@Bruff Feedbin is the balm that will help you manage your pain.

Conversation

@maique Thanks Maique! I do feel like I need to do less tweaking and more writing. I'm the same way, though, playing around keeps me up when I should be sleeping.

Conversation

@JMaxB I know, but there is like a half an employee in a closet somewhere who gets to work on it during his FedEx day once a quarter. It used to actually be a going concern. Google has done almost nothing with it since they aquired it.

Conversation

@lmika @jayeless I'm definitely in the camp of people who won't take a chance on a Google product because I've been burned so many times. Blogger, Google+, Google Reader, Sparrow, etc.

Conversation

@jayeless @lmika Very few companies will be honest enough to lay out a plan for what happens if a product fails right up front. It wouldn't exactly engender excitement about the product.

Conversation

Blogging As Self-Care

I’ve been on a sort of crusade to get more people to blog recently. If I come across a person who is interesting and has something worthwhile to share, I urge them to start a blog. I have a friend at work who, in the early days of the Ukraine war, was sending updates about the conflict to a large group of people via an email distribution list. I suggested he commit his ideas to a blog instead. At first, he wasn’t into the idea. One of the reasons he gave me was that he had too much going on and he needed self-care time, in addition to all the craziness in life. I remarked to him that the activity of blogging is my self-care time. Seriously, I can think of few things more relaxing than tinkering with my home on the web. I’m not alone. Greg Morris writes about feeling the same way in My Blog, My Escape. He finds the way for him to “switch off” is through blogging. Some people find this in computer games, some find it in reading, but mine is writing and tinkering with my blog. I can only truly escape from the world for a bit whilst typing away on my keyboard doing my thing, and I only figured this out because I haven’t been doing it so much lately. I know my wife wonders why I’m tinkering so much when she sees me working on my blog, but I feel justified in the fact that I am actually writing in addition to tinkering. Many people have fun setting up a blog but hardly ever post to it. I’ll admit, though, that designing the look and feel of a fresh weblog is almost half the fun. In fact, I’m revamping my blog with a new coat of paint right now (the accent color is called “Fresh Blue of Bel Air”). Pruning your blog, like gardening, is its own kind of zen. Something like tweaking the decoration of your links can inspire a feeling of craftsmanship. Sharing your blog with others, whether it’s through a dedicated blogging network like Micro.blog or a dominant social platform like Twitter, is a method of expression that can be gratifying. You never know what is going to land with people. As I’ve read many times, and also experienced, sometimes the posts you worked the hardest on hardly seem to get any notice, while the thoughts that clutter your brain until you bang out quick statements simply to release them can pick up serious traction. It keeps things interesting when you have no idea what will resonate. The feelings that brings up are probably based on the fact that humans respond to variable reward structures by continuing or even intensifying the behavior that brings the rewards.1 Can Blogging = Journaling In Public? Blogging doesn’t have to completely shut the world out, though. It can bring the world into your frame of reference. In that respect, it’s like journaling. If you do an internet search for “keeping a journal mental health” you’ll come up with no shortage of articles extolling the benefits of journaling to improve your mindset. The following passage is from an article on WebMD. Journaling about your feelings is linked to decreased mental distress. In a study, researchers found that those with various medical conditions and anxiety who wrote online for 15 minutes three days a week over a 12-week period had increased feelings of well-being and fewer depressive symptoms after one month. Their mental well-being continued to improve during the 12 weeks of journaling. Therapists prescribe journaling to help their clients process their thoughts. Blogging can be a similar exercise. Some people blog as they would journal and the only difference is that the journal is for the public to view. Jack Baty, for example, does this quite a bit on his blog. Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, which makes Wordpress, the internet’s most popular blogging software, describes journaling in the app Day One as keeping a “local blog.” However, blogging doesn’t necessarily have to be about self-disclosure. For example, one of my favorite types of content to publish is the link post. With link posts, you find things that interest you online and attempt to convey that feeling with others. Link posts force you to look outside yourself for material but also help you to analyze and make sense of what is being discussed. Then there are blogs that focus on a particular subject. I was just going through the Ghost blog directory the other day and you wouldn’t believe how many blogs about tech are out there (or maybe you would). Your blog is yours, and you should feel free to publish the kind of posts that suite you. The Mission Continues I’m currently trying to get my 16-year-old son to take up blogging. He showed some interest, but hasn’t yet made his first post. He keeps mumbling something about being busy. As a junior in high school in an accelerated IT program, he does have a lot to keep up with. I really think the practice would benefit him, though. If you can fit a hobby like blogging into your schedule, it’s usually time well spent. Picture a rat pushing its feeder bar when it doesn’t know whether food will come out or a gambler shoving coins into a slot machine hoping for a chance to hit pay dirt. ↩︎

Conversation

@lmika DHH is spot on here.

Conversation

@JMaxB That guy isn't afraid to call it like he sees it.

Conversation

Finished reading: Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton 📚. This book was dense prose but it’s possbile that Christian apologetics has never sounded so much like poetry. I highlighted numerous sentence fragments.

Conversation

Andor Depicts War Amongst The Stars

I’ll start by showing my cards here and admitting that I can’t wait to see Andor, the latest of the Star Wars shows to premiere on Disney+. The only reason I haven’t already dipped back into the Star Wars universe is that my imagination is currently in Middle Earth, where the harfoots are undertaking a perilous journey and Sauron and his juicy, sunscreen-hoarding orcs are on the move. If I weren’t so deep into the story that Rings of Power is weaving, I would have settled down in front of the big screen with the lights off and watched for that familiar Star Wars logo that has brought joy to me since I was a kid. I’ve been waiting for a while for Andor to come out and I have greater expectations for this show than any of the previous Star Wars episodic TV shows (although I ended up enjoying them all). The main reason that I’ve got such high hopes for Andor is that I loved the movie Rogue One, on which it is based. I enjoyed Rogue One so much that I read the prequel, Catalyst (which was the best Star Wars novel I’ve read). While Catalyst as a prequel focuses on the earlier history of the character Galen Erso and his friend who became his enemy, Orson Krennic, Andor focuses on the titular character of Cassian Andor. In Rogue One, it was hinted at several times that Andor had an eventful and adventurous backstory. Now audiences get to find out exactly how adventurous that backstory was and what events shaped Andor’s character. For me, modern Star Wars movies peaked with Rogue One. Not longer after it debuted, we’ve now come to expect more television-style shows from the franchise than actual films. Moviegoing and television watching are completely different experiences. I remember vividly going to view the newer movies at Cinebistro, one of those theaters where you are served dinner before reclining in a luxurious oversized chair to watch the film you came to see. We would go as a development team from work and take up a few rows of the theater. I would always get the richest chocolate lava cake you can ever conceive of and deal with the stomach ache to go with it later. I loved seeing the movies as a group and then gathering around in the lobby later to discuss the merits of the films. We introduced more than one Star Wars newbie to the franchise that way, giving them homework of seeing the original trilogy. Rogue One, a story of how the resistance against the Galactic Empire won its first victory, hit at a time when resistance seemed like a real thing that was brewing. Donald Trump had just been elected president, and already there were concerns about his ties with Russia and potential criminality. As I drove home from the theater, I heard then president Obama speaking about the allegations. “Resist” became a slogan, and the sci-fi story of the resistance that became a rebellion seemed timely and frankly, somewhat inspirational. Opposing a tyrannical government no longer seemed so abstract to those in America. In a post for The Verge, Charles Pulliam-Moore summarizes Andor by way of describing how its preceding film set the stage. Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards’ harrowing, shell-shocked, but ultimately optimistic story about the small group of freedom fighters who won the Rebel Alliance’s first victory against the Galactic Empire, was unlike any other Star Wars story when it debuted in 2016. As part of a franchise that — at the time — felt increasingly incapable of escaping the gravitational pull of its nostalgia-logged core mythology and its players, Rogue One was a sophisticated and hard-edged reminder that there’s always been so much more to Star Wars than the Skywalker saga. Andor, from Rogue One writer-turned-showrunner Tony Gilroy, doesn’t at all stray too far from the tone, scale, or frankness about the human costs of warring with fascists that defined the film it’s building up to. Since becoming an adult, I’ve felt like war and violence are often depicted in a very glossy way on screen. Either that or they are gratuitously showcased. So war is glamorized or gritty, with reality settling somewhere outside the bounds of the cinematic universe from which the films come. Rogue One changed the way a Star Wars property treated war, with its painful casualties and disappointing losses. It felt like the first Star Wars film for adults.1 In a time when many “fans” accuse the changes in the Star Wars universe of retroactively ruining their childhoods, a subsequent series that’s unashamedly aimed at adults seems almost necessary. I still haven’t let my little guy see the movie. ↩︎

Conversation

Matter is taking a cue from HEY and including notes (that you can now also take from the extension when you save an article) inline with your reading list.

Conversation

As far as Netflix goes: If we won’t see a Season 2 that takes place in the Grishaverse, I’m not sure I want to hear about it.

Conversation

The Graying Of The Fun Crowd

An opinionated tweet recently provoked a strong reaction. That happens many times a day and is hardly news. This Twitter firestorm caught my attention, though, because it shows how people today are coming from profoundly different views of life. The tweet was first brought to my attention by a post by Jake Meador on Mere Orthodoxy. What numerous people read into the tweet gives a clue into just how divergent strains of thought about very fundamental aspects of life have become. Millennials who are very cavalier about not having children are in for a shock when they enter their 40s & realize life is only half over. What do you do at that point? Keep trying to be sexy & have fun? I expect to see a lot of sadness & confusion about what to do at that point. — Shane Morris (@GShaneMorris) August 23, 2022 Meador explains the confusion. What was striking about the backlash to Morris’s comments was how critics read into his remarks. Virtually all of his many, many critics read him as suggesting that children are essentially a consumable good we create to console ourselves and deal with our own loneliness and unhappiness as we reach middle age. But that’s not what Morris said, nor is it how Christianity imagines the life of the family or the purpose of children. And the imaginative failure of virtually any of his non-Christian critics to understand this points to a core failure of our day, I think. It’s not as if Morris was describing some hitherto unimaginable way of living in the world; he was describing something that describes the way most human beings across time have lived. That last sentence from the quote is what gave me pause. The way most human beings have lived across time is now beyond understanding by — judging by the responses to the tweet — many people. This brings to mind Emile Durkheim’s concept of anomie, where norms are not known or expected. Durkheim, who is considered the father of modern sociology, predicted dire consequences for societies that fall into this kind of social disorder.

Conversation

True Mathematics

Frank Yang commemorates the 20th anniversary of Ladytron’s Light & Magic LP in a post on Space Echo. Completely unaware of the significance of the date, I was listening to the album the other day. My favorite song remains the track in the pole position, “True Mathematics.” I’m excited to see a newly produced video for the song. I’m even happier that the video version of the song is different from the album version and has a bit more punch. The vocals are still in Bulgarian, which gives them a certain edge. We pushed the sound of the language to be as percussive and metallic as possible, beyond the way it naturally is. Live, the song took on a life of its own – it became even harder, almost heavy metal. Also, not many bands open their sets with a song in a foreign language, so it felt like a statement of intent. There is almost a metal feel to the song, and it’s got a force and urgency to it that is perfect for kicking off an album or a live show. → Ladytron – True Mathematics

Conversation

Give To Us This Day

We recently changed our version of the Lord’s Prayer in church. Not to something radically different, but we now have a current, ecumenical version. Included are the words “save us from the time of trial.” Frankly, I was wondering why those words were left out previously. Drew Kadel examines the Lord’s Prayer in a piece on his blog Observations. And it is in that vision of that Kingdom of God that we pray the next sentence: “Give us each day our daily bread.” Bread Nourished. Each day. In God’s commonwealth there is enough. Enough to share, but not enough to grab and keep for ourselves. Life with Jesus is simple, it is an ordinary experience of peace. In his prayer, what we request is the basics of real life, not the fantasies of what we might want, or the violence of what we might take. I love the last sentence in this quote. The “fantasies of what we might want” and “the violence of what we might take” feels so convicting. Can’t we all name those fantasies and the violence we would commit? → Save Us From the Time of Trial | Observations

Conversation

The Verge Redesign

It’s heartening to see what The Verge is doing with their transformation. They’ve stopped trying to optimize for spreading their content on social media platforms. But publishing across other people’s platforms can only take you so far. And the more we lived with that decision, the more we felt strongly that our own platform should be an antidote to algorithmic news feeds, an editorial product made by actual people with intent and expertise. The Verge’s homepage is the single most popular page at Vox Media, and it should be a statement about what the internet can be at its best. As a nod to the days before social media, they are reshaping the way they deliver their news and stories. Our plan is to bring the best of old-school blogging to a modern news feed experience and to have our editors and senior reporters constantly updating the site with the best of tech and science news from around the entire internet. In the statement of intent, they refer to the process as “blogging” several times, and that gives me hope that the site will indeed take the strengths that the internet had before it was dominated by social algorithms. The news feed that populates the new homepage of The Verge is innovative and, frankly, fun. The mix of heterogenous types of content makes for a scalable experience. Long-form and short-form, embeds and graphics are all together in an eye-catching design.

Conversation

The Crown

I completely understand why my wife and others have no use for the British monarchy. For one thing, my wife is Irish, so amicable feelings for the royals in England do not come naturally. For another, obviously the concept of monarchy and someone who lives in luxury to be a sort of figurehead flies in the face of our shared sensibilities about good stewardship and distributing wealth equitably. Yet, despite my sympathy towards those who cannot rouse themselves to celebrate the trappings of a antiquated institution, I can’t help but feel a sort of sadness at the passing of Queen Elizabeth. It is something more than just a reluctance to see the symbol of another age disappear. Maybe I watched too many episodes of The Crown on Netflix, but the Queen represented a Britain that seems aspirational — like the dreams of the most ardent Anglophile embodied.1 Paul Kingsnorth writes about how, during the decline of Britain in the modern era, Elizabeth stood out as a reminder of the spirit of the country. The Queen lasted: nothing else did. As Aris Rousinoss wrote this week, Britain’s decline in my lifetime - from a country which ran much of the world to a country which can barely run itself - has perhaps been unprecedented in modern history. Come up with whatever diagnoses you please, blame who you like, but you can’t deny the downward trajectory: steep, dizzying, painful. Only the Queen stood still, or seemed to, and as she did so she represented something much older than any of the rules we live by. A monarch has sat on the throne of England for 1500 years. The meaning of this is mostly inaccessible to our argumentative modern minds. Kingsnorth doesn’t ignore the question of why Britain would have a monarch in these times. What, after all, is the point of a monarch in the modern world? There is really only one: to represent a country and its history; to be a living embodiment of the spirit of a people. As such, the throne represents to its critics more than some putative offence against ‘democracy’: it stands for something whose very existence is increasingly contentious in its meaning, form and direction: the nation itself. It is true that we have trouble conceptualizing the idea of a sovereign ruler with little actual power as a stand in for the nation. It could be that we’ve evolved past such archaic concepts or it could be a deficiency in our imaginations. Admittedly, I did stop watching The Crown when Claire Foy was no longer playing Her Majesty. ↩︎

Conversation

Jonah the cat started this Sunday by eating a paper on Sabbath observance. Now what do I use to guide my practice?

Conversation

Freestyle Fever

A fellow microblogger has been posting videos of himself freestyle skateboarding and it has reminded me of how artistic the form can be. One of my favorite freestylers is the Rodney Mullen-influenced Japanese skater Isamu Yamamoto. Yamamoto is sponsored by Powell Peralta (yep, that Powell Peralta). Looking for his videos on the Powell site led me to another amazing freestyler, Kilian Martin. I’ve long maintained that skateboarding is an art more than it’s a sport and that is perhaps even more true of freestyle. You’re not going to see this kind of skateboarding in the Olympics anytime soon. It is marked by creatively flowing lines on flat ground. Its practitioners spin and whirl in a kind of urethane-fueled ballet. Kilian Martin embodies an imaginative combination of freestyle and more traditional street skating. The two styles blend like peanut butter and chocolate. Martin sees the world as a giant skatepark, using trees and even rock formations in addition to common concrete elements to work his magic. It’s a joy to watch Martin practice his craft on the streets of various countries around the world (including Myanmar — not known to be a skateboarding Mecca). It’s also edifying to hear about the volunteer work he does and his ethos around gratitude and contentment. The videography in the Skateboard Stories film of Martin is captivating. It effortlessly flows between interview footage, city skate and commercial video. Whether you are into skateboarding or not, the story and visuals are worth a watch. → Skateboard Stories - Kilian Martin

Conversation

Found Guilty and Sentenced to Use a Dell Monitor

Recently, I had to give up one of my favorite pieces of electronics — my M1 iMac. The process wasn’t easy. It was love at first sight when I saw the new, colorful M1 iterations of the iconic Mac desktop. The aluminum and glass combination was sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and the choice of colors made the machines feel personal. I was grateful to be able to afford a refurbished version. My previous iMac, which I had to give to my son for remote schooling, is over 10 years old (yes, he’s still using it and perfectly happy). I bought the blue iMac the funds I acquired by selling my Star Wars pinball machine. Unfortunately, not long after getting my new machine, I realized that it was going to be a problem working from home with it. It couldn’t be used for work, since I had to use my company provided MacBook Pro. I had to get a monitor that would work with both a personal machine and a work machine. I set out to find a screen (and a new computer) that would fit with my work from home needs. It was almost a foregone conclusion that I would get a Mac mini (I’m not switching to Windows for many reasons). However, the monitor was something I was not sure about. The Apple-made Studio monitor starts at $1500, so that was out of the question. After a lot of research, I ended up choosing a mid-range Dell.1 I had high hopes for the device. It had USB-C, HDMI and display port inputs, so it would allow me to switch between my work and personal machines. It had a good resolution that was reviewed as crisp and vivid. Unfortunately, the monitor has been a disappointment in many ways. It feels cheap. When you touch it, it half seems like it could come apart at the seams. It sometimes just creaks like an old house that is “settling” (it just happened while I was typing this bullet point). It rarely comes on when you want it to, preferring to pretend that it doesn’t recognize that any devices are attached. You usually have to go through a ritual of changing the input, turning the monitor off and on and/or plugging and unplugging the cable from the computer. It comes on when you don’t want it to. The monitor doesn’t stay asleep when you are not using the computer. Instead, it has a seemingly random pattern of going off and on. This is especially annoying at night, when the rest of the house is dark, and I see that glow coming from my office. Text rendering on websites is not great, and often looks jagged and pixely. Images are frequently “scrambled” when you scroll up and down. Once scrambled, the images stay that way for the session. (hah, it just happened while I was typing this bullet). In summary, I hate this monitor and the horse it rode in on. Perhaps it’s a good monitor to use with a PC, but it’s terrible with a Mac. I wouldn’t wish in on my worst enemy. It’s really a shame that the PC and monitor manufacturers have such lower quality standards than Apple. No matter how many issues I have with Apple, their hardware and software combination blows away their competitors. It’s not even close. Dude, I hope you’re not getting a Dell. A Dell UltraSharp U2520D 25 Inch QHD (2560 x 1440) LED Backlit LCD IPS USB-C Monitor ↩︎

Conversation

I come home and my son is singing and playing some tasteful covers on his accoustic guitar: Sebadoh - Think (Let Tomorrow Bee) Slowdive - When the Sun Hits Time for that covers EP?

Conversation

Thankfully, this Anne Applebaum cover story (from December of last year) for the Atlantic is aging rather badly. Hopefully, her piece from yesterday, It’s Time to Prepare for a Ukranian Victory will fair a bit better.

Conversation

Culture Wars Come To Middle Earth

In Your Favorite Pop Culture Has Just Gone “Woke.” Now What? by Jason Morehead, the author examines some perceived changes brought to Middle Earth mythology by the new Amazon Prime series Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. If you’ve come across any of the common objections to the show, this is a really helpful piece to read. I mention this in large part because Morehead has a good grasp of the material being examined and brings an informed view to the debate. In discussions over nerdery and pop culture, familiarity with the source material and thus, understanding of authorial intent, generally wins the day. Morehead knows a lot more than I do about the universe in which the new series is set, so I appreciate getting that perspective, just as one might value learning from a tenured professor on a given subject. Here’s an example where that knowledge matters in the debate over changing norms and their effect on artifacts in popular culture: Blogger and Pastor Tim Challies, himself a big fan of Tolkien’s work, analyzes the new series from that perspective. Challies has a built-in suspicion about the creators of the show and how they might graft contemporary values onto their vision of the world that Tolkien created (and thus diminish the effectiveness of the new material). Part of the beauty and attraction of The Lord of the Rings is that it is set in a universe in which the mythology, lands, and races are fantasy, but in which the morality rings with familiarity. It is a universe that delights us with its imaginative differences and yet challenges us with its moral similarities. Any Christian, and indeed, anyone familiar with the modern Western world, will recognize that Tolkien’s understanding of morality was shaped by Scripture. Challies concern is that those continuing the stories constructed in that universe, who won’t have the same grounding in Scripture that Challies values, will not possess the same intentions as Tolkien. Ultimately, though, some of his concerns ring hollow, and this is where Morehead’s piece comes in. Challies expresses his suspicions about how the character of Galadriel is portrayed. Is she made out to be a strong warrior because that is what the broader contemporary culture dictates? I think the reimagining of Galadriel achieves the opposite effect the writers presumably desired—it makes her a weaker character rather than a stronger one. Why? Because instead of succeeding as a woman (as she does so well in the books and films) she now seems to need to succeed on the terms of a man. In order to be “strong,” she has to be physically strong—stronger and bolder and fiercer even than the men around her. It is my understanding that Tolkien’s vision for female elves may have included them being warriors, but I expect he would still have wanted them to ultimately succeed on female terms rather than male ones. So far it seems like in this show the women will act like men and the men will act like children. Morehead reframes the debate by focusing back on the source material from which the show is derived. Oh, and if you don’t like young warrior Galadriel, then keep in mind that before she was called Galadriel, one of her names was Nerwen, or “man-maiden,” due to her height and strength. Furthermore, Tolkien’s writings include several examples of her engaged in some form of combat. After reading the explanation, it becomes obvious that superior knowledge of Tolkien’s universe helps to understand the new series and put the decisions about the show’s characters in the proper context. Morehead also tackles the criticisms about bringing a more racially diverse set of actors to the series. It’s a blessing when somebody who has experienced any level of marginalization in their life finds something that makes them feel like they belong — something that most, if not all, nerds can identify with. We were drawn to these worlds, be it Middle-earth, the Federation, or whatever, because we felt at peace there in a way we didn’t elsewhere. As a result, these properties allow us to find common ground. Their themes and storylines can draw us together in wonder, imagination, and excitement that transcend the divisions that too often plague real life. His analysis of the greater impact that the casting choices may have on those who might not have felt the same sense of belonging in what is, ultimately, a fantasy world, feels spot on. I’m excited by the cast (who do a wonderful job bringing the series to life). I’m also impressed by the attempt to make this world accessible to everyone who might need a diversion from what is going on around us in real life. It is my hope that people won’t be swayed by some of the critiques about the show and will check it out for themselves.

Conversation

Getting crazy goosebumps reading about the success of the Ukranian counteroffensive.

Conversation

Giving Up The Ghost

I have been trying out the blogging platform Ghost on and off for a couple of years now. It’s a powerful tool, and one that many people make good use of. It offers: The ability to treat blog posts and newsletters the same (and post them by either delivery method). Granular management of social posts, with the ability to specify individual images and text for different social networks. A brilliant web editor that stays out of your way and lets you call content blocks as you need them. A good API for posting through tools such as Ulysses and iA Writer. The choice between self-hosting and using the Ghost Pro service. Solid embedding support for major platforms as well as raw HTML. RSS feeds for each different tag. Ease of editing CSS using post-specific and site-wide code injection. Ability to limit post to site subscribers. Those are just a few of the features of Ghost that stood out to me. It really is a pleasure to use such a thoughtful and well-polished blogging tool. However, Ghost ultimately just wasn’t the right fit for my blogging. The main reason is that the service is geared towards making your blogging into a profit-driven enterprise. Their slogan, “Turn your audience into a business” says it all. Does that preclude use of the tool, if remuneration for writing isn’t your aim? Certainly not. It does mean, though, that many of the features that are released for the platform won’t fit your use case. It also means, when you open up the app, you’ll be presented with a dashboard of your subscriber metrics, prodding you into getting more subscribers. “Follower growth” is the name of the game. As I mentioned in the list of offerings from Ghost, you can use their hosting service or self-host. I’ve tried them both and neither option is a bad way to go. Customer support is excellent, even on the lowest Ghost Pro level, and with self-hosting you can be master of your own domain. The problem I have with Ghost Pro is that all but the bottom tier will cost you a pretty penny. $9/month is not bad for such a robust tool, but without the ability to customize your theme, add any additional staff writers, or more than one newsletter. For those things, you have to start with the $25/month tier. If you have paying customers, as Ghost encourages, that’s not too bad, but it’s a bit much for a hobbyist. The difficulty with self-hosting is that it can get fairly complex. Most of the new features that get rolled out require some sort of manual intervention to make them work with a self-hosted instance. Setting up the email newsletter functionality with Mailgun is pretty difficult. I tried and failed a couple of times to do it before I got it right, thanks to a good set of instructions and the JSONLint tool. Once you get it going, it’s pretty solid, though. Except that you’re dealing with Mailgun. When I first joined Mailgun to use with Ghost, I got an email from someone saying that they were the real human at the other end of the service and could help me with any questions. I asked about the challenges I was facing setting up with Ghost, and never got a reply. Despite their plan being advertised as being essentially free for low volume transactional email delivery, I got charged $25 for sending out 36 emails in September. It appears that they had upgraded me without my knowledge or consent to a different level. I had to manually “downgrade” myself again. This is not a company I would deal with by choice. Unfortunately, they are the only officially supported newsletter integration tool for Ghost. So, for now at least, I’ve closed up shop on my Ghost blog. Knowing my penchant for playing around with blogging platforms, email tools, read-it-later services, et cetera, I can’t say that I won’t ever go back. I am trying to scale down my web presence to make it easier to reliably follow what I’m putting out, though.

Conversation

Doing a thing this week where I drink dessert flavored teas instead of eating desserts. Much fewer calories.

Conversation

🎵 Pat's Trick

Last week, Frosted Echoes featured a Breeders cover as the Friday Night Video and this week, we’re following closely behind with a song by the band Helium. “Pat’s Trick” is the opening track off the debut record from the band. It has the buzziness of “Cannonball” and that mid-nineties Big Muff grunginess. Indie rockers during this period had no problems mimicking the catchy chorus technique of their major label cousins and this track showcases that dynamic. Though indie videos from the 90s didn’t have the highest production values, the colorful set and clothing contrasts highlight a band in its prime. Mary Timony is winsome as the force behind Helium and Ash Bowie (from Polvo) strikes playful poses with his bass. If you dig the track, checkout the rest of the record The Dirt of Luck. It’s one of those albums where nearly every song feels like a video-worthy single. → Helium - Pat’s Trick

Conversation

Obsidian has a new default theme called “Dragonglass.” The theme has only been released in the insider builds, so I haven’t had a chance to play with it. It looks appealing, though. I like the idea of tabs, which have been adopted in many other apps (at least on MacOS). I also appreciate having a theme that looks OS native and doesn’t require community plugins (which bring security concerns with them) to achieve that look.

Conversation

Amor Fati

DHH from 37Signals, who is not a believer, writes about nihilism and God’s will. Nietzsche promoted the idea of Amor Fati (love your fate), which DHH likens to acceptance of God’s will. Heinemeier Hanson relishes the idea of intellectual surrender that comes from faith. He brings in Kierkegaard’s leap of faith concept. God’s will as a concept is a scalable form of Amor Fati. That’s just a fascinating frame of focus for looking at culture and meaning. No matter if that very same social software also includes many core functions and routines that have lost all trace to their original context and purpose. And is clearly misfiring in other significant ways. But even those misfires have to be compared to the ones sputtering out of the modern religious recreations. Be that Wokeness or MAGA. It’s hard to create a somewhat coherent religion with overall better outcomes for more people than the systems that have been refined for thousands of years. I know hope springs eternal, and hybris with it, but still. This is something I think about a lot. Historical religions have been practiced and debated for thousands of years. The modern schools of thought that have replaced them are comparatively in their infancy. → God’s Will

Conversation

Institutions Absorb Anxiety

I’m not sure what to think of this piece from Mere Orthodoxy on panic over the direction of Western civilization and its implications for Christians. For one thing, it sides mostly with Rod Dreher, someone with whom I am not usually in agreement. Dreher tends toward the Chicken Little end of the Christian spectrum, and his hand wringing often seems counterproductive. Things can surely get more difficult for Christians as societal mores shift, but the sky will not fall as long as God’s creation stands, and we are part of that creation. Perhaps, despite the references used, the piece brings up important points about the protective effect of institutions for our emotional well-being. Jake Meador, the author of the piece, and someone whom I do frequently enjoy reading, might consider me an orthodox Christian or maybe somewhat heterodox in my beliefs. I tend to think he would come to the conclusion that I’m the latter. Wherever you place me on the continuum of belief, I am increasingly coming to the realization it is difficult to maintain a Christian position when taking sides in the culture wars. We are called as Christians not to be divided, and yet, with the diminishing role of faith institutions in society, we are just that. Divided in ways we have never been. I can’t remember the last statistic I read about how many people think this country will be in a civil war in a few years, but the numbers who think that is a very real and imminent possibility are quite frightening. The existential anxiety that seems to plague many Americans is both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of institutions and the rise of networks that exacerbate division. From the Meador piece: (Edwin) Friedman discovered that one of the social functions that institutions play is to absorb anxiety. Humans create institutions to pass on wisdom, to collectively conquer challenges, to centralize critical knowledge. It is an accepted fact among political scientists that well-functioning and healthy institutions are the bedrock of peaceful and prosperous societies. Just think of the way that a well-functioning medical system can allay our fears over a health concern. However, with the devaluing and disappearance of institutions, individuals were left to absorb the culture’s anxiety. Anxiety then becomes a systemic phenomenon. Meador then goes on to say, “This next part is critical.” By classifying anxiety as a personal issue rather than a systemic issue, we place an enormous burden on the individual, who then must modify their personal lives to alleviate the suffering that anxiety brings. Instead, Friedman taught leaders that they must understand that anxiety resides in networks of human relationships. Is the rise in mental health problems commensurate with the fall of institutions? There is certainly correlation, but is there causation? Increasing distrust in institutions — sometimes, as we have seen with recent denominational and megachurch scandals, with good reason — is certainly a plausible explanation. When we withdraw from institutions, we can experience the loneliness and isolation that comes from the lack of a good support system. It makes sense, as Meador emphasizes, that shifting the cause of anxiety to the individual, rather than recognize the broader context, is ultimately detrimental to the effort to alleviate the issue. The rules and rituals that accompany membership in an institution — whether it is a church, a temple, a synagogue, a mosque or a Freemason lodge — serve to add stability to our lives. It may be time to look harder at the extrinsic societal factors that play a role in pervasive uncertainty. I won’t go too in depth analyzing the opposite side of the coin — the networks that create or strengthen divisions. I’ve done a lot of that in the past, and will most likely continue to look at those networks from a technical and sociological perspective. It strikes me as fascinating that we are potentially leaving the institutions that have protective effects against emotional health issues to rot as we pour more of our time and energy into the networks that can be harmful to our mental well-being. (📷 Image source: Robin Spielmann on Unsplash)

Conversation

Typing As Music

In a piece for the New Yorker, David Owen writes about the world of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts in the context of his own history and love of keyboards. Typing is rhythmic, complicated, and soothing, and, when I’m doing it well, my conscious brain doesn’t seem to be involved. It’s as close as I’ll ever come to playing a musical instrument—a nontrivial attraction. My love of typing probably contributed to my decision to become a writer. As someone who was happy with the chiclet keys on the Apple keyboard, I didn’t think I’d ever go with a mechanical unit. After getting one, though, I can understand the cult fandom around these things — at least a bit. I’ll never pay thousands of dollars for a set of key caps. I do enjoy typing on this thing, though, and that allows me to write more. As a school-trained touch typist, I can also type faster with my Keychron. The Magic Keyboard feels a bit strange to my fingertips now. I took a brother typewriter to college with me. It’s nice to bring back some of those typing sensations without having to worry about how difficult it is to correct mistakes. → The Obsessive Pleasures of Mechanical-Keyboard Tinkerers (📷 Image source: Laura Rivera via Unsplash)

Conversation

All you need is…

Conversation

🎵 Cannonball

If you look back at the music I’ve shared on this blog, you wouldn’t doubt my devotion to nostalgic 80s retro-inspired sounds. Bring on the sports cars, sunglasses, synthesizers, and neon signs. Lately, though, I’ve been wishing for a 90s resurgence. Let’s have some flannel and baby doll dresses. In that spirit, I wanted to share this dead-on, straight cover of “Cannonball” by the Breeders performed by Courtney Barnett. Barnett has been on my radar for a while, but now I have a reason to check out her stuff. She and her band nail this track. It’s hard to believe that it is just the three of them because the sound feels so full. “Cannonball” has always been a song to get you moving. If you find yourself in possession of a bass guitar, it’s one of the first songs you have to learn. Its lurching, bouncing bassline is so much fun. The song has just the right amount of distortion and noise in the mix to make it feel at home in the era of grunge, but is lighthearted enough to transcend some of the period’s tropes and still be relevant today. → Courtney Barnett - Cannonball

Conversation

Where It Comes From

Jack Baty — @jack — writes about the MoFi scandal from an unusual perspective. Instead of gloating about the customers being ripped off because they couldn’t tell the difference in sound coming from an analog or digital source — he argues that origins are still meaningful. MoFi was undoubtedly deceitful in their marketing, but whether or not a purely-analog process sounds better than one in which there was a digital step isn’t what I find important. What matters to many people is provenance. Where and how something originates is important, whether it changes the sound in a noticeable way or not. It’s true that most people probably can’t tell, in a blind test, that there was a digital step, but who cares, as long as they feel like they can? Knowing a recording is 100% analog makes them feel better. That’s the part of the lie that stings the most. No one likes being lied to. No one likes being lied to indeed. → Provenance Matters | Rudimentary Lathe

Conversation

Just finished reading: Radical Candor by Kim Scott 📚. There is a misperception about this book. It’s not actually about being harsh with fellow employees. There are some good strategies for fairness in management within its pages.

Conversation

Skateboard Hooligans

I was reading my friend Adam’s newsletter, Tendrils, and I came upon some quick thoughts about the movie mid90s in a collection of mini-reviews of A24 movies. While Adam enjoyed the movie because it brought back some skateboarding nostalgia, I hated it for much the same reason. It seems like every recent movie or documentary dealing with skateboarding, from mid90s to Minding the Gap, makes it seem like skateboarders are a bunch of lawless teenage punks who have trouble with school or work. I was big into skateboarding in the early 90s, and I didn’t find the stereotype to be true. Some of my friends from that era became software development managers, architects, and worked at major record labels. I would rather not make it sound like a career is the only measurement of success, but these guys clearly didn’t meet the stereotype you see of skateboarders in the media. Just like more organized sports, I think skateboarding can be a great outlet, provided the skaters have a safe environment in which to practice. The kids on an Arizona Hopi reservation just got that in the form of a skatepark. One of the co-leads on the project, Quintin Nahsonhoya, talks about the positive effect of having a place designated and designed for skateboarding. “Skateboarders aren’t like how they’re perceived in movies, as punks or like people who just want to get into trouble,” he said. “It’s just a hobby that we have… and the community understood that.” I’m glad to see more and more instances of towns and cities recognizing the potential of skateparks to channel kids' energy. I only wish that sort of mentality had been around when I was younger. (📷 Image Source: Josef Wells via Flickr)

Conversation

Last night, my son was listening to Slowdive and asking me about setting up a blog. You treasure these times.

Conversation

Just updated my Now page (definitely beachy edition).

Conversation

Frida

Conversation

A new issue of the Week on the Web newsletter is out today: Moving past disruption in tech, metal Elizabethan poetry, Christian anonymity online, catching up with TikTok and not swerving to the right or left.

Conversation

Metal Elizabethan Poetry

John Donne was an interesting guy. He was an inveterate womanizer and poet turned pious preacher. James Parker profiles Donne for The Atlantic and brings in a metal comparison. Super-Infinite is the title of Katherine Rundell’s new biographical study of Donne. It sounds like an album by Monster Magnet. And indeed, Rundell responds to Donne in something of a heavy-metal, hyperbolizing register. Read the first stanza of “Love’s Growth,” she promises us, and “all the oxygen in a five-mile radius rushes to greet you.” Another poem, “The Comparison,” in which Donne contrasts the charms of his mistress with those of another woman, takes the tradition of poets praising female beauty “and knifes it in a dark alley.” And so on. For all his hyperbole, I’m pretty sure Donne didn’t write about acid trips like Monster Magnet. Parker never mentions it, but another metal comparison would be Metallica, as they took their song title “For Whom The Bell Tolls” from Donne’s writing. → The Unlovable, Irresistible John Donne

Conversation

Moving Past Disruption

Paul Ford writes for Wired Magazine as the co-founder of a software company that is tired of the ubiquitous pursuit of disruption within the tech industry. He argues that disruption serves the bored and that boredom is a luxury we no longer have, even in the U.S. — particularly after January 6, 2021. That type of progress definitely generates a ton of activity. But it also sits weird when you consider how many lives in the world, historically and currently, including American lives, are extremely disrupted—by toxic spills or the whims of royalty or the goats all swelling up and dying. Disruption is an ethos for the bored, for people who live in reasonable climates and don’t have tanks in the street. But America has recently become way less boring. Disruption was a big goal when things seemed to be stable. We wanted tools that disrupted the status quo. Now we’ve seen the effects of disruption. Polarization, fragmentation, and decline seem to be the by-products of the disruption we once craved so heartily. → Forget Disruption. Tech Needs to Fetishize Stability

Conversation

Minimal Mac

I was texting with an old friend the other day, and he was documenting his progress in getting three monitors set up. Since he has an M1 Mac Mini, like I do, he could only easily support two monitors. He turned to Universal Control with a MacBook Air to get three displays going. He was trying monitor stacking and side by side setups. I told him I just preferred a simple iMac and no external monitors, which is why I only have one monitor that my work MacBook Pro and Mac Mini share. The conversation started me thinking about how I like to keep things minimal. When I asked if my friend if he needed a command center so he could launch a space shuttle, he replied that at least he’d like to be able to. I have no desire to launch a space shuttle. My ambitions are much more modest. I want to edit photos, take notes, write blog posts and email people. I don’t need three monitors to do that. In fact, I’m bothered by how many windows I have open. I am tempted to try something Marcelo Marfil describes in this blog post. Multitasking is bullshit. I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever someone comes with a fancy talk around the necessity of having multiple displays or app windows opened at the same time and all the time. His solution is to use an app called Hides and Apple Shortcuts to get windows out of the way and center the ones he wants to focus on. With less clutter, you can properly direct your attention. I’m hoping that Stage Manager will serve this same function (at least on the Mac — I’ve read that it’s not great on the iPad). I think this is one reason — though I can be frustrated with the company — that I gravitate towards Apple. They get minimalism. You can see this in their designs. Steve Jobs got this. Jonny Ives gets this. Patrick Rhone gets this (I took the title of this post from his old blog). There’s something about removing the excess — trimming the fat — that’s intrinsically appealing to me. It’s like carving a beautiful statue out of a marble slab. It’s finding the sublime in the art of subtraction. It’s about taking as little as possible and living within those constraints. This can apply to physical goods or even to data. CJ Chilvers ruminates on this in a post about minimalism. It’s been my experience that every minimalist dreams of passing down a thumb drive or password, giving their families access to 90%+ of their multi-generational trash and treasure. Then, they want their remains cremated and scattered to the wind, as to leave no trace. What I appreciate about Chilvers' examination of minimalism is his focus on what we leave behind. If we live our lives adhering to a minimalist philosophy, we should find that we have burdened our loved ones with very little possessions to manage when we are gone. (📷 Image source: N.Tho.Duc on Unsplash)

Conversation

Experimenting a bit with putting longer posts (>1000 words) behind a login.

Conversation

DALL-E prompt: Adam Sandler at the Louvre wearing basketball shorts.

Conversation

An Argument for Blog Portability

Last week, I published a micro post about my thoughts after reading Matt Birchler admonish his readers against switching blogging platforms. Birchler’s main point was that switching platforms made it harder on readers and, therefore, more difficult to retain consistent readership. It’s a solid point and one that really resonated with me. I have a tendency to tinker with different tools, some of which are blogging engines. That means I sometimes use different services to publish my posts. For a while, I’ve realized moving between domains or services can be confusing for my readers, but I haven’t been able to settle on one platform (although I definitely use Micro.blog the most). I’ve used alternate domains and subdomains to experiment with a variety of different tools. It’s harder than ever to decide on a blogging service because being able to post in a chronological order on a well-designed, easy-to-read site is no longer the only criteria with which to evaluate the service. The situation has been complicated by the arrival of newsletters. While newsletters and blogs used to sit separately, they have now merged in a way that makes sense. As I detailed in this post about writing online, readers now want to be able to receive your writing in different mediums. One of those primary mediums is through email. The others are RSS, the web and social media. It’s now an expectation that your work be accessible through all of those channels. Among those delivery mechanisms, Birchler’s post seems to only consider the web and RSS. His point is mainly that you should never change your URL or your RSS feed, if you can avoid it. As he says, your readers couldn’t care less what service you’re using, as long as the experience doesn’t change substantially for them. An email list Now that I’ve acknowledged that Birchler’s post made a good point and caused me to think, let me play a bit of devil’s advocate. When you factor in newsletters, you introduce a delivery mechanism where, theoretically, the service you are using matters even less. In contrast to the web and RSS, where your reader is fetching from your site, with email and newsletters, you are pushing your output to them. This puts less of a strain on your readers to follow you wherever you go. Instead of them having to take action to go with you, they just need to be there for the journey. It takes the burden off the reader and puts it on you to migrate their email addresses to your new location. You’re doing all the heavy lifting. The reader may see a different UI, but they should be set up to receive the new content, from wherever it may come. When I first set up the current iteration of my newsletter, I read this post from Austin Kleon about why you should have an email list of your followers. I gained a few followers just by posting about it. That list is with me, regardless of what service I choose to use, as long as I can import email addresses, like most services allow (ahem, Micro.blog). Since the readers have entrusted me with their email address, if I switch services, the most they will have to do is click on an email that gets autogenerated to consent to be part of a different newsletter provider. If your newsletters include pointers to your blog posts, your readers will have easy access to those posts. Should I stay or should I go? Even as I think about the difficulty in getting readers to follow you and then make a change, I realize that there are ways to make it easier on that group of people. It’s possible now to put the hard work in the writer’s corner, and leave the decision about return on investment up to them. It’s empowering, but it takes an explicit call to your followers to trust you enough to share their email and allow you access to their inbox. Hopefully, you have earned that trust through your writing. If so, you should be able to carry your readers along for the ride. 📷 Image source: Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

Conversation

LEGO Replay

LEGO has an initiative to help with environmental sustainability in the form of reuse of their bricks. Their Replay program encourages you to donate the no-longer-used bricks to children in need. LEGO Replay is a simple-to-use platform that allows you to pass forward your much-loved LEGO bricks and share the power of play with kids in need. When children play with your donated LEGO bricks, it helps them learn to problem solve, collaborate, and think creatively. With LEGO Replay, worlds of play can be rebuilt and reimagined many times over helping to inspire the builders of tomorrow. You simply print out a packing label and ship the bricks. The program seems like a great idea, as LEGO bricks tend to hold up well over time. Some of our collection is from when my brother and I were kids. Sadly, neither of my boys still play with their LEGO sets, so I am tempted to encourage the donation of these toys to those who might appreciate and use them.

Conversation

The Radiant Citadel

One of the co-creators of the latest official D&D adventure, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, Ajit George, compares the setting of the book to solarpunk. I wrote about solarpunk in issue no. 8 of the newsletter. Wikipedia defines it this way: Solarpunk is a genre and art movement that envisions how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges with an emphasis on sustainability, climate change and pollution. In D&D, of course, we are not dealing with climate change or sustainability (typically), but there is a sort of bright, organic aesthetic that comes along with solarpunk. It has kind of the opposite energy of grimdark. A definition of grimdark (again, Wikipedia): Grimdark is a subgenre of speculative fiction with a tone, style, or setting that is particularly dystopian, amoral, and violent. If your experience with tabletop role-playing games and specifically Dungeon & Dragons or Warhammer 40,000 goes back a ways, you will remember when grimdark was the main, if not only, aesthetic involved with those types of games. The introduction of a more positive vibe in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is a nice change. I can still remember when D&D adventures were hack n' slash dungeon crawlers. More of an emphasis on cooperation and thoughtful strategy still takes adjustment, but is welcome. Another focus of this adventure module that breaks from tradition is the emphasis on multiculturalism. In addition to the inclusion of typical fantasy character races such as dwarves and elves, the human population is made up of different ethnicities. Some of those ethnicities bear resemblance to those in our world that have traditionally been underrepresented in fantasy worlds. The module brings their traditions into the D&D world. It’s refreshing to see this representation in the playgrounds of our imagination. Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is out now and should be available at your favorite game store.

Conversation

Just finished reading: What If Jesus Was Serious? by Skye Jethani 📚. I didn’t stick with the plan of reading it with my kid, but it was edifying for me personally.

Conversation

A friend and colleague put the name of my site into DALL-E and these are the images it generated.

Conversation

I won’t deny that I’ve had some problems with my Macbook, but when I see the Dell laptops at work and their engorged trackpads from swollen batteries — like cans of tomato soup with botulism — I’m glad I have a Mac.

Conversation

Finished reading: The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World by Andy Crouch 📚. A necessary book for today’s society. More explicitly Christian than I would have expected from the reviews, but I’m not complaining.

Conversation

I’m past the point in my life where I want to argue with strangers on the internet, but I do feel like I need to point this out: Being reliably right-wing doesn’t confer upon you the status of being an “orthodox Christian,” even if it is with a small “o.”

Conversation

This article on the meta-layer for notes within HEY email is even more relevant now that the app has stickies for cover art (which I love).

Conversation

Population Control

I wrote in a recent newsletter about an article that Ezra Klein published, in which he discusses how often he hears from people who don’t think it’s a good idea to have kids due to climate change. He writes that he hears questions about this topic more than anything else. Over the past few years, I’ve been asked one question more than any other. It comes up at speeches, at dinners, in conversation. It’s the most popular query when I open my podcast to suggestions, time and again. It comes in two forms. The first: Should I have kids, given the climate crisis they will face? The second: Should I have kids, knowing they will contribute to the climate crisis the world faces? Klein concludes that these fears are not well-founded and that those who know the most about climate change do not have the same level of concern about the issue. In a piece called The New Malthusians by Lyman Stone, the writer and demographer focuses on climate change as a reason for not having kids. A recent survey conducted by the New York Times found that a third of fertility-age women say climate-change fears are among the reasons why they have not had children yet. Meanwhile, groups like Birthstrike encourage women to take what might be called the “Lysistrata option”: boycott having a child until climate policy improves. He also writes more generally about people’s concerns around having kids. Whenever I write about fertility, someone inevitably responds on Twitter with some variation of, “But do you realize how bad the world is? Who would want to be born into this?” The source of the badness varies. Sometimes it is climate change. Sometimes it is Republicans. Sometimes it’s immigrants and sometimes it’s socialists. People of all stripes have their reasons for why it would be better never to be born, but the striking thing is how free more and more Americans seem to feel to express that life is fundamentally bad, that on the grand scale of being, nonexistence is better than existence. This is a very real cultural change; it shows movement toward our becoming a society of despair. We may be living in a society of despair, or it may just be a society that has a great deal of reproductive pessimism. I think you can probably find ample evidence for both, but the way population replacement has plummeted in the last few years makes a forceful case for the latter. (📷 Image Source: broombesoom on Flickr)

Conversation

The Friend Of My Enemy

The biggest irony of the last couple of weeks has to be Rep. Peter Meijer’s loss in the Western Michigan Republican primary. As recently as the beginning of this year, The Atlantic did an in-depth profile on Meijer and how he was at odds with his own party of the impeachment of Donald Trump and other issues related to the former president. The piece, by Tim Alberta, is entitled What the GOP Does to Its Own Dissenters. The profile centered around the premise that in opposing the former president, Meijer had put himself in the crosshairs of his own party. At one point, Meijer described to me the psychological forces at work in his party, the reasons so many Republicans have refused to confront the tragedy of January 6 and the nature of the ongoing threat. Some people are motivated by raw power, he said. Others have acted out of partisan spite, or ignorance, or warped perceptions of truth and lies. But the chief explanation, he said, is fear. People are afraid for their safety. They are afraid for their careers. Above all, they are afraid of fighting a losing battle in an empty foxhole. Meijer described a group of colleagues too afraid to do what they knew was right and stand with him. The irony came in the fact that ultimately, Meijer was not driven to defeat by his own party, as Alberta had strongly hinted that he might be in his profile. Meijer was defeated in his primary because the Democrats pumped a half a million dollars into the campaign of Meijer’s opponent, John Gibbs, a Republican with a Trump endorsement. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has begun a pattern of supporting candidates who are most closely aligned with the twice-impeached former president by providing significant monetary support, reasoning that they will be easier to defeat in the general elections that follow their primaries. It’s an extremely cynical and disruptive play by the DCCC and, unsurprisingly, it has brought criticism. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who also voted to impeach Trump last year and is not seeking reelection, said that Democrats “own” Meijer’s loss, blaming them for compromising their own values by propping up the campaign of a candidate who has echoed Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. “Here’s the thing: don’t keep coming to me asking where are all the good Republicans that defend democracy and then take your donors’ money and spend half-a-million dollars promoting one of the worst election deniers that’s out there,” Kinzinger said on CNN. “The DCCC needs to be ashamed of themselves.” The DCCC pouring funds into candidates who stand for everything they claim to be against is not only a dishonest strategy, it’s a risky one. If the candidate that they support wins in the general election, they will have gambled away their money (presumably from donors to the party) and be put in the situation of having to fend off another election denier who is fighting against the democratic process. It imperils not only their chances of passing legislation that the Democratic base would like to see, but also the workings of elections that safeguard our republic. Given this strategy, it would be perhaps fitting if the new Democratic slogan became, “Democrats: We may not be as treacherous as Republicans, but we’re getting there.” (📷 Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.)

Conversation

A Vision Of Reality

Noah Millman writes about how little reality there is in film and TV these days. But go back and watch Spielberg films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.—the reality of those worlds is very richly textured and fully realized. The uncanny in those movies intrudes on a reality that still feels fully real. That’s not just a matter of getting individual details right, though. The popular series Stranger Things is meticulous about getting details right, but it’s a Frankenstein world, built of spare parts from earlier movies; there is nothing genuinely real or living about it. Indeed, the entire premise of the series (a premise that has paid off handsomely) is that audiences would love to participate in a festival of pure nostalgia that isn’t at all about life, but entirely about how life was represented. The fantasy being sold is less of living in the 1980s than of watching 1980s-era movies. I strongly agree with his assessment of Stranger Things, but I’m uncertain if that’s a bad thing. Occasionally, I want to look at the decade in which I grew up through rose-colored glasses. If I wanted a straight retelling, I would check out a historical drama or a documentary. There are definitely occasions when I crave an idealized view of the past, especially when it comes to my childhood. In those instances, the meta construction of watching a contemporary project built to seem like a 80s era movie suits just fine. → Mankind Cannot Bear Too Little Reality (🔗 via Ayjay)

Conversation

This new button in Reeder hooked up to Feedbin kind of rules. It takes you straight to the tweet in your Twitter client. No more messing with that insane algorithmic timeline.

Conversation

It’s time to admit that I’m never going to traverse the length of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 📚 on a short loan from the library.

Conversation

This post on why you should never change your blogging platform unless you have to resonates with me because I’m always looking at different solutions. Takeaway: Staying where you are is helpful to your readers.

Conversation

Marci

Bandcamp has a review of the debut album by Marci, AKA Marta Cikojevic, who plays keyboards in the band TOPS. The album summons the spirit of the ‘80s, at various points recalling Tears for Fears, Sade, and Pretenders with its dreamy vocals and fuzzy synth lines. But Marci remains distinctly contemporary, and slots nearly alongside similar albums by artists like Caroline Rose or Shura: distinctly danceable, quietly emotional, and wrapped up in jubilant confidence. A triumphant debut, Marci takes hold of the senses, summoning the slick rub of skin on a dark dance floor, the tingle of ocean salt spray, or the laughter of your closest friends coming from the next room. I wrote about the song “Terminal,” a disco-inflected jam by Marci a couple of months ago. Now that I’ve heard the whole full length (a few times now, if that tells you anything), I can see influences from the early 80’s as well as the heyday of disco. Both “Immaterial Girl” and “BB I Would Die” bring to mind early solo Michael Jackson. The latter has a “The Girl Is Mine” vibe — until it comes to the chorus — that makes you wonder if Paul McCartney is going to come in with vocals at some point. Cikojevic’s voice on “Call Of The Wild” brings to mind Caroline Polachek. Influences show up all over this record, but it’s also got a distinctiveness to it. I’m glad to hear Cikojevic step out from behind the keyboards and project her own persona. Marci by Marci Favorite track: Terminal

Conversation

First time playing in a while and that was… weird. Wordle 412 5/6 ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 I thought the game was broken.

Conversation

What Kinds Of Image Requests Confuse DALL-E?

In his latest newsletter, Charlie Warzel dives into DALL-E and profiles Andy Baio’s experiments with the tool. Baio has found it rewarding to stretch DALL-E to its limits (call it boundary testing, if you like). The engine doesn’t generate text well at all—it can generally only create short words. It’s bad at creating faces, and most trademarked material and images of famous people are blocked so that people don’t abuse the software. But Baio has also found more interesting limitations. “Anything that’s an opposite, like a horse riding a man or a hand with six fingers, is a real struggle for it,” he said. “We want to think that DALL-E has this wild imagination and that it is capable of generating wildly unusual images, but because it’s been trained on tens of thousands of images of people with 10 fingers, it really struggles.” Rumor has it that DALL-E will be opening to a broader beta cohort in the upcoming weeks. I’d like to play around with it, but I expect my images will be fairly pedestrian. I’m not into surrealism like the image generator’s namesake. → Tech’s New Frontier Raises A “Buffet of Unwanted Questions”

Conversation

Relative Sci-fi

I’ve heard some grumblings about the new Star Wars TV series online. The Book of Boba Fett, which I quite enjoyed, was particularly stung by criticism. Even though Obi-Wan Kenobi seemed to be a success story, it had its share of detractors as well. While it may not make writing about these shows as interesting, I have had a lot of fun watching all the Star Wars entries into episodic television. In fact, sometimes I can’t understand the depths that people go to in their dissection of these series. I grew up on shows like Knight Rider, Wonder Woman, The Dukes of Hazzard, Battlestar Galactica, etc. Has anyone watched these shows recently and done a comparison to what we have available now? The difference is stark. On Buck Rogers, the droid would waddle around saying, “beedee beedee beedee.” That was supposed to transport us to this future of robots and interplanetary travel we could all hardly imagine. It isn’t just the special effects, either. The storylines and level of drama on these new shows are light years ahead of what we watched back then on TV. Shows on streaming services have a cinematic quality bar they jump over that we never would have dreamed of shows hurdling in those days. Into this discussion comes the trailer for the soon-to-be-released Star Wars series, Andor. Given how much I liked Rogue One, I’ve been very eager to see this show about its protagonist come to fruition. The preview to which we have been treated looks astonishing. Action, intrigue, moral considerations, transcendent worldbuilding: it seems to check all of these boxes and more. → Andor - Official Disney+ Trailer

Conversation

Monocropping In Cities

Clive Thompson writes about rewilding cities, in a new extension of his “rewilding your attention” concept. In the piece, he profiles cities that have ripped up roads made for cars in favor of rivers and public spaces. He compares the way cities have been built around the automobile to monocropping. Indeed, one thing we learned from the 20th century is that monocropping is freaking dangerous. Whenever we ploughed over fields and regions to plant a single crop, the land got weaker over time, because it lost that dense, gnarly, diverse spectrum of life. Farmers for centuries knew this, which is why they rotated crops and had a network of animal life interpenetrating small farms. But with big industrial farming, we monocropped, and created — decades down the line — crappier soil, entire regions susceptible to a single pest, and unexpected knock-on effects. (Like how industrial farming destroyed roadside milkweed, helping to decimate Monarch butterfly populations.) It’s an interesting concept that begs the questions of whether the cities that have “rewilded,” to some extent, are healthier for their inhabitants and in what ways that could be measured. In his book The Life We’re Looking For, Andy Crouch examines how we are increasingly building our environments around machines. The great urbanist Jane Jacobs masterfully outlined, in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the elements of an urban environment that make it a healthy place for human habitation: mixed-use buildings, plenty of chances for street-level interaction, limited traffic, priority for pedestrians. It is not much exaggeration to say that these are precisely the conditions that are worst for autonomous vehicles. The closer an environment is to being genuinely good for human beings, the worse it is for a self-driving car. He writes of humans creating “attenuated cultural environments that treat persons like machines.” The effort to rewild cities is a pushback against this trend, and maybe even a necessary one if people are to flourish. → Rewilding Cities 📷 Image source: Utrecht, Holland from Wikimedia Commons

Conversation

The dealership seems to want to buy my car back more than they wanted to sell it to me in the first place.

Conversation

Errata: The post on the Alvvays song Pharmacist incorrectly compared the guitar solo/noise breakdown to Sonic Youth. On further listen, it’s clear that this segment is more like Yo La Tengo. The editorial staff of Frosted Echoes apologizes for any confusion this may have caused.

Conversation

Airshow

I consider myself fortunate to have procured a subscription to the feed reader platform Feedbin, when it first launched, after the untimely demise of Google Reader. Getting in early allowed me to lock into the service at $2 a month. Feedbin has been improving over the years, adding features that make it more of a one-stop-shop for keeping up with the things you follow on the internet. Many times, I even view most of my Twitter feed using the app because I would rather not venture into the stream. One of the uses I’ve had for Feedbin has been listening to podcasts, for which the web app has a nice built-in player. It reminds me of the old days, when Mac feed readers like Newsfire had podcast features. After all, podcasts are just RSS enclosures, so they make sense in your favorite feed reading software. However, that doesn’t help much when you want to take your podcasts on the road. Enter Airshow. The new podcast app from Feedbin syncs with your podcast subscriptions and has just enough functionality to be a delight. It’s a breath of fresh air (no pun intended) after using some other, ahem, “official” podcast apps. Airshow mainly relies on a queue for management. You download new episodes, and they get added to your queue. Simple. However, I think my favorite thing about the app, and the differentiator, is that you can add shows either as subscriptions or bookmarks. Subscriptions are shows that you want automatically downloaded when new episodes arrive. Bookmarks are shows that you check out occasionally, and may not choose to download every episode. Other podcast apps allow you to make similar choice, but none present the binary so elegantly. I’ve found Airshow to have much more reliable synchronization than Apple’s Podcast app. In fact, you can watch the timeline scrubber synchronize in real-time. Airshow was built to “add value to your Feedbin subscription” and it does exactly that.

Conversation

If you can tolerate discussion of religion and American politics, this is a fantastic episode of French Friday with David French and Skye Jethani.

Conversation

Post-hoc TV Show Edits

Jack King examines the implications of creators editing shows after they have been released. He cites the case of the Duffer bros. making a recent change to an episode of Stranger Things Season 2. A show like Stranger Things, the most highly watched series on Netflix in the English language, boasts huge cultural cachet: if the Duffers are doing it, who’s to say that other creators won’t? One day patches might become as commonplace in screen media as they are in video games, and that is a truly worrying precedent for consumers and the integrity of art alike. It’s interesting to compare TV shows to video games, regarding the ability to make corrections after a release. Once the trend started with video games, it spread until the quality of the initial game was not as important, as the makers knew they could put out a patch after the release. Patching video games is a bit different from changing content in a TV show, though. With the show, you are dealing more with actors, crews, writers and availability, instead just diverting developers who are already working on the next project. You can see some parallels, but ultimately, I think it’s a pretty different paradigm. → Netflix Retroactively Editing Stranger Things Is the Beginning of a Dangerous TV Trend

Conversation

Judging A Book By Its Cover

A recent piece, by Ben Mathis-Lilley, in Slate Magazine, shows what kind of perspective you develop when you are as deep into identity politics as Slate. The piece focuses on the people who might get a Democratic presidential nomination. Mathis-Lilley does a brief writeup on NC Governor Roy Cooper’s chances. I thought I was getting pranked when Roy Cooper appeared on screen. This is what he looks like. This is not a rising-star modern politician. This is the leader of an evangelical congregation in 1966. This is a guy who thinks Jimmy Carter is “too rock ’n’ roll.” This is what it would look like if a sweater designed a human. This is an advertisement you use to scare teenagers into using drugs. It’s not that Cooper was incoherent in his statements about subjects such as raising teacher pay and using “science and data” to “make the tough decisions” about COVID. He would probably win some votes from older Americans who aren’t paying close attention and who might get him kind of conflated in their head with Ronald Reagan. But no. It’s not going to happen. You have a candidate being judged solely on their looks in an evaluation that this person presents like an older white dude who is pretty buttoned down. You don’t get an analysis of politics — or you would see that Roy Cooper is pretty progressive. Nor do you get the opinions of the voters in the candidate’s state, because Cooper would certainly shine in that area. I’ve had a chance to interact with Gov. Cooper, and he’s a very competent thinker and leader. If you are considering a candidate’s viability based on their looks or the identity box you put them in, you’re not only a bad political strategist, you’re also probably a poor voter. 🔗 Via Axios Raleigh

Conversation

Drone Coma

A piece from Atlas Obscura by James Gaines, about something called “prairie madness,” that afflicted settlers in the plains of areas like Nebraska piqued my interest. At the time of the phenomenon, people who settled in the plains were thought to have been suffering from the effects of isolation. Both fictional and historical accounts of this time and place often blame “prairie madness” on the isolation and bleak conditions the settlers encountered. But many also mention something unexpected: the sounds of the prairie. Smalley wrote that during winter “the silence of death rests on the vast landscape.” And a character in Manitoba settler Nellie McClung’s story “The Neutral Fuse” writes a poem about the droning soundtrack of the plains, “I hate the wind with its evil spite, and it hates me with a hate as deep, and hisses and jeers when I try to sleep.” It’s only recently that investigators have begun speculating that a combination of certain sounds (and lack thereof) could have been causing the symptoms settlers were experiencing. 📷 Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Conversation

Capcom always milks their properties for all they are worth.

Conversation

Always There

always there by the churchhill garden → The Churchhill Garden - Always There The first thing that hits you from Swiss outfit The Churchhill Garden’s “Always There” are the reverb(y) guitars. Before too long, though, you find yourself entranced by the saccharine sweetness of American lead singer Krissy Vanderwoude’s vocals, which bring to mind Velocity Girl’s Sarah Shannon. As Vanderwoude sings about “kindness, patience and grace,” it’s marvelous to get a little twee go along with the richness of her honeyed tone. I liked last year’s single, “Grounded” by the band, but there’s nothing of the bite from that song here. I could easily imagine “Always There” as a feature track on a 1992 episode of 120 Minutes and Churchhill Garden perhaps opening for peak-of-their-powers era Lush. Now, they just have to put out a full-length! As a bonus, here is The Churchhill Garden’s cover of The Cure track “Halo,” from the b-side of the “Friday I’m In Love” single, where they riff on “Pictures Of You” at the end. The collected b-sides from the Wish album is one of my favorite groups of songs, so this is such a treat. halo (the cure cover version) by the churchhill garden → The Churchhill Garden - Halo

Conversation

Thanks to @zioibi for the Arc invite. This browser is wild!

Conversation

"Silence Is Violence"

Alan Noble writes with a healthy dose of sarcasm in response to those who wonder why he hasn’t spoken up about the latest outrage on Twitter. In recent days I have been contacted by many concerned citizens about my social media silence in the face of the Recent News. Several of you have graciously reminded me that silence is violence, which rhymes, and that is very helpful. I first off wanted to apologize. There is no excuse for my silence. I should always be available to speak up on social media when such important issues arise. And my failure to speak is tantamount to treason or heresy or bigotry or bigamy. Maybe all of the above. You decide. He then goes on to list all of the (very real) reasons he might not have said something about topic (x) on Twitter. One of my biggest frustrations is the tendency of the extremely online to expect people to react to everything they consider problematic. It’s slacktavism by fiat. It does little to nothing to make the world a better place and mainly just contributes to the denigration of online conversation (there, I rhymed). → Reasons Why I Haven’t Said Anything on Twitter ‏ ‏‏ ‏

Conversation

So… I added my “Posted” folder of published blog posts to the favorites list in iA Writer and it ate the directory. It’s nowhere to be found.

Conversation

My ten-yr.-old has informed us that he doesn’t want to have kids because it’s “too much responsibility.” Can we renegotiate this?

Conversation

Sometimes Twitter is an absolute cesspool and sometimes I checkin and find myself laughing at so many tweets that my lungs feel lighter.

Conversation

Spider senses tingling.

Conversation

Gun Culture

Tom Nichols is no longer writing for The Atlantic, but he gave us a post on gun culture just before he left. Nichols grew up around a lot of guns. He was surrounded by police officers in his family and neighborhood. The gun culture that exists now, though, is different from what he grew up with. What I remember about guns is that I remember almost nothing about guns. People owned them; they didn’t talk about them. They didn’t cover their cars in bumper stickers about them, they didn’t fly flags about them, they didn’t pose for dumb pictures with them. (I’ll plead one personal exemption: When I was a little boy, relatives in Greece once posed me in a Greek Evzone-soldier costume with my uncle’s hunting shotgun. I could barely lift it.) Today, there is a neediness in the gun culture that speaks to deep insecurities among a certain kind of American citizen. The gun owners I knew—cops, veterans, hunters, sportsmen—owned guns as part of their life, sometimes as tools, sometimes for recreation. Gun ownership was not the central and defining feature of their life. He calls the culture now “performative insecurity,” and insists it’s no longer about rights. Given the performances that we see with guns these days, it’s hard to argue against that. Which brings up the question of how social media ties into the seeming need to show off firearms and whether it is exacerbating the problem. → The Problem Is Gun Culture, Not SCOTUS | The Atlantic

Conversation

I have a pretty ridiculous reason for sometimes preferring a digital PKM over my analog bullet journal — my cat likes to eat the strings on my bujo.

