SteveGattuso

Hi, I'm Steve Gattuso! I'm a New Yorker 🗽 who enjoys writing software 🤓, cycling 🚲, and trying to figure out ways to make humanity more sustainable 🚇. I'm a hackNY '13 alum, Recurser, and currently employed at Amperon 🔌.

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I generally like writing about software, life, travel, and any interesting links I find around the web. If you like what you see here, consider subscribing to my RSS feed or following me on Twitter.

Things are crazy right now, especially here in the United States. I’ve been hanging in by a thread lately, but one thing that’s been keeping me going is the thought that the ongoing public health, economic, and political crisis all have a silver lining: there is the potential to make big changes right now.

Take a look at these timelapses on Google Earth. If this doesn’t inspire you to do something towards trying to conserve the environment, I don’t know what will.

Some ideas:

  • Donate to a local conservation/environmental activist group.
  • If you have a car, try substituting one car trip to use public transit, a bike, or some kind of micromobility vehicle (ie an electric scooter).
  • Write to your local representative about enacting some sort of pro-environment policies. Anything from increasing funding of public transit, blocking a pipeline (esp those of us in North Brooklyn) to planting trees around your town.
  • If you’re really wanting to dive in: consider dedicating your career to the cause (we’re hiring at Amperon), or moving to a place that doesn’t rely on cars as the primary form of transit.

Sorry if this comes off as preachy, but for some reason these timelapses got to me this morning.

It’s no secret that we need to find ways to move American suburbs away from automobile dependence. The idea of peppering sparse neighborhoods with these small shops sounds wonderful, from both environmental and social perspectives.

Environmental: Less dependence on cars! The more walkable neighborhoods are, the less car trips are required to perform common tasks. How many suburban neighborhoods have you been to that have any sort of shop or restaurant within reasonable walking distance? For many people, any sort of trip is impossible without their car.

Social: Cheaper rents means it’s easier for mom ‘n pop shops to sprout up, experiment with new ideas, and create actual character in a neighborhood. An easy way city people dunk on American suburbs is how cookie-cutter they are; generally being filled with nothing but national chains. Cute shops, restaurants, and cafes nestled away amongst previously-sparse neighborhoods are the antidote to suburban monotony.

These kinds of businesses can be anchors of neighborhoods, providing a place for people to meet their neighbors, bump into friends, and more generally interact with other humans (which is a good thing!). These are interactions that are otherwise pretty limited if everybody is going through the drive-thru window on their way to/from work.

In any case, if we want to start getting serious about protecting the environment (and rebuilding our sense of community), we need to start implementing ideas like these ASAP in order to retrofit our suburbs into something more sustainable.

I’ve been progressively trying to detach myself from social media and am finally calling it quits on the last network I checked with any sort of regularity: Twitter. I just don’t think anything good comes from scrolling through an endless feed of bad news, echo chambers, and bottom-of-the-barrel hot takes. Or worse, doomscrolling– which is a phenomenal term. It just feels like you’re binging on the brain-equivilent of doritos. I’ll still keep my account around to syndicate content, but this is done automatically at this point so I don’t actually need to log in (and subsequently be tempted to start scrolling).

Instead I’ve been subscribing to interesting content via RSS (using Feedly). I find this to be much less stressful, as there’s a finality to the feed of content that doesn’t exist on social media platforms. Once you’ve browsed through all of the new items in your feeds, you’re done. There’s nothing more to look at.

If you’re a hacker news user, I’d also recommend replacing the front page with one of the feeds at hnrss. I’ve subscribed to one that surfaces any post with >200 points, filtering out a lot of the noise that would previously consume my time. 1Blocker on iOS or Impulse Blocker on Firefox are also a huge help in ensuring you’re not subconsciencely navigating to social media websites to take a hit of content dopamine.

If you have any other tips/strategies for taming the internet, drop me a line.

I love the momentum that seems to be forming around taking space away from cars in New York. This Times article gives me hope that there is, in fact, a future where the car is no longer the king of the streets in this city.

Even now, with decreased traffic from the virus walking around the city is a joy. You can hear birds chirping and waves quietly lapping against the shore on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Signs of nature and life that you would never expect to hear on a park situated next to the West Side Highway. Regular streets too are now lined with people dining in outdoor patios built on top of parking spaces. It feels like a whole new (and much more adoreable) streetscape. We’re seeing a glimpse of the city New York should have always been.

