Why is subscribing to The New York Times so complicated?
That’s Khoi Vinh’s question, and it’s one that I had a few months ago when I had just moved into an apartment and was deciding which subscription to get. The complexity of the digital-only options, which Khoi discusses, ultimately led me to choose a weekend print subscription, which includes access to the website and both the iPhone and iPad applications. (I also enjoy flipping through the beautifully designed weekend magazines, whose digital incarnations, squeezed into web and app templates, I find much less engrossing.)
The treatment of the iPhone and iPad apps is particularly weird, I think. It makes no sense that subscriptions to the apps are sold separately (in a web + iPhone app package and a separate web + iPad app package), and it certainly makes no sense that the two packages are priced differently. I suppose I’d be more inclined to pay a premium for the iPad app if it were great, but it’s still a poor substitute for the print Times and a poorer substitute, in my opinion, for nytimes.com.1
This is a separate post, I think, but the design of the Times iPad app is, in my view, an argument against a rigid application of gridded conformity. It’s boring to read the Times on a tablet when every swipe reveals a page that looks identical to the last. Khoi, whose design for the Times’s website is still in place, literally wrote the book on designing with grids, and yet that site is as varied and surprising as the iPad app is lifeless. ↩
An earlier project from Supermechanical, the same group responsible for the buzzy Kickstarter project Twine. The wallets, which monitor your bank accounts electronically, come in three flavors: one that vibrates to reflect account activity, one that swells and deflates, and one that becomes increasingly harder to open as one’s funds run low.
Caught my eye.
I cannot think of a person alive with such a virtuosic control of rhetorical English, both spoken and written. It was his God Is Not Great that cemented my high school-era rejection of religion and encouraged my project of intellectual self-invention as I entered college.
He fortunately persists on YouTube.
Over the past two months, I’ve spent many a weekday evening with my nose pointed downward into a programming book. The result of this study and effort, which I’m today nudging forward out into the world, is Apt, a web app that allows roommates to keep track of their spending. (Have a roommate who never quite pays her share of the bills or — as in my case — always seems to buy the milk and orange juice before you’ve had a chance? Apt helps you keep tabs on such things.)
I’m hosting Apt and writing about it for two reasons:
It’s my first substantial foray into programming. I’m happy with it, but I also want to expose it to the light of day. I ask, humbly, for your feedback.
It works, and some of you may find it useful.
Beginning an education in programming on one’s own, I’ve found, is not easy. We don’t lack for excellent —and free — resources: Chris Pine’s Learn to Program is an exceptionally clear and friendly introduction to Ruby, and Michael Hartl’s thorough Ruby on Rails tutorial is equally terrific. No single resource, though, can bottle up and serve something as complicated and dynamic as programming in general and web application development in particular. There are simply too many subtleties, too many edge cases, too many moving parts. Focusing on this project, though, helped me avoid becoming overwhelmed by the breadth and intricacy of this landscape.1 Rather than drown trying to absorb a thick reference book’s worth of information, I could, at each step of this process, identify a handful of immediate challenges and work one-by-one to overcome them. It wasn’t always easy, but it was almost always fun.
The following free resources, supplementing what I learned from Pine and Hartl, also proved useful:
- RailsCasts — brief Rails screencasts by Ryan Bates, each on a particular topic
- Rails for Zombies — a sequence of tutorial videos, with a cute/corny Zombie theme, that provides a general overview of Ruby on Rails
- Stack Overflow — a programmer forum that can be a godsend when trying to resolve a one-off roadblock2
I am a beginner, and Apt is the product of a beginner’s efforts. If you decide to try it out and you notice bugs, or if you otherwise have complaints, please let me know. I have no plans to expand Apt substantially, but I would like to make it good.
Top two British television things I’ve enjoyed recently
- Peep Show1 — a light comedy about two British males struggling to find fulfillment in their relationships and careers. (Available, at least at the moment, on Hulu)
- The Trip2 — a grimmer comedy about two British males struggling to find fulfillment in their relationships and careers. (Available, at least at the moment, on Netflix)
Scott Conant makes a mean spaghetti, and I (and you!) can make a pretty good one
Here’s something that you should try: chef Scott Conant’s famous spaghetti with buttery tomato sauce. You can pay $24 for it at Scarpetta, or you can follow this recipe and make it yourself. I can vouch for its easiness and deliciousness. Recommended!