Conversation

Obsidian For Brain Fog

Ira Robinson was astonished to find that using the PKM Obsidian helped with his brain fog. He has been using the program to organize his thoughts and found that it did that by clearing his brain, as well as acting as his second brain. What I’ve noticed over the few months I’ve spent with the program is the brain fog that has been so ever-present and daunting in my life for years has faded away significantly. I still have days where I’ll notice it trickling into my awareness, of course, but it lessened the extent of the power it had over my life in radical ways. I’ve done little else to change things for myself, such as diet or exercise (certainly not that!). The only new thing has been Obsidian, and my working daily within it. It’s also helped me write better articles and stories. Having experienced brain fog, I can’t say definitely that Obsidian helped, but it has created an environment in which to save and order my thoughts and experiences. → This Program Has Cleared My Brain Fog

Conversation

Browser Choice On Mobile

Steve Best writes about the problems with only having one choice of browser rendering engine on iOS. Despite the fact that there are plenty of browsers competing on the platform, they all use Safari’s WebKit renderer. Which essentially means they are all Safari with different chrome and options. It also means, as Best points out in his post, that any WebKit security vulnerability affects all the browsers on iOS. In a LOT of ways, Google gets this stuff right with Android. I will say that this situation really has me contemplating a move back to Android once my iPhone 11 and Apple Watch Series 3 are the end of their useful lives. Android offers the ability to “truly” use a different browser (not just set another version of a browser that uses Blink as the default), and browser updates are not coupled with the OS. Apple really needs to get with the times here. I’ve always envied Android users having the option to truly have alternative browsers on the platform. → Browser Choice on iOS | Steve Best

Conversation

Playing The Amazon Game

Cory Doctorow has some fresh ideas about how you can use Amazon but still support local businesses. He acknowledges it’s difficult to avoid patronizing the internet superstore. It’s not as simple as “voting with your wallet” or being a conscientious consumer. “Voting with your wallet” is a dubious occupation at best, but it’s actually counterproductive if you find yourself driving or phoning around for hours, looking for local merchants to buy things from. That’s time you could be spending pursuing structural changes to our society’s structural problems, or just relaxing with a book so you’ll have the energy to pursue those structural changes later. This is the experience I’ve had even ordering online. I spend way more time and energy, for example, trying to get supplements from three different stores (while also paying more) than I would just ordering quickly from Amazon. I’ve got two big box hardware stores within five minutes, but I still sometimes have to get home improvement supplies from Amazon. You used to hear complaints from those at brick and mortar stores that customers were coming in to look at items in the store and then buy them on Amazon. Doctorow recommends turning the tables on Amazon with respect to this “show-rooming.” For years, local merchants complained that their customers were “show-rooming” them: wandering their shelves to make sure the thing they were about to buy on Amazon suited their needs, then whipping out their phones and buying the goods on Amazon. I’m saying we should turn Amazon into the showroom: hijack its organization, reviews and recommendation algorithm to help us spend money locally. He admits that there is a question of legality about his proposed solution, which would involve obfuscating part of Amazon’s core functionality. However, he reasons that the technique would be in keeping with Amazon’s own philosophy of disruption. This won’t fix the Amazon problem, but it will fix part of the Amazon problem. Turning monopolies into dumb pipe is a time-honored tradition, the very soul of the gospel of disruption, which Amazon has preached since its earliest days. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I certainly would like to try out the Library Extension from which Doctorow bases his theories around what would be possible. → View a SKU | Medium.com

Conversation

Medium Pivots Again

Medium finally made its biggest pivot of all its many pivots: It changed its CEO. Ev Williams is stepping down after 10 years and more experiments than can probably be accurately counted. Casey Newton has the details for The Verge. He focuses, as I would, on the constant pace of change for the platform. There’s no shame in a startup trying lots of different ideas. But Medium’s ideas were often coupled to the livelihoods of journalists and the publications they worked for. It’s one thing to have a singular vision and change your tactics along the way; Williams vision for what Medium was transformed almost continuously. I have twice been subscribed to Medium, but I couldn’t justify keeping my subscription because it didn’t make sense to get a yearly subscription to a service when you had no idea what the service would look like over the course of that year. The most recent time I subscribed, I paid because I liked publications on the platform — by the end of the year of my paid subscription — they were gone. Ev was unapologetic about the changes. Even last year, after nine years of turmoil, he suggested that more change was healthy and to be expected. Throughout all its changes, Medium kept betraying the trust of its partners. The string of people hurt by the platform and the pivots towards new ideas became appallingly long over the years. The constant casting about for different approaches was bad for both loyal customers and content creators. I hope that Medium’s new CEO, Tony Stubblebine, is not only cognizant of the ways that the inconsistency has been damaging to the platform, but that he has a plan to steady the ship.

Conversation

Screwtape on Smartphones

Alissa Ruddell wrote a post in the style of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The subject of the latest letter from the demonic Uncle Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood is the smartphone. Screwtape tries to get Wormwood to sabotage a mother by intensifying her relationship with her phone. While there is always some danger in letting a parable prick the conscience, the risk is worth it as long as she doesn’t do anything about her guilt. Static turmoil is a decent substitute for outright disobedience. Even if she writes a cheeky, remorseful blog post on the topic of smartphones, it will be harmless as long as her habits remain unchanged and are (in her mind) unchangeable. Humor borne of despair is the icing on the cake for us, unless of course she begins to pray for help. God have mercy as a joke or an excuse is quite the treat, but God have mercy as a genuine prayer is not to be borne. I have to admit being moved by the piece to put down my iPad and pick up The Arabian Nights to read to my youngest son. → My Dear Wormwood: A Screwtape Letter on the Art of Smartphone Addiction

Conversation

Liturgical Disruption

This article by Andrew McGowan is a few years old, but it has stuck in my mind as I explore different versions of the Christian faith. When the piece was written, the Episcopalians were going through a conversation about changes to the book of prayer, primarily around gender recognition. One of the faintly tragic elements on display in the 1979 Prayer Book are the numerous borrowings from Orthodox liturgy, which reflect not just scholarly knowledge, but prayerful conversations with Russian and Greek scholars of the mid-20th century who were then genuine dialogue partners. It is hard to find such engagement with eastern Christianity in the Episcopal Church now, beyond the somewhat hollow testimony of facsimile icons in Church bookstores. This puts me down a course of thought that recognizes that, no matter how positive the intent, changes to the fundamentals of Christian tradition put Christians in conflict. These changes become a barrier to ecumenism. They also leads to splits within churches, as some of the members will inevitably disagree with disruptions to tradition in which they are, presumably, deeply invested. Episcopalian Alan Jacobs, who linked to the article, was very concerned about the revisions. McGowan here identifies what I think is most worrisome about the current push for revision of the BCP: it is radically exclusionist. The Orthodox don’t matter, Catholics don’t matter, Anglicans outside of the U.S. don’t matter, non-revisionist Episcopalians don’t matter. Literally no one in the world matters except the revisionists themselves. I understand where he is coming from and I wish more churches would take these things into consideration. It seems like revisions are almost considered in a vacuum. → A Bigger Conversation About Liturgy | Covenant

Conversation

I love this post from Austin Kleon using a DJing technique as a metaphor for how we can exit the hedonic treadmill.

Conversation

I’m really hopeful about what iA Presenter can bring to slide decks. Just thinking about easily creating slides from text files makes me somewhat giddy.

Conversation

Sk, Sk, Sk, Schism

Image source: Debbie Hudson on Unsplash A few years ago, when I was teaching confirmation at the PC(USA) Presbyterian Church of which I was a member, I was showing a video about church polity and governance from the RE:form curriculum. The video was done in an intentionally kitschy old-school style of animation with the voice over imitation a 50’s instructional video. In the video, the congregation is in the church sanctuary, voting on a resolution that was disputed. Since the process was democratic, it should have solved the dispute and brought the congregation back in alignment. In reality, the video showed, the vote takes place and then the slightly less than half who lost the vote just leave to go to another church. The message of the video seemed so pessimistic. I had to wonder why we were showing the students this video. Maybe it was realistic, but how did it contribute to a positive view of church polity? What kid was going to be enthusiastic about participating in such a process? This question is important, because after being confirmed, the confirmands can then participate in church governance. It seems we are reinforcing the schismatic nature of the Protestant church in these sorts of lessons. If you don’t like the outcome of a disagreement with your church brothers and sisters, just pack up and leave. It’s a temptation that all of us face when difficulties arise, just to walk out and not look back. In his book, You Are Not Your Own, Alan Noble writes about how you shouldn’t leave your home church, “without much fear and trembling.” If everyone took that advice, we wouldn’t have thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations. Unfortunately, that’s where we stand, the Christian Church more divided than any time in history, and on the path to becoming still more divided. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10) I want to experience a Christianity that doesn’t crack at every fault line.

Conversation

I came upstairs this morning to find my lady friend sending an email from my email account. This kind of invasion of privacy is going to make it difficult to carry on a torrid love affair.

Conversation

My little guy printed out pictures of some of his favorite things.

Conversation

This would be helpful.

Conversation

Keyboard Jockey

Welp, I’m doing it. I’m becoming one of those mechanical keyboard nerds. It wasn’t intentional, mind you, but out of necessity. My Apple “magic” bluetooth keyboard and mouse won’t easily switch between one Mac and another. Due to my work-from-home setup having a personal Mac and a work Mac, I have spent literally hours of time frustratingly trying to get my peripherals to pair with one device or another. I got locked out of my personal Mac Mini, at one point, because the computer would not recognize the bluetooth devices. I had to dig in my closet for an old wired keyboard and mouse. If I hadn’t had those stashed away, I’m not sure what I would have done. As I shopped for bluetooth peripherals that could switch between one device and another, I came upon the much-beloved Keychron mechanical keyboard. I had read about these devices before and not paid much attention, because I like the Apple low-travel keyboards. Knowing that I simply had to replace my keyboard, though, pushed me into checking out the Keychrons. I was further inspired by this post from Maker Stations, detailing what parts of their work-from-home setups people appreciated the most. Unsurprisingly, given their rabid fanbase, many people picked their mechanical keyboards. Blogger Matt Birchler has been chronicling his descent into the world of mechanical keyboard obsessives, with posts like this one. He discusses how he replaced the switches, the keys, and the foam, as well as adding tape, to get things just right. In another month or two I’ll think of something else I can do to it, and it will just keep improving. This keyboard has cost me far more than anyone needs to spend on a keyboard, but that’s okay, it’s a hobby! Some people fix up cars when they could just buy a Camry, and other people fiddle with keyboards when they could just use a $20 from Dell. It reminds me of discussing my reading to blogging workflow with my boss. When I explained it to him, in all of its complexity, he was laughing at me. This is my hobby, I told him. Some people play golf. I read and blog about things. So, it makes sense that I would tinker. When looking at the cost/benefit of automating something, you typically total up how many times you expect to perform a certain action. That tells you whether the time and effort spent automating will be paid back (whether you will get your return on investment). If you will be performing an action over and over again, it’s best to invest in automating that action. Sure, my hobbies are nerdy things. You know what, though, my wife (who’s good opinion I desire above all others), likes it that way. As we watched a motorcycle rev up and speed out of sight tonight, she expressed her relief that I would never decide to get a motorcycle. I told her that was probably true, but that I’m becoming a mechanical keyboard guy. She informed me that she was fine with me buying as many keyboards as I want. At least, she reasons, this hobby is not dangerous.

Conversation

Finished reading: The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker 📚. Absolutely as good as The Golem And The Jinni. Once things started to come together and paths started colliding, this book had me enthralled.

Conversation

🎵 Pharmacist

Pitchfork reviews the new Alvvays track, “Pharmacist,” which is their first in 5 years. The band sounds like they’ve developed a fascination with shoegaze, with enough glide guitar to make Kevin Shields jealous. “Pharmacist” is overblown in all the right ways, with all the meticulously layered noise growing into a thicket around Rankin’s tender nostalgia. “It’s alright, I know I never crossed your mind,” she concludes. After this brutally honest admission, Alvvays burn through the end of “Pharmacist” with a flurry of distortion, sonic immolation at its finest. The last 30 seconds of the track showcase a squealing guitar solo that rides atop the noise and then breaks down, Sonic Youth style. The burn down is satisfying in its totality. The video is more of a showcase for the audio than a proper video, but after half a decade of absence, I’ll take it. → Always - Pharmacist

Conversation

The Twitter Circle feature is a major improvement for the platform. I’m excited to see what this does for the overall tone of the discussions there.

Conversation

To The Holy

The church that I have been attending, All Saints Orthodox Church, has a new website design and a video to go along with it. The video is a meditation on what worship is like for an Orthodox Christian, focusing on the five senses. I appreciate the fact that it brings up the conditioning of the smells, sounds and sights that are involved with worship. I have come to associate the incense used at Divine Liturgy with the very act of worship. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:2) Of course, that the soundtrack is a an ambient track in the vein of Hammock endears me all the more to this depiction of worship in an ancient tradition. → To The Holy | YouTube

Conversation

🎵 Finest Hour - The Radio Dept.

The concept of the Finest Hour playlist is to distill a favorite band’s discography into an hour of music (or as close to an hour as reasonably possible). It’s a bit of a challenge trying to do a “greatest hits” style playlist within the time constraints and with the right sequencing. The idea was taken from Adam Wood. Swedish indie band The Radio Dept. has always been mysterious and mercurial. You can compare their early days to early period Belle and Sebastian, when little was known about the bands, and they wanted it that way.1 The Radio Dept. are at once sometimes poppy with a trace of twee (see “Bachelor Kisses”) and also intensely political (see “Death to Fascism,” “Swedish Guns”). They are known for fights with their record label.2 I had the rare opportunity to see the Radio Dept. play a few years ago, and it was one of the most memorable shows I’ve been to — though that may have to do with the recency effect and my aging brain. One thing that stuck out to me was how they almost sounded industrial when playing the political songs listed above. It gave me a new conception of the band and made me wish they would explore that territory a bit more. I hope I’ve given you some good tracks here with which to explore one of the most influential bands in Swedish indie pop. Enjoy! → Finest Hour - The Radio Dept. 📷 Image source: Listadark on flickr For another comparison point to B&S, listen to “You’re Looking At My Guy,” the final track included here. ↩︎ How often does that happen in the world of independent music? ↩︎

Conversation

Antinet Zettelkasten

The Antinet Zettelkasten movement is picking up steam. Despite what you would first think, the term antinet is not a stab at digital technology, but rather a partial acronym. Specifically, ANTI stands for: Analog Numeric-alpha Tree Index Eleanor Koenig briefly mentions the concept in her latest Obisidian Roundup newsletter. Apparently some folks who use analog zettelkastens call them antinets. The subreddit community seems a bit dogmatic but I found skimming it to be interesting. I went to one YouTube video about the practice and the “tutorial” was very scattered. It spoke to me of a mind in disarray, even though there were so many index cards meant to portray order and information organization. After watching the video, the term “dogmatic” doesn’t surprise me. Despite the disorganization, there was a sense of superiority about the system and its powers of cognitive augmentation. I do kind of love the idea of a strictly analog zettelkasten. When the system was developed, it was all analog.1 You would hardly know it, though, because the system is mostly mentioned in context with a tool like Obsidian. However, research has shown that retention is better when using pen and paper than when using digital tools. Scott Scheper is an influential proponent of the system. Luhmann did not specify analog as a requirement over digital. The reason why is simple. Digital tools were not an option when he started building his Zettelkasten. I believe that if Niklas Luhmann were alive today, he would continue using physical materials to develop his thinking. In future writings, I will share why Luhmann would continue using an analog Zettelkasten if he were alive today. I think the system appeals to me not because of the promise of better retention, or the tactile nature of analog (just look at those glorious wooden boxes), but rather anything to move me away from more screen time seems like a win. I’m not switching to analog anytime soon, though. I have yet to really exploit the power of Obsidian — power that is present even if you don’t have a million plugins installed. Digital tools were not available at the time. ↩︎

Conversation

No More Netflix Binge

Matt Birchler speculates about why Netflix chose not to release Stranger Things Season 4 all at once. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I wonder if the release schedule for shows is what makes the difference for first month unsubscribers being higher on Netflix. If you want to keep up with The Mandalorian on Disney+, you gotta subscribe for at least 2 months to watch it as the rest of the world does. Same deal with most things on Apple TV+, Hulu, and HBO Max as well. But Netflix still releases basically all of their shows at once, so you can binge them in a week and cancel without missing the zeitgeist. As a viewer, I’ve actually come back to preferring the weekly release cycle as well. It’s just more fun to enjoy a show for a couple moths with people all at the same place rather than to have a few days where you feel you need to watch to avoid spoilers or miss the conversations people have about the show. Like Birchler, I prefer the weekly release cycle. I never enjoyed binging a show, though, which occasionally drove my wife nuts. The weekly cadence makes a show feel more like an event or a special occasion. I have to say it was great to have my whole family look forward to the nights we could watch Obi-Wan Kenobi together. With my sons' knowledge of Star Wars lore, we had some pretty interesting discussions during and after the episodes. I don’t think the same dynamic would have taken hold with a binge. I also wonder why it has taken so long for Netflix to adopt the strategy of the other streaming services. Despite what they’ve said in the past, the objective is not to get you to stream a ton of content, but to stream enough content that you really like, so you’ll maintain that subscription every month. The more you stream, the more they have to rely on AWS elasticity and scale out, costing them more. So it makes sense to have less frequently released, higher quality content. → Why Netflix May Have Spread Out Stranger Things Season 4

Conversation

🕹 Summit Kingdom

Laysara: Summit Kingdom is an upcoming strategy game by Quite OK Games that has you building and sustaining a kingdom on the side of a mountain. I don’t play many video games these days, but when I do, it’s usually because the game presents a world that I want to inhabit. A place that has intrigue or beauty. Managing a mountainside kingdom like a Tibetan Prince has enormous appeal to me. I could practically spend all day just looking at screenshots of these carefully built civilizations from a birds-eye view. The fact that the game isn’t concerned about defeating invading armies or invading other kingdoms is a plus for me. I can’t forget those blood curdling screams the orcs would make in Warcraft when they were coming to trash the buildings you had created. Laysara focuses mainly on staving off or surviving natural disasters (like avalanches — this is set on a mountain, after all) and kingdom management. Establishing a flourishing city in harsh upland conditions is not an easy feat. Adjust your build strategy to gameplay-affecting vegetation zones and expand to more distant mountain slopes to reach scarce resources. Carefully plan production chains and satisfy various needs of your three-caste society while dealing with mountain hazards such as weather breakdowns and avalanches! If only I had a Windows machine so I could play this! → Laysara: Summit Kingdom

Conversation

It’s healthy to be able to engage with different opinions. It’s not healthy to encounter them expressed so frequently, and with such vitriol, that you are constantly arguing with people in your mind (as we introverts tend to do).

Conversation

Praying for Sameer Vasta, whom some on Micro.blog may know, as he is going through some really tough medical procedures. He has also quit blogging after 24 years.

Conversation

🎵 Finest Hour – Polvo

In a recent newsletter, Adam Wood proposed something called “Finest Hour.” The project was to create an hour-long playlist from a favorite artist. He placed special emphasis on the process of track selection and sequencing. I was intrigued by the idea. This exercise might have been more fun in the days of cassette tapes, when you truly would be limited by the constraints of the physical medium itself. The project would take a lot longer, but the challenge itself would be more rewarding. Here we are, though, firmly entrenched in the digital age, and there is joy even in the ease of assembling such a precise collection. The band I chose for the project is one that has stuck with me since my youth. Truth be told, unlike many who tend to keep rotating music they listened to in high school or college (which makes me think of the titular character of Billy Madison), I find myself exploring new music a lot more often. But Polvo has had staying power. I think it’s the complexity of their angular and winding tunes, which typically have interesting and hard-to-describe pop hooks. Never anything but inventive, Polvo loomed large in the local music scene when I was growing up and made for a perfect first show at a rock club. Polvo confounded some who couldn’t do the math. The author of the review of their discography in The_ Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Indie Rock_ wrote, “…it’s hard not to ruminate about what the band might be capable of if someone made them walk a straight line just once.” Those who got them really got them, though. I count myself among that “enlightened” group. If you’ve never heard Polvo before, take a listen and see what you think. Keep in mind that they can be challenging, but stick with them. There are really no other bands that sound like this one. If you have heard them before, feel free to critique the tracks I chose to include.

Conversation

Ironsworn: Starforged

I wrote about the sci-fi successor to the fantasy tabletop RPG Ironsworn in the Week on the Web newsletter a few months ago. Starforged has now been officially releases in digital form, with pre-orders for the hard copy being taken as well. The worldbuilding for this game looks fantastic, and its influences are an enticing mix of sci-fi fantasy universes. Inspiration comes from the quest-driven stories of The Mandalorian, the lived-in aesthetic and fantasy-infused trappings of the original Star Wars trilogy, the workaday exploits of Firefly, the isolated horror of Alien, the mysticism and faction politics of Dune, the retro-tech and desperation of Battlestar Galactica’s modern reboot, the cosmic mysteries and class struggles of The Expanse, and the gonzo adventures and fantastic locations of Guardians of the Galaxy. The gaming engine is based on Ironsworn, which took elements from the Apocalypse World rules. I used to play a bit of Dungeon World (based on Apocalypse World) and really appreciated the story-driven mechanics. The rules are lightweight and flexible and designed to drive the fiction. You don’t get bogged down into detail about how something is going to work. The rules are easy enough to let the play and the story flow. One of the more unique aspects of Starforged is the different modes of play: Guided: One or more players take the role of their characters, while a guide moderates the session. Co-Op: You and one or more friends play together to overcome challenges and complete quests. A guide is not required. Solo: You portray a lone character driven to fulfill vows in a dangerous world. The variety of game modes and the fact that you can play with fewer people ratchets up the value of this game. Did I mention the PDF is only $20 and the full color hardback 404-page book + immediate download of the PDF is only $40? Honestly, the purchase would be worth the illustrations and intriguing settings alone. Gorgeous artwork by Joshua Meehan gives the player an immersive sense of the world which they will be exploring. It is gritty and innovative and ready to be expanded by the player’s imagination. It certainly shows the direction of the game has been shaped by some of the recent Star Wars TV series we’ve been enjoying. My oldest is off school for the summer and is trying to learn the arcane rules of the Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG, so we’ve got a bit of competition. Although I’m happy he is finally picking up the book we got him for Christmas, and it’s getting used, I’m a little concerned that the complexity of the rule set for that game will keep it from being — you know — fun. I have much more confidence in the variant of the Apocolypse World engine that Starforged is using to provide a good basis for fun and engrossing gameplay. Maybe we can each learn the systems for our respective games and do a little comparison testing. I can think of worse ways to spend a few summer days.

Conversation

Thanks to @toddgrotenhuis I’m participating in the Readwise Reader private beta. This app is impressive. It covers a lot of my use cases for a read-it-later solution.

Conversation

🎵 Janky Star

Grace Ives' new album, Janky Star, caught me a bit by surprise. I became immediately attached to the title of the album and recognized it’s almost complete disregard for musical conventions. It’s difficult to put this one neatly into a musical genre. It bounces a bit all over the place and practically dares you to try to classify it. The Pitchfork review of the album, by Arielle Gordon, brings up the co-producer Justin Raisen, as partially responsible for the held together by duct-tape sound. Justin Raisen, Janky Star’s co-producer, provides a richer backdrop for her flexible vocals, pushing beyond her Roland to include guitar, piano, and percussion. Raisen, who helped craft the sounds of Sky Ferreira, Kim Gordon, Yves Tumor, and Charli XCX, brings a similar controlled chaos to the album. The album feels a bit like a sculpture put together from found objects. Ives jumps from channeling the ghost of Ric Ocasek with new wave guitar lines on “Shelly” and “On The Ground” to toy-sounding keyboards, simple programmed beats and pitch-shifted vocals on proto-R&B tracks like “Lullaby.” On “Angel of Business,” she throws around corporate buzz phrases with lines like, “I could circle back three hundred times, the numbers I could show” to go with the glitch-hop beats. Janky Star showcases Ives' unusual musical sensibilities and the range of her influences. The strength and versatility of her voice pairs well with the breadth of her sonic expression. If you like off-kilter pop, prepare to be delighted by this record. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Grace Ives - Janky Star Janky star by Grace lves

Conversation

Independent Social Media

I have been thinking recently about trying out federated social media site Mastodon. I’m interested in non-algorithmic microblogging and solutions that don’t actively attempt to antagonize me. Cherie Baker recently joined Mastodon and has some good things to say about her experience. To my surprise, I like it! Mastodon + blog feels like a comfortable setup. In truth, shoehorning Twitter-like activity into a blog format always felt awkward to me. I’m not going to “live tweet” a movie on my blog, there are no silly gifs conversations here, and my blog has no good options for ephemerality other than lots of manual deletions. I can relate to it feeling awkward tweet-size posts into a main blog. It makes some sense to keep short updates separate. I also learned about features that I didn’t know existed in Mastodon from Baker’s post — such as the ability to set posts to auto delete unless you mark them for retention. That pairs well with the transient nature of many microblog posts. I’m just not sure that I need a service that is such a direct Twitter replacement, though, so I’ll think before I leap into another pond. → A Return to Social Media | Hypertext.monster

Conversation

🎵 Decades and Dreams

I posted a video from Atlanta’s Bailey Crone, AKA Bathe Alone, just a few months ago. I had to share the video from one of her more recent singles, though, because it’s one of my favorite songs this year. “Decades and Dreams,” which was written after Crone practically kidnapped her best friend and took her to a Beach House show seven hours away, sounds wistful and mature. The video is just fun and sweet. The single artwork and music video for “Decades & Dreams” were inspired by old photos of both of her great-grandmothers on a boating trip together, “where they looked completely miserable,” says Crone. The video shows Bailey and her best friend — and inspiration behind the actual song — made up in full grandma finery, complete with chunky orange life vests and curly gray hair. The two share a toast to nostalgia and relive youthful adventures in the bittersweet visual. Melodic exhales form the backing vocals and mellotron (my favorite) is prominent in the song’s instrumentation. The simple guitar line adds some emotional heft to the nostalgia. → Bathe Alone - Decades and Dreams “Decades and Dreams” will appear on Bathe Alone’s sophomore album, Fall With The Lights Down, which comes out July 8th via The Record Machine.

Conversation

The Failings of San Francisco

This article by Nellie Bowles about the downfall of San Francisco and how it precipitated the ouster of DA Chesa Boudin was so fascinating I could hardly put it down. It has the narrative style of an engrossing book. Bowles provides a cautionary tale of what can take place when left-leaning city politics get out of control. What happened to the man at the Safeway, what happened to Dustin Walker—these are parables of a sort of progressive-libertarian nihilism, of the belief that any intervention that has to be imposed on a vulnerable person is so fundamentally flawed and problematic that the best thing to do is nothing at all. Anyone offended by the sight of the suffering is just judging someone who’s having a mental-health episode, and any liberal who argues that the state can and should take control of someone in the throes of drugs and psychosis is basically a Republican. If and when the vulnerable person dies, that was his choice, and in San Francisco we congratulate ourselves on being very accepting of that choice. Bowles also touches upon the ouster of the school board members. The story about how the members tried to outdo each other with how many boxes of intersectionality they could check off was bananas. → How San Francisco Became a Failed City | The Atlantic

Conversation

Writing Instead Of Talking

I wrote recently about how I’d prefer to express my views about a given subject by writing about them. It’s easier for me to write about something in a blog post and then point people to that blog post than to discuss the subject in conversation. If the subject is something in which I’m interested, I can be effusive, talking too much and not being appropriately succinct. If it’s something that aggravates me, I can get too angry. Becca Rothfeld goes a bit farther with this mentality. Who in their right mind would want to talk, much less listen, to a person who has contrived to spend as much of her life as possible crouched over her computer in isolation, deleting unsatisfactory variants of a single sentence for upwards of an hour? Nothing in my daily practice has prepared me for the gauntlet of a tête-à-tête. Writing is an antidote to the immediacy and inexactitude of speech, and I resent any attempt to drag me back into the sludge of dialogue. I’m not totally averse to wading into “the sludge of dialog,” but many times I’d rather go through the calculations necessary to write out my thoughts. → Writers Shouldn’t Talk | Gawker.com

Conversation

“It’s like The Princess Bride but they’re on acid and at Medieval Times.” ~ My son, describing a story he wants to write

Conversation

I heard my son exaggerating to his friend that I was a “master LEGO builder.” That seems like the modern equivalent of “my dad can beat up your dad” but less combative.

Conversation

My self-hosting experiment was going along swimmingly all weekend. I used JSONLint and Gulp to get me over some humps. Then, I announced that I was switching my blog over and almost immediately started having availability issues.

Conversation

🎵 Terminal

Ever since she showed up in the band TOPS, I’ve thought Marta Cikojevic looked like a 70’s icon. Had she been alive at the time, she could have played Kristen Shepard of “Who Shot J.R.?” fame on Dallas. If that didn’t work out, she might have been one of Charley’s Angels. So it was no surprise when Cikojevic unleashed a solo project under the name Marci and it sounded like a record that would have been in rotation at Studio 54. This track hooks you in a disco groove and doesn’t let go. TOPS bandmate David Carriere co-wrote the songs on the record originally on Rhodes and bass. It’s evident in “Terminal,” as the bass is the standout instrument and second only to the vocals. The sensual vocals paired with the come hither looks in the video are blushworthy. → Marci - Terminal The first full-length from Marci will be self-titled and is due out this summer on Arbutus. 🔗 via Gorilla Vs. Bear

Conversation

Jason Morehead writes for Christ and Pop Culture about how reading the Ms. Marvel comic helped him to deal with his kids with a new sense of reciprocal respect. Our afternoon and early evening was an unrelenting mix of fighting, complaining, and whining. I felt suffocated, unable to think or process beyond the blind rage building up within. I was nearing rock bottom, that particularly low point beyond mere annoyance and exhaustion where you aren’t just upset with your kids — you begin to actively dislike them. I was nearing that point at a disturbingly fast clip. That is, until Ms. Marvel — and her mom — changed everything. I never read the comics, but I’m looking forward to checking out the Ms. Marvel series on Disney+ as soon as we are through watching Obi-Wan Kenobi. → Reading ‘Ms. Marvel’ Made Me a Better Dad

Conversation

iA Writer 6.0 will support wiki links. That’s pretty huge.

Conversation

Rotten Apple

I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with Apple lately. Apple is a giant company now, as compared to the scrappy upstart they were when I started using their computers in 2005 upon my return to college. A lot has changed. Their workforce and market cap are massive. They are always plowing forward at breakneck speed now, sometimes at the expense of their users and their products. Screen Time The first thoughts I had following the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference Keynote this week centered around iPadOS 16. It’s ironic that Apple is now advertising new Parental Controls with iPadOS 16 when the existing ones don’t work. I have had a support ticket open with Apple going on nine months now about how the Downtime feature with Screen Time doesn’t function properly. I set limits on my son’s iPad gaming usage, and then frequently find him going over those limits just by noticing that he’s been playing games for a long time. When I check, the Screen Time limits have reset themselves to be disabled. I’ve set screen time limits for myself, and they generally last 2-3 days before resetting. Once I’ve realized things have reset, I have to go and turn the feature back on again, and specify all the exceptions. Then, a couple of days later, I have to do it over again. I have spent hours on the phone with Apple support troubleshooting, only for them to tell me it’s a known issue in development, and they just haven’t fixed it yet. My emails to follow-up are ignored. Each time I call — which I did again a couple of weeks ago — the support rep walks me through all sorts of troubleshooting that I’ve already done, then disappears for a while, and then comes back and tells me that they are aware of the issue and that others are reporting it. They still have no ETA on a fix. Six months ago, they told me a fix should be coming soon, and they would do something special for me and my son for our patience. They haven’t fixed the bug or done anything special for us. As someone who works in software development and spent ten years as a QA Manager, my advice for Apple would be to fix the breaking feature bugs before adding on to that same feature. It makes absolutely no sense to add anything to Screen Time or Parental Controls when the basic functionality doesn’t even work. This is a critical feature for me, as a parent. I need to be able to regulate my child’s screen time. Being able to control your child’s technology usage is not a nice-to-have, it’s an expectation these days. If the issue isn’t resolved, I will need to move my child to another platform where I can ensure he has appropriate limits. I’m starting to look at a Microsoft Surface tablet to replace his iPad. A tablet running Windows would give him the ability to run more games, anyway. Forced Obsolescence Another thing that I quickly realized regarding the announcement of iPadOS 16 was that I wouldn’t be able to run the signature feature, Stage Manager, on the iPad Air I bought new last year. That’s right, Apple products are obsolete after a single year. Had I known last year that I wouldn’t be able to run the multitasking features that were coming out in one year, I wouldn’t have purchased the iPad. Between the high-priced super Smart Keyboard and the tablet itself, the total was over a grand. As regular readers of my blog and newsletter will know, I’ve been dealing with disabling illness for the past couple of years and I can’t be spending a ton of money on computers that are out-of-date within a year. It would be fine if the iPad could serve as my only computer, but that functionality (being able to work effectively with an external screen) is a part of the Stage Manager feature. Therefore, I still have to maintain another desktop computer. If I want to be able to sync my software between the desktop computer and the tablet, those devices both have to be from Apple. When I told my boss about the fact that my almost-new iPad wouldn’t be getting the new features, he laughed at me and said that was typical for Apple. He cynically chalks it up to Apple trying to gin up more sales. Getting laughed at is something I’ve gotten used to as an Apple user over the last few years, but I’ve got to say, this time it stung because he’s right. This situation is ridiculous, and I feel like a sucker. Sticky Ecosystem Apple has a very sticky ecosystem. Not only does buying more of their products ensure that your devices play together nicely, but they also have the healthiest independent developer community of any platform. For example, I can’t think of a single RSS reader on Windows.1 Nor can I think of a Markdown text editor that can post to a blogging engine. On the Mac there are many. As a power user, I’m not confident that you can even switch to Linux or Windows without giving up many capabilities provided by independent software. This is the situation, even though Apple, by many people’s estimates, does not treat their developers well. So as my frustration with Apple grows, I’m almost equally frustrated with companies like Microsoft for failing to make a platform as compelling as Apple’s for the personal computer developer and user. If one could do the same things on Windows that you can do on the Mac, it would provide Apple with more competition and a level of accountability from which their current hegemony in certain areas protects them. I doubt I will be switching away from Apple at this point, but I’m trying to think of ways to become less dependent on them for my computing, especially when it comes to my hobbies.2 I tried to help a colleague with finding an RSS reader for Windows or Linux recently and couldn’t think of anything. You can find articles about feed readers for Windows if you search, but those are mostly web-based and they actually have native Apple apps. ↩︎ For work, a Windows machine is fine. ↩︎

Conversation

Breaking News

A colleague was just telling me about how he hasn’t watched the news for approximately three years. He found himself getting so agitated by both sides of the political spectrum and the way the news was presented, that he just quit cold turkey. He feels like he’s much happier for the change, and his wife fills him in if something major happens. It seems as if I’m hearing about more and more people who decide that giving up social media is not enough to keep their frustration in check. Cheri Baker points out that it’s not just social media that plays with our emotions. I’ve decided to stop consuming American news media. It’s easy to criticize Facebook and Twitter for their amplification of misinformation and fear, yet I’ve come to see that the media provides the exact same poison, only in more moderate doses and with a better vocabulary. hypertext.monsterCheri https://hypertext.monster/2022/06/07/a-different-kind.html I think at least a part of the problem with modern media is that it’s very seldom objective. It can seem almost insulting in its naked biases. In the provocatively titled piece — Disinformation is no danger. Fear polarization from Humans As Media — Andrey Mir argues that we have entered a postjournalism era. The article is an excerpt from Mir’s book Postjournalism and the death of newspapers. The media after Trump: manufacturing anger and polarization. Postjournalism represents the shift from presenting the news to presenting the news with a built-in guiding narrative. Mir defines postjournalism as normative. Mir details what makes postjournalism different from the journalism that came before it. While the distinction has always been obvious in media organizations like Fox News, it is now evident in organizations like NPR and others that would still probably attempt to claim objectivity.

Conversation

Who needs a Playdate for retro gaming when you’ve got one of these?

Conversation

Open for business.

Conversation

Basic Apple Guy pulled together a WWDC bingo card. He has some ideas about what may turn up at the conference next week. Some come from the rumor mill and some are wishful thinking. I thought that it was interesting that he speculates about a classical music service. There have been rumours that Apple will introduce some classical app/service for Apple Music. Whether that becomes a separate app or an enhancement to the Music app, I’m not sure, but I expect I’ll make finding and curating classical collection far more manageable than asking, “Hey Siri, play: Cantata No. 89 Was Soll Ich Aus Dir Machen, Ephraim?, BWV 89: V. Aria - ‘Gerechter Gott, Ach, Rechnest Du?’ [Soprano] by Ad Mater, Gustav Leonhardt & Monteverdi Choir Hamburg” We’ll have to see if this comes to fruition, but if it does, I highly doubt there will be a separate app for it.

Conversation

🎵 I’m A Sensory Explosion

I'm a Sensory Explosion (Featuring Lumenette) by Hammock → Hammock (ft. Lumenette) - I’m A Sensory Explosion Lumenette is a new musical project from Christine Byrd (Hammock contributor and wife of musician Mark Byrd). “I’m a Sensory Explosion” is the first Hammock single to credit Lumenette as a cowriter. The song is a beautiful, elegiac exploration of opening your senses to the sometimes overwhelming weight of the natural world. The textures of the song are soothingly familiar to long-time Hammock devotees and Christine’s vocals add a traditional 4AD/shoegaze sound. The track is perhaps best listened to on a cloudy, rainy day. This is a promising taste of what is to come from Lumenette. The new musical project will certainly bear some of the hallmarks of the Hammock sound. I’m eagerly anticipating the full album. Lumenette’s first long-player, All Around My Head, will be released on 8/12/2022. The first proper single is due out this month, 6/17.

Conversation

Matthew Ismael Ruiz writes for Pitchfork as an obsessive digital music collector. He shuns all-you-can-eat streaming services, instead opting to patronize sites like Bandcamp, that allow downloads and ownership of digital music files. He acknowledges that he is in the minority in our entertainment post-ownership culture, but is aware that there are others like him. They, too, accept the overhead of maintaining a digital music collection. Though the ranks of digital collectors have shrunk in the streaming era, I’m certainly not alone. So what kind of person does this? Digital collectors largely are collectors first and foremost—people who enjoy, at least to some degree, the meticulous organization the activity requires. To maintain a digital collection for years and years requires a mix of passion, knowledge, and more than a little bit of obsession. Digital collectors are often—but not always—gearheads and audiophiles fixated on fidelity. They’re people with appetites for music that far outstrip their budgets for physical media. And they tend to be, as I’m devastated to admit, people of a certain age, music fans that grew up organizing files and folders in a way seemingly alien to young people whose main interface with digital files is a search bar. I can relate to Ruiz’s piece, but I can’t imagine myself abandoning the embarrassment of riches that streaming music services provide anytime soon. My preference is a mixed catalog, such as what Apple Music provides, where you can incorporate your downloaded rare tracks into your streaming library. → The Obsessive World of Digital Music Collectors | Pitchfork

Conversation

My wife and I celebrate our 20th anniversary today. I’m so glad we’re together. Of all my girlfriends, she was the girlfriendliest.

Conversation

Lauren Goode wants to bring back the age of presence indicators — like the AIM Away Messages — to give us all a break from the burden of synchronous communications. I miss Away Messages. This nostalgia is layered in abstraction; I probably miss the newness of the internet of the 1990’s, and I also miss just being … away. But this is about Away Messages themselves. The bits of code that constructed Maginot Lines around our availability. An Away Message was a text box full of possibilities, a mini-MySpace profile or a Facebook status update years before either existed. It was also a boundary: An Away Message not only popped up as a response after someone IM’ed you, it was wholly visible to that person before they IM’ed you. I really like the presence indicator, but I think, in terms of tech culture, we’ve moved past the barrier that “away” messages put up. People with whom I work ignore the presence indicator in Teams. It’s not unusual to have multiple people trying to message me, while my Teams message clearly says that I’m on the phone. → It’s Time To Bring Back The AIM Away Message | Wired

Conversation

Reading It Later

I have a Kobo Libra 2 ereader, and it’s one of my favorite devices. Of course, it is used for reading books, but I spend just as much time reading articles saved from the internet. I find I have a much greater capacity for reading long materials passed from the internet on an e-ink device. I’m using Pocket as my read-it-later service, and it syncs well with the Kobo. It’s a 2-way sync, so you can favorite and archive articles from the device. Other read-it-later services, such as Instapaper and Matter, have a 1-way push to the Kindle, but anything you do on the Kindle does not sync back to the service. While a 2-way sync is intrinsically superior to a 1-way sync, how the sync fits within your workflow determines how much more useful it is. In my case, I mainly use the 2-way Pocket sync on my Kobo to sync favorites back to the service, so I can go back to them on an iOS device and make highlights from there — something you cannot do on the Kobo. Readwise (I’m on a free trial of that service) syncs the highlighted passages and other metadata from Pocket to Obsidian. I pull article information from Obsidian into Ulysses to write about it. I’m doing that part manually. I don’t yet have it automated, like Matt Bircher. Highlights Although my workflow is okay, it’s a bit more manual than I would like. It would be much easier, for example, if I could highlight article passages on my Kobo and have them automatically sync to Obsidian, as I can do with books. Since I have to go back to my iOS devices to create highlights, the 2-way sync is of somewhat limited usefulness, in my case. It is hardly superior to the 1-way push from Instapaper or Matter to the Kindle, where I have to go back to my iOS device for article management, anyway. Where Instapaper and Matter end up being superior to Pocket is in the management of highlights. Through a third party service like Readwise — that has a non-trivial monthly subscription fee — Pocket has decent highlights management. On its own, extracting highlights from the service is difficult. From the web interface, you can only copy a link to the article from the highlight. Inexplicably, there is no way to pull out highlights without going through a standard copy and paste, which makes the usefulness of highlights themselves low. On iOS, you can extract the highlights through the share button, but not many programs can accept the output and most only show a link to the article. Ulysses, for instance, only occasionally captures the quote. I would love to see the folks behind Pocket come up with better options for highlight export. Perhaps even an image you can share on your blog or social media, like many other services, such as Glasp or Matter, would be nice. Unfortunately, I have low confidence in the ongoing development of Pocket. The “what’s new” section of their web app has not been updated for almost a year. Their parent company, Moz://a, is consistently in financial trouble. Theoretically, Pocket as a revenue stream should help, but their pay tier offerings have very little value add. I’m at a loss for what $5 a month gets you over the free tier, except more than 3 highlights per article, additional fonts and tag suggestions. I find 3 highlights per article to be plenty for most pieces, I’m fine with the Graphik font, and I can create my own tag taxonomy. One of the tags I use is an @[name] tag to remember where I found the link, so I can provide proper attribution if I write about the piece on my blog. I doubt Pocket is going to suggest tags that would fit in such a custom system. Matter In contrast to the slow pace of Pocket development, Matter has been aggressively improving their app. They just launched version 2.0, in what, I believe, is less than a year after the original 1.0 release. Version numbers don’t necessarily convey the pace of change, but in this case, the application was redesigned for the second release. The first version of the app was frequently criticized for being too cluttered. Matter 2.0 removed the social experience, which is better left up to dedicated social media platforms, and received a largely positive response from users. Matter is based on the premise that the modern reading economy is being constructed by individual writers rather than aggregates of writers brought together by publications. So, it builds in what is essentially an RSS reader for blogs and newsletters, based around writers. The creators are betting that the kind of app will become increasingly necessary in a fragmented reading environment. Still, we can predict a few things with confidence: The supply of great content will continue to rise (and nichify), attention will always be scarce, and the returns to making good decisions about what to read will remain high — and indeed, increase — over time. The paradigm seems to work fairly well, with the writers you would expect being recognized by the system and made easy to follow and more writers being added all the time. Ereaders Coming back to the reading experience on an ereader, Matter lets you push articles individually to Kindle. The feature assumes that you don’t want to automatically sync all of your saved articles to your ereader. It also assumes that you don’t necessarily want to send all the articles in your inbox to your ereader (like Instapaper does). While the Pocket/Kobo integration is smart enough not to send things like videos or articles that can’t be parsed to the Kobo, you still get everything else, which can be a plus or minus, depending on your workflow. I might be ready to dive further into the Matter ecosystem as a forward-looking alternative to Pocket, but am I prepared to get back into the world of Amazon reading with the Kindle? Despite my strong feelings toward Amazon, I’m considering it. I’m glad I’ve got an old Kindle to try a new process on, so I don’t have to jump in without seeing what this looks like.

Conversation

🎵 It has been too long since I last listened to Hammock and the journey back into their soundscapes has been revelatory.

Conversation

The MUNYA record my mom got me for Christmas was just delivered. The vinyl pressing plants really are backed up! I decided to take it for a spin while I was still over at her house.

Conversation

Claymorphism seems to be the rage now in web design. This style, which may remind you of your favorite claymation shows, has a very playful look. Andrian Bece writes about the style for Smashing Magazine. Claymorphism builds on top of Neumorphism foundations. Although both use rounded corners, they differ in how they use backgrounds and shadow. Instead of using light and dark outer shadow to achieve the extrusion effect, Claymorphism uses two inner shadows (dark and light) and an outer (usually darker) shadow to achieve a soft 3D and floating effect. This allows for Claymorphism to have any background color, independent of the background which was a major drawback with Neumorphism. I’ve actually played around with added a little claymorphism to my blog, but it just didn’t look right to my eyes, though it does typically pair well with flat elements. I noticed that Glasp, the service for saving quotes from the web, is getting a bit of a facelift that borrows from the claymorphism trend. The style may not be for my projects, but I have to admit it is fun.

Conversation

TIL the web version of Microsoft Office is free if you are using the Edge browser.

Conversation

Another Sunday Divine Liturgy at All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church. Beautiful service.

Conversation

🎵 Perfectly Out Of Time

Stray Fossa is a band that Apple Music kept pushing on me until I realized that I really liked them. Combining hushed tones and gentle atmospherics with chillwave sensibilities, they appeal perfectly to mid-life me. At this period in my existence, I'm looking backward and forward in equal measure. Music that contains a sense of restrained nostalgia with a nod to retro-futurism speaks to where my mind finds itself. I can imagine walking through an urban landscape with ear buds in, going from classic architecture to the most modern of skyscrapers and beholding all with a fascination brought about by realizing harmony in contradiction. Stray Fossa picks up the baton from Small Black in making rhythms with diminutive keyboards and baselines that comfortably bounce the songs along. Breathy vocals bring to mind Cigarettes After Sex. The band guides the listener through understated verses and choruses that could serve as anthems for the contentedly indifferent. → Stray Fossa - Perfectly Out Of Time Stray Fossa's new album Closer Than We'll Ever Know is out 6/3 on Born Losers records.

Conversation

Andy Phelps writes about how, growing up in California, near Edwards Air Force base, he had to deal with the constant reminders of the possibility of nuclear war. To cope with the existential dread, he found comfort in an arcade game: Missile Command. But in that moment, playing Missile Command was transformative: it provided a way for me to process my frustration, my fear, and my anger. It offered an outlet for my grief, and it also, amazingly, provided a sense of agency and control over a situation in which I had none of either. While the hopelessness of my plight was being reflected in the press covering the Cold War, in popular music on MTV, and in the comic books and action heroes of the day, Missile Command did a unique and (at least to me) profound thing: it didn’t offer some escapist view of the situation — everyone that plays the game eventually loses — but it did offer both a way to trivialize and compartmentalize the fear (it is, after all, an arcade game and you can play it again with a quarter so there is always another life) — while simultaneously holding out the idea that you can win for a while, and for a pretty significant while at that. You can laugh at yourself for the stress you feel while playing the final moments of the game, and then savor the fact that you’re still alive in the arcade and get a piece of pizza. Anything that gets you over the pressures of the world so you can enjoy a slice of pizza can’t be too bad. → Games of the Soul: An Anecdotal Introduction by Way of Missile Command

Conversation

My son was playing his guitar and singing “All My Little Words” by the Magnetic Fields this morning and it sounded so good. My heart swells with pride. I feel like he should record a covers EP.

Conversation

Just updated my Now page (no swimming edition). frostedechoes.com/now/

Conversation

Wired For Reproduction

Image source: Heather Mount on Unsplash Brandy Schillace writes for Wired Magazine about how pregnancy should be untethered from motherhood. Her piece reads like someone who has either never encountered Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or, if she has, thought it was proscriptive. It’s a Judith Butler fantasy world writ large, with reproductive organs being separated from an unwanted reality. And yet woman and mother are not, nor have they ever been, synonymous. In fact, neither term has any objective reality at all. Motherhood, like gender, is a social construct; “it exists because humans agree that it exists.” We create constructs as a means of ordering the world and attempting to control it. They are useful for organizing our thoughts; they become extremely dangerous when we mistake them for reality. Who would have thought that acknowledging motherhood could be dangerous? Eventually, in the world that Schillace envisions, it would be a case of life imitating art: Humans would be as disgusted at the natural course of childbirth and rearing as the characters that populate Huxley’s novel. When I brought this article up to my mom, she thought it was best not to spend too much time worrying about what fringe thinkers postulate. I'm not so sure, though. Modifying the fundamental building block of humanity — reproduction — could have dire consequences. Alan Noble expresses my concern well in this tweet.

Conversation

We tend to think of government corruption as happening in other places. Third world countries. It’s time to start thinking about, and rooting out, the corruption in our country. All of those who take money to jeopardize the safety of our children have to be exposed and brought to justice. Elizabeth Bruenig lays out her case that this is a society coming apart. But these aren’t the growing pains of a society making difficult advances toward an orderly peace. These are the morbid symptoms of a society coming undone, and they arise largely from policy choices made by interested parties with material motives. Elizabeth Bruenig https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/uvalde-texas-robb-elementary-school-culture-death/638435/ “Material motives” from politicians (especially Republicans) trump the well-being of our children.

Conversation

I will never forget this piece. Since it was written, America has only grown more devoted to our own Moloch. Our craven politicians are his acolytes. Citizens armed to the teeth are his followers. The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it? → Our Moloch | Garry Wills | The New York Review of Books

Conversation

The new Feedbin app for iOS is super snappy, designed well and seems less buggy than the previous incarnation.

Conversation

Cal Newport On Social Media

Author of Deep Work, Digital Minimalism and other tech-adjacent books, Cal Newport, talks about the perks of living without social media in this video. He comes up with 4 points: You will be bored more often but that boredom will lead to good things. Your anxiety will be lower, because the world constructed by your mind is constructed by what you pay attention to. If you are paying attention to social media, that will be a grim and unsettling world. You’ll have more privacy. Human beings are not wired to have amorphous large crowds of strangers watching their reaction to news and have heated interactions back and forth with strangers. It will lower your sense of self-importance and will lead you seek importance in real and tangible ways. Having taken time off from social media recently, I can validate that what Newport outlines is accurate. However, you also have to be careful about what else you consume. If you switch social media for online news from your most trusted sources — because they share your beliefs about who the “bad people” are — you won’t eliminate numbers 1 and 2. That will mean you don’t end up much better off. Your substitutions have to make sense. 🔗 via Pratik

Conversation

Just finished reading: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell 📚. Gladwell rarely disappoints. The stories he presents of the little guy up against the big guy are entertaining as well as instructive.

Conversation

Come To The Dark Side (We Have Cookies)

A lot of times, when I watch movies that pit good vs. evil in easily distinguishable sides, I wonder about someone actually choosing a path that is clearly evil. Take Star Wars, for example. Why would someone choose to be on the dark side, with all the available evidence that it’s just evil? There are moments when I have trouble suspending my disbelief. George Lucas tried hard to make Anakin’s descent into the evil persona of Darth Vader believable, but it was still rough around the edges. The depiction of evil in movies can be so exaggerated as to be cartoonish. Most people don’t just set out one day and decide that they are going to be bad. So, in the movies, when some kind of transformation happens, it’s hard not to give it a little extra scrutiny as a plot device. Good films usually show some slow decent into evil. We say, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions,” and it’s usually one little thing that leads to another. A kind of breadcrumb trail that a person follows until they find themselves out in the middle of the dark forest, lost and confused, and they think that wrong is right. Then, it turns out, some people are okay with embracing evil. Madison Cawthorn, who just lost his reelection campaign to the House of Representatives, is calling on the power of Dark MAGA to avenge him. Dark MAGA refers to a group whose main political platform is revenge. The reason the third (oh okay, call it the sixth) Star Wars movie was retitled The Return of the Jedi from The Revenge of the Jedi was that revenge is not a virtuous pursuit. The realization was that truly good people, as represented in the films by the Jedi, do not seek revenge. The Dark MAGA adherents are consumed with the destruction of their perceived enemies. They are, in the mode of high fantasy like Star Wars, choosing the dark side, the side of the Sith. It’s all as ridiculous as it sounds. It would be laughable, except when you think of the reality that Cawthorn was elected once, and not trounced in his reelection bid. Now it’s a little too close to be humorous.

Conversation

🎵 Mint Julep - Covers

Covers by Mint Julep → Mint Julep - Covers EP The 1980s was a decade that started with an album called The Age of Plastic. The band that released the album, the Buggles, captured the spirit of the age by announcing “Video Killed The Radio Star” in a nod to the rise of MTV (Music Television). They had their fingers on the pulse of the American music scene that was springing up in the wake of disco and the long tail of the rise of punk. Plastic was an appropriate metaphor for an embrace of everything synthetic. Synthesizers captured the popular imagination and even stole some thunder from the guitar. The Covers EP from Mint Julep features mostly reworkings of 80s tunes. There’s a startling principle at work here, though — that these tunes from the age of plastic simply didn’t have enough synths. Even the cover of aughts-era band Headphones “I Never Wanted You” layers more warbly synths than the original, and that band was created specifically as a synthesizer-based side project! Though these were recorded a decade ago, the songs on the EP tread familiar territory with Angel Olsen's covers from her Aisles EP. Many of the tracks have slower tempos than that originals and walls of synths that are so dense as to be almost impenetrable. Whether a song is from Depeche Mode or When in Rome, Mint Julep bends the track to sound like it’s theirs, making this EP a cohesive listening experience.

Conversation

Sunday worship at the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Conversation

Is Automattic A Poor Steward Of Its Acquisitions?

Almost a year ago, Wordpress owner Automattic bought the beloved journaling app, Day One. One of the first things that was announced was imminent integration with Automattic's two blogging tools, Wordpress and Tumblr. This news wasn't shocking, as Day One previously had integrated with Tumblr and being able to share a journal entry publicly on established blogging platforms made sense. Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg even called journaling in Day One "private blogging." In a post on The official Wordpress.com blog that came with the acquisition announcement, Eli Budelli laid out the integrations planned for Day One. That doesn’t mean that everything you journal has to stay private, though. When you want to share specific entries – or even entire journals with the world – you can expect seamless integrations with both WordPress.com and Tumblr to do just that. On the flip side of that, importing your favorite content from WordPress.com and Tumblr into Day One is on the near-term roadmap. Not only would you be able to share from Day One, but you would, shortly thereafter — in the near term — be able to absorb your blog posts into your digital journal. It sounded like a journaler and blogger's dream to have one app to capture both public and private thoughts. Unfortunately, as dreams do, it seems to have vanished with the light of day. Since joining Automattic, Day One development feels like it has slowed quite a bit. They haven't updated their blog so far this year and the app updates are mostly bug fixes.1 I assume, since the ability to share posts publicly has not been forthcoming, the ability to bring blog posts into your journal is pretty far off. Even Micro.blog has a great Day One import option, but Automattic doesn't have such a feature for its own blogging tools.2 Seeing how Tumblr has been managed since the earlier acquisition by Automattic, I suppose none of this should be too surprising. Tumblr seems to have fared about as well under the disinterest of former owners, Verizon, as it has under a company that theoretically cares about blogging. Of course, given that Wordpress has taken a decidedly sharp turn away from blogging and towards more commercial interests, maybe you can no longer assume that Automattic really cares about blogging, either. Though they did add a rainbow app icon option — how contemporary! ↩︎ This may be more of a testament to Micro.blog developer Manton Reece's dedication to improving his platform more than anything else. ↩︎

Conversation

Things are heating up here in NC, and it’s about time to spin one of my favorite summer records: Washed Out’s Paracosm.

Conversation

It looks like Matter took into account one of the primary criticisms of the app — that it was too cluttered — when designinng the second version.

Conversation

Variables.

Conversation

Brave Rewards seems like a cool way to pay creators. I wish more people were verified, but I think I’m going to add my blog.

Conversation

Orthodox Christianity, The Far Right and the Green-Eyed Christ

Image source: Valamo Monastery, Karelia, Russia A new book entitled Between Heaven and Russia: Religious Conversion and Political Apostasy in Appalachia examines how more conservative and even far-right Christians are flocking to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). The phenomenon is detailed by Odette Yousef in the NPR piece Orthodox Christian churches are drawing in far-right American converts. Those who have followed the influx of extremists into American Orthodoxy agree that those individuals are fringe within the church and are mostly concentrated in newly founded ROCOR parishes. But they also warn that it would be foolish to ignore them. Of particular concern are the ways in which these individuals are networking with outside extremist groups and broadcasting their ideologies in the name of Orthodoxy. I have to wonder to what extent Christians are leaving mainline or evangelical churches for Orthodox Christianity overall. The traditional American churches have changed in substantial ways to align with contemporary American cultural values. The piece on the book points out what a small minority the extremists represent within the Orthodox Church several times. However, it doesn't get at the number of people who are making the conversion to orthodoxy, but who couldn't be painted with that brush. I suppose that wouldn't help with the narrative that is being spun here. After the last service I attended at a Greek Orthodox Church, I asked a member of the clergy if he could tell me one thing that has changed in the last fifty years. At first, he struggled and couldn't come up with an answer. Then, you could see the light bulb flicker on in his head. Some lines in one of the hymns in their hymnal had changed in the recent past, he told me, beaming with pride. That was all he could come up with, and he was clearly satisfied. There's a path of continuity in the Orthodox tradition. Even Catholicism, that ancient faith which traces the first Bishop of Rome back to Peter, the rock on which Jesus said He would build his church, doesn’t match the allegiance to tradition that is present in Orthodox Christianity. It makes some sense then, as we watch other churches argue about traditional versus contemporary services, or whether worship should be changed to incorporate more gender-neutral language, that a certain segment of Christians would be attracted to the stability of orthodoxy. The Reformers once accused the Catholics of innovation, but it’s now mostly protestant churches that change elements of belief and worship. From the perspective of this believer, the changes are sometimes helpful and sometimes not. “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda,” is the rallying cry, but when do the reforms go too far?1 It can seem like, each time a substantial change is made, a schism — seen or unseen — takes place in its wake and a new church is born. The process reminds me of dubbing cassette tapes as a kid. Whenever a copy of a copy was made, there was a palpable loss of fidelity. A little more noise to go with the signal. As I witness this happening, I'm reminded of a story that has haunted me since I read it. The Green-Eyed Christ by Adam Roberts is a cautionary metaphorical tale of church splits and new doctrines. The story takes place in the fourteenth century (pre-reformation) and follows a painter, Mijnheer Jacco Heuschrecke. Heuschrecke unknowingly gains a power by which anything he paints will be created in Heaven. As is the custom of the time, he paints mainly religious works and soon there are 12 new Christs in Heaven, all trying to decide who is the real deal. When the painter runs out of blue paint, he paints a Green-Eyed Christ, who, being the 13th and by virtue of his difference from the others, claims to be the true Christ. He comes to visit the confused painter to tell him only to sketch fourteen representations of God — that an angel has told Heuschrecke to fully paint — and give them colored eyes. Heuschrecke is troubled by sketching more beings in Heaven to add to the confusion. ‘They are already in Heaven,’ said the Green-Eyed Christ. ‘But weakly: like spectres, potentless, wandering here and there. A dab of paint will give them more substantiality in the eternal realm, but not so much as to be able to reassert the old, stifling order. And from this point the grace of God will pour down upon the world in a new way — in ten thousand variants, in new religions and new sciences, in a great flourescence of culture and life and possibility.’ ‘Will it be so?’ Heuschrecke asked. His initial shock, at having an intimate conversation with the saviour of all humanity, had settled, and now he found himself uncertain as to the merits of what this Green-Eyed Christ was saying. ‘Must it be so?’ ‘It is a new dawn, my friend,’ said the Green-Eyed Christ. ‘But what of Holy Mother Church?’ ‘She will persist.’ ‘But broken — fractured? ‘Oh yes. Broken as white light is broken into the rainbow.’ ‘Heresies will prosper, like rank weeds in a beautiful flowerbed? No, Lord, surely not! Rival churches will challenge the oneness of faith?’ The painter flees, vowing to finish the paintings of God and, therefore, bring balance back to Heaven. It is hinted that Heuschrecke never finishes his paintings, but we already know how the story ends. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda: The church reformed, always reforming. ↩︎

Conversation

🎵 Full Moon Baby

I love how Hollie Cook is able to blend reggae and dream pop vibes on “Full Moon Baby.” I enjoyed Cook’s first album, Vessel of Love when it came out in 2018, but there’s something unique about this track. This is how you do crossover. It feels like the way forward when even pioneering genres are beginning to retread the same ground over and over again. Almost no stone has been left unturned in even some of my favorite musical styles. I’ll always enjoy the familiar, but I’m eager to hear new ways to blend styles and create something that speaks of novelty. I’ve never been a huge fan of reggae, but I’ve never disliked it, either. Even if it was a crutch for some of the early music by The Police. Sting: The other nice thing about playing a reggae groove in the verses was that you could leave holes in the music. I needed those holes because, initially, I had a hard time singing and playing at the same time. So if we had a signature in the band it was… Andy Summers: Big holes? Not too long before my grandfather died, he offered me his collection of reggae cassettes. I declined the offer (cassettes were not the coveted items they’ve now become, at the time). What if I had accepted the offer? Would my music tastes be totally different now? → Hollie Cook - Full Moon Baby Hollie Cook’s new album, Happy Hour, will be out 6/24 on Merge Records.

Conversation

I looked into migrating over to blot.im last year (because it was so easy to post from Obsidian), but noticed that the platform had some issues that weren’t being addressed. This is the second time in a few months that users have wondered whether the project has been abandoned.

Conversation

I’m leaning towards face tattoos but I’m open to suggestions on how to deal with my midlife crisis.

Conversation

Less Is More

I’ve decided I need to introduce some changes to how I post online. I typically write a lot of link posts because I read quite a bit online and want to share things that I think are interesting. This comes from a desire to add my thoughts to what is put out there by others, and — let’s face it — comment sections are a pretty bad way to do it. Lately, though, a lot of what I see online has to do with the outrage of the week. “Outrage of the week” sounds like some cute embellishment, but it has become literally accurate. Every week, the people on the internet collectively lose their minds about a particular subject. Then, everyone gives a hot take on that subject. When the next week hits, there’s a new subject to write about. It has become an all-too-familiar standard pattern. I’m not saying that these subjects aren’t truly outrageous (the war in Ukraine being a particularly potent example). With so many people writing about the same thing, though, adding another voice to the chorus doesn’t always feel appropriate or effective. Former religion advisor to President Obama, Micheal Wear, recently tweeted about this. I want to continue to read about these issues, I’m just not sure that I wish to write about them. Even in the vastness of the World Wide Web, escaping “the outrage” and reading and writing about something different can be difficult. So, I’m going to slow down on link posting in the way that I have been doing it. I’ll still be blogging. I just don’t want to commit to a weekly email, in case, on any given week, I just can’t find enough that I want to write about. At least not enough to write about without getting sucked into the outrage. Luke Harrington writes about how the outrage of the week drove him off social media. He understood that there were good people on either side of the issue. I knew, though, that social media would not show me evidence of this. I knew the moment I opened Facebook or Twitter, I would be assaulted by a bottomless column of self-righteous gloating from one side and self-righteous screeching from the other. That I’d be forced to re-read the exact same shouting matches I’d seen rehearsed ad nauseam for decades. That panicky, breathless misinformation would spread like chlamydia, and the most ignorant, unthinking voices would be amplified to deafening levels. A news story, told by a mob of idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It’s hard to write about what’s going on in the world when social media is bringing us down to the lowest common denominator. Even long-time blogger Jason Kottke is taking a sabbatical from his general purpose blog.1 Does what I do here make a difference in other people’s lives? In my life? Is this still scratching the creative itch that it used to? And if not, what needs to change? Where does kottke.org end and Jason begin? Who am I without my work? Is the validation I get from the site healthy? Is having to be active on social media healthy? Is having to read the horrible news every day healthy? What else could I be doing here? What could I be doing somewhere else? What good is a blog without a thriving community of other blogs? I’ve tried thinking about these and many other questions while continuing my work here, but I haven’t made much progress; I need time away to gain perspective. It will be interesting to see if Jason comes back, or if he decides that having to follow what is going on around the internet is too mentally taxing and not worth the effort and the return. Similarly, I won’t be doing “Week on the Web” digests for the foreseeable future. I would rather not have to be tethered too tightly to what is going on in the web version of purgatory. I’m not some alchemist who can turn the lead of internet sentiment into the gold of something edifying. When I was using HEY World, I was writing longer posts and sending them out through email, RSS and the open web. That process didn’t require that I follow current events so closely. HEY World Using HEY World by 37signals worked pretty well for general purpose ad hoc blogging, but it is a very limited tool. That’s mostly a feature, not a bug, but in some cases, it can be frustrating. For example, when HEY added scheduling for emails, they left it half-baked into their implementation of HEY World. You get an error, though, when you try to use it. I messaged their support folks about it, and it sounds like they have no plans to fix the bug. I find that strange, since the whole point of HEY World is that it makes blogging as easy as sending email. You would think they would want to keep the email features, like scheduling — that make sense for blogging — intact for HEY World. There are other, more important ways, that HEY World feels like an experiment that 37signals is not pursuing further.2 For instance, when you export your data out of HEY, you only get your standard emails, and not the ones that have been sent to the web. This means that any blog posts you write in HEY are stuck there and disappear when you leave the service. If you spend time on your writing, and attach some value to it, that should be a deal-breaker. It certainly is for me. So, I won’t be using HEY World for blogging anymore, unless I can find a good way to back up my work. Given my picky nature about blogging and the fact that HEY is lacking in customization or the ability to use your own domain, it was always a long shot that it would stick, anyway. Newsletters Something that HEY World gets absolutely right is the ability to post across delivery mechanisms and have it look virtually the same on every client. However, I don’t need HEY to do that. Both Micro.blog and Ghost do something similar, just a bit differently.3 For the purposes of this post, I will stick with describing Micro.blog, since that is currently my blogging platform of choice. Micro.blog gives you three options for how to implement newsletters, and I think they are all well-designed for different use cases. Send email for each long blog post with a title Collect all short microblog posts and long posts into a weekly email Collect posts from a category into a monthly email I have been using the second option to produce an email digest each week, for folks who may not be following my blog via RSS. I’m going to switch to sending out long posts via email, like I was doing with HEY World. This means I can take the time to write longer posts with greater thought put into them. I won’t feel as if I need to fill the week with link posts while dodging the outrage. Moving forward I love writing out my feelings. It’s cathartic, therapeutic and most of all, fun. I want to continue to do so, but I need to focus more on less. This was the idea I had when I briefly shifted to HEY World, but there’s no reason I can’t do it on Micro.blog. That platform allows me to post whatever I want and distribute that content in the ways that make the most sense. Which had become an abortion advocacy blog in the recent weeks. ↩︎ Perhaps not enough users have adopted the feature to make it worth enhancing. ↩︎ The consistency of look and feel across platforms is not there to the same extent. ↩︎

Conversation

I know @vincent probably hears this often enough, but, the new version of Gluon for Micro.blog is such a pleasure to use. I love the “hide replies” feature.

