by Chad Ostrowski

A biped doing my thinking with an Indo-European language. Rubyist & JavaScripter, creator, enjoyer of cats, the internet, space, earth, laughter, disambiguation, and the edge of what is known.

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passenger, the musician, sitting in an alleyway, playing his guitar

I heard a song once, by a singer/songwriter who calls himself Passenger. I don’t know if it’s my thing or not. Some of the lyrics can tend to be too preachy for me.

And in keeping with his borderline-preachy style, in the song Scare Away The Dark he sings the line

We’re all slowly dying in front of computers

And it makes me think, “Why’s that so bad?” and “Why ‘in front’?”

Why’s it so bad to slowly die in front of a computer?

A computer is technology.

“Technology.” Woooo! It’s almost like the word “chemicals.” People don’t say these words to refer to all technology, or all chemicals. They say them to refer to the complicated types. The types with questionable positive impact on health and society. Pesticides, Facebook, unpronounceable ingredients, smart phones.

But these words mean much more than that. My body is made entirely out of chemicals. And my brain is programmed...

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So you’re convinced that learning web development might be cool but you literally have no idea what even

I do a good job of convincing my friends that they can and should learn web development, and so I often get asked how. Free and not free resources abound for learning, but they tend to be a little showing-the-trees instead of showing a map of the forest. My friends want a map of the forest.

There are lots of paths through this forest. Just as there are lots of reasons to learn web development. My favorite reason to learn web development, though, is EMPOWERMENT. Having the ability to make a website, slap it on the internet, and share it with the entire world? I AM AMAZING. That’s how it makes me feel. I want everyone to have that feel.

So the path that I recommend is one to maximize this feeling of empowerment, while delaying the bits that tend to make everyone feel like an inferior imposter dimwit. I call it the Path Of Most Empowerment, or POME. I don’t intend this path to stay as-is...

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Regarding Seattle: Addendum

This is a follow-up to my previous post in which I declared that I’d like to stay put in Philly instead of moving to Seattle.

I wrote that piece a few hours before going for a walk around Discovery Park. By any other city’s standards, this park is bursting with natural beauty. Even in January, the edges of the perfectly-worn wooden staircases exploded with happy green ferns. Damp forest gave way to stone beaches overlooking wide expanses of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond. After sunset, I found my way back by moonlight. I could see about as many stars as I do from our parents’ farm in Central Pennsylvania. But this was entirely within city limits!

a fern-lined trail, with wooden steps, going through thick forest. About 20m ahead, the forest opens up to sunset on the Puget Sound.

By Seattle standards, I think Discovery Park might be sort of commonplace. Just a short drive out of the city is where the real natural beauty starts. In all directions.

trees line the edges of a sandy beach, a couple partly obscured in the bottom left. Pink clouds and blue sky fill the top half.

I was shocked at how starved I felt. Nature-starved....

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Regarding a visit to Seattle and the blessingcurse of having the means to choose your own fate

Impressions of Seattle:

  • Lush. Moss everywhere. Happy plants. This struck me especially because I visited from the midst of a Philadelphia winter.
  • Easy. I don’t know how to describe this one. It didn’t feel like most cities to me. Maybe this is just the point in my life that I’m at. Usually it seems like I have to work to make a city mine. But Seattle felt easy. It felt sort of like I was expoloring my own city.
    • This made it seem cozy
    • This made it seem not-novel (I would definitely not go so far as to call it boring, though)
  • Sparse. The downtown part has tall buildings and all that, and feels like a city. But even in Capitol Hill, the super hip part, it seemed like the streets were empty, compared to Philly streets. It looked like a city, but a city with fewer people out walking around than my east coast sensibilities expect. I live in (South) West Philly, which often feels sort of...

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Speaking Spanish in Spain: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Duolingo

TL;DR: Duolingo helped me increase and maintain a broad vocabulary, and proved all of my worrying needless. For best results, use it before you travel to a country that speaks a different language.

Spain from space, with a blue "you are here" marker in Madrid. East is toward the top of the photo, so the islands of of the UK & Ireland are in the top right.

Speaking English in Spain (remember this for later)

Getting ice cream in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, we sampled a “Nata, Caramelo, y Nueces” flavor. “Cream, Carmel, and …” we didn’t know the last word. Some sort of nuts. But what kind?

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. Outdoor diners with vibrant purple table linens are in the foreground; the prominent, central bell towers in the background.

We asked the server how “nueces” translates to English. He didn’t know. He went and asked a coworker, came back and told us:

“Nuts?” And then, because the English pronunciation of “nuts” just didn’t sound right to his ears, he offered an alternate pronunciation:

“Newts?” And he shrugged.

