Thoughts for the week's end

The facial recognition is completely out of control story from the NY Times was a terrifying way to start the week. It’s also not new. Previously terrifying: 2019 and 2018.

This whole piece on publishing in the last decade is really good. I hadn’t ever thought of ordering from Barnes & Noble as a way of pushing back against Amazon. I’ll keep IndieBound and the used bookstore down the street as my new defaults, but it’s nice to log other options.

The Washington Post’s candidate matching quiz was interesting. I matched with Warren for 14 of 20 questions. Biden and Buttigieg tied for last place at 7. How I match with Warren but agree more with two billionaires than Joe and Pete will remain a mystery. 🤷🏼‍♂️

I’ve barely paid attention to the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, but enjoyed reading Steve’s “MLB and the Astros Billionaire” and Om’s “Just get paid & our culture of lies“—both interesting and comprehensive takes.

I appreciate Steve’s idea of a post-season ban for cheaters. Om agrees the billionaire isn’t being blamed enough, though seems to put a bit more pressure on the players than I would.

How players act in these scenarios brings to mind Tyler Hamilton‘s excellent “The Secret Race“, in which he talks about cycling being the one thing he wants in the world and how hard it is as a newcomer to speak up when the veterans around you are all cheating. And then all of a sudden you’re in it and the circle continues.

The money is different in the MLB—I’m guessing fewer major league athletes are living out of vans—but the general pressure to comply must be intense.

I’m annoyed at how often I’ll reach for Twitter on any given day, so I added their AS number as one of Facebook’s in the script I use to block all Facebook traffic. My laptop is now Twitter and Facebook free.

I think I’m getting closer to wanting to find an alternative way to read Twitter. By turning off retweets and reducing the number of people I follow, there’s much less to keep up with.

And it worked! I updated this post with the above, closed the tab, and then immediately tried to open Twitter. Habits!

Thoughts for the week's end

New Born, by Matthias Lindermayr is very chill trumpet jazz. The spaciness reminds me quite a bit of Miles Davis, who’s Kind of Blue is very much a solid part of my top 10.

I got here by poking around at the contributors to the Sepalot album, A New Cycle, another that I’ve really enjoyed lately.

🎥 Watched Train to Busan (2016) last Friday and immediately designated it a top 5 zombie flick. It may be a top 3. What an excellent time.

We followed that up with Psychokinesis (2018) from the same writer and director, Yeon Sang-ho. It was much different than Train to Busan—more comedy. I thought both movies did an excellent job of communicating the motivations of people.

📺 Watched the first two episodes of The Outsider on HBO. Really well done so far. Ben Mendelsohn is such a great lead character actor. If that’s a thing.

We also watched the first four episodes of Watchmen on HBO. Wow. What an amazing show. I’m completely unfamiliar with the comics and I’m kind of happy because every bit of the show is just blowing me away.

This Sankey diagram of imprints owned by the top five book publishers in the US is an interesting view of how you may think you’re looking at a book from a small press, but it’s really part of a bigger machine. Also fun from that site, “Plain English: A Cheat Sheet“. I made a decision to use “ebook” instead of “e-book” or “eBook” in a post the other day and briefly thought of creating a style guide page to go with it. Having that personal tip sheet seems like it could be fun.

Alphabet is nearing a valuation of one trillion US dollars. At this point, any time a government fines Google $1.6 billion for antitrust behavior, it’s as affordable for them as someone who makes $100k a year signing up for another $13/month streaming service.

See also Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and, soon, Facebook.

Living concrete sounds really, really cool. Xenobots, self-healing robots created from frog stem cells, sound really, really terrifying. That both are partially funded by DARPA adds to any dystopian storyline, even if DARPA funds everything.

The concrete article stuck in my head today as I was breaking down the ungodly amount of styrofoam that my new desk and shelves were packed in. I’m somewhat surprised that in 2020 we don’t have some kind of solution we can drizzle onto the styrofoam and have it at least break itself down into a clump of goop that goes in the trash. Shipping that off to the landfill feels horrible.

Happy Friday!

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”. 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.