I’ve also been pleased with Streetsblog’ recent article listing out each of the 2021 mayoral candidates’ opinions on how to address the overcrowding of the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway. Each of the responses emphasized the need to deprioritize car traffic on the bridge. Imagine how nice it would be for everyone to finally have the space they need to make that crossing enjoyable.

All this to say that I’m cautiously optimistic of what’s to come.

Miami Nights

In an odd coincidence, one of my favorite comedians released a new special, Miami Nights, just as I flee from Miami back to New York. At some point I’d like to write a bit about my brief experience of living there from the prospective of an aggressively anti-car urbanist. Unfortunately being in-between apartments during a pandemic isn’t the best environment to sit down, think and write.

Anyways, I’d highly recommend watching this special if you’re looking for a pick-me-up in this hellscape of a year.

A small detail from some screenshots in the keynotes (and later confirmed on Apple’s website) is adding next-hour precipitation to the native weather apps for both iOS and MacOS:

If I could take a guess, it looks like they’ve already integrated DarkSky’s forecasts into iOS. It’s a relief for any of us who have been desparately seeking a weather app that has good data + isn’t bloated with all sorts of nonsense/distractions, but still a bummer that Dark Sky isn’t its own company anymore.

I don’t remember exactly how this quote made it into my bookmarks, but I really liked it and thought it’d be worth sharing:

It’s a strange thing about the human mind that, despite its capacity and its abundant freedom, its default is to function in a repeating pattern. It watches the moon and the planets, the days and seasons, the cycle of life and death all going around in an endless loop, and unconsciously, believing itself to be nature, the mind echoes these cycles. Its thoughts go in loops, repeating patterns established so long ago we often can’t remember their origin, or why they ever made sense to us. And even when these loops fail over and over again to bring us to a desirable place, even while they entrap us, and make us feel anciently tired of ourselves, and we sense that sticking to their well-worn path means we’ll miss contact with the truth every single time, we still find it nearly impossible to resist them. We call these patterns of thought our “nature” and resign ourselves to being governed by them as if they are the result of a force outside of us, the way that the seas are governed — rather absurdly, when one thinks about it — by a distant and otherwise irrelevant moon.

And yet it is unquestionably within our power to break the loop; to “violate” what presents itself as our nature by choosing to think — and to see, and act — in a different way. It may require enormous effort and focus. And yet for the most part it isn’t laziness that stops us from breaking these loops, it’s fear. In a sense, one could say that fear is the otherwise irrelevant moon that we allow to govern the far larger nature of our minds.

I also was browsing this blog and found that the author made an amazing collection of vintage science facemasks. I love this aesthetic and instabought the Saturn mask:

Saturn mask

As it turns out, moving to a new city just before a pandemic hits is a great way to find yourself with plenty of free time. I finally got bored enough to redesign my personal website and hook it up to micro.blog, which will ideally auto-syndicate posts to Twitter, Mastodon, and RSS (honestly this post is mostly just testing the xposting out).

I’m trying to be a bit better about writing these days and hope I can publish thoughts more frequently here. For some reason it’s always easy for me to write sub-240 character Tweets and blast them off, but when it comes to this blog I find myself frequently second-guessing and overcorrecting my writing. This inevitably kills off the original motivation I had to write the post in the first place (see gumption traps), resulting in never hitting the publish button.

I’m thinking about writing a utility which lets me blast off blog posts directly from Drafts, which I’ve been using a lot for journaling lately. This would essentially replicate the low-friction fire-and-forget of Twitter’s compose view, but I’m still deciding if that’s a desireable trait or not.

Anyways, hope you enjoy reading with the new layout.

If your company uses Google Cloud Build you may have noticed that their out-of-the-box Slack integration is… Lacking. I’ve published a much improved Slack notification on Amperon’s blog for you to steal!

Following up on my previous post, Creating your own reverse geocoder with OSM and PostGIS, I’ve found myself needing to translate a pair of GPS coordinates into a timezone. Thankfully this operation was quite a bit simpler than building a country/city/neighborhood reverse geocoder, but still worth documenting to help others going down a similar path. Let’s get started! In order to correctly calculate the timezone containing a given coordinate we’ll need a nice map that defines the shape of all of the world’s timezones.