Thoughts for the week's end

Anne Trubek writes an excellent newsletter. In the most recent edition, she talks through some of the financial issues with literary awards. It focuses on Galley Beggar and their success with Ducks, Newburyport, a book released last year that was shortlisted for the Booker.

I’m a perfect audience for this because I immediately pre-ordered Ducks, Newburyport last February after reading an article in the Irish Times that highlighted it with a handful of others from independent presses. I have a strange draw to “It’s 900 pages, it’s one sentence long…“. I haven’t read it yet, but absolutely will in 2020.

Anyhow. It’s nuts to think about the logistics required to play in the world of big prizes. Sam Jordison, one of Galley Beggar’s founders, wrote an interesting piece in October that shed some light on the money and time required by the publisher and author once a book is nominated. That piece was particularly critical of the Booker’s handling of the dual prize that was awarded this year.

I’ll avoid recapping the entire story here. Instead, I definitely recommend checking out Anne’s newsletter.

In the meantime, I went all in and actually subscribed to Galley Beggar’s “Galley Buddy” service, so I’ll be getting 4 of their books over the next year. If you find yourself tempted to do the same thing, let me know and we can have a focused book club.


I’ve been using VIM ever since I can remember knowing what it was. Let’s call it 20 years?

Only today did I bother to look up how to search and replace text. Only today! Even though I’ve spent countless hours adjusting domain names in nginx config files. Even though I know VIM is literally a text editor. Even though I’ve actually watched this amazing video in which VIM’s creator, Bram Moolenaar, walks through all of the crazy things you can do in VIM.

I never bothered to try :%s/search/replace/g. Imagine that.


I had a moment where I realized I’ve been using DNSimple to manage my DNS for about 9 years. A genuine feeling I have is how fantastic of a service it’s been and how I’m happy it hasn’t gone away and hasn’t changed in any strange way.

Of course, as soon as I thought that I started calculating how much money I had spent on this service alone over the last 9 years and it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $1200-$1500. That’s a lot of money!

It’s disappointing that we took the idea of property from the physical world and transferred it directly to the digital world. For things like address management, it’d sure be nice if there was a viable commons.


On the last day before returning to work for the first time this decade, I received notice of a credit added to Happy Prime‘s Slack account due to one team member’s inactivity—me!

This must mean I’ve done the best among the three of us at keeping Slack closed for the previous two weeks. 🙂


Here’s an idea to carry into 2020:

You cannot create or curate a community where everyone is welcome. It’s an incoherent, fake goal. It sounds nice but it is categorically impossible. Some people, by their very presence, make a space unsafe and unwelcoming to others.

Holden Shearer, Twitter, January 2, 2020

This is an interesting thread to think about. I know I’ve struggled in the past with trying to be welcoming to new community members while also identifying who’s “offhand” remark is going to become a problem and figuring out how to tell them it’s not welcome. Something to strive toward!


I’ve realized more and more that I want something I can only describe as inline blocks in Gutenberg. That may solve some of the pains I have with “block editor” vs “text editor” and one day allow for a text editor inside a block—maybe?

I’m also ruminating on WordPress being the “operating system for the web” and how a good OS would probably allow for a plethora of editors. 🤔


Just fucking blog” is pretty good advice from Bix. [via Joho the Blog]


See, blogging is easy” is an excellent sentiment from Evan Williams. It’s nice to see one of the originals back and using the tool he founded.

Of course there’s a but!

Medium is one of those centralized hosted writing services that could choose to implement its proprietary features (e.g. “claps”) using decentralized protocols and open web standards so that the general web can participate and benefit.

Twitter is another: “likes”, “retweets”.

WordPress.com is another: “reblogs”, “likes”.

Granted, there’s a lot of work involved, but it’d be fun!


📺 We finished season one of the Politician on Netflix this week. It was really, really good. Such great characters and almost like a prequel to House of Cards. Looking forward to where things go in Season 2 while also hoping it has a solid arc.