Conversation

📺 Finished watching Moon Knight. What a strange trip it has been.

Conversation

When I see someone with a bumper sticker that has “class of 2026” on it, I think, “but what if you fail out or die in the next 4 years?” I mean, that’s a while from now. Does that make me a pessimist?

Conversation

🎵 I’ve had this song stuck in my head all week, so I added to my mini-review. You can’t beat a well-executed cover that retains the strengths of the original and builds on them.

Conversation

I love this story of a Catholic church in Austria that actually has a road running through it. At Sankt Maria, the pastor preaches from one side of the road, while the congregation sits on the other. The church started its life as a roadside shrine and was later replaced by a chapel. It sounds like the chapel is not regularly used, and the road going through it is now a bypass, so there’s less traffic than there used to be. Still, the idea of a pastor having to pause his sermon for traffic is a strange one. The church is regularly renovated and thus preserved, though today only a few regular services are held there. Preservation is carried out by the city of Gmünd, because in the 19th century the community representatives committed themselves by a document to keep the church forever, and this document is binding. This would be a fascinating place to visit someday. 📷 Image Source: Johann Jaritz

Conversation

Wordle seems to have been a boon for the New York Times, bringing millions of new users to the site and helping to add subscribers, as well. Overall, the Times said it added 387,000 net digital-only subscribers last quarter, though it didn’t say how many of those are Wordle players. The Times also offers a dedicated subscription to its cooking content, and an overall digital package. I kind of wondered how much the acquisition of the popular word game would help The Times. They had indicated that the game would only be free temporarily and it’s unclear if they could convert its fanbase to paying customers. If it continues to be a gateway to subscriptions, though, they could keep it free indefinitely, which would be good for everyone. I’m still playing the game almost every day and enjoying it, having only lost once. → Wordle brought ‘tens of millions of new users’ to the New York Times | The Verge

Conversation

It’s cool to see Mastodontis get an official iPad app. Wondering if it’s time to check it out.

Conversation

Smashing Political Binaries

Lois M. Collins has a profile of Elizabeth Bruenig, whom I’ve long admired, for Deseret News. The basis for the piece is Bruenig’s unusual (for these days, anyway) blend of faith and politics. She doesn’t fit neatly into the proscribed categories that we have packaged up for easy consumption and advocacy. She’s strongly left on economics, somewhat to the right socially and, as a staunch Catholic, pro-life (womb to tomb) and has done quite a bit of investigative journalism on the death penalty. Elizabeth Bruenig makes no apologies. Not for her progressive politics, not for her Catholic faith and certainly not for having children at an age some of the left intelligentsia find unfashionable. Though Bruenig’s blend of progressive economic politics, socially conservative politics and Catholicism seems out-of-place in the modern zeitgeist, I personally don’t find it inconsistent at all. After all, progressive politics tends to be much more supportive of serving the poor and disenfranchised, which was one of Jesus’ major concerns. He taught us to serve the poor in particularly urgent language in parables such as the one commonly referred to as The Sheep and the Goats. While some Christian sects like to talk about people going to hell if they don’t accept Christ as their savior, Jesus himself indicated that you would be headed that way if you don’t help your fellow human beings who are struggling in this particular parable. Jesus was pretty conservative on social issues like marriage. He believed that, for instance, divorce was to be avoided in all but the most extreme situations. Historically, this has been the position of the church and the governments that came from majority Judeo-Christian backgrounds. It wasn’t until California instituted the no-fault divorce just decades ago that it became easy to get a divorce in the United States. She likes to quote Lena Dunham (in some ways, her political opposite), who said, “I’m not for everyone.” In fact, Bruenig’s alignment with the values of the early Christian church shows how disordered our modern political divisions of left and right really are when compared against a background of religious faith. To paraphrase a recent statement by blogger Robbie Sapunarich, I’m not sure we should take our terminology from the French Revolution.1 The modern political binaries are arbitrary or sometimes practical, like drawing boundaries for a state or town. They are only there because we have erected them for the purposes of lowering cognitive load and making it easier to digest complex issues. Why think individual issues out — with all of their nuances and different applications to different people — when you can just get a whole package of beliefs handed to you? I read posts from a lot of people who are either cleanly on the one side or the other. You can guess what their opinion will be on any given political issue, based on the package they have accepted. While I like these people (or I wouldn’t be following them in the first place), I have to take what they are writing with a lower expectation that they’ve actually thought the issue through. Maybe they have, but it’s more likely they’re just regurgitating what their favorite political team’s talking points. It’s going to be somewhat less interesting to me at best (frustrating, at worst) if someone doesn’t have their own, unique take on things. As Bruenig has discovered, mostly through her presence on social media, a lot of people don’t like independent thinkers. Peter Wason didn’t pull the theory of confirmation bias from nowhere. Most people have a reactionary view on hot button issues, and like to read whatever confirms their initial view. They don’t like challenges to that view, which put them in a defensive posture. Online, this defensiveness can come out as rage. It’s good that Bruenig doesn’t put too much stock in the social media outrage machine, because she wouldn’t have lasted this long in the online world if she did. She likes to quote Lena Dunham (in some ways, her political opposite), who said, “I’m not for everyone.” Which is where the designations of left and right came from. ↩︎

Conversation

There’s definitely an extent to which posting about personal situations on social media and public websites can be difficult and perhaps even inadvisable.

Conversation

Everything Old Is New Again For 37signals

CEO Jason Fried just announced that Basecamp, the company, not the product, which used to be called 37signals, is now going back to their original name. The post about the change is a pretty standard corporate announcement, which is unusual for Fried. 37signals makes Basecamp, 37signals makes HEY, and 37signals will make more products soon, too. We’re starting on our next one this year. John Philpin wonders why he should care about the rename. I’m personally happy to see the change because it reflects an equal commitment to the HEY email product (which is excellent, and I love using) and to putting out new products. While I think the Basecamp app is neat, I will never be able to use it at work, whereas I have discretion to use whatever email I want personally. So, I welcome the shift to inclusion for not only HEY, but the promise of more products to come. Perhaps with the success of HEY, 37signals will continue to drive into the personal application market. That would keep those of us for whom productivity software is not just something we have to put up with at work – but something we enjoy using in our own lives – coming back to 37signals for trusted solutions.

Conversation

I realize that I just pointed to some writing tips from Clive Thompson, but here’s another post with some more. Thompson makes his first drafts look totally unlike anything that could be mistaken for something official. For instance, he starts the sentences of those drafts with hyphens and lower case letters and ends them with two forward slashes. But when I write in my strange style, the sentences and paragraphs just seem like jottings. They’re Lego bricks I’m combining and recombining see what shape they might make. Words written with no proper casing and punctuation seem much easier to tear up and revise. I get less emotionally attached. The problem with his particular method is that markdown turns hyphens that begin a sentence into bullets. For that, he suggests using a tilde, instead. However, Ulysses treats a tilde as a special character as well. In some text editors, it might be best to come up with your own conventions along the same lines as his.1 → One Weird Trick For Writing A First Draft | Clive Thompson I’m using an equal sign in my trials of this method. ↩︎

Conversation

Pratik writes about the degeneration of Twitter by comparing it to your favorite bar going downhill. I liken Twitter to a favorite bar that hateful elements have taken over. Now, you may have found a dark, comfortable corner with your friends and can insulate yourself from the noise, but increasingly, you cannot help but notice all the chaos around you. Lecherous men are hounding women, making lewd gestures, and even people from other tables barging in on your conversations so that they can disrupt you. This is how Twitter feels to me. Even if you try to insulate yourself from the misconduct, it’s all around you. The algorithm is sure to insert reminders of it, lest you ever come close to forgetting. I’m done writing about Twitter for now, but I liked this piece so much that I had to share it.

Conversation

One of the first things I did when I got my new backscratcher was use it on my cat. Then I saw the “not tested on animals” text on the booklet that came with it. Whoops!

Conversation

I would be interested to know if anyone else is using Glasp for web highlighting. Seems like a pretty useful and flexible new service. I’m not using Chrome, but the extension does work on Brave, as well.

Conversation

🎵 Come On Let's Go

Captured Tracks recording artist Scout Gillett covers the standout Broadcast track “Come On Let’s Go” on her newest covers EP, One To Ten. I liked the original version of this song, despite the fact that I am always feeling like I’m going to get Broadcast mixed up with Stereolab (it’s the same sixties space age bachelor pad vibe). It’s an interesting choice for for Gillett, who also covers Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” on the EP — which sounds completely fitting for her retro country-pop feel. Here Gillett doesn’t shed the Broadcast sound, but adds some punch to the track. There’s a noisy but slow guitar solo that heats things up. Gillett mimes shredding the guitar using a broom in the video. It’s obvious she’s having a lot of fun with this recording, which was originally done in September 2020, at the height of the COVID pandemic, for a tribute compilation to the late Broadcast singer, Trish Keenan. Since the order of the day was to stay home and stay well, any movement outside of out that space was carefully calculated. So the lyrics to the song, which go: “what’s the point in wasting time, with people you’ll never know,” really spoke to Gillette about the current state of affairs. You had to be judicious about who you spent time with and the song, written decades ago, pointed straight at that situation. Her voice sounds less coy than Keenan’s does on the song, and Gillett compensates in the video by nodding affirmatively during the chorus. As she sings “come on let’s go,” heaven help you if you aren’t at least curious to see where Gillett is going to take you. → Scout Gillett - Come On Let’s Go

Conversation

Rushing For The Exit

The purchase of Twitter by the world’s wealthiest “free speech absolutist” has brought quite a few users to a much smaller alternative: Micro.blog. Not to imply that this will be a tectonic shift in the tech landscape, but there are so many people signing up that the community manager, Jean MacDonald, has not been able to keep up with her usual personal welcome to the newcomers. Already, people are seeing the vibe shift, moving from the contentious confines of Twitter to the smaller federated blogging service. I must say, there is a general feeling of positivity on this site not felt or seen on that other site. I don’t feel compelled to be snarky, or jump down someone’s throat, or “doom scroll” here. I’m genuinely excited to find new and interesting people to follow and get to know. Read: www.hcmarks.com Harry Marks https://www.hcmarks.com/2022/04/27/i-must-say.html Alan Jacobs wrote a sort of primer for Micro.blog to the new users. On micro.blog, you have absolutely no incentive to flex, shitpost, self-promote, or troll. You’re there to post interesting things and/or chat with people. Nothing else makes sense. That about sums it up. I’m not confident that we’ll all of a sudden see huge amounts of users or major celebrities showing up on Micro.blog. DHH is comparing those quitting Twitter to the people who promoted boycotting Spotify over Joe Rogan. After the boycott, Spotify only added users. I want to say that this time is different, but the public is fickle. I’m not certain how strong the objection to Musk actually is, even in the face of the terrible things he is already doing regarding the company. And it’s not just executives: roughly a dozen Twitter employees have been doxxed by trolls in the past few days, I’m told. Sometimes it’s because they were responding to one of Musk’s tweets; other times it has been as simple as employees tweeting that they’re looking for new jobs. Musk is clearly a malevolent force in the marketplace of ideas, but is his mismanagement and vitriol enough to cause a sustained rush for the exit? Only time will tell.

Conversation

Craig Mod promotes his piece in the New York Times — A Long Walk In A Fading Corner Of Japan: “And if you dig it, please consider sharing on your nearest horrible social network of choice.”

Conversation

Cashing In My Chips

My first thought when read (at the end of a long day of work) that Elon Musk had purchased Twitter, was some measure of disbelief. I’m almost embarrassed to admit the second thought that popped into my head after reading the news. Yep, it is definitely with some shame that I tell you my disbelief was quickly followed by relief. I’m aware that may be surprising. It surprised me, too. I’m not certain that I’ve ever really spent much time writing about Elon Musk, but my feelings toward the man are not very positive. I have spent a lot of time (maybe too much) writing about Twitter, and its many faults. Recently, I took a Lenten break from Twitter and, when I came back, found it pretty unappealing. Someone once joked that the game of Twitter was to not be the person who was being talked about on Twitter on any given day. On the day I came back — Easter Sunday — that person (or those people, rather) was a crew of zealous, evangelistic Christians singing songs about Jesus on an airplane. My whole timeline was filled with what the extremely online call “takes” about this incident. It didn’t leave me wanting more. After seeing recommendations from Twitter, which, as usual, seemed designed to spark outrage, I felt even less inclined to log in. So, I just haven’t been on the platform much during this Eastertide. In the midst of my neglect of the Twitter timeline, though, one thing that has been weighing on my mind is Twitter’s financial future. You see, I’m a TWTR shareholder, conflicted about my distrust of the platform and being financially intertwined with its fate. I have been waiting for a chance to sell my shares at a reasonable price and get out. I now have a way to cash in my chips, not having gained much over the years, but at least some. If I wanted to wash my hands of the whole affair, I could be done with Twitter today. It is somewhat liberating. When I started writing this post, I thought I was probably mostly alone in my feelings. Then I read this from M.G. Seigler. And with the market now in a state of turbulence, the chaos of Elon Musk must have in some ways felt welcoming. A chokehold that felt like a warm embrace. I can’t come up with a better metaphor than “a chokehold that felt like a warm embrace.” An online place that I used to love has fallen into the hands of a billionaire with an ax to grind, and I feel fine.

Conversation

David French takes on the government in Florida on free speech. Based on his analysis, the state’s removal of Disney’s special tax status as a reprisal for advocating against House Bill 1557 should not stand. Corporations cannot be discriminated against by the government for their political affiliations. “You get what you ask for” or “they will deserve it” are not principles of constitutional law or a free society. In fact, the opposite is true. The First Amendment affirmatively protects the right of private institutions to engage in political speech, and that protection extends to safeguarding them from government reprisal for their speech. He references the time in 2019 when San Antonio, TX, tried to ban Chick-fil-A from the airport due to their religious beliefs. The Texas state government acted quickly to protect the restaurant chain from discrimination. The same principle of free speech/freedom of expression applies in the case of Disney. → Ron DeSantis aims at Disney, hits the First Amendment | The Third Rail

Conversation

Dance Music For Introverts

Sometimes Apple Music inspires me by algorithmically playing fitting sequential songs after a self-made playlist. This happened recently when I had been listening to some tracks I had stuck together and it followed them up with a Chromeo and then a Cut Copy song. I never would have thought to put the two together, but the combo worked really well. I could imagine myself DJ’ing — spinning those tracks back to back to get people moving. That was the inspiration for this playlist, Dance Music For Introverts. It’s a bit of a misnomer, since some of it is just straight up dance music, but it works. I continue to be amazed by how tightly Apple Music has been tuned since it first debuted. Obviously, whenever you are dealing with machine learning, the more data you have, the better the recommendation engine can be. In this case, after listening to the first few songs I added to the playlist, I was literally thinking, “I need to put Toro Y Moi’s ‘New Beat’ on here.” Before I could even do that, Apple Music played the song when the playlist had ended. That’s entertainment. 📷 Image source: Road Ahead on Unsplash

Conversation

Clive Thompson wrote an ode to the em dash. After reading his fawning tribute to the multipurpose punctuation, I suddenly have the urge to use it everywhere. So it’s a shapeshifter, which makes it hard pin down. Yet that’s also makes it exciting for me — because it suggests you can bust out an m-dash, for, like, no reason at all except that you feel like it. If you didn’t already await new posts on Frosted Echoes with bated breath, now you can look forward to more em dash.

Conversation

I mentioned the building of the new Epic Games HQ in a recent issue of my newsletter, and now they have drone footage of the mall where I used to work being demolished to make way for the new headquarters. The News & Observer has the full story. That mall (Cary Towne Center) has played such a big role in my life. I didn’t work there that long, but I went there probably hundreds of times. Now this means no more of those hot pretzels and massage chairs that were a staple of the mall kiosk landscape. It’s sad to watch the mall get destroyed but I’m glad the spot is going to be used and gain back some of the vitality it lost while the mall was dying.

Conversation

Flickr is making some interesting changes to their Terms of Service. After the changes take effect, if you want to provide moderate or restricted content, you will need to be a paying customer by upgrading to a Pro account. Free accounts with Restricted or Moderate content will be considered in violation of our terms of service and subject to removal. Accounts found in violation of our terms will need to either subscribe to Flickr Pro or remove the content in violation. The changes make sense, from a cost standpoint. Providing restricted or moderate content necessitates that Flickr provide more resources to content moderation. Therefore, to offset that resource expenditure, they are requiring customers to pay if they want to take advantage of those services.

Conversation

M.G. Seiegler writes about the hypothetical that Microsoft could buy Twitter. Unlike the aspirational aquisition by Elon Musk, Microsoft might actually be a good fit for the platform. And Microsoft has proven themselves good stewards of giant buys. GitHub. Mojang. LinkedIn. The latter might make the bid more complicated as it was once lumped into “social networking”. But obviously Twitter is a different beast. And Microsoft famously/infamously wanted another, newer entrant: TikTok. To the point where they were willing to absurdly and problematically kiss Donald Trump’s ring. That deal didn’t happen. But this could. Siegler doesn’t believe that the Musk deal (which is problematic for a number of reasons) will go through. This leaves Twitter ripe for another company to step in. → The Right White Knight. Microsoft should buy Twitter | 500ish

Conversation

I really enjoy the roundups that Matt Poppe does of new Disney+ series for Christ and Pop Culture. From his writing about Moon Knight, it sounds like his background and the churches he’s attended give him a particular insight into some of the religious aspects of the new series. Specifically, he addresses how the intentions of followers of a “cult of personality” type of faith can be misled. Like many of us who live and breathe inside circles of faith, Marc (and now Steven) are beginning to realize that leaders who capture our commitment often twist their followers’ zeal and idealism toward their own selfish ends. There you were, happily shedding your time, money, and talents to planting churches throughout India and Ethiopia. It comes as some shock, then, to learn you actually propped up the domestic expansions of Mark Driscoll’s vanity projects instead.  I’ve had mixed feelings about the series, so far. I like Oscar Isaac, and I think he’s done a fantastic job, but I also feel sometimes like they are trying to stretch his acting skills too far with jamming multiple characters inside his body and it comes out as a bit schizophrenic. → Moon Knight: Playing God In The Process | Christ And Pop Culture

Conversation

Tracking Your Browsing Habits

moz://a, which has positioned itself as a browser company concerned about privacy, is now harvesting your data with a new Firefox extension – but for good causes.1 The Mozilla Rally extension allows researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to track your browsing habits in order to “understand how citizens consume news and which funding models may sustain local journalism.” The study is called “Beyond the Paywall.” There are also other studies in which you can enroll, including two done by Princeton and one by Pixel Hunt. I’m happy to donate my data to help local journalism. The cost of our local newspaper, the News & Observer, keeps going up. Every time I try to cancel it, I feel more than a small pang of guilt, as I want to support their work. They always lower the price for me to stay on as a customer, but then it steadily rises back up again. I would love to see viable alternatives to the traditional paywall that could keep these news organizations funded. In related news, I’m excited that Axios is going to be doing a Raleigh edition of its local newsletter and has hired the tech and innovation reporter from the News & Observer for the venture. It’s completely opt-in, of course. ↩︎

Conversation

The views from a lunchtime walk today.

Conversation

Eastertide

I look at Easter not just as a day, but as a kickoff, if you will, for Eastertide. I see it as somewhat analogous to New Year’s Day. Resolutions start then, and don’t end when the day is over. Eastertide is a time to look at renewal in your life. If that renewal is simply a present fact, as is my continuing recovery from ME/CFS — thanks be to God — then it is a time for celebration. Sometimes, though, you may have to gently invite that renewal. Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar and it means a lot to me and other believers. This year, I wanted to write something to convey the beauty of Easter, but I didn’t come across any articles that really sparked my imagination and spurred my writing. Then I realized, while sitting in church, that I had actually already read a post that spoke to me about Easter in way that was relevant to my recent experiences – that I wanted to share. Peggy Noonan writes for The Wall Street Journal about “America’s Most Tumultuous Holy Week,” which she believes was the week in April 1865. To make her case, she subtitles her piece: “On Palm Sunday, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln was dead by Easter.” It’s a pretty strong argument for a superlative level of tumult. What impressed me about her account of the surrender of General Lee to General Grant was the amount of grace that the North gave to the South after such a bloody war. The reason for grace wasn’t that the figures in the North thought that the cause of the South was anything but criminally unjust. Grant would write in his memoirs “What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know.” His own feelings, which had earlier been jubilant, were now “sad and depressed.” He couldn’t rejoice at the downfall of a foe that had “suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” I’m pretty sure I’ve heard those lines before in the Ken Burns Civil War documentary because when I read it, I hear it said, in one of Burns’ reliable narrator’s voices. It shows the disdain that the Union soldiers must have had for the Confederate cause. Yet, when it came time to negotiate the terms of surrender, they were merciful terms. The Confederate soldiers were allowed to keep their personal arms, take a horse or a donkey, were fed and sent on their way back to farm their lands. Noonan relates, “Grant’s commissary chief later asked, ‘Were such terms ever before given by a conqueror to a defeated foe?'” Perhaps they were, but that kind of treatment is not the standard following a war. The United States perhaps would not have remained united following the war, were it not for those terms. As I remember why Christ died for us, I like think His sacrifice to earn forgiveness for our sins can be best celebrated by forgiving others. At a time when bickering in this country happens over seemingly everything, this Easter reminds me that we can be reconciled over even some of the most difficult things.

Conversation

🍿 Got around to watching the Oscar for best picture winning CODA and I’m very glad that I did.

Conversation

The first time I said, “he is risen” this morning, it was to my cat. Happy Easter!

Conversation

The Slide from Epistemic Bubble to Echo Chamber

In 2019, I participated in what is called a Leadership 360 assessment. This particular survey is based on principles from Zenger Folkman. The purpose of this survey is to help you identify your strengths and become even stronger in those areas. The assessment seeks to answer the question of what differentiates you as a leader. The premise is that you can’t make a leader great by taking an area where they are weak and making them a bit stronger in that area so that they become potentially average. However, if you can take something they are already good out and make them great at it, you can augment the skills of someone who can actually influence others. When I took the survey, my strongest areas were honesty and integrity. We decided to hone in on those areas for my leadership development activities. Given the identification of strength in those areas and a commitment toward further development of honesty and integrity, I am sensitive to distrust. There are all sorts of ways people can express distrust these days. I wrote a post describing a few of the ways I have felt distrusted in the past. Distrust can involve individual or group dynamics. It can be the result of previous negative experiences that have conditioned someone to be doubtful of either other’s intentions or their presentation of truth, as I outlined in the piece. However, there can also be ex ante distrust built up by the media we consume that tells us to look askance at anyone with views outside our adopted tribe. These can come from being in an epistemic bubble or an echo chamber. The echo chamber In a piece for Aeon magazine, C Thi Nguyen describes an “epistemic bubble” and an “echo chamber.” An ‘epistemic bubble’ is an informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission. That omission might be purposeful: we might be selectively avoiding contact with contrary views because, say, they make us uncomfortable. There is a crucial distinction between the two. An ‘echo chamber’ is a social structure from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited. Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders. When even friends or family members impugn your honesty, despite all evidence that you are a credible source of information, you can infer that perhaps they are living in an echo chamber. Here’s a basic check: does a community’s belief system actively undermine the trustworthiness of any outsiders who don’t subscribe to its central dogmas? Then it’s probably an echo chamber. I hesitate to use the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” because of its dark origins, but it’s a colloquialism that everyone in English-speaking Western culture understands. People inside these echo chambers form their opinions before all the available evidence is present, based on what their media has fed them, and then, post hoc, come up with arguments on which to base their positions. Intuition drives the emotion, and the rational mind follows. They are fed by outlets like Twitter, which serve to amplify confirmation bias and algorithmically create and sustain echo chambers. Jonathan Haidt (whose book I just finished), starts his latest piece for the Atlantic by invoking the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The story comes from the first book of the Bible, Genesis. But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” The scattering of the people who built the tower and the confusion of their language so that they could no longer communicate has striking parallels to modern America. Haidt makes the connection for us. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything. It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families. He goes on to detail the ways in which our society has broken down and fractured, hastened by the rise of social media. The piece dives into viral dynamics. It explains how tweaks such as the Facebook like and, more powerfully, the Twitter retweet, served to germinate online mobs and the behavior that accompanies mob mentality. Haidt calls this a stupefaction process, indicating that it inhibits clear thinking. As the quote above states, this doesn’t just happen between an “in group” and an “out group,” it happens within groups (both on the left and the right). You can see the stupefaction process most clearly when a person on the left merely points to research that questions or contradicts a favored belief among progressive activists. Someone on Twitter will find a way to associate the dissenter with racism, and others will pile on. I’ve seen this play out in real life, even when the topic of discussion has nothing to do with race, and it’s not pretty. Ideas and people are shut down, cursed by an epithet with which almost no one wants to associate. The term “demonize” becomes appropriate, and its etymology tells us all we need to know about the severity of that characterization. We don’t talk a lot about actual demons, these days. However, Alan Jacobs writes about being absorbed into the demonic realm by powers beyond our control. The ability to escape this realm starts with recognition. Now, as it happens, I am myself a Christian, but I do not write here to issue an altar call, an invitation to be saved by Jesus. Rather, I merely wish you, dear reader, to consider the possibility that when a tweet provokes you to wrath, or an Instagram post makes you envious, or some online article sends you to another and yet another in an endless chain of what St. Augustine called curiositas — his favorite example is the gravitational pull on all passers-by of a dead body on the side of the road — you are dealing with powers greater than yours. Your small self and your puny will are overwhelmed by the Cosmic Rulers, the Principalities and Powers. They oppress or possess you, and they can neither be deflected nor, by the mere exercise of will, overcome. Any freedom from what torments us begins with a proper demonology. Later we may proceed to exorcism. Once we recognize how these urges toward animosity are creeping over us, we can begin to act. In the case of social media, action may mean reworking your method of engagement. You could refine the list of people you follow. You might realize abstinence is the only way you can properly shape your experience. Whatever may bring down the temperature and ill will towards others is advisable. Then you can begin to see the humanity in even those with whom you disagree. No one is an island While I believe that self-care is important, I also hold strongly to the belief that human flourishing is a collective enterprise. As John Donne said: No man is an island, Entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main Ignore the gendered language, as this is man in the universal sense. No one is an island, merely buffered against the waves that others make in the ocean. We are, in fact, connected with others in a way that protects us against the tempests that rage and threaten to destroy. John Donne was an English writer and cleric, but his metaphor works well with the composition of the United States. In the continent that Donne uses as an illustration, we are states that are federalized, all claiming our own identities, but coming together in overarching principles and common goals. We share topology and natural features like rivers and mountains that span across the lines that divide us one from another. I would write that, unless you are living alone in the woods, your connections matter. However, even Thoreau, who staked his claim alone beside Walden Pond, went back to civilization to work and have his mom do his laundry. We need our neighbors and the connections we have to each other. Our species cannot survive without functional reciprocity and mutual growth. It’s past time we started being more careful about how we engage in the activities that undermine relationships. Let’s set new standards for ourselves and our conduct, knowing that together we can benefit each other. Rather than contracting, and sealing ourselves in our chambers, we can expand one another, broadening our horizons. 📷 Image source: Brandon Burke on Flickr

Conversation

Working on probably the longest blog post I’ve written in years and just passed my goal.

Conversation

Finished reading: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt 📚.

Conversation

🎵 Loafing Oafs And All Night Chemists

People tend to think of Morrissey as an overwrought melancholic (and not without some reason). I’ve seen multiple late-night talk show hosts and comedians poke fun at his persona, satirizing the sadness of his music. It’s not all rainy days and Mondays in Morrissey’s catalog, though. “Now My Heart Is Full” represents a period in his life where the Mozzer actually became content. He had moved to the sunshine of L.A. and away from the gray skies of London. Life was bright, settled and even domestic. Some of the lines in the song still sound comically morose.1 As the chorus of “now my heart is full” bears witness, though, the overall message of the song is one of hope. It contains the sentiment of a gentle satisfaction in the midst of the little indignities of life. Take that, Jimmy Kimmel. → Morrissey - Now My Heart Is Full (live in 2015) Dig the chuckle after he sings “everyone I love in the house will recline on an analyst’s couch quite soon.” ↩︎

Conversation

Likes include vegan ice cream flavors named after jam bands.

Conversation

I love the idea of a non-profit grocery store to serve the needs of those living in a food desert.

Conversation

Populations In The Lurch

Derek Thompson wrote a newsletter edition for the Altantic about population growth collapsing in the US. The statistics he cites are alarming. U.S. growth didn’t slowly fade away: It slipped, and slipped, and then fell off a cliff. The 2010s were already demographically stagnant; every year from 2011 to 2017, the U.S. grew by only 2 million people. In 2020, the U.S. grew by just 1.1 million. Last year, we added only 393,000 people. I know that there are some people who won't see this as a bad thing. After all, population growth leads to competition for resources and overpopulation. The humans who exist now can't all get access to appropriate resources. People still freeze to death outside of homes that could keep them warm. Unfortunates starve while others eat until they are stuffed. Equality seems further and further away in many places. So why do we need more people in the world and specifically in the countries in Europe and Japan and the US, where birth rates are declining and population growth through immigration is sometimes viewed with suspicion? Thompson is careful to state that he thinks that ultimately, family planning is a matter for individuals to decide, even as the macro-level consequences may be economically devastating. He doesn't shy away from elaborating on those consequences, though. The implications of permanently slumped population growth are wide-ranging. Shrinking populations produce stagnant economies. Stagnant economies create wonky cultural knock-on effects, like a zero-sum mentality that ironically makes it harder to pursue pro-growth policies. (For example, people in slow-growth regions might be fearful of immigrants because they seem to represent a threat to scarce business opportunities, even though immigration represents these places’ best chance to grow their population and economy.) The sector-by-sector implications of declining population would also get very wonky very fast. He sees this course we are on as leading us into a "demographic danger zone." In another piece that summarizes the problem, potential causes and predicted outcomes, Scott Lanman lays out the challenges that Japan is experiencing due to their extremely low population growth. In Japan, employers often struggle to fill job vacancies. Spending on health care and pensions has swollen Japan’s public debt to more than twice the size of its economy. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that the country’s annual economic growth could be 1 percentage point lower for the next three decades because of Japan’s aging population. That means the country’s economy, forecast to expand 1 percent this year and next, may stagnate further. To mix metaphors, Japan is the canary in the coal mine for other nations who are heading down this road. It's a scary prospect when the younger population cannot produce enough to support programs that take care of the elderly. Thompson mentions the situation pitting the younger generation against the older generation in his post and let us hope it doesn't come to that. The religion connection One surprising thing that both pieces have in common is that they both ignore the correlation between religiosity and fertility. Though not completely universal, in the majority of cases, fertility declines along with religiosity. Expectations of gender roles plays a part here, with more conservative religious expressions tending to have the greatest fertility. A study of the relationship between the two factors in 2002 takes the data that shows the correlation and examines causation. Using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we show that women who report that religion is "very important" in their everyday life have both higher fertility and higher intended fertility than those saying religion is "somewhat important" or "not important." Factors such as unwanted fertility, age at childbearing, or degree of fertility postponement seem not to contribute to religiosity differentials in fertility. This answer prompts more fundamental questions: what is the nature of this greater "religiosity"? And why do the more religious want more children? We show that those saying religion is more important have more traditional gender and family attitudes and that these attitudinal differences account for a substantial part of the fertility differential. We speculate regarding other contributing causes. With traditional attitudes about gender declining along with religiosity, we should probably be worried about the trend. Those who would either celebrate the rise of secularism or at the very least shrug their shoulders should be informed about the overall results of the shift. Demographic changes brought about by attitudinal and lifestyle changes are poised to have destructive consequences. While Thompson may very well be correct that the choices about reproduction should be up to individuals, the aggregate of those decisions will effect everyone. In his book, The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt examines the group cohesion brought by religion, and the loosening of those ties and ends up in the same place as Thompson and Lanman. Haidt is another secular writer who sees the trend of lower birth rates, but brings different attributional causes to the table. He looks at increasingly irreligious Europe as a cautionary tale. Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few). Haidt doesn’t lay out the outcome of fewer offspring, but it would be surprising if he anticipated anything other than what is predicted by others and reported by Thompson and Lanman. Haidt does get into more specifics about what happens in general when group cohesion dissolves in the absence of religion. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to rely somewhat more on an internal moral compass, read by the rider.1 That might sound appealing to rationalists, but it is also a recipe for anomie—Durkheim’s word for what happens to a society that no longer has a shared moral order.(It means, literally, “normlessness.”) We evolved to live, trade and trust within shared moral matrices. When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and an increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago. Does that sound familiar? You don’t have to look far to find statistics and analysis about a growing mental health crisis and rise in suicide in the United States. What you don’t typically see examined is what Emile Durkheim (considered the founder of sociology) observed around the turn of the 20th century, namely that dissolving group cohesion along with the ties of religious affiliations correlate directly to the negative mental health outcomes to which we are now bearing witness. The mainstream media, being mostly secular, tends to avoid the potential causality of these problems being the weakening institutions of religion. However, there is plenty of evidence which which to make the case that there is a relatively linear relationship between this phenomenon and a number of troubling societal trends. 📷 Image source: Amir Arabshahi on Unsplash Haidt uses the metaphor of the elephant and the rider to describe our intuitive and rational selves, respectively. ↩︎

Conversation

Jobs

Conversation

Buzzing Towards Babylon

With no formal announcement (whoops), Wordpress.com changed their pricing significantly, removing the paid tiers for personal blogging and leaving nothing in between the free plan and the $180 Business plan. I’ve often thought that Wordpress doesn’t want to be in the business of personal blogging. Before they recently made the switch to block-based themes, most of their newer themes on Wordpress.com were geared towards businesses. It was clear from the descriptions of the themes and the static homepages advertising businesses that they weren’t built with blogging in mind. As Manton Reece points out, this move makes Micro.blog an even better value proposition at $5 a month or $50 a year. As Micro.blog hosting has improved, I’ve thought our $5/month plan compares favorably with WordPress.com’s similarly-priced plans. Surprised that WordPress.com has now gutted their pricing lineup, with nothing in between $0 and $180/year. $5 to me is still simple and obvious. Manton Reece https://www.manton.org/2022/04/04/as-microblog-hosting.html Another reason you may want to think about blogging on Micro.blog is the fact that Elon Musk is now the largest shareholder of Twitter. Given that he has criticized the platform for free speech and is a heavy and popular user, it is unlikely that Musk is buying Twitter stock as a passive investment. “We would expect this passive stake as just the start of broader conversations with the Twitter board/management that could ultimately lead to an active stake and a potential more aggressive ownership role of Twitter,” Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities said in a client note early Monday. As a soon-to-be-former Twitter shareholder, I can state that this news is not comforting. Last week, Twitter banned the conservative satirical site The Babylon Bee for what it termed “hate speech.”1 Specifically, the “satire” involved misgendering U.S. Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine as a man. I’m not sure what’s satirical about that, but it seems cruel and certainly not at all funny. As a sign of the coming apocalypse, Elon Musk was interviewed by the Babylon Bee in December 2021. Is it possible that this ban was the act which spurred Musk into thinking of buying into Twitter to change its direction? These changes to the biggest blogging and microblogging platforms, respectively, should give people pause. Now might be the right time to switch platforms to one like Micro.blog, where you can create long and short-form content. M.b. has a reasonable pricing structure, and you own your blog and possibly domain, with plenty of export options if you decide to move it elsewhere. I’m deliberately leaving out the word “Christian,” which the Babylon Bee uses to self-describe, because there is nothing Christian about their typical mode of discourse. ↩︎

Conversation

In what feels like a sign that h*ck hath indeed frozen over, Google Docs now supports markdown.

Conversation

The best revenge… by Topher McCulluch via Flickr.

Conversation

I kind of love the Comic Helvetic font. Currently playing around with it for my newsletter masthead.

Conversation

🎵 Hazy Shade Of Winter

This cover of a Paul Simon song by The Bangles achieved more popularity than the original. The clips show the band fake playing live in front of walls of tube TV’s setup to look futuristic, interspersed with scenes from the film Less Than Zero. Most of the movie clips involve Andrew McCarthy and Jamie Gertz making out, though we do get to see Robert Downey Jr. and his cocaine-fueled antics. For a while there, it looked like Downey Jr. would end up like his character Julien in the movie. Thank goodness he got clean and flipped the script. According to this post on Mental Floss about Less Than Zero, the author of the book which became the movie, Brad Easton Ellis, estimates if the book were written today, it would be about 20 pages long. Ellis thinks the advent of cell phones would make the book “20 pages long” today. “There’s a long stretch in the book where Clay is driving around looking for Julian, stopping off at friends’ houses to use their phones,” he said in an interview with The Paris Review. “He even stops in at a McDonald’s to use a pay phone. But people can find each other very easily now. A single text—‘Dude, where the f–k are you? I want my money’—would take care of three-fourths of the action in the book.” Guitarist Vicki Peterson had a tough time adapting the riff from the original song, since it was played on a 12-string acoustic. She had to “rock it up” for The Bangles version. “Hazy Shade of Winter” was also featured on the Netflix series Stranger Things, episode 2, just as the credits started to roll. → The Bangles - Hazy Shade of Winter

Conversation

Citizen Brick created, and quickly sold out of, a MOC LEGO figure of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Between the Zelensky figure and some LEGO molotov cocktails with the Ukrainian flag, the effort raised more than $145,000 for Direct Relief to assist Ukraine. 🇺🇦

Conversation

Writing For An Online Audience

At Micro Camp 2021, Patrick Rhone did a talk on writing a book and he delved into the topic of blogging, which he framed as writing essays for an online audience. His point was that if you are a blogger, you are a writer. A writer for those who read your content online. It was an inspirational talk in how it shifted the way you can think about your writing and your readers. A little change in perspective can go a long way when you are trying to motivate yourself to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, in this case. One of the things I’ve noticed when writing online is that people read very differently and prefer to get their content across different mediums. Even within my family, my writing is more likely to be read by certain individuals if it is presented in a way that they prefer. For instance: My mom is most likely to read something if she sees a link on Twitter. Less so if the content is delivered via email, partially because her inbox is out-of-control. My sister is more likely to read what I’ve written if it comes through email. She is not on very many social media platforms, and won’t see anything I’ve posted to Twitter. My wife is more likely to read an email, as well. She is heavily on Twitter, and follows a lot of people, so sometimes my posts get lost in the stream. It’s apparent that how I share something and on what platform is important, if I want it to be accessible. My preference is that content is made available via: The open web (for general traffic and new readers) RSS (for the more tech savvy - this is my preferred way of reading) Social media (short posts to syndicate to services like Micro.blog and Twitter and a good way of getting public comments) Email (for folks who like newsletters and for email replies, which are a good way to get private comments) There are four solutions of which I am aware that do all the above well. Write.as, Ghost, HEY World and Micro.blog. I know a lot of people like Write.as, which has a social component, somewhat similar to, but not as complete as Micro.blog and also has email options for blog posts. I haven’t tried Write.as, because honestly I don’t love the aesthetics and the theme or app design. I have tried Ghost, both self-hosted and the Ghost Pro hosted solution, several times. Although, I ran into a lot of trouble with Mailgun (for newsletters) and upgrades with self-hosted Ghost, so I don’t recommend that solution. Ghost Pro was really nice: increasingly stable and reliable with a set of features that was powerful but didn’t overwhelm. Their support team was responsive and helpful. Ghost is built for bloggers who want to “monetize their content,” though, and I’m not in that group. I’m writing because I enjoy it. I don’t want to strategize about expanding my audience, something Ghost is always pushing. So, for now, I’m sticking with Micro.blog and HEY World, the former for its customizability and social component, the latter for its complete lack of those features and its simplicity. I’m grateful that blogging services are starting to take into account all the ways people want to read writing from an independent publisher. This is especially helpful when, let’s face it, traditional blog commenting systems are not great. They invite half-baked responses (I was guilty of this, back in the day) instead of real conversation. Don’t even get me started on anonymous comments, which remind me most of someone yelling from a car window as they pass you by on the road. With email and some of the micro-blogging platforms, the discourse is improved, both privately and publicly, because of the robust ability of those systems to handle discussion and the level of accountability that comes with using a real identity (Twitter can sometimes be an exception here). Even with the popularity of social media, it has never been a better time to consider blogging. There are all sorts of ways to reach those who may want to read your thoughts.

Conversation

Hyper-capitalism vs. the World

Photo by Markus Frieauff on Unsplash. Rebecca Riddell has an opinion piece for the Washington Post (🔗 Via Lisa Sieverts) on the US trying to export privatized healthcare to nations that in some cases, at least, have pretty robust public healthcare systems in place. The example that she hones in on is Kenya, where the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is trying to push "market-based approaches" to incentivize private actors in the healthcare space. In many case "privatization" becomes a euphemism for exploitation, just as "consumer choice" in healthcare is code for the patient pays the cost. While many countries around the world have capitalism as their economic model, it seem only the US has a sort of hyper-capitalism. Hyper-capitalism holds that nothing is too sacred, personal or integral to life to be off-limits to a profit motive. For instance, even in most capitalist countries (wealthy and not-so wealthy), healthcare is provided for citizens as a right. In the US, that cannot be the case, because private actors are making too much money to give up on their ability to extract capital from the most basic of human conditions. The United States famously spends more per capita on health care than any other country, even though the system performs far worse than that of many peer countries. Access is highly unequal, and sky-high prices push millions into poverty and discourage others from seeking care altogether. This heavily privatized system is indisputably excellent at one thing: generating profits. And powerful vested interests have blocked serious reforms for nearly a century. Experience over the past year has cemented what reason and intuition had already led me to believe: for-profit healthcare dehumanizes people. I understand that the NHS in the UK is not perfect, and, in some cases, has ridiculously long waiting periods for care. I'm also under no illusion that Kenya has the best healthcare in the world. The care in those places, though, is setup to benefit the patient. Positive outcomes are when people get well, not when insurance companies make more money.

Conversation

🎵 Work For Love

People associate Ministry with their signature industrial/metal sound, but they have a dark past in the world of 80's new wave synth pop. Ministry mastermind Al Jourgenson, or “Uncle Al” as he is affectionately known (probably as much for his crazy, constantly revised stories about his past as for his status as elder statesman and progenitor of the industrial genre of music) tried to erase this era of the band. Their first album, 1983’s With Sympathy was recorded for Arista Records who, according to Uncle Al, was constantly forcing him to compromise his artistic vision. When Ministry moved to Sire Records for their second album, 1986’s Twitch, Jourgenson disclaimed the first record and told fans to burn it. During my teenage years, I was a pretty big Ministry fan. I once high-fived my friend Billy at the counter of a record store in my excitement about buying In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (live), causing him to light up with embarrassment. Jourgenson came up with sounds like no one else, despite other industrial music luminaries, like Trent Reznor, following in his wake. I never got into Nine Inch Nails, which a musician in my tenth grade creative writing class called “scary keyboard music.” I could admit the undeniable strength of a single like “Head Like A Hole,” but the rest of Pretty Hate Machine left me cold. Ministry on the other hand, sounded like someone hooked a distortion pedal up to a vacuum cleaner and ran it back and forth over bare floor and carpet (“Stigmata” and “Burning Inside”), creating some warped loop and stimulating my auditory nerves. Jourgenson, who wouldn’t really admit to playing any instruments, managed to create unmatched soundscapes from some dystopian future that might be fun to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Computers, which even back then, were used by visionaries like Ministry to supplant traditional instruments and come up with something entirely new, sometimes disturbing, but frequently dopamine stimulating. Later on, Ministry lost that creative spark, due mostly to Jourgenson’s increasing dependence on heroin, which almost killed him several times over. Back to the future When I was regularly listening to Ministry, I knew of the existence of their earlier work and had heard from friends that it didn’t really sound like the same band. I had limited funds for music discovery, so I stayed away from it, just as Uncle Al would have wanted. I didn’t hear songs like “Work For Love” until I was well into my adult years, and was surprised by how good they were. Fortunately for listeners, With Sympathy is readily available on today’s streaming services. Fans also recorded footage of Ministry playing live during this era. Despite all his objections, Jourgenson looks perfectly happy to be playing these tunes. You can see his excitement when he preps the crowd for the song, with his faux-British accent, seeming like a Johnny Depp character in some futuristic pirate band. Back then, Patty Jourgenson, Al’s wife (before he was married to heroin) played keyboards in the group. The full band sounded cohesive and tight, putting on what must have been exhilarating shows for their audience. → Ministry - Work For Love, live in Boston, 1984 I wanted to include a video of the Burger King Super Bowl commercial from a few years ago that featured “Work For Love” but couldn’t find it anywhere on the widest of worldwide webs.

Conversation

Garrison Keillor has probably the best take on the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson and the ridiculous show put on by her opponents. When her parents were born, segregation was lawful in America, and here was a Black woman of unquestioned qualifications nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, and against that heroic background, Senators Cruz, Cotton, Hawley, Graham, and Cornyn performed shameless acts in broad daylight before millions of people. These men should not be allowed to eat in public restaurants. They should go to the drive-up window and eat in the parking lot. → One day last week: the best and worst clearly visible | Garrison Keillor

Conversation

Ernie from Tedium has a piece on the new Asahi Linux alpha build for M1 Macs. Though I’m unkikely to try yet another Linux distro in the near future, it is interesting to see this development. Over the weekend, something really awesome happened. An official distro of Linux came to Apple Silicon. And honestly, it’s extremely impressive, a joy to use (even if there are a whole bunch of gaps in the production, a number of to-come features that will limit its usefulness for the time being), and … honestly, everything that MacOS is not. It’s inspiring, and reflects a culture in which people are willing to try new things, and in which they succeed at trying out those new things just because there was enough public support for it. I’m intruiged to find out what is meant by the phrase “everything MacOS is not” but the piece doesn’t really flesh that out so much as it explores the history of Linux on ARM processors. → Asahi Linux: The Individual User’s Stake in an Apple Silicon World

Conversation

The first time ever in two. Better than a 7/10 split. Wordle 278 2/6 🟨⬛⬛⬛🟨 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Conversation

🍿 Just watched Free Guy and it was delightful. It borrowed concepts from Groundhog Day as well as the other films mentioned. There were a lot of laughs to go along with the action.

Conversation

Primary Obsidian Theme

For my work Obsidian vault, I’ve been using the Primary theme. I sometimes miss the features of a more mature theme like Minimal, but the character of Primary makes it a pleasure to use. A combination of Bauhaus, Scandinavian and yellowing magazine pages as palette inspiration—Primary is a theme for people looking for a certain nostalgic warmness. It's perfect for adding some interest to otherwise dry subjects on which to take notes. Obsidian with this theme looks like nothing else on my Mac and that differentiation helps when I’ve got a few apps open. The visual elements let me know it’s time to work.

Conversation

Follow The Science

Tired art by Topher McCulloch on flickr My teenager has to get up at 5:30am for school. He goes to bed at about 10pm every school night, so he gets a decent amount of sleep. Yet, even though he has always been a morning person, he complains about feeling tired all day, every day, as he has to trudge through the morning darkness and cold to a nearby bus stop. When you look at the science behind teenagers and sleep, his response to his schedule isn’t surprising or unusual. In Daylight Saving Is a Trap, Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright emphasize what we have known from studies for quite a while: teenagers need more sleep, particularly in the morning. Too-early high-school start times already make healthy sleep difficult for teens, given this natural delay. The darker it is in the morning and the sunnier it is later in the day, the harder it is for them to get to bed on time. The result is shortened sleep, an increase in accidents, and a higher risk of depression. As we cast about for reasons why kids are at increasing risk for mental health problems, as if we had no clues, we seem to be missing this obvious causal link. I nearly failed my second period chemistry class my junior year of high school. I just couldn’t stay awake. My teacher let me know it was a kindness that he was transferring me with a D. My grades improved dramatically in college, when I could take classes at reasonable times. As the Senate passes the “Protect The Sunshine” act, it will get worse for our high school youth. They will be even more bleary-eyed and tired in the morning during the winter. It feels like we are systematically putting unnecessary barriers in front of our kids.

Conversation

Jodie Cook makes the case that the hidden benefit of two-factor authentication is that it creates friction that can help you to be more intentional about checking social media or email.

Conversation

I got to play around with a Moog today and it was really fun. Switched on Robert.

Conversation

Just updated my Now page (opening back up edition).

Conversation

Summers In The Breach

Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in. I've started listening to my records again and I had forgotten how great they sound. I try to avoid being a vinyl snob (and my audiophile chops aren’t strong enough, anyway), but there is a warmth that I don't get from the various bluetooth and streaming devices I have scattered around. I know it can sound hokey to tout the presence that you get with analog, but there's something there that's hard to identify. Alan Jacobs explains his return to vinyl: My good friend Rob Miner has a massive collection of LPs, but sometimes reminds me that he’s not a “vinyl fundamentalist.” And he’s not — but plenty of people are. And I have always been annoyed by the language of such fundamentalists: they talk about “warmth” and “presence” and “depth” — What the hell is that all about? Such metaphors have zero meaning to me. I scornfully dismissed all such talk … until I started listening to music on my new turntable. Jacobs is worried his new passion for records will turn him into that guy. He's finding more and more vinyl that captivates him and compels him in a way music doesn't on other mediums. There's something in those grooves that 1s and 0s don't completely capture. You don't have to have a super expensive hi-fi setup to notice it. My fairly basic U-Turn Orbit turntable and a pair of Kanto YU3 speakers that came with my 40th birthday prove that point. Yep, I got speakers for my turntable when I turned 40. I'm firmly in vinyl dad territory. I'm not a format fetishist but I value the experience of listening to music enough to prioritize it. Sometimes my son and I will sit in my office and listen to records together, something that we can't do in any of the computers that we use in separate spaces. Peak vinyl Even though vinyl sales are up year after year, the music industry is still treating its popularity like a short term fad that will end at any time. They haven't invested in vinyl presses despite more demand than the existing manufacturing infrastructure can effectively support. This has resulted in backlogs for vinyl that can stretch the patience of even the most ardent fan. My mom bought me a MUNYA record for Christmas that I'm hoping to get sometime in April. My wife ordered me a limited edition Roman à Clef record last year that just never came. The label didn't respond when I emailed about it. I had to dispute the charge on my credit card to get a refund. 📈 Data viz via Statista I've been buying records since before '95, so I can remember those days when there weren't many people who were picking them up. Unfortunately, the rise in popularity has also meant a rise in prices commensurate with that increased popularity. I predicted that in a post on my Livejournal blog back in the early aughts. Specifically, my belief was that vinyl would be a premium experience with a premium price to match while digital distribution drove down the costs of most music. That aligns with the situation in which we have found ourselves. Supporting artists Another advantage to occasionally buying vinyl (I'm not rich, so I'm sticking with a reasonable level of frequency) is that I'm supporting the artists in a way that streaming from a major service does not. I have been writing on my blog about Brothertiger, one of my favorite bands, recently. I realized, though, that I had never really financially supported the band in any materially significant way. Sure, I could have bought some of their music through Bandcamp, but when you are getting the same digital artifact you can get for free through a streaming service, buying their music seems more like dropping coins in a tip jar than anything else. With lossless quality becoming the standard on the streaming platforms, buying a digital album on Bandcamp doesn't get you much besides ownership. However, when I saw a new limited edition splatter variant of the Brothertiger album Out of Touch, I was pretty excited. The band gets my financial support and I get something tangible to enjoy. Buying vinyl supports artists and can also be a good investment. I recently sold a few records that I no longer enjoyed on Discogs and made significantly more than I paid for the records originally. Not only that, but the buyers were really grateful to get their hands on some white whales for which they had scoured the seas. If you don't find yourself listening to a record, though, and you can't sell it for a decent price, you can always buy a record frame and hang it on the wall to enjoy the artwork. The generous size of the format makes it ideal as a decorative element for your listening room. I have IKEA shelves on which I display my records so that I can see some of my favorite covers and still easily pull the album off of the shelf and get a premium listening experience. Money is still a constraint with this hobby, but I'm glad to buy fewer records and give them more attention.

Conversation

🎵 Horror Head

Frank Yang, of the late Chromewaves.net, has a new blog called Space Echo, where he does what he couldn’t really do on his previous music blog: feature older music. With Chromewaves, he was writing about new music coming out. He hustled to stay on top of the latest noises, but eventually burned out and shut the blog in 2013.1 This gave Yang the freedom to check out what he had been missing in the decades before he started really taking in music and then writing about it. I felt free to go back and explore and educate in private, and let me tell you – being able to listen to nothing but Bowie and Eno albums without having to write a single word about it was divine. I delved into the scenes and movements that laid the groundwork for the music I loved most and… I loved it even more. And now, seven years on, the bulk of my listening is of artists I rarely if ever blogged about; some I didn’t even know existed. Content as Yang is to go back even further than the shoegaze scene’s beginnings, he loves the shoegaze genre. In his latest post, he writes briefly about the history of Curve, why they don’t get as much attention as some of their peers and how their releases were so hard to find before they showed up on Bandcamp. He showcases the video for “Horror Head,” which is, most probably, my favorite shoegaze track. I love Toni Halliday’s ethereal vocals and the bass line that jumps all over the fretboard. I was smitten when I saw the video on 120 Minutes on MTV and went out and bought the Doppleganger CD. Its strange artwork of mutilated dolls reminded me of the doll terror in Barbarella. This was in the days before I could work and compact discs were something that I didn’t often have the money to buy. The disc was the last album I bought before moving from Virginia to Albuquerque, NM, in the eleventh grade. When I purchased it, Doppleganger was an almost total disappointment. I literally only liked the one song for which I had acquired it. I played the h*ck out of “Horror Head” and left the rest of the disc alone after a couple of initial listens. It made me sad because I knew what the band was capable of and yet they didn’t seem to be living up to their promise. I was also bummed because the drive from Virginia to New Mexico is a long one and I didn’t have new music to keep me company. In Albuquerque, I bought a goth magazine at some record store near UNM in downtown, and it had a feature on Curve. When I read the article, I couldn’t believe that singer Tony Halliday’s parents were actual legit pirates of the Caribbean. I used to pass by the locker of a girl who had a Curve poster taped to the door and she would say things like, “aww, he got his hair cut” and other remarks that would make me blush. I was too chicken to talk to her because I had no idea who she was. She kind of reminded me of Halliday, though, who was the prototypical early nineties alterna-girl. Years later, watching this video still evokes a lot of memories. → "Curve - Horror Head" It was a bummer for me when Yang stopped posting to Chromewaves, as I was a regular reader. ↩︎

Conversation

The Twitter Corps

In a piece entitled It's Not Your Fault You're a Jerk on Twitter, Katherine Cross writes for Wired Magazine about the psychological dynamics that drive antisocial behavior patterns on social networks. Her analysis on how the platforms accelerate what is already dissociative behavior from the human beings behind the keyboard draws parallels from unlikely places, such as urban planning. Road design in countries like the Netherlands _promotes what is known as “traffic calming,” reducing pedestrian deaths and car accidents; by contrast, road design in North America promotes high-speed driving, passively nudging drivers to step on the gas, giving them less time to stop, even in crowded areas. Understood this way, you can get away from solely individualist narratives about accidents—about bad drivers or “pedestrians who weren’t looking”—and focus on how design encourages broad outcomes not attributable to any one actor. Similarly, social media is designed in a way that agitates, rather than calms, its traffic. It leans into, rather than curbs, the augmented reality aspects that arise from computer use—tricking you into believing you’re somewhere other than reality._ Our level of abstraction from a conversation on the internet breaks down the inhibitions that would normally be provided by our sense of empathy for others. That's the failure of our human moral and psychological underpinnings. The fault of the machine is in that it exacerbates and aggregates the failures of single individuals into a juggernaut with a powerful capacity for damage. The dynamics that play out in Twitter pile-ons is why I had my profile private for years and am still not totally comfortable with the fact that it's now public. The effects of being beaten down by a Twitter mob can be severe. Many of those so afflicted have serious mental health implications and suicidal ideation. The effect of being attacked and shunned Cross uses specific examples of individuals who have been attacked on Twitter. In a piece for the Atlantic, Helen Lewis writes about the same effects that play themselves out in the narratives shared by Cross. A true cancellation typically involves the subject being cast out of their professional network, denied the ability to make money, and rejected by their social circle. One reason it is so alarming an experience is the sense of contagion—without obvious coordination, a person becomes a nonentity. Many of the canceled people I have known, or reported on, have experienced depression or even contemplated suicide. Lewis illustrates how Russian sanctions can show us the effects of ostracism.  When a Russian spymaster complains about his country’s cancellation, our response should not be to laugh at an idiot confusing a culture war and a real one. Instead, we should recognize that economic and social isolation is a powerful weapon, and resolve to use it with the same restraint as any other weapon. It seems the devastation that cancellation can bring applies at a macro or micro level. A different way You don't see the same dynamics on a social network like Micro.blog. The technology limits the snowball effect by the deliberate exclusion of features like the like and the retweet. Micro.blog also has a human being who manages the community and that gives people a level of accountability for their words. When you are interacting with a faceless apparatus like Twitter, that same sense of accountability is not there. Cross has an accurate description of this phenomenon: "There is a seductive quality to posting into the void, a Möbius strip sense that you’re the voyeur who no one can see, and the exhibitionist who everyone must see." How well can these measures work? The proof is in the pudding, as they say. On Micro.blog, people are rarely even impolite, never mind hostile. If someone does get a little too strident in their opinions, they usually back up and apologize. Micro.blog has different issues, and obviously community policing wouldn't scale to a very large network. It serves as a good example of ways to curb the excesses of the large social media networks, though. It's also worth remembering that the angry people on Twitter are usually a vocal minority. According to this short post on Axios, 75% of people in the U.S. never tweet. After my Lenten fast, I'll probably return to Twitter, but I'll be even more mindful of how the platform distorts our thinking.

Conversation

Jonah is on Cat TV on his first birthday.

Conversation

The Upside Down

Image Source: Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash I did most of my growing up in the suburbs of the District of Columbia, during the Reagan administration. We took many of our school field trips into D.C., including a few to the White House, and of course, to the plethora of wonderful museums that can be found in the district. My great aunt worked for several Republican politicians and made an identity out of her political affiliation. She wore jewelry with elephants. Great beasts made small to fit on a chain around her neck. She collected bicentennial quarters for me in a bag. I think it was to remind me that the 200 year anniversary of the nation's birth was also the year I came into the world. I loved that she took me to the White House Easter Egg roll. My sister and I got our picture taken with Spider-Man. I came away one year with an anti-drug comic book about the Teen Titans. The image of Speedy, all strung out on smack, haunted me as a child. I like to think that's exactly what Nancy Reagan would have wanted. One time I got to actually go into the Oval Office and leave jelly beans on the desk for President Reagan (his favorite candy). In the days of my youth, there were inviolate dichotomies. You were either a fan of the Washington football team, or the one in Texas. Hulk Hogan was a hero, and The Iron Sheik a dastardly villain. The Rebel Alliance was a noble cause and the Galactic Empire a repressive regime. Christians were honorable and Satanists were immoral (which made for suitable teenage rebellion). The United States were the good guys and the Soviet Union were the bad guys. Allegiances were simple to discern. It got a bit more complex for me in the sixth grade when we had an exchange student from the U.S.S.R. I always knew that the people in Russia weren't bad, but it was the government that was the malignancy. To prove it, there was Ilia, in no uncertain terms, as innocent of any wrongdoing as we were (or probably more so). I was determined to treat him well, so I gave him a gummy worm. It was the kind with segments of different colors. He bit off one of the segments and gave the rest of the sticky candy back to me. I was astounded, thinking, this kid doesn't even know how to eat a gummy worm but at least he seems nice. Ilia was a slight kid like me, but when presented with a pull-up bar, he could put Schwarzenegger to shame. The Russians were physical fitness fanatics and every kid was a potential Olympian (athlete, not god). One Hundred and Eighty Degrees The world started to get even more nebulous as I got older. Things always turn out to be more complex than they seem when you were a child. It wasn't until the ascendancy of Donald Trump, though, that the world in which I grew up seemed to have flipped upside down. Mike Pence came to North Carolina and compared his running mate to Reagan. Meanwhile, Trump expressed his open admiration for dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-un (and still does to this day). Many Americans, apparently tired of being thought of as the good guys, elected Donald Trump as president. His campaign was aided in victory by a Russian dictator and his disinformation apparatus plus a chief advisor who openly worshipped Satan. It's probably putting it too mildly to say that the 80s worldview that shaped my childhood was irreparably broken. I feel like those days of easy judgments are never coming back. Now everything takes so much discernment. Issues may have always been as complex as they are now, but they were simplified for our poor human brains. Low cognitive load used to be the social order of the day. Now we're inundated with news that we often don't know how to process. We still try to fit things in boxes, but they don't seem to settle as easily. Like a game of Tetris gone wrong, our pieces abut each other in strange angles with too many holes full of white space. It wasn't until the Russian invasion of Ukraine that we as a global community (not just Americans, this time) came together and saw the same thing. We saw a bully and an aggressor inflicting needless harm on a populace numbering the millions that was just starting to see growth and some measure of normalcy. No prescription adjustment needed and our vision was aligned, across most of the world. With all the complexity that has been introduced by modernism, does this moment illustrate a moment where all of that falls away, if briefly, just to show us what is really right and wrong? Will we at least pause in calling each other Nazis for the what material we believe is appropriate for our children or whether we think vaccines are necessary? Will this be a clarifying moment that shakes us out of petty grievances and towards broader goals that benefit all of us? David French has a vain hope, and perhaps so do I.

Conversation

Imprecatory Prayer

Image source: Chris Liverani on Unsplash I had never come across the phrase "imprecatory prayer" until recently, even if I knew well what it meant. In fact, I have struggled with the concept. The Got Questions site begins to answer the question of what imprecatory prayer is by defining imprecatory. To imprecate means “to invoke evil upon or curse” one’s enemies. It goes on to inform the reader that, in the Bible, David is the author of the most imprecatory psalms. These psalms, the site explains, were less about exacting vengeance on enemies than a recognition of the fact that God abhors evil and protects his chosen ones. David compares the enemies pursuing him to lions. It's almost as if the psalmists (David, Asaph and an unknown author) felt that they had to point out evil to God, as if He wouldn't otherwise take notice. They plead their case. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? (Psalm 69: 22-23) Christian Prayer As Christians, we don't focus a lot on prayers that our enemies come to ruin. It would run counter to the very words of Jesus to "pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44-48). Praying for bad things to happen to bad people feels at odds with the philosophy shared by Jesus. However, what if those prayers serve as protection for those who would otherwise be prey in the jaws of lions? When do you pray for the lion to be crippled, so that the antelope can escape? These questions came to me as I prayed for the people of Ukraine a few nights ago. I asked myself what would it take to make them secure. The answer is for the aggression against them to cease. Nothing is impossible for God, but the hardened heart of Vladimir Putin seems difficult to penetrate. The salvation of the Ukrainian nation seems to depend on nothing short of the failure of the Russian war machine to accomplish its goals. It seems only natural to then pray for the total defeat of the Russian military forces and their commander-in-chief. The Escape In the book of Exodus, as the persecuted Israelites tried to escape the Egyptians, it was God's wrath visited upon the pharaoh and his forces that made their freedom possible. The pharaoh's heart was hardened, the book tells us, and he refused to have mercy on God's people. When Rome became an empire, the title caesar (the cognomen of Julius Caesar) was attached to its emperors, who behaved as the pharaohs did, and were worshipped and revered in the same ways. The title of caesar became czar in Russia when applied to its emperors. Although the reign of the czars technically ended with Nicholas II after he was deposed by the Bolsheviks, what is Vladimir Putin but a modern-day czar, with all of the powers to go with that designation? When a modern day czar invades another country and kills its people, are we at a point where we start to pray for his downfall? Presbyterian pastor Chris Hutchinson thinks so. I'm not sure where this leads. My crystal ball is in the shop. I also don't don't know how else to stem the tide. Prayer is what I know how to do right now. Even if that means praying to end the invasion by regime change, however that may happen.

Conversation

Fluffy cat, velvet cat.

Conversation

Jordan Peterson has a song now. My son called “it a Pink Floyd rip-off done by a bunch of muppets.”

Conversation

Clive Thompson on why you should switch to a browser with vertical tabs.

Conversation

Catherine the Great invited the Mennonites to settle land in Ukraine. Less than 100 years later, Russia was persecuting them. My great-great-grandfather fled Ukraine with his family for Minnesota in the 1870s. Praying for the Ukrainian people.

Conversation

Beating Monsters With The Cross

The day before President’s Day, I went to church for the first time since last summer. I’ve been watching online, well, religiously, since then, but it was a rare treat to go in and see friends and hear music being played live. Vivaldi on violin with our new sound system (which was desperately needed) alone was worth the trip. We had a congregational meeting afterward, so my stomach was starting to get into growling mode by the time I got home. I was making myself lunch while my youngest was playing a game online with his friends. He kept yelling something like, “get him with the crucifix!” From what I could understand, he was using a crucifix to protect his in-game character from hordes of evil spirits. I had gone to church alone, and my wife and youngest had gone to my in-law’s apartment to do some things for them, as is their routine every Sunday. When I heard my son yelling about the crucifix, it occurred to me that I’d rather have him in church with me. At least there he could be learning about the True Cross, rather than at home playing video games where the cross is merely a weapon to ward off monsters. I recently picked up Skye Jethani’s book, What If Jesus Was Serious, and had started reading it. Jethani describes the book as a devotional for people who hate devotionals. There were several retweets from Jethani’s Twitter account that were posted by people reading the book with their kids. What I had read of the book seemed a little over the level of a nine-year-old, but that can be mitigated by proper explanation of the concepts while reading. For instance, Chapter 2 focused on comparing ourselves to others when using social media. My son is a bit young for social media. However, the chapter presented us with an opportunity to talk about comparing ourselves to others and how God sees value in even those that people overlook. Tweeting in public I tweeted about my resolution and tagged the author in the tweet. He retweeted my post, and it picked up some decent traction, ending up with over 60 likes, including from Michael Wear, former president Obama’s religion advisor. For some time, I kept my tweets protected because of the fighting on Twitter, but I recently changed the setting back to public. I’ve missed being able to respond to the tweets of those who don’t follow me (you wouldn’t believe how many people fit into that category, despite my occasional witticisms). It feels good to be able to tag someone again when I want to voice support for their work. Now I’ve got a public statement to hold me accountable to my goal. So far, we’ve been sticking to the routine. I’m hoping we can both get something out of it. 📷 Image source: Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

Conversation

🎵 Brothertiger “Torn Open”

Torn Open (feat. Yvette Young) by Brothertiger I know, I know, I just wrote about Brothertiger covers of 80s tunes last week in the newsletter. I have to tell you, though, that when I saw Brothertiger had covered brother/sister duo Sophie and Peter Johnston’s “Torn Open,” one of my favorite songs, I was more than pleasantly surprised. While going through my New Music playlist from Apple Music on Friday, like I usually do, I spotted the familiar song title. I literally got goosebumps before I even heard the track. When I did listen to the song, I marveled out how complete it is. The cover thoroughly captures the brilliance of the original. Enlisting Yvette Young from the band COVET to cover the vocal parts from Sophie Johnston (which take up the majority of the song) just worked. The verses stop just short of being cloying, and the chorus soars. The vocals from frontman and Brothertiger himself, John Jagos, mainly serve to supplement Young’s. Jagos does a fantastic job mimicking the synth sound from the original track. This cover is a sophisti-pop master work. Extra credit to those who read this piece examining the brilliant Brothertiger instrumental EP’s that came out during the pandemic.

