after the troops left show low-level Pokemon, normally easily defeated, stuck guarding locations, perhaps indefinitely. A tiny Lotad has defended the former Warrior Chapel at Bagram for 10 days, while a lowly Aron has defended a memorial to a fallen servicemember for about two weeks.

Catch you next time.