Thursday, June 25, 2020
What would Minimum Viable Post look like, just to let people know you were thinking of them, a slow-time visual version of Yo! maybe? I like zink printing - you don't have to buy ink and there's little waste. I wonder if you can get bigger zink printers than my little one, but in the meantime, maybe I'll just stick a small photo onto a larger piece of card. Minimum.
What about non-urgent comms as a form of gift culture?
Friday, June 19, 2020
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
I'm pretty sure intermittent networks are a natural consequence of solar powered computing...
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Friday, May 22, 2020
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Also strange and oddly saddening to see more aeroplane contrails than I'm used to, but maybe that's just the fresh view.
Saturday, May 16, 2020
Monday, May 11, 2020
This morning's listening: Catching up on GHOSTS V and GHOSTS VI, released by NIN back in March for free. A bunch of unexpected Monday morning organising needed at work suddenly, so some epic and calming stuff is proper what I need.
Music what reminds you to breathe and see through structures.
Sunday, May 10, 2020
1. Up until the rise of a) technological automation and b) money-generating-money (call this 'economic automation'), manual labour was a key part of society. Not only did it keep companies profitable and countries with armies, but it also meant that people were kept 'engaged' in work.
(Note - This 'engagement' covers a broad spectrum of willingness, from slavery through to some sort of idyllic notion of 'working the land'.)
During this time, many ideas in society developed to keep people both 'hygienic' (physically and mentally well) and 'productive'. The idea that 'the devil makes work for idle hands' and that toil keeps us focused is still around today - and for good reason. Knowing what you need to do - whether set by yourself or others - is a fundamental part of identity.
However, after the onset of automation (technical and economic) in the last 200 years, the value of manual labour has declined - or, to put it another way, the relationship between labour as valuable to the individual, and to others, has unravelled. While society does still depend largely on manual labour (eg to pick fruit and veg, as the UK is finding out...), it is a lifestyle which is increasingly hard to think of as 'reliable'.
The narrative has shifted, perhaps, from 'work keeps you fit and sane', to 'mental health is important, so meditate'. Taking breaks, talking through issues, using apps, etc - all these are responses to such things not being valued in our work more broadly, not being a part of *what we do as groups*.
I find this strange. Why do we devalue our own sense of health in order to fit in as robots? And should we look to organisations to lay on counsellors and massages, or should we be trying harder - as employees - to request and/or enforce "more healthy work activities" to start with? What could that look like for different industries?
2. Which brings us back to valuing silence. Because silence is the ultimate example of this - the antithesis of busy business with its always-on, visible production modes.
Silence represents stopping, a lack of output, inaction. It is a terrible and fearsome thing. It cannot be measured or improved, and is fairly difficult to even communicate. And yet, through silence, we reach ideas and realisations. We rest and reflect.
The "old" ritual of church-going and prayer on a Sunday (some of you may still do this) - was/is this a deliberate interjection from the never-ending world of work? (Agriculture is hard and constant.) In the rush to lose religion from society, did we just charge into a world of always-connected-work, and then always-connected-distraction?
Do we now reject silence, afraid that we're either not generating income, or not getting the most out of our expenditure? Have we each become our own little mirror of a profitable enterprise?
Is to embrace silence to laugh in the face of 'profit' then? To accept that to be human is to stop and just exist for a while? Why is this such a 'guilty' pleasure these days - unless stopping makes you anxious?
That's as far as I've got. I carry on looking around me and seeing everyone rushing about, even in lockdown. It feels ... odd. I'm off to have a beer in the wind.
Saturday, May 09, 2020
Sunday, May 03, 2020
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Friday, April 17, 2020
[Anyway, the newsletter is 'solarpunkish', but I'm aiming for a bit more of a mix of practical things around reducing energy, drawing on renewables, considering our sources, but also more around the more spiritual and mystical nature of living in accordance with the earth and the universe that bears us. So it overlaps with the old Empty Technology thread and Taopunk, of course. Everything is connected.]
But this post is part announcement, and part musing. In particular, why did I choose to start the new blog on blogger.com?