Conversation

I changed my avatar because the old pic was taken when the pandemic started and I really feel like we are coming out of it soon. Plus, gradients have come back into fashion.

Conversation

🍿 Watched Encanto on Disney+ and wrote a short review. Thanks to all for the recommendations.

Conversation

It will be interesting to see if the introduction of downvotes on Twitter improves the discourse.

Conversation

I feel like our new kitten, Jonah, doesn’t have a lot of integrity. He doesn’t always do the right thing when no one’s looking (like abstain from jumping on the kitchen counters).

Conversation

Elevator Pitch Beliefs

Image source: Steven Hiller/Twitter The clip of Stephen Colbert expressing some basics about his faith is making the rounds (especially on Twitter). Tim Keller is an evangelical pastor who saw a potent witness on a popular talk show. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about the negative comments the clip has received, in addition to the praise of popular religious figures, but it’s still disappointing to see them. What Colbert did was obviously not meant to be a full-fledged statement of faith, but rather a snapshot into how faith is integrated into his life. Still, people are commenting about what it left out. They say he didn’t use the opportunity to share the gospel, for example. Commenting on what was left out is like playing gotcha with a tweet, though. You can always find things about a complex religion like Christianity that are left out of a 280 character tweet or a 2-minute sound bit from a talk show. Colbert hosts a mainstream, secular show, not a catechism. It is a beautiful thing that he shared his faith in a way that may actually make people who aren’t Christians curious. His witness being contextualized in a way that secular people can understand doesn’t mean it’s watered down or compromised. It means he is speaking to, and understands, his audience. Kaitlyn Schiess commented on the Holy Post podcast that the kind of fundamentalist thought pattern that opposes contextualization shows, “the poverty of the way we think about evangelism.” She recounted how, when she was a kid, she thought she had to annoy people with her faith to be witnessing properly. The reason Colbert’s guest, Dua Lipa, asked him about his faith was because people notice that Colbert is open about his beliefs. He isn’t hiding his light under a bushel, as it were. He’s open to talking about the weight of eternity on a late-night show on a major network. How often do you see that?

Conversation

I just introduced my boss (who used to work in radio at the BBC) to Ronnie Martin’s new album. I believe my work is done for the week.

Conversation

Those who doubt the potency and pervasiveness of Covid need but attend the Joys and Concerns portion of one of the worship services at my church. So many people are impacted.

Conversation

My lady friend is an Evernote gal, and I’m an Obsidian guy. Will it work between us?

Conversation

The Political Lawyer

From David French, an analogy for partisanship in this country. He came to this after leaving the Republican party in 2016: Since my political divorce, however, I’ve been able to see more clearly the nature of partisanship itself, including the way in which it distorts our view of the world. To use a legal analogy, at a fundamental level, partisanship converts a person from a judge (one who decides among competing arguments, hopefully without bias) to a lawyer (one who steadfastly and relentlessly defends their client, almost regardless of the facts). The partisan is prone to act like a lawyer, and the party is their client. He or she picks a side, and then—convinced that the common good or social justice is ultimately served by their triumph—behaves exactly how lawyers behave. Are there facts that make your “client” (Democrats or Republicans) look good? Emphasize those facts. Do negative developments harm your case? Find a way to change the focus. I love this so much. I've never thought about the subject using this framework, but it has long bothered me that people pick a side and then defend that side, no matter what. The paradigm that French, a former attorney, lays out is so appropriate, and so spot on. When you think about political issues, are you being a judge or a lawyer?

Conversation

Freddie deBoer wrote some thoughts after being told a book was “taken down” on Twitter. In this sense, “taken down” seems to colloquially mean something like “entirely refuted.” deBoer takes a stance that is not expressed often enough: Something like a book refutation is not possible within a limited medium like Twitter. There is no such thing as a damning review of a book in tweet form. Such a thing is beyond the affordances of the medium. A longform book review can do more, but has limits of its own. A book review can be cutting, if it’s rigorous enough - and yes, a certain length is a prerequisite for rigor. A book review can be informative and humorous and generative and entertainingly mean. I write some myself and hope to achieve such goals. But no review alone can rebut an argument expressed over hundreds of words. It might be better, or at least easier, if it were so. But we live in a world of irreducible complexity, and our efforts to wrestle it into digestible chunks to match diminishing attention spans - well, that last part is exactly the contentious issue at hand - don’t magically make life simple enough to understand through maxims or fortune cookies or tweets. It doesn’t work that way. I wish more people understood the constraints of a platform like Twitter. → There is No Such Thing as a Takedown | Freddie deBoer

Conversation

The Gift of Presence

Jason Fried of Basecamp on the decision they made to remove presence indicators from the app. Where is someone on your work team at any given time? His response: The vast majority of the time, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is letting people design their own schedule around when they can do their best work. This is not nearly as hard as it sounds. But it does require a shift in mindset. Away from “I have to call Jeff into a meeting now to get his take on this new feature idea” to “I’ll write up my feature idea for Jeff to check-out whenever he has some free time, and then, maybe, we can have a chat about it live later, if needed”. Basecamp has a geographically distributed team, so they have had ample opportunity to learn about working asynchronously. They’ve found that the expectation of asynchronous communication, in the absence of a presence indicator, has brought more calm. I understand where Fried is coming from, but I also know from my own experience that it can be helpful to know, for instance, if your boss is in a meeting or not. I try to be considerate of other’s time, and that’s why I find myself waiting for a green indicator before reaching out to someone. Could I schedule a meeting every time I want to talk with someone? Sure, but sometimes it helps to have a little flexibility to converse outside of the constraints of a calendar invite. In other words, I get both sides of the debate. I think what’s most important is that people respect your presence preferences, whatever tool you use.

Conversation

Our new kitten is learning that our older cat is really good at cat tower defense games.

Conversation

From Ross Douthat, an attempt to fuse together the themes of his two books, The Deep Places and The Decadent Society. Both decadence and chronic ailments cut against the human tendency to imagine a crisis as something that either leads to some kind of fatal endgame quickly or else resolves itself and goes away. Being sick for a long period of time has a baffling effect on friends and family and acquaintances, not because they’re unsympathetic or unwilling to help, but because our primary image of sickness is something that comes and quickly leaves, or comes and threatens your life and needs to be treated intensely with the highest stakes — and it’s harder to know how to respond to having something that apparently isn’t life-threatening but also doesn’t go away. I can sympathize with Douthat’s attempt to draw parallels here. I certainly understand where he is coming from with regards to how people respond to chronic illness. Most people have difficulty understanding how to deal with illness that doesn’t go away with some modern treatment option or, on the flip side, doesn’t leave you dead. Many times, if people don’t hear from you, they assume you are better. Similarly, I suppose, unless people are raising an alarm, a decadent society is thought of as getting better, as well. → Decadence is a Chronic Illness | Ross Douthat 🔗_Via Alan Jacobs_

Conversation

Watching The Neverending Story with my last night of Netflix. This movie is such a product of its time. Maybe my favorite movie theme song, though?

Conversation

Tatooine Under New Management

⚠️ Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Book Of Boba Fett. Matt Poppe typically reviews the new Star Wars and Marvel shows for Christ and Pop Culture. He’s now onto The Book of Boba Fett, though not reviewing every episode, as he has done with previous shows. So far, he hasn’t been impressed. And that’s because any guy who comes into town and thinks he’ll get it right where everyone else got it wrong tends to either fail miserably or become a weird, psycho cult leader. Whatever the outcome, this isn’t the type of person onto whom I want to project my hopes and cares as I’m munching down Little Caesars on the couch with the rest of the Poppe fam.  I get where Poppe is coming from, but I have also enjoyed the series more than he has. Unlike Poppe, I can see a legitimate character arc for Boba Fett that not only makes sense, but can make for compelling TV. To leave Boba Fett where he was when we saw him in the original trilogy would be doing the character a disservice and wouldn’t be a good follow-up to The Mandolorian, either.1 His entry into the canon of crime bosses promises to tell a more interesting story. When we came across Boba Fett in the 1980’s, he was a quiet loner, who as Poppe points out, wasn’t a boss. For him to become a boss, or even to have the desire to become one, he has to undergo a transformation. The Book of Boba Fett goes to great lengths to show us the steps in that transformation. First, he is ravaged by the Sarlacc, and very near to death, saved only by his protective beskar armor. When he escapes the bowels of the monster, unconscious in the middle of the unforgivingly arid Dune Sea, he loses that armor to itinerant Jawas, and we witness his rebirth, left almost as naked as he came into the world.2 The symbolism is easy to detect. When he is rescued/captured by a group of Tuskens, he begins to relearn how to live and even how to fight. We know all of this because the physical scars left by his experience leave him dependent on a bacta tank for healing and while he is in the tank, he has flashbacks of the past. Fett’s life with the Tuskens is anything but easy, as he gradually proves himself to a nomadic people hardened and distrusting from the harsh desert sands. As he builds himself up, he both learns from, and teaches the Tuskens. We witness a cultural exchange, and understand that the Tuskens have as much to offer Fett, as he, a man who has seen the far reaches of the galaxy and dealt with some of the most powerful people in it, has to offer them. What he has to give them, though, is not what we would expect from the Boba Fett of Empire Strikes Back. Sure, he’s cunning, and his bravery scores him an early victory over a desert monster that impresses the Tusken tribe. As the days spent with the tribe wear on, though, he proves himself to be a masterful tactician and negotiator. As such, he becomes a de facto leader within the Tusken tribe. By the time he seems to have rid the sand people of two different groups of tormentors, he is well entrenched in the group. You begin to see why Boba Fett now wants to lead rather than taking orders. The new situations he has lived through, and the experiences with which he has been gifted mark a different path for him. By the time he has gone full Dances With Wolves as part of the Tusken tribe, it’s hard to believe he will ever leave. As viewers, though, we know that he moves on to become (or attempt to become) the crime boss we see in early scenes from the show. Fett’s growth as character during his period in the Dune Sea not only makes him sympathetic, but also does something that no one watching A New Hope in 1977 thought would be possible: it humanizes the sand people that tried to kill Luke in that movie. The journey is a worthwhile story. My main disappointment with the show is the killing off of the entire Tusken tribe early on in the season. The scenes set after Fett takes over Jabba’s crime syndicate (what’s left of it) are not as impactful as those set in the past with the Tuskens. However, future events have shown that was necessary to set Boba Fett on his current course. Boba Fett himself even admits he would have stayed with the Tuskens had they not been wiped out by a rival group. We know there is more in store for the once loner bounty hunter. I’m waiting for the rest of the show to catch up to the quality of the flashbacks with the Tusken raiders, but I’m pretty confident that it will. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have earned that trust, and it will be interesting to see where they take things in upcoming episodes. 🎆 Image source: Star Wars wallpapers from Virginia Poltrack Fans don’t need another series about a lone bounty hunter wearing Mandolorian beskar roaming the galaxy taking jobs from various clients of ill-repute. ↩︎ Although, since he was cloned from his “father,” Jango Fett, who knows how he was born? ↩︎

Conversation

Jason Morehead wrote a fair and even-handed review of 2025: The World Enslaved By A Virus, the Plan 9 From Outer Space of Christian virus conspiracy movies. I appreciate the approach because, while I initially enjoyed seeing the tweets poking fun at this low-budget amateur production, I’m not sure if that’s the appropriate reaction. My teenage son watched it for a larf with his friends.1 There’s a point at which you are laughing at something and you have a moment of self-realization that causes you to pause. For me, that pause happened when my son pointed out that the ending credits gave thanks to Jesus Christ as the second credit and started cackling. I just didn’t see where the humor was, and it seemed like laughing at something people created in earnest just for the sake of making ourselves feel superior to them. Online, of course we’re not savages who meet with people in person, like the revolutionaries depicted in the movie. ↩︎

Conversation

🎵 Yumi Zouma "In The Eyes Of Our Love"

Yumi Zouma has a new full-length, Present Tense, coming out March 18th on Polyvinyl. As is the fashion now, they are releasing singles before the album drops, and “In The Eyes Of Our Love” is the third such single from the upcoming record. For this song, Yumi Zouma ditches their normally breezy, understated yet catchy, “this band could only come from New Zealand” sound. It comes across as something more like traditional indie pop a la The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. For reference, check out the Pains “Summer Of Dreams,” a b-side from their Days Of Abandon LP, or really, many of their other tracks. Yumi Zouma calls this the introduction to the Present Tense era, so it’s evident that their change in sound is intentional. The video takes as it’s subject three women who enter an initially locked hotel room to, I guess, party? At times fearful, at times confused and then celebratory, the women soak in the mystery of this strange hotel room. All of this could be an allegory for getting out of your comfort zone to enjoy life’s unexpected surprises, but then I may be reaching. It could be an acid trip. At any rate, enjoy the song and the video. → Yumi Zouma - In The Eyes Of Our Love

Conversation

I’m following Austin Kleon’s advice. START A MAILING LIST, Y’ALL. I even displayed the subscribe form on my blog’s home page so you can easily signup. Frostedechoes.com

Conversation

Repairing the Cracks (kintsugi style)

Sometimes, I feel like I need to stop ruminating on the “deep cleavages in American society,” as this piece from the Bush Institute refers to them. I wonder if it would be helpful to remember the turbulence of the sixties, just to have some frame of reference for comparison, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good for my mom’s outlook. She’s just as exasperated with our current climate as the rest of us. While he doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions, David Brooks presents the problems in a clear light, in this appropriately frighteningly titled piece America is Falling Apart at the Seams. He talks about the anger, the selfishness, the violence and the despair that are increasing in measurable ways. Perhaps most of us have heard this too much, lately. I wouldn’t be bringing this up, though, if I wasn’t comforted by reading an alternate perspective. There are actually those who, despite frustration, are trying to create a more virtuous cycle in a fractured environment. Jamie Santa Cruz writes for Plough magazine about how she came to terms with the different perspectives of her friends on virus prevention and maintained close relationships that were threatened by strain. She relates the difficulty of reconciling herself to the beliefs of one of her friends. Maddening, this gap between us. Symbolic of many other gaps between her and me – on politics, on faith, and on all things touched by those two. Gaps that didn’t exist last time I saw her but that have become far more obvious these last two fraught years. It’s hard for me to justify bending to the consciences of people who object so strenuously to basic public health measures. Should I submit my moral scruples to hers? But my friendship with Eliza goes back almost twenty years, and it has run deep. I didn’t really want to throw it out and suffer yet another Covid loss. So many prize being right over relationships.1 Ultimately, Santa Cruz chose a different path while on a vacation. She was to meet up with her old friend during her travels. When her friend “Eliza” didn’t want to go caving in a place they required masks, she gave in and agreed to meet at alternate location. It was not without resentment that she changed plans, though. Then, Santa Cruz came down with Covid and Eliza was there to take care of her needs, saying nothing of the irony that her cautious friend was the one who ended up getting sick. She picked up groceries and refused to be reimbursed. Santa Cruz spent the rest of her vacation thinking about her friend’s generosity. The Covid story doesn’t end at the kind deeds done by Eliza, though. After her own bought with Covid, Santa Cruz had another friend who was immunocompromised yet still refused to get the Covid vaccine contract the virus. Her first reaction was feeling like her friend had made her bed and needed to lie in it, but then she remembered how she was treated when she was sick and decided instead of gloating or frustration, she was going to take the giving path. She asked her friend if she could get groceries to help out. There, in the midst of deep divisions, was a way to pay it forward. 📸 Image source: Wikimedia Commons I count myself among them. ↩︎

Conversation

There is finally a new Pinboard iOS client and it looks good.

Conversation

The Tools Don't Matter?

I’ve heard it frequently said that the tools you use don’t matter. That people who are constantly changing their working setups are just fiddling. It’s an easy thought to entertain. I’ve seen many an instance where people spend more time tweaking their tools instead of using them. However, there’s some evidence that optimizing and changing our tools can actually help us accomplish more. Eleanor Konik writes convincingly about how Obsidian replaced video games and helped her publish. Now and then I feel self-conscious about being so active in the community Discord because of stuff I see cross my dash periodically about “productivity porn” or about hoe “tools don’t matter” or whatever, and then I realize that no, actually, I’m genuinely — objectively, demonstrably — doing more things I love. If you don’t believe that the systems you employ can help you to get work done, Konik has plenty of her own stats to back up her claim. If you watch one of her demo videos of how she uses Obsidian, it’s rather amazing the system she has put together and how it enables her to string together bits of knowledge. Sometimes, simply switching tools can actually make us more productive, at least for a time, simply due to the “novelty effect.” Clive Thompson discusses this in a blog post, with a focus on how switching word processors enabled him to get unstuck in order to write and edit more. This is what’s so interesting about the novelty effect: It almost doesn’t matter what type of change you make to your work environment — just so long as you make a change. So long as it renders your work slightly askew, you get a novelty effect. (Trivia: Because the discovery was made at the Hawthorne factory, it’s also sometimes called “The Hawthorne Effect”.) “The Hawthorne Effect” is not actually the effect of a novel working environment on an individual. Thompson is right in his description of the experiment with lighting changes that caused increased productivity. It wasn’t the changes that caused the effect, though, but the understanding the participants had that they were being observed. People under observation tend to modify their behaviors based on their interpretation of the situation. Nevertheless, Thompson’s anecdotal evidence is fairly convincing in suggesting that changing tools can boost our output. I have seen this personally, as well. When I want to use a new tool, I devote more time and energy into exploring it. As long as I maintain that excitement I initially have for putting the new tool through its paces, and testing its features, I am motivated to put in more effort and even creativity. I am still using Obsidian for notetaking and organizing my digital life. Everytime I come across a new capability, I’m more likely to spend time in the tool. I recently discovered the power of being able to tag individual lines in a note and how that differs from tagging a whole note and it opened up new possibilities for how I track ideas. That in itself led me to spend more time exploring the app and using it to write. If I then switch to Ulysses, and setup a kanban process there for writing, like Josh Ginter, I get another burst of writing energy to go with the move. It’s tempting to brush all of this aside and think, “Hank Thoreau didn’t need some productivity/notes/markdown app to write Walden.” Of course that’s true (though think of what Thoreau may have been able to churn out with the uncompromising simplicity of iA Writer!), but a good tool is a scaffolding to better output. It’s not going to write the great American novel for you, but it is going to facilitate that process. The more you like your work environment, whether it’s your office or your tools, the more productive you’ll likely be.

Conversation

All Things Too Open

Years ago, I saw Henry Zhou give a keynote speech at the All Things Open conference. I left his talk with a more acute understanding of just how hard it is to maintain an open source project that has become popular. Zhou, who is a humble and giving individual, spoke about the unreasonable demands of users who would get angry if their messages didn’t receive a response from the developer within 20 minutes. These developers are essentially volunteers, but they aren’t given the treatment you would expect for donating their time and effort to the common good. It comes as no surprise then, as Clive Thompson reports, many open source developers are burning out and abandoning their projects. As he notes in his piece, open source projects were supposed to be like Amish barn raisings, where many hands make light work. For most projects, though, it hasn’t turned like that. He cites findings presented in Nadia Eghbal’s book Working In Public. Twenty years into the open-source era, it hasn’t worked out that way. Eghbal found that only a minority of projects, perhaps 3%, resemble true barn-raisings — or “federations”, as she dubbed them — with lots and lots of contributors pitching in. (Some examples are Linux, Node, or Rust.) In contrast, the great majority of open source projects are run by tiny teams, and often only one lone person. Outside contributions are pretty minor, and limited to a tiny one-line syntatic bug fix. That’s not nothing! Those little contributions are great. But the upshot is, those lone coders wind up doing the lion’s share of the work. “Open source inexplicably skewed from a collaborative to a solo endeavor” as Eghbal writes. Thompson likens coders working on a project that suddenly gets popular to an solo entertainer who finds themselves playing to stadiums full of fans. But if a developer suddenly finds themselves playing to a stadium — and swallowed up by the time-sucking demands thereof — then not getting paid can become a serious problem. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Plus, watching wildly profitable and highly-funded tech firms use their code without contributing anything back: That can just feel like a moral insult. This trend should be worrying enterprises that rely heavily on open source software. A lot of big companies are using source software in order to reduce their expenses. Once the open source components are integrated, they can sometimes be hard to extract.

Conversation

🎵 Barrie "Darjeeling"

Barrie is another band that was recommended to me by the Apple Music algorithm. I immediately checked out their back catalog and noticed that they had a video for the song, "Darjeeling," that I had discovered. I was particularly drawn to the video because it is set mostly at The Crane Estate. The Crane Estate is a sprawling piece of property in Ipswich, MA, where a young Cornelius Crane (AKA, Chevy Chase) spent his childhood summers. I went to The Crane Estate in 2018 with my son, my sister and her boyfriend. It was what I imagine some rich Roman Senator's ancient villa would look like (complete with classical busts littered throughout). The estate captivated my imagination. When I saw the video for "Darjeeling" was set there, I lit up with excited recognition. There isn't anything unique about the band's visit there. They seem like the same kind of tourists we were, taking in the grandeur of Richard Crane's vision and bringing their brand of hooky dream pop as a soundtrack. → Barrie - Darjeeling Barrie has a new album, Barbara, coming March 25th on Winspear.

Conversation

Discussions of cryptocurrencies seem to be on everyone's lips, these days. Most of the opinions I am reading are against crypto. Stephen Diehl has spent so much time explaining the problems with cryptocurrencies, that he's outlined them in a blog post called The Case Against Crypto. Cryptocurrencies aren’t currencies and have no mechanism to ever become currencies. They are effectively unregulated securities where the only purpose of the products is price appreciation untethered to any economic activity. The only use case is gambling on the random price oscillations, attempting to buy low and sell high and cash out positions for wins in a real currency like dollars or euros. Yet crypto cannot create or destroy real money because unlike a stock there is no underlying company that generates income. So if you sell your crypto and make a profit in dollars, it’s exactly because a greater fool bought it at a higher price than you did. I remember many times people have tried to tell me that buying stocks is just gambling. Some people simply don't understand the purpose of an investment in a company that is creating value and being able to share a financial stake in that company's outcome. However, buying and selling cryptocurrency, as Diehl points out, does actually feel like gambling.

Conversation

Matter just added a send Articles to Kindle feature. Now if they would just do that for the Kobo…

Conversation

The always insightful Russell Moore writes in his latest newsletter about Insurrection Day. He came to a realization about another factor compounding our polarization after reading the Nonzero newsletter. Over the Christmas holidays I read a fascinating account in Robert Wright’s Nonzero Newsletter of his epiphany about social media and political polarization. Wright had listened to a podcast in which psychology and political science professor Philip Tetlock “noted that once people have taken a position publicly, they have trouble abandoning it, even if evidence against it accumulates.” The easy ability we all now possess to make our opinions public, without going through any gatekeepers, may be making us more entrenched in those opinions.

Conversation

Exchanging the Truth For Lies

Image source: John Matychuk/Unsplash Professor at a Christian college, Chad Ragsdale, has a blog post in which he embeds an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast that featured Dr. Robert Malone. He writes about the episode in the first paragraph of his post. This morning I finished listening to what is undoubtedly one of the most listened to podcast episodes in the history of podcasting. You can listen to it here. In fact, I would encourage you to listen to it not because I’m convinced that everything said is absolutely true, but because being exposed to ideas that run contrary to conventional narratives is helpful and even necessary for clarifying our own thinking. PolitiFact just reported on the suspension of Dr. Malone from Twitter after his spreading of Covid-19 misinformation. The video of the interview was also banned from YouTube.1 The platforms’ actions against Malone represent the latest efforts from Silicon Valley to crack down on harmful COVID-19 misinformation. Days earlier, Twitter suspended the personal account belonging to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., on the same grounds. What I find most interesting about this scenario is how Ragsdale admits that he doesn’t care whether what is being said on the podcast is the truth. He comes right out and states that to preface everything that follows. I think it’s sad that he and many others (Ragsdale spends quite a few words on how impressed he is that Rogan has so many listeners) are more interested in having a counter-narrative to whatever the mainstream view is than actually being presented with the truth. Ragsdale is so awed by the number of followers that Joe Rogan is able to generate, which in itself he seems to think is some proof that his voice is credible. Of course, we know how easy it is for masses of people to be manipulated my misinformation, so the number of people convinced by lies doesn’t then lead credence to the lies. There’s a huge irony in the fact that Ragsdale spends much of his post talking about a lack of trust in mainstream media when he admits his own ideology biases him against whatever the mainstream media is promoting, even if it is the truth. This sort of obstinate stance has come to be characteristic of certain Christian circles and I know it damages the witness for Christ. As I’ve asked in the past, how are people going to believe the miraculous stories of a savior that transcended death if his followers can’t even recognize obvious truths in front of them? I’ll let Hank Green close this post with a thought that seems to have some validity in thinking about the Joe Rogan phenomenon and why people cling to this type of media. After reading Ragsdale's piece, that seems about right. I’m sure there are a certain segment of people who will think that means that the tech companies are trying to squash the facts. ↩︎

Conversation

Finished reading: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 📚. I have to say I like the Crows series better than the Shadow and Bone series but I love the way the TV show merged them.

Conversation

Austin Kleon has a post remembering poet and musician Dave Berman on the week of his birthday. I’m not much of a lyrics guy. They’re usually an afterthought for me and, to be honest, a lot of music I listen to buries the vocals, anyway. Berman is an exception though. That man was a true lyricist with lines you could scribble in notebooks and in hastily erased pencil on classroom desks. Half hours on earth, what are they worth? I don’t know. ~ Silver Jews - “Trains Across the Sea”

Conversation

Anger Unmasked

Image source: Wikimedia Commons In our county, mask mandates in schools continue to be a hot button issue. There are parents who blame the enforcement of mask rules for deteriorating mental health amongst students. These parents are frustrated and seeing their kids struggling encourages them to want to do something. “The dehumanization, isolation and fear mongering caused by all these mandates and COVID hysteria is literally killing our children,” Colleen Fleming, a parent, told the school board on Tuesday. “Understand this: Each and every one of you is complicit in the deterioration of our schoolchildren’s mental health and well-being and downfall of their academic success.” Unfortunately, the parents in this case don't have a lot of evidence to back up their claims of a causation between wearing masks and mental health problems. Anecdotally, they have kids who are having difficulty with wearing masks. That is challenging. However, there are plenty of people who wear masks and don't have mental health issues. It's also important to remember why people are wearing masks. According to this piece, when a state board member questioned the effectiveness of masks, the NC health director, Dr. Betsey Tilson, pointed to 21 studies that show the benefit of wearing masks. The decline in mental health among children is an all-too-real phenomenon but it started before Covid even hit. Further decline was observed when Covid-19 came into the picture, but the possible causes for this are multi-factorial. When a society is faced with a pandemic, it causes additional stress to individuals (children and adults alike). It's a lamentable human tendency to find a scapegoat for problems. In this case, it's a shame that those who are truly doing their best to keep our students, teachers and education staff safe are bearing the brunt of the anger for this pandemic.

Conversation

🎵 Geowulf "Saltwater"

Last week, I wrote about some musical favorites from 2021. This week, I’m posting the video from one of my favorite songs that isn’t from last year, but that I discovered last year. I think this one surfaced due to the Apple Music recommendation algorithm, which has gotten really good. I ask Siri to play a song on the diminutive but fairly powerful HomePod Mini, then, once the song is done, the device magically plays other music that I like. The hit to miss ratio is high these days, and I’m finding out about a lot of bands that sound similar to the ones I already enjoy.1 Since several music blogs that I used to follow have now become celebrity gossip sites (ahem, cough, Stereogum, Consequence), I need a sonic buddy in the form of a solid recommendation engine. Geowulf’s “Saltwater” sticks in my brain and produces a sort of wistfulness that’s simultaneously sad and comforting. It evokes memories of trips to the beach, which have spanned the entirety of my life, and leaves me with a longing for another walk on the sand to sort through my thoughts. The image of letting saltwater wash over you “even when you’re broken,” speaks to me physically and emotionally. → Geowulf - Saltwater Mostly in the dream pop genre. ↩︎

Conversation

Twitter frequently recommends contextless rage tweets from people I don’t even know or follow to me to “boost engagement.” This is one of the reasons we find ourselves in such an absurd state of affairs.

Conversation

Given the recent damning ProPublica piece that focuses on Facebook’s role in the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, there is a profound irony in a good Democratic Congressman using Facebook to host a discussion called “January 6th: Democracy Under Attack.”

Conversation

Finished reading: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 📚

Conversation

The Quick Reviews web app from @mattbirchler just dropped and it’s pretty sweet. Still a bit rough around the edges, but useful and pretty.

Conversation

Andy Nicolaides over at the Dent urges us to take it easy on ourselves when it comes to social media. Look around the interwebs and you will find no shortage of people berating themselves up for their time spent on social media or trying to concoct ways to curb their use of those platforms. A big one is the use of Twitter. A huge amount of people are using this service multiple times a day, for various reasons. I’ve started seeing quite a few posts, or comments just as an aside in a post however, with the authors both figuratively and literally apologising for using the service. They beat themselves up for using it too much, or for wasting time ‘just scrolling’. I’m starting to question why that is. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if you’re leaving a dog or child to starve to death because you’re too obsessed with Twitter to feed them you’re most definitely an animal and you should be ashamed. If, however, you’re a hardworking individual that likes to utilise (not waste) your time flicking around Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, or whatever your service of choice is then you go for it. Social media can be addictive and you don’t have to be Jaron Lanier to understand the ways those companies use psychological tricks to keep you coming back. However, if you can manage the urge and make reasonable use of Twitter or similar platforms, then you should give yourself a break and recognize that it’s an enjoyable activity for you. → Give Yourself a Break | The Dent

Conversation

Two days ago, I was literally sweating at the dinner table because it was so hot and today we got snow. ❄️

Conversation

It would be difficult to come up with a more precise and succinct description of our modern political predicament than this one by former religion advisor to Barack Obama, Michael Wear, from his new Substack newsletter. Sure, things are not exactly this simple, and there are so many dynamics at play, but at a macro level, this feels like it nails the current climate. In an earlier post this year, I reiterated a basic dynamic in our social life that I am not the first to identify, but that I think generally holds: that conservatives have significant political power but feel embattled and resentful due to progressives’ cultural power, and progressives have significant cultural power, but feel embattled and resentful due to conservatives’ political power. That basic assessment requires significant explanation and caveats, but there’s a core truth to it that is helpful as you look out and try to make sense of our politics and broader public life. What I like about Wear is his consistent optimism. Despite the seeming enormity of the problems that plague us now, he is always looking at how we can mitigate them. He frames problem solving in terms of developing virtues in a way that I rarely see elsewhere. → Power and Sacrifice | Reclaiming Hope

Conversation

Trailing clouds of glory do we come, From God, who is our home. ~ William Wordsworth

Conversation

Twitter is serious about suspending the accounts of those who spread disinformation about Covid-19 or the vaccines for the virus. They have just shown, yet again, that they are willing to remove individuals from the platform, regardless of their popularity or government status. In these cases, they are enforcing terms of service that have already been set down, not being arbitrary or capricious. Twitter has long banned users from sharing misinformation that could lead to harm. In rare cases, the company has permanently banned high-profile accounts, including the account of former President Donald J. Trump, over a risk of “further incitement of violence” after a mob of Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol last Jan. 6. What is interesting is to see those who would label themselves as “small government” conservatives wanting the government to step in and prevent private companies, like Twitter, or in the case of the Parler deplatforming, Apple, Google and Amazon, from upholding their own terms of service. As I’ve written in the past, I believe companies should be allowed to set and enforce their own terms. → Twitter Permanently Suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Account | The New York Times

Conversation

🎵 Spectres "Northern Towns"

For this Friday Night Video, Spectres comes your way with some powerful, muscular post-punk. At first, I thought this was a fan-made video with the traditional fuzzy retro found footage. It wasn’t until the band was shown in the same style that I realized it was a legit official video for the song. This one has been in heavy rotation as part of my The Noise That I Loved Best 2021 playlist. When my son heard this song, he asked if it was Joy Division. It is certainly indebted to the Factory Records sound. While this song sounds inspired by Joy Division, another single, “Tell Me” sounds more like New Order. It’s clear where Spectres influences lie. You just have to go back to Manchester about four decades ago.

Conversation

The Book of Boba Fett and Star Wars LEGO.

Conversation

My son just became a big boy.

Conversation

There is absolutely no overlap in the Venn diagram of my favorite albums this year and those of the Bandcamp editors. Sometimes, with these lists from publications I wonder how much of this is treasured music and how much is performance.

Conversation

Saw some vultures chowing down on roadkill like it was Boston Market on the way to my mom’s today. That’s a good omen on Christmas.

Conversation

My wife loves it that we got each other the same Christmas card… again.

Conversation

Hazel English "Nine Stories"

This is definitely the most playful music video I’ve seen in some time. You have Hazel English, mostly dressed like a school girl from a private prep school, goofing around in fountains, reading in the grass, and well, attending school. The song exudes a twee charm with a suitable theme about crushing on someone and following them around like a puppy dog. I love the urgency in the guitar solo that closes out the song. It’s like shaking up a bottle of soda pop (soda for those in the East Coast and pop for those in the Midwest) and then opening it up to a carbonated explosion that sends the beverage everywhere. → Hazel English - Nine Stories

Conversation

Christians love the part in A Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus gives his speech about the true meaning of Christmas, quoting from the book of Luke. I am not exempting myself from the devotion to that scene. A few years ago, I read this passage at a Christmas Eve service at our church, and, even though it wasn’t in the translation from which I was reading, I was tempted to use the phrase, “and they were sore afraid,” just to be like Linus. In the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas, when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, with his security blanket in hand, steps center stage and quotes Luke 2:8–14. In the middle of his recitation, as he says, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket—the thing he clung to when afraid. One thing I hadn’t noticed before was the part about Linus dropping his security blanket, which his sister Lucy tried in vain many times to wrest from him, when he recites the scripture. It wasn’t until I read this passage in Our Daily Bread that I recounted that crucial part of the scene. Linus always carries that blanket to feel safe. The action has a symbolically profound implication about how we try to let go and trust in the Lord to guide us, especially during this season. → Fear Not | Our Daily Bread

Conversation

For those that read this blog post (which was one of my more controversial, for some reason), my bro is in the clear.

Conversation

📺 Watched Steve Jobs last night. Fassbender was great as the titular character. The whole movie was a series of high-stakes conversations, which was fairly stressful and exhausting, but it was very well done. The format could be adapted to the stage.

Conversation

Pissed or Blissed?

Austin Kleon quotes Bill O’Hanlon when he talks about the four energies for writing. The first two (the upper quadrants) being positive, the second two (the lower quadrants) are the negative energies. Blissed Blessed Pissed Dissed I’d rather be writing from the upper two quadrants, but I have to admit to be expressing myself from the “pissed” category today. Much has been written about how the call to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the urge (or mandate) to wear masks, etc. are for the benefit of others as much as ourselves. How do we respect the lives and health of others while living in community? Ed Yong recently canceled his birthday party in order to keep people safe, because his birthday falls so closely to Christmas. If someone got sick, I know others could too. A week later, many of my friends will spend Christmas with their own families. At best, a cluster of infections at the birthday party would derail those plans, creating days of anxious quarantine or isolation, and forcing the people I love to spend time away from their loved ones. At worst, people might unknowingly carry the virus to their respective families, which might include elderly, immunocompromised, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or otherwise vulnerable people. Being born eight days before Christmas creates almost the perfect conditions for one potential super-spreader event to set off many more. Yong doesn’t worry so much about himself, but others whom he might not even know getting sick during the holidays. This is the kind of mentality that drives disease prevention. Yet, even as I praise Yong’s thinking, I think about welcoming my sister home from international living only a few days ago with a birthday party for her. She hadn’t been vaccinated. Though her vaccine status was not for lack of effort. Vaccines are harder to come by in Eastern Europe. We did what we could to mitigate the risk with vaccinations of those in the US, but ultimately deferred total caution for fellowship. In our defense, almost everyone present is planning to be together in that grouping throughout the holidays. Most people are navigating these tough decisions right now. However, it feels like those that aren’t getting vaccinated aren’t even trying to choose. At least in the US, they are simply giving up on doing what is easy and meeting that low bar to help ensure the continuing health of others. This became real for us this week when the unvaccinated coworker that is in closest proximity to my brother at the bank in which he works tested positive for Covid. We are now looking at the possible outcome of my brother not being able to attend the Christmas celebration with relatives that have come from the other side of the country and the world to be a part of. I’m not sure of why his coworker isn’t vaccinated, but I suspect the reason isn’t what most would think of as legitimate. Hopefully, testing will show my brother is negative. For Christians, caring for others is a matter of faith and conscience. The particulars are summed up well in this relatively short piece from Catalyst magazine, in which Joel B. Green profiles the position of the eminent bioethicist D. Garett Jones. Though he doesn’t draw attention to the absence from Scripture of the modern category of “human rights,” Jones does observe that “serving one another and laying down one’s life (rights) for others” is central to the Christian ethos. He draws the inescapable corollaries regarding caring for one’s neighbor, serving “the other,” for example, through donning face masks, practicing social distancing, and participating in efforts to vaccinate everyone, including oneself, who is eligible. “This is Christian social responsibility in practice.” The piece goes on to explain Protestant Reformer Martin Luther’s stance on taking steps for disease prevention to ensure the health of self and neighbor. Similar statements have been echoed across other Christian traditions. It’s pretty clear where the faithful should stand on these issues. My anger has to be tempered by humility, grace and an understanding of my own actions. If I’m honest though, I’m still pissed.

Conversation

It seems the Chinese government is starting to understand that a political system with no real values is not healthy for people. The citizens of the country are increasingly developing a sort of nihilistic tendency. “Among the online youth, for example, ‘sang culture’ (roughly the equivalent of “doomerism” in the West) has proliferated.” To combat a lack of spirituality in their culture, the Communist party is turning to Marx to inspire. From People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist party: Recalling the “warmth” he still feels after finishing this study of Marx, a “warmth [that] comes from spiritual excitement, spiritual joy,” the reviewer concludes with an account of the “deep sense of inner satisfaction and happiness” he has gained, before declaring himself, with the cry of a convert, “a Marxist believer!” The piece notes that these pronouncements sound more like they come from mid-2000’s American Evangelical Christians than Chinese Communists. The party recognizes, though, that they need to combat the malaise that their culture has engendered. This has kicked off a scramble, led by top Party political theorist Wang Huning, to “create core values” to fill this uncomfortably God-shaped societal hole with the comforts of a synthetic ideological alternative. It remains to be seen if the Chinese can be spiritually fulfilled by Marxist theory, which is still purely materialist. → The CCP gets religious about Karl Marx | The Post Via social.ayjay.org

Conversation

My sister was talking to my wife about a comedian who sounds just like me, “except that he’s really funny.”

Conversation

Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs was just interviewed by Indie Hackers. I really like the balance that she is able to strike between a fascination for work that requires a computer, and being able to extract time where she is not using a device. What I spend the majority of my time doing: Sitting in front of my computer. Whether it’s learning, creating, connecting with other curious minds… I sometimes think it’s too much screen time, but there is such joy coming through this window on the world! On her reading habit becoming a ritual: Another thing that’s helped me move from routine to ritual is that starting last year, I’ve followed a strict rule of no electronic devices in my bedroom. It’s probably one of the simplest and best lifestyle changes I’ve made. It sounds obvious but not having devices in my room makes me sleep earlier, and better. I wake up with more energy and I’m more productive and creative. While most of what she does involves screen time, she also puts hard boundaries around those activities to make time for other enrichment. I would find the part about putting away electronic devices in my bedroom pretty difficult. I wouldn’t give up my Kobo, of course, but even when you have an iPad, that lean back device form factor makes it too easy to use when supine. The closest thing I’ve got to her resolve is to set downtime to 9:30pm, but even that is too easy to break by putting in my screen time code.

Conversation

Matt Birchler writes in Photography Needs to be Fun about how the new Glass photography network feels a bit too stilted and more like Unsplash than Instagram. Meanwhile, Twitter and instagram are teeming with pros, amateurs, and everyone else, and they’re just more rich photography experiences for me. Social networks have cultures that form around them, and my feeling is that the culture in Glass is way too buttoned up and monolithic. I want photography to be diverse and fun, and the monolithic feeds I see in Glass don’t check either of those boxes for me now. I wrote a few months ago about how Micro.blog fits into the Glass equation. I’ve seen some amazing photographs on the M.b. platform and there are people I follow that have near-professional photography skills. There are also quite a few amateur shots. It feels like a really nice balance.

Conversation

The new kitten is thriving on a diet of faux Christmas trees, shoe laces and Moleskine bands.

Conversation

Just Finished reading: Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman 📚. It seems the productivity craze from years past has inspired a sizable backlash.

Conversation

I’m pretty happy with the way the first issue of my newsletter, Week on the Web, turned out. Muchas gracias to all of those folks who subscribed before I even wrote a word to promote it. To others, I would love it if you would subscribe here.

Conversation

Hoops "Cars and Girls"

Last week I featured an important song in the Japanese city pop genre and made the comparison to sophisti-pop, which came from the UK. This week I wanted to feature some sophisti-pop for comparison, but didn't want to go straight at it. So what we have here is Hoops covering Prefab Sprout (one of the more influential bands in sophisti-pop) staple "Cars and Girls." From The Beach Boys “I Get Around” to American Graffiti to Sixteen Candles or even Ferris Bueller's Day Off, cars and girls were central to the post-adolescent male imagination in the sixties through the eighties. The song explores when adulthood blooms and exposes the shallow thinking of youth. When life’s bigger problems come in, they start to crowd out the less important things we thought that carried so much weight when we were younger. As the apostle reminds us, “But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, CEB) In the video, the band poses, preens and prances around in an 80’s bimmer. The video is so tongue-in-cheek that it becomes almost unbearable at times, but the band’s mastery of the classic song more than compensates for the silliness. → Hoops "Cars and Girls"

Conversation

There’s something special about hearing your son playing the guitar part for a song you put on a mixtape for your wife in high school and singing along.

Conversation

Now that M.b. has better support for drafts and scheduling, I’d love to see a Drafts action that sends a post over as, well, a draft.

Conversation

I’d estimate about 25% of the posts that the official Twitter client shows me are from people I follow.

Conversation

Got a new kitten named Jonah yesterday and we are getting along famously. He and my other cat Snickers, not so much.

Conversation

Kevin Crowley was caught in a crowd during a trampling incident that killed 94 people. He was severely traumatized. He tried therapy to help him cope, but it was initially to no avail. But two years ago he spotted a poster advertising therapy over the internet, and he decided to give it another go. After dozens of regular sessions in which he and his therapist talked via text message, Cowley, now 49, is at last recovering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s amazing how a few words can change a life,” says Andrew Blackwell, chief scientific officer at Ieso, the UK-based mental health clinic treating Cowley. What’s crucial is delivering the right words at the right time. Blackwell and his colleagues at Ieso are pioneering a new approach to mental-health care in which the language used in therapy sessions is analyzed by an AI. The idea is to use natural-language processing (NLP) to identify which parts of a conversation between therapist and client—which types of utterance and exchange—seem to be most effective at treating different disorders. The NLP being used would operate something like sentiment analysis. The results from these findings could open up the door to much more effective, evidence based protocols and standards within psychotherapy. This type of research and rigor is crucial right now, when mental health issues are on the rise globally. As someone with a degree in psychology, I can state that I’ve never seen this type of a heavily data integrated approach to psychotherapy before and it gives me great hope for the discipline. → The therapists using AI to make therapy better | MIT Technology Review

Conversation

Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner writes about how Windows tries to get you to make Edge your default browser again through pop up windows once you’ve opted to change to another browser. Microsoft’s moves seem desperate. And familiar. It is clear they don’t want you to use other browsers. They even offer to pay you to use the browser via their Microsoft Rewards program. This is not the behavior of a confident company developing a superior browser. It’s the behavior of a company openly abusing its powerful position to push people to use its inferior product, simply because it can. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Can you say monopoly? Apparently, Microsoft isn’t worried about a repeat of its antitrust battles from the 90’s. Vivaldi just launched version 5.0 of their browser, featuring in-depth theme customization and robust translation options. → Microsoft back to its old tricks to get an edge on the competition. 

Conversation

Amazon employees yet again have reason to complain about their treatment from the company as it proposes reinstating a ban on worker’s cell phones in its warehouses. The employee perspective is that their phones can alert them to dangerous conditions, such as the tornado activity that ended up ripping apart an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, something that they don’t trust Amazon to do. The concerns about phone access highlight the deep distrust between executives who make rules focused on productivity and efficiency to gain a competitive advantage, and hourly front-line workers who often fear their safety is secondary to moving packages.  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man after Elon Musk, only fueled such feelings by spending the earlier part of Saturday celebrating a celebrity space launch by his company Blue Origin while emergency crews at the warehouse dug through rubble looking for bodies. Bezos eventually sent a couple of vague tweets pledging support for the employees in Edwardsville. → Deadly collapse at Amazon warehouse puts spotlight on phone ban - BNN Bloomberg

Conversation

America Defeated Itself

In America, those that lived during the time of World War II are often referred to as "The Greatest Generation." Their level of self-sacrifice and dedication to their country and to freedom around the world will long be remembered by history. They can tell their grandchildren stories of courage and coming together. By contrast, I wonder sometimes if I'll be telling my grandkids about the selfishness of this moment in American history. Instead of defeating multiple powerful enemies around the globe, we'll be talking about how we defeated ourselves. That thought really hit me hard when reading this piece from Elizabeth Bruenig, regarding the recent photos of politicians and their families proudly holding assault weapons in front of Christmas trees. I’m not triggered, as it were, by the mere sight of guns. And I tend toward the belief that there are so many guns in circulation and so risibly few politicians demonstrably invested in taking any kind of action on even meek and meager changes to gun policy that there’s not much point in talking about it anymore. Our own politicians are celebrating guns at Christmas mere days after a school shooting precipitated by the purchase of a handgun for the perpetrator as—yes—a Christmas gift. America armed its civilians with so many guns that it conquered itself. I guess this is defeat. Many knew that the ordinary, sane people who just want their kids to be able to be safe in schools had lost the battle after nothing was done following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Then-president Obama called that the angriest he had ever been as president. We've gone from inaction on the part of politicians to blatantly flaunting weapons with kids directly following another school tragedy. We went from those tragedies being outliers to being fairly commonplace. If a foreign enemy was killing our children in their schools, there would be outrage. We would vow to vanquish our foes. In our present situation, as Bruenig says, we allow or even architect our own defeat. Image Source: Jay Heike on Unsplash It looks like the Onion will be able to keep rerunning their famous satirical article, ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens from 2014. This piece will be evergreen because the situation won't change in America. Since part of our legislative branch of government seems to think it's their primary job to "trigger the libs," they will keep flaunting our loss. If America was a soccer team, this season would be littered with own goals.1 This is not a commentary on the actual USMNT. ↩︎

Conversation

I can definitely see myself using this JSON to SVG timeline plugin to track my medical history.

Conversation

🎵 Mariya Takeuchi "Plastic Love"

The song for this video is from 1984, but the video was shot just recently. Originally not a huge seller, "Plastic Love" by Mariya Takeuchi has been growing in popularity over the last 40 years. It fits in with the 80's Japanese genre, city pop, and has come to be a defining piece of that style of music. Jason Morehead describes city pop as "a slick blend of jazz, pop, and funk that emerged during Japan’s economic boom in the ’80s and celebrated an upscale, cosmopolitan lifestyle." I like to think of city pop as the cousin of sophisti-pop, which arose in the UK around the same time period, has the same elements of new wave, pop, jazz and soul and matches the polished to a sheen production. "Plastic Love" the song has all of the sonic staples that made Japan a neon-permeated fantasyland in the 80's. The video has the neon, but also a nod to the 70's (dig the disco ball) as well as a high-end contemporary feel to it.

Conversation

Endless Talk About The Culture War

Image source: Philipp Potocnik on Unsplash Alex Nowrasteh writes for Arc Digital on why there is so much culture war commentary ("from encoded presidential insults to drag queen story hour, Netflix comedy specials to baby books"). In short, because it's easy and cheap and pays big dividends. People love to read it for that confirmation bias rush and you don't have to be an expert in anything, such as science or politics. You don't even have to do research or risk getting called out for being wrong. This makes cultural commentary especially tempting for politicians. It saves them from actually having to talk about the details of their jobs or what they are doing for their constituents. Complaining about culture wars is easy for politicians because there’s little for them to do so they can’t be blamed for inaction. When Congress was debating the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion spending bill, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were busy reading Dr. Seuss because of a controversy over some of his books being racist and the publisher deciding not to publish them anymore. Writing mean tweets or hosting podcasts filled with culture war commentary counts as a substitute for “doing something,” whereas legislators used to be judged based on their lawmaking. Politicians aren't the only ones engaged in the cultural hot take trend, though. Journalists of all stripes, writing for a full spectrum of different audiences, have really taken up the format. Nowrasteh describes one particularly popular style of article that has been around for the last few years. Journalism and commentary also thrive on unconventional narratives that cultural commentary is well suited to produce. “This culturally innocuous thing is actually evil” is so ubiquitous that it should be its own genre with a specialized name. This genre (whatever you want to call it) has me wondering what this Christmas season's version of Don't Subject Your Kids to Rudolph is going to be. These stories are another version of the man bites dog aphorism in journalism. The phrase man bites dog is a shortened version of an aphorism in journalism that describes how an unusual, infrequent event (such as a man biting a dog) is more likely to be reported as news than an ordinary, everyday occurrence with similar consequences, such as a dog biting a man. It's not hard to write and back these pieces, because all they require is a knowledge of the cultural artifact, the shared accepted meaning behind that artifact and a different opinion. Some may roll their eyes, but it's hard to really contest such a piece in any real sense. Given the low-cost at which these articles can be tossed out, and the high rewards of readership, don't expect them to disappear anytime soon.

Conversation

Punishing Facebook

Image source: Thought Catalog via Unsplash Facebook has been outed in the US for its dishonorable practices, but what it’s done in this country is nothing compared to the damage it has caused in other parts of the world. One the places where it has helped to create a perfect storm of violence by radicalizing users against the minority Rohingya is the country of Myanmar. The platform spread information and hate speech that cost the lives of a targeted group of people. In 2018, Facebook essentially admitted to its role in the attacks carried out against the Muslim minority. Meta (Facebook) is now facing class action lawsuits in the US and the UK for its part in amplifying the violence in Myanmar. The total damages being sought by the plaintiffs are > $150 billion. “To maximise engagement, Facebook does not merely fill users' News Feeds with disproportionate amounts of hate speech and misinformation; it employs a system of social rewards that manipulates and trains users to create such content,” the plaintiffs wrote in the complaint. “At the core of this complaint is the realisation that Facebook was willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in Southeast Asia.” Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool and, in the hands of bad actors, can be a weapon against human flourishing. Too often, Facebook has refused to accept their power and chased profits over safety. Punitive monetary damages will send a message in a language that the company can understand. → Meta sued in excess of $150 billion for its role in Rohingya genocide | ZDNet Via @leo

Conversation

This post by Ted Gioia focuses on how musical innovations drove Silicon Valley. He details how HP was started to get better sound for the Disney film, Fantasia. Twelve special movie theaters were getting upgraded with special speakers for this music-driven film. Disney wanted to test the recording equipment and speakers in preparation for the Fantasia release, and hired Hewlett and Packard when they were still just freelancing engineers. The two entrepreneurs, exicted by the Disney deal, flipped a coin to decide the name of their new business—Hewlett won the toss, and got first billing. Gioia goes on to remind us that Steve Wozniak unsuccessfully pitched the personal computer to his employer, HP, five times before leaving to found Apple.

Conversation

Asymmetric Possibilities

Image source: Public Domain Review The other night, I was reading through the cover story for this month's issue of The Atlantic, The Bad Guys Are Winning by Anne Applebaum. I got to the part about Russia helping to provide the autocratic guidebook to Belarus' dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, in order to crush the protests in the country. I got this feeling in my core that I was at my limit of bad news for the day. This month's Atlantic is full of depressing material, including even a story about a boxer that killed another boxer in the ring and then resumed his career boxing (and was even directed by a Christian pastor to do so). I went upstairs and got on my iPad to check my email. I had a weekly article roundup message from the Matter service. The first story being promoted was called "The Case for Optimism." It struck me that this was exactly what I needed to be reading. I saved the article to Pocket to read later on my Kobo. It turned out the article was written by Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired Magazine, and a technology optimist. Kelly is also just a glass half-full guy in general. In the piece, that he wrote for Warp News, a few months back, he lays out his case for looking on the bright side. While I was reading the article, and before I had realized who Kelly was, I had a little skepticism about what he was writing. His projections for a better future were highly speculative, although they were based current and very possible upcoming technological advances. It reminded me a bit of those who predicted that the rise of computers and automation would give us humans more leisure time only to be proven not only wrong, but wrong in the completely opposite direction. As many an article has explored recently, we've mostly taken automation and efficiency and filled up whatever time it's given us often times with more ways to be available for work (though I am blessed to work for a company with a good culture around work/life balance). When I got to the end of the article, I read the bio and realized who it was that had written the piece. I wrote a blog post earlier this year about a wager that Kevin Kelly made years ago, based on similar technologically-driven optimism. When examining Kelly's claims now, it's important to remember that, after 25 years, the outcome of the wager was barely decided in Kelly's favor, despite the fact that his opponent, neo-Luddite Kirkpatrick Sale, had predicted nothing less than societal collapse. If that doesn't make you wary of accepting Kelly's claims uncritically, I don't know what would. Kelly makes prognostications such as ubiquitous AI replacing jobs that humans don't want to do, while humans are left for "innovation, entrepreneurship, art, caring, hospitality, science and discovery." We don't value those who make art, provide care and hospitality services now and I'm not sure how advances in AI are going to change that dynamic and mentality. He also mentions universal connectivity enabling cooperation at a scale never before possible. If something like Facebook is to be taken as an example of universal connectivity (and it probably should be, since it has the largest user base of any communications platform), then greater connectivity will lead to greater division and deception. I hate to be a downer and feed the stereotype of the pessimist that Kelly creates. It's hard not to be, though, because the techno-utopian dreams that have been constructed have gone so wrong. In the end, though, Kelly thinks we'll be able to solve the problems that have arisen from technological progress. We should be optimistic not because our problems are smaller than we thought, but because our capacity to solve them is larger than we thought. I would love to believe this overall premise, but it hasn't been born out by the events of the last few years. Even scientific miracles like hastily created mRNA vaccines can't succeed if the people involved in ensuring their success don't perform their part in that process. It seems as if technological advances of the last few years have only served to shine a spotlight on our broken humanity. None of what Kelly brings up convinces me that's going to change anytime soon. I'm glad that my hope does not stem from technology or people.

Conversation

Got the Micro.blog Orange plan and now I can edit replies within 24 hours of posting them.

Conversation

Work Drugs "Nervous Night"

Work Drugs bring their smooth yacht rock to this video of a girl wandering around a city. There are trips to the zoo, rides on public transport and shopping excursions. The full city tour culminates in a pleasant snow as the subject walks around with headphones on. She's in her own world with so many people around. It's the perfect picture of how everyone being lost in their heads makes a city so open to unimpeded ambulatory exploration. Pedestrians are just going about their business. The chorus is strong on this track, with the male/female vocals harmonizing really well. I love the way the female vocals trail those of the lead singer by just a bit. The lyrics are relatable, with "it's been another nervous night" capping out the chorus. Everyone knows how those nights feel.

Conversation

Spotify Envy

Around this time of year, people are always buzzing about their Spotify Wrapped playlists. They post screenshots of what songs are in them and discuss their year in music. I have to admit, as an Apple Music user, I get a bit jealous. The cool designs that go along with the Spotify Wrapped playlists are really well done and make you feel like this year-end ritual is something special. Chaim Gartenberg writes about Spotify's yearly celebration of your personal year in music for the Verge. 2021 is no exception, with Spotify offering what feels like its most lavish recaps yet. My wife (who is a Spotify user) spent the morning showing off her bespoke playlist to me, which included (among other things) specially curated songs for specific moods, rankings of where she placed among global Doja Cat listeners, a color-changing “audio aura,” and an interactive quiz. All of it is designed to be shared and shown off on other social media platforms. Gartenberg's tweet shows how left out he feels when he sees everyone else showing off their playlists and stats on social media. He goes into how easy it would be for Apple to do massive marketing for their music service by copying Spotify. Spotify in the Terminal Another reason I've been a bit green with envy for Spotify users: you can run Spotify in the terminal. Spotify around here, today… Thanks to Spotify TUI. maique madeira https://maique.eu/2021/12/02/spotify-around-here.html The bare text rendering looks especially fantastic with the Rigel theme. Apple Music I still love Apple Music, particularly for the way I can incorporate music that is not in the catalog from my own library. With some fairly esoteric music in my collection, this feature is invaluable. I can't help but look over the hedge at my neighbor's house, though. Especially since my son, who has Apple Music with our family subscription, still chooses to use the free version of Spotify with ads so he can see what his friends are listening to and display his "now playing" in a Discord chat. When someone prefers the free tier of one service over the paid tier of another, that's saying something.

Conversation

Years after writing it, I still get the once in a blue moon email about this post from someone who has found it online.

Conversation

Hub and spoke model of urban planning.

Conversation

“Waiting is the nurturing of a moment that holds a gift.” This first Sunday in Advent, we light the Hope candle. 🕯

Conversation

I was contacted by eBay, and they confirmed that the second buyer I had on my camp stove was another hacked account, just like the first. Something needs to be done about security on that platform.

Conversation

This week’s Friday night video is taken from a series of intimate live studio performances by Bathe Alone. It’s cool to see the track “Limbo” performed with a fleshed out band.

Conversation

I was enjoying posts from Paul Kingsworth, but he lost me after his anti-vaccine rant this week.

Conversation

Inoculation Station

Source:Wikimedia Commons Paul Kingsnorth kind of lost me on his anti-vaxxer rant this week. Did George Washington’s troops complain this bitterly about authoritarianism when he had them inoculated for small pox upon entering the Continental Army? My guess is that they probably didn’t, because they were fighting to be freed from actual authoritarianism. They had stared raw state power in the face and knew what it looked like and it wasn’t getting a jab (not this kind, anyway). Kingsnorth’s whole, long think piece is predicated on the assumption that getting the vaccine is about so much more than the vaccine itself. Going beyond the medical advice, which is hardly ever exactly perfect, and really getting at core divisions. Often, in an argument, what people think they are arguing about is not the real subject of disagreement, which is deeper and often unspoken, if it is even understood. So it is here. The divisions that have opened up in society about the covid vaccines are not really about the covid vaccines at all: they are about what vaccination symbolises in this moment. What it means to be ‘vaxxed’ or ‘unvaxxed’, safe or dangerous, clean or dirty, sensible or irresponsible, compliant or independent: these are questions about what it means to be a good member of society, and what society even is, and they are detonating like depth charges beneath the surface of the culture. Kingsnorth reveals he remains proudly unvaccinated. He works to layer meaning on top of meaning to get to his point about how dangerous a situation we are in (this article is labeled part 1, so there’s more coming). I have to wonder about this perspective, though. What if this isn’t encroaching authoritarianism (history of Austria and Germany aside)? What if it’s not even particularly egregious paternalism? What if it’s really just about getting a vaccination that gives you a better survival rate against a deadly disease? What if it’s just about coming together to mitigate a public health crisis in the best ways that we know how?

Conversation

A cool selection of Star Wars Wallpapers created by Virginia Poltrack. Source: birchbark.substack.com

Conversation

Capture + Find (+ Publish)

Ellane W. has a blog post on the capture and find methodology and implementing that with Drafts + Obsidian. She uses Drafts for capture and Obsidian for find. Capture In my comparison, Drafts is better for capture than any other apps. It’s the one tool that seems to be able to grab highlights, title and URL from a post in just about any app where you are reading (Pocket, Instapaper, Safari, etc.). You can then append that info to an existing note or create a fresh note. Drafts also excels at quickly getting in, jotting down some text and popping back out again. It has been compared to digital sticky notes and the comparison is fairly apt (with the exception of not being able to do cute little drawings). I remember reading a post from someone who setup a shortcut that, when he taps the back of his phone twice, automatically brings up a new draft page. Now that is easy capture. Find The find piece of the equation comes from Obsidian. Drafts plays nicely with Obsidian and even has a guide for getting setup to link the two apps. The two main actions that Ellane highlights “append text to your daily note” and “create a file anywhere in your Obsidian vault.” While Obsidian excels at storing information and becoming a digital garden, getting data in from other apps can be difficult, which is where Drafts well-thought-out integration comes into play. (I have been using the Things themes in both Drafts and Obsidian and that gives me a sense of consistency when jumping between the apps.) Publish The one step that is important to me that was left out of the process is the step to publish. If you want to publish directly from Obsidian, you have only two options (that I am aware of). You can publish using Obsidian’s own publish option. Or, if you are doing more traditional blogging, you can publish to Blot.im by sharing an Obsidian note to Dropbox. Blot also supports wiki style links, so it is really ideal if you are using Obsidian as the hub of your model. However, if you want to publish to other blogging engines, you have a couple of options. You can post straight from Drafts, which supports most services. In that case, you just change your posting action in Drafts not to default to “archive,” once the post is made. You then use one of the actions to send to Obsidian and archive. In the case of a blog post, you would most likely use the action to send the note to an Obsidian folder. The other way you can publish is to handoff the note to another app to take care of that piece of the process. For instance, you can share to iA Writer. If you are using Ulysses, you can hook up an external folder, which could be the one you use in Obsidian to store blog posts, and publish straight from there. The publish part of this process allows for the most flexibility and choice of tools.

Conversation

Medium.com is a hot mess right now. All of the gamification and financial incentives to attract followers has overwhelmed their recommendation algorithm. Unless you want to read about how to make money on Medium, there is almost no reason to browse there.

Conversation

Kessler Syndrome

I remember a time, not long ago, when we laughed at the introduction of Space Force from then-president Donald Trump. It was easy to jest, with the name that itself sounded like a parody, coming from a president that never could quite get anything real done. Of course, some of us remember “Star Wars,” the space missile shield that president Reagan made up to psych-out the Soviets. Decades of science fiction speculation haven’t quite turned out the way they were depicted. None of us are using jet packs to get to work and we haven’t colonized the moon or Mars. We’ve been conditioned to be skeptical about outlandish sounding initiatives involving space. A lot has gone on in space in the last 50 years, though. Despite that progress, not the least of which has been the incredible proliferation of satellites that we’ve quickly come to depend on, the last rules of engagement were set in the sixties, according to this cover story in Harper’s, which makes predictions about the coming battle for space. The Washington Post reports on the recent destruction of one of their own satellites by the Russians. Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed in a statement that it “successfully conducted a test, as a result of which the inactive Russian spacecraft Tselina-D, which has been in orbit since 1982, was hit.” But the ministry said the test “did not and will not post a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that the U.S. claim “that Russia poses risks to activities for the peaceful use of outer space is, to say the least, hypocrisy.” He said it’s the Americans who have ignored proposals from Russia and China on arms regulation in space. That hardly sounds like a friendly exchange. It makes you think we may need a Space Force sooner rather than later. The risks are not all military, though. Clive Thompson writes about a prediction, called Kessler Syndrome, made over 40 years ago about orbiting debris (the kind made by the Russian strike).1 Back in 1978, the astrophysicist Donald Kessler made an alarming prediction: Space junk could wreck our ability to keep satellites aloft. The Russian action created 1500 detectable pieces of debris and many more smaller pieces. With this kind of junk piling up, Thompson notes, we could end up with a planetary ring of garbage like the one depicted in Wall-E. That situation would be very dangerous for satellites because even small debris hurdling through space at high velocity can cause significant damage. If satellites were taken out, civilization could have a serious and rapid regression. _It looks like it’s time to start paying sustained attention to space again. _ It’s worth noting that the US and China tested similar strikes on their own satellites in the aughts. ↩︎

Conversation

Snickers the cat likes to hide behind Henry Tudor’s girth.

Conversation

Any attempt to stop my wife from putting up the Christmas tree today would be completely futile. 🎄

Conversation

Weezer “Take On Me”

On the Weezer appreciation scale, I’m at the end next to Leslie Jones character in the infamous SNL dinner time fight skit. I appreciated the first two albums, went to see them on those tours and then they lost me after their return from hiatus. However, I do consider them to be an amazing cover band. Their “Teal Album” of takes on the classics brings me joy. I especially like how the vocals are handled on “Take On Me.” The video stars Finn Wolfhard as a young Rivers Cuomo, rocking out in his living room. It’s chock full of clever 80’s nostalgia and also manages to fit in a proper homage to the animation from the original video.