We laughed and thanked him, and we ordered that flavor still not knowing what we were eating. Days later, we figured out that “nueces” translates to “walnuts”.


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iPhone 6 Is Old Technology But No One Cares

I saw a tweet earlier today with this picture:


The author may or may not be credible, as some of the responding tweets point out. Whatever the case, I had two reactions.

Lol. It’s true!

I’m enough of an Apple nerd to have kept an eye on MacRumors live text updates of the event today, to have switched to the live video feed when the watch part started, and to have dreamed about fancy new Apple products last night (no joke; it felt weird).

While following their updates today, it struck me in a fresh way:

Apple is a conservative company

For their reputation of setting trends and being the first into new markets, Apple tend to stay cautiously behind the curve with almost all new technologies.

The “innovations” we do know them for are better labeled as “popularizations.” In all the cases, the world was screaming out for the technology, but no other company stepped in to tackle the problem...

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How To Miss A Flight

  1. Don’t rush. Leave a little late. All three flights on this vacation have had easy airport experiences; this one will be no different. Say with confidence, when your partner worries about the time, that you’ve never in your life missed a flight, and that you hope you never do. You’re leaving Spain; it’s sad. Get weepy on the taxi ride from the hotel to the Metro station. a photo of a Madrid street

  2. Throw away your single-use Madrid Metro tickets as soon as you’re inside the Nuevos Ministerios station. Reason that you will not need them anyhow—you never have before. Then:

    • When you get to the Madrid airport, notice that there are kiosks here that demand your expired ticket.
    • Try to find another way through.
    • Give up, spend 6 getting new passes.
    • Allow the obvious injustice of the situation to anger you. the inside of a Spanish Metro, looking up through all the cars, which are interconnected so that you can peer the whole way through the train
  3. Follow signs toward the appropriate American Airlines check-in booth. They will lead you, without...

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AngularDart vs. Coffeescript + AngularJS: How Dart won over Coffeescript halfway through the game

About a month ago, I attended a Dart Flight School with the Philly JavaScript Developers meetup. As someone embroiled in “optimized for developer happiness” languages like Ruby and Coffeescript, I found it easy to make fun of Dart’s superficial ugliness. @NgController declarations lol! Why are they making me use this crappy Eclipse editor? And srsly, what’s with the semicolons?

I wanted to give Dart a fair chance. Victor Savkin, who used to blog about Ruby and make cool projects with it, had started raving about Dart, and it made me curious. Still, writing all of those semicolons and curly brackets made me wonder what the same simple little app would look like in Coffeescript and AngularJS.

Intended audience/About the author

This article is written from the perspective of and thus mostly for developers who:

  • have little experience with AngularJS but have caught onto the hype
  • have...

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I’m the many-armed warrior queen of clubs today, how about you?

a queen of clubs playing card; the queen has four arms and is carrying a bow & arrow, a sword, a spear, a man's head, and a flame

At The Fire Works, we wanted a fun, visual way to indicate if our coworkers could talk to us our not. Sometimes, people need to put their heads down and get stuff done. Which makes sense! It’s a work space, and people working here ought to feel more productive than they do at home. However, we also want a culture where people are encouraged to talk to each other.

At Indy Hall, they came up with a fun way to walk this fine line: scattered around the space are Brazilian steakhouse-style coasters. On one side, these coasters are green and say “coworking”, and on the other they are red and say “working”. Unfortunately, in my experience, these coasters are not widely used at Indy Hall.

We’re hoping for better results here at The Fire Works, and part of how we hope to accomplish that is by making it more fun. Right near the top of the steps where you come in, you’re greeted by this:

A container mounted to a wall holding a bunch of playing cards, the one in front a Joker with a drawing of a grim reaper. Above this, a hand-drawn sign that says Can I interrupt you? Grab a card and if you're 'in the zone' & need to get stuff done, leave it face-down and everyone will know not to bother you. Otherwise, face up!


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Why You Shouldn’t Use Vagrant: Real talk from a Vagrant burn-out

Hey, kid. Someday, some charmer is going to smooth talk you.

“Why would you want MySQL and PostgreSQL both running on your machine all the time?” they’ll probably ask. “Just run them when you need them.”

Then they’ll tell you about some slick way their company allowed all of their developers to click buttons on some website, like ordering a Fatty Meal at a McDougle’s: “MySQL, Redis, a custom queue server, and our main app, please.” Then BOOM. They get a fully configured VM, just like that! With exactly the things they need and none of that other crap. They spin it up, they get their work done. No fuss, no hassle. No having developers waste time configuring their environments.

And most of all, your charmer will woo you with how you’ll never again have developers saying, “it works on my machine!” That’ll be their biggest selling point. It will also be their biggest lie.

Don’t you...

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