A few comments, if you do go ahead and make it:
Peeling the tomatoes — which you do by boiling them for 15 seconds, putting them into some ice water, and then picking at the skin with a paring knife — is a surprisingly fun way to spend a few minutes!
At Scarpetta, the tomato sauce is smooth. But mine ended up with a few chunky, fibrous bits, and I think that’s because the fresh tomatoes I used had centers that were tougher than their soft outer flesh. When you’re squeezing the seeds out, since you’re already being fussy, consider cutting out the little tomato hearts.
Be careful how much oil you initially put in the tomato sauce pan. The recipe calls for two tablespoons, but when I see something like that I usually just eyeball it and pour a little pancake in the middle of the pan. But I ended up with a sauce that was too oily, so next time I’m actually going to measure out those two tablespoons.
You make a basil- and garlic- and red pepper-infused oil with this recipe, and it says to let it steep for 20 minutes. But, it continues, “The longer you let the oil sit, the more infused the oil.” So I let it sit for 30 minutes. Why not? But it turns out there is a “why not”: the flavor of those little red pepper flakes seeps out and actually makes the oil pretty spicy — too spicy, really. So either use less than a “generous” pinch of red pepper flakes or let the oil sit for just about 20 minutes.
This recipe calls for two tablespoons of butter, which is what makes this recipe, I think. I was making a half recipe, so I used one. But you know what? I could have used a little more. Maybe that’s just me. So consider going generous on the butter. The sauce really should look a little orange, not bright tomato red.
This has been today’s episode of “Cooking with Thomas”! Be sure to tune in tomorrow.
Turkey and Greece are nice places to visit
I put some pictures up. You should check ‘em out!
I’ve just returned from an incredible two weeks in Turkey and Greece. I’ll soon try to put together an album of the highlights, but for now, here’s a picture of the Temple of Zeus in Athens (along with my brother Andy).
What example did he adduce to induce Stephen to deduce that originality, though producing its own reward, does not invariably conduce to success?
His own ideated and rejected project of an illuminated showcart, drawn by a beast of burden, in which two smartly dressed girls were to be seated engaged in writing.1
I just updated the look of this here blog
I never loved how this blog page used to look, so I tweaked it. My CSS muscles needed the exercise.1
Has anyone else dreamt of a Chipotle for Italian food?
A few good people in my hometown of Columbus have made it happen.
I read a book: Alex Ross’s ‘The Rest Is Noise’
For readers, like me, interested in the weird world of twentieth-century classical music and looking to supplement a foggy, gap-filled understanding of it, this book, which was a well-reviewed “New York Times Editors’ Pick” kind of thing when it came out a few years ago, is a handy survey. It is not, as Ross claims introductorily, an expansive discussion of twentieth-century music in general. It’s a book about the likes of Stravinsky, Cage, Reich, and Glass, not John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
To a surprising extent, the story of twentieth-century music is the story of twentieth-century politics, and Ross proves to be an able historian. (If you’re dying to know which members of the Second Viennese School were Nazi sympathizers, this is the book for you.) But Ross really shines as a writer when he’s describing actual music. Such descriptions constitute about 25 percent of this book’s mass, I’d say, and most are beautifully done. They not only give the reader a strong whiff of each composition’s mood, but they also evince Ross’s deeply felt passion for his subject.
I wonder, though, what this book would look like if it came out, say, ten years from now, when digital publishing has had more time to mature. Because as effective as Ross is at capturing a few phrases of music in words, prose is no substitute for the real thing. As I read The Rest Is Noise, I was constantly typing the names of compositions into YouTube so I could hear the real stuff for myself. (To this end, Ross has compiled a separate listening guide on his website.) An audio-rich digital version of The Rest Is Noise, while likely obviating the need for some of Ross’s beautiful descriptive writing (and entailing a few annoying copyright headaches), would nevertheless make for a much better book.
By Chris Johanson