The Shape of Everything
A website mostly about Mac stuff, written by Gus Mueller
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July 25, 2019

I go climbing at a local gym at least a couple of times a week if I'm not climbing outside (which sadly, is pretty rare these days). There's always new faces in there, and of course regulars who show up every week on the same nights as myself.

I tend to keep my eye on folks I don't recognize or who look new to climbing, just to evaluate how they are belaying their climber. A "belayer" is the person in charge of holding the end of the rope with a belay device, which keeps the climber at the opposite end of the rope from hitting the ground should they fall. A belayer also lowers the climber when they are ready to come down.

I keep an eye out because over the years I've seen a couple of people dropped from bad belaying techniques, and I knew before the drop happened that something was up. And both times I've regretted not saying anything prior to the fall (even though nobody was seriously hurt in these instances). As a result, over the decades, I've developed a kind of sixth sense for feeling out when something might go wrong, someone needs a little adjustment in their technique, or even an encouraging word to just relax a little. It's been pretty useful a number of times.

So last night, I witnessed a belayer who kept releasing their brake hand while the climber was up on the wall. You don't ever let go of your break hand when belaying. If you do and the climber falls at the same moment, he or she will likely hit the ground at a less than optimal speed. Aka "decking". There are padded floors everywhere, but you can still get seriously hurt depending on how high up you are when you fall.

So I walked over to let the belayer know how to make things safer (and in a polite and depreciating way, which is usually much more receptive). But while doing so I look down at his belay setup and have a minor internal freak out. The belay device is setup all wrong. Very much all wrong in a very, very bad way.

I quickly tell the belayer "hey, this is all wrong and I'm taking over", set up my belay device past his and as I'm doing so call over to one of the gym employees to come quickly, take a look at this, and be a general witness in case the belayer decides to get angry or aggressive towards me.

The employee quickly realized what was happening, encouraged me to continue what I was doing, and the climber was safely lowered to the ground. The belayer and the employee had a chat, and I walked away since this part was none of my business.

There's more details I could go into, but that's not the point of this story. What happened next is.

I walk away to another part of the gym with my climbing partner, and let the employee take over with the bad belayer. But then people start walking up to me saying things like "wow, I'm really glad you said something, his belaying was super sketchy" or "I can't believe that guy was doing that, it was freaking me out a bit".

At least four other climbers saw the bad belaying, and did nothing.

There's a certain etiquette in a gyms towards other climbers. You don't give out unsolicited advice to climbers about how to get past a hard problem. You don't loudly talk about "how easy that climb was" when someone else is currently struggling on it. And in general, you let people belay how they are as long as it's safe, even if it's not your preferred technique. If someone is belaying with an ATC but you prefer to use a Grigri, you're not going to comment on it.

And I think it's this mini-culture that kept other people from speaking out, combined with maybe a bit of uncertainty or embarrassment.

So what should you do if you see someone being sketchy in a climbing gym?

The simplest and best solution is to mention it to a gym employee. The employee will then (hopefully) casually walk over and observe the situation, and make a decision based on what they see.

I've talked with numerous gym employees about this, and every one of them absolutely wants to know if someone is suspected of being unsafe in the gym. So don't feel embarrassed by this. Don't think you are lacking experience to make the right call. Just go let the employees know. You might be wrong- so what? It's better to be safe than sorry, especially when someone could potentially be seriously hurt.

I feel at this point, I need to defend gym climbing a little bit. In 20+ years of climbing*, I've only had to take over someone's belay maybe once or twice. What I did last night was super rare. Even having to comment or report on someone's belay style is pretty rare. Maybe 2-6 times a year?

Climbing indoors is safer today than it's ever been. The belay equipment is modern and amazing, harnesses are more comfortable than ever, and new climbing gyms are popping up all over the country. The collective wisdom from all of this has increased the safety of climbers 10x.

One of my favorite analogies is to compare climbing to driving a car. Of course it's dangerous! But climbing is no more dangerous than driving- in fact it's probably safer. You wouldn't just hand your keys over to a 16 year old who's never driven and say "here you go- be back by 10!". That would be insane.

Instead you take a climbing and belay course, or learn from someone who knows what they are doing. And just like you have to pass a test to get a driver's license, climbing gyms make you pass a test to be able to belay someone. (I'm not sure the person who was belaying last night had passed the test- I wasn't privy to that part of the conversation. I can say that I've seen 8 year olds belay better than that guy).