Conversation

eBay Has Become The Pirate Bay

Source: Wikimedia Commons Over the years, I’ve had three eBay ID’s. eBay used to allow logins from a single-sign on provider at some point (though I can’t remember which) and I used that. Then they removed that feature and I had to change my ID. I made several transactions under the new ID. Now, a few years later, eBay will no longer recognize that ID and I had to create a new one. What is the problem with a new ID, you ask? New ID’s start with a 0 rating. I didn’t think that was such a big deal, until I started to trying to sell with it. The first offer I had on a camp stove popped up for the asking price as soon as I listed it. Needless to say, I was pleased. Once the sale occurred, the buyer messaged me that he had questions and wanted me to text him. I thought it was strange, because normally questions are asked before a purchase. However, the buyer had a good rating, so I reached out over text. He asked me about the condition of the item (it was brand new, as the listing indicated). He also wanted more pictures but there was really nothing more to give him. He said he was going to pay via PayPal, but wanted the item shipped to his cousin as a present. I was willing to ship the item wherever. Then he started asking me to buy $400 in gift cards to put in the box and that he would cover the expense plus extra for gas and hassle. Red flags were going up all over the place. I told him no and contacted eBay. They did an investigation. It turned out the legitimate account had been hacked and someone was using it to scam people. The account was returned to its rightful owner and I was told that the transaction had been canceled. I had to go through and relist the item again (I was surprised eBay didn’t do that automatically). The next time I listed the item, it went through a week without any bids, at which time eBay automatically lowered the price a bit (which is a cool feature). Almost immediately after it was lowered, I had a bid for the asking price. I accepted right away. Almost as quickly, I had a message from the buyer that he had a question and wanted me to text him. I replied that I would answer any questions over the eBay messaging system. I got another message that was the same as the first. I let a couple of days go by, and with no other word, called eBay. They told me to cancel the sale and confirmed my suspicion that scam artists were on the lookout for sellers with low ratings. I asked how I’m supposed to sell in that environment, but the support rep had no response to my question. I’m not sure how people would get started selling on eBay at this point, being at the mercy of successive scammers. I’ve heard Craig’s List referred to as “Flake’s List,” so I’m not sure things are better over there. Where are people selling online these days, I wonder?

Conversation

Learning Prayer From Cartoon Bears

When my oldest was younger, we used to read a Berenstain Bears book about prayer. While the books about these anthropomorphic bears are designed to be simple lessons for kids, the particular angles in this book struck me deeply. The take on prayer was nuanced and mature. In the book The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers, Brother Bear is on the same baseball team with his devout cousin, Fred. When they face a particularly tough team with an intimidating player, Fred prays before he pitches to a hitter they refer to only as “The Beast.” To Brother’s astonishment, Fred strikes out The Beast. When brother inquires as to how he did it, Fred talks about his pre-pitch prayer. Brother tries to imitate Fred when he is up as hitter, and prays for a hit. Unfortunately for Brother, and as a blow to his faith, he strikes out. After the incident, he talks again with Fred about prayer. Fred asks what he prayed for, and Brother tells him his supplication was for a hit. When Brother asked Fred what he prayed for he reveals that he simply prayed not to be scared. It’s hard to know what providence has in store and I suspect Cousin Fred is onto something. If we pray for something very specific, we are taking a chance in praying for something God doesn’t have planned for us. I believe in the power of prayer to move the heart of God. I also believe that God has a plan for our lives and that our prayers should be in alignment with His will for us. That can be hard to know, so sometimes prayers of supplication are just for strength to keep going in order to see what God has set in front of us next. Fast forward a few years. My son is growing up, working diligently on school projects and just went to his first rock show at a club. He doesn’t read Berenstain Bears anymore. In point of fact, sadly, he doesn’t read any books. Perhaps more disappointing, he doesn’t seem to have internalized the lessons on prayer taught in Sunday school, confirmation class or by the anthropomorphic bears. It can be hard to get him to pray, even when he’s struggling. I wish that he could remember Cousin Fred and his example of prayer to know that it can be effective by putting us in touch with a loving God who wants us to live into the challenges set before us.

Conversation

Paying For The Product

Cory Doctorow has made himself an expert on digital privacy. This essay is mainly about surveillance capitalism and Doctorow uses Vizio as a negative example. When he takes on the now old adage, “if you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product,” his insight really resonates. In the simplistic account of what many call “surveillance capitalism,” the original sin was swapping our attention for free content, summed up in the pithy phrase, “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product. I used to subscribe to the idea behind this phrase and repeated it often. It was a go to critique for the Facebook model. Unfortunately, I was never fully taking into account income inequality. “Paying for the product” isn’t just hollow, it’s actively harmful. Under conditions of gross inequality and high levels of debt, “paying for the product” excludes those who lack the means to pay from access to the digital world. If Facebook charged for access, people who couldn’t afford it wouldn’t dig a hole and pull the dirt in over themselves. They’d land on a billionaire-subsidized platform – a social media version of Prageru – where moderators would delete comments that criticized corporate power. This is even worse than widely recognized issues like, “The truth is paywalled and the lies are free.” Two things really brought this issue front and center for me: The rise in popularity of the subscription model. Apps, publications and services have gone all in on this model and for many of us, there’s only so much we can pay on a recurring basis. Loss in income. When your take home goes down, you start to question all of your expenses, and value the items for which you’ve already fully paid and therefore own. I’m now in agreement with Doctorow. The mentality of having to pay for every product to gain the entitlement not to be exploited as “the product” has to go.

Conversation

Nice to see Twitter following through on its promise to decentralize with a more open API.

Conversation

Ever since I started trying to post to Micro.blog with Ulysses, I have had all kinds of bugs. Double posts, posts not appearing, etc.

Conversation

Just on the heels of my posting of an old iPod Sock sitting in my dresser drawer, Basic Apple Guy has a piece on the similar AirPod Beanies.

Conversation

It has been a long time, my old friend.

Conversation

Everyday Radicalism

Does calling our actions “radical” or “revolutionary” make us feel better about ourselves? Source: Unsplash.com B.D McClay points out how everything we do is being reframed as political. Rest is a radical act. Cooking is a revolutionary act. Joy is an act of resistance. Savoring a pleasant moment is a radical act. Excellence is an act of resistance, but so is procrastination. Being thankful is — you guessed it — a radical act. Reading is a radical act. Ted Lasso is not, itself, a radical act, but it does provide “radical optimism,” which is almost as good. These are descriptions culled from a variety of sources, from Apartment Therapy to the New York Times. The verdict is in: the most radical thing you can do is probably the thing you were going to do already. McClay goes on to point out that actions can have their own intrinsic rewards. You don’t have to couch them in the language of revolution to enjoy them without guilt. The things that are typically the building blocks of our everyday lives are not, in essence, revolutionary. Reading will not cause you to wind up in jail. There are still enough books being sold to assure us that reading is not a radical act and still being done by a decent percentage of the population. It may be countercultural to read instead of binging the latest Netflix series, but it’s hardly radical. The primary definition of radical from Merrium-Webster: Radical: very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary Counterculture You are not going to become a revolutionary because you are thankful, or because you brush your teeth or savor a pleasant moment. However, in following some traditions, while they may not be radical, may be make you countercultural in contemporary Western society. In my bio for Medium, I mention “Christianity as counterculture.” What I’m referring to are practices like observing the Sabbath (through rest and worship). I used to go to Trader Joe’s on my way back from church on Sundays. A sizable number of people there were in workout gear. To say our physical health is more important to us than our spiritual health these days would be to state the obvious. Therefore, Sabbath observance, once upon a time effectively enforced by the laws of the land, is now countercultural. It’s not radical, though. I think too many writers are missing the difference. Counterculture: a culture with values and mores that run counter to those of established society Calling Actions Radical Makes Them Sound More Noble I recently came across a piece for the NYT titled Divorce Can Be An Act of Radical Self-Love. I’ll set aside the many problems with the piece and focus on the title and premise. In many instances, divorce can be an act of self-love. You don’t get to call something roughly half of the married population do “radical,” though. It may make your self-serving actions sound better intentioned than they really are, but that’s simply a semantic trick. Articles like these are diminishing the word certainly of its usefulness and probably of its very meaning. At least when “radical” was slang in the eighties, it meant something was extraordinarily cool. Even then, it wasn’t so brutishly abused as it is now.

Conversation

🎵 Munya “Voyage”

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Quebec artist MUNYA and her upcoming album, Voyage to Mars. MUNYA just released a new track off the album, the disco-inflected “Voyage” and filmed a video to go with it. In the video, lots of construction is going on, but the viewer is never really given a total picture of what is being built. It’s almost as if she’s creating something that can never be completed. The lyrics repeated over and over in the chorus may speak something to this. All my life, all the dreams I’ll never forget about you. In the place of completion, there’s a sense of loss. Accompanying that sense of loss is the drive to move on. Perhaps a resignation over a relationship that’s never going to work out. Voyage to Mars by MUNYA is out today, 11/12.

Conversation

We now have billionaires deciding whether to pay taxes to the government based on rudimentary Twitter sentiment analysis.

Conversation

🎵 Dave Depper “Lonely With You”

Emotional Freedom Technique by Dave Depper I had never heard of Dave Depper before this week, but I’m glad to make his musical acquantance via a new cover of Air’s Moon Safari album. After hearing the announcement of his upcoming album via Turntable Kitchen (which I referred to as “seemingly abandoned” less than a month ago), I checked out his back catalog. Although he plays keyboards in Death Cab For Cutie, you would be hard to find the connection in most of his music.1 The track I’ve selected to share, “Lonely With You,” is a modern R&B indie slow jam with… pedal steel. The novelty gives me a dopamine rush. With the obvious exception of the vocals on some of the tracks, which have a very Gibbstack vibe. ↩︎

Conversation

The little guy did American Gothic as Minecraft.

Conversation

On the iA blog, Oliver Reichenstein argues that apps are more like coffee makers than the cups of coffee to which they are always related. If there is a valid coffee comparison it’s the coffee maker. Productivity apps are not consumed. Productivity apps are tools. They help you make things. Great apps help you make nice things. Pro apps help you make pro things. How could a text editor compete with an espresso machine? Since I don't buy a daily cup of coffee, I never got the frequent comparison of subscription prices to cups of coffee. It's overused and doesn't provide context for many people. I think the suggestion that a writing app is equivalent to a coffee maker is a better analogy. Which ultimately means, a piece of software makes more sense with a perpetual license like that which is employed with iA Writer.

Conversation

On the post rock blog, A Closer Listen, Richard Allen reviews the new Hammock album, Elsewhere. I’m looking forward to giving the album an intentional listen, when I have a chance. The songs are shorter, relative to those on other Hammock releases, so hopefully finding the time to give them attention should be less difficult. Allen calls out an excerpt from the liner notes on how the music approaches life. But as Wyatt Marshall writes in the liner notes, the duo encourages listeners to “live their lives” in whatever condition, battered or blessed, they may be. Hammock neither shies from the pain of the world nor offers a simple solution. They imply that the ways out may include forward, sideways, or through, but never backward or standing still. Hope is hard work. With all of the upheaval we are going through now, Allen recognizes that Hammock’s transcendent music can be a balm for our souls.

Conversation

I like Derek Sivers practice of keeping plain text topic journals. I think I’m going to try doing this in Obsidian, though I doubt I’ll have as many as topics as Sivers does. Via @ridwan.

Conversation

🎮 It’s a pleasant little hamlet.

Conversation

Just hacked my Kobo to allow me to export highlights to a text file. My workflow is feeling much better for the change.

Conversation

🎵 Colatura “At The Met”

I realize that I posted a video from Colatura not long ago, but the second single off of their debut is as winsome as the first and it seemed like an opportunity wasted not to share it. “Some days, crowded spaces feel lonely, some days they feel okay.” It may not be the most profound lyric ever written, but it carries with it some truth that all of us have felt.

Conversation

Terence Sweeney writes for Plough magazine about how the saints have lost relevance in our lives as he remembers the book of saints he had as a child. That is, alas, where we put saints’ lives when we become adults. The saints are irrelevant, eccentric, and imprudent. They are seemingly impossible guides for living in what W. H. Auden calls “the moderate Aristotelian city.” Francis of Assisi stripping bare in the streets, Augustine rejecting Roman wealth and power, Rose of Lima living a life of penance, Damien of Molokai living among the lepers, and Dorothy Day residing with Bowery bums and advocating for a society that won’t need soup kitchens. As the not-yet-canonized Dorothy Day put it, “Don’t call me a saint, I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” What Day put her finger on is a deep scandal in the life of the church. To be declared a saint is to be relegated to children’s books, to be petrified on a pedestal, to be treated as irrelevant to our actual lives. Sweeney advocates for us becoming more like the saints, radical in leaving our footprint and that of the Spirit in the world. “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words,” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.1 What does that look like, though, for each one of us? → Irrelevant Saints | Plough Though it is not found among his writings. ↩︎

Conversation

The Atlantic is buying up popular Substack writers and including their newsletters as part of your subscription. I’m now subscribed to three of the nine newsletters.

Conversation

Likes and Easy Feedback

How do you signal appreciation? Source: Unsplash.com There has been a fair amount of debate recently about the utility of being able to “like” posts on social sites. Specifically, this has come up in the form of discussion around the photo sharing site, Glass, and their decision to eschew ways to “like” a post. Although likes are standard throughout social media sites, the idea to exclude them is not new. As I mentioned in this post, it’s one of the design principles that Glass follows that already existed on Micro.blog. Low-cost approval Some folks want an easy way of indicating enjoyment of a particular post. Unpopular opinion in the micro.blog (and maybe the broader indieweb community), but I agree Glass, and other social systems, should have likes. They can be private, and they don’t have to feed an algorithm. But I would love a low friction indication of being seen and appreciated. Jason Becker https://json.blog/2021/10/04/unpopular-opinion-in.html I have had the same thought as Becker. For example, if I post a collage on Instagram, and it gets 14 likes (some from friends and family and some from total strangers that dig collages), it feels more rewarding than when I post it on my blog and I get no responses. However, are the likes from friends and family just obligatory and reflexive? It’s hard to be sure. The feedback isn’t three dimensional, it doesn’t have much weight and it’s low quality. There’s no indication of what the person likes. It takes approximately one second to hit that heart button, so if people can do it while flying through a timeline, it can be difficult to know if they really spent any time looking at the post. The shame of no responses There are negative sides to even positive reinforcement mechanisms. What if no one responds to the post? It has been widely reported that teenage girls will delete Instagram posts when they don’t get enough likes within a certain time period. The absence of feedback can become a void. A self-critical voice then fills the void. Despite much being made of Instagram’s negative effect on the mental health, we have to remember that much of the material from the studies that show this are based on subjective self-reporting. 1 Even subjective feelings of well-being represent valuable data, though. After all, we can’t usually objectively know how someone is feeling unless they tell us.2 We now have subjective pain ratings to render feelings as objectively as we can. When even positive feedback is unwanted In 2018, David Heinemeier Hanson, from Basecamp, wrote about how even good feedback can be problematic. It’s the long-term exposure that does the harm. It’s the building of a tolerance. The cultivation of vanity. It’s not the first hit, but the forty-fifth. It was a week’s worth of abstinence from Twitter and Instagram that brought about this reflection. It felt liberating. Liberating not to play to a crowd with the power to instantly judge the performance. Liberating to be free from the likes, the hearts, and those flattering comments. He discusses the cycle of getting habituated to likes and then craving them and constantly checking for signs of approval. Eventually, the impetus to write is to get positive reinforcement. It doesn’t have to be the case that authentic writing suffers for this, but most of the time, that would be the end result of reorienting your goals purely to satisfy your audience. One idea that buttresses David’s post is that Basecamp’s blogging solution, Hey World, doesn’t have these problems.3 The only way to comment on a post is to email the author. Nothing is public, so the performative aspect of commenting is absent. I will note that not all of us have the problem David has where we get too much good feedback and have to run and take shelter, lest it swell out heads. While his choice to forego praise seems sensible enough for him, and perhaps helps him stay focused, I’m not sure it’s right for the rest of us. Occasionally, it’s nice to know that someone is reading what we write. That includes the studies that Facebook has been so jealously guarding. The validity is questionable. ↩︎ Unless there are obvious behavioral changes. ↩︎ Hey World had not yet been created at the time of the post, but was obviously heavily influenced by thoughts contained within. ↩︎

Conversation

Jonas Ellison on how we act more Christian on Halloween than on Christmas. During Christmas, we invite our personal favorite people into the confines of our home. But on Halloween, we’re out on front porches, stoops, and yards. Property lines are dissolved and everyone is welcome everywhere (well, there are always those few who turn their lights off on Halloween, but they have their own stuff going on). This definitely sparked some thinking. Jesus talks a lot about who is invited to the banquet and Ellison’s short analysis seems to work along those lines. → Why Halloween is more Christian than Christmas 

Conversation

Back when 7 inches of vinyl would cost you less than 3 bones.

Conversation

Charlotte Bismuth on taking a sabbatical from social media. My eyes are no longer accustomed to the stillness of life. Sitting at my desk, in my NYC bedroom, I’m looking out at the building next door. Its rectangular windows are shaped like my cell phone screen, and during the first few days of my social media break, I almost expected them to scroll or fill with images. But they are fixed in brick. It’s an adjunct building for a hospital — I think it contains some labs and offices — so there’s barely ever any movement or change. Seeking movement and distraction, my eyes flit around my desk and room, resisting focus. I’ve had that feeling, like my eyes are scrolling in some sort of mild nystagmus. It always reminds me that it’s time to get off Twitter. → Adjusting to Real Life After Social Media | Medium.com

Conversation

I had no idea there was a recipe markup language called CookLang.

Conversation

🎵 Wild Nothing - A Dancing Shell

This week's Friday Night Video is a bit older but it's one that reminds me of how Jack Tatum can step outside of the usual Roxy Music joins the Cure playing Fleetwood Mac sound. I haven't heard anything from Tatum in a while, and, while this isn't a particularly representative sample of his work, it feels good to boost Wild Nothing anyway. When I first listened to this tune, I thought Talking Heads, and I wasn't the only one. I played it right after "This Must Be The Place" by the Heads when I DJ'ed at a hackathon a couple of years ago. The video takes 80's abstraction to another level and could easily be a Talking Heads concept from that time period.

Conversation

I was sad to have to part with this pinball machine, which I had for 26 years, but I’m glad it has a good new home.

Conversation

Common Sense Violence

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Apple TV+ series Foundation, as well as some graphic depictions of violence, both real and fictional. My wife and I started watching the new Apple TV+ sci-fi series Foundation last weekend. The trailer for the show promised exciting visuals and an intriguing plot. The review from the site Common Sense Media was mostly very positive. The write-up on the show focused quite a bit on the show's diverse cast and little on the violence. The quick summary on the site encapsulates their review well: "Cerebral sci-fi drama has diversity, some violence." Representation is important, but I'm ashamed that we've become so saturated in violence that we consider the level this show contains barely worth mentioning. Fictional violence In the universe of Foundation, a powerful empire rules over many planets. In a scene from episode two, we are shown how the empire responds to acts of terrorism. They find scapegoats for the act and target vengeance upon token individuals from the scapegoated populations in a town square setting. The indviduals are masked and made to stand on the edge of a building rooftop with a neuse tied around their necks. Each faceless character was kicked off of a roof to hang by their surely broken necks. The show wasn't shy about stretching this out, showing each individual being kicked off one a time and their dead body twisting in the wind. It was reminiscent of what Saddam Hussein used to do with people that he wanted to eliminate. While this was happening, weapons of mass destruction were being deployed on the entire populace of two planets, while their ambassadors wailed and screamed at the fate of their fellow citizens back home. During the incredibly visceral ordeal, crowds, shown on the balconies of their spartan apartments, cheered in triumph. What made the scene even worse for the viewer was knowing that the people being punished were not guilty of any wrongdoing, but were simply the targets in an exercise of force. They were victims of an act of genocide for show. When the show was over, a traumatized boy is brought over to the hanging dead bodies. He asks if they ever handle these situations differently and is told no. Violence in television and movies has become so mainstream that even sites specifically created to surface it aren't up to the job. In the same episode, we see one of the protagonists brutally stabbed to death by his protege, his life blood oozing across the floor. The murder is done with no context, and is shocking. The frantic scene that follows gives no more information on why the murder happened. The viewer is left, potentially emotionally damaged, all in the service of trying to squeeze a cliffhanger in to draw people into the next episode. It's crass and manipulative. Real-life violence When I was in the eleventh grade, I lived in Albuquerque, NM, which was, at the time, second in the nation in gang activity. It could be a rough place and in high school, you learned to keep your head low (literally, lest someone you looked in the eyes think you were mad dogging them). The high school I went to was the same high school that Neil Patrick Harris attended, though he was two years ahead of me and graduated the year before I was there. That same year, a boy from the school was killed in the parking lot because he had allegedly said something bad about his murderer. I only heard stories, but I'm sure Harris remembers the incident, which would have happened when he was a senior. The part that disturbed me most about the stories that I heard was that a crowd had gathered around the conflict and were chanting, "kill him." I can never get that out of my mind. The bloodlust of the crowd depicted in Foundation brought back for me the ugly reality of human nature. When sense is no longer common This show and its evaluation on Common Sense Media shows that I can no longer rely on that site for giving reliable information with which to judge whether a show is too violent (for me, or my kids). Violence in television and movies has become so mainstream that even sites specifically created to surface it aren't up to the job. It's frightening what that says about us.

Conversation

TCD (Total Cost of Dishonesty)

How much are the rest of us impacted by the lack of honesty from others? Source: Unsplash.com Years ago, I had a bad experience post-surgery when my wisdom teeth were taken out. A couple of days after the procedure, I ruptured a blood vessel in my gum. I spent all night spitting out blood into a bucket. I stuffed tea bags into my mouth, hoping the tannin would stop the bleeding. It didn't. As soon as the morning came, I phoned my oral surgeon and told him in some graphic detail of my plight. He seemed annoyed at my sense of urgency, but agreed to meet me as soon as his office opened for the day. When I got to the office, the doctor seemed surprised. "You really are bleeding!" I reminded him that I had mentioned that on the phone. "Yeah, but everybody says that," he told me. He stitched me up and left me to ride out the next several days feeling like someone was trying to rip the jaw off of my face. The experience left me wondering how people who are honest are impacted by the dishonesty of others. The surgeon had openly admitted to taking my claim less seriously because his experience had taught him that people often exaggerate the state of post-surgery complications. I was able to get the care I needed, but are there situations where appropriate medical care is not received, because the care provider doesn't understand the severity of the case at hand. I imagine this could come into play in an emergency care environment where triage is being done. In such an environment, the order in which people get care is critical. What if someone is not believed, and they don't get the care they need in time to prevent further escalation of a health issue? Or worse, what if there are additional complications because the patient did not get attention quickly enough? There are times when this dynamic comes into play and we don't even realize it. We can't always know when people are being dismissive, and, even if it's obvious, we don't always know why. An obvious case came up again recently in my life, though. I was trying to sell a pinball machine. The guy who was attempting to line up a buyer was helping me price the sale, sight unseen. He tried to talk me down from my original price, even though I told him the machine was in good condition and completely in working order. The attempt to talk me down wasn't coming from self-interest, because he wasn't going to be buying the machine. He was just trying to help me come to a reasonable price at which the machine would sell fairly quickly. When the individual who was helping me by acting as the middleman came to assess the machine, he expressed surprise that it was in such good condition. I mentioned that I had told him it was in good shape and he responded that everyone says that. It struck me as another situation where those of us trying to be honest are saddled with expectations that other people who are less scrupulous have set. In discussing this with someone else, I was reminded that, in these instances, people may not necessarily be dishonest, but may simply not have the knowledge to best described their experiences. That seems right for some people, and probably not for others. I'm really concerned with the others, where I think distrust becomes transitive and affects the people who don't do anything to court it.

Conversation

Sea Green Serenade

Our Daily Bread has an insightful lesson on Psalm 77, in which Asaph unloads his anguish onto God. Asaph has been praying for God to help him in his distress, but is not seeing the fruits of his prayer made manifest. He wonders if God no longer hears him or has changed from the gracious God that Asaph knew in former days. I cry out loud to God— out loud to God so that he can hear me! During the day when I’m in trouble I look for my Lord. At night my hands are still outstretched and don’t grow numb; my whole being refuses to be comforted. (Psalm 77:1-2, CEB) In the lesson, the Ray Stedman makes the somewhat radical argument that prayer is not the first thing we should do when in trouble. After all, God is not a vending machine in the sky, where you press the button for the item you want and receive it. Stedman notes the diminishing faith in Asasph when his prayers go unanswered. In his desperate situation, Asasph does not eventually receive hope through prayer, but through meditation on the very character of God. By the end of the chapter he is singing praises about the nature of God. Stedman concludes that we start not first with prayer, but with meditation on the immutable character of God.

Conversation

Maria Popova can make even a post about changing the name of her blog into something incredibly poetic.

Conversation

You Are Not Your Own

The radio started when I turned on the ignition. NPR was playing from when my wife drove the car before me. A guy was shrilly complaining about filling out paperwork for getting a vasectomy and being told that his wife also had to sign. He was livid and kept yelling, “this is my fertility!” The interviewer was gamely playing along, perhaps even as convinced as vasectomy man that his autonomy had indeed been violated. The man being interviewed went on to state that he had an epiphany come from this experience. “This is what women have to go through every day!” he forcefully exclaimed to the interviewer, as if a bolt of lightning had struck him from out of the blue. The man on NPR was seemingly oblivious to the nature of marriage as a social contract between two individuals. It’s not a stretch to say that choices of reproduction are some of the most central decisions within this contract. To enter into a covenant relationship, in which two people very often decide to have children, and to exclude your spouse from that decision without their knowledge is a breach of that covenant. The man was perfectly comfortable being dishonest with his spouse (and seemingly, the interviewer was sympathetic to this stance), as long as everything was within his control. He didn’t understand that the partnership of marriage means ceding some control to the relationship, through communication and mutual agreement. In Alan Noble’s new book, You Are Not Your Own, he takes on the problems caused by worshipping autonomy. From this inauspicious start until today, “humanity’s fundamental rebellion against God has been a rebellion of autonomy,” writes Alan Noble in his latest book, You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World. As the subtitle suggests, Noble’s premise is that modern society is fundamentally inhuman and that this inhumanity stems from the lie that we belong to ourselves. Like Adam and Eve, we believe that accepting our creaturely limits will likewise limit our happiness, so we reject God’s authority and end up experiencing what they did: distance from God, each other, and even ourselves. → The Inhuman Consequences of Satan’s Oldest Lie I’m eager to dive into Noble’s book, as I firmly believe the desire for autonomy that conquers natural law and community is a destructive force in contemporary society. When we speculate about the reasons for worsening divisions between people and mental health problems reaching a new high, we have cause to look at trying to decouple ourselves from anything that might anchor us. We can’t pull up our own roots because we feel like they are tethering us to the ground and expect to thrive.

Conversation

From the review of Jonathan Franzen’s new book, Crossroads: Franzen knows better than anyone that even a pinprick on the map can swell into a spiritual universe—yet he has always had trouble resisting the allure of the sweeping systems novel, set everywhere and, therefore, nowhere. (Emphasis mine.) → Jonathan Franzen’s Best Book Yet | The Atlantic

Conversation

Curators Gain A New Power

As so much on the internet now is locked behind paywalls, there is a new opportunity for curators. Many subscription-based publications now allow their subscribers to share links that give full access to a particular piece. The subscriber can then post a link on social media, giving their followers access to the article and, at the same time, the publication gets to advertise to a new potential subscriber.1 This gives another tool to the curator, who can not only recommend writing, but can also give the reader access they might not have had without following the curator. This new system feels almost necessary when so many publications are putting their work behind paywalls. It’s a different landscape for those following the news on the internet than it was just a few years ago. The curator’s primary advantage is taking a large chunk of the information that’s out there and distilling it down to the best content. This was disrupted by the fact that paywalls that were put up by some of the top publications prevented the curator’s followers from accessing it. Now that many of those publications allow access through sharing, the value that the curator provides increasingly important. For someone who uses this new power to the reader’s advantage, checkout [Dave Pell’s NextDraft][2]. Pell bills himself as the “editor of the internet” and does an excellent job summarizing the day’s interesting news. Now, if only Substack would catch onto this. [2]: https://nextdraft.com/ ↩︎

Conversation

Rick Astley and the Blossoms "Well I Wonder"

Rick Astley and the Blossoms have been on a nostalgia trip lately. They’re not reminiscing about old Astley tunes, though. They’ve dug into the Smiths catalog for what amounts to the creation of a tribute band to the Morrissey/Marr collaboration. The Guardian has details on the collaborative effort, which is appropriately reverent. I love this cover of “Well I Wonder,” a sort of deep cut from Meat Is Murder and what is one of my favorite songs by the Smiths. Astley and his band mates do a meticulous job staying faithful to the original, including even the rain samples at the end that enhance the somber mood of the song.

Conversation

I’m really looking forward to reading the new book by Alan Noble.

Conversation

A colleague and friend gave me this painting that she did. It looks fantastic in my dining room.

Conversation

Do you write using the printer method or the pixel method?

Conversation

Sunday morning newspaper.

Conversation

It's Hard to Beat Amazon

As regular readers will know, I’ve been trying to rely less on Amazon and branch out into other retail spaces. I have written about the reasons previously, so there is no sense in rehashing those. What I want to impart is how difficult it is to get out of the Amazon ecosystem. Simply put, Amazon is just better than other retailers. There are reasons they are as successful as they are, and other companies have trouble matching their level of service. As an example, I have been looking for Borax recently, so I can whip up my own ant killer concoction.1 I have searched the big box home improvement stores and none of the close locations have the product. So, I find myself back to Amazon. I had to order a track for the folding doors in my laundry closet. Again, none of the home improvement stores had the size I needed. Back to Amazon. I thought the easiest way to break from Amazon would be through the ebook market. After all, ebooks are easy to deliver, and you don’t get any benefits from Amazon’s massive supply chain with those products. I found out that Rakuten Kobo has some benefits over the Kindle. It has built-in Overdrive and Pocket integration. The Kindle doesn’t have those kinds of features. For Amazon, the main objective of selling the Kindle, is to sell you ebooks. They’re not really as concerned about you getting other types of content that sit outside of their core business on the device. So, I ordered the new Kobo Libre 2, which ships 10/19. After trying out Pocket for a while, I realized that it will very soon become inferior to the other read-it-later services in the pipeline. I already prefer Instapaper because it has much better options for exporting highlights. With Matter doing a soft launch and Readwise’s solution just around the corner, I’m not sure I want to get locked into Pocket. I realized that, for now, I can get by with my Kindle. So I initiated a cancellation of my order with Rakuten. I had to chat with a customer service representative to do it. He let me know that he would have to escalate to a different team to cancel the order. He couldn’t give me a time frame for the refund, but assured me he would email when it was done. After waiting out the day, I decided to call. I was given the same response by the customer service agent on the phone. I let him know that it was unusual to be charged on PayPal before an order was even fulfilled and that it’s also unusual to have to work with multiple teams to get a cancelation on an order. He was unmoved, but very enthusiastically let me know that they would get the refund done ASAP and email me. The process of getting a refund from Rakuten reminded me of why Amazon dominates so many markets. Can you imagine having to work with multiple teams to cancel an Amazon order of something they didn’t have in stock yet? I’ve never had issues with Amazon refunds._ The process is simple._ Until other companies get that laser focus on customer experience and the technical and logistical infrastructure to back it up, it’s going to get harder and harder to compete with the internet giant.2 Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash. I’m so tired of buying those Terro traps over and over again and having to throw away all of that plastic once they are empty (which doesn’t take long around here). ↩︎ I will still probably get a Kobo at some point, but this has emphasized to me the unevenness of the competition. ↩︎

Conversation

Plans.

Conversation

Jenn Champion “Love Nobody”

Jenn Champion first came to my attention when she covered Weezer’s blue album in full for the now seemingly abandoned Turntable Kitchen project Sounds Delicious. Turning the guitar-based record into a synthesizer journey, she remade the songs in her own image. Champion comes back with the OYSTER KIDS and a lyric video for “Love Nobody,” one of her catchiest songs to date (and I’m including O.M.G, another really strong single). There is an incredible urgency to this song. It’s as if Champion is ready to do whatever it takes to avoid the pain of potentially unrequited love. She’s fighting with herself against her own instincts to give in.

Conversation

I really appreciated this piece on the perfect plants for windowless offices. Though my home office has windows, my desk doesn’t get direct light, so this is helpful.

Conversation

The Great Pitchfork Apology

Pitchfork recently revised ratings on 20 albums from the past, mostly raising scores, but also lowering some, as well. It was a kind of a strange move, but to be fair, some albums are sleepers and you can’t always tell which ones will stick with you. I’ve long wanted to do a classics review blog post series where I only write about albums that have stood the test of time. There’s a different kind of love that you have for music with longevity that carries you through different seasons of your life. (Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky is one album that had its original rating revised upward). It’s easy to be cynical about what Pitchfork is doing here, though. They’ve long held themselves as arbiters of taste, deriding work that falls outside the bounds of what they’ve identified as cool-in-the-moment. This sort of temporal attribution lends itself to revising history to fit whatever new parameters of cool have been introduced. Certainly, when the emperor has no clothes, which has been the case in many a Pitchfork fascination, he is easier to expose later on, once the mass hypnosis has worn off. When cooler heads prevail and senses lost in the rush of trendiness are back working, a more judicious appraisal of the work of art can be made. Maybe, though, just maybe, judgment is still clouded, but by whatever new trend has taken hold. Freddie Deboer is having none of it. Which they are very close to explicitly admitting is the point: not that there was some deficiency in how the original scores were awarded, but rather that the scores look less like what a cool person thinks now. One little snippet helpfully points out that liking an artist was not cool when the review was written but is cool now; honest, but perhaps this should have been removed in the editing process! Deboer’s thoughts on the revisions are cutting, but insightful, as usual. He gets deep when he writes about Pitchfork’s performative aspect. In his mind, the writers at the publication would rather signal that they like cool music than listen to music they actually like. I guess you have to give something up in exchange for cultural capital (and ad dollars). Which, of course, is what Pitchfork has always been about, projecting a certain kind of image of yourself to your peers. Pitchfork is the apotheosis of music purely as signifier, signifier of being the right kind of person, the cool kind, the knowing kind. Except for the occasional feature that gets linked to from somewhere else, I stopped reading Pitchfork years ago. I think it was when they were intellectualizing low-brow, mainstream hip-hop. Things like “When Chingy says, ‘I like the way you do that right thurr,’ he’s really launching a scathing critique of contemporary sexual mores.” They probably still do that kind of music criticism. I’m just not tuning in to find out.

Conversation

Munya Voyage to Mars

Voyage to Mars by MUNYA MUNYA is set to release her new LP, Voyage to Mars, in November. On tracks like, “Pour Toi” and “Cocoa Beach,” sounding much like fellow Quebecois, Men I Trust, she brings deep grooves and an impossibly smooth delivery. Sometimes, such as on “Boca Chica,” she throws in a little tropicalia-tinged bachelor pad ambience. Think a little bit less space age than Juan Garcia Esquivel but just as breezy as Astrud Gilberto. The first song I heard from the album was the cover of the Smashing Pumpkins “Tonight, Tonight.” My history with that song is complicated. I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan after Gish came out and lost only a little of that enthusiasm when Siamese Dream made its debut. By the time Mellon Collie came out, though, and Corgan had insisted he wouldn’t play Lollapalooza if Pavement was on the bill, I started to realize the band wasn’t that cool. The bald dude stalking around the video for the rat in a cage song wasn’t even recognizable to me. The music didn’t feel that similar to the stuff the band I had loved in high school put out. I went and sold all of my Smashing Pumpkins CD’s at the local CD Alley, eager to put the band behind me. Years and a brother obsessed with the band later, I started casually listening to SP again (I even kind of like some of their most recent work). I definitely have to admit that “Tonight, Tonight” is a beautiful song. MUNYA’s rework of it fits her style, but retains all of the beauty of the original. The song is less sweeping, and there are no grand orchestral elements, but it’s anchored in a pop style that brings freshness to the track.

Conversation

What is the Matter?

Matter is a promising new read-it-later service that shies away from convention and introduces new ideas into a space already occupied by some heavyweight services. I can say, after only playing around with it for a short time, it handles highlighting the best of any service I’ve used.1 However, like a lot of opinionated software, you have to buy into the premises on which its based. One of Matter’s most prominent value propositions is that it is based around individuals, rather than publications. It’s a direction that’s not too far from the one Medium is taking (which looks pretty cool). This approach is front and center in the Matter introductory email. Matter is the only reading app that gives you one feed of all your favorite writers, from national columnists to indy bloggers to Substacks. Why are we designed around writers? Because we think the best indicator of an article’s quality is who wrote it, not where it’s published. It’s another blow to traditional journalism and the gatekeepers thereof. The implementation in Matter is problematic, though. Despite the language used in the above statement, the assumption is that individuals use email newsletters. There is no way to subscribe to RSS feeds from within the app. To add an author, you get an indication that you are adding and RSS feed (even using the universally recognized RSS icon). However, this is what you get when you try to add a feed from a writer. Reading between the lines, I can only come to the conclusion that they believe RSS is for publications and newsletters are for individuals. Certainly, the much written-about defection of major writers from traditional publications to their own Substack newsletters has to be informing this view. Individual writers have blogs, as well, though, and those blogs are still best followed through RSS. You can easily add newsletters to Matter. The result is that you have direct access to writers through their newsletters, but Matter serves as a gatekeeper for other forms of distribution. I don’t know what criteria gets you added to the Matter list of authors, but ultimately it seems like just another group of editors deciding whose work gets put out there. So much for the democratization power of the internet. *If you are interested in Matter, Matt Birchler has a more comprehensive evaluation on his YouTube channel, A Better Computer. * Which is certainly one of the most important features in a read-it-later app. ↩︎

Conversation

Ted Lasso, Season 2 (is making me blue)

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second season of Ted Lasso, up through Episode 8. Originally written 9/12/2021 in my Day One journal (or as Matt Mullenweg would say, my private blog). We’ve made it through Ted Lasso, S2 Ep. 8 now, and I have to say, I don’t find myself enjoying it. The writers have decided to deconstruct Ted’s character and drag all of us viewers along for the ride. What used to be charming colloquialisms and clever pop culture references, in the first season, now are portrayed as nervous tics. Ted’s ability to read people and bring out the best in them now seems diminished in significant ways. He can’t even give a pep talk without messing up most of it. In the first season, Ted was almost impenetrably cheery. He took criticism, and anger and let them bounce right off. This season, his uncertainty and self-doubt are nearly constant. When I saw the intro for episode 8, I was surprised that there was a warning for violence as well as language. The language warning was familiar (and well needed) but the violence warning seemed new. When Jamie attacked his father, it was like the writers just hit a dead end at how to portray their relationship. At some point, the stories of acrimony from Jamie’s perspective weren’t enough. They felt they had to show us just how bad it was. Gone are the guilty pleasures of Rebecca’s ways of undermining Ted as the primary source of conflict, replaced by raw physical assault. The losses, even with high stakes like being relegated, didn’t seem to really affect anyone in the first season, so sure was Ted’s enthusiasm for making the players better people. In the second season, even the failure to achieve unlikely wins are a cause for existential dread. Nate, the unlikely success story of last year’s shows, now seems like a villain, lashing out at others as he tries to hold his spot on the ladder of success. In 2020, the show gave us the feel good television we needed so desperately, as most of us hunkered down indoors trying to insulate ourselves from a global pandemic. For a year that in many ways is shaping up to be just as bad, turning the tables on us and giving us this season of Ted Lasso feels a bit like the punch in the face that Jamie gave his dad. I hate to admit it, but I’m not enjoying this season of Ted Lasso. I think it’s because of Nate. In The many betrayals of “Ted Lasso”, Nate’s arc is positioned as a reminder of how the real world functions. I know how it functions. I watch Ted Lasso to be shown something better. Jack Baty https://micro.baty.blog/2021/10/06/i-hate-to.html _I found it interesting that the phrasing of my reaction to S2 was so similar to Jack Baty’s. _

Conversation

The Night the Darkness Revolted

Revenge bedtime procrastination came up as a topic of discussion on Micro.blog a little while ago (I believe it was brought up by @omrrc and @jean). It’s easy to fall into this practice, which is one in which you stay up late doing all manner of meaningless things just because the time before you go to bed is the only time that feels like your own. You mindlessly scroll through Twitter or vapid news headlines. You play a dumb game on your phone. Many times, this procrastination is done to counteract a day full of meeting demands and the expectations of others. For me, the late evening is sometimes the only part of the day when I don’t feel bad. So, even as my health improves, I’ve still found myself in a pattern of looking at that time as window of opportunity. Anne Helen Peterson recently took on the subject in her newsletter. She dives into the ways this behavior is a self-sabotaging, because of course losing sleep doesn’t help us in the short or long run. It’s illogical and annoying and only makes things worse. But it’s also what our souls do when we refuse to nourish them. They sabotage our most perfect intentions for sleep, because sleep is not the same as leisure. A commenter, Leah Libresco Sargeant, noticed the parallel between this behavior and this particular passage in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. As the uneasiness and reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures the vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo…you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say…”I now see that I spent most my life doing in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” This passage, of course, is the voice of the reliably bad Uncle Screwtape, teaching his dear demonic nephew Wormwood how to ruin a person’s life. Given the strength of Lewis’ apologetics in the book, and the arguments for resisting temptations, I truly now have a different perspective on putting off bedtime. Source: kottke.org

Conversation

Eventually, people learn that by calling something ‘spiritual warfare,’ we Christians are just talking about doing what we want to do and denouncing anyone we want to denounce. Most of the people who played Dungeons and Dragons or read Harry Potter aren’t leading covens right now. Past decades’ political tumults are now far distant, have been replaced by others, and didn’t turn out to be the Armageddons people told us they would be at the time. The natural conclusion is that spiritual warfare is just the way Christians say ‘I hate this’ or ‘I’m scared of that’ or ‘You kids get off my lawn!’ ~ Russell Moore, on the concept of spiritual warfare being used as a political tool

Conversation

Yumi Zouma "In Camera"

“In Camera” is just one of the many Balearic, breezy Yumi Zouma songs worthy of the single/video treatment. Boy, does it get it. This story of a square (by retro standards) boy who goes to a girl’s house for a date and gets treated to a dance routine is well choreographed. The dance itself involves a little Flashdance, a little Steve Martin King Tut and just a splash of Chris Farley as a Chipendale’s dancer. When the dance evolves to synchronized swimming, it’s on. I kept waiting for the couple to kiss at the end…

Conversation

Plain and Simple, Stars for Eyes

Chris Hayes writes for the New Yorker on how the internet has brought about a kind of pseudo-fame that’s accessible to just about everyone. His view of fame is that it is a disruptive force, rather than something that you should strive to attain. This, perhaps, is the most obviously pernicious part of the expansion of celebrity: ever since there have been famous people, there have been people driven mad by fame. In the modern era, it’s a cliché: the rock star, comedian, or starlet who succumbs to addiction, alienation, depression, and self-destruction under the glare of the spotlight. Being known by strangers, and, even more dangerously, seeking their approval, is an existential trap. And right now, the condition of contemporary life is to shepherd entire generations into this spiritual quicksand. Given the state of our collective mental health, it’s hard to argue against the dangers Hayes brings up. Are reports of mental health problems simply more widely reported because the stigma on discussing those issues has become softer? Or are the issues more prevalent, and if so, why? Hayes and others postulations of the dangers of social media and chasing ephemeral internet fame certainly feel like they could be pinpointing at least part of the problem. As we learn more about Instagram’s effects on the emotional health of young women in particular, it’s time to reflect on the aspect of trying to seek the approval of strangers in a simulacrum of fame. Seeking this approval leads to examination of what brings attention and an attempt to model those looks and behaviors. In a “mental health deep dive”, marketing and product design executives and data scientists at Facebook concluded that some of the problems, such as “social comparison”, were specific to Instagram and not replicated by other platforms. Neil Postman is referenced in the Hayes piece, as TV was the prophesied bridge to our modern state of pursuing amusement over meaningful discourse. 1 Even though he was still alive for the rise of the internet, I’m pretty convinced Postman would be absolutely apoplectic at what has become of culture in the wake of social media. If TV reduced our attention span to consume edifying work, social media has drained it even further. TLDR is a much used acronym for a reason. The barrage of information coming at us makes us victims more than conscious participants in this degradation. But who is going to help us if we are unable to help ourselves? At some point, Postman will have been cited by as many bloggers as Foucault has been cited by academics. ↩︎

Conversation

She and Him “Holiday”

Holiday by She & Him It may be just a bit too early for posts about Christmas. Frankly, it seems like it’s too early for Halloween decorations, but some of my neighbors started working on their haunting displays back in September.1 Despite our distance from the “happiest time of the year,” though, I had to post this because I’ve been enjoying this cover song. For its tenth anniversary, She & Him are releasing a deluxe version of their Christmas album. They got clever in adding bonus tracks and bent the rules a bit by putting in a cover of Madonna’s “Holiday,” instead of a proper Christmas song.2 I’m okay with the band coloring outside of the lines when the final drawing looks this good. Somehow, the duo figure out how to add a smidge of honky tonk, guitar noise (thanks to Matt Ward’s tasteful use of distortion) and also a bit of funk. The last addition surprised me most, considering the original song was written by Pure Energy, a disco/post-disco group, whereas Zooey and Matt aren’t known for bringing the funk. Zooey sounds as delightfully distinctive as ever, and I love the fact that you can recognize her vocals instantly. It’s hard to beat early Madonna. The songs and their production have aged well. She & Him definitely make a solid attempt and give us a track that we can listen to not just at Christmas, but all year round. It’s almost like Halloween is becoming a secular liturgical season. ↩︎ It squeaks into the Christmas category by virtue of Christmas being a holiday, even though the song is more about going on vacation. ↩︎

Conversation

I didn’t check out Hey for email when everyone else did, but now I’m kind of curious after reading this post comparing it to the Rolex of email. I especially like the Cover Art feature, which is minor, but a nice touch. Is anyone still using Hey and also Hey World?

Conversation

I asked my wife, who grew up Catholic in New Jersey, about The Many Saints of Newark and she had never heard of a high concentration of canonization in that area. I think the show may be bogus.

Conversation

It would be nice for Manton to commit to ending Finsta on Micro.blog.

Conversation

Brothertiger "Arizona"

Brothertiger comes the closest of any band I can think of in blending a 2010 chillwave aesthetic with 80’s sophistipop sensibilities. It’s the most obvious on the new Heaven EP, which compiles 4 singles that sound like they were recorded together. However, while it doesn’t stray too far from the formula of the other songs, Brothertiger’s John Jagos describes “Arizona” as being influenced by the early nineties and touring. The video and song paint a picture of the vast desert landscape being punctured at times by the intertwining highways of the city. The freedom of driving in that landscape dominates the lyrics. I can’t help but be reminded of the few months I lived in Albuquerque in the 11th grade. We would drive off-road in the desert sand to get to school in my friend’s gas-guzzling Jimmy. Not having to adhere to the designated routes and the city streets was something of an intoxicant that early in the morning.

Conversation

The flickr blog has a post that looks at nearly two decades of Creative Commons licenses. The post shares some of the most popular images using CC licenses and includes some spectacular photos.

Conversation

Users Mingling Freely with Brands

Alan Jacobs just published a blog post that made me chuckle. The Washington Post: “The metaverse, to Sweeney, would be an expansive, digitized communal space where users can mingle freely with brands and one another in ways that permit self-expression and spark joy.” Users mingling freely with brands — if that’s not Paradise Regained I don’t know what is. Jacobs cynical take on these futurists’ visions of what life beyond our physical limitations resonates strongly with me. That is, what Epic games is proposing doesn’t exactly sound like Paradise Regained. It sounds like, well, a phrase Jacobs himself coined: “metaphysical capitalism.” However, every once in a while, I find myself wanting to mingle with brands. When those brands come up with clever tie-ins, it could soon part a fool like me and his money. This D&D and Nerds campaign is one such partnership. Buy a box of candy and get a dungeon crawler to go with it. Not a shabby deal. Too bad I don’t like nerds. Maybe I can get my sister to add to her candy collection and pass the adventures to me. 1 My sister actually has an engraved flask for her Nerds candy. ↩︎

Conversation

The Resemblance is Uncanny

Source: "David harpspelend voor Saul" via Wikimedia Commons A couple of years ago, I compared contemporary Christians who expressed their desire for an authoritarian ruler to the ancient Islrealites who wished for a king. In both instances, the groups had lost faith in God to protect them and wanted to rely on a strong man. In the biblical book of Samuel, a king was requested of the prophet, a request which he initially rebuked. Eventually, after Samuel spoke with God, on the Lord's command, he relented and found the people a king in the form of a man named Saul. His change of heart came with a strict warning to the people of how a king would treat them. When Christians started favoring eliminating the legislative and judicial branches of the government, it looked like they wanted Donald Trump to be the next Saul. Supporters who back autocracy might not be the only thing that the Donald has in common with old king Saul. Consequence of Sound has a post about a “music man” who played show tunes to tame then president Donald Trump when he was at his most difficult. According to a new book by former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, the “music man” was the only person who could manage Trump’s “terrifying” temper, playing hit songs from musicals to help calm him down. This reminds me of Saul, who would go into deep boughts of depression that were only relieved by the music of his successor to the throne, David. Psychology Today has an account of the healing properties of music, using this biblical example. The verses told the story of King Saul who had become tormented by a feeling of melancholy. Saul’s servants suggested that they find a musician who could play for him to soothe his psyche. One of the servants suggested a young man named David who he heard was a skilled musician. Saul was in agreement and so the servants went to find the young David and brought him to King Saul. It then says the following: “And it happened that whenever the spirit of melancholy from God was upon Saul, David would take the lyre (harp) and play it. Saul would then feel relieved and the spirit of melancholy would depart from him” (I Samuel, 16:23). Saul was not only melancholy, though. He was frequently calmed from great anger by David’s music. The piece goes on to refer to David as a “musical therapist.” I’m intrigued by the continuing parallels between Saul and DT beyond just the demands of their constituencies. The fact that both of them, who came to power in similar circumstances, needed musical therapy, proves to an even greater extent that ancient stories have current applications. I'll keep studying my bible.

Conversation

I wish I had a t-shirt with colors and patterns as cool as those on this caterpillar.

Conversation

Gimmie Indie Rock

1995 was a good year for independent music. The indie rock scene was maturing and new artists were building on what their predecessors had created. Source: My 7" collection. Garrett Martin writes for Paste Magazine about the seminal year for indie rock that was 1995 and the top 20 albums in the loosely knit genre from that year. After a brief period where the distinction between major labels and indie labels blurred, the value and significance of independent music became clear again. Indie labels gave both musicians and fans a legitimate alternative to the bland, cookie-cutter rock music that had taken over MTV programming and alternative radio station playlists by the start of 1995. That freedom resulted in an unusually fruitful year in 1995, with some of the best bands of the era releasing some of their best music. That year looms particularly large in my memory because it contained the latter half of my first year of college and a battle with cancer. The nostalgia factor from this piece almost gives me goosebumps. I either owned or borrowed most of these albums in 1995. Of particular importance to me were Wowee Zowee, The Dirt of Luck, Get Lost, Me Me Me and Electr-O-Pura. I had Wild Love by Smog, but couldn’t process its darkness through the ordeal of my cancer diagnosis and treatment. When Martin writes about the acts from Lollapalooza that year, I remember having to make the tough choice to see Built To Spill on the side stage instead of Beck on the main stage. To this day I've never seen Beck play. I've seen Built to Spill several times, but I've never regretted choosing what was one of my favorite bands at the time. Local heroes Superchunk joined Built to Spill on the side stage and were hyper enough to get the crowd going. Here's Where the Strings Come In (Remastered) by Superchunk Due to my cancer treatment, my dad was able to wrangle me seats in the handicapped section, which was pretty close to the main stage. Pavement played a bit later on in the day, and for that we took seats near the front (though not in the handicapped section). The PA's were blasting electronic music when the band came out and lead malkmusician Steve Malkmus strode up to the microphone and promptly said, "turn that sh*t off." It would be years and a life lived in Berlin later that would finally bring him around to that genre. It was a good show, though Pavement was never the tightest live band. Wowee Zowee by Pavement I spent a lot of time reading that summer. There wasn't much else to keep me occupied and the internet had not yet become ubiquitous. One of my favorite reading experiences was poring through A Prayer for Owen Meany. It reminded me that even adversity has a purpose in life and helped strengthen my budding faith. My then ex-girlfriend from high school (now wife) has recommended it and had a passion for John Irving novels. I remember the Magnetic Fields' Get Lost LP being the soundtrack to much of that reading. That was a recommendation from my best friend, who later conversed with the Fields' mastermind, Stephin Merritt, on the subject of crying. Get Lost by The Magnetic Fields It's taken for granted that any time spent with cancer and scorched earth chemotherapy is going to be tough, but I'll always remember that as one of my favorite summers. Music from that time of my life is still the surest way to bring back memories of 1995.

Conversation

As a student of psychology, I’ve always been fascinated and disturbed by the concept of failure to thrive. It is distressing to learn all the ways our most closely related animal cousins have been treated in order to test out theories about this phenomenon. However, I never would have thought to link failure to thrive to remote learning. We labor under the myth of being an “information-based” society. We imagine that we are deeply informed, have ready access to massive amounts of information on the basis of which we are able to make free and well-considered decisions. This over-simplification of our human experience is deeply flawed. Among the things we’ve learned in the past year-and-a-half is that “distance education” doesn’t work very well. There’s a good reason for that: education is not merely about the acquisition of information. Interaction with a computer screen in insufficient. We are social beings and require the presence and direct interaction with others in order to learn well and fully. Our mistake about all of this could be compared to imagining that infants merely need milk and not touch, cuddling, cooing, and the human face. We know the result of such mistaken notions: babies die, suffering from “failure to thrive.” The Perpetual Catechumen - Glory to God for All Things

Conversation

Hatchie "This Enchanted"

This new video by Hatchie is wrapped in a real 120 Minutes vibe. Noisy, shoegaze guitars, images on walls of TV’s, band members in silhouette. Then, as the chorus approaches it switches to focus on her singing and jumps right into a mix of contemporary pop and 90’s indie dance as she walks down the street wearing angel wings. There’s a charm to this song and just the right amount of noise amidst pop hooks. If you can get Siri to understand “This Enchanted” instead of “Disenchanted,” you win the prize of getting to listen to it.

Conversation

I made it to worship service at church for the first time in over a year and a half today. It felt good to be in the sanctuary instead of watching on a screen at home.

Conversation

I’m glad to see Mozilla coming up with new ways of generating revenue to reduce their reliance on Google. I’m sometimes tempted to switch from Instapaper to Pocket just to support Mozilla.

Conversation

TFW your son wakes you up on a Saturday morning to talk about how ridiculous the snare drum sounds are on Metallica’s St. Anger.

Conversation

Personal Knowledge Management

Tending to your digital garden. Source: Garden by Tejvan Pettinger via flickr.com My name is Robert, and I have a knowledge management problem. As I mention in my bio, I'm a prolific notetaker. I would consider myself a digital pack rat, if not hoarder. Very few articles make it through my reading cycle without some highlighting and marginalia. Not a whole lot of meetings go undocumented. I collect, I share. It wasn't until recently that my patterns of behaviors became a problem. It's not an issue to hoard digitally, you can do it at very little expense and keep things nice and tidy. It's not like accumulating physical assets, where you run out of space and crowd yourself out. Unfortunately, I haven't been keeping my data organized. Here are some examples of the messiness of my digital life. Sites that I want to return to may be added to Pinboard, or to a Bear note, or to Drafts, or as bookmarks in my browser. Quotes that I want to keep or reference later may be in Instapaper as highlights, in Drafts as a draft, in a blog post in IA Writer, etc. Photos and screenshots that I've collected for a blog post might be in Photos or somewhere in my files. At some point in the last few years, my digital garden has grown a lot of weeds. After the titular character in Voltaire's Candide had traveled the world, witnessing the atrocities and ridiculousness of mankind, he settled down in a home to mind his own business. The metaphor for his state of domesticity is tending a garden. It couldn't be more apt right now, when we have disruption and human beings at their worst in the chaos we read about every day. A place to withdraw and manage could be therapeutic indeed. Candide, as he was returning home, made profound reflections on the Turk’s discourse. “This good old man,” said he to Pangloss and Martin, “appears to me to have chosen for himself a lot much preferable to that of the six kings with whom we had the honor to sup.” … “Neither need you tell me,” said Candide, “that we must take care of our garden.” “You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it: and this proves that man was not born to be idle.” “Work then without disputing,” said Martin; “it is the only way to render life supportable.” ~ Candide by Voltaire I don't have a lot of energy to expend, these days. A solid system to manage information can actually save me work. So I listened to the hype around Obsidian from those I follow on social networks and decided to give it a try. At first I was skeptical, and feature for feature, could find most of its power in other tools. The app is cross-platform and it shows. You can tell by the UI and controls it's not a native app on MacOS/iOS. However, I still like the design with the Minimal theme installed. It certainly doesn't stick out like running Emacs on a Mac. It looks better than some native apps like Scanner Pro on iPadOS. Once I started to watch videos of how people, like Chris Wilson, were using Obsidian for Bible study, things started to click for me. You can checkout Chris' newsletter, Biblically Connected, here. It is a good source for collections of his and other's ideas about personal knowledge management (PKM). It's focused around biblical study, but is broadly applicable. The user base for Obsidian is growing, and its fans are devoted. They're using their Obsidian vaults for keeping track of all kinds of data. If you like plain text and markdown, give Obsidian a look or two.1 The whole system is comprised of plain text files using markdown, so it's future proof, and the risk of adopting the app is low. It might help you beautify your digital garden. Don't give up on the first try. ↩︎

Conversation

Finished reading: Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett 📚. This might be my favorite book by Follett (and that’s saying a lot). I loved following these characters from Scotland, to London, to Fredricksburg, VA.

Conversation

Last year, as music venues shut their doors, the hype began to quickly build around streaming concerts online. Several players entered the field, including Bandcamp. Twitch rapidly expanded their music team. However, live streaming events didn’t take off as expected. Even as so many artists are still cancelling tours, the industry doesn’t seem to be picking up and filling the void. Only 5% of the U.S. general population has attended a virtual concert or livestreamed performance in the past year, and only 5% of the U.S. general population plans to attend a virtual concert or livestreamed performance in the upcoming year. ​— MRC Data’s 2021 U.S. Music 360 report Source: waterandmusic.com​

Conversation

I read the different reactions to Season 2 of Ted Lasso and realize that your experience of it may be dependent on the type of escapism you need in your life right at the moment. I came across a tweet thread from Mike Cosper where he reflected on his level of enjoyment of the various episodes. Season 2 almost lost me in the first few episodes. It was too cheery, and I just kept holding on hoping it would turn around. But nothing was at stake. It was just 30 mins of everybody liking each other. Cosper didn’t think a show with less conflict and dramatic tension was worth watching.1 I enjoyed the escape from a high-stakes life where we constantly hear that hospitals are overflowing and climate change is about to set us all ablaze to a world where a soccer team could lose their match and it wasn’t the be all end all. To be clear, there was some drama and tension. Keely and Roy, Rebecca’s mother’s divorce, Jamie returning to the team, Nate’s issues, etc. ↩︎

Conversation

The news about Facebook hiding research that could proved detrimental to their business model is not surprising. Even if the findings are less-than-shocking. I wonder if Zuckerberg could be charged with perjury for failing to disclose information that he was specifically asked about? When Rep. Rodgers and other Republicans followed up with Facebook and asked about the company’s internal research on the effects of its products on mental health, the company did not share the Instagram research results, according to Bloomberg, nor did it share them with Sen. Ed Markey when his office also asked Facebook to provide any internal research on the matter in April, according to letters provided by Markey’s office to Recode. It’s getting harder for people to believe that Facebook is a net good for society

Conversation

I’m excited about the upcoming changes to Instapaper. They’ve finished with infrastructure updates, and moved on to new features. The Twitter implementation looks particularly nice.

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Somewhere

This was a pleasant surprise in my Apple New Music Mix last week. I haven't heard any Black Marble in a while (I enjoyed some tracks on 2016's It's Immaterial). "Somewhere" starts off with some pretty standard synth swells, and proceeds along like a synthstramental for about a minute and half before kicking into an upbeat new wave/post-punk bopper. The video is fun, with a kid getting to hang and dance with the cool adults.

Conversation

“The most recognized photograph on Earth gets the macOS treatment.” I especially love the rainy day version of Bliss. So well done.

Conversation

I’ve made some very caring and compassionate friends through church.

Conversation

Finished reading: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 📚. A very hopeful and optimistic book.

Conversation

In a recent post, Chad Ragsdale regrets the decline of morality in western civilization. He argues against the laying down of arms in the culture war, and starts his argument with a trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (which he says is all-but-required when you visit Cleveland). As you walk into one of the exhibits, you are greeted by a bank of televisions broadcasting in mostly black and white. Each television is playing looping videos of angry preachers with bad haircuts and cheap suits decrying the great moral evils of rock and roll music. It is a not-so-subtle lampoon. The silly, morally panicked preachers are displayed as trophies, heads mounted on the walls of this temple to rock music. The theologian/preacher in me stood for a moment and payed homage to these preachers, listening to their messages. Despite being a bit over-the-top, I had to admit that they weren’t completely wrong. Listening to the filth that has become commonplace in the music landscape, it’s hard to make the case that music hasn’t encouraged moral degradation in our culture and especially in our youth. If you think I sound old fashioned or alarmist just remember that a song about female genitalia spent four weeks at the top of the charts in 2020. There’s no shortage of think pieces with the intent to persuade us of the futility in engaging with cultural protest. Ragsdale takes the opposite side, draws his sword, and wades into the thick of the fight. He does, however, think we need to pick our battles. Some battles are mere distractions. Some battles are futile. Some battles are just foolish. For instance, in 1997 did we really need to lose our minds over the Harry Potter series? Was this a battle worth fighting? In my opinion, no, it was foolishness born out of paranoia and ignorance. We expended resources and energy on a futile and foolish battle. He uses an interesting example, because someone recently mentioned to me that the priest in the church he grew up going to frequently railed against Harry Potter. What are the hills on which we are prepared to die? → Yes to the Culture War | Chad Ragsdale

Conversation

Readwise is coming out with a read-it-later service for hardcore notetaking nerds like myself. You can now sign up for the beta.

Conversation

Twenty years ago was my first day working in computers at Best Buy. I really didn’t understand what was happening, so I was surprised when I greeted my very first customer with a “how are you doing?” and he responded with “okay, considering what is going on.”

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Start Without Me

Greg's Guitar Lessons covers "Start Without Me" by Pedro The Lion. As far as I know, this is the only song T.W. Walsh wrote for the band and it's nearly universally agreed upon as one of their best. If taste is any judge of talent, I want Greg as my guitar teacher.

Conversation

Duett - Leisure

Duett channels the sounds of the 1980's on their pastel-infused album Leisure. Leisure by Duett Duett has been around for a while, but just came to my attention via Bandcamp's Instagram account last week. I was drawn in by the stylized artwork and colorful pastels on the album cover of their newest offering, Leisure. The contents of the album sound exactly like you would expect from looking at the cover. Over-the-top synths bathe the listener in the color palette of the 1980's. The aesthetic is so completely intact, that the opening track, "Gallery," sounds like it was pulled from an 80's film about Wall Street. At times, the synthisizer parts sound a bit like a softer, more radio friendly, Com Truise or a band on Jim Smith from Teeel's Synth Recordings label. While the synths dominate, though, there are other instruments that also cling tightly to the sounds of the Regan era. Ostentatious guitar solos pop up in places like the track "Lifetime" and remind you of the chase scenes that were a staple of blockbusters and b-movies alike back then. Most of the album is instrumental. It's a surprise when, the vocals appear four songs into the affair, in "About You." With vocals in the mix, the band reminds me of Sophie and Peter Johnston, albeit with less range and variation. You won't find a shortage of bands showing their allegiance to the sonic staples of the 80's. I'm not tired of it yet, though. I need that nostalgia to get me through this decade. I'll happily daydream of John Hughes movies and DeLoreans while listening to Duett.

Conversation

Jason Morehead asks if Facebook deliberately deplatformed his church. Like others who have had this happen, he tried to work through the labyrinthine Facebook system to straighten things out, but eventually succumbed to frustration. At this point, I just gave up. (Though I did take some solace in the fact that I’m not the only one who’s been confused and frustrated by this situation.) I checked the page several more times to see if somehow, miraculously, Facebook had reversed their decision but to no avail. Then I stopped checking altogether until late last month, when I found that Facebook had finally done the inevitable: they had deleted the page. Our church had also been relying on Facebook for live streaming our services, since the pandemic began. Thankfully, we now have our own app, running on the Subsplash platform, and parishioners can stream the services there.

Conversation

The Holy Post: It’s funny that Phil Vischer has a podcast that tackles some pretty heavy theological and moral issues, but still has a goofy Veggie Tales-style theme song at the beginning.

Conversation

A student was found with 2 guns at Enloe High School, where my sisters went to school. This is following a fatal shooting at a high school in Winston-Salem, not too far from here, only a day earlier. That shooting was just after one at a high school in Wilmington, where there were no deaths but injuries. Two high school shootings and a potential third averted in NC, just this week. My son just stared going to high school after doing the virtual thing his freshman year. How could I not worry about him?

Conversation

Some are pointing to the hubris of yet another foreign power trying to graft its value system onto Afghanistan as being a key point of American failure in the country. This video is a perfect example of why that argument has legitimacy. Source: intellectualoid.com

Conversation

Maybe All I Need Is A Shot In The Arm

**Some Christians are looking for religious liberty exemptions from employer-based vaccine mandates. ** David French writes about the surge in Christians (mostly those who consider themselves Evangelical Christians) who are seeking religious exemptions from having to get COVID-19 vaccines. For example, there is a scramble by Christian Americans to seek “religious exemptions” from employer vaccine mandates. I’ve received correspondence from Christian religious liberty ministries who report a sharp rise in requests for legal assistance to secure religious exemptions. One ministry indicated in an email to affiliated attorneys that it had been “inundated by requests” for help. A pastor in a large church in California has promised to hand out “religious exemption forms” to anyone who attends the church and asks. The truth is that there are very few exemptions on religious grounds, unless there is a long-standing mandate in that denomination to oppose medical science or vaccines.1 Russell Moore, who has been working on religious liberty cases for 8 years, covers this topic in his newsletter. In certain, very limited cases they could be. Someone who is part of, for instance, a religious tradition that eschews all medical treatment, along with any other shots or inoculations, could make a credible claim to religious liberty. There are very few such groups—and no group that I’m aware of with a creedal prohibition on masks. Beyond that, the principle is well established in American law and culture that public health measures are a legitimate state interest. Almost all public schools have required, for years, proof of vaccination for polio and smallpox, etc. The United States military certainly has the mandate to keep troops from dying off from a potentially deadly disease. Certainly, private businesses have the right to ask potential customers to abide by their safety protocols. The fact that the most vocal Christians, and those that are covered the most by media, are some of the people most vehemently opposed to public safety standards is yet another reason to lament the state of American Christianity. Think Christian scientists. ↩︎

Conversation

Friday Night Video | King Kalm

This one came up out of the blue last week, just as I had posted “Pink and Blue” as a Friday Night Video. Colatura is from Brooklyn and they correctly guessed that people would want to watch a guy in a half gorilla suite skating around what is presumably NYC. (🔗 source: fadeawayradiate.com)

Conversation

Cheri Baker has a great idea to keep us all sane: outrage slots. You only get two subjects of outrage at a time.