I mean, there are at least 3 newsletter services and softwares out there which I was going to try, in addition to the option of running something more 'modern' like Wordpress. What gives?
I started on Blogger back in July 2003, apparently. I've used it to run a few blogs over the years, as well as said Wordpress. I self-host my work weeknotes on Wordpress on a Raspberry Pi, for instance. It works, for the most part. It could do it.
It feels ... antiquated to run up a new blogger.com site. Google don't have a great track record in keeping services going. Blogger doesn't get much love or attention these days. Am I just middle-aged and stuck-in-my-ways? Am I even nostalgic?
To break it down, there were a few requirements I had in mind for the new blog:
- People need to subscribe to posts via e-mail
- People need to subscribe to posts via RSS or Atom - this is important for me, at least
- I like running blogs under a subdomain of exmosis.net these days
- I don't want to pay money?
So I went with blogger.com because it was a pretty minimal viable setup, and I could get it up and running in less than an hour, including feedburner setup and integration for email subscriptions, and adding a custom subdomain with HTTPS enabled. All went super smooth.
I do still worry about Google taking blogger.com away, and yes, I do still prefer to self-host. But blogger.com seems to be outlasting all their other social efforts like even Google+. It's like a rock which has stood since the roman days of the internet, and you don't even need to pay for it, or run ads? (Tell me if you see ads. I have adblockers switched on all over the place.)
I'd better go and find something wooden to touch now. Ulp.
So yeah, blogger.com. Oddly, it's still there, and still does what I want. WTF?
Thursday, April 09, 2020
Saturday, April 04, 2020
A few feed bugs around in my ecosystem today - moving server has changed a lot of the blocks I've settled on over 15 years, which is the risk of hooking together weird htaccess files, IMAP folders, and god-knows-what. Most things are getting resolved bit-by-bit, with tinyletter-to-IMAP-to-RSS almost working. I think the base RSS feeds (without the .php extension) for Disposable Evidence and Grey Pebbles are currently down, but should be fixed this weekend. If you use their RSS feeds, or my overall-RSS-feed, hold tight and things will resolve in due course...
The joy of being a geek, huh?
In other worlds, I can't decide between splashing out on a very large battery, or just buy loads of books. Either way, bring on the future world.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Thursday, March 26, 2020
- RSS feeds for some friends, interesting newsletters, weeknoters, and other blogs for useful topics. Nothing newsy or virusy - everyone in my feeds is lovely and calm.
- 1-1 and small conversations: email replies to my own newsletter send-outs, family emails, Signal, and now (fairly reluctantly, but desperate times, etc) WhatsApp
- Work Slack chatter
- Updates from the missus
- The FT, and after all of that, BBC news
Increasingly, beyond what-you-legally-need-to-know, the only progress I'm really interested in right now is this slightly morbid death tracker on the FT, via their free to read stats analysis:
The UK curve on this one is giving me some hope, at a local scale. Hope for normality perhaps, but more hope for mobility, for the social panic to die down a bit. Hope is everything. If I can sort out the household and the UK can sort itself out, then we can figure out what we can do to support others round the world. And they're going to need it.
The latest death count for the UK is 578, which is being reported as a "rise of more than 100 in a day", but I think still puts us on track for crossing the Italian and French lines over the next 2-3 days, and - very roughly - could - if the curve holds - cross with China in 5 or 6.
And just check out South Korea and Japan.
I mean, that's something, right?
Current listening: 65daysofstatic's Safe Passage Anti-PandemicAnxiety Extended Edition
Update: Just realised the y-axis is exponential, duh, which makes sense but makes my own extrapolation even flatter than I thought. With virus control, the number of deaths per day increasing is not as important as the multiplication rate. Here's yesterday's update, showing the increase to 578, already cutting under the Italian line:
As we see deaths going up at different rates, it also gets clearer that any country is not just at the whim of network effects of course. Strain on a health system can reach a critical point - lack of resources could trigger outbreaks within hospitals, or a sudden lack of available care, which could spark a rise in deaths. Or the virus may have reached a particular cluster within a state some weeks ago (such as a city) which could only now be manifesting.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
I mean, I'm still making sure that our core infrastructure is as resilient as it can be, but others have sorted out setting up Zoom calls, putting together mental health guidance, grabbing spare monitors from the office, etc etc. There are some nice photos-from-home going round the office Slack, too, and it feels like we've ... 'opened up' a little in the move to being locked down.