* In my 20+ years of climbing, I've learned that experience doesn't actually count for much. You can climb for decades and still be doing it all wrong. You just got lucky. Take a course. Read some books or watch safety videos from climbing gear companies. Keep your skills sharp. Equal parts skepticism, paranoia, common sense, and knowing how to relax can go a long way to keeping you safe.
238 Seconds of Some Solid Guitar Playing

If you're a fan of blues and didn't know John Mayer could play, check out the first 238 seconds of this recording (the second half is one of his pop songs, which I don't like much). I have fond memories of playing this over and over in my car, while driving long distances to meet up with my future wife for the weekend. just enjoying the little things John Mayer does in this improv. He's a phenomenal guitar player, and I wish he'd do more of this stuff.

I was recently compiling some of my favorite songs for a thing, and I wasn't able to use this entry because the album it's on doesn't show up on the platform. Luckily for us however, YouTube has everything.

Acorn 6.5b1

Psst. The first beta of Acorn 6.5 is up.

Ive Departs Apple

Financial Times: Jony Ive, iPhone designer, announces Apple departure

Sir Jonathan is setting up his own new venture, a creative business called LoveFrom, with Apple as its first client. The transition will begin later this year, with LoveFrom launching fully in 2020.

I'm optimistic about this. Ive has done wonderful things at Apple for decades, but he's also worked with and grown amazing design teams at Apple, and I think they'll be just fine.

June 25, 2019

The Seattle Times: Apple says it plans to turn Seattle into ‘key engineering hub’ with 2,000 new workers:

Apple plans to add 2,000 software and hardware jobs in Seattle within the next five years, starting with 200 additional jobs this year, company officials said Monday at a news conference with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The company is leasing all the office space at 333 Dexter Ave. N., a complex of two 12-story buildings nearing completion at Dexter Avenue and Thomas Street, one block west of the core Amazon campus in South Lake Union.

The office space could accommodate more than 3,000 employees.

This is pretty huge. I've been telling everyone at Apple who would listen that an engineering office is needed in Seattle. There are a ton of great programmers up here who don't want to leave because they own a hosue, love the weather, or want to stay away from the insanity that is Silicon Valley. We're overflowing with talent.

Hopefully it's not just Siri and Maps positions, but jobs that work on apps or frameworks too.

Would I be tempted to work for Apple at this point? Probably not. I'm still happy doing my own thing. But I know plenty of people who would seriously consider it.

Play It Loud

Ableton has put up a wonderful tutorial describing what a synthesizer is, how it works, and with intuitive interactive controls. It's really fun to play with.

A New Bytecode Format for JavaScriptCore

Tadeu Zagallo: A New Bytecode Format for JavaScriptCore

"In revision r237547 we introduced a new bytecode format for JavaScriptCore (JSC). The goals of the new format were to improve memory usage and allow the bytecode to be cached on disk, while the previous format was optimized for interpreter throughput at the cost of memory usage."

Speaking of bytecode, I found out this year at WWDC that iOS applications which use JavaScriptCore directly can't load WebAssembly modules. Since WebAssembly is translated directly into native code, with no interpreted fallback, it's a no-go as far as Apple is concerned.

FMJS Diary #1.5

How about a small FMJS update? I've ported my little blogging engine from Node.js over to FMJS, with a little Cocoa editor involved as well. At some point it'll be released in source form, but that's probably not anytime soon since there's some other suff that would need to happen first.

Converting Acorn Images on the Command-Line

Alex Chan shows how he used AppleScript to batch convert a bunch of Acorn images to PNG.

You could also use Retrobatch to do this pretty easily, but I thought it was a great example of using the tools already at your disposal to get something done.

Ben Lacy on IG

Charlie Hunter (an amazing guitarist you should check out) posted this video of Ben Lacy playing Everybody Wants to Rule the World. If you're a guitar player, you should watch and take a listen.

As a guitar player I can see and hear everything that he's doing, but combined it makes no sense to my brain. A single guitar player should not be able to get this much sound and rhythm out of their instrument. Yet, here it is.

There's a handful of other Ben Lacy videos like this scattered around the internet, which are well worth listening to. And Charlie Hunter has a bunch of amazing clips up on Instagram as well.