Dustin Curtis

Designer, hacker, investor, nomad. Never satisfied. Deeply flawed.

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Building new worlds

Earlier this summer, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled The World Is a Mess. We Need Fully Automated Luxury Communism, by Aaron Bastani:

To say the present era is one of crisis borders on cliché. We inhabit a world of low growth, low productivity and low wages, of climate breakdown and the collapse of democratic politics. A world where billions, mostly in the global south, live in poverty. A world defined by inequality.

But the most pressing crisis of all, arguably, is an absence of collective imagination. It is as if humanity has been afflicted by a psychological complex, in which we believe the present world is stronger than our capacity to remake it – as if it were not our ancestors who created what stands before us now. As if the very essence of humanity, if there is such a thing, is not to constantly build new worlds.

If we can move beyond such a failure, we...

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Bourdain on The Journey

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

Anthony Bourdain

Published from Medellín, Colombia.

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How to host a static website with HTTPS on AWS, using S3 and CloudFront

Amazon’s AWS is an inexpensive and limitlessly scalable platform that can be ideal for hosting fast, secure, and reliable static websites. I host several sites using the method described below, and it costs me pennies per month. The only problem is that getting things set up–especially with HTTPS support–isn’t exactly straightforward.


  • We’ll create and configure two S3 buckets. One will serve static content via S3. The other will be used simply to redirect www.yourdomain.com to yourdomain.com.
  • We’ll create an SSL certificate using AWS Certificate Manager.
  • We’ll set up two CloudFront distributions which will use the S3 buckets as origins. (The website itself will be served through CloudFront’s edge locations, but the files will be stored on S3.)
  • We’ll set up DNS alias records which point to CloudFront, using Route 53.

Configure S3

  1. Create two buckets in S3. It doesn’t...

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One of the dumbest things I’ve ever published

While I was reading through some of my older essays the other day, I came across a piece called Privacy vs. User Experience, published in 2014. In the article, I argued that Apple’s then-nascent philosophical stance on the supremacy of user privacy was going to slow down its product development while competitors fully embraced deep data mining techniques to build better user experiences.

It is, I believe, one of the dumbest, most wrong things I have ever published.

The essay’s structure isn’t actually that bad. It has a strong thesis. The whole thing seems relatively innocuous, whether or not you agree with the premise. What makes Privacy vs. User Experience so dangerous as an essay is that the thesis is undeniably correct in the abstract and yet completely wrong in practice. There is no valid counterargument to the abstract idea. It is a fact that if a company has better data and...

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Andrew Johnson’s Obituary

The New York Times obituary for President Andrew Johnson, published on August 1, 1875:

The history this man leaves is a rare one. His career was remarkable, even in this country; it would have been quite impossible in any other. It presents the spectacle of a man who never went to school a day in his life rising from a humble beginning as a tailor’s apprentice through a long succession of posts of civil responsibility to the highest office in the land, and evincing his continued hold upon the popular heart by a subsequent election to the Senate in the teeth of a bitter personal and political opposition…. Whatever else may be said of him, his integrity and courage have been seldom questioned though often proved. He was by nature and temperament squarely disposed toward justice and the right, and was a determined warrior for his convictions. He erred from limitation of grasp and...

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How Evolution Really Works

Most people are taught that biological evolution is a linear, slow, and gradual process which leads to change only after incalculably long periods of time. This is mostly inaccurate. While gradual evolution does occur, it is relatively rare. As it turns out, the way evolution really tends to work is through a phenomenon called punctuated equilibrium1 .

The basic idea is this: most of the time, organisms and ecosystems remain in stasis–that is, a state of harmony and balance–with very limited evolutionary change. However, every once in a while, something dramatic will happen to the environment, throwing things out of alignment–say, a new predator will arrive, or maybe there will be a natural disaster that changes selective pressures. As organisms adjust to the change, rapid evolutionary adaptation occurs. It is often swift and brutal. Eventually, a state of equilibrium is reached once...

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Bourdain on People

I quickly came to understand that there are two types of people in this world: There are the type of people who are going to live up to what they said they were going to do yesterday, and then there are people who are full of shit. And that’s all you really need to know.


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When to Stop

Many years ago, I published an article titled The Gap, which was about the enormous chasm between what I consider good enough quality to ship and what I am actually capable of producing. I was going to write something on that topic today, but, as it turns out, The Gap expresses almost exactly what I wanted to say. So here it is, resurrected, with a few edits.

For a couple of years, I have been paralyzed. When I sit down to write, nothing comes out. When I start to design, I stare at a blank canvas. My ability to create things does not meet my own ridiculously high standards of quality, so I get stuck in an endless loop of making decent things, throwing them away, and then starting over from scratch. I’ve been floating around in despair, a creativity limbo, which has nearly destroyed me. I stopped working. I became depressed. In a last ditch effort to restart my brain, I left; I bought...

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Using ‘cryptopasswords’ to discover data breaches

Grant Miller on a method for discovering data breaches instantly, before they are made public:

Recently, in a conversation with Rob Witoff (formerly on the security team at Coinbase, now at Google) we discussed the idea of replacing passwords with private keys that control public cryptocurrency wallets:

[…] The bottom line is, if someone steals your cryptocurrency, you know. If someone steals your password, your SSN or any other PII for that matter, you are at the mercy of the custodial party to discover and disclose that to you.

Making passwords literally money is a genius idea and an elegant solution to a major trust problem.

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Something’s Transmitted

During the opening of today’s Apple Special Event, there was a clip from Steve Jobs that I hadn’t heard before, about showing appreciation for life:

THERE’S LOTS OF WAYS TO BE, as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.

You never meet the people, you never shake their hands, you never hear their story or tell them yours, but somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something’s transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation.

We need to be true to who we are, and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what’s going to keep Apple, Apple–is if we keep us, us.

Steve Jobs

At the highest levels, you can tell a lot...

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