At home, I'm moving to a series of half-days as we now have two boys to look after all day, and both of us parents are still working. I wasn't sure how this would go at all - the first week working remotely was without them, and that was kind of fun. I set up up in my summer house and enjoyed birdsong and my makeshift standing desk (an old bookshelf unit, not with tinges of mould from the winter).
But, fortunately, so far, this week has been good. We're lucky enough to have enough space for the four of us. It's been more relaxed not having the morning rush and the school pickup, and it's been intriguingly fun to do 'lessons' with the boys - I really appreciate the fact that they just love learning, and have come to think this is more fundamental than even literacy or maths. We can pick a subject and weave learning into it pretty easily. In 3 days we've looked at anglo-saxon history, normal distribution and probability, spelling, Scratch and Roblox coding, and a lot of trampolining and jogging round the pond.
So, I figure the plan is to hammer that out this week, get ourselves sorted and routine. It feels kind of selfish saying that as the world kicks off, but this Twitter thread on slowing down and looking after the essentials made a lot of sense to me. Hoping that next week I can find something useful to do in the community, but TBH looking after a company and a family is pretty tiring. I'm sure there will be some little things I can pick up, and I'll see if the NHS volunteering thing could fit into my routine.
One of the weirder things about it all is how much some people are really unaffected - or rather, the distinction in lifestyles is now being laid a bit more bare. I feel like I'm scrambling to re-factor my whole life, yet when I talk to developers who have no dependents, a lot of the time they say it's nearly 'business as usual' - sometimes even more productive!
So in some ways, I feel like I've reconnected to a lot of people, and there is a lovely openness that comes out in Britons in these times. But on the other hand, I also feel disconnected, like I'm in a very different place.
And yet. I talk to the team and to friends and family, and I dig a bit, and I find out that we're all anxious about something, that just because you're not panicing doesn't mean you're fine with things. Sometimes the anxiety is a longer term one - measureable in days or weeks, rather than hours.
So maybe the best thing I can do is just carry on chatting to people. Keep people's rhythms going.
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Vague shoddy sketch for approaching a cogged city. The border came first and I'm not quite sure things are where they should be, but it's good to get these things out onto paper.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
Unexpected and a breath of air, this tea bag care package plopped through the postbox after James saw my moment of desperation over at the Disposable Evidence newsletter. The kettle was boiling at the time - sometimes the universe just ticks that way (hint: moreso if you believe in it).
Pearls and Men gets mixed ratings, and no reviews, over at Goodreads. This is enough to make me want to read it now.
And such a timely arrival also means I don't quite have to stoop into the unknowns of the Putin teabags just yet...
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
1. A small selection (about 10) of my photos are published now in Black and White Photography magazine, available nationally. The photos are taken from a 2-year-long project to document the local duckpond (I'm not exactly a travel photographer...), and this is sort of the first step in moving from taking the photos, to getting a 'finished' selection. It's probably the first time I've done a photo project on this scale, and am learning a hell of a lot from it.
2. A new collection from James, 'Cows don't believe in Slaughterhouses', very calmly and kindly dropped through, on to my doormat the other day. I always enjoy reading James' work with its measured approach to throw you or make you smile. I particularly enjoy the way his coherency builds into a single point that strikes home like an unnerving itch. You can read more and contact him about a copy here. Just do it, he won't mind.
(Also sorry I don't know how to capitalise titles any more.)
3. In sadder news, the smallest bookshop in Brighton, at the Open Market neighbouring the drifts of the Real Patisserie, has brought down its shutters. An old tour of the tiny space is out there on Facebook until bit-rot sets in. The selection of sci-fi paperbacks was awe-inducing, although I never bought any. I can't remember which books I did buy there, except for an old library copy of Balestrini's Tristano - version 11,778 to be exact. As each copy is a unique shuffle of paragraphs, I got it to go with my version 12,652, with some vague plan for bibliomancy.