Conversation

Tough Love

Mars Hill Church reveled in being Christian the manly way. Photo of Mark Driscoll by James Gordon via Flickr I recently started listening to the much-acclaimed podcast on the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, produced by Mike Cosper. Mars Hill is the Seattle-based church that was founded by hyper-masculine pastor Mark Driscoll. I always found Mark Driscoll to be deeply suspect and wondered where he fit into Christian theology. In many clips I see or hear of him, he’s yelling “who do you think you are???!!!” or “how dare you!!!"1 He sounds like me when I think my wife has eaten the dark chocolate marshmallows from Trader Joe’s. In audio clips from the podcast, Driscoll goes on about running people at his church over with a bus and there being a pile of dead bodies behind the bus. I could see Driscoll being a drill sergeant or the coach of a sports team, but repping for the Prince of Peace?2 It always puzzled me that someone would actually buy into that. There are indisputably those who benefit from Driscoll’s message of personal responsibility. It resonates strongly with young men. It can be helpful, but like the teachings of Jordan Peterson, it’s not uniquely Christian in its nature. It could come from any self-help guru. It could come from Matt Foley. I love Mike Cosper and he does a fantastic job with the production values of his podcasts, but I pretty quickly realized I had no interest hearing about this particular figure and his church. The whole situation is alien to my experience, since the denomination that I am part of, PC(USA), doesn’t have celebrity pastors. You won’t find dudes in thousand dollar sneakers trotting around a stage. Instead, you will find teaching elders (women included) typically preaching in traditional vestments from behind an old fashioned pulpit. I’ve witnessed this behavior in multiple documentaries. ↩︎ He would be the Bobby Knight kind of coach, throwing chairs and screaming all the time. ↩︎

Conversation

When Austin Kleon wants to get answers to questions on Twitter, instead of asking a direct question, he poses the question in the guise of a false opinion. In place of crickets, he gets tons of responses to his question in the form of correction.

Conversation

The YouTube Generation

My 9-yr.-old loves video games. It seems sometimes like his love for video games surpasses his love for everything else. When he’s not playing video games, or negotiating with me about his game time limits, he’s watching others play video games on YouTube. The pandemic hasn’t really bothered him, because it did nothing to interfere with his favorite activities. Since I set game time limitations, the main concern I have had about these patterns is the exclusivity of his entertainment choices. Unlike when I was a child, or even when his brother was growing up, he doesn’t watch shows with narrative or characters.1 It’s nearly always some guy playing a video game and yelling at the screen. That doesn’t seem to be teaching him much. The only thing I’ve noticed that these videos may have improved is his vocabulary, as most of the YouTubers are older and have more sophisticated ways of communicating than younger kids. However, his language has also commensurately, at times, become more colorful. Just like his heroes, he talks a lot when he plays games. Most of the time, he just seems frustrated, always accusing some online unknown person of “hacking.” Today, he was talking about someone making mistakes, “as a newb” but then said, “what the eff do you think you are doing?” At that point, I heard a record scratch. I admonished him, of course, but more than that, I started thinking that perhaps open access to YouTube is not beneficial for this child. I’m going to look at getting the Disney Circle back up and running, so I can limit time on YouTube and on which devices he will have access to it. It was scary enough when my progeny said he didn’t need to go to college because he was going to be a YouTuber, and they don’t need college degrees. Now that he’s taking foul mouthed language queues from these guys (and all the ones he watches are guys), I’m at the breaking point. Don’t get me started on those Disney Channel shows with the laugh tracks and the clueless parents. ↩︎

Conversation

Drew Coffman has gone all-in on crypto. He explains how he went from knowing nothing about the subject, to selling NFT’s, to a job working in Web 3.0 in 6 months.

Conversation

The Mozilla Blog has a post explaining why hyperlinks are blue.

Conversation

The funny thing about minimalism is there is only so much you can say about it. That’s why it’s called minimalism. ~ Patrick Rhone

Conversation

The Return of The Wonder Years

I loved the original The Wonder Years series, which tracked almost perfectly with my age at the time it aired. The familiarity of the youth experience mixed with the historical perspective that was mostly new to me was a compelling combination. The return of the show, set in the same time period, but featuring a black family, promises to bring back both of the elements that drew me in. The focus on the black experience will also bring a new dynamic that can be instructive, as well as entertaining. The instantly likable protagonist, Dean, seeks to be a uniter in a very divided time, earning him the nickname "Black Jesus." It will be interesting to see Dean try to convince even his own family to be more open minded about others. At one point in the trailer, he argues with his mom, who just can't understand why he would even want to play baseball with white kids. In addition to all of the interpersonal dynamics, there are sure to be plenty of bike riding scenes, allowing the viewer to experience the joy and freedom of life as a kid. Phoenix by Pedro the Lion Source: consequence.net

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Pink and Blue

The smooth and slightly smoky voice of Saint Sinner pairs well with the instrumentals from Tycho. It's a welcome change to hear vocals on the (normally instrumental) Tycho tracks and this is one song where they really pull it off in a very cohesive way. I've always thought Scott Hansen from Tycho had a certain genius for making electronic music sound particularly organic and that is very evident here. "Pink and Blue" is off the Weather album from Tycho, which came out over two years ago. I still find myself listening to this song fairly frequently, though, as it goes well with different kinds of playlists. Tycho ft. Saint Sinner - Pink and Blue

Conversation

TFW multiple books you had on hold at Libby become available at once. What to read?

Conversation

Back to the Future, E.T., and the Wonder of a Non-Violent Blockbuster In this piece for Consequence of Sound, Andrew Bloom looks at three films that brought us wonder and suspense, plus made gobs of money, and didn’t rely on violence as a crutch. His point is that these films are a dying breed, but they don’t have to be. We could take their DNA and bring them back from extinction, if you will. But there’s a model, in movies like Back to the Future, Mary Poppins, and E.T., for exciting, special effects-heavy films that don’t rely on high-powered scuffles to create their spectacle and awe. Big problems that must be solved, eye-catching showcases, and great escapes can all provide a means for cinema’s auteurs to wow audiences along a different dimension. In the process, these types of movies provide an alternative to the monotony of the standard third-act action sequence and call for more imagination than the usual collision of fists and firepower. I wrote briefly about this recently, as part of a discussion of a piece in the Guardian about how The Suicide Squad signals the beginning of the end for superhero movies. The piece argued that the over-the-top violence was one of the signs that the genre was starting its death throes. One would like to hope that the violence has reached a saturation point and movie makers will have to turn to other means with which to elicit excitement from the audience. A few weeks ago, my sister was asking about WandaVision. She was thinking about checking it out, but more drawn in by the style of the decades of sitcoms than the prospect of fight sequences. She’s not a big Marvel or super hero movie fan. When my brother and I told her about the third-act action sequence, she seemed to lose interest. But there should also be room for alternatives. You don’t have to be a pearl-clutcher to worry about the consequences of our culture’s biggest films consistently culminating in violence, especially when that violence is often sugarcoated and bloodless. The answer isn’t to blame violent films for every societal malady, let alone ban them entirely. It is, nevertheless, worth considering the likely effects of so many tentpole films increasingly fitting the same, battle-heavy mold. Bloom acknowledges that popcorn movies can be great, but they shouldn’t monopolize the big screens. He relies on the old adage that “variety is the spice of life.” Blockbusters as a whole are a reminder that the bombastic and incredible can be made possible. That type of wonder is not limited to the realm of firefights and fisticuffs. It also runs through the breathless getaway, the brilliant solution, and the fanciful places where ink and paint meet flesh and bone. ​It would be great to have at least a few alternatives, even if the big-budget action flick is not going to disappear entirely anytime soon.

Conversation

Here are a few blackout poems from Austin Kleon about the pandemic that remind me of the Psalms.

Conversation

Work Drugs "Drive"

This is a bit of a return to form for the band that describe themselves as “smooth sailin'." WORK DRUGS/PICTURED RESORT EP by Work Drugs Last week, I chose a live recording of Pictured Resort covering Craft Spells “After the Moment” for the Friday Night Video. I had also searched last week for a Bandcamp link for Work Drugs “Drive” as my lady friend and I had picked that as a standout on my playlist of new songs. I couldn’t find the track to share. However, when I went to Bandcamp to search for more tracks by Pictured Resort, I came across the split EP with Work Drugs and the lead track just happened to be “Drive.” This song sounds like it would be perfect in a movie like Mannequin, as Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall cruise around the city streets at night in a sports car (although I believe in the movie it was a motorcycle). “Don’t @ me,” as the kids say. When a mannequin spends her existence locked in a store, and only becomes animated at night, there is a lot of life to be lived during the hours when the sun is down. The lyrics reflect wistfulness, but the song still promotes the power of relationships to break us out from the mundane.

Conversation

🎵 Japanese Breakfast does a gorgeous cover of Sufjan Stevens' “Romulus.”

Conversation

🎵 Angel Olsen’s atmospheric 80’s cover EP, Aisles just dropped. If you buy it via Bandcamp today, all of her proceeds from the digital sales go to International Refugee Assistance Project. “Forever Young” gives me goosebumps.

Conversation

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Apps

A new photo sharing service could be great for photography, but is it ultimately better than the ones that already exist? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash The new photo sharing app, Glass, has been getting a lot of attention. One particular corner of the internet where it has received significant buzz is the Micro.blog community. The attention is both surprising and not surprising. It's not surprising because that community tends to be very tech literate and have a great curiosity for new apps and platforms, such as social networks, email tools, blogging services or note taking apps. A well made app like Glass with a user base that already seems to be passionate is bound to be a topic of discussion on the M.b. network of federated blogs. The enthusiasm is also expected because Micro.blog has quite a few very talented photographers that use the service. What is surprising, though, is that Micro.blog already has a vibrant photo sharing community and an app that specifically supports it. People are already engaged in photo sharing and discussions that grow around that activity on Micro.blog. In fact, Glass has adopted many of the same design principles that power Micro.blog. You might even call it "opinionated software." Matt Birchtree lists some of the elements of Glass in his post on the app, and I've pulled out the ones that match Micro.blog. If you do want to find someone to follow, there is a whole other tab with a list of suggested accounts. These appear to be accounts the app makers like, not ones based on who you already follow. There are basically no metrics in the app. You don't know how many people liked a photo, how many followers people have, and you can't even see how many followers you have! In short, this is not a popularity contest. You can't even like a photo in the first place. The only interaction is to leave a comment. This makes it harder to show appreciation for the shots you like, but it also makes it feel more engaging since you find yourself trying to think of something to say to people. Why did you like it? Do you have a question about the gear used? It's very clever. There are also no hashtags. This is actually something I hope they add in some form later, since finding types of photographers is always nice. Let's just lock it down maybe so we don't get 30 hashtags in every post like you have to do on Instagram.' It almost seems like the plot of a movie where the protagonist searches for love, only to realize that they had it the whole time in someone who was already their best friend. It will be interesting to see how the Glass community grows and if it offers additional value to the folks already using Micro.blog. I've included some samples of photos shared on Micro.blog, so that you can get a sense of the kind of exceptional output on the service. Got my hair cut from a sweet, wise, bubbly lady called Yvonne. I’m sure we’ve all had confusing experiences in hairdressers. This time it was wonderfully smooth and fun. Spending time getting pampered was lovely too. Looking forward to finding my feminine side once more. Holly Honeychurch https://blog.hollyhoneychurch.com/2021/08/19/got-my-haircut.html You can’t go to Seattle and not shoot the Space Needle. Shot this from our hotel terrace few streets down one evening. I love that you can zoom in and see people on the deck. Pratik https://photos.pratikmhatre.com/2021/08/19/you-cant-go.html I had quite the hills are alive vibe even while shooting this picture. Pratik https://photos.pratikmhatre.com/2021/08/13/i-had-quite.html Sk8er Boy Gabz/mL https://gabz.org/2021/08/18/sker-boy.html With liberty and justice for all. Looking out from Upstairs at Caroline. 🍸 Manton Reece https://www.manton.org/2021/08/04/with-liberty-and.html Picking some music for the final stretch… Day Two is done, Day Three is the one still missing. maique madeira https://micro.maiquemadeira.com/2021/08/17/picking-some-music.html

Conversation

Biden’s Betrayal of Afghans Will Live in Infamy | The Atlantic I’m breaking my usual guideline of not engaging in hot takes on major issues to call attention to this important piece in the Atlantic. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the 20-year debacle in Afghanistan—enough to fill a library of books. Perhaps the effort to rebuild the country was doomed from the start. But our abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, staked their lives on us, is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided. The Biden administration failed to heed the warnings on Afghanistan, failed to act with urgency—and its failure has left tens of thousands of Afghans to a terrible fate. This betrayal will live in infamy. The burden of shame falls on President Joe Biden. George Packer has the authority to write on the subject of abandoning Afghan allies because he has been following these Afghans for some time. The news outlets have been reporting on the plight of these people intensely for the last few months and with some regularity now for years. This is the second major betrayal of a group of our allies in recent memory.1 Why a group of people with anything to lose would ever again work with the United States is beyond my comprehension. Selling out the Kurds on the Syrian border was callous and duplicitous. That was to be expected from Donald Trump. ↩︎

Conversation

No, Vinyl Records Aren’t Outselling CDs - Do the Math | Radio Survivor Paul Riismandel writes for Radio Survivor about the inaccuracies in all of those articles trumpeting the demise of the CD corresponding to the rise in vinyl purchases. He notes initially that the number of units moved based on the total sales is deceiving, because CD’s are much cheaper than vinyl.1 CD’s, in fact, are holding their own as a physical medium on which to acquire music. As vinyl sales dropped in the 90s in favor of digital discs, companies pressed fewer records, and pressing plants gradually shut down. While CD sales have slowed in the last decade, they haven’t yet experienced the kind of drop-off that vinyl did. Although the last ten years have seen a vinyl resurgence, aging plants struggled to keep up with demand, and new plants came on line, all increasing costs. CDs, on the other hand, became a mature technology, with production costs having pretty much bottomed out in the early 2000s, and not having increased much since then. (🔗 Source: twitter.com) I can still remember in the first half of the 90’s, when this was not the case, despite the manufacturing costs having always been higher for vinyl. ↩︎

Conversation

My 9-yr.-old talks a lot when he’s playing video games. He sounds a bit like Bob Odenkirk impersonating Charles Manson. “I’ve got the eye of the tiger and I don’t know who to kill first!”

Conversation

Friday Night Video | After The Moment

Tonight we have Japanese band Pictured Resort covering Craft Spells' ‘After The Moment.’ The original is probably my favorite song in the Craft Spells catalog. Pictured Resort honor the song with this straightforward cover and look like they are having fun while doing it. It reminds me of a time when jangle pop was having a bit of a revival with the new bands on Captured Tracks and chillwave was also in its ascendancy. The overall sound of Pictured Resort covers territory in both of those genres. I just discovered this band because they did a split single with neo yacht-rockers Work Drugs and I’m going to have to dive deeper into their catalog.

Conversation

Isla

New songs from Film School set the stage for their soon-to-be-released album. Film School just dropped a single for "Isla," from their upcoming album We Weren't Here (9/24). Their Bandcamp page describes the song as "is perfect, washed out, glimmering pool side hazy ease." In other words, just right for summer. The track is a departure from their typical sound, and brings to mind Fleetwood Mac and Roxy Music as filtered through Wild Nothing. "Superperfection" starts awash in feedback and guitar noise. The reverb and distortion pedals are put to good use on this song, which sounds more in line with the typical shoegaze we're used to from Film School. The chorus reminds us of "wild times" while the hazy, laconic delivery suggests perhaps those wild times were in the very recent past. Isla / Superperfection by Film School

Conversation

End of the line for Uber | Cory Doctorow Cory Doctorow on the inevitable (at least in his view) implosion of Uber. He uses the phrase “Uber is doomed,” or something similar, probably a dozen times in this piece. That, my friends, is conviction. I live in Burbank, where Ubers were never more than 5 minutes away. Now, a 30 minute wait is common — and the fare is comparable to the licensed taxi company, which is literally one app away from achieving feature parity with Uber. It’s a tragedy that NYC taxi drivers had to suffer so greviously only for this company to rise and fall.1 Some have even committed suicide in their debt-saddled desperation. ↩︎

Conversation

Ethical Consumerism and the Amazon Dilemma

Amazon provides an almost perfect retail experience for the cost of a troubled conscience. Last Christmas, my sister had one prohibition on her wishlist for her Secret Santa: Nothing should be purchased for her on Amazon.com. Other than that, there were some helpful suggestions about things she wanted. I never asked her directly why the caveat about where items were purchased. I didn’t do so because it seemed obvious that there were a number of reasons a person would not want to support Amazon. In his book Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, Alec MacGillis fleshes out those reasons in a figurative sense as he chronicles real people caught in the cogs of the Amazon machine. The Atlantic has a comprehensive piece on the book. Before you get to the individual level, though, there are some startling statistics that the article provides. Amazon reaps fully half of what people in this country spend online. It is the second largest private employer in the US, behind Walmart. Amazon, along with Walmart, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of an arrangement that allows food stamps to be used for online groceries, bringing in large amounts of government money. There are more stats to be had (in the piece and elsewhere), but I don’t want to push the boundaries of fair use. These three points give you plenty upon which to ruminate, though. From a human interest perspective, MacGillis tells the stories of Amazon warehouse workers who face working conditions most of us would consider unfair, at the least. One worker he chronicles, who used to work at a Bethlehem Steel plant in Baltimore, ended up working at an Amazon warehouse on the same site for less than half the wages, at age 69, after the steel plant closed down. If nothing else, he enjoyed the continuity of working in the same place, until his supervisor threatened to dock his already meager pay over a bathroom break and he quit.1 Warehouse workers are not the only ones with problems getting bathroom time. It’s a particular problem with Amazon’s delivery drivers, as well. Another worker MacGillis profiles stays in his basement at home, because of the high risk of COVID infection at the Amazon warehouse, so that he doesn’t put his family at risk. In pieces critical of Amazon, we are usually reminded that these stories are set amid the backdrop of the massive and inhuman wealth of former CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, who’s fortune is second only to that of Elon Musk. The contrasts could not be greater between the majority of the workers in the company and those at the very top. It Used To Be Simpler A few years ago, it was easy for me to feel like I was doing my duty as a conscientious consumer by avoiding Walmart. They were the big box bad guy putting smaller stores out of business and then hiring the employees for lower wages. They were the company employing many people part time to avoid giving them benefits. They were the ones forcing local companies to outsource labor in order to keep their products on store shelves.2 Walmart wore their thrift like a badge of honor, but the extremes to which they went to save money sucked the life out of the very areas where their customers lived. It wasn’t hard to wage a personal fight against the stingy retail giant, though, at least not in most metro areas. There were other places where the same goods could be had, even if they were to be had at a higher price. It’s more difficult to avoid Amazon than it was Walmart. With my health conditions, I need to get supplements I have a hard time finding elsewhere. I have both a Home Depot and a Lowe’s within a few miles of my house, but I still occasionally need to find home improvement items at Amazon. Walmart wore their thrift like a badge of honor, but the extremes to which they went to save money sucked the life out of the very areas where their customers lived. Ebooks There aren’t any true competitors to Amazon’s Kindle ebooks ecosystem. The closest one is Barnes and Noble’s Nook. It has been clear for quite some time that B&N isn’t really serious about their ebook readers, though. The last time I checked, you couldn’t even buy the latest version of their ereader, the GlowLight 3 on their website. When I had a Nook, there were significant software problems. For instance, sometimes turning the page caused it to skip dozens of pages and you would have to go back and find your spot. The system would crash fairly often. Besides the technical issues with the device, it was difficult for others to gift books to me. The company’s efforts in the area always felt half-baked, an afterthought adjunct to their actual business of selling paper. There are no other e-ink ebook readers, besides the Kindle, on which you can read books checked out from the library through the app Libby. This means if you have something like a Nook, you are even more locked in to the B&N ecosystem than you are Amazon’s ecosystem when you have a Kindle. Unfortunately, this is a problem that the Nook’s liberal sideloading abilities don’t solve. Censorship Much has been made recently about Amazon’s abrupt removal of the book When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson. I haven’t read a sentence of this book (and since I mainly get books on my Kindle, it’s doubtful I will), but it was concerning that Amazon didn’t even follow their own policies when deciding to take the book off of their site. As Rob Vischer points out on the Mirror of Justice blog , this move, and others commonly attributed to “cancel culture,” wouldn’t be so concerning without the enormous clout that the big tech companies wield. But what if Amazon decides to stop selling a controversial book? Amazon – like other Big Tech companies – doesn’t just participate in the market; in a real sense, they function as gatekeepers to the market. When those gatekeepers act to remove certain people or ideas from circulation, we should be concerned. (That doesn’t mean it should never happen – e.g., I don’t think Amazon should sell a do-it-yourself kit for building a dirty bomb at home.) In my view, the power of Big Tech is what makes today’s “cancel culture” debates relevant. Amazon as a business can decide what it does and does not want to sell. Vischer is right, though, that it is in the context of their market dominance that moves like this become concerning. The spectacle of Bezos burning money for rocket fuel while people go without basics in this country is abhorrent, especially during a pandemic. Space Billionaires To come back briefly to the gap between worker and CEO pay, no company does a better job showcasing this than Amazon. Bezos may no longer be CEO, but he’s still the face of the franchise and his space voyages made on the backs of the overworked and underpaid do not go unnoticed. Bezos may have thanked Amazon workers, but his wave looked like it had a middle finger extended. The spectacle of Bezos burning money for rocket fuel while people go without basics in this country is abhorrent, especially during a pandemic. The Challenge I'm constantly asking myself: What is a conscientious consumer to do? Those who have disentangled themselves from the great ecommerce beast, please let me know the process you went through. I'm open to even ways to partially extricate myself and feel good about contributing to a healthier retail, publishing and working environment. Update: I'm going to have to absorb this post from Jason Burk, which details how he was able to make himself less dependent on Amazon. He had been peeing in the corner of the warehouse to avoid the strict bathroom time limits. ↩︎ Local textile company Pillowtex was forced by Walmart to offshore their production and close their local plants. ↩︎

Conversation

I like the way Matt Mullenweg calls journals “private blogs.” That guy truly has a web first mentality.

Conversation

What is an ethical consumer supposed to do with Amazon?

Conversation

It concerns me when my 9-yr.-old says things like “nobody uses Tinder anymore.”

Conversation

Is The Suicide Squad the beginning of the end for the superhero movie? | The Guardian Marvel’s crescendoing epic Avengers: Endgame, with its colossal box office showing two years ago, will undoubtedly represent the peak of the superhero movie’s popularity. The Suicide Squad meanwhile may prove to be to the superhero movie what The Wild Bunch was to the western: a bloody, game-changing end to one phase, and the beginning of another, even richer one. I have no interest in seeing the Suicide Squad and frankly, it saddens me to see yet a new low in profanity and gore in superhero movies. I wonder when we’ll reach the bottom. The author of the piece, Brogan Morris, seems to believe the new self-aware and perhaps even self-effacing superhero movie may bring more complexity along with the grit. I don’t welcome this new phase but if it does, as Morris seems to believe, represent the last phase of superhero movies before the genre fades away, I can accept it as such. I have to question, though. Is it even possible that we can get away from pure spectacle and back to more modest mid-budget movies again?

Conversation

Lost on Safari

Apple feels a little bit lost with regards to its implementation of Safari 15. The new look of the native Apple web browser was announced to much fanfare but a less than exuberant reaction from users. I’ve read a lot of opinions on the new layout and features and certainly more negative than positive. I find it surprising that Apple seeks feedback on the new design. It’s a good thing but also surprising has they tend to do their thing alone. Now, they look a bit in distress while searching for a solution. numericcitizen.micro.blogNumeric Citizen https://numericcitizen.micro.blog/2021/07/27/ive-been-invited.html I can remember years ago when Apple put the browser tabs on the top in a beta release. The tabs looked like part of the toolbar chrome and they were evenly sized, differing in length by the number of them you had open. If you had 2 tabs open, they would each take 50% of the browser window. I thought it was genius but I was in the minority. Apple changed the implementation and put the tabs back below the address bar, where they had always been. Apple can be opinionated, but they also listen to their users. Matt Birchtree compares the way Safari handles the color of web pages being integrated into the browser chrome to the way Vivaldi handles it. He finds the UI on Vivaldi to be much more compelling and usable when adopting the same concept. I think Safari is in a better place today than it was a couple months ago, but it’s still not living up to the usablity standards Apple holds its products to in my opinion. I do give Safari the edge in having larger tabs that show more of the website title in most cases, but this theming feature is not quite right yet. Hopefully Apple can make it great by when this ships in the fall. It sounds like like Apple still has some work to do in order to satisfy their user base. I hope they come up with something that retains the originality of the initial design vision but also makes gains in usability. Some people want browser chrome and some prefer it to be fade into the background, putting the website first and foremost. It may be hard to satisfy both camps.

Conversation

No Compliance

I love that this Facebook ad spotlighting a retro skateboarding trick starts with footage of Ray Barbee from the Powell Peralta skate video Ban This (Bones Brigade 5). My mom and I used to love watching Barbee’s part in that video because his style was so smooth. He went from trick to trick like he was connecting the dots. The no comply lost its popularity shortly after I started skateboarding, so I could only do the standard 180 and not any of the cool variations that people have developed over the years. It wasn’t until years later that I realized older tricks, like no complies, and boneless tricks were actually really fun. In my earlier days, almost anything where you would step off of your board was pretty much verboten.

Conversation

Using Drafts.app feels like being in control of a mini digital command center for text. Sometimes, the complexity is daunting, but other times, it’s just what I need.

Conversation

As of next week, my younger son will have attended school for only 2 out of the 5 weeks since he started in this grade. COVID protocols will have kept him out for 60% of the total planned class time.

Conversation

‘Look at Me Like a Human Boy!’ Clifford is one of my favorite movies of all time, so of course I had to read through this oral history of the film.

Conversation

Smoke on the horizon, all’s well at home | Garrison Keillor “I have friends whose grandchildren keep them awake at night, friends who gave up religion long ago but who still believe in prayer because what else is there? Your beloved granddaughter has schizophrenia and you, a former atheist, switch to agnosticism so you can say, ‘Dear God, please look down on Angelina who is living in a bad dream and show her Your love.'” Prayer is something to which even unbelievers can turn to in times of crisis. This is not a universal rule, but prayer seems to be something to which we are oriented, regardless of our religious formation.

Conversation

Obsessive Collecting & Hobbies in the Pandemic: Vinyl Records Demand forces a collector to think ahead—“Will I ever want this in my collection?"—and pull the trigger within minutes of a record going on sale, lest it sell out and you pay several times the retail price when you realize later that indeed, that record is something you had to have. You live in fear of reaching a point in the future where you wish you bought that thing that you could have. Hobbies are supposed to be about pleasure, but for me, what has taken over this hobby is another sensation all together: anxiety. This process is one of the reasons I mostly stopped buying vinyl records a while ago. It seemed I was never quick enough to get in on those limited edition colored vinyl editions of albums before they were snatched up by the heavily-online collectors. To be clear, I was never buying records for the sake of trying to make money off them going up in value. I wasn’t a vinyl speculator. I just wanted to listen to my favorite bands in the best-sounding way possible and have something tangible to enjoy along with the experience. Growing up with musical artifacts, it has been hard to completely give them up. Vinyl gives you all the tactile experience you could want, with huge art and a spinning to disc to watch while you are absorbing the tunes. Unfortunately, you have to make the calculation if the record is worth buying on preorder before the songs have been released or risk losing out on getting the best version of the vinyl. That matters, whether you are speculating or simply want to enjoy the most aesthetically pleasing version of the album. (Source: opus.substack.com)

Conversation

Didn’t finish reading: The Story Of A New Name by Elena Ferrante 📚. The book was very well written, and the main character provided an interesting but neutral lens through which she saw the world. It was so long that I could only get 35% read before my borrow time ran out.

Conversation

The first user of the beta Posts+ feature on Tumblr received death threats. “I felt like the sacrificial lamb, because they didn’t announce Post+ beforehand and only gave it to a few people, which landed me in the crosshairs of a very pissed-off user base when I’m just trying to pay off medical bills by giving people the option to pay for content,” Kaijuno told TechCrunch. “I knew there’d be some backlash because users hate any sort of change to Tumblr, but I thought that the brunt of the backlash would be at the staff, and that the beta testers would be spared from most of it.” Testing beta software always comes with risks. This is often made clear in some form of beta testing agreement. To state the obvious, it isn’t usually the case that the risk comes in the form of a rabid community of users threatening your life. Tumblr has a notoriously committed community that can be very critical of any change to their beloved platform. While users can be hostile towards those who make changes to their favorite software, I’ve never seen this sort of vitriol directed at beta testers who are trying out the changes.1 As someone who was a QA Manager for 10 years, I can assure you I’ve seen my share of consternation about software changes, particularly from beta testers. ↩︎

Conversation

I can’t believe we are still in the situation where you have to prove you have a cable provider to watch things online.

Conversation

I don’t care what you do, as a parent, you are never totally prepared for that moment when your child initiates a conversation with you about the Melvins.

Conversation

Finished reading: Siege And Storm by Leigh Bardugo 📚. I enjoyed this much more than the first book in the trilogy, which I didn’t finish but was totally engrossed in the on-screen adaptation. The depth of the second book bodes well for the next season of the Netflix series.

Conversation

Tumblr removing post types and substituting simple content blocks is a good move. It enables greater posting flexibility.

Conversation

I really like not having access to site metrics on M.b. but it can be nice to know when someone is reading your blog posts. It was gratifying to see a blog post I wrote discussed in this weekly newsletter.

Conversation

“Comments are suppposed to be nice and supportive, or just like, a question.” ~ My 9-yr. old, coming into contact with nasty comments on his favorite YouTubers, for the first time.

Conversation

Music As Teenage Cultural Capital

Teenagers by ChiesADIbeinasco via Flickr When I lived out my teen years, in the early nineties, the musical landscape was much different than it is today. I don’t mean in terms of genres or styles (although that is certainly true, as well). I’m now going through the experience of my teenage son exploring the music that was popular back then. It’s the same music, but encountered in a much different way. The easy access that he enjoys to jump to anything in the sonic universe enables him to quickly make musical connections that it took me years to understand. The glut of information available in the internet can, in a short matter of time, fill a brain with enough musical trivia to shame the most learned and cynical 90’s hipster record store clerks. In the the space of a few days, my son went through Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. I thought, “it’s only a matter of time before he makes it to Dinosaur Jr.” Passing by his room a couple of days later, I heard the unmistakable bridge from the Dino Jr. song “Raisans.” The gruesome sample of a mentally ill man complaining that his bathing attendants were killing him is haunting every time I hear it. The sound of the guitar leads, erupting before you can even anticipate them, like lava from a long-dormant volcano, made their way into the hallway. Where he will leap to next I can't anticipate, although he has mentioned needing to hear Mudhoney as he takes in a grunge history lesson. With the wide availability of almost all recorded music a few taps on the keyboard away, he loses something that made crate digging and memorizing liner notes and record guides made special. In my teens, to a certain species of nerd, musical knowledge was power. When you were listening to Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day and others a full two years before they broke into the mainstream and the jock with his locker next to yours suddenly became a fan, it gave you a sense that you were onto something. If you were not careful (not many teenagers are too careful), you could build up a sense of superiority over knowing what others would only come to find out later. It was easy to look down upon the johnny-come-lately crowd as mere posers. I shamefully remember the feeling of disdain. Once, in the twelfth grade, I had a fairly heated argument with one of my classmates in the library about what music was cool. A year later, she had died, a victim of a vicious asthma attack, and I laid in a hospital bed awaiting my first round of chemotherapy. After that point, I no longer had the will to make music a thing by which I judged others. It all seemed so pointless. I'm doing my penance now for my snobbery in high school, though. I couldn't stand Pearl Jam back then and now my teenage son listens to them more than any other band. He sings songs like "Jeremy" at the top of his lungs, so I hear them all of the time. It serves me right.

Conversation

Finished reading: Stardust by Neil Gaiman 📚. I had trouble wrapping my head around the concept of an adult fairy tale, but that does perfectly describe the book. Not a particularly long read, but definitely a fun one.

Conversation

On the wall above his desk, there’s a framed ticket from a Grateful Dead concert. On the other side of the room, there’s blotter paper signed by the 1960s counterculture icon Ken Kesey. Lined up on the bookshelf are copies of half-century-old academic literature on LSD. A UNC researcher, operating under a huge grant from DARPA, wants to remove hallucinations from psychedelics, in order to create a new class of antidepressants. This could get interesting.

Conversation

“‘Lucas makes movies that are intentionally designed to have holes in them that need to be filled later,’ the producer Brian Volk-Weiss says in the oral history. He’s right except for one thing: Do they need to be filled in? Many a mediocre Star Wars product has arisen from trying to define every entry in the galactic glossary. The original films work precisely because of the holes.“ Spencer Kornhaber writes for the Atlantic about how the Mandolorian brings back the Star Wars universe that feels real. One of the biggest faults of the prequels, the premise of which doomed them from the start, was how they were conceived to fill those mysterious holes that appeared in the original trilogy. Even the Disney sequel films suffered from this inclination to reveal all. As much as I wanted to see the enigmatic Knights of Ren that were hinted at in The Force Awakens, I couldn’t help but be disappointed when they actually appeared on screen. Those who have a hand in creating Star Wars properties need to know that the audience should be afforded some allowance to use their imaginations.

Conversation

Good move by Twitter to add Revue newsletter signup buttons to Twitter user profiles. I wondered how they were going to integrate the newsletter service, and this should boost subscriptions.

Conversation

Newsletters get tricky.

Conversation

Is Netflix the only company within the high-flying FAANG stock portfolio not under antitrust scrutiny?

Conversation

I appreciate Eddy Cue’s honesty regarding Apple Music lossless encoding. Very few people will be able to notice a difference.

Conversation

“If you have ever engaged in one of the typical shame fights on social media, then think about how you felt when it was over (or even if you only read such a shame fight). There is no inner peace. There can be burning anger and a nattering inner voice of opposition that lingers for days. In terms of shame, it doesn’t matter if you are right. Shame loves the categories of right and wrong. It only matters that your opponent disagreed and that you shamed them. Shame is like the game of global thermonuclear war: the only option is not to play.” ~ via Shame in the Public Arena - Glory to God for All Things

Conversation

Listening to the spaceship engine sounds from the Dark Noises app at night makes me feel like I’m praying in my quarters aboard the Starship Enterprise.

Conversation

Adding this movie to my Netflix queue was an easy call. A new Netflix movie called Skater Girl chronicles the journey of an Indian teenage girl who discovers a life-changing passion for skateboarding. It’s also the story of Asha Gond.

Conversation

I’ve longed for pages like this on Apple Music, where you can see the output of a record label. Trusting the curation of a particular label has been one of the best ways to find new music since forever.

Conversation

The More Things Change

Lyman High Student Council, Presho, SD - Jan. 1979, by Mike Welfi via Flickr Freddie deBoer recently read an oral history of the film Dazed and Confused. He found himself wondering about the sense, among the cast and crew of the movie, that the kind of teenage cruelty depicted would never fly today. In At the Heart of It All, the writer, who never seems shy about openly discussing the more difficult aspects of life, argues that this type of cruelty among teenagers is not only still here, but will indeed never fully go away. But of course the world has not changed, not from the way things were in the 90s nor from the 70s, in most important ways. And one way that the world has not changed is that young people still treat each other with casual brutality that stems from the intense self-loathing that powers bullying, the awkwardness of our bodies and selves at that age, and the relentless jockeying for social rank endemic to high school. The vocabulary has changed, and there may be certain new kinds of plausible deniability built in to what were once more nakedly brutal practices. (More naked and thus more honest.) But I promise you that every single day high school students are absolutely savage to each other. What’s more, human nature being what it is, I’m sure that they now do so explicitly utilizing the politicized and therapeutic language that proponents of social justice norms foolishly assume is an antidote to that bad behavior. Because interpersonal cruelty is a universal aspect of the human condition and any philosophy can be bent to its use. This condition can perhaps at times be ameliorated but it can never be eliminated and learning this reality is an important part of growing up. Cruelty is here to stay. What today’s social justice politics ask for is a world that’s nice, a world that’s safe for everyone all the time. And of course this is impossible. The nice world is never coming. Yes, we need to work to make the world a more equitable and humane place. There are certain areas in that domain where progress is possible. But to say, as many now do, that we need to eliminate bullying, or even eliminate microaggressions, is no less fantastical than saying we need to build spaceships to take us away from this fallen earth. I don't know where deBoer stands on religion. His take on human nature, though, seems to borrow from the Christian tradition. His specific use of the word "fallen," that references (whether intentionally or not), the first story of the book of Genesis, commonly referred to as "the Fall." In Christian writing, we are frequently grappling with how to live our faith in a fallen world. To be more specific, though, deBoer almost sounds Calvinist.1 He relays a strong skepticism that we can ever enact enough positive conditioning or even societal shaming mechanisms to eliminate the base tendencies of humanity. In Christianity, this is where unmerited grace comes in. Interestingly, deBoer's stance on human tendencies and the modern desire to rewire them matches the take on modernity that comes from Orthodox priest Fr. Stephen Freeman. Again, that reception is not purely passive. We use what we receive. We invent, we improve. We enjoy. However, doing those things with a heart that gratefully receives what has been given, and that seeks to know and understand the nature of that gift, is vastly different than the various arrogant modernisms of “making the world a better place,” and “re-inventing human beings.” Along with Freeman's sense of gratitude comes a pessimism about how much humanity can be changed through systematic means. “People are people,” as the Depeche Mode song goes. Or “boys will be boys” as one bully’s father said when his son was picking on my brother. In some ways, we recognize that human nature stays the same across the generations. We shouldn't resign ourselves to tolerance of cruelty, though. From a Christian perspective, we are called to help bring about God’s kingdom “on earth, as it is in heaven.”2 We may not always be perfect in our attempts. We may fall short. We may even find ourselves disheartened that we can never be fully successful. Jesus, after all, reminded us that "the poor you will always have with you."3 He also expected that we tend to the poor and try and alleviate conditions of inequity, though. I understand where the deBoer and Freeman are coming from, because many many contemporary attempts to fix the problems of social interaction tend to go too far past the mark. Even so, I want us to recognize that acknowledgment and acceptance are two different things. One could imagine deBoer referencing the doctrine of total depravity. ↩︎ Matthew 6:10 ↩︎ Matthew 26:11 ↩︎

Conversation

As the kids say, “it me.”

Conversation

The Sound of the Fury

Photo by Lacie Slezak via Unsplash When Medium decided to stop funding many of the publications on their platform, most editors of those publications wrote nice notes thanking Medium for their patronage. A few detailed new plans for publishing their content elsewhere. Sarah Cords, from P.S. I Love You, however, will not go gently into that good night. She is angry about the defunding of the publication she had put her heart into, and wants others to know it. Cords is tired of the churn in journalism and the constant desire of technology companies to be "disruptive." But you know what? I’m a member of Gen X and I’m tired. I’m deeply tired. I’m fighting to stay employed so we can keep our health insurance, and I’m trying to look after my elderly mother, and I’m trying to take care of my husband who has health problems, and I’m trying to keep up with my kids who need a lot of help and reassurance after a year of pandemic. P.S. I Love You, which was a publication about relationships, had almost 300K subscribers and I was one of those. I didn't read every article they published, but found a lot of the work there to be compelling. I don't want to ascribe callousness to a guy I don't even know, but I wonder how much Ev Williams thinks about the people that get tossed aside every time he has a whim to change the Medium business model.

Conversation

📚When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi: The story of Kalanathi’s promising life as a neurosurgeon disappearing with his diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer is tragic. However, Kalanathi’s musings on medical care, relationships and life make this an inspiring read.

Conversation

Grayscale Phone

I recently showed my wife my iPhone screen, which was dulled by complete grayscale. She responded by telling me that it didn’t look as interesting without the colors. Which was just the point. The once vibrant phone, alluring to my eyes, was now rendered much more boring. The bloom had come off the rose, and my attention was my own again. We spend so much time just dorking around on our phones. We intentionally pick it up to perform a task, but how often does our phone overstay it’s welcome as we just start clicking on one thing after another? There are times that I pick up the phone to check something, forget what I wanted to check and end up looking at something entirely different. In a Moz://a post about how to actually enjoy being online again, Rebecca Smith details how you can avoid distractions and only get online for the things you need or that bring you enjoyment. One of the ways she avoids distraction is by turning on grayscale in accessibility settings. How often do you find yourself mindlessly reaching for your phone and then scrolling through for no reason? You look down and it’s been an hour and you didn’t accomplish or learn anything, or even really find yourself entertained. Your time matters, and app logos and colors are designed and used to capture your attention for longer. The colors stimulate your brain, so by turning your phone to grayscale and stripping the colors, you may be less motivated to check your phone as often. Smith has other ideas, as well, some of which just promote Firefox and one of which is as simple as, “just close your computer.”

Conversation

At this point, none of the money from the $16 billion “Save Our Stages” relief fund has been distributed. I was happy our senator was supporting that bill and I would love to see the venues get payments.

Conversation

🎮 Oregon Trail: I haven’t actually played the game, but I enjoy listening to the desert noir soundtrack when my wife is playing it.

Conversation

Some Things Last A Long Time

Following the previous post, I’m risking turning this into a Sharon Von Etten fan blog, which would be weird, since I haven’t even heard most of her work. I did come across this cover of one of Daniel Johnston’s best songs, “Some Things Last A Long Time,” though, and found it unique enough to want to share. The cover comes across as sounding like Warpaint, a bass-heavy dirge with multi-tracked haunting vocals. It wouldn't sound out of place on a playlist next to song pulled from the Cure's Pornography record. All of that to emphatically say that it doesn't sound anything like the Daniel Johnston original, which deals in sparseness and innocence.

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Like I Used To

It may be partly the haircuts (hey Linda Ronstadt), but something feels so authentically 70’s about this collaboration between Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten. Despite the video featuring the two artists sitting alone in rooms playing acoustic guitar, this song has a fleshed out band that augments the pair well. The song plays with country instincts the way many in the 70’s did (think Fleetwood Mac), without giving in to the cornier trappings of the genre. If the YouTube comments are any indication, the harmonies between Olsen and Van Etten are the realization of the dreams of many fans.

Conversation

Prayers Over Facebook

Facebook has been quietly rolling out a prayer post feature that will let users post prayer requests. The slow roll includes targeting particular users (ones who make their religious preferences fairly apparent, I would imagine). Once the request is posted, other users can respond to the request for prayer. Other members can then click a “pray” button to let the original poster know they have prayed for their request. They also can choose a reaction, leave a comment or send a private message to the poster. I’m usually fairly critical of Facebook, but I like this new feature. As someone who regularly asks for prayers, if I were a Facebook user, I could see myself using it. The RNS piece mentions the feature coming out of the different ways people were connecting with each other over Facebook during the isolation of the pandemic. Presumably, conversations about prayer was a way people frequently communicated, leading to the idea of a specific feature. It makes me happy to see Facebook letting people bring their faith to the platform in meaningful ways. via Opus

Conversation

Spotify Versus the Ages

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash. There are many reasons to be frustrated with Spotify, but my number one at the moment has to be the way their payment setup is forcing artists to change their song structure in order to get paid by the service. So much so that it’s considered an act of rebellion for a song to have a standard verse, chorus, verse format. Or, as in the case, that Alan Jacobs writes about, a slow intro that gives way to something with hooks. Every summer needs a song, and pretty obviously this is the one for 2021. One note: it’s significant that Lake Street Dive has been around for about a decade and is very much an indie band. How can you tell? Because the song begins with a slow intro before kicking into that irresistible groove. A song calculated to maximize streaming-service revenue would never do that: because Spotify only pays artists for listens of 30 seconds or more, studios are forcing their songwriters to frontload their songs’ choruses. “Hypotheticals” as a composition is a relic of the past; we’ll get fewer and fewer songs structured that way. Another reason — along with that sweet groove and Rachael Price’s amazing voice — to appreciate a terrific pop-R&B throwback number. When you think about it, artists have always tailored their songs to certain mediums, to some extent. If a song wasn’t short enough for radio, for example, with “The Diamond Sea” by Sonic Youth, clocking out at just under 20 minutes, the band made a radio-friendly edit. More frequently, the constraints of the medium were built into the creation of the song. However, this payment structure that Spotify has introduced puts the artist in a very small box in which to write a song. It’s another way Spotify is changing the musical landscape, and in this case, not for the better.

Conversation

I appreciate the way the official Micro.blog app has edges. If I don’t click the “Show More” button, I get a good snapshot of what is going on and don’t spend the time endlessly scrolling. It’s nice to have the choice to make depending on my time and attention.

Conversation

📺 The Bad Batch: The first episode got the thumbs up from the little guy, who loved Clone Wars. May the 4th be with you.

Conversation

🎮 Wonderbox: My son is really enjoying the single and multiplayer modes of this game. The levels and the puzzles feel so lovingly crafted. An Apple Arcade delight.

Conversation

A Way To Buy Nothing

These Buy Nothing groups, which offer a way to trade goods with neighbors and reduce spending and waste, are a fantastic idea. A few years ago, Melissa Holguin Pineda decided to spend a summer in Seattle with her cousin. She brought a duffel bag, the clothes she was wearing and little else to a place that was almost entirely new to her. She wanted to connect with the unfamiliar city, and her cousin pointed her to something that essentially furnished her entire apartment in Green Lake: a Buy Nothing group. It’s too bad they use Facebook as a platform, but there are plans to change that and build their own service.

Conversation

🍿 Wolfwalkers - A brilliantly and vibrantly illustrated movie. I was frustrated with the narrative that pagans were enlightened and Christians were backwards, but my wife thinks the contrast was more about the way the British saw the Irish.

Conversation

Keeping Your Composure

Over at Brainpickings, Maria Popova writes about accepting reality and setting your expectations accordingly. Though most of the piece is focused on passages from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, she also offers lessons in equanimity from Walt Whitman, who had to reset his outlook in the face of a debilitating stroke. He spared himself the additional self-inflicted suffering of outrage at how his body failed him — perhaps because, having proclaimed himself the poet of the Body and the poet of the Soul, he understood the two to be one. He squandered no emotional energy on the expectation that his suddenly disabled body perform a counterpossible feat against reality to let him enjoy his beloved tree workouts and daily excursions to the river. He simply edited his expectations to accord with his new reality and sought to find his joy there, within these new parameters of being. (emphasis mine) Whitman, an unabashed lover of nature, lost much of the freedom that had been afforded him to enjoy it, after his stroke at the age of 53. He was forced to move from his home in Washington to live with his brother in New Jersey. Although he regained some of his abilities over time, the event changed his perspective and allowed him to see continue to see meaning and purpose even within the constraints he was given. I like the phrase “parameters of being” as it implies the life that must be lived within those constraints.

Conversation

Female Leads

When Ursula Le Guin wrote the The Tombs of Atuan (published in 1970), the second book in the Earthsea series, female leads in fantasy books were almost nonexistent. It was countercultural for her to include Arha, a young priestess, as the main character. She discusses this in the more recently written afterward to the book. These days there are plenty, though I wonder about some of them. The women warriors of current fantasy epics—ruthless swordswomen with no domestic or sexual responsibility who gallop about slaughtering baddies—to me they look less like women than like boys in women’s bodies in men’s armor. To her point, I found, when looking for a fantasy novel to read, that many of the recent ones have female protagonists. They are almost always described as “strong female leads” and sometimes (though not always) meet the description that Le Guin gives. It seems requisite that any women who are main characters in fantasy books can be described as tough. The reviews of these books reap praise on them for having female characters that meet certain criteria. Le Guin took a more nuanced approach to developing her characters, one that saw the importance of elevating strong women but not overcorrecting for the centuries of neglect. One that considered both men and women in their totality, fleshing them out in three dimensions. She also conceptualized the relationship between men and women in a different way than is typical now. In contrast to the contemporary idea that life is a zero sum game in which for one gender to thrive, the other has to wither, Le Guin imagines them in complement.1 Men and women are better together, cooperating for mutual benefit. This doesn’t have to mean a proscription of roles, but it does mean an acknowledgement of interdependence. Some people have read the story as supporting the idea that a woman needs a man in order to do anything at all (some nodded approvingly, others growled and hissed). Certainly Arha/Tenar would better satisfy feminist idealists if she did everything all by herself. But the truth as I saw it, and as I established it in the novel, was that she couldn’t. My imagination wouldn’t provide a scenario where she could, because my heart told me incontrovertibly that neither gender could go far without the other. So, in my story, neither the woman nor the man can get free without the other. Not in that trap. Each has to ask for the other’s help and learn to trust and depend on the other. A large lesson, a new knowledge for both these strong, willful, lonely souls. This was radical at the time it was written and is probably even more radical now. I know the term “complement“ can be loaded in this context with all sorts of cultural baggage, but I assure you I bring none of that with it. ↩︎

Conversation

“There are several leading theories for why vaccines could alleviate the symptoms of long COVID: It’s possible the vaccine clears up leftover virus or fragments, interrupts a damaging autoimmune response, or in some other way ‘resets’ the immune system.” via NPR I hope this theory proves to be true for those effected by long viruses, other than COVID, as well.

Conversation

Got my first jab today, but unlike most people, I walked in with a few of the symptoms that were listed as side-effects for the vaccine.

Conversation

Friday Night Videos | Where Is My Mind

Nandi Bushell always puts on a great performance. She started with videos of herself playing a particular song with a single instrument and wowed a lot of heavyweight rockers (like Tom Morello and Dave Grohl). She recently branched out into covering all the parts of songs like “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Where is My Mind” by Pixies using a looper and recording each instrument independently in sequence. With the latter recording, she does a sublime job with the vocals that bookend the song and allows her instrumental loops to buttress the main vocal part. Her more-than-apparent enthusiasm for rock music is always infectious and her craft is inspiring.

Conversation

Currently reading: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin 📚. The second in the Earthsea series, this one didn’t grab me right away. The focus on worldbuilding took away from character development initially, but the latter half of the book made up for it.

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Little Fury Things (Acoustic Cover)

If you’ve ever heard J. Mascis perform Dinosaur Jr. songs solo on acoustic guitar, he goes about it in what could be described as a lazy way. He’s sloppy, which is part of who he is, or his brand, if you will. As one music critic once said of his cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” when he says, “‘I must have been asleep for days,’ you really believe him.” A recently released live album actually has him singing “blah, blah, blah,” on one of the songs when he forgets the words. Though he’s a much revered guitar player, his acoustic guitar playing is rough on live recordings. When Nick O’Keefe covers “Little Fury Things,” he is more precise. He does the song (one of my all-time favorites and maybe the best album-opener) justice with a straight take on the Dino Jr. classic. YouTube recommending this to me shows that someone is creating good algorithms over there. O’Keefe also covers other indie darlings, such as Sufjan Stevens and The Microphones.

Conversation

Apple Arcade is killing it right now and I wish I had the energy to play more of the games.

Conversation

For those who may be interested, this is the Q&A where I was able to ask the Catholic nuns how the practice of Memento Mori could apply to chronic illness.

Conversation

The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed! 🐑🪨

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Hard Drive

Have you ever thought about how hypnosis so closely resembles guided meditation? Especially the beginning of hypnosis, called induction, which is designed to put you into a state of relaxation in which you are more susceptible to suggestion. The watching of the breath, the attention on sensations in the body that focus and settle your mind are integral to both beginning hypnosis and to mindfulness meditation. When Cassandra Jenkins begins the song “Hard Drive” with spoken word, it feels like a hypnotic induction. With the saxophones playfully decorating the background, the accompanying instruments sound a bit like something off the Blue Nile’s Hats LP. Jenkins transitions to a singing voice as the chorus starts and it sounds all the more beautiful for the contrast with the spoken narrative. The song is masterfully constructed. As Jenkins speaks towards the end of the track, she narrates a friend assuring her of a better future, then slowly counting to three while directing deep breathing, which mimics the part of cuing someone out of hypnosis. Jenkins talks about therapy in the song. In 2019, she was set to go on tour with Purple Mountains when, a few days from the start, Dave Berman from Purple Mountains passed away. One has to assume that therapy has played an important part in her life.

Conversation

Dreaming Of How It’s Supposed To Be (a collage)

Conversation

I am so stoked that Kumail Najiani is going to be in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series. I only hope that they have a scene where The Danny Band plays the Stargazer Lounge.

Conversation

I’m not sure I fully understand why the generic almond milk I use for my cereal needs a social media presence across multiple platforms.

Conversation

Time To Edit

I don’t know how I ended up with this eraser, but it seems perfect for this post. Austin Kleon writes about blogging as a forgiving medium. It doesn’t carry the risk of social media (particularly Twitter). It allows for editing even after a post is originally published. I was happy to read that I’m not the only one that goes back and edits my blog posts several times after they are published. Being wrong publicly is the easiest way to learn what you need to know. The trouble is: it’s also the easiest way to get yelled at or shamed or “canceled,” as they say. To do the exploration that growth and change requires, one needs a forgiving medium… but what one really needs forgiving readers. A few years ago, when I published a Frosted Echoes as a newsletter, one of the things that frustrated me most was catching an error after I had sent out the email. It was almost impossible to avoid, no matter how many times my eyes scanned over the text. It feels much more comfortable to post a blog post and have the ability to correct mistakes after the initial publish. The social piece of Micro.blog even allows you to edit responses to people, once they have been posted.1 What Kleon gets at here, though, is the ability to correct not a spelling or grammar mistake, but something you may have been wrong about. A chance to change your mind. It’s being active on a public platform that allows for a modicum of grace. Editing tweets is something people have long been asking for from Twitter. ↩︎

Conversation

R.I.P. Larry McMurtry. The author was nothing if not prolific. I went through a period where I binged his books. I especially loved The Last Picture Show and its sequel, Texasville. Alan Jacobs has a remembrance.

Conversation

The IA Writer blog has a post on how the app can be beneficial to those with ADHD (especially in comparison to a typical word processor, with its myriad of in-your-face options).

Conversation

Medium Level Chaos

The official Medium blog announcing renewed custom domain support. Casey Newton very publicly left his job at The Verge for building his own brand on Substack. However, he continues to work with The Verge in some capacity, and they just published his piece on problems at Medium.com. As most have come to expect, Medium is doing yet another pivot in their strategy and is letting go a large chunk of their editorial staff, admitting that their rapid ramp up of publications had been too aggressive. From Ev Williams’ email about the change to employees, which he published on his blog: Whether this strategy works or not, here’s what I know is certain: There will be more change in the future. I don’t want to shy away from this reality, as I consider embracing change one of our biggest strengths. Anecdotally, to a person, everyone I have encountered considers change to be Medium’s biggest weakness. You can’t count on them to stick with any given strategy. While their current (until this week) business model was fairly successful, it apparently was not enough. From Newton’s piece: Medium entered the year with more than 700,000 paid subscriptions, putting it on track for more than $35 million in revenue, according to two people familiar with the matter. That’s a healthy sum for a media company. But it represents a weak outcome for Williams, who previously sold Blogger to Google and co-founded Twitter, which eventually went public and today has a market capitalization of more than $50 billion. When I saw figures a few months ago detailing subscriber growth, I thought Medium would now be on a stable path. The figures were correct, but I overestimated the tolerance for slower growth and ability to let the model mature. When I wrote a post about the new strategy, the response I received was one of skepticism about their latest pivot. I understood that reaction, but hoped that the positive results they had seen would stabilize things. The recently renewed ability to use your own domain name on a publication or on your individual blog further convinced me that Medium was headed in the right direction. Now I’m unsure again. There isn’t much risk in blogging on Medium, if you do use your own domain. If needed, you can export your posts as HTML. Moving off the platform would be pretty easy. There is reason for pause, though. How much would you want to invest in a company that, after almost a decade, still can’t decide what they want to be when they grow up?

Conversation

I just got to ask a question of some Catholic nuns about how the practice of Memento Mori can be applicable to chronic illness and they had some very insightful answers. Some days I like the internet.

Conversation

Beyond the Beyond

I was recently in search of something to to read after finishing the sprawling epic that was The Count of Monte Cristo. I pored through lists on Amazon, and recommendations I had read elsewhere. I typically read a fiction and a non-fiction book and and I needed something to fit into the former category. Nothing was grabbing me and Dumas’ masterpiece is a hard book to follow. Eventually, I decided to go with another classic author whose reputation has been continually held in high regard: Ursula Le Guin. When I checked out The Wizard of Earthsea from Libby, I had no idea that it was sort of a precursor to Harry Potter, complete with a wizard’s school (bench seating cafeteria and all) and the rivalries between students in the art of magic. What I’ve read in commentary from others, and found so far in reading the book, is a greater sense of spirituality than in Rowling’s series, though. While I was never very interested in Harry Potter’s exploits, I find myself more engaged in Le Guin’s fictional world. I think that it’s the spiritual aspect that pulls me in. I find what can pass as parallels to Christian belief, though the content is closer to Taoism. In the world under the sun, and in the other world that has no sun, there is much that has nothing to do with men and men’s speech, and there are powers beyond our power. ~ A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Cor. 4:18 The most counter-(modern)-cultural passage in the NT? It would be hard to choose, but this is my candidate for today. John Brady https://AbbaMoses.micro.blog/2021/03/05/for-the-things.html Though I had not set out to read a novel that could be considered YA, I find that it is enjoyable and perhaps even edifying.

Conversation

Happy name day to my lady friend! It was great that we could celebrate with family.

Conversation

Currently reading: A wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin 📚. Classic fantasy.

Conversation

Shoegaze Saturday | Losing Daylight

The header of the Bandcamp page for Prepare My Glider features a shoegaze staple: an overstuffed pedalboard. True to their name, they offer plenty of Shieldsian glide guitar and dreamy vocal harmonies that float beautifully above the noise. She Flows On by Prepare My Glider

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Be Sweet

After her bass player left a former band she was in to join a band he said was going to be “Jimmy Fallon big,” Michelle Zauner from Japanese Breakfast wrote a song about it. The bass player eventually rejoined Zauner in Japanese Breakfast and got his wish. The band just played their latest single, “Be Sweet” on the Tonight Show. I had this song on heavy rotation prior the performance and now I think I like it even more. The staccato guitar and funk bass bring me back to the 70’s, but the synths signal the transition to the musical refresh that the 80’s introduced. The track exudes nostalgia for those decades while still sounding refreshingly contemporary.

Conversation

Really enjoying this Flickr group of vintage travel posters.

Conversation

I rarely look at my main Twitter timeline. I mostly stick to the notifications tab. Now they are injecting outrage tweets from people I don’t follow there, too.

Conversation

I agree with Zac Hall and John Voorhees that Apple removing the HomePod from their product line is concerning for their overall home strategy. Having just bought a HomePod Mini and being pretty delighted with it, I’m not sure how much I would want to expand in that ecosystem with smart devices. Unless Apple follows up with something that reassures consumers that they staying in the game, it may be best to hold off on building your smart home with Apple.

Conversation

It’s interesting how many musicians criticize or even protest against Spotify while others promote their albums specifically on that platform as if that’s primarily where they want you to experience the music.

Conversation

Near Death Experiences

The Guardian has a piece on near-death experiences (as they have been known since the 70’s), which profiles a psychiatrist named Bruce Greyson and his research into the phenomenon. Like surgeon Dr. Sam Parnia, who has also studied this area thoroughly, Greyson has come up with no verifiable or satisfying scientific ways of explaining the extraordinary things people go through when they are on the precipice of death. One of the things I’ve found most interesting about those who have undergone these experiences is their transformative nature. This one single experience has a dramatic effect on how people live the rest of their lives. I’ve read about people coming back so changed that they get divorced because they are so different from the person that married their spouse. Greyson sometimes asks people to describe their partners before and after an event, “and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, this isn’t the person I married; this is someone different.’” He adds, “They see a purpose in life they didn’t see before. I don’t know of anything else that powerful.” Greyson says that he is recognizing now that there is more to us than our physical selves. He says that the mind may be distinct from the brain. Call it the psyche, or the soul, there is an acknowledgement of consciousness outside our material presence. “I grew up without any kind of a spiritual background,” he continues. “And I’m still not sure I understand what spiritual means. I am convinced now, after doing this for 40, 50 years, that there is more to life than just our physical bodies. I recognise that there is a non-physical part of us. Is that spiritual? I’m not sure. Spirituality usually involves a search for something greater than yourself, for meaning and purpose in the universe. Well, I certainly have that.” Greyson has a book on the subject out now called After.

Conversation

Prayers.

Conversation

“I mean, how cool is it to own – actually own – a piece of a song by one of your favorite artists for as little as $50? I’ll answer that question. Super cool!” ~ Peter Csathy, writing for Consequence of Sound about the impact of NFT’s on the music industry. Can I just keep buying records with 12 songs or so on them for around $20 and streaming every song in the world for $10 a month? That sounds better than owning a piece of a song for $50. Let’s not treat art like a corporate investment.

Conversation

Just updated my Now page (Intermezzo edition).

Conversation

WandaVision Collateral Damage

WandaVision just wrapped up with its ninth and final episode on Disney+ Warning: Contains spoilers about the conclusion of Wandavision from the series finale. Over at Opuszine, Jason Morehead has a detailed examination of what the WandaVision experiment put the citizens of Westview through and what they are owed in the narrative. He believes that an extra episode that deals with their trauma would be appropriate. In the piece, he discusses the unreliability of Wanda as a narrator with regards to whether she knows what her spell is inflicting upon the citizens of Westview. Some may point to those scenes where Wanda tells Vision that she has no idea what’s happening, or how it’s happening, as a way to let her off the hook. However, WandaVision sets up Wanda as something of an unreliable narrator, especially when we see her increasingly desperate attempts maintain the illusion and prevent others, including her own husband, from uncovering it. Still others may point out that when Wanda discovers the effects of her illusion, she does lift it so that Westview’s citizens can escape — only to put it back in place the minute she sees that Vision and their two sons are being adversely effected. It’s really not clear, at different points in the show, what Wanda knows about the pain that the citizens of the town are going through (or whether she wants to know). It also isn’t clear how interested the story is in putting a focus on that. To use the military term, the town residents are almost treated as collateral damage. Even after understanding the difficulty that the citizens have gone through, one of the protagonists, Monica Rambeau, admits that she would have done the same thing, under the spell of grief. Morehead brings up Age of Ultron as a counter-example of this in the MCU. My wife and I watched that movie a couple of weeks ago so she could see the back story on the twins and had the exact opposite reaction. There’s so much widescreen destruction and ‘splosions everywhere, that you can easily get distracted from the people caught in the middle of the firefights. The mechanisms of telling these stories about superheroes handle most of the ordinary humans with the same capriciousness that the Greek gods were said to have handled mortals in their tales. Certain people are depicted as being saved like precious jewels while others are fodder for the Ultron stormtrooper armies. I don’t know how to resolve this issue. In these smash ‘em ups, the buildings, the cars (oh my gosh, the cars) and the people ancillary to the story all serve as props for spectacle. A huge boss fight in a city doesn’t work without the stage setup (which includes the unfortunate denizens of the area under siege). I think the difference between WandaVision and the other MCU vehicles was that we did get to understand more about the people on the sidelines and that brought more attention to their plight. This makes us feel like they are deserving of additional care. The mechanisms of telling these stories about superheroes handle most of the ordinary humans with the same capriciousness that the Greek gods were said to have handled mortals in their tales. In a certain way, the model that WandaVision brings with it, where the audience is given a chance to emote with the people on the periphery of the main action, is a step in the right direction for the MCU. It’s something I haven’t seen as much of, to this point.1 I think it could be considered another way that the show breaks barriers within the genre. I don’t claim to have seen every Marvel film or tv show. ↩︎

Conversation

“While the phrase “politically correct” seemingly exploded out of nowhere in the early nineties, it had actually been occasionally in use since at least the early twentieth century—and, as it happens, had almost always been used as a pejorative, regardless of who was employing it. Its earliest habitual use in American discourse goes back to the fifties and sixties, when American socialists would use it to disparage American communists—implying said communists were more committed to their ideological orthodoxies than to factual accuracy or moral clarity.” ~ Luke T. Harrington, in a piece for Christ and Pop Culture on the evolution of the concept of political correctness. In the early nineties, I remember my mom getting me a book called Once Upon A More Enlightened Time which simultaneously pointed out biases we might normally overlook in parts of fairy tales while also satirizing how the attempts to correct them could really miss the mark.

Conversation

“One of my greatest frustrations in terms of trying to find ways to bridge this deep divide within the Christian community in the United States is the inability to have a theological discussion, because you can’t assume that people have actually articulated theological reasons for their beliefs.” ~ Rev. Dr. Serene Jones of Union Theological Seminary, in a piece on the resurgence of the religious left. When asked what issues are going to be important politically for the religious left, she mentioned Universal Basic Income and White Supremacy. I have seen the latter come up quite a bit, and our church has active programs around addressing the topic. I would also like to see the former come up more, given the experiments in this area have been successful and it fits in the mold of the Acts 2 church. Your church doesn’t have to be part of the Bruderhof community to recognize that the model of sharing that the earliest Christians presented can take a prominent place in how we view society.

Conversation

Apple just launched a service for transferring your photos and videos to Google. I’m not planning on moving my data to Google, but this is a great move for openness and portability.

Conversation

Just read: Herodias by Gustave Flaubert 📚. The story is well told, although short. You probably already know how it ends. “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Conversation

A box full of Snickers.

Conversation

Catholic Black Metal

There is a theory that black metal flourished in Norway because there was never a counter-reformation in Scandinavia. Philosophy Professor Justin E. H. Smith touches on this in his piece on Weird Catholic Twitter. I recall years ago an academic talk on Norwegian black metal as a phenomenon explained by the absence of a Counter-Reformation in Scandinavia. That is, Catholicism and “dark” rock subcultures alike fill the yearning that some people have for incense, dripping candles, archaic flourishes, and pompous spectacles of commanding men in outrageous costumes. In the parts of Europe where, in the 16th century, Martin Luther imposed a form of Christian faith that is the religious equivalent of Brian Eno or Kraftwerk, it is not surprising that an opposite musical culture flourishes in parallel that lets it all hang out. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that you can’t completely satisfy the spiritual needs of a broad spectrum of people with either a high or a low church option. There are people who need to engage with the divine through the sense of reverence that is invoked by the sights, smells and sounds of a Catholic or Orthodox Church. Then there are those for whom those things may even impede their communion with the almighty and prefer the more direct and personal approach. Some people like Scandinavian black metal and some people like Kraftwerk.