Thoughts for the week's end

Once a week, on no particular day, I’ll manually navigate to the latest Books that made me piece at The Guardian. I’m a sucker for others’ perspectives on books.

Sometimes this happens in a browser. Other times through the app. I have no bookmark or reminder. I tap, click, and scroll through the various screens that get me there.

I can’t think of another habit like this that I consistently remember to do weekly without any kind of prompt or set schedule.

The late-in-the-year view of Orion from our front yard in Pullman can be pretty astounding. It is definitely the clearest of constellations in a sky that suffers from only a small amount of light pollution—nowhere near as much as a large city.

It’s been fun seeing what appears to be an almost annual round of articles covering Betelgeuse, one of the stars of Orion and one of the sky’s brightest, and its eventual transition to supernova.

How cool would it be if that were to actually happen in our lifetime? I know I would quickly become a telescope owner.

Sometimes there are a couple pages in a book that are so good you just want to hang out there for a while.

It’s fun to save some habits in taste for later in life. Only in the last year have I really started to seek out espresso drinks with milk in them and just this month started making them at home. Now, especially when traveling, I’ll look for places with an excellent machiatto or flat white rather than a standard doppio.

Straight espresso still provides the best flavor IMO, but there’s a fun complexity—and a few extra calories to maybe avoid the jitters?—with milk.

One memorable part of Moby-Dick is when Ishmael takes a turn at a masthead and talks about dozing on watch. Emphasis mine:

But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at midday, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

A vortex, though not really Descartian, is also covered in Natalia Ginzburg’s Lessico famigliare, when she discusses the suicide of her friend, Italian author Cesare Pavese:

As soon as the war was over, we were immediately afraid that another war would start and we thought about it obsessively. He was more afraid than any of the rest of us, however, of another war. For him, fear was the vortex of the unknown and the unexpected, and horrendous to his clear thinking: dark poisoned waters swirling against the barren shores of his life.

Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico famigliare

Happy week’s end! 🐳

Thoughts for the week's end

I’ve started using NetNewsWire as a partial alternative to Feedly. It’s weird to say this, but even though I’m reading web content, I kind of like having a separate app for it outside of the browser. I also really enjoy that it’s free and open-source software.

I reported for jury duty on Tuesday morning—my first time ever. It took over a year to get a proper invitation after I finally tempted the system with a blog post.

It was an interesting experience and very different from some of the assumptions I had built via Grisham novels and McConaughey movies. The thing I least expected was the narrowing down of a juror pool by asking all 30 of us questions at once. I had imagined a drawn out scene where each juror candidate was grilled individually by the judge and lawyers. Instead, it took about an hour and a half of basic group questions to build the jury.

And I was selected!

After jury selection was finished, we were sent to the juror room for a short recess. We ended up waiting about 45 minutes, which seemed a bit strange. After finally filing back into our seats to get started, we were informed that the trial was ending due to a mistrial and we had fulfilled our duties as jurors!

Super anti-climatic, but still an interesting process.

One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that you can see a hawk almost any day by just looking up at the sky for a few minutes. It never gets old to watch their heads shift back and forth in an almost mechanical movement scanning the ground while they soar up and around thermals.

A downside of living in the Pacific Northwest is magpies.

I’ve had all traffic to Facebook, Instagram, and whatever else is associated with AS32934 blocked for over a week now and have experienced absolutely no issues. There were probably a couple Instagram links on Twitter I would have clicked if I knew they would have loaded, but I was also okay skipping on by.

This process did make me want to find other ranges of IP numbers that I could block for good. I may need to spend some time looking for predatory tracking companies and the IPs they use.

Adam, at Adam’s Apples, posted a reaction to the sudden increase of traffic to the site over the last week. In a comment below the new post, he says:

Funny thing is, I wasn’t trying to build anything, really, except my own knowledge.

– Adam, on Adam’s Apples

Which is an excellent reason to have a website.

This is probably my dozenth attempt at a “what would it look like to track some notes over the week and schedule it to publish on Friday” post. We’ll see if it works. I even put little separators in between the notes. 😎