📺 And we finished the Dracula mini-series—3 long episodes—on Netflix. It was somewhere around 95% really well done. I’d feel weird giving away the 5% that I thought was horribly done, so I’ll be quiet. I guess ping me if you want to share rants.

Oh, and if this comes back for a season 2, I’ll take back most of the nice thoughts I have about the show.


📚 I finished Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites this week. It’s the 3rd of the Discworld series and 1st of the Witch series. I love the idea of headology already and I’m very much becoming a Terry Pratchett fan. Mort is next on the list.

How to read ebooks purchased from Kobo on a Kindle

When an ebook is not available directly through a publisher, I’d like to purchase it through Kobo rather than Amazon. A nice part of Kobo is the option to associate your account with an independent bookstore. Once associated, the store receives some amount of money for any ebook you purchase. This allows me to continue to support local shops while also reading books digitally.

Kobo provides ebooks as EPUB files with DRM applied via Adobe Digital Editions. Only Kobo authorized readers have the ability to open these files.

The Kindle does not support any type of EPUB file. If it did, I’m sure it would not support Adobe Digital Editions DRM, as Amazon has its own. Kindle primarily supports the more proprietary MOBI and AZW3 formats. You can convert non-DRM locked EPUB files to MOBI using Amazon’s KindleGen tool on the command line, though I’m not sure how robust it is.

When I purchased a Kindle Voyage 5 years ago, Amazon’s intent was to lock me into their ecosystem as much as possible. I would like to use another reader, but one point of reading digitally is to save natural resources, not burn through them faster by buying more devices. If I can’t use another e-reader, I can at least use another book source.

I’ll avoid digressing any further and save some thoughts on Amazon and e-readers for another time.

According a ruling recapped by the EFF, explaining how to remove the lock from a piece of content is not copyright infringement. The federal judge in that ruling said:

The act of infringement underlying the inducement claim, however, is not the removal of DRM protection. Rather, it is the copying and distribution of ebooks to others after such protection has been removed.

Because of that ruling, I’ll feel comfortable—legally and ethically—following these instructions every time I forget what I had to do the last time to read an EPUB I purchased.

So here’s how to remove the DRM on an ebook purchased from Kobo (or elsewhere) so that it can be read on a Kindle.

Prerequisites

  • Download and install Adobe Digital Editions.
  • Download and install Calibre, an open source ebook manager.
  • Download and extract the latest ZIP release of DeDRM_tools.
  • Open Calibre, open its preferences, and navigate to “Plugin” under “Advanced.
  • Use “Load plugin from file” to add the obok_plugin.zip file from its respective directory in the extracted DeDRM folder.
  • Use “Load plugin from file” to add the DeDRM_plugin.zip file from its respective directory in the extracted DeDRM folder.
  • Restart Calibre before loading any books.

Obtain the EPUB file from a Kobo purchase

When a ebook is downloaded from your Kobo library, it is saved by default as URLLink.acsm. This is not an ebook, but instead a document containing a fullfillmentToken element with a bunch of information about the ebook. This includes its format and the license data associated with Adobe. This file can only be opened with Adobe Digital Editions (or a reader that supports Adobe’s DRM).

Drag or otherwise open the ACSM file in Adobe Digital Editions.

You’ll need to authorize your computer the first time you do this, but there’s an option for doing so without an Adobe ID. I have absolutely no idea what happens during that process, but it works.

Once authorized, the book should then open in Adobe Digital Editions. Close the book itself and go back to Bookshelves. Right click on the book title and choose “Show in Finder”. This brings you directly to the EPUB file that was downloaded by Adobe Digital Editions for this ebook.

Convert the EPUB to MOBI

Whether or not the EPUB has DRM, via Adobe and Kobo, or is an unlocked EPUB through a source, like Gutenberg or a forward-thinking author, Calibre can now be used to convert the file into MOBI, a format readable by Kindle, so that you can read the book you purchased.