Conversation

Memento Mori

A Memento Mori decal, which can be found on the Pursued by Truth store The latest episode of the Fountains of Carrots podcast features an interview with Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, who is the nun known on Twitter for having a skull on her desk. Sister Theresa regularly meditates on her own death, in the Memento Mori tradition. Sister shares with us about how she was drawn to practice the contemplation of death and shares how we can all begin to do this so that we can prepare our hearts and live well rather than navigating the world in dread. It’s interesting to hear about Noble’s conversion from atheism and how she came to the religious life. Her take on thinking about your own death is a balanced and realistic look at how practicing can be difficult but liberating.

Conversation

Mozilla Has All The Cookies

On the Mozilla Security blog, the Firefox team details their new implementation of cross-site browsing protection by keeping cookies from each site you visit in their own, separate containers. Firefox has had the ability to use different containers with separate cookies explicitly for some time with their “Containers” feature (I love to use this for testing with different identities on the same site). This new implementation will make cross-site tracking much more difficult. You may no longer find yourself wondering how they knew you were looking for a new couch when you see the ads on your favorite news site. This should turn down the creepiness factor of using the internet. Total Cookie Protection illustration by Meghan Newell I was concerned about the legitimate uses of some cross-site cookies, but it seems they have have that covered. In addition, Total Cookie Protection makes a limited exception for cross-site cookies when they are needed for non-tracking purposes, such as those used by popular third-party login providers. Only when Total Cookie Protection detects that you intend to use a provider, will it give that provider permission to use a cross-site cookie specifically for the site you’re currently visiting. Such momentary exceptions allow for strong privacy protection without affecting your browsing experience. I hope beta testers are hitting this use case pretty hard, because I could see issues occurring there more than any place else. If that works, though, this could be the strongest step yet by a mainstream browser in protecting privacy on the web.

Conversation

Ernie Smith from Tedium takes a good look at Vivaldi, still probably the browser that is most directed at power users and the only one from which you can upload to Instagram without an extension.

Conversation

I’m kind of sad that our cat Snickers has ceased her habit of starting the evenings by “hiding” under the shower curtain.

Conversation

Link Blogging

CJ Chivers writes about a type of writing for the web that I hope to firmly remain in the tradition of: link blogging. It was respectful of your time, both as a reader and a creator. The pickier you were (the more respectful you were), the better the links. You built trust and authority as the editor of your tiny corner of the web. It was a pretty great system. Occasionally, you’d have something significant to add to the conversation, so you’d post an essay or a new work you created. That got linked to by the community on their sites if it was any good.

Conversation

Batman '89

Dereck Hard Michael Keaton as Batman photo by Honza Nedoma via Wikimedia Commons When Batman came out in 1989, I was in peak comic mode and playing the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game by TSR pretty heavily. I had a promotional magazine for the movie that I pored over daily. My dresser drawer contained a Batman t-shirt (drawn more in the comic books style) and it was my favorite piece of clothing. The trip to the theater with my dad, where I wore my t-shirt proudly, felt like a holiday ritual. There’s little chance that I’m going to break out the nonsensical “Batdance,” but the concept of a continuation of Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989 in comic form, written by Sam Hamm, the original screenwriter, does pique my interest.1 Throughout the many iterations, Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman is the one that I most identify with the superhero. Though Burton’s dark deco Gotham may have been a influential precursor to the later descent of comic book movies into the grimdark mold, I still admire the original vision. Almost as interesting is the Superman ‘78 series that will continue the legacy of the original Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve film with new stories set in the early days of Superman’s days in Metropolis. There was a certain purity to that movie, with Reeve’s “aw shucks” Clark Kent and “never touch the stuff” Superman. It will be interesting to see if the new stories can keep that same sort of innocence or whether they give in to the cynicism that permeates our current age. These movies were my formative cinematic superhero experiences, and I heartily welcome a trip back into their respective universes. Sorry Prince, even if I could find my Batman soundtrack tape and a working cassette player, those songs did nothing to augment the movie for me. ↩︎

Conversation

When I was undergoing chemotherapy in 1995, I would have to listen to Rush Limbaugh while my dad would drive me to the hospital. In some ways, I felt that the poison that went into my ears was more virulent than what was going into my veins.

Conversation

Fear and Loathing In These United States

Photo by little plant on Unsplash By most accounts, evangelical Christians are concerned about the path this country is taking and encroaching restrictions on religious liberty. This is usually cited as their main reason for supporting the former president, despite the fact that he possessed almost every character trait they had vocally opposed in past leaders. Beyond supporting the president, they have appeared, at times, to almost want to make him their king. Attitudes among evangelicals are shifting on a number of topics. NPR reporter Tom Gjelton from “Morning Edition” cites a disturbing new survey that shows a number of Americans consider violence a legitimate political tool to achieve their desired outcomes. The survey found that nearly three in 10 Americans, including 39% of Republicans, agreed that, “If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” What should be most shocking about the appetite for violent action is that much of it is coming from those who consider themselves Christians. The AEI survey found that partisan divisions were also evident along religious lines. About three in five white evangelicals told the pollsters that Biden was not legitimately elected, that it was not accurate to say former President Donald Trump encouraged the attack on the Capitol, and that a Biden presidency now has them feeling disappointed, angry or frightened. It’s important to remember that the term evangelical means to evangelize, or seek to convert someone to Christianity. Who is going to be convinced that a Christian holds the key to ultimate truth when they can’t even accept the obvious truths in front of them?1 If someone feeding them a narrative that is counter to the facts so easily sways them, what does that say of their witness? I don’t want to be dismissive of fears of anti-Christian bias, though I have yet to see evidence of a systemic problem in the US. I do think that some US Christians have developed a sense of persecution beyond what is warranted, particularly when drawn in comparison to the persecutions in other countries and those that are set in the cement of history. The fact that a practicing Catholic in the White House has them so distressed is evidence of their relative safety and outsized concern with regard to religious issues. Do people really believe that Joe from Scranton is going to mark the end of Christianity in America? As a thought exercise, let’s imagine that Christians are facing a difficult climate in the US, with secularism dominating the systems of power. How does scripture command us to respond? I think this piece from Alan Jacobs, which touches on themes he has written about before, adds some clarity here (emphasis mine). Do people twist the truth or simply lie about us? Are we treated with subtle and not-so-subtle bigotry? Are we mocked and belittled? Might we, soon enough, be facing actual persecution? If so, then we have our instructions: We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If people take our coats we should give them our cloaks as well. We should never return evil for evil, but should strive to live at peace with everyone. If these seem like difficult objectives, it might be helpful to study the history of the ancient Christians and the evidence of their fidelity to these teachings. The book Destroyer of the Gods by Larry W. Hurtado proves especially instructional here, as it accounts the early Christians, what made them distinctive, and what put them at odds with their neighbors. I do think that some US Christians have developed a sense of persecution beyond what is warranted, particularly when drawn in comparison to the persecutions in other countries and those that are set in the cement of history. Ancient Christians were put to death by the Roman Empire for their faith. They were martyred for being “obstinate,” in the translated words of the much venerated (even now) stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelias, and refusing to worship the Roman Emperor. Nevertheless, in the face of violence, they did not return in kind. They held fast to the words of Jesus (and Paul) that were cited by Professor Jacobs above. What would it look like for American Christians to follow the words of Christ as they speak to enduring hostility with grace? In this case, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected. ↩︎

Conversation

New Order with Florida sun drenched, blissed out vocals. 🎵 Millionyoung - Less

Conversation

Guitar practice for the little guy.

Conversation

“If you are the child of elderly parents in parts of the United States right now, and if you are trying to get them a COVID-19 vaccine, you are living in a shortage economy, a world of queues and rumors, a shadowy land of favoritism and incompetence—a world not unlike the world of the very late, very stifling, Brezhnev-era Soviet Union.” Anne Applebaum, in a strongly resonant piece for the Atlantic, about the world of the COVID vaccine rollout.

Conversation

If Morrissey had been enamored with Brazil, the Smiths might have made a song like Rio De Janeiro by Always You (formerly Ablebody). 🎵

Conversation

My superstar, heavily used apps.

Conversation

Romeo and Juliet

I remember hearing Widowspeak years ago, when their album Almanac came out and not getting too attached to it. When Apple Music recommended a song from their new EP, I gave the band another try in the flow of a new music playlist. I quickly reversed the direction of the playlist and returned to revisit the track. I listened to “Romeo and Juliet” about a dozen times today. If it weren’t for the lyrics, it would be hard to believe this is a Dire Straits cover and not a straight take on a Mazzy Star song. In the context of the music, the lyrics make the beginning of the track sound like something from one of those 90’s “alternative” movies like Reality Bites. It certainly doesn’t bring to mind the Sultans of Swing. The cliches are easily overlooked when the atmosphere is this beautiful. Honeychurch by WIDOWSPEAK

Conversation

Bandcamp Versus Spotify

Damon Krukowski writes for NPR about the differences between Bandcamp and Spotify. Though I would expect as much from an independent musician like Krukowski, the piece is not exactly kind to Spotify. Although they are not one of my favorites, Galaxy 500, of which he was a part, are one of the most influential bands of their generation. I would guess all their streams on Spotify have netted them a meager sum. What comes out most profoundly in this piece is the difference in the missions of the two services and how they characterize their businesses. From Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond: “There's this great story – there was a New Yorker article about it – about how Prince was working on his autobiography just before he died. And he had picked a co-writer and in one of their initial meetings together he said, 'Music is healing. Write that down first.' He said that he wanted it to be the guiding principle they used in the book. And if you start with this idea that music is healing, that is obviously a power that should be in the hands of everybody who has the talent to wield it. ... And so that's what Bandcamp is. That's what I feel like we're here to build – that system. And the way you do that is by ensuring that artists are compensated fairly and transparently for their work. And that is through the direct support of their fans." On Daniel Ek, and the Spotify business model, which sounds a lot like the Netflix business model: Spotify is not a "music company first," as Diamond describes Bandcamp, because music plays a role only insofar as people spend some of their time listening to it, and Spotify wants all their time. What truly comes first for Spotify is competition – the company is focused on eliminating other places for time spent listening to... whatever. If it's to conspiracist shock jock Joe Rogan – now signed to Spotify for exclusivity of his podcast, reportedly for upwards of $100 million – then it's Joe Rogan. And Joe Rogan is anything but healing.

Conversation

A Temple Made of Air

Giorgia Angiuli is a musical polymath. I don’t know my electronic subgenres as well as I should, so I have a hard time pinning her music down into a simple descriptor, but this video is incredible.1 However you may want to label the songs (“A rose by any other name,” etc, etc.), the variety of instruments and watching what goes into making the sounds coalesce is mesmerizing. From the description of Angiuli’s album In A Pink Bubble. Brandishing an immersive sonic sphere, the classically trained musician played and recorded all instruments throughout the album, including her favourite weapons of choice, from her beloved 60s guitar to vintage analog synths like the Moog Sub37, Juno 106, the infamous O-B-6 synth and more. As many of the comments on this video note, seeing her do her thing and bounce from instument to instrument is pure joy.2 There is some Italo Disco in there. ↩︎ It’s okay to read the comments, just this once. ↩︎

Conversation

Tony Hawk just did what is most likely his last 720. I am a few years younger than Hawk and I sometimes have difficulty dealing with the fact that I really can’t skateboard any longer.

Conversation

The Luddite Versus The Technologist

In 1995, a young, optimistic technologist found himself frustrated by the dire prognostications of a splenetic Luddite. The technologist, Kevin Kelly, a cofounder of Wired magazine, went to interview the Luddite, Kirkpatrick Sale, at his apartment. The interview was a pretext for Kelly to challenge Sale to a bet about the future of a society influenced by the rapid gains in computing technology. Kelly had a strong belief that society would benefit tremendously from advances in computing. His career was defined by that belief. Sale predicted nothing less than a societal collapse. He had been advocating for a return to preindustrial life for decades. Even back then, Sale distrusted computers. With another classmate, he cowrote a sci-fi musical about escaping a dystopian America ruled by IBM; it features an evil computer. If this sounds at all Pynchonesque, it’s probably because Sale’s cowriter was Thomas Pynchon. Nonetheless, a line in it foreshadows Sale’s later work. “All we want is someplace where every time we turn around we don’t see that idiot damn machine staring at us,” one character gripes. This is 1958. The strident claims made by Sale were alarming to Kelly, who had brought a check with him in order to secure the bet against those predictions. A deadline to settle the bet was made, at which time a shared publisher and friend would judge who had won. 25 years later, the time came to decide the winner, and the outcome was close.

Conversation

After listening to the latest episode of the Core Intuition podcast, I’m realizing that I’m not the only one with VR pessimism.

Conversation

These Important Years

I don’t know how long I’m going to want to examine the previous four years, at least as we climb our way out of this mud pit. Maybe when we’ve left the pit far enough behind us, we can talk about it on a walk between the oak trees, breathing air that we aren’t afraid is diseased. I started a blog post about the beginnings of the Trump days, when any strong objection brought with it the label of derangement. I don’t feel like finishing it now, though. I’ll save it to come back to when my friends who need visas and green cards are past the worry. When the domestic terrorists are far enough underground, I’ll add some more words. I do really like reading some takes on the recent past and how things are sure to change. Cheri Baker has a wonderfully expressive post about this transitional time. These last four years have chipped away at my idealism, and my easy privilege, and my simplistic way of dividing people into “mostly good” and “a few bad.” Looking back from this vantage point, post-Trump, I can see that I’ve lost friends. Not in a dramatic fashion. But time will bear out what my heart already knows. Cheri https://hypertext.monster/2021/01/21/where-we-left.html I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Hopefully you have a few minutes. For now, I’ll let others document where we are and where we’ve been, and speculate about where we are going. I’ll keep my head down, with my eyes on my feet, to make sure they are moving in the right direction.

Conversation

It feels like we should be able to take a mulligan and call this New Year’s Day.

Conversation

“Many of the (supposed) Christians I know have lost their first love. You can tell by the way they live. A Christian obeys Jesus and follows Jesus rather than being invested in a political process. If I person is more invested in conservative (or liberal) politics, I don’t care what they say they believe. They are lukewarm, at best, Christians.” In this post on how a Christian lives, Randall McRoberts writes about putting the focus on your faith and dying to self.

Conversation

Transforming Disgust

I love this post, about turning the tables on disgust, from Austin Kleon. In particular the quote below really speaks to me. I’m a person who appreciates much of life but who also has a certain amount of frustration and sometimes revulsion with things that I see going on in the world. Even with these feelings, I want to present the positive more often than the negative. Kleon explains his formula to do just that. I feel like my readers see me as a fairly positive person, but I doubt they know how much I am driven by my disgust. The trick is: I take the thing I’m disgusted with, imagine the opposite , and push that out into the world . Identifying poison, privately, but sharing nourishment , publicly. In the same post, Kleon also mentions reading Transforming Noncomformist, a sermon from Martin Luther King Jr., that I will also plan to read in observance of the day.

Conversation

As I listen to the new Noble Oak record, I’m happy to see that Bandcamp has opened their vinyl pressing service to the wider community. 🎵

Conversation

A Fresh Coat of Paint

My new Medium profile page. Approximately annually, around the end of the year, I examine my presence on the web. I mostly focus on blogging. This year, I experimented with the new blogging options on the Medium platform. I like them a lot. The ability to create shorter posts within your timeline is a game changer. The new customization options let your make your blog more personal. Combined with the great support Medium has for embeds through Embedly, the service feels a bit like Tumblr for adults. It's a nice set of tools. Unfortunately, it's still Medium. It thrives on social media staples such as likes (claps) and followers. It didn’t take me too long to remember that the applause economy on Medium is not for me. Nor is the follower count, displayed prominently on your blog as a sort of status symbol. I syndicate my personal blog posts to Medium and consequently I tend to pick up about one follower a week. Some of them seem like they are trying to sell something. One recent follower has a bio that claims he is passionate about writing, but his body of work is nonexistent. Jack Baty succinctly summed up the dynamic that Medium fosters. The problem with Medium is that it’s full of people for whom being read is more important than writing. Jack Baty https://micro.baty.net/2021/01/16/the-problem-with.html A response to Baty’s original thought from Pratik further clarifies the feeling I get when I’m on Medium. [@jack](https://micro.blog/jack) This is 💯 Lot of posts I read on there sometimes are trying too hard. It's like a meta-blogging of the past that focused on SEO. Pratik https://micro.blog/pratik/10870268 While the new set of tools on Medium harkens back to the golden days of blogging, their emphasis on getting followers and being widely read also brings back some of the problems of that eventually plagued that era. The focus on monetizing your writing all but ensures the platform will continue down this path. This is not good for recreational bloggers. Studies have shown that paying people to do something reduces their intrinsic motivation to do it. While the network effects of Medium may be valuable to those who do want to build an audience and make money from it, they don’t seem to be especially beneficial to the casual blogger. This is a shame, because the features that they built this past year make writing and publishing easy and fun.

Conversation

📺 Wandavision: Having benefitted from growing up with The Dick Van Dyke show and Bewitched, via Nick At Nite, I love the premise of this show and the execution lives up to my expectations. I have to say, though, it hands out clues to the broader narrative parsimoniously.

Conversation

I honestly couldn’t think why someone would try to record a cover of this song because the original is so nearly perfect but this really works. Pedal steel augments the desert noir atmosphere. 🎵 Muzz - Fade Into You

Conversation

Conversation

“Conservatives retain significant access — access that is comparable to the access liberals have — to channels of information. They simply need to clear a low bar of … not fomenting insurrection.” Berny Belvedere, on conservatives complaining of censorship on social media platforms. While conservatives may face derision and the mobs on social media, they most definitely have not been subjected to any unique or targeted interference from the services. Unless of course, they are yelling fire in a crowded theater.

Conversation

Inside the Gallery

Photo by Ruben Ramirez from Unsplash I have to admit, I have been somewhat surprised at people arguing against tech companies being able to enforce their terms of service. Working at a software company, I have been involved with our legal representatives in crafting terms of service, and never have I heard a question come up about our ability to enforce said terms. However, with social media, this seems to be coming up fairly often these days. It reminds me of when, a few years ago, Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips kept posting nudes on Instagram. Since this violated their terms of service, they would suspend his account and take down his photos. He would sort of complain about this, feign ignorance, then start up a new account and start posting nudes again. His fans would be incensed by Instagram’s enforcement of their terms. Their sense of indignation about Coyne being entitled to violate Instagram’s terms of service seemed to imply that he was either the owner, or partner, or at the very least a paying customer. In reality, he was none of those things. Increasingly, people who publish on big social media networks seem to feel that a space on those networks belongs to them, and they are free to use whatever editorial discretion they see fit. If an artist, like Coyne, wanted to display his artwork in a gallery, the gallery would have to agree to that artwork being displayed in their space. Even if, hypothetically, the gallery were to have an open exhibition and allow anyone to show their art, there would likely be rules about what could be displayed. If those rules were violated, the gallery would then have the right to take down the artwork. The gallery belongs to its owner, and they manage the infrastructure, rent/mortgage, utilities, upkeep and more. In the case of Instagram (which I’ll stick to, for purposes of the analogy), they pay for the R&D, support, infrastructure, monitoring, etc.1 Therefore, they have every right to determine what appears on the service for which they are then responsible. The argument for unrestricted rights to post anything on social media seems to stem from a belief that, once a service reaches a certain critical mass, it becomes a property of the people. After all, no one is arguing that Micro.blog doesn’t have a right to their stringent community standards.2 The people who run the service are very open about how members of the community have to behave. Are having those community guidelines a violation of free speech? Not at all. Those who create and maintain a service have the right to decide what is permissible on that service, regardless of the size of the service and how many members it may attract. As M.G. Siegler put it: Twitter is a private enterprise. They can set their own rules for what they want or do not want on their service. Including whom they want or do not want on their service. Full stop. I’ve expended a few words to get to the same point, but it’s really that simple. Although, less of the “R” part when they just steal features from other platforms. ↩︎ Even people who are using the Micro.blog service who are making the argument that Twitter shouldn’t be able to enforce its standards. ↩︎

Conversation

One of my favorite (former) music bloggers from back in the days of the old blogosphere, Frank Yang of Chromewaves.net, just posted his 2020 music list. Yang has been diving into a lot of post-punk lately, and reacquainting himself with some of the genre’s past luminaries (Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Bauhaus, The Sound, Sad Lovers & Giants). It’s interesting to see how his fascination with 80’s staples of alternative rock informs his choices of what was appealing in 2020. Although, a couple of the choices are new LP’s from some of those post-punk progenitors. As a bonus, you get a picture of Yang’s little guy in a cute Stone Roses onesie.

Conversation

The Noise That I Loved Best

Cover art - my favorite songs from 2020 in one playlist. For the past 2 years, I’ve been making a playlist for each month. I put together the playlist, throughout the month, pulling tracks from my New Music list on Apple Music, my favorite music blogs and sometimes even rereleases of classic material. As Jason Morehead wrote of 2019, I always worry that I’m not going to find the same amount of good music as I did in the previous year. It’s a silly, completely irrational thought: Shortly after the new year begins, I despair that I’ll find any new music that was as good, beautiful, or evocative as the music I discovered in the previous year. And I’m always wrong. By the year’s end, I’m struck by the amount of incredible music that I’ve heard over the past twelve months, and 2019 was no different. Since I do my playlists each month, though, I have that feeling at the start of almost every month. To be fair, some months do end up being a little dry, but as Morehead also experiences, by the end of the year, I’ve got a treasure trove of songs. At the end of 2020, I decided to put together a playlist of the new songs I liked best from my 12 playlists. For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of putting together a playlist is sequencing the tracks in a way that makes sense and flows. This year started out with material that worked well in a linear progression. The dreaminess of the Pet Shop Boys’ “Only The Dark” is perfectly followed by the nighttime drive soundtrack that is Destroyer’s “It Just Doesn’t Happen.” The breathy vocals in Cigarettes After Sex’s “Heavenly” make an appropriate prelude to the low-key noir cover of Paramore’s “All I Wanted,” performed by Bathe Alone. Of course, as I reflect on the previous year’s musical contributions, I have to start on my January 2021 playlist. Will things start running dry this year? Will the pandemic break the pattern of consistently fresh new songs? Only time will tell, but I’m hopeful that musicians will continue to find a way to make things work.

Conversation

Iconography 2021

St. Patrick of Ireland - Theophilia is a Catholic artist who creates wonderful modern icons that you can check out on her Deviantart page. I am a Protestant, but I can appreciate the purpose of icons that remind us of the great communion of saints. I have a hard time imagining asking for intercessory prayers from a saint, but a Catholic friend once put it to me as being like asking a friend to pray for you. I have to admit that made some sense, though I still don’t know about veneration. It seems like reminders of the great cloud of witnesses are more important than ever. This past year has been disruptive to religious and political beliefs alike. Aarik Danielsen touches on this in his piece Blessed Are the Weary, for They Will Find Rest for Christ and Pop Culture. This year keeps revealing deep fissures in the foundations where we once built assurance. The communion of saints, interrupted by conspiracy theories fellow Christians promote online. Our cloud of witnesses turn their faces from us. Even our textbook teachings on democracy have been ripped to confetti. The example of the saints might be what we need, at this moment in time. Their steady posture, not swaying the least in the gusts of any political wind.

Conversation

Encase My Heart In Amber (or at least plastic)

Beautiful Noise is available on cassette, CD or as digital downloads. Beautiful Noise. A simple title to a record label compilation, but a more accurate descriptor could not have been employed. Beautiful Noise from Sunday Records is just that, slices of mostly synthetic instrumental dream pop that are as ethereal and gorgeous as any your imagination could conjure. Almost every song is uniquely transportational, taking the listener to a different liminal space, but the pervading aesthetic fuses the parts together as a magnificent whole. By the time the drums pads hit on the second track, “Million Years” by Mariana In Our Heads, you will likely be someplace else entirely. The Bandcamp page for the compilation describes its conception. There are too few genuine musical labours of love out there, but it's clear this is one. It seems fitting it was a project first dreamt up by Sunday Records boss, Albert, right back at the beginning of the label in the early 90s and here it finally comes to fruition. As well as cd and download the existence of a cassette may feel like a hipster affectation but actually fits for what feels like a lovingly put together old school mixtape, if only it came in a hand crayoned cover.. Some of these bands don’t even have full length albums out. Hopefully this little collection will whet your appetite for more from the contributors, in the future, as we close out this wretched year. Beautiful Noise by Sunday Records

Conversation

My mom got me this tea for Christmas. The tin advises to “cozy up during a cold winter evening and watch your favorite Hallmark Channel Movies…”. Guess I’ll be checking out the one where Mario Lopez plays Col. Sanders.

Conversation

Just updated my Now page (the longest winter edition).

Conversation

A few years ago, there were two dominant iOS Pinboard apps, Pushpin and Pinner and I - I chose the one that has not been updated in 3 years, and that has made all the difference.

Conversation

🍿Soul: Pixar does a fantastic job coming up with something new almost every time. We watched this one on release day and really enjoyed it. My teenager said it was one of the best movies he’s ever seen.

Conversation

The Local 506

Today I got this shirt from my loving wife as a Christmas present. The Local 506 is where, in 1993, I saw my first rock show. The headlining act was a local math rock band from the Merge Records stable, Polvo. Proceeds from the t-shirt go to help the club reopen when the pandemic is over. I’m pretty sure this winding and twisting, muscular but emotive instrumental track was played at that show. Today's Active Lifestyles by Polvo

Conversation

Merry Christmas!

Conversation

NC Sen. Thom Tillis, who has been a big supporter of relief for music venues forced to shut down because of COVID, introduced a provision that makes commercial illegal streaming platforms guilty of a felony. The provision was tacked onto the COVID relief package that just passed.

Conversation

When this is over, we need to take a hard look at why so many government institutions were so crushable and then figure out how to fortify them with laws, not just norms. ~ Dave Pell, on the crushing of the CDC.

Conversation

My youngest son and I are having fun opening daily presents under the tree in the shop from the game Skate City. Note today’s Christmas sweater.

Conversation

📚 The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas: Sure, I’ve seen the movie and I know how this story plays out. The rollercoaster travails of Edmond Dantes still have me enthralled, though. I guess the classics are considered classics for a reason.

Conversation

Washed Out is performing a free live show on Pitchfork tomorrow, 12/18.

Conversation

An “Angry Staff Officer” writes for Wired magazine about how, as of The Mandolorian Episode 14, Imperial Stormtroopers are finally starting to understand battle tactics. Previously, these characters couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with their blasters. Charging forward and yelling “Blast ‘em” seemed to be the limit of their ability to employ fire and maneuver against their enemies. It’s as if their strategic development had begun with the assault wave tactics of 1914 or the Soviet human waves at Stalingrad and then just stayed there forever. If you don’t have to worry about recruitment and retention, body counts aren’t a metric that drive organizational change.

Conversation

It still blows my mind that the realest Christmas message you’ll hear on TV this year will be delivered by a kid who sucks his thumb, from a crudely drawn cartoon, created almost 60 years ago.

Conversation

Substack is a great platform and many fantastic writers are there, but ultimately their model won’t scale.

Conversation

Sometimes I worry that my son plays video games too much, but when I hear him complaining about how people won’t come to his emergency meetings in Among Us, I realize they are preparing him for corporate life.

Conversation

Happy holidays from Emperor Palpatine.

Conversation

Look To Where The Help Comes

I’ve been hard on Facebook in the past, especially with regard to their role in the recent elections. I was surprised and pleased to read that private money from Mark Zuckerburg helped secure the status of the 2020 election in areas like the suburbs around Philadelphia. Unfortunately, this is another example of private individuals or public companies stepping in where the government has been neglectful. With a tight budget and little help from the federal government, Chester County applied for an election grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a previously small Chicago-based nonprofit that quickly amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to help local election offices — most notably, $350 million from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. While it is wonderful to see the rich become philanthropic, it does cause a bit of unease that businesses and their leaders seem to be leading the way by moral example. For the most part, we are talking about businesses that are ultimately beholden to making money for their shareholders. If doing the right thing is no longer popular, will we see their altruism wither? The government in a democracy, by contrast, is ultimately accountable to the people that put it in power, and thus should always theoretically be doing the right thing for those constituents. We can’t keep expecting private industry or benevolent individuals to pick up the slack where our government is letting us down. This is an area in which it is in our power to demand more from those we elect.

Conversation

Vinyl Church

Jonas Ellison writes about wanting to attend a vinyl church, and I’m here for it. What does he mean by a vinyl church? He is using vinyl as a reference for older traditions that are slower and more thought out. Vinyl churches don’t try so hard to be accessible to the younger generation. But the sooner we stop watering things down and trying to make church ‘hip’ or ‘relevant’, the more we can get closer to authenticity. Dust off that old turntable, dear church. Leave the skinny jeans in the drawer and put those vestments back on. Take the projectors, strobe lights, and fog machines down and bring in the thuribles and incense (the more the better). Tell your praise band to save the rock and roll for real rock and roll and bring in old hymns (maybe comb through the toxic theology), the organ, and/or a choir. Contemporary music is excusable in elevators and shopping malls, but not vinyl church. I’m happy to be a member of what he describes as a vinyl church. We sing the old hymns, and though some of the less popular ones are pretty hard to sing, it’s nice to feel like a part of a tradition. When I see blog posts with titles like, “What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals,” I can’t relate. This piece reminds me of something Rachel Held Evans wrote a few years ago, that I responded to in this post. I love the vinyl metaphor, though, especially in light of the recent surge in vinyl sales, which have eclipsed CD sales for the first time in decades. The metaphor brings with it a focus on the intentional. It also works well with the conversation about the imperfections in vinyl. Churches bear those same imperfections. Someone once tried to tell John Peel that CD’s were better than vinyl because they don’t have surface noise. He responded, “Listen mate, life has surface noise.” The same can be said of the church.

Conversation

🎮 Stella: To be charitable, this game owes a lot to Inside. That’s a good thing, though, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Inside deserves the flattery of other games with a similar style of play.

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Unearth

Subsonic Eye is a Singapore-based band coming out with their third full length, Nature of Things, in January. If you hadn’t read that, though, their mid-fi production, perfectly angled guitars and complex time signatures might lead you to believe they came out of the nineties Chapel Hill indie rock scene. The animated video for Unearth presents a “a Lorax-esque story of gentrification and ecological destruction” that captures a Seussian feeling. via Fadeaway Radiate

Conversation

Instagram made a change to their API in late October that broke the Hugo shortcode for embeds. There is discussion of removing all embed shortcodes from Hugo. I don’t see many people on M.b. using them, but just a heads up. CC: @help

Conversation

Writing In An ASMR Room

Cal Newport writes about ASMR rooms and virtual reality. While I have yet to see virtual reality implementations that really spark my interest, and my wife is a much bigger fan of ASMR than I am, I do like the idea of ASMR rooms. Newport tells of a reader who has a specific way of using the ASMR rooms to stimulate creativity. The reader told me that she plays the video full screen on her computer while positioning a word processor document in front of it. She listens to the stereo sound in high quality noise cancelling headphones. Though she works out of a “small and noisy urban flat,” the video and sounds help her fall into a state of concentration when she needs to write. I could see that sort of practice being really helpful when writing. I may even try it out (except trade word processor for text editor).

Conversation

🍿 Her: The emotional ups and downs in this film seemed a bit contrived, but the aesthetic was amazing and the acting top notch.

Conversation

Genre Bending

In issue 31 of his newsletter, Ringo Dreams of Lawn Care, Michael Donaldson takes on people loving to hate new musical genre names. Instead of feeling intimidated, I say embrace the genre and all its fancifully named layers. Genre is an identifier, important in pointing the way and gluing together scenes. There was a time that you could walk into an indie record store, look at the clientele, and guess what genres they listened to by how they looked. It's harder now that genres are less-defined and blur together — which I'll argue is a good thing. But it's also why genres are reaching beyond sonic vibes and sounds, increasingly representative of technological innovation, communities, and desired lifestyles. He points out the utility of categorizing new music in a way that will bring the listener in. Not only does it engage the listener, but it helps the musician to identify their output as their own piece of a larger movement. Consider the genre as an elevator pitch. It's a chance to claim a plot of land and plant a flag. If you’ve ever wondered where we get genre names like blue grass, free jazz (that one I actually knew), reggae, techno, industrial, or new wave (that one has to do with CBGB’s), Donaldson has you covered with some musical trivia facts. He even goes on to address some of the controversy surrounding the naming of the “world music” genre. This is a highly enjoyable stroll through the fragmented state of music this days. We don't have to lament the many new branches of this sonic tree. We can learn to love the different fruits that can be plucked from them.

Conversation

Freemasonry or Social Media

By the level, by the square and by the All-Seeing Eye: Christianna Silva writes for NPR about the decline in the ranks of the Freemasons. The order is making the case that more people should be joining groups like them, that eschew differences and promote fellowship, primarily for its own sake. While social media (particularly Facebook) may present itself in a similar manner, as bringing people together, quite often the actual result is division. "People are isolated," said Hodapp, the historian and author. "People are locked in their apartments, or locked in their parents' basement at the age of 35, and don't associate with each other, and social media has them screaming at the computer screen at 3 in the morning because somebody told them to get stuffed over something. Every Mason you talk to will stand there and say, 'Yeah, we're needed now more than we've ever been needed.' "

Conversation

Color me impressed by the portrayal of Ashoka Tano on the Mandolorian. I always felt she was almost too cartoonish a character, even for an animated show, but she was fantastic in live action.

Conversation

Where Thieves Break In

A colleague of mine recently moved to a new apartment after his roommate left and his lease was up. He travels lightly and made short work of the move. I wish I could say I would be able to do the same, but it would take me a while to move all of my stuff.1 I wondered aloud about the difficulty of moving my record collection. Another coworker said “one man’s treasure is another man’s trash,” inverting the old aphorism. I stared at my records filling the bottom four cubes of my IKEA Kallax shelves. I’ve had trouble with the idea of collecting things in the past few years. Part of it goes back to the words of Jesus in the book of Matthew: “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, CEB) I can’t help but feel like whatever I have shouldn’t mean that much to me, anyway. What will happen to these objects when I pass? As the old saying goes, you can’t take it with you. I think about my record collection potentially being something my kids have to figure out a way to get rid of, once I’m gone. Then again, maybe they won’t feel like getting rid of them. I appreciate this post about collecting from Jason Kottke. In particular, his closing comment stuck with me. I have never been much of a collector, but my 22+ years of efforts on this site (collecting knowledge/links?) and my sharing of photos on Flickr/Instagram over the years definitely have resulted in some of the same benefits. I like this idea of what we collect being less material. We can collect, knowledge, wisdom and beauty without acquiring things. Again, this is why I call myself an “aspiring minimalist” in my bio. ↩︎

Conversation

Grateful to be able to watch a YouTube video and replace a $3 fuse in my dead microwave rather than call out appliance repair.

Conversation

Nighttime lacrosse (a collage).

Conversation

I love this article, which details a Presbyterian church in Queens that is building an affordable housing complex with 174 units in their parking lot.

Conversation

My teenage son spends his free time using a gerrymandering simulator to see how many blue districts he can get in Oklahoma and red districts he can get in Maryland without crossing the line into unconstitutionality.

Conversation

The Man Who Would Be King

In episode 270 of the Seeing and Believing podcast, hosts Wade Bearden and Kevin McLenithan discuss one of my top five favorite movies of all time, the cinematic adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. The discussion was prompted by the recent death of Sean Connery, who starred in the film alongside Michael Caine. I first saw the movie when my 12th grade English teacher showed it to the class and loved it immediately. Both of the hosts liked the film, but didn’t seem to view it as an undeniable classic like I do. One of the things they believe is a major weakness is in the absolute othering of the people of Kafiristan, whom the British ex-soldiers that Connery and Caine play, are trying to rule. They are certainly right that these people are othered to the point of being almost faceless and unrepresented. However, I think that’s part of the point of the film. These are people that Europeans thought so inferior that they don’t even see them as individuals capable of agency and certainly not self-government.1 The film shows the danger of that attitude and how that sense of superiority can be destructive. In fact, that seems to be the main message of the movie. To that end, the othering of the people in the film serves to show us things through the eyes of the two British men and helps us to share in their ultimate lesson. I just finished reading A Passage to India and this comes out heavily in that work, as well. ↩︎

Conversation

I’m so convinced by the central argument of Breaking Bread with the Dead by Alan Jacobs 📚 that I keep pausing to pick up older books.

Conversation

Snaptweet Chat

M.G. Siegler has a post describing what I thought Twitter’s new Fleets feature would be and goes into why it really doesn’t fit with Twitter in its current state. I agree with the assessment that this functionality just doesn’t make sense on this platform the way it does on Instagram. I could see a world in which Fleets work, but as a different version of the product which was launched. No one is asking for my product ideas, so I’m going to give them. I would keep Fleets — which is a great name — simple: they’re tweets that go away after a set period of time. They reside not in some unnatural carousel at the top of the feed but in the feed itself. They’re highlighted in some way to showcase their impermanence.

Conversation

I can accept that I’m in the minority when I say that Dave Grohl’s greatest legacy is being the occasional drummer for The Bird and the Bee.

Conversation

Medium Admiring RSS

Medium recently changed their mobile reading experience. It’s still in beta, and you have to toggle a preference in settings to turn it on, so you won’t see it by default. They have been signaling its coming for a few months, though. The tag line they’ve been using is that it makes Medium “more relational.” From Medium boss Ev Williams himself, on his blog Evhead, comes a concise explanation of the change. So what’s different? As Russ wrote, instead of starting with an algorithmic feed of stories, the new app is “reoriented around following — so that readers can be sure they’re not missing anything from writers they love, and those writers and publications can more actively engage and grow their audience.” First and foremost, the focus is on the stories from people or publications you follow. In other words, it’s a bit like RSS. The visual indicators of new posts from sources to which you subscribe feels very much like browsing through a feed reader. I like the new way of offering content, but it does feel like an homage to RSS, without actually acknowledging how great that technology is and how it gives the readers control over what they see.1 It’s good to see Medium going in this direction, as I believe it’s far better than shoving recommendations made by an algorithm into someone’s feed. It allows the user a level of self-determination not seen in previous versions of the service. Of course, you can also still subscribe to your favorite Medium writers and publications via RSS. ↩︎

Conversation

It has been revealed that a $1 million donation from Dolly Parton helped to fund Moderna’s new COVID vaccine. This woman is one of our greatest national treasures.

Conversation

In a politically charged year when the circus can’t be completely avoided, this interview with Barack Obama is one of the best things I’ve read.

Conversation

Got Nothing To Prove

I want to pose something to others who are writing on the internet. You don’t have to write think pieces to refute bald-faced lies. If someone tells you the sky is green and you can easily determine that it is blue, you do not bear the burden of proving the sky is blue. Particularly if the person saying it is green is known for nothing so much as the outrageous and provably false lies they constantly tell. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a constant loop of the attic scene in Goonies where they call Chunk out on all of his dishonesty. “Even more amazing than the time Michael Jackson came over to your house to use the bathroom” could easily be a more benign version of “even more amazing than the time Obama somehow had Trump tower bugged,” or “even more amazing than the time you claimed the Central Park 5 were guilty even after they were exonerated beyond a shadow of a doubt?” The constant string of lie after lie does not then put the reasonable, honest people in the position of countering the false narratives. Turn off the microphones. Dim the lights and shut off the cameras. Ignore the impromptu landscaping sex shop “press conferences.” There’s nothing more to see here.

Conversation

Matt Poppe has been reviewing each episode of the Mandalorian for Christ and Pop Culture and he picks up on something that intrigued me in his piece about the second episode. When Mando tells the X-Wing pilots, “May the Force be with you,” one of them replies, “And also with you.” Is that officially a thing now? I knew we (Star Wars fans) often say, “And also with you,” because it feels right for those of us with a liturgical church background. But I don’t actually remember it being an official Star Wars-y thing. Someone tweet me what you think. A quick Google search makes me think this hasn’t actually been canon until now. When the phrase “and also with you” was used to respond to “may the force be with you” it sounded to these liturgical ears like something so right and familiar. Yet, I too found myself wondering whether that had ever been used in Star Wars before. I’m pretty sure Poppe is right, this is something new to the Mandalorian.

Conversation

Well, it turns out I couldn’t avoid politics this weekend. I’m so glad that ended up being the case, though. Grateful for this election outcome.

Conversation

Trying hard to keep politics from being my companion this weekend. I can still use Micro.blog.

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Here's The Thing

This Friday night, those of us in the US are probably election fatigued. Let’s spend some time with a duo from the other side of the world. Egoism hail from Sydney, Australia and stand firmly in a global line of brilliant dream pop. They just dropped the On Our Minds EP today, which they affectionately refer to as their shoegaze release. Most of the tracks have more of an indie pop sound, though, with subtle hints of gauzy textures. However, my favorite track, ‘Never Leave,’ has a little of Depreciation Guild in the last minute, sounding a bit like shoegaze flirting with chiptune. In the video for the first track off the EP, ‘Here’s The Thing,’ you get a good sense for the sound and aesthetic of Egoism. As I go through middle age, I’m sure at some point, I’ll get tired of people just out of their teenage years crooning about love and relationships. Sometimes I secretly hope that never happens, though. 🎵 Egoism - Here’s The Thing

Conversation

“In America, in every puddle, there’s a gasoline rainbow.” ~ Doug Martsch, Built to Spill

Conversation

Just updated my Now Page (anemic holidays edition).

Conversation

Currently reading: A Passage to India by E. M. Forster 📚. East meets West in Colonial India. Some of the stereotypes are a bit hard to take, but it’s all done to show the ridiculousness of them.

Conversation

When It Comes Down

I am an unaffiliated voter. I used to vote based on policies and candidates. In the last few years, the Grand Old Party has made decision making at voting time a lot easier. They helpfully put an R next to the people you shouldn’t vote for on the ballot. The kinds of people this party tends to attract view politics as a game to be won, rather than a way to improve the country. When they recently pushed through their favored Supreme Court nominee, this was their response. After they got the touchdown, they spiked the ball, did an end zone dance and left the field. Mitch closed down the Senate after they scored their points. What, you might ask, about the people who are suffering from the effects of COVID and needed the relief package that had been in the works? They were callously left in the lurch. All that mattered was the win. Even a win at the cost of breaking a rule the GOP themselves made four years ago about how Supreme Court Justices should be appointed. Victory at any cost.

Conversation

I love Craig Mod’s newsletter about walking, Ridgeline. I’m honored to be featured in the Fellow Walkers section of his latest edition.

Conversation

These Pac-Man style ghosts turned into screaming banshees in tropical storm winds.

Conversation

On a British magistrate in colonial India: “Ronny approved of religion as long as it endorsed the National Anthem, but he objected when it attempted to influence his life.” ~ E.M. Forster, A Passage To India It seems we find many Americans with this same mindset.

Conversation

The Cut and Paste Gospels

James Parker, writes in the Atlantic on the Jefferson Bible, in which Thomas Jefferson carefully excised through razor blade, any references to Jesus’ supernatural deeds. Surely we need the Jefferson Bible more than ever: an exemplary demonstration of rationalism and intellectual autonomy. Calmly the sage bends over the text; calmly he carves away what doesn’t make sense. But a text like this produces its own anti-text, made of everything that’s been left out: a Jefferson Bible in negative, with a just-the-miracles Jesus hurtling wordlessly from one holy disruption to the next. Censorship by matter-of-factness is censorship all the same: The repressed, the removed, doesn’t go away. Personally, not being Thomas Jefferson, I need Jesus and his miracles and his divine nature—I need the celestial reverb that they give to his words. Mystery, wonder, confusion—they’re the essence. Like the yeast that leavens the bread, like the treasure buried in the field. Take a razor to that, and you’re in trouble. (emphasis mine) C.S. Lewis, who argues in Mere Christianity that Jesus was either divine, as he claimed to be, or a madman, precisely because he said he was the Son of God, leaves us without the choice of thinking he was merely a magnificent itinerant philosopher/teacher.

Conversation

Come Back This Way Again

One of the casualties of the COVID-19 crisis this year was a Tennis show in May that was to be held at the Haw River Ballroom. Tennis, like many other bands, had to cancel their tour across the US. I’m assured by the ticket vendor that the show will still happen, in 2021, albeit at the spartan Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, instead of the lush ballroom in Saxapahaw. We will have to see if that comes to fruition. In the meantime, in addition to the pre-tour drop of their latest album, Swimmer, Tennis has gone back in their time machine to bless us with a cover of the Carpenter’s standard, “Superstar.” Tennis infuses the cover with their signature combination of AM Gold and modern indie pop sensibilities. They also add a luscious bridge that alone is worth the price of admission. Tennis- Superstar 🎵

Conversation

This story about John McAfee’s early, heavily Native American appropriated social network Pow Wow, is pretty bananas.

Conversation

Is The Ability To Play Videogames Becoming Instinctual?

My son seems to be able to play any videogame with little to no instructions. Kingdom: New Lands I just downloaded a game on Apple Arcade called the Survivalists. I literally would have had no idea how to play this game (even with the little tutorial tips) without my 8-yr-old. He immediately picked up on the system and how to collect different elements and make things from them. He just started telling me how to play it, having never touched the game in his life. No doubt, playing games with similar mechanisms like Minecraft and Terraria prepared him, but it still amazed me. Within a short time of actually playing the game, he had an empire of monkeys doing his work for him as I tired myself hacking down trees with what looked like a piece of flint. I’ve had the game Kingdom: New Lands for some time but never really played it much. It’s got rabid fans, but every time I play it, I just ride back and forth through the 2D medieval landscape on my horse. I wasn’t getting much out of the horseback riding. My 8-yr-old started playing the game and then he said, “I’ve upgraded the economy.” I’m expecting him to tell me the GDP is booming, per capita income is through the roof and they have socialized medicine as I ride to the left of the hay bale then back the right again. Of course, I don’t really believe this is instinctual. The kid has stockpiled hours upon hours of playing games and watching various YouTube personalities play games in that little noggin of his. Many of today’s videogames have a fairly steep learning curve, though, and it’s impressive how quickly little minds can adapt to complex systems of play.

Conversation

When Jesus healed sick people, he always said, “Your faith has made you whole.” He never said, “Your correct doctrine, your orthodoxy, your dogmatism have healed you.” ~ Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know

Conversation

Currently reading: The Pilgrim’s Compass by Paul H. Lang 📚. I just started, but I’m really identifying with the comparisons between early Christians and current Christians. Dr. Lang just started as the pastor of our church, and that makes me especially eager read the book.

Conversation

Autumn in empire.

Conversation

It’s that time of year again. The spooks are out.

Conversation

📚 What the Mystics Know - Richard Rohr: This one is a bit more scattered than Rohr’s other books. It takes chunks of wisdom and divides them up throughout miniature chapters. They all have purpose, but you have to dig to find the ones that speak to you.

Conversation

I thought Libby was a wonderful books app with a terrible selection. After looking at the NYC library, I realized that it is our county library that has the poor selection.

Conversation

Thanks be to God that the president seems to be okay after contracting COVID, but I had sincerely hoped his brush with it would change his outlook, like Ebeneezer Scrooge after the visits from the spirits of Christmas.

Conversation

It has been too long since I’ve listened to Hammock and their playlist of songs for sleep is a good way to get reacquainted.

Conversation

Why Germans Didn’t Want To Play Risk

In his piece for the Atlantic, The Invasion of the German Board Games, Jonathan Kay brings up an interesting bit about how history informed the board game movement. In North America, the complex board games created during the latter half of the 20th century typically took the form of simulated warfare. In Risk, Axis & Allies, Star Fleet Battles, and Victory in the Pacific, players take on the role of generals moving their units around tabletop maps. But for obvious reasons, this wasn’t a model that resonated positively with the generation of Germans who grew up in the shadow of the Third Reich. Which helps explain why all of the most popular Eurogames are based around building things—communities (Catan), civilizations (Terra Mystica), farms (Agricola)—rather than annihilating opponents. The result is a vastly more pacifist style of a game that can appeal to women as much as men, and to older adults as much as high-testosterone adolescents. I had never thought about how Germans would have had an aversion to the American style of take-over-the-world conquest games. It makes sense, though, having lived through the terror or aftermath of the Nazi expansionist regime, that they would not want to emulate that as a form of play. I can also understand the extent to which the building style of games would appeal to a broader demographic.

Conversation

I haven’t come across any App Clips in the wild yet, but M.G. Siegler seems really impressed by the functionality.

Conversation

Really happy that my state has a COVID contact tracing app now in the form of SlowCOVIDNC. Really unhappy that I had to uninstall it because it killed my phone battery life.

Conversation

I can’t wait to watch these NPR live streams featuring Moon Racer today!

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Turtle Bay

🎵 Softer Still - Turtle Bay: This song and video aren’t new. I first heard the track while on a beach trip in 2018, when it showed up on my Apple New Music playlist. Maybe it was the sand between my toes, but it seemed just the right time to be listening to a song about escaping to an island paradise. However, the vinyl record was just released for the accompanying album, Nuances, so this seemed like a perfect video with which to close out this summer.

Conversation

Covidtide Kylo Ren

Conversation

“Brother-sister duo pegged for tax fraud that funded trampoline party in NC, feds say” After seeing the headline, I skimmed through this article just to get to a line like this: It wasn’t immediately clear in court filings what a deluxe trampoline party entails.

Conversation

High School Diaries

Today, one of my favorite teachers in high school died while at school (the same school my son would be going to if he was not doing remote learning). I was literally just thinking about Mr. Todd yesterday. I can remember when we used to play Jeopardy on Fridays in his Economics class. One time, the answer, “The band that recorded ‘Proud Mary’” came up. I jokingly responded “What is Pearl Jam?” He got a big laugh out of that. My wife and I were both in that class and have fond memories. I can’t believe how similar Mr. Todd looks in the pictures to when he was teaching us. The iconic mustache he wore was still there. My heart goes out to his family, friends and students.

Conversation

Remembering my daughter Chloe with brownies and cake on what would have been her tenth birthday.

Conversation

My wife and I have been married for almost 20 years. We still have a lot in common, but wildly disagree on the appropriateness of athleisure for night wear.

Conversation

The remote working and learning has put me in a a situation where, on a Monday morning, I can witness my elementary school kid watching Snoop Dogg on The Price Is Right.

Conversation

You’re Not The CEO

Not to sound like the teaser to a typical Medium article, but one of my favorite vinyl instagrammers sustained a serious brain injury in a bike accident a few months ago and has found herself happier than ever. Mio works at a record store in Gothenburg, Sweden (also home to one of the finest contemporary psych rock bands, Hollow Ship). Mio has been posting artistic photos of albums for a few years, most recently focusing on body art to complement the album covers. Perusing through her astonishingly well executed posts could easily eat up a good chunk of your day. Her last post before the accident was this striking recreation of the artwork from Sufjan Stevens’ classic album Come On Feel The Illinoise. Although the brain injury she sustained effected her cognition and abilities, Mio is happy with what the experience has taught her. Chief among those lessons is the fact that we are not in control of our lives. The feeling of control is exposed as illusory in the face of disease, accidents, tragedies and other circumstances which we could neither predict nor prevent. In Mio’s case, the positive thing about her accident and subsequent recovery was her newfound ability to let go. I faced this loss of control most acutely in my freshman year of college. I was in my second semester when a blow to the chest from a mere paperback book caused the subsequent appearance of a tumor. Fast forward a few weeks and I was in the hospital being treated for lymphoma. When you are eighteen years old, you feel invincible, like nothing is going to dramatically alter your life trajectory. You never even consider things like cancer or another potentially terminal illness. The faith of my youth, which had been dormant in the last few years of high school,1 became reinvigorated when I realized that I was not in control of my life. I was blessed by, and at the mercy of, God’s providence. Though I was sick, I could still do things and appreciate what possibilities each day would bring. That summer with no hair, fighting cancer with drugs that would put me out for a whole day at a time, was one of the best I’ve had in my four and a half decades. Life was down to its very elements. Very few thoughts of the future detracted from my enjoyment of the present. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. From then on, one of my biggest challenges as the years passed by, would be to do what I could to hold on to that way of framing things. That’s a story for another time. ↩︎

Conversation

Uniting the States

The identity politics that more and more defines the left has a built-in political flaw. It divides into groups rather than uniting across groups; it offers a cogent attack on the injustices and lies of the past and present, rather than an inspiring vision of an America that will be. ~ George Packer, Make America Again, The Atlantic

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Daniel

🎵Bat for Lashes - Daniel: With the current popularity of the Cobra Kai series, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit Natasha Khan’s 2009 emotional tribute to the Karate Kid himself, Daniel LaRusso. I’m posting the live version from The Late Show here because I find the official video to be kind of creepy. Also, although Khan has reworked the arrangements for this song a few times, most of the live versions, including this one, feature the Seventeen Seconds guitar sounds much more prominently in the mix. As a bonus, you get to hear David Letterman’s slightly charming little anecdote about how he almost made it to Khan’s hometown of Brighton. Enjoy Khan’s passion for Daniel, but remember that Johnny Lawrence has a human side, too.

Conversation

One of my biggest questions about iPadOS 14 is why it made a picture of a gummy pizza I took a few years ago a widget.

Conversation

Copying handwritten notes as text was the feature in iPadOS 14 to which I was most looking forward. I was pretty convinced it was going to be unreliable, though. I’m happy to say that, so far, I’ve been proven wrong. Seems pretty solid.

Conversation

Casseroles I Have Known (a collage)

Conversation

A Couple Of Thoughts On Blogging

A longing and nostalgia for the old systems of blogging still seems to be fairly pervasive. Paul Jarvis, in a recent newsletter, on shifting direction to making his writing more personal: You may think this slight shift in direction is egotistical or self-indulgent, and you’d be totally right. Blogging is all about folks writing from their own point of view, drawing their lines in the sand around ideas, and working to be as honest as possible about how they show up and how they feel. I’ve had some incarnation of blogging since 1996 and I’m yearning to get back to it. This trend started a little while ago, but I still like the idea that people are coming to a simpler and more expressive form of blogging that developed in the earlier days of the internet. Image via Rafaela Biazi at Unsplash From Austin Kleon, who is celebrating 15 years of blogging with enthusiasm and the desire to keep going. Every time I start a new post, I never know for sure where it’s going to go. This is what writing and making art is all about: not having something to say, but finding out what you have to say. It’s thinking on the page or the screen or in whatever materials you manipulate. Blogging has taught me to embrace this kind of not-knowing in my other art and my writing. I very much appreciate the idea of writing a blog post to work through your own thoughts. I recently did that in a post about straddling the political fence and staying out of the culture wars, and it really helped me to clarify things that I had been thinking about for some time.

Conversation

Armed in the Subway

Back in May, which now somehow seems like years ago, a bunch of folks with guns protesting COVID19-related restrictions paraded around the streets of neighboring downtown Raleigh, intimidating pedestrians and ordering submarine sandwiches. The ridiculousness of people with weapons such as inert rocket launchers ordering from the sandwich artists at a Subway franchise prompted the creation of many an internet meme. It also helped to prompt a FBI investigation into those individuals who were involved. Now it appears that a couple of the members of the protest have been engaged in trying to sell weapons parts to Hamas. The two men, part of a group called the Boojahideen, have been plotting to commit terrorist acts against the US government. Apparently, they paired the rationale of domestic terrorism to that of international terrorism, which resulted in an opportunistic partnership with FBI agents posing as members of Hamas. They said they were willing to be mercenaries employed by Hamas and that they could make untraceable weapons, the news release stated. On July 30, they sold and negotiated a price for gun parts with a person they believed to be a senior member of Hamas — but who was actually an undercover FBI employee. Teeter and Solomon said they hoped the weapons would be used by Hamas to attack Israeli and U.S. soldiers, according to the news release. This story underscores the danger we are in because of the current administration’s tendency to look the other way with regards to potential domestic terrorism. Actually, I say that with some degree of charity, as many will say that the current administration even encourages domestic terrorists. Here we see the reality that those who are planning attacks here and abroad can find idealogical and material common ground.

Conversation

A Brydge Over Troubled Water

On the Friday night that started a holiday weekend, I found myself helping to troubleshoot an application outage that had come up about unexpectedly. It was an interesting start to the weekend and I am thankful for the technical acumen of my coworkers (near and far) for helping us to get through the crisis. Afterward, it was slightly past my normal bedtime, but having been keyed up by the night’s events, I felt there were miles to go before sleep. As I sat in bed, my mind refusing to disengage from the day’s events, I knew I couldn’t just lie down and nod off. I broke my usual rule of not engaging in screen time at that late of an hour. I opened up my iPad to continue a blog post I had started about not being able to conform to today’s political packages. Unfortunately for my writing aspirations, my wife and youngest son were asleep, the little guy having indulged in his Friday ritual of spending the night in a sleeping bag on our bedroom floor. As I tried writing in the dark confines of the room, I found my typing failing me, whole thoughts being lost to the chaos of poking at random keys. Then I remembered, my new Brydge keyboard has backlit keys. I couldn’t see which button was the right one to turn the feature on, so I fumbled through a number of them, at one point accidentally breaking the quiet of the night by turning on “Invincible Light” by TW Walsh, which elicited a groan from my dozing wife. After several misfires, I found the right button and turned the backlight on. It was perfect for the moment and got me writing again. My wife loves her iPad Brydge keyboard. After my iPad Smart Keyboard appeared to be not-so-smart after all and stopped working, I had to throw it away, and look for something new. My wife had been almost taunting me with the reliability of her keyboard and when I saw the older iPad Pro generation keyboards on sale at Brydge, I snapped the one for my model up at a cool one hundred bones. The keyboard has been a fantastic purchase and its build quality matches that of the Apple hardware. I use the word “hardware” very intentionally, as the floppy foldable keyboards from Apple, be they ever so “smart” or “magic” don’t seem to have that same level of quality. Here are some things that I can do now with my Brydge keyboard that I could not do with the Apple Smart Keyboard: Sit in my bed or on my couch, without my lap desk and type out an email or blog post. As previously mentioned, type in a room with the lights out, when everyone else is sleeping. I’m really happy with the Brydge keyboard and, in the lingua franca of marketing and net promoter scores, would highly recommend to a friend.

Conversation

Thank goodness indolence is acceptable on Labor Day weekend.

Conversation

It Doesn’t All Come As A Package

For a long time now, I’ve had a hard time fitting in politically. I’m adrift in the sea of American politics and even religion I know I’m not alone. I consider myself neither conservative nor progressive. When you study the Bible and Christianity, it’s hard to fit the beliefs you derive into the neat little packages that are offered by our political parties and cultural warriors. That doesn’t stop people from trying. It seems, most of the time, people bend their convictions to fit their political party. The tail wags the dog, these days. Fervor for political parties has increased seemingly proportionally as the influence of true religion has waned. In a piece for Christianity Today entitled Have Your Political Views Become An Idol?, Mary Lederleitner writes about political beliefs that have eclipsed spiritual beliefs. Jesus taught his followers that people would know we are Christians by our love (John 13:34-35), but political idolatry frequently holds opposing values. People begin thinking it is fine to hate, malign, publicly embarrass, ridicule and even bully those with different political views. With such a strong tribal identity tied to politics, straddling the fence doesn’t win you any friends. Many people who are passionate about politics or religion either sit firmly on one side or the other. They either consider themselves progressive or conservative. In his book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr examines the false exclusiveness of progressivism and conservatism from the words of Jesus. Jesus understood the importance of traditions and the need to welcome the wisdom of new understanding. In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, he says, “This is what a scribe of the kingdom is like.” Scholars think he is describing himself. He continues, “He throws out the dragnet and pulls in things both old and new.” In other words, he preserves the best of what we call conservative and the best of what we call progressive. This is always a rare vocation, because it pleases hardly anybody, especially our own ego need to have the “whole truth.” Neither the progressive worldview or the conservative worldview can totally satisfy, though. If you want to have a consistent ethic of life, for example, you can’t stop at the borders between the red and blue. You can’t truly have care for others unless you try to help meet their needs and also ensure they are set upon the right path. The consummate progressive may emphasize the former but consider the latter too judgmental. The die hard conservative may eschew the former under the premise of personal responsibility but may even promote enforcement of the latter. The predetermined menus of values we are now offered obscure the rich buffet of the world of belief and disrupt consistent, end-to-end philosophies. It is unfortunate when someone believes they can take one aspect of your person and determine your positions on a wide variety of issues. We are multi-faceted, complex beings, with a range of biological determinants and life experiences. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) ~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass While Whitman muses on his contradictions, it’s important to note that many of the beliefs we are now told are contradictory are not necessarily so. Still, we contain multitudes. This seems to go unacknowledged in modern times. Increasingly we are looked at as narrow and thin or even one dimensional. As long as you can be folded in such a way as to fit into the right box, only then can you be understood. It is from these boxed packages of beliefs that the culture wars have been sustained. Kit Wilson writes for Arc Digital that we need more culture wars conscientious objectors. But there is no rule woven into the universe that states that some specific opinion somebody holds must inevitably be linked with some other specific opinion, like atoms that are only configurable into a limited number of molecular combinations. He goes on to lament the inclination for people to take one characteristic of a person and try to infer others from that single point. Our increasing reliance on inconsistent political frameworks to reduce the cognitive load of assessing people makes this more and more common. We’re tired of being spoon-fed an ever-diminishing range of political views by even the most supposedly radical of artists. We’re tired of the assumption that your skin color or sexuality determines not only your politics, but your taste in music, literature and film, too. And we’re tired of the endless politicization of … everything. We should reject the imposition of the particularly unique to the moment bundles of opinions. We can derive our own views and tastes. Let the Spirit, the wisdom contained in history and the insights still unfolding around us be our guide. In his book A Diary of Private Prayer, on the morning of the 14th day of the month, John Baillie prays: Help me to make a stand today- ... for the conservations of the rich traditions of the past; for the recognition of new movements of your Spirit in the minds and lives of people today; I hope that we can consider these things when we are both forming our own systems of value and reflecting on the value systems of others.

Conversation

I’m old enough to remember versions of Street Fighter where you didn’t have to download updates, accept multiple license agreements, pick a name, view 20+ screens of tutorials and info, plus watch an ad before you could play a match.

Conversation

The Republicans of today would make Richard Nixon blush.

Conversation

Star Wars Is About Faith

Earlier this year, on Star Wars day, I looked forward to seeing The Rise of Skywalker again and I indicated that I was giving up on Star Wars think pieces for a while. That lasted a few months, and then I came across this post from Hannah Long on Arc Digital. photo by Josh Howard on Unsplash I love to see the variety of posts on Arc Digi, but this one reminds me of something that would have come from another of my favorite publications, Christ and Pop Culture. In it, Long examines the centrality of faith in the Star Wars universe and how, of all the new properties, The Clone Wars series handles that aspect best. Because here’s the thing people don’t get about Star Wars: it’s not about the space battles and laser swords. Nor is it about politics — in fact, the more political it is, the more boring it grows. Star Wars is about faith. (No wonder people get so mad about it online.) That explains the way we treat it and the way it’s written. It’s only by recognizing and embracing the religious nature of the story — and of its almost religious status in pop culture — that storytellers can capture the elusive “real” Star Wars.” I have only seen parts of The Clone Wars series from George Lucas apprentice Dave Filoni.1 One day, my oldest son told us that the series started off a bit slow, but that it ended up being highly critically acclaimed. My youngest son took this to heart, and binged his way through the seven seasons of the show. This is how I became exposed and though indeed in the beginning it felt a bit formulaic and stilted, it gradually began to tell some fascinating stories. The Siege of Mandalore 4-episode arc is singled out in Long’s article for special praise. In the piece, Long writes about what sets the TV series apart from the recent Star Wars sequel movies. She looks at the difference in how the recent films have handled fidelity to the original stories. The difference is in The Clone Wars’ religious philosophy. Unsurprisingly, Filoni approaches Star Wars with a religious sensibility similar to Lucas’s. Neither are worshipful and careful of the old canon like J. J. Abrams — both Lucas and Filoni take creative chances. But unlike Rian Johnson, neither are they instinctual iconoclasts. Long goes on to speculate about the religious beliefs that seem to drive Filoni’s stories. Unsurprisingly, Filoni draws inspiration from Tolkien’s books, which fueled his imagination as a kid. He’s compared Luke to Frodo and Ahsoka to Gandalf. He’s always posting Tolkien stuff. I don’t know anything about Filoni’s own religion, but I’m willing to bet his moral vision of the world is profoundly influenced by Tolkien’s, which was itself Catholic. Perhaps it’s a shaky connection to find, but those similarities lead me to predict that Filoni’s moral vision will prove more robust than that of competing stars in the Disney Star Wars constellation. Having not seen the entirety of The Clone Wars, and not having followed Dave Filoni closely, I can only comment so much on the conclusions that are drawn by Long in the piece. However, her analysis of the Star Wars movies I have seen is spot on, so I’m inclined to give her thoughts credibility. I will be watching for more Star Wars projects from Dave Filoni with great interest.2 Dave Filoni also had a hand in the Mandalorian. ↩︎ That, of course, includes the second season of the Mandalorian. ↩︎

Conversation

After a virtual worship service, I put on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (AKA the most popular jazz album of all time). My youngest son asked if it was Charlie Brown music. My oldest son asked if I was listening to NPR. It’s all in your reference points, I guess.

Conversation

From a purely meteorological standpoint, I want to argue that thunder doesn’t only happen when it’s raining, but when the statement comes out of Stevie Nicks’ mouth, it sounds irrefutable.

Conversation

Pandemics Can’t Kill Vinyl

After Amazon stopped shipping vinyl records, in the spring, to prioritize orders of more critical goods, I wondered about how the record industry would fare. Several months later, I have my answer. Amidst a pandemic, sales of records are still climbing. “But the demand for vinyl records was too strong to keep the industry down. Manufacturing quickly got back to normal, and, in the US, 2020 unit sales are up over 17% from 2019. The appeal of the record, with its tangibility, beauty and history, just keeps on growing.” Not only have we been going through a pandemic, but manufacturing vinyl has become more difficult with the loss of several facilities that are critical parts of the supply chain. I can attest that it may be taking longer to get your records in the mail, but at least some of them are still worth awaiting with bated breath. This should be the next record coming to my house. Nuances by Softer Still came out in 2018, but was just pressed on wax. Having listened to it during the last couple of years, I was able to buy it in compete confidence that it was a dream pop masterpiece.

Conversation

Motherboard (Vice) is launching a newsletter about the USPS. The newsletter itself is free, but subscribers to the premium tier will also get 3 printed zines sent to them through the USPS.

Conversation

Jonas Ellison on virtue signaling and how we don’t need it to prove our worth. To accept our worthiness as a complete gift that was locked in place before we drew our first breath. Then we can go back to posting photos, music videos, and jokes on the internet like we used to do. I understand where he is coming from. I hope that there is a future where there is less to protest about, and less division, so we can go back to the way we used to live our online lives.

Conversation

Within a minute of us bringing home this basket for the little guy’s school supplies, it had already been claimed.

Conversation

We’re getting a brief respite from the heat, here in NC. Still deadheading marigolds that look like melted ice cream cones, though.

