July 17, 2015

Written by

Chris Gonzales



Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.

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Photo: Bill Ingalls (NASA, Reuters)

Photo: Bill Ingalls (NASA, Reuters)

The Voyage of New Horizons: Jupiter, Pluto, and Beyond »

This past Tuesday (July 14th, 2015), NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft — launched in 2006 and carrying the ashes of the person who discovered Pluto — completed a successful flyby of the dwarf planet.

In doing so, it sent back the first clear images of Pluto and its moon Charon humanity has ever been able to capture, and boy are they gorgeous. Just look at the hero image at the top of this page, for example. And to think, the photos were captured with a camera made almost solely of aluminum.

Over at The Atlantic they’ve put together a photo gallery highlighting the biggest moments of the New Horizons mission over the past 9½ years. (Fun fact: When NH first launched, Pluto was still considered the 9th “full” planet in our solar system.)

Also worth reading is this collection of tweets on Storify, wherein Charlie Loyd — a satellite imagery specialist at Mapbox — provides insight into some of the finer details of the New Horizons mission, and what it means for us here at home.

Other Space Links for the Week:

Illustration: Christoph Niemann

Illustration: Christoph Niemann

The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle »

Meanwhile, here on our little home planet, Kathryn Schulz of The New Yorker gave us the most terrifying news of the week: “An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.”

It’s hard to even pick a single quote that could summarize this (admittedly eloquently-written, if horrifying) piece:

Any one of these second-order disasters could swamp the original earthquake in terms of cost, damage, or casualties—and one of them definitely will. Four to six minutes after the dogs start barking, the shaking will subside. For another few minutes, the region, upended, will continue to fall apart on its own. Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin.


To see the full scale of the devastation when that tsunami recedes, you would need to be in the international space station.

Give Me File Heirarchies or Give Me Chaos »

Jeffrey Zeldman argues that giving users direct control over their file heirarchies, which might be seen by some as “old-fashioned”, is often preferable to the opaque algorithms of today:

Systems designed to relieve you of thinking too often end up forcing you to think, and think, and think, without ever solving the problems their supposed simplicity has created for you. […]

Maybe I’m set in my ways, but I don’t consider it a hardship to open a folder or replace a file. […] When it’s time to get dressed in the morning, I don’t throw myself into a giant room full of clothes. I pull socks from my sock drawer and shirts from my shirt drawer. I’ve been doing this since I was five years old. It’s not a challenge.

I agreed with everything in this piece, minus the bit where he employs the old false dichotomy of iPads vs. “real work”.

I publish this column (and everything else I write) using an iPad, which is tied to documents in my Dropbox folder, a service Mr. Zeldman exemplifies as an ideal modern user experience. Not to mention the recent release of Coda 2 for iOS, an app I’m sure he would appreciate.

Pinboard Turns Six »

Pinboard is easily one of my favorite web services, and one I enjoy writing about.

“When it came time for me to take over Pinboard, I vowed to continue my grandfather’s committment to Eastern European craftsmanship and traditional Polish customer service. But then I got bored and thought, “eh, just put it online and see what happens.” That was six years ago today.”

Congrats to Mr. Maciej Cegłowski on six years of a beautiful thing, and I hope anyone reading this who hasn’t signed up for Pinboard already does so now.

Also, speaking of earthquakes, be sure to read Maciej’s recent and excellent pieces on earthquake-preparedness in the United States: Confronting New Madrid, Part 1 and Part 2.

Illustration: Min Heo

Illustration: Min Heo

The Importance of Sleep »

Earlier this month, Maria Konnikova of The New Yorker published a three-part series on sleep. Part One is about falling asleep, Part Two is about sleeping and dreaming, and Part Three is about wakefulness:

While we all suffer from sleep inertia (a general grogginess and lack of mental clarity), the stickiness of that inertia depends largely on the quantity and quality of the sleep that precedes it. If you’re fully rested, sleep inertia dissipates relatively quickly. But, when you’re not, it can last far into the day, with unpleasant and even risky results.


As we age, unfortunately, our quality of sleep only gets worse. If you sleep six hours a night for twelve days, [Harvard neurologist and sleep medicine physician Josna Adusumilli] says—and that’s about how much many Americans sleep all year round—your cognitive and physical performance becomes virtually indistinguishable from that of someone who has been awake for twenty-four hours straight.

I’m a little notorious for not getting much sleep, usually 5–6 hours a night, sometimes less. I’ve been getting away with this behavior with moderate success throughout my twenties. But now, as I approach my 30th birthday in September, and with a three-year-old son who is getting harder and harder to keep up with, I’m really starting to rethink my sleep habits.

Photo: Babycakes Romero

Photo: Babycakes Romero

The Death of Conversation »

(This one’s from January 2014, but I only heard about it this week.)

Street photographer Babycakes Romero (I’m still not sure if that’s his real name) captured several images of people not interacting with one another because they were too entranced by their phones:

All social etiquette regarding the use of phones in company seems to have disappeared. The device take precedence over the person that is present and that felt wrong. It is a form of rejection and lowers the self-worth of the person super-ceded for a device. I feel it also highlighted a growing sense of self-absorption in people as they would rather focus on their world in their phone rather than speak to the person they are with.

I’ve caught myself and my wife doing this when we’re out at restaurants or wherever. Not proud of it.

Illustration: Tim McDonagh

Illustration: Tim McDonagh

The Web We Have to Save »

Upon being released from six years of imprisonment in Tehran (mostly for things he’d written on his blog about the Iranian government), Hossein Derakhshan rapidly discovered that the web had changed utterly from what he remembered, and not for the better:

Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you’d rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. Blogs were cafes where people exchanged diverse ideas on any and every topic you could possibly be interested in. They were Tehran’s taxicabs writ large.

Since I got out of jail, though, I’ve realized how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete.

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Got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage? Please do let us know on Twitter.