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Letterform Archive and Google San Francisco

This week we had a team outing to the Letterform Archive in San Francisco. It was both fun and educational; they’d pulled out materials ranging from hand-drawn religious texts (a pair of Book of Hours), both hand-drawn and printed (Gutenberg) bible pages, early printed materials, and more modern magazines and books. I personally found some of the early printed materials the most interesting, particularly an early specimen page and book. They’re roughly the equivalent of a modern font book; you looked through a printer’s specimen book to choose a type for your printer materials.

Print specimen page

I used the trip to the Archive to also check out Google’s San Francisco offices (we visited the Archive in the morning, and I worked from the SF offices in the afternoon). I only visited the Spear Street building (there are a handful of others), but it seemed pretty nice (it does seem like all of the peripheral locations are nicer than the main campus, possibly because they’re newer). They clearly have lots of folks that visit; a variety of spaces were marked as for use by visitors. And the location is nice: near the Bay Bridge and not too far from the Ferry Building.

View from Google SF

Blog editors

When I first started blogging I used ecto, but it didn’t really keep up with the times so I switched to MarsEdit. It’s regularly updated, and I’ve stuck with it through the latest version (granted there was a long hiatus in there where I mostly stopped blogging). But I’ve also been playing with WordPress’ desktop app, which is based on Electron, and I have to say that it’s quite nice. It’s not as powerful as MarsEdit, but since it’s custom built to work for WordPress it aligns more closely to the base WordPress UI, which has its advantages. And it is lightweight and fast. Right now I’m still going back and forth between the two, picking which to use mainly by whim, but I could see potentially switching to using just the WordPress app if it continues to meet my needs.

Trying out more minimalist running

I got back into running several years ago through Zombies Run (which, if you’ve never tried it, is a great way to make it fun to start getting in shape). After a few years of listening to its episodes every time I went running, I switched to mostly listening to music instead. For the last week and change, though, I’ve been experimenting with listening to nothing at all. No headphones, no phone, just tracking my run with my watch.

I’m not sure if I’ll choose to stick with it (particularly as the weather heats up music can make it easier to keep going, and I’ve been running a bit slower without music to help set a fast pace), but there are some things I like about it. It’s easier to keep track of my breathing, so I can better judge whether to push or ease off. I find that I run a bit lighter too; I notice when my feet are starting to pound the pavement a bit too much and can work to switch to a lighter stride. And it’s obviously easier to pay attention and listen to your surroundings without headphones in. So at least as a short-term shake-up to my running routine it’s been a nice change. Longer-term is an open question.

Prepping for summer

My daughter is prepping for finals this weekend, and she wanted to spend some time studying outside (it’s lovely in the Bay Area today; around 80, slight breeze, bright blue sky). That served as the forcing function for me to uncover and clean off our patio table and chairs (which, let me be blunt, totally needed it). It took a bit of time and effort, but the payoff was worth the effort. I’m currently kicking back in a comfy chair with a cold glass of water, goofing around on the Internet while she studies. I’m ready for summer.

QT Luong’s Talk at Google

I mentioned in a previous post that attending Talks at Google was one of my favorite perks of working there, and that I was disappointed that I’d had to miss QT Luong’s talk “Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks”. It finally appeared on YouTube, so I sat down to watch it today. The talk was very enjoyable; his photos are amazing, and he talked a bit about his process and equipment as well. Having bought his book (which, if you’re interested in the National Parks and/or nature photography, you should definitely buy; it’s a steal at $45 on Amazon), I also found it interesting to hear a bit about the history behind it and how he worked to get it published. With the warm weather this weekend it’s making me wish we were visiting a Park this weekend (although they’re generally insane on national holiday weekends).

Another Bike to Work day

Bike to Work Day in Silicon Valley was May 10, and by the numbers it was a success with over 44,000 participants (a new record). I bike in early, but even so I saw noticeably more people than usual (and a passed a couple of “bike trains” of people biking together). But there didn’t seem to be a lot more people when I left work; I wonder if all of the bike commuters left early? Or late? Or perhaps they were all attending one of several “bike away from work” parties.

IBM and Samsung never did much in the way of swag for BTWD; a frisbee or cheap plastic sunglasses was about the limit. Google had a small celebration for participants, with amusing Google BTWD 2018 socks (I’m sure they’ll be a collector’s item in the future). Granted the free food would have been more impressive if, you know, the food weren’t always free.

I enjoy participating in BTWD, but I’ll confess it doesn’t feel nearly as epic as when I would bike down to IBM Research’s Almaden lab and surmount the hill at the end. That was an impressive 25 mile trek. Nowadays it’s just my usual 5 mile ride. Still, I’m much rather have a low-key BTWD that blends into my daily commute, rather than an impressive ride that’s very much the exception rather than the rule.

Thoughts on Google I/O

My first Google I/O as a Google employee was interesting; it was a chance to learn more about what’s going on (even though Google is relatively open there’s so much happening that it’s essentially impossible to keep track of it all) and to contrast the internal and external perceptions of announced technologies. It was also amusing to see the increase in tourists at the Googleplex; the Shoreline Amphitheater is close enough that we had I/O attendees wandering over to take pictures and look around.

Here are some of my favorite things Google showed off at I/O:

  • Android P. But then I’m biased.
  • Multiple devices from multiple OEMs offering the P beta (Project Treble starting to pay off).
  • Cleaning up the support library madness (v4! v7! v13! The design library!) into the androidx namespace and the Jetpack library.
  • Improved Kotlin support. I’ve been holding off switching over to Kotlin since it’ll temporarily slow me down while I learn the language, but with the KTX extensions and developer documentation I’m thinking about finally investing the cycles to do it.
  • Material Theming and the Material Theme Editor. If you’re a Sketch user, the latter provides really nice support for designing Android applications.
  • Support for running Linux applications on Chrome. The Pixelbook is a nice machine, but the inability to run Android Studio is a showstopper. It’d be nice to potentially be able to use a Chrome OS device for work (plus living with a Pixelbook would make it easier to explore user experiences that leverage both Chrome OS and Android on a single device).