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kottke.org posts about Matt Might

How to live the good life

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2015

Matt Might, who is a professor in computer science at the University of Utah and a professor at the Harvard Medical School, responded to a question on Quora about minimizing the chances of having a disabled child and ended up answering two seemingly unrelated questions as well: How do you get tenure? and How do you live the good life? Long story short: he got tenure and started living the good life because he had a disabled child. But you should read the long story; it’s worth it.

My son forced me to systematically examine what matters in life — what really matters — and in the end, I came to appreciate a quote from his namesake, Bertrand Russell, more than I could have ever imagined:

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

My first year as a tenure-track professor cannot be described as anything other than an abject failure. I was so desperate to publish and raise funds that I began thin-slicing my research and submitting lots of poor quality papers and grant proposals.

I must have had a dozen rejections in a row that year. It sucked.

I remember huddling on the porch at the end of that year with my wife, telling her, “Well, I’ll at least have a job for six more years.”

I looked at my young son, cuddled in her arms. I saw his very existence hung in the balance between knowledge and ignorance.

Then it hit me: Life is too precious and too fleeting to waste my time on bullshit like tenure. I didn’t become a professor to get tenure. I became a professor to make the world better through science. From this day forward, I will spend my time on problems and solutions that will matter. I will make a difference.

I stopped working on problems for the sole purpose of notching up a publication. I shifted gears to cybersecurity. I found a project on cancer in the med school. I joined a project in chemical engineering using super-computing to fight global warming.

Suddenly, my papers started getting accepted.

You may remember Might and his son from a recent New Yorker article on people with ultra-rare diseases.

Faking native iOS apps with HTML/CSS/JavaScript

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2011

Matt Might has a nice tutorial on how to make mobile web apps look like native iOS apps using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

If you a flick a web app past the bottom or top of the page, the page itself gets elastically tugged away from the URL bar or the button bar (or the bottom/top of the screen if it’s in full-screen mode).

This behavior is another giveaway that your app isn’t native, and it’s rarely the behavior you want in a native app.

To stop this behavior, capture touchmove events on the document in JavaScript and cancel them. You can do this by adding a handler to the body tag, and invoking the preventDefault method on the event object.

Huh, you can even do “pull to refresh” in JavaScript.

One big advantage of native apps that cannot be addressed by HTML/CSS/JS is the browser interface itself. The Gmail web interface is fantastic, but every time I open a link in my email, the browser goes through its elaborate new window opening process. And then when I want to go back to my email, I have to touch the windows button, close the current window, and then click back on the mail window. The whole process is too inefficient and slow compared to the same process in a native app: no starting browser animation process and one touch to get back to what you’re doing. If Apple addressed this issue — say by making it possible for a web app to “open” a sub-browser with different open/close interactions instead of a full-fledged new window — using web apps would be less of a pain in the ass.