Drag or otherwise open the EPUB file in Calibre. Right click on the book title, choose “Convert Books” and “convert individually”.

A screen will come up with a bunch of options that are likely unnecessary. In the top left, Calibre will show that the conversion is from EPUB. In the top right, it will show that the conversion is to MOBI.

Click “Ok” in the bottom right and Calibre will proceed to convert the book.

Once that window disappears, MOBI will be listed as one of the book’s available formats. Use “Click to open” next to “Path” or right click on the book and select “open containing folder”.

This folder contains all of the formats available for the book. Either email the MOBI file to Kindle’s personal document service or copy it manually to the device via USB.

The purchased book can now be read! 📚

Finally, snow

Good fluffy stuff.

We haven’t had a real snowfall yet this winter. A few dustings here and there, but nothing like tonight’s light and fluffy blanket.

There’s a winter weather warning for the weekend, so this should be just a preview. While it makes travel a little more difficult, it’d sure be nice to get some snowpack going to lessen the wildfire smoke in summer.

☃️

Now supporting Webmention

I think? If you know how to send a Webmention, please do so that I know it works! 😂

I’ve installed the IndieWeb plugin as well as its companions, Webmention and Semantic-Linkbacks.

The IndieWeb plugin adds a few semantic things to the user profile in WordPress and acts as a launch platform for installing a bunch of other IndieWeb related plugins.

The Webmention plugin adds support for, imagine this, the Webmention protocol. This should enable support for sending and receiving mentions.

The Semantic-Linkbacks plugin treats Webmentions and other linkbacks as proper comments and formats things in a nice rich way.

I have added all of these, but I haven’t tested any of them yet. So this post should play the role of general announcement and playground.

Some things to do in 2020

Here is a selection of things I hope to spend time reflecting and acting on throughout the year. Previous iterations of this look-forward have ranged from vague to specific: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. Vague seems more fun, as is posting this when it’s ready rather than on the first of the year.

Reclaim email. I’ve spent some time over the last several days clicking “unsubscribe” on almost every automated email I receive.

It’s funny to think that it didn’t take long for email to go from a cool useful tool we used to communicate with each other to a thing primarily used by marketers to keep us constantly tracked and informed.

I’d like to find something closer to a world in which I thought about Brands when I needed something rather than a constant stream of Brands.

The second part of reclaiming email is deciding when it should be a part of my life. I’m blessed—🙄—with 3 email addresses that require some amount of daily attention. My current way of dealing with this is to leave each open in its own pinned tab so that they’re available to me throughout the day.

I just closed those pinned tabs and will determine a different workflow for when to check and process email. My guess is that it will have something to do with a schedule. We’ll see what that turns into.

A bonus level to this is tackling the mess that Slack, “the constant email”, has become.

Support independence. I spend a lot of time reading peoples’ updates on a single company’s platform. I spend an outsize amount of money on another single company’s platform.

When I buy books, I’m starting to spend time looking for the source rather than relying on Amazon. This has been a pleasant experience that has started to lead me toward a more diverse set of books in general. As my familiarity with smaller presses goes up, so does my awareness and happiness.

I also finally started supporting a couple small publications via Patreon or Substack last year. These are some of the most useful and enjoyable to me and I’d like to keep finding them.

And I’m continuing to dive into the world of IndieWeb. I’m going to make that a priority throughout the year. Our first local gathering is just over a week from now and I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me.

Support community. I’m getting more and more frustrated with the idea of everything needing to be “big” or work at “scale”. While I haven’t identified anything concrete yet, I think there are community sized issues that can be approached without a reliance on big.

There will likely be a correlation between the independence I support and the communities I support. Or, maybe: I want independence to be something communities have access to.

My idea of independence in this context is something along the lines of “the community has access to the tools it needs to communicate”.

I could keep rephrasing this for a while, but however it works out and whatever it means, I’ll spend more time on community.

Happy 2020, y’all! 🎉