(Long time readers may remember 'Butterflies and Sand', my old randomised-haiku project.)
4. Among the few decent bookshops left open in Brighton is probably the Amnesty International second-hand outlet on Sydney Street. I picked up a couple of intriguing looking older books up my street - one on Alternative Technology, and one on War Games during the cold war, and the application of game theory. Now I just need to switch off all the screens and get a decent chair to curl up in, forever and a day.
Friday, February 14, 2020
I'm using webmention.io's remote service for now, just to get something up and running - links to replies come into my RSS reader in a fairly basic way, but don't tie in with blog comments or anything. I haven't played with hacking around in blogger.com in ages. (I found Keith J Grant's posts a good starting point for the basics of hacking together the required parts.)
The funny thing about webmentions, as I start getting into them, is that you don't quite know if someone will get mentioned or not - "you never know who's listening...". Sounds creepy, but I'm more tickled by this slightly chaotic notion than unnerved by it. (eg. I guess some of the links here will fire off alerts. But the one to James above may not, if his Wordpress setup doesn't support webmentions on homepages.)
[Edit: See, I'm mixed up already - I had assumed I was sending mentions, but I think this blog is just listening, so far...]
I don't know how long I'll continue to post via blogger.com - it's all fairly legacy, I prefer self-hosting (even if my backups fail), and I'm not sure webmention works very well with Blogger's auto-country-URL-switching; I've found webmentions only work if you use the .com version of this blog, not .co.uk or anything else. So reliability may depend on the location of the linker. And then there's the reliability of Google as a service provider anyway.
However, the re-invented work notes blog over at https://6work.exmosis.net/ runs on Wordpress, which is much easier to add webmentions to via the handily-named Webmentions plugin. (Consider this a notification test for myself.)
Longer term, I want a self-hosted, really simple site which does basic formatting and images, and I'm not convinced I need the overhead of PHP for that.
Some next steps I want to play with over the next few weeks (alongside everything else in life):
- Look into brid.gy for bridging between various services, which looks like fun
- Try out an IMAP account for posting via email to Wordpress. I do like the convenience of WP and have a decent setup for auto-updates and backups now. Better posting via email would be a holy grail, probably.
- Read up more about indieweb stuff, like micropub and microsub, following a brief conversation on Twitter.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
- It doesn't have the silverdust glare of all the other screens, it feels 'friendlier' - not as tactile and pungent as paper of course, but still. Something less _digital_.
- I can send stuff to it really easily.
- It's actually pretty light.
- It is more focused, less distractive than other devices and their all-purpose, Turing machine omnipotency.
- Mostly things relating to richer reading - colour, namely.
- Reading PDFs - still fairly frequent for longer form text and slavishly rescued texts of lore - just doesn't work. Zooming is essential for PDFs.
- For books, I like the idea of reading e-books, but can't get the hang of picking them up - I always prefer rifling through my real-world shelves when it's time to start a new tome. Probably because I like the idea of clearing physical shelf space once I've read something* - I'm still not sure if you can destroy e-books, but I'm pretty sure you can't leave them in coffee shops or send them in the post.
Maybe I need to deliberately read something on my Kindle to get used to it again. Maybe I need to strike out and just read e-books on the Other Tablet. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to give up on e-paper just yet.
* Clearing physical space is so much more satisfying.
Saturday, February 08, 2020
Friday, February 07, 2020
Boris Johnson produces a good upbeat impression of politics. But even the people who voted for Johnson don’t actually believe it or trust him. They voted for the spectacle of of a bumptious toff offering fake solutions (an “oven-ready deal”) to a fake problem (the EU).
Like Phil, I haven't really been posting political stuff over the last few years. Some of that is just stage of life and not having the time and energy to assemble thoughts into something coherent, and something I'm happy publishing. I don't really have the time or energy to have follow-on discussions either, and taking it to Twitter is like ... well, it would be more productive to beat myself with a heavy stick.
