An accident, a pull request, a Yankovic
Hi there, I’m Duncan and this is the newsletter I send every ten days where I talk about what I’m currently interested in and/or working on (they’re usually the same thing).
Those of you who filled out the form a couple of months back to get something in the post from me should keep an eye on your mailboxes, because I have sent them out. If you missed it all then don’t worry - it was fun so I plan to do more of this kind of thing in the future.
Shall we get started with some DRAMA?
A couple of days after I sent my last newsletter, I had a pretty nasty bike crash. I’m okay - just a bit banged up. It was my own stupid fault, I was going downhill towards a blind corner, focusing on the corner worried about cars, and not looking where my wheels were going. I hit the curb. I lost control. Ow.
Pretty sure there’s no permanent damage but my shoulder is sore as hell because I landed on it, and I have some impressive scrapes and bruises. 2020 clearly doesn’t think I’ve had enough punishment yet. As such, please forgive this update being a bit shorter than usual!
My friend Andrea is starting a network for people of colour in the UK who work in design-adjacent fields.
If that describes you, even if you don’t call yourself a designer (no imposter syndrome allowed here!), then drop her a line on Twitter - or if you’re not on Twitter (wise move) then send me a message and I’ll pass along her email address.
If it doesn’t describe you, then a really useful thing that you can do is give her original message a retweet or share it in other networks that you’re a part of. She (and I, and the world) would appreciate that very much ❤️
Contributing to an open-source project has been on my long-term low-priority to-do list for ages. Partly because I want to support open-source technology, partly because I want to get more experience with collaboration on Github, and partly because I think my knack for explaining technical things simply for non-technical audiences is sorely needed in the open-source community.
So I’ve volunteered to help out with the documentation on vpype, a lovely command-line utility for creating and optimising pen plotter artwork. You can generate beautiful grids of geometric artworks, process an image to reduce plotting time, and most usefully of all, crop, scale and resize images to fit particular paper sizes.
The documentation is pretty good, especially compared to most niche tools of this nature. But I think I can help improve it further - most notably by building up a “cookbook” of recipes that people who are terrified of the command line (I was one of those people until very recently!) can just paste in to make it do what they want. Making this kind of technology more accessible lowers the barrier to entry for pen plotter art, which can only be a good thing.
Eight days on from my bike crash and my cuts and bruises are healing nicely but I still can’t lift my left arm so I asked for a doctor’s appointment.
The doctor was very nice, he diagnosed a problem with the supraspinatus muscle, which threads through the shoulder and is used to pull the arm upward. As I can’t pull my arm upward, he said, that seems like the obvious issue.
So he’s sending me to the hospital with a letter explaining the problem. No appointment, I just show up apparently. “Take some food and something to read. You don’t look very sick, so they probably won’t treat you very fast.”
Bit more serious than I hoped, but from a bit of cursory Googling it looks like the most common treatment for people my age is just time and physical therapy, which is nice. Hopefully that’ll be it. I’ll update you next time on how it goes.
What I can do, though is type - so I’m pretty much back to work as normal. I’m coming up to the end of my project with Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, helping them tell stories around some of the experiments that they’ve been funding. It’s also looking like I’m going to be doing some work in the coming month with a different part of Nesta, helping them put together their annual report.
I have a few other irons in the fire for upcoming projects, but I also have a bit of capacity from August onwards. James Clear writes that the two most important skills of modern business are storytelling and spreadsheets, and I’m an expert at both. So if there’s a problem that I can help you with then hit reply to this email and we can take things from there.
Finally, I’ll leave you this week with a wonderful long read from the New York Times about Weird Al Yankovic. Yep, him. It’s a delightful, personal piece:
His voice was athletic and precise; he was rippling through intricate trills and runs. By the time he reached the medley’s climax — “Like a Surgeon,” his 1985 parody of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” — Yankovic was stretching for high notes and holding them over his head for the crowd to admire, like an Olympic weight lifter who had just snatched 500 pounds.
The whole article is a joy throughout. Read it here.