I'm also staying away from public opinions a bit more for 'professional reasons' - I haven't really reconciled being a senior member of a company that needs to be politically impartial with my own public practices. C'est la vie.
But then, I'm not sure I ever have been particularly partisan anyway. My interests and approaches don't ever seem to fit in with a 2-3 party system. Politics carries on whatever the vote, and often feels more tied to the individuals in power than parties.
The bigger picture is more interesting, scarier, and more so for being clearly in our face, like climate change. John Michael Greer has an excellent post, 'The End of the Dream', tying together the rise of the spectacle, the mistrust of 'experts', and the kickback against managerialism and the assumption by those in power that people are here to be controlled.
It reminds me of my own distrust in things, garnered from growing up through an educational system, which recognises that the methods of a 'technostructure'/'biopower'/'surveillance state'/'testing culture' - while productive and convenient - are not there to encourage anything unprofitable, including creativity, happiness, and communities with little to offer after they've been exploited.
(Yes, you can view communities in the exact same way as land under this view - resources which are provided with support only as long as they produce value.)
Greer digs into Michael Lind's book, 'The New Class War':
The populist backlash that put Trump into the White House and popped Britain out of the EU, he argues, arose in response to the takeover of the public sphere by the managerial class, and will continue until the working class majority knows that it can get its concerns addressed and its needs met by those in power.
And picks up on a key point on why politics is so depressing for me - it deals in symbols, not what I would like to phrase "practical hope".
He insists that the populist movement has no policy goals of its own—no, of course not, it’s simply reacting blindly against the policies of the managerial elite—and that if the populists win and displace the managerial elite entirely, then the result will be the triumph of demagogues who have no constructive policies to pursue and who will not enact any of the reforms Lind considers necessary. It would be much better, he insists, for the managerial elite to welcome working class majorities back into the decision-making process in politics, economics, and culture.
These days I spend a lot of my time, as a comfortable male manager, wondering if I'm the 'elite' or not. I don't know if this is defined by material wealth, responsibilities, or what. I think maybe it comes down to something else - attitude. Which, in turn, influences how you wield your influence.
Attitude is not something you can be trained up in - or not formally, at least. For training, one must look more to things like Buddhist and other Eastern approaches, such as doing the hard work on Loving Kindness meditation. Stop up the mouth, block off the eyes, listen to the world, and become a mendicant.
I digress. And yet I don't. What we're talking about here is the fundamental ability of Democracy (any version of it) to connect people. It's why citizen assemblies are, I think, so important - not because they reach a more 'effective' or 'productive' outcome, but because they encourage us to explore the connections between the differences we have, which in turn stops us from literally killing each other.
Writing this post has got me fired up again. I think I might have to read Lind's book, along with a hundred others. I have time, want to do more in this area, want to disrupt it. I need to define the challenge, find others making the same moves. It's 2020, for god's sake.
Wednesday, February 05, 2020
Monday, February 03, 2020
"...a moment's consideration will teach, that however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him..."
- Moby Dick, ch. 58
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Warren Ellis talking about using an old iPad as an Internet radio device. This is where my solarpunk experiments are also leading me. What's interesting about solar power is that it turns energy into a scarce resource, rather than a commodity. This means you've got to start being careful with it. Making decisions. Choosing priorities.
And it turns out, for me at least, that coupling "parcels" of functionality to particular hardware is a good "energy accounting" practice. I can ring-fence off particular functions on my life until I have the energy for them, and it forces me to think through what I consider to be essential. Not enough power to fire up my old Nexus tablet? RSS feeds can take a bit of a back seat then. Nothing urgent there.
The second advantage is that it's easier to work with an ecosystem of old devices - finding a single, all-powerful "god" device to do everything you wanted costs a lot of money. And these days, they make those things unfixable, so if one function goes down (like the camera module, or an app becomes incompatible), you're looking at replacing and checking through all your functions at the same time. Convenient devices will always give you a (bigger) headache at upgrade or replacement time.
Contrariwise, limiting your scope - of purchases, of software, etc - means you have a much more modular setup. I mean, it's never perfect - one should always assume that technology is a bastard. But it's easier to have one, less essential part of your life knocked out than the key bits unexpectedly.
On the downside, backups multiply accordingly. But again, at least you're able to change or reinstate your backups at a smaller level. What's that saying about eggs and baskets?
Modular personal tech ecosystems. Seriously, the future. Now we just need to get over our taboo about federating tech support within local communities ;)
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
I remember going to conferences and asking people if they had a Twitter account instead of a business card. That felt powerful at the time. And, to be fair, I still follow and respect the tweets/posts/thoughts of many of those people. Looking back, Twitter was more of a contact book with lightweight content - staying in touch with people was more important than actually having a conversation.
And perhaps, perhaps, it still has a use for that. It's not a good business model, which is the problem with fucking technocapitalism. Minor things are useful, but need turning into major things to please the VC crowd. Sure,we have the Fediverse, but one cannot deny the _convenience_ of a one-word identity. In terms of contact books and typable brevity, is the Fediverse any better or worse than just swapping emails?
I wish people blogged more, and tweeted less - a small blog once a week or so for those who are interested, and an even smaller tweet once a season, just to let your weak links and the wider world that you're still alive.
Posting more and more content to your weaker links? It feels like we've got this upside-down and back-to-front.
* and yes, the overlap between orbific and orbifx is slightly confusing.
Wednesday, January 08, 2020
Monday, January 06, 2020
Been off Twitter and Mastodon for a month now, as planned. I was expecting to re-join the throng about now, but haven't quite made it back. I've not returned to work yet, and am still relaxing, watching some TV, playing games, looking after kids, and even indulging in some little projects like fixing my old, original Gameboy.
Of more interest than leaving digital media is the question of re-entering the fray, and how that makes me feel. Have I missed it all? Not really. I've been spending less time online in general, but that time has been more focused on emails, RSS, and XMPP chats. In all three cases, I get more out of my engagement than the random, half-formed fragments that microblogging encourages.
With email, I have a huge amount of flexibility, and can easily sort out newsletters and personal messages from other admin stuff. A medium isn't just about the format and technical protocols involved, but all the support tools, organisational structures and cultural expectations that go with it.
I think email - and/or the people I communicate with - has moved away from the overly oppressive practices that burdened email within corporate contexts. My inbox is still overflowing significantly, but it feels... Fun.
RSS is my relaxing read, my newspaper. I've sorted out some email-to-RSS feeds for any longer format email newsletters which don't have feeds, but the main aim with my feed reader is to enjoy more thoughtful and expansive missives from people whose writing I enjoy. If I had some things to focus on with my RSS setup this year, it would be to:
- make it easier to reply to posts - maybe I'll add some sort of mailto link on my own posts automatically somehow
- encourage more people I know to set up blogs and post, without it being too much hassle
I like this approach - the phone keeps the editing process shorter and more focused, and I can write anywhere, while Markdown gives me some basic formatting. (This post is currently being written in Markor, a FLOSS app on F-Droid.) Still, it's obviously not everyone's cuppa. ☕
XMPP, for me, picks up where I left IRC behind. It's the flipside of the promise of microblogging - short chatter with random, weak-link people. But there's not the half-on half-off limbo approach or microblogging, and nor is there a contorted bastardisation of themed conversations. Rooms are so much better than hashtags or groups - it's funny how subject matter sets the scope of a space, and therein one's own reason for participating.
On the whole, the question is not which social media apps one likes using, but how does one want to engage with the world. Are we looking for deeply fulfilling conversation? Distraction and diversion? Intimate conversation? Q&A sessions and useful info?
In practice, it's probably all of these. The danger is that we get sucked into trying to do all of them at the same time, rather than consciously choosing our mode of thought depending on what we want to focus on, what we want to achieve. It's like trying to buy water from a supermarket - you'll always come out with batteries and mince pies in September, just because there's too much tempting diversity.
So my approach from here is not to just jump back in, but to think about why I'm engaging more, and what I want to get out of my usage. I'll start checking sites again, but am going to hold off installing apps for instant attention. It needs to tie in with how I want to use my time more generally, with my longer term plans and goals for the year.
And that's a whole different post.