Conversation

📚 William James - The Varieties of Religious Experience: Having majored in psychology and having studied religion, I’m surprised I never heard of this book. Of particular interest is the examination of the mind-cure movement and its relation to traditional religious beliefs.

Conversation

Still at the home office full-time.

Conversation

Who's Going to Drive You Home?

🎵 Soccer Mommy - Who’s Going to Drive You Home?: Until now, I’ve been largely immune to the hype surrounding Soccer Mommy. Then I heard this cover of the Cars off of the new Soccer Mommy and Friends singles series. Soccer Mommy & Friends Singles Series by soccer mommy This song was one of the Cars' strongest ballads. You won’t find any of the big rock posturing here and Soccer Mommy takes advantage of the languid pace and dreaminess of the song.

Conversation

Do Your Part

Is the government afraid to ask Americans to make material changes to support the country? When we were at war, the U.S. used to call for citizens to sacrifice for the war effort. Rationing of materials like gas was one of the ways people could make sure that they supported the military. Buying war bonds was another. Propaganda posters unabashedly correlated personal patriotism with what you were doing to help America win a conflict. Today they will know our patriotism by our American flag swimsuits. We are at war now, and the enemy isn’t a foreign government, it’s a virus. It’s killing our citizens, eroding our economy and impacting our way of life. Instead of seeing leadership from our government, asking Americans to make sacrifices to contain the virus, we witness inaction. It’s as if the image of Jimmy Carter in a cardigan asking for conservation of electricity has poisoned any political impulse to ask Americans to do something they may not want to do. If it were only reticence to ask for sacrifice that was holding us back, though, we might still be more successful at combating the disease. Instead we witness an approach from the federal government that expects to be able to will the virus away. You can’t blame a virus on the opposition political party, but that hasn’t stopped our leadership from trying. The results speak for themselves. One of the more effective ways of controlling the spread, contact tracing, faces a skeptical and suspicious public, thereby crippling its efficacy. From NPR: Conspiracy Theories Aside, Here's What Contact Tracers Really Do Contact tracing is the public health practice of informing people when they've been exposed to a contagious disease. As it has become more widely employed across the U.S., it has also become mired in modern political polarization and conspiracy theories. Misinformation abounds, from tales that people who talk to contact tracers will be sent to nonexistent "FEMA camps" — a rumor so prevalent that health officials in Washington state had to put out a statement in May debunking it — to elaborate theories that the efforts are somehow part of a plot by global elites, such as the Clinton Foundation, Bill Gates or George Soros. ​Our federal government winks and nods at the conspiracy theories that make unified efforts of disease control impossible. All that comes from our government serves to set people against each other. We will never have the unity required to fight a war until this changes.

Conversation

Pretty disappointed that the Collections feature is now out for MS Edge on iOS but you can’t add anything but web pages. No pics, no notes, etc. It appears to be nothing but a container for bookmarks.

Conversation

Friday Night Video | Tailwhip

🎵 Men I Trust - Tailwhip: I don’t usually have FOMO, nor do I spend a lot of time on regret. I do wish I had gone to this show at the Cat’s Cradle, though. I’m sorry to have missed Men I Trust. This video has lots of archival footage of the band as kids, doing fun and sometimes dangerous stuff, just enjoying the freedom of childhood.

Conversation

If I’m reading popular sentiment right, I’m supposed to be okay with Apple’s investments helping to prop up a regime that has sent a million people to concentration camps and upset if Epic Games can’t squeeze every last dime out of the massively profitable Fortnite.

Conversation

Oh wow, after a few years, reigning clipboard app champ Copied just got updated.

Conversation

One song that I’m pretty sure won’t be playing at campaign rallies: “Kamala’s Too Nice” by Screeching Weasel.

Conversation

📺 The Story of God (w/ Morgan Freeman) : Each episode features a look across how faiths deal with a specific topic, such as the afterlife or sin. Morgan is a storyteller par excellence and his open-mindedness and enthusiasm makes the show work.

Conversation

I (Space Invaders) Miami: A collage.

Conversation

Sound Analysis

When Wilco’s incredibly critically acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out, I remember reading a review of it on Amazon. To paraphrase the review, it said this is an amazing album, but you have to get it on compact disc. It assured the aspiring listener that on the CD, you could hear things that you wouldn’t hear on the MP3’s. Not long after that, I went to my friend’s record store, CD Alley, in Chapel Hill. “Your really have to get Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on vinyl,” he told me, “you can hear things on the record that you can’t hear on the CD.” I laughed, thinking about the online review. I guess that explains the hierarchy of sound quality (or at least, what many believe the sound quality hierarchy to be). MP3 Washed Out - Paracosm I don’t consider myself a vinyl snob. I buy about half a dozen records a year from artists that I really like. Most of the time, I enjoy listening to music streaming from my iPhone to my Beats Pill or coming from my Amazon Echo as much as playing something on my trusty U-Turn turntable. Sometimes, though, you run across a record that actually does allow you to hear things you couldn’t on the digital version. One album, that has grown on me quite a bit over the years, Washed Out’s Paracosm, is such a record. For the recording, Ernest Green stepped outside his usual process and added a lot of live instruments and organic sounds. From the Pitchfork review of the album: Paracosm possesses more texture, which can be partially attributed to the presence of a live rhythm section. “Entrance” begins with chirping birds, and elsewhere there's snippets of laughter, harps, house parties, bongos, and slight swings of human imperfection in the rhythm section. “It All Feels Right” bumps with light reggae upticks before momentarily collapsing into a sunstroke, while “Great Escape” leans off the beat just enough to generate a little bit of Southern soul. All of this really shines on the vinyl record. The aforementioned birds especially, in the beginning track, the appropriately titled “Entrance,” sound like they could be right outside your window. This is a warm weather record, and all the subtleties of summer embed themselves deeply in its grooves. Over top of that foundation, both the ebullience and contrasting mellow that together form the paradox of this time of year,1 establish themselves firmly in the sequencing of the tracks. Everything feels unhurried. Layers and textures envelop the listener in their sound. Even the flowers on the cover of the record are textured in a way that rewards the tactile. I realize I’m writing about an old album from an artist that just released a new record. Honestly, though, I find reviews of classic record to sometimes be more helpful than reviews of albums that have just dropped. I want to know how the record holds up. What ages well and grows on you? What sounds dated as musical trends shift? How has the recording rewarded you over time? At least during a normal year, which 2020 is most certainly not. ↩︎

Conversation

Space Tower: A collage

Conversation

The Political or the Spiritual

This is something for Christians to think about, as we get closer to Election Day. Christians will be persecuted. It still happens today, but not as much since the church became respectable under Constantine. There is a good example of a leader who led the church in the wrong direction and changed the focus. We have never recovered. Some are still looking for another Constantine instead of the return of Jesus. ~ Randall McRoberts on the return of Jesus

Conversation

Chains Addiction

The days are piling up on one another. Their beginning, middle and end feel strikingly familiar. One bleeds into the next. I’ve heard others describe it as Groundhog Day. At some point during this endless string of days, it became clear to me that I had to do something to get my boys out of the house. We limit even their ability to go with us to stores to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID. As a consequence, they spent the greater portion of their days either playing video games or watching YouTube videos of people playing video games. One problem with any kind of outdoor activity at this time of year, going to the neighborhood pool in carefully planned trips booked in advance excepted, is the heat. My sons seem especially ill-adapted to the hot North Carolina summers and days of isolation in a climate controlled house probably aren’t helping any. Getting them to partake of exercise is a challenge. My youngest kind of runs back and forth, as some YouTuber excitedly narrates their Minecraft run in the background, but my oldest has perfected the teenage sedentary life. He slouches at his desk, playing games or chatting with his friends via an iMac that I vowed would never end up in his room until the need to work from home forced me to remove it from my office. An idea finally came to me that I could take the boys to play disc golf. My older one was excited, but it was a bit harder to stoke the enthusiasm of the younger one. He had never played before and had no conception of what the activity consisted of but understood that it would be out in the elements and wouldn’t involved pushing pixelated characters around a screen. We could have gone to a local course, but I insisted on driving an extra 15 minutes to the course in the capital city that I used to play every night, in the summer, the year I went through chemo. I have an emotional connection to the Kentwood Park course, and I don’t think any others will ever replace it as my default, no matter how many spring up closer to my house. My decision to make the drive was a good one, as my oldest was happy to be in the car, going somewhere, and the drive seemed to elevate his mood. Despite the already high temperature in the later morning, the course was packed. We practiced putting while waiting patiently to line up on the first tee box. My youngest seemed to think he would either be an ace the first few times he threw the disc, or that he wasn’t meant to play at all. You can guess which way that turned out. Though he gamely trudged along, playing from where the disc landed, no matter how close to his original position, he missed few opportunities to complain. His throws didn’t always go where he wanted them to, the basket was too far away, the heat was unbearable. We ended after nine holes. After all the complaints,1 as we drove home my oldest talked about how fun it was. The youngest had to grudgingly agree that it was kind of enjoyable. A disc is no substitute for a gaming controller, but kids need the outdoors, and I plan to make this more of a regular thing to keep them active.2 My wife warned me about this, so it’s fair to say I knew what I was getting into. ↩︎ Planned activity is important as school is now going to be entirely remote this year. ↩︎

Conversation

📺 Pickathon - Khruangbin: This show (recorded last year) was scorching. The band played their back catalog as well as a a medley of covers that included Warren G/Nate Dogg, Dre, Spandau Ballet and Chris Isaak plus a later tribute to Dick Dale. Mind blowing.

Conversation

I don’t know why: The existential poetry of the president.

Conversation

📺 Transformers: War for Cybertron: Watching Megatron try to win sparks and minds for his revolution.

Conversation

It’s interesting to see Medium getting back into the blogging game.

Conversation

In this episode of the Blocked and Reported podcast, Freddie deBoer talks about the ways Twitter can exacerbate mental health problems and his own struggles with bipolar disorder.

Conversation

ISAMU: A Short Skate Film

Filmed in Osaka and Kyoto, this short film by Brett Novak follows Japanese skateboarder Isamu Yamamoto as he freestyles his way around ancient structures. Isamu is obviously deeply influenced by Rodney Mullen, and brings back a style of skateboarding that hasn't been seen much since Mullen and Per Welinder ruled the streets in the 80's. Mullen was a spectator, when, at the age of 14, Yamamoto took first place at the World Freestyle Round-Up Skateboarding Championships in BC, Canada. When you see street skaters, they will map together a line where there is continuity of movement—a switch backside 180 flip combined with a frontside flip, for example. You see symmetry and consistency. Tricks move with a certain grain – to a musician, it would be something like a tonal chord. Isamu has continuity, tempo and acuity that most others do not. He strings things together with competence, flow and unparalleled timing. That was something that no one held a candle to. Although Mullen focuses on the elements of street skating that were influenced by freestyle, freestyle itself has different characteristics than modern street skating. Street skateboarders don’t tend to stay in one spot, whereas freestylers sometimes plant themselves like a fixed point on a map, rotating and bouncing in place. The flow and energy feels less longitudinal and almost more contemplative. Although moving from once obstacle to the next is part of the charm and challenge of street skating, it’s enjoyable to watch a different form manifest itself from a prodigy like Isamu Yamamoto. Via Rolling Stone

Conversation

Fuzz buster: a battery leak and this old friend is finished for good.

Conversation

Recently, @dhe brought up Edge being the second best browser on the Mac. For those of us note taking nerds, Edge just added their nifty Collections feature on iOS to match the desktop.

Conversation

Feeling insulted by music recommendation algorithms. “Is THAT what you think of me?”

Conversation

You don’t seem to hear much about hygge anymore, but you could probably make comfy synth a companion musical genre.

Conversation

I once started a blog post on how big box stores were the Scrooges of our age. So happy to hear about this. The motivations are suspect, but the outcome is good.

Conversation

Narrow Vision, You're A Scapegoat

I find myself in the most unusual position of agreeing with Attorney General William Barr. Barr believes that major tech companies are making serious compromises in order to get access to the Chinese labor and consumer market. "The Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of decades and centuries, while we tend to focus on the next quarterly earnings report,” Barr said. “America’s big tech companies have also allowed themselves to become pawns of Chinese influence.” In the article, one of the tech companies named, Apple, declined to comment. How could they offer any explanation? They are at the mercy of China for the products that are made almost entirely in that country. With human rights abuses becoming more and more apparent and egregious in China, how long can US companies continue to pretend not to notice? It’s difficult to ignore trains full of blindfolded, shaved prisoners. They may be less obvious, and harder to document, but reports from the concentration camps where those prisoners go are even more gruesome. Chinese labor and manufacturing will continue to be integral to the Apple supply chain for the foreseeable future. It’s unfathomable to imagine any other scenario. In the worst case, China will always be the source of Apple hardware. As Steve Jobs famously said to then-president Obama ten years ago, “those jobs aren’t coming back.”

Conversation

App Development To Give Back To Online Communities

The Micro.blog platform has been growing lately, and part of the growth has been through plugins and new apps. Plugins are a welcome additions to the base M.b. hosted blogging experience. They do simple but helpful things, like adding open graph and Twitter cards for rich previews of content on various platforms, site search and footnote popups. Plugins feel like a big step in the maturity of the platform and allow those with the technical savvy to extend the features of the service. The official photo app for Micro.blog, Sunlit, is due to get an update soon. Sunlit offers a photo-centric view of posts on Micro.blog. Browsing through the Sunlit feed is very refreshing, compared to Instagram. So many more natural photos of things people are just seeing or doing. It’s so much less forced and overthought. And each post is an actual post not an ad. I need to post more myself. Andy Nicolaides https://thedent.net/2020/07/19/browsing-through-the.html Third-party apps, which are welcome on the platform, unlike other social networks, are starting to pick up steam. One of the most promising apps is a mobile, cross platform client called Gluon. While Gluon is not new, it is being rewritten from the ground up. Gluon is made by M.b. user @vincent, who spends his time on development of this app because he cares about the longevity and experience of the service. I love the Micro.blog community greatly. For me it's a good place to be on the internet. I have never felt so connected with various people! You really don't get this with Twitter or, presumably, others... Manton has done such an amazing job with it and it really seems to attract the last "good" people on this planet. There are times I really think the world has gone down the drain, but then I open my feed and see lots of wonderful posts from so many people. Not to mention the utmost support from people when you're down. Here to pick you up! Gluon is Vincent’s way of giving back to the community he loves. The client is elegant and refined. While the official Micro.blog client does what it says on the tin, Gluon offers an experience that feels more premium, similar to app from the likes of the Iconfactory. Profile page from Gluon for Micro.blog It’s great to see the user community giving back to the Micro.blog ecosystem because they enjoy being a part of it and want to do something to benefit their fellow users.

Conversation

The little guy was asking to get Minecraft Dungeons yesterday. I told him we would hold off and read some reviews. About 1/2 hour later, Uncle Tommy showed up unexpectedly with Christmas in July presents, one of which was a DL code for Minecraft Dungeons.

Conversation

🎵 The passing of Richard Swift was a tragedy and the musical legacy he left behind, not just through his own compositions, but through the production of the music of others, is an important one. I once wrote that Damian Jurado’s bright and beautiful “A.M. AM” (you might recognize the song if you watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix) had more of Swift in it than it did Jurado. One band that recorded with Swift was Pure Bathing Culture. As a remembrance of his work, they have just released a new EP, Carrido, that was created in Swift’s studio, National Freedom. In addition to recording the EP there, they also covered my favorite Swift song, “Would You?” from his Ground Trouble Jaw EP. It’s an exquisite version, with all of the shimmering softness we’ve come to expect from Pure Bathing Culture. Take a listen below. Carrido by Pure Bathing Culture

Conversation

The ancients are updating. A collage.

Conversation

Friday Night Videos: Bad Habit This is a short one, and I’d rather some new full-length music from the Ice Choir, but the lo-fi beats and animated video make this enjoyable.

Conversation

Only the best accommodations.

Conversation

Politico has a piece on why the Facebook boycott by major companies likely neither cost the companies much nor impact Facebook very much. The timing is particularly important. The three reasons: This is during a historically slow sales month. It is happening happening during a recession. It coincides with the low-spending period of semi-quarantine. They make the point with an apt analogy. Asking a corporation to boycott Facebook in July 2020 is a little like asking a casual drinker to observe Lent by giving up alcohol in a dry county. I share the skepticism that this movement will gain much but another round of false contrition from Facebook, but I would love to be proven wrong.

Conversation

🎵 Brothertiger - Fundamentals, Vol. 1: This EP is a departure from the normal sound of Brothertiger and not just because it eschews vocals in favor of completely instrumental tracks. The band is typically very good at crafting some of the catchier glo-fi songs you are likely to hear but Fundamentals takes the direction of organic sounding electronic soundscapes. The EP is described as “a collection of instrumentals improvised through livestreaming.” Think along the lines of Tycho. I’ve had this as heavy rotation working music and will probably keep it there until it starts getting played incessantly between segments on NPR. Fundamentals, Vol. I by Brothertiger

Conversation

I am profoundly grateful for many blessings, but you will have to forgive me if I don’t feel like celebrating the U.S. today.

Conversation

Michael Flarup believes the new UI in MacOS Big Sur is going to bring back a lot more creativity in visual design. In a post on the subject, Flarup writes about the possibilities that are being opened up by the new interface and its guidelines. With this approach Apple is legalising a visual design expressiveness that we haven’t seen from them in almost a decade. It’s like a ban has been lifted on fun. This will severely loosen the grip of minimalistic visual design and raise the bar for pixel pushers everywhere. Your glyph on a colored background is about to get some serious visual competition. I’m very excited to see MacOS get a fresh coat of paint, but it does feel a bit like everything old is new again. via Macstories

Conversation

The instrumental version of Toro Y Moi’s Causers of This is so dense as to be virtually impenetrable without Chazzy Bear’s smooth vocals to guide you through.

Conversation

Faithful Mask Wearing

Image by Charles Deluvio from Unsplash Andrew Carter writes for the News and Observer on how wearing a mask became a political issue. In the piece, he describes how a group called ReopenNC recently organized a protest against current restrictions put in place by the governor. When a reporter asked a man at the protest to discuss his thoughts on wearing face coverings, he responded with a sarcastic dismissal. “I can’t hear you,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “You’ll have to take off your mask.” When the question became louder, the man said: “It’s about freedom. Masks are about fear. That’s all you need to know.” In Walking by Faith and Wearing a Mask, biophysicist Matthew Pevarnik explains why wearing a face mask now can be an act of Christian faith and has nothing to do with fear. While I am not personally in an at-risk category, I don’t wear the face mask for me. I wear it for the 13 million Americans over 65 that live in multigenerational households who can’t just “cocoon away” while the rest of the population gets herd immunity, or for those that have or live with those asthma, chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer diagnosed in the last year, hematological malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma, or had an organ transplant and more. What if my wearing a mask could have saved the life of a single mother of six who beat breast cancer? Scripture testifies to God’s special compassion for those that are the most vulnerable, for the poor or widows, or the foreigner in the land, and this is a small way that we look out for them, or metaphorically “leave our grain for the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner” (Deuteronomy 24:19).” I have to admit, despite knowing that masks are more effective when worn by those who are infected to keep them from passing the infection to others, I often feel like I’m protecting myself when I wear mine. I’ll be wearing my mask anyway1, but it’s time for my thinking to shift to a mindset of protecting others. Which is now a mandate in N.C., thank goodness. ↩︎

Conversation

🔗 Fans Vote “Master of Puppets” Best Metallica Song in Band-Endorsed Poll This comes as no surprise. When I was a kid, I remember hearing this song in an anti-drug film we watched in health class. I was stunned by this guy who sounded like a demon screaming “master” over and over again. Drug addiction was presented as a devastating and uncompromising form of slavery. No track could have made the prospect of cocaine addiction sound more terrifying. “Master of Puppets” is a song that was much needed in the powder-powered 80’s when it came out. From the jolting start, which could legitimately give you whiplash, to the darkly ponderous bridge, to the sounds of cruel laughter at the end, “Master of Puppets” packs a lot of impact in its 8+ minutes.

Conversation

📚 The Book of Common Prayer (a biography) - Alan Jacobs: Hardly a book you would think of as a summertime poolside page turner, but this book has me engrossed. The intersections of the different branches of the Christian tree never cease to fascinate.

Conversation

I’ll cut my wife’s bangs during this pandemic, but I demand complete creative control over the process.

Conversation

Thanks, but no thanks, to that bridge to nowhere. A collage.

Conversation

I was very close to leaving Instagram after I started seeing political ads a few weeks ago. I have never been on Facebook and deeply dislike some of the choices the company has made. However, I could always rationalize being on Instagram because politics has such a low profile on the service. Politics was rarely discussed (at least in my feed) and there were no political ads. I referenced this in a post I wrote about rejoining the service a few years ago. It’s really what kept me hanging on to Instagram after Facebook decided to allow dishonesty in political ads on their platform. Once the ads started to appear, I stopped opening the Instagram app. I had not yet deleted my account, waiting and hoping that things would change. It appears that they will soon do just that, according to this Facebook post. Political ads play an important role in every election – and this year will be no exception. People have told us they want the option to see fewer political ads on Facebook and Instagram. After announcing this feature earlier this year we are now making it available as part of our preparations for the 2020 US elections. I’m happy to hear this because I enjoy Instagram. I’m just disappointed that the OwnYourGram service that syndicates Instagram posts to your blog no longer seems to work. via Opus

Conversation

The Cult of Seeking to Serve

“Mandatum” by Lawrence OP via Flickr Matt Taibbi has a thought-provoking edition of his newsletter where he ponders whether journalism is destroying itself with its changing mission of asking hard questions to one of trying not to offend. He makes some good points, although some of his examples of cancel culture might not be entirely accurate. What struck me, though, was a particular paragraph listing situations where people were trying hard to show their respect for the African American community. Each passing day sees more scenes that recall something closer to cult religion than politics. White protesters in Floyd’s Houston hometown kneeling and praying to black residents for “forgiveness… for years and years of racism” are one thing, but what are we to make of white police in Cary, North Carolina, kneeling and washing the feet of Black pastors? What about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling while dressed in “African kente cloth scarves”? Each year, during the worship service that starts the season of Lent, Forgiveness Sunday, Orthodox Christians go one by one requesting forgiveness of one another, usually hugging as they do so. This doesn’t sound a whole lot different that the situation Taibbi describes in Houston. I live 5 minutes from Cary, NC, and I didn’t hear about the officers washing the feet of pastors. However, I met some of those officers when they did a session on race relations a couple of years ago at the Cary church I attend. They were serious about improving race relations, before the death of George Floyd, working with the community they serve to make sure that was a priority. One might say it is a particular mission of the Cary PD. In this instance, though, the report of the officers washing the feet of the pastors was not even true. The officers were there to support white pastors washing the feet of black pastors in a show of solidarity and request for forgiveness. I’m not sure if Taibbi is aware, but feet washing has been a part of Christian practice, since Christ did it for his disciples (John 13:1-17), before what is commonly known as The Last Supper. It is emblematic of the faith of one who came, not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). No less than the king of France (in the age where kings held absolute power), Louis IX, used to wash the feet of his subjects, so zealous was he to show his Christian faith. Louis was renowned for his charity. Beggars were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feet, ministered to the wants of the lepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. The Pope washes the feet of prisoners and refugees. When he does so, he is just contributing to a long Christian/Catholic tradition of humility and service. Fred Rogers made a similar gesture with Francois Clemmons, playing the role of an African American police officer, as they placed both of their feet in a small pool to make a point in a time when many swimming pools were not integrated. His point in doing so was to focus on racial reconciliation, much in the same way the Cary police officers have done for the last few years. But here in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, only five years later, a quiet Presbyterian minister and an African-American police officer show the world how to integrate swimming pools. Rogers invites; Clemmons accepts. As Clemmons slips his feet into the pool, the camera holds the shot for several seconds, as if to make the point clear: a pair of brown feet and a pair of white feet can share a swimming pool. In referring to Christian practices as cultish, Taibbi comes off as sounding a bit like one of the ancient Romans, many of whom didn’t understand the religion. I expect we will see more of this type of thing as we move into a post-Christian period. Foot washing has been practiced in many different contexts, to show love and service for one another in the manner of Christ. While some of Taibbi’s points land with chilling implications, his ignorance about certain traditions and his readiness to jump on unsubstantiated Twitter rumors somewhat damage the credibility of his claims.

Conversation

Colder and Closer

One of my favorite albums this year has been TOPS I Feel Alive. I know I’ve been down on music algorithms in the past, but this was one recommended by Apple Music in my New Music Playlist and I was instantly smitten. I think I played the title track around 100x the first couple of days after I heard it and a delivery of Coke bottle clear vinyl was not long behind that. The AM Gold vibes reached a certain part of my brain that hadn’t been activated in too long. One of the best tracks on the record is the song “Colder and Closer,” here transformed into a danceable house track without any of the kind of shoehorning that can sometimes stand out on remixes. Colder & Closer (Patrick Holland Remix) by TOPS If you like the remix, check out the video for the original here, but beware of the frenetic thermal lighting.

Conversation

📚 Catalyst - James Luceno: Although Rogue One was one of my favorite Star Wars films, I didn’t have high hopes for its prequel. I’ve been kind of skeptical of SW books. However, I loved this one. As a commenter said, it’s like House of Cards set in the Star Wars universe.

Conversation

Adult coloring some goths.

Conversation

Has anyone ever listened to “Regress No Way” by 7 Seconds while sipping chamomile tea?

Conversation

Friday Night Videos - Tom Courtenay

Fun video for an indie rock classic.

Conversation

With public transportation ridership dropping and most people working from home, Sheena Easton’s “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” seems to be sliding further into irrelevance.

Conversation

What if I told you there was a way to express your thoughts on the web without having to break them up into 280 character chunks?

Conversation

Live Music In A Dead Age

Bad Brains at the 9:30 Club in 1983. Image by Malco23 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I’m not normally a huge fan of recorded live music. Very few of my most treasured albums were recorded in a live context. The majority of the time, I find live recordings to be inferior versions of their studio-recorded counterparts. Right now, though, I’m mostly home bound, unable to attend gatherings where music would be played. I had tickets to see Tennis perform in May, but that was postponed indefinitely. I don't foresee that show, or any others, returning in the next few months. Living through this, live recordings can slake a sort of thirst that isn’t getting quenched any other means. NPR has unlocked over 100 performances from the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington DC to fill in the gap. I'm creating a habit of listening through a live performance on weeknights. I started with this Stars show from 2007. As expected, the songs don’t sound as good as they do on the records, but there’s a certain energy and spontaneity to them. There is also a sense of nostalgia that is invoked by these little time capsules. They take you back to an earlier time in an artist’s career as well as a different part of your life. The downside to these live performances has to do with some of the technology involved. The sets are each presented as one monolithic piece. Those who are used to track divisions and song identification from live albums may be put off by the lack of those things in the simplistic player that NPR offers. NPR also has an accompanying piece about the 9:30 Club by All Songs Considered host, Bob Boilen. The club is 40 years old, though it remains closed, which makes it harder to celebrate its legacy. When it opened, according to its own typewritten promotional material, it was “the first non-disco niteclub to open in downtown D.C. in thirteen years.” I’ve never actually been to the club, as my dad saw to it that I couldn’t go as a teen living in Northern Virginia. My cousin worked there for much of his adult life, though. Boilen clearly loves the venue and the rich experiences that it provided for him. He ends the piece by advising us to have the same affection and dedication to the clubs wherever we may live. So in that spirit, celebrate the clubs in your town. There are many more venues in D.C. now than there were in 1980, but not all of them are likely to survive this pandemic. There's a newly formed organization called NIVA is taking action to help support venues. If there's a club you love, new or old, remember that they are part of the fabric of your community. These places that have given so much to us and, in turn, to the artists who have energized, galvanized and changed many of our lives.

Conversation

Fires Remain Lit

I do not want this moment to pass with the changing of the news cycle. I want these fires to remain lit until there is reason to put them out. I don’t mean the literal fires and I don’t mean the looting that is destroying communities and livelihoods that were already in danger from the pandemic. I mean the protests that catch people’s attention and make them take a pause and start thinking about what right looks like and how we get there. I mean the apology from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who should have been for peaceful protest the entire time, instead of following the president’s calls to divide and label people enemies. Soon after, Goodell responded with his own video in which he made his strongest and most specific support of the demands and goals of African-American players. In the one minute, 21-second video, the commissioner condemned the oppression of black people, apologized for not listening to the concerns of African-American players and encouraged the league’s athletes to protest peacefully. I mean research and solutions from organizations like Campaign Zero. I mean LEGO pulling marketing for their heavily militarized police action figures. I mean continued awareness and progress. That all being said, I also want people to keep going about kingdom work in all sorts of ways. Not everyone has to be a slacktivist on social media for the cause that captures the spotlight for the moment. Alan Jacobs writes about this aspect of our collective focus. If three months ago you were primarily focused on addressing sexism in the workplace, it seems to me that you ought to be allowed, indeed encouraged, to keep thinking about and working on that now, when everyone else is talking about police brutality. If your passionate concern is the lack of health care in poor communities, here or abroad, I think you should stick with that, even if it means not joining in protests against police racism. If you’ve turned your farm into a shelter for abused or neglected animals, and caring for them doesn’t leave you time to get on social media with today’s approved hashtags, bless you. You’re doing the Lord’s work. Keep trying to bring about change for the better where you can and where you are led.

Conversation

Push th’ little daises and make ‘em come up.

Conversation

McKay Coppins writes for the Atlantic about the Christians who loved the president posing with a Bible in front of a church. I’ve read a lot of pieces about the current president and his faith (or lack thereof). I don’t think two sentences better capture the dynamic than the following. To Trump, the Bible and the church are not symbols of faith; they are weapons of culture war. And to many of his Christian supporters watching at home, the pandering wasn’t an act of inauthenticity; it was a sign of allegiance—and shared dominance. On a related note, I’ve read so many pieces from the Atlantic lately that I should probably start supporting them monetarily.

Conversation

These kinds of artwork critters are found in various places during our neighborhood walks.

Conversation

I have never been so grateful for my self-imposed screen time limit on social media than I have these last few days.

Conversation

All Are Welcome

Downtown Raleigh, like some other major metro downtowns, was ablaze last night. A couple of hours of peaceful demonstrations gave way to riotous violence and frustration boiled over into destruction. “Nearly every shop along Fayetteville Street had shattered windows.” Before the violence started, the police presence made Raleigh look like it had been taken over by a military junta. From WRAL.com, police in riot gear in Raleigh Clearly, the city was preparing for the kind of chaos that was to come. A photo I took at Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh in 2017 It’s terrible to see this kind of destruction nearby, in a city where supposedly, “all are welcome.” I pray that we can find answers to how to obtain justice for those in communities of color. I’m pretty sure smashing up a fine purveyor of sweets like Rocket Fizz is not going to win anyone freedom from oppression, but people have to start listening to grievances and taking positive action to address them.

Conversation

Author Cheri Baker has a fantastic post about what it was like to have a rough night in Seattle.

Conversation

Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta, has strong words for protests descending into chaos in her city.

Conversation

The Looters Club

Protesters photo by Lorie Shaull via Flickr “Our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While citizens riot in Minneapolis and people begin to say “enough,” the president of this country can only think that the proper response to a disproportionate use of force is another disproportionate use of force. For using the words of other racist leaders of the past, to call for potentially lethal violence upon US citizens, he has been censured by Twitter. Many of us were skeptical that the day would ever come that Twitter would enforce their own terms of service. While praise for Twitter always comes to me with reluctance, given their past negligence, they have done what Facebook will not. If Twitter’s decision to hide Donald Trump’s tweet has amped up the pressure on Facebook to do the same, it hasn’t resulted in any noticeable action from the social network. Twitter said in a statement Trump’s words received the label “in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts.” The same tweet was again labeled when it was subsequently posted by the official White House Twitter account. But the words didn’t just appear on Twitter. As with other Trump tweets, it was also cross-posted to Trump’s Facebook and Instagram account. Facebook, though, has not taken any action on the posts, despite also having rules against glorifying violence. This comes as no surprise, after Facebook openly implemented a policy of allowing political ads that were provably false to maintain an important source of their revenue and deceptively project a veneer of neutrality. It doesn’t take much analysis to realize that any policy that benefits only the dishonest, is not neutral, but is in fact taking the side the deceivers. The assymetrical violence of calling for the killing of looters is terrifying. It also fits within the broader narrative that has forced this chain of events upon us. White collar actors who benefit from systematically dismantling companies to loot them in a way that is recognized as legal are rewarded monetarily for their actions. Those of us who grew up on KB Toys and Toys R’ Us saw them get looted by private equity firms and individuals that are still highly esteemed and respected. The Onion has a piece that points out this hypocrisy with scathingly dark humor. “Look, we all have the right to protest, but that doesn’t mean you can just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death,” said Facebook commenter Amy Mulrain, echoing the sentiments of detractors nationwide who blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company’s assets before plundering. “I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn’t just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. It’s disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off. There’s a right way and wrong way to do this.” It’s difficult to acquiesce to destruction of property. It appears that, in the case of Minneapolis, at least some of the destruction has come from agitators outside of the community. However, when a pot boils over isn’t the one to blame the person who saw it bubbling and didn’t turn down the heat? When a positive community influencer and messenger of the gospel is brazenly killed with impunity by the state, what are the people to do?

Conversation

Conspiracy Christians

In this week’s Moore To The Point newsletter, Russell Moore dives into conspiracy theories, with an emphasis on their context in Christian circles. The reason that crazy conspiracy theories get a hearing in Christian circles is not because most Christians believe them. In talking with a pastor with flat-earth, moon-landing denialists in his church, I asked, “How many of your people are convinced by that stuff?” He said, “No one but the one family, but the people who think the earth is not flat don’t wake up in the morning caring about that; these people do.” So what happens is that the pastor, just out of exhaustion, censors himself from saying things like “Let’s pray for our missionaries around the globe” because he doesn’t want the emails the next day accusing him of being a secret liberal. And the 99.5 percent of the people in his church just think, “Bless their hearts” but don’t say anything—out of kindness, I suppose. There’s a noble impulse there. We all are called to bear each other’s craziness, to some degree. But there’s a point at which it’s not just quirkiness but destructive and predatory (1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23-24; Titus 2:9-10). And the church, in witness and in joy, suffers for it. ​He’s right that churches suffer for the falsehoods conceived of, or spread by, their members. It damages the credibility of their witness for Christ. If they can believe things which are so obviously false, one wonders, what about the rest of their beliefs? Wrong beliefs can also be sources of conflict, even as in the illustration of the church member above and their correspondence with the pastor. This is where the passage from Timothy that Moore cites comes into play. That person is conceited. They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments. This creates jealousy, conflict, verbal abuse, and evil suspicions. (1 Timothy 6:4, CEB) It may be simplistic to say, not having ever pastored a flock of believers, but I don’t think I could bring myself to change my message to suite the misguided obsessions of a single family of members. Let’s still pray for our missionaries around the globe, whether someone believes in a globe or not.

Conversation

Respecting Tools

My 2018 iPad Pro with Magic Trackpad 2 I bought an iPad Pro back in 2018, when I was studying for one of the AWS exams. It was both a reward to myself and a tool for taking notes on the exam topics. I have been using it heavily ever since. When the COVID crisis forced many of us knowledge workers home, I had to rework my home office configuration. That meant that my primary computer, my iMac, had to live someplace else. Reluctantly, I moved that to a desk in my boys’ room. I had always said they would never have a TV or computer in their room, but desperate times call for desperate measures. When I lost my primary computer to my children, my iPad became my main personal computer. It’s a bit more limited than my iMac but I have long been adjusting to use it to get things done. It has helped a lot that Apple introduced trackpad support around the same time that I had to go all iPad. At first, I considered buying a more recent refurbished iPad Pro in order to get an upgrade and buy either a Brydge Pro keyboard with trackpad or one of the new Magic Keyboards with the trackpad. Andy Nicolaides from TheDent.net warned me away from the Brydge keyboard, as the trackpad from that seems made for the older trackpad support and is glitchy with the most recent changes. Ultimately, I decided against even the newer iPad Pro with the magic keyboard. I just couldn’t justify spending the money on that at this time and fully recognized that all I really needed was a new trackpad. My old Magic Trackpad from Apple will work with the iPad, but won’t scroll, making it essentially useless. I bought one of the sleek Magic Trackpad 2’s and am very happy with my setup. While the cursor isn’t perfected yet on iPadOS (sometimes you have to double-click a link or button, sometimes single click is sufficient), the cursor technology seems in some ways so much more advanced than what has been the standard for the last 40 years. I can do almost everything that I need to on this machine. There are still some things I can’t do, like download songs from Bandcamp and add them to my Music Library. For those few things, I have to borrow some time from my kids. For most things, though, I’ve adapted. I’m not regretting that I didn’t upgrade. For one reason, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with grimegate. If I spent that much on a machine + keyboard and then it looked worn after a week, I would be seriously frustrated. I’m happy with what Patrick Rhone refers to as “good enough tech.” Sometimes I do think about the fact that the much cheaper iPad my wife got for Christmas is essentially the same as my iPad Pro from a couple of years ago, but I’m okay with that. His and hers iPads suite us.

Conversation

Link Posts And Small b Blogging

Marius Masalar has some thoughts about blogging and link posts. Masalar sees a lot of value in them and the role they play in the makeup of the IndieWeb. At their best, link posts are a way for independent bloggers to engage with and continue a conversation started by one of their fellows. We use them to boost each other up, offer constructive criticism, point out other views, or amplify a message we believe in. He makes a point, though, that link posts should contain something of value from the curator. What does the person linking to the content think about it? It’s best practice to try and explain why someone should make the jump. There are a billion things on the internet and all sorts of entertainment offline, as well. It’s up to the blogger who is linking to something to at least briefly explain why it is worth the reader’s time. It shows respect and a genuine desire to point followers to things that they might find compelling. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and I’m not suggesting that people who share links without commentary are committing some sort of crime against the indie web. However, if you’re going to share new ideas and experiences with someone, it seems courteous to do so with the same care and attention you’d grant them if you were making the recommendation in person. Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing nothing but a link, but the effort to put your own take on things ultimately rewards your readers. Another view related to this is from Paul Jarvis, who laments the decline of small b blogging. Small b blogging being that art of writing for those who share interests, without thought to growth or gaming the system for metrics. In that model, presenting your own take on things found around the interwebs is integral to the implied contract with those who follow your blog. Content is rewarded now through the act of getting someone to a website. Who cares if they read something, who cares if something was written well, who cares if there’s even content. Content now needs likes, shares, outrage, promotion, and to rank high in Google. Content online has gone from acting like an e-zine to being what it started out counter to, and that’s mass, mainstream media. Small b blogging follows that e-zine model and differentiates itself by being honest about its intentions. Part of that is the explanation and the personal reasons for why you are linking to something you found and want to share.

Conversation

Wanfuni Records Presents Takahiro

Lofi beatmaker extraordinare and all around great guy Takahiro Fuchigami put together a compilation (also on Spotify) of his work to commemorate a decade of making music. Here is his recommendation for listening. Please enjoy when you study, cook, clean your place, and as your store BGM. It’s enjoyable at any situation. Please put the music beside of you and make your time peace and calm. This collection would make an excellent soundtrack to playing the game Skate City or to just watching a street scene. Takahiro is my sister’s ex-husband, so he is no longer my brother-in-law, but just my brother. I love his music and am happy to share it.

Conversation

I Tried Microblogging and the Results Will Shock You

I’ve been trying Wordpress out for a long time. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many innocent AWS EC2 instances died horrible deaths so I could experiment with self-hosted Wordpress installations. It’s almost sadistic. Yet I keep checking out the platform, hoping to find that perfect theme, and that ideal blogging workflow that allows me to write in a good text editor, post through a robust API and like the way it comes out when a reader sees it. Until recently, I was still searching. When I found this year’s flagship Wordpress theme, “Twenty Twenty,” I thought I had my match. None of the Wordpress.com themes offer extensive customizations, but this one more than most. It was also a whole lot easier than hosting your own Wordpress installation, making a child theme and going through all of the work of customizing settings like fonts. Sure, you have to upgrade to a business plan that most bloggers don’t need to make any of your own CSS edits, but who needs that if the theme has enough options? Early on, though, I ran in to a big bug (no pun intended). The theme’s “normal” size font is big. It looks great on mobile, but not so much anywhere else. The problem is, when you change the font from “normal” to “small” it actually gets bigger. I was completely dumbfounded by that bit of font maleficia. After some time of living with the bug, but not really liking how my posts looked on a desktop machine, I decided to email Wordpress support. They were aware of the bug, they told me, and the theme developers were looking into it, but they had no estimate of when the bug would be fixed. I was surprised that they wouldn’t fix a font size bug on their flagship theme in relatively short order, and told them as much. Their next email assured me the bug was in testing but they still had no date on a release. I waited a month, sometimes trying the font size option out, to see if things would get fixed. With no movement, I emailed them again. They responded that they still had no time frame, although they did send me a link to the bug on Github. Unfortunately, the bug in Github doesn’t seem to indicate that a fix is in testing. In fact, it indicates no one has even been assigned to look at the issue. Wordpress font bug In parallel to this nonsense with the Wordpress issue, something I didn’t expect happened. IA Writer, a longtime favorite text editor of mine, and one which I used to post to Wordpress and Ghost blogging platforms, added support for Micropub. This means you can now post to your self-hosted Micropub blog or to the excellent Micro.blog platform. I have been a long-time user of Micro.blog, but the only way I could post longer blog posts on it with images was using the Drafts app. Draft’s Swiss-Army-Knife capabilities are great, but it doesn’t really excel at facilitating longer blog posts and its design is something that is best overlooked. So I eventually joined the herd and moved from M.b. to Wordpress. Now, with IA Writer supporting it, I’m back to M.b. Micro.blog uses the Hugo static blogging engine and is extremely customizable, no additional plan other than basic hosting needed. It’s also based around markdown, which has long been my preferred method of writing for the web. It doesn’t have the same plethora of WYSIWYG options as the Wordpress Gutenberg editor, but it has what a humble blogger like myself needs. In addition, it is getting better all of the time. I’m happy to support a strong IndieWeb alternative to the great behemoth that is Wordpress.

Conversation

Just updated my Now page (tending your garden edition).

Conversation

🎵 Friday Night Video - Everlasting Love

[youtube youtu.be/JaYTNsS_m…] Token “groovy chick” included.

Conversation

Meeting on the moon. A collage.

Conversation

An Older Tradition

People who want church to be more traditional make a good point. But they don’t typically aim far enough back in time. They want to go back fifty years. We should go crack 1900 years, before Constantine, before priests, before church buildings, before the Lord’s supper became a sacrifice, before women we locked out of ministry. That’s our tradition. Randall McRoberts Amen.

Conversation

🎮 While everyone else is playing Animal Crossing, my lady friend is working her way through Stardude Valley. She goes against the grain.

Conversation

Radiance. A collage.

Conversation

This time of year can be busy with Motörhead Day (the 8th of May) following so closely in the heels of Star Wars Day. Many people report feeling exhausted during the holiday season. Pace yourselves.

Conversation

Happy Star Wars Day! I wrote a short piece on how to enjoy it.

Conversation

Happy Star Wars Day

Disney wisely chose to observe what has become an annual tradition of celebrating the Star Wars universe to release the last of the Skywalker series, The Rise of Skywalker on their Disney+ streaming video service. The movie debuted to mixed reactions from fans and critics. There were plenty of think pieces arguing over the faults in the narrative and the ending of the iconic series, and one would expect no less for something that has become as polarizing as the Star Wars series. Jason Morehead wrote about this phenomenon a few months ago. I was recently discussing Star Wars with some friends, and one of them remarked that nobody hates Star Wars as much as Star Wars fans. We had a good laugh at that, but he was right — and it’s not only true for Star Wars, but also for any nerdy pop culture property with a decent following. We love to tear down the things we love because they don’t live up to our (unrealistic) expectations, or betray a nostalgia-influenced sense of how it “should” be, or introduce elements we could do without — and on the reasons go. One of the most common criticisms of the final installment in the series that resonated particularly with me was constraining those with force-sensitivity to the members of a couple of dynasties. If Rian Johnson did anything right with the previous movie, it was setup an ending that teased the imagination with the possibilities of new characters becoming in tune with the force. New heroes potentially emerging that didn’t have to come from any particular lineage. The democratization of the force was a welcome addition as the series began to draw to a close. Unfortunately, in the last movie, JJ Abrams decided to jettison those notions in favor what had worked for the series all along for most of its history. As ridiculous as it sounds, only a few chosen people could access the cosmic force that tied all life together. So, while movie criticism is a wonderful way of deconstructing the stories we observe on our screens, sometimes it’s okay to just enjoy an adventure with characters we can admire and villains we can root against. What you won’t find in JJ Abrams vision, though, is a need to bend a story cobbled together from ancient narratives to the spirit of the age. You won’t find a galaxy populated by deeply flawed men who need to be saved by women who share, quite literally, not a flaw amongst them. There are no long and laborious sidebars admonishing the viewer that wealth is a gateway drug to wanton hedonism. The attempts to pander to modern sensibilities in Johnson’s The Last Jedi are so obvious to the naked eye that they barely merit any scrutiny. Not so with Abram’s apparent intention to continue a series that spoke first and foremost to its fans. The only pandering you will find in the final movie is to those who have been adherents of the series’ mythology. So, while movie criticism is a wonderful way of deconstructing the stories we observe on our screens, sometimes it’s okay to just enjoy an adventure with characters we can admire and villains we can root against. You can appreciate closure for a saga that has become a cultural institution. You can marvel at the visual affects and the fantastic worlds that Abrams so skillfully makes seem real.

Conversation

English Breakfast

Hoops new EP, English Breakfast, takes what is probably Coldplay’s best song and adds a bit of trip-hop to it. The vocals are smothered and the beat rules the song. For the b-side, they cover “Reflections After Jane” by the Clientele. English Breakfast by Hoops Happy Bandcamp Day, everyone. For a few more hours, Bandcamp is waiving all of their fees to help artists in the time of COVID-19, when touring is impossible. For many labels, the money goes directly to the artist today, as well. That’s worth celebrating.

Conversation

There’s some irony in the fact that book delivery takes so long now from Amazon, due to their prioritized order fulfillment. Their humble beginnings are so far behind them.

Conversation

Sitting in-between.

Conversation

Listening To New Music As A Rite Of Spring

Jeremy D. Larsen, writing for Pitchfork, uses the riotous 1913 Paris debut performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring to illustrate the difficulty our brains have in enjoying new music. The performance, to perhaps understate the effect, took its audience outside of their sonic comfort zones. Many members of the audience could not fathom this new music; their brains—figuratively, but to a certain extent, literally—broke. A brawl ensued, vegetables were thrown, and 40 people were ejected from the theater. It was a fiasco consonant with Stravinsky’s full-bore attack on the received history of classical music, and thus, every delicate sense in the room. He goes on to explain why new music, truly different music, is so hard for us to enjoy. People love the stuff they already know. It’s a dictum too obvious to dissect, a positive-feedback loop as stale as the air in our self-isolation chambers: We love the things we know because we know them and therefore we love them. But there is a physiological explanation for our nostalgia and our desire to seek comfort in the familiar. It can help us understand why listening to new music is so hard, and why it can make us feel uneasy, angry, or even riotous. ​I’ve often read that our musical tastes solidify somewhere in the late high school/college years. I like to think I’m an exception to that, because I still spend a fair amount of time seeking out new music. I read music blogs and diligently check out their recommendations. I listen to the Apple New Music playlist that is algorithmically curated for me every Friday, comparing my list with my wife’s. I make a new playlist every month, comprised of mostly fresh tracks (with some evergreens thrown in for good measure). How exceptional am I really, though? Is the new music I like that much different than what I would have liked in the past? Is it really challenging me? For example, one of my new favorite songs is “I Feel Alive” by the band TOPS. The band describes itself as “a raw punk take on AM studio pop,” though it feels like more of the latter. So of course I like it! The band itself is fairly new, but I got introduced to music by AM studio pop in the seventies and I spent my high school years listening to punk. It is true that I do listen to things that I wouldn’t have in high school. Don’t tell anyone, but I didn’t really like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless when it came out. I can’t imagine having enjoyed the Velvet Underground at the same time I was exploring industrial bands. However, the noisy rock and quiet modes of the VU did influence a lot of the bands I listened to in high school and college, so again, eventually liking them is hardly a stretch. I never would have been into sophistipop in the nineties, but having grown up in the eighties, I was able to appreciate it more when teenage angst died down. I plan to keep exploring new music, but I don’t expect my tastes to change in a revolutionary way. Whenever I so much as look at the band/artist names that are trending on Apple Music, I’m just not sure what to make of them. I’m happy that my tastes didn’t get stuck in a lock groove in 1994, but I’m also cognizant that there is a familiarity and sometimes nostalgia with even the new music that I appreciate. It’s worth noting that I also don’t like a lot of the stuff I did in my teens. Those industrial bands didn’t stick with me, and neither did hip hop or ska or half a dozen other genres I threw myself into for a while.

Conversation

Margaret On The Guillotine

After putting out a successful album in 2018, an illness left Gia Margaret without the ability to sing for about a year. To cope, she made an ambient album. The first video from the album is for a song called ‘Body.’ Something about the juxtaposition of the gentleness of the track and the samples from Alan Watts with the roaring excitement of a monster truck rally strikes a chord. [youtube youtu.be/5z2zKPW5B…] The album Mia Gargaret (see what she did there) is due out on Orindal records in June. Which makes Margaret label mates with one of my faves, Moon Racer. via Gorilla Vs. Bear

Conversation

Roam, If You Want To

In his latest newsletter, Chris Bowler spends a bit of time on the Roam note taking service that is currently in beta. His reference for Roam was Drew Coffman. I love Drew, and he attaches to new ideas with the zeal of an ancient Athenian. Roam bares more resemblance to a wiki than anything else, but its proponents insist it’s a completely new way of thinking about note taking. The service is thick with enthusiastic documentation on how to use it for different purposes, adapting it to GTD, increasing your speed and productivity with a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, etc. There’s even an org-roam for Emacs. Which you may need, if you can’t access the cloud database of your notes. Roam Reference interface Roam only has a web app, and it’s not a particularly attractive one, at that. The site for the service partially obscures this by resizing browser windows in screenshots to make things seem a bit more native. The app just looks clunky, though. There are more bullets than a early-20th-century Chicago gangland murder scene. Perhaps a bit unintuitively, you can turn most of the bullets off by right-clicking on the title of the page. Otherwise, you end up looking like a PowerPoint junkie in desperate need of a fix. The big draw with Roam seems to be the ability to create linked notes on the fly, by typing the name of a new note in double brackets. It is a cool idea, although I could also see it creating a fairly unwieldy database or a bunch of empty pages waiting for content that never comes. I’d like to see apps like Bear and IA Writer try out something like this, though. Bear already has a similar style of linking to other notes and IA Writer’s content blocks seem like a natural fit for this sort of functionality. It’s clear that, even in the 21st century, note taking is still evolving. For a information hoarder like me, that’s a good thing, even if I don’t love every solution that is created.

Conversation

My Harvard employed younger sister spent the better part of yesterday morning trying to virtually pet my son’s virtual dog in Minecraft. So I’d say this isolation thing is going well.

Conversation

My son’s voice has changed during this whole COVID isolation thing and I hear him sometimes and wonder who is in our house.

Conversation

A Little Zine

When Austin Kleon started making zines out of a single piece of paper, and then kept on making them, I knew at some point, I would have to try my hand at it. Despite what those who mean well keep suggesting, not everyone has a lot more time on their hands because of the COVID-19 restrictions. I have gained a bit of time in dropping my commute to and from the office, though. This has opened up some space for creativity and craft. In love with the cut and paste zine culture of the early nineties, I made my first zine with a typewriter and some photo copiers in 1993 or 1994. With ideas borrowed from some other zines and some amateurish writing, I put together a few issues and dropped them in the found materials spaces at local record stores. Hoping to connect with a kindred spirit or two, I included my mailing address on the back of each copy. The hand-crafted zines of the era felt right at home with the musical scenes that were emerging at the time. The DIY aesthetic was blooming and cut and paste collages encapsulated that aesthetic perfectly. Some of the pillars of the indie rock scene adorned their album covers with surrealist mixed media collages. Here are some of the album covers that inspired me. Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain For the first few releases of their work, Pavement used some delightfully low-fi collages that matched the style of their music. They often threw in pieces of inscrutable handwritten text that resembled their song titles. The covers, like the lyrics to their songs, felt a bit like they were part of some in-joke that you could only hope to be cool or erudite enough to get. Truman's Water - Spasm Smash As far as I know, all of the albums by Truman's Water had collages as the covers. Dig the Eddie Munster cutout on Spasm Smash, the first wonderfully chaotic album I owned by them. Truman’s Water tore through this album with all sorts of noisy alternate tunings and half shout/half screams. The drones they produced in-between the freak outs sounded completely unnatural in a way that kept the listener off-balance and wondering what was going to happen next. Sebadoh - Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock This is another album where the dense collage elements of the cover match the musical contents found within. The edges of Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock were sharp and half-clipped. Soft ruminations on love gave way to nearly impenetrable walls of noise. Temperamental wild-card Eric Gaffney’s off-kilter compositions made this album seem even more like a mashed together bunch of disparate visions. Kleon’s zines have revived good memories of those albums and rekindled my interest in the cut and paste format. For my first effort in the style of his single paper zines, I’ve decided to focus a bit on gratitude. Instead of asking people simply how they are doing with the changes that have been brought by the Coronavirus, I’m making a habit of what good things have come out of this semi-lockdown. I’m focused on the things I’m grateful for in broad strokes. A gratitude zine I’m very much enjoying seeing what creative endeavors people are undertaking during this time, as well as what is holding their appreciation.

Conversation

Despite the ability now to immediately sample any piece of music for yourself, I still find value in writing and reading about music.

Conversation

“Bright Eyes Reveal New Single ‘Forced Convalescence’ Featuring Flea on Bass” is not a headline I ever thought I would read.

Conversation

Jason Morehead discovers Being an Introvert During a Pandemic Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be. I can relate to much of this.

Conversation

Never Too Late Or Too Soon

After his months-in-the-planning shoot for a new song got cancelled, due to COVID-19, Ernest Greene from Washed Out fan-sourced the video. He compiled clips sent in from over 1200 fans to comprise the video for “Too Late.” Both the song and the video come across as authentic Washed Out. This is Greene in default glo-fi mode and, after a lot of experimentation on the last record, it’s probably a welcome return to form. [youtube youtu.be/VIeOmIPX1…] On a related note, I have come to the conclusion that Washed Out’s Paracosm album is the Loveless of the chillwave genre. via CoS

Conversation

Flowers from Harmony by brillianthues on Flickr Good Friday.

Conversation

iLamp

It’s surprising to see that the “iLamp” version of the iMac, which hasn’t been sold for 15 years, continues to appear in new places. This version of the iMac stands out in the line of products as being the most unusual. It is the only iMac to feature most of the guts in the stand, instead of behind the display. Outer Peace, by Toro Y Moi (2019) I was in my second round of college when these models were starting to be phased out. They were still on the campus of NCSU, lined up in libraries and computer labs. Those rows of white and transparent screens almost floating in the air were captivating and futuristic. Candorville by Darrin Bell (2020) In my view, throughout its iterations, the iMac has ALWAYS been a great computer. Obviously there is something special about this particular machine that has stayed with people, though. Knowing Apple enthusiasts, there are surely a few techies who have upgraded the internal hardware and have these things running MacOS Catalina.

Conversation

“People described as essential should be treated and paid in a way that reflects that description.” ~ Dave Pell, on grocery store employees Co-signed

Conversation

Just A Game

Most of the time, dream pop isn’t known for being particularly challenging. Still, Noble Oak’s new single, “Just A Game” and the accompanying in-studio performance video is probably some of the most accessible dream pop to come out in recent memory. If terrestrial radio was just a little bit less terrible, I could imagine this sounding perfect coming over the air waves on a warm summer day. With just the right amount of hazy tenderness, the track wraps the listener in a comforting sense of wistful melancholy. [youtube youtu.be/U445MBdl9…]

Conversation

Just updated my Now Page (my home is my castle edition).

Conversation

Sometimes, I think the world just isn’t as black and white as it’s portrayed in the movies. Then I remember the president and his gang of miscreants and cinema-worthy villains.

Conversation

🎵 It’s hard to believe that the Mogwai that just put out the house music inspired Reverso EP are the same Slint disciples that recorded Young Team in 1997.

Conversation

Dry Bones

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1694396191 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=e99708 tracklist=false artwork=small track=868700961] This week in worship, in place of a traditional sermon, our worship leaders engaged in the practice of havruta (learning in pairs). The text that was discussed was Ezekiel 37:1-14. The LORD’s power overcame me, and while I was in the LORD’s spirit, he led me out and set me down in the middle of a certain valley. It was full of bones. He led me through them all around, and I saw that there were a great many of them on the valley floor, and they were very dry. He asked me, “Human one, can these bones live again?” I said, “LORD God, only you know.” He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the LORD’s word!” “The LORD God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again.” “I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 37:1-6, CEB It was noted that our present situation, with all of its restrictions and constant reminders of illness and even death, feels a bit like being in the valley of the dry bones. We wonder, when will this pandemic end, life return to normal, and the dry bones again have the breath of life. It’s not lost on me that the concept of breath plays so prominently in this passage, as we read stories of people having the very breath constricted from their lungs. It’s also not lost that a passage in the book of a prophet seems, well, prophetic in context of world events. As we hope for the breath of life to once again come to our world, it was noted that the breath of God that comes to fill us may well be different than what we were expecting. We may find ourselves facing a new reality, when all this is over.

Conversation

I know I just blogged about it, but C.S. Lewis’ ‘Learning in War-time’ is one of the most interesting pieces I’ve read about our current situation. Lots of highlights.

Conversation

Let’s Dance

Philip Christman implores us, in Volume 99 of The Tourist, when we are tempted to write another “What is art in the face of ___________,” piece, to remember that C.S. Lewis already did it. Though a Christman uses slightly stronger language than I am willing to employ here, he makes his point. During the Second World War, Lewis wrote “Learning in War-time” as a sermon that he preached in 1939. The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumable they have their reward. Men are different.They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffold, discuss, the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature. This is by no means an argument to toss out precautionary measures against a certain threat. While Lewis points out that 100% of people die, most of us would rather do it later than sooner. It is, however, a moment to recognize that the world is never truly “safe” and waiting until it has achieved that status is likely to keep you from, as Morrissey would say, “doing all the things in life you’d like to.” We can shelter in place and still remain committed to learning, creating and expressing.

Conversation

Going to Virtual Church

I am happy that my church decided to hold virtual worship service this morning, complete with singing, responsive liturgy, sermon and passing of peace. I wasn’t thrilled that it was done through Facebook, a platform with which I have many reservations (to be charitable). Our church isn’t used to this kind of thing, though, so choosing a platform for broadcasting is just one more hurdle to be surmounted as quickly as possible. Jonas Ellison writes in praise of churches that don’t do the virtual thing very well, and hopes they ultimately keep it that way. I hope churches like mine don’t get too good at this. I hope that they can under-deliver just a little bit as this social distancing continues (here in Chicago, EVERYTHING is closed including bars and restaurants starting in a couple of days). Just don’t get too good at the remote worshipping thing, church. Don’t let us get too comfortable watching from home. No matter what you do, it just isn’t the same. But thanks for doing what you can to keep us gathered during this time. I’m grateful to be able to have time to worship God with others, even through the distance of a screen on a coffee table. I’ve never attended a worship service in my pajamas, with my cat, prior to this crisis. I hope it doesn’t stay that way for too long, though. I want to be in fellowship with the congregation, safely elbow bumping through our messages of peace to each other.

Conversation

Richard Burr should be prosecuted for insider trading for his role in spreading information that would massively effect stock performance to his friends while deliberately and systematically withholding that information from the public.

Conversation

Time to Look Forward

Andy Nicolaides from The Dent has a post about continuing to care about things that may seem inconsequential during these times of isolation and illness. He emphasizes that it’s okay to look forward. If any of you reading this have been thinking there’s no point in starting that new podcast you’ve had on your mind for a while, or writing a blog post about how much you like that one episode of Star Trek, or whatever, I ask you to reconsider. Create, joke, play, discuss, speculate, enjoy, love, write, record, laugh. You don’t know who’s day you may brighten with whatever it is you put out there. At the very least, you will enjoy it and that should always take priority. For his part, Nicolaides will still continue to share his passion for new Apple gadgets at The Dent. I’m going to continue to post interesting things I find from around the interwebs, and they may or may not be related to a certain virus that shall not be named (certainly not by point of origin, as is the habit of some sinister villains). Incidentally, if you are interested in starting a new podcast, Micro.blog is offering free microcast hosting with their standard hosting plan for the month of April.

Conversation

Screenshot Daily has a post on games with themes around mental health. Strong recommendation for Celeste from my brother.

Conversation

Drop the Needle

The vinyl industry didn’t need another piece of bad news, after the delay of Record Store Day, and the fire at one of the two lacquer manufacturing plants. The latest blow is that Amazon will stop stocking records in order to retain shelf space for more critical products during the Coronavirus pandemic. “We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock,” Amazon said in a statement to third-party sellers this week (via Variety ). “With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers. For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation. … We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritize these products for customers.” Amazon sells a quarter of the records purchased in the U.S. Vinyl sales were up 19% in 2019. In addition to the Amazon decision, with people venturing out less to physical retailers, the overall sale of records is likely to drop quite a bit this year.

Conversation

📚 I rarely read a book quickly, because it’s hard for me to get past the feeling that a chapter break is something that means it’s time to put down the Kindle.

Conversation

📚 David Sedaris - Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim: Sedaris has such a self-deprecating humor and a true love of people and their eccentricities.

Conversation

Love In The Time Of Coronavirus

Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash Inspired by Austin Kleon, Omar created a one page zine, about living through quarantine in China during the Coronavirus outbreak. He has also been blogging regular updates about what the isolation has been like. The quarantine not only excludes contact with others, but for families, it tests your internal dynamics. To answer the question of what people would do if stuck inside all day, Arsh Raziuddin from the Atlantic posits this: The answer is far more familiar than the fearful conjecture forebodes. Many Americans would do the same thing they do now, mostly. Netflix has already fused us to our couches. For years, contemporary society has been bracing, and even longing, for quarantine. He goes on further to point out that modern technology has been paving the way for discretionary, if not mandatory, isolation for some time. If conditions get truly bad, a serious public-health lockdown would indeed upend ordinary life. Barring that extreme, efforts such as the ones just mentioned extend a process that was under way long before a novel virus threatened to go pandemic. In a way, “quarantine” is just a raw, surprising name for the condition that computer technologies have brought about over the last two decades: making almost everything possible from the quiet isolation of a desk or a chair illuminated by an internet-connected laptop or tablet. While Raziuddin is skeptical of the notion that anyone could get bored or restless at home these days, the confinement diaries of Omar and others might tell us that it is indeed still possible.

Conversation

🎮 The Final Fantasy 7 remake is really well done. Gorgeous, cinematic, and fantastic at managing the learning curve. Too bad Barret has a commanding lead in the race for most annoying video game character ever.

Conversation

Ghost of a Song

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a song firmly in the classic shoegaze genre start out with such a lofi stripped down demo feel. One might even suggest the beginning of the song feels sort of haunting. The intro serves as a stark contrast to the blast of fuzz and reverb that adorn the wandering guitars when the song kicks in, though. Laveda has a full-length record coming out in the early part of this year and “Ghost” is a strong enticement to wait for its release. [youtu.be/4oITl7dmC...](https://youtu.be/4oITl7dmCPg)

Conversation

I love this review of Tot, the new note-taking app from the Icon Factory. You really get a sense for Jon’s passion for the app and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Conversation

The Social Media Morass

A few months ago, Consequence of Sound reported on Disney passing on the chance to buy Twitter because, in the words of Disney chief Bob Iger, “the nastiness is extraordinary.” Gladiatrix fight photo by Hans Splinter from flickr. Once upon a time, way back in 2017, there was a little website called Twitter that caught the eyes of the monolith Disney. The idea at the time was for Disney to acquire Twitter to help modernize its distribution, The New York Times reports. When Iger saw the downsides of Twitter firsthand, though, he realized the deal couldn’t possibly be worth it. He began feeling intense dread and knew he had to reject the deal. Whether the overall nastiness started with Gamergate or the Trump presidential campaign, by 2017, it had hit critical mass. Around the same time as the revelation about the Disney purchase, Tim Challies wrote about “becoming a Kwitter.” At the top of the list is the simple reality that I may have the wrong disposition for Twitter. The man just doesn’t fit the medium. Over the past few years I’ve awakened to the reality that in many ways I am a weak person. I am weak physically, constitutionally, and in some ways emotionally. Especially, I’ve learned that I am easily fatigued, drained, or discouraged when involved in unnecessary conflict or even when witnessing it. If my unsanctified disposition is toward cowardice and running away, I believe my sanctified disposition is toward peace and peacemaking. Yet Twitter is a medium that seems to generate conflict and to thrive upon it. I find it a discouraging and intimidating place to be. I derive negligible pleasure from it. It adds nothing necessary to my life and very little that’s truly beneficial. I can relate to the admission of being weak in some ways and though I’m not usually conflict averse IRL, I see online conflict as mostly unproductive. Rarely do hostile exchanges result in changed minds or reconciliation. On a platform like Twitter, it can also feel like conflict can be unexpected and especially intrusive. I was caught off guard by this aspect of the platform one Sunday a couple of years ago when I quoted something that I had read in a popular newsletter and liked and with which I identified. I tweeted the quote with attribution. I did find the quote on a Twitter but I couldn’t use the retweet or quote features because the original tweet had some additional comments that didn’t really add context. So I used the good old copy and paste and throw some quotes around the copied text method. I then added “(x Twitter handle) has said:.” Pretty simple, right? After the tweet, I quickly started receiving multiple replies from the original author of the quote. She said that the statement was made in a private conversation with friends of which I was not a part. She said the way I worded the quote was “creepy,” even though I had just copied and pasted what she wrote in a public tweet. I apologized for using the quote and let her know it had resonated with me. She cooled down a bit but still remained fairly defensive, sending me more tweets before letting it settle. I had to teach a confirmation class at church that morning and the whole exchange really rattled me. In fact, it really weighed on me that whole week. To give the original author of the tweet the benefit of the doubt would be to guess that she had been the victim of some sort of trolling on Twitter previously. To immediately assume that this is not only a very real possibility, but in all likelihood, a probability, is to be ready to accept the malignancy that pervades the social media platform. The ubiquitousness of the clap backs and the quote slams would cause almost anyone to put their shields up. Even the normally mild-mannered seem to turn into battle-hardened pugilists armed with 280 characters on Twitter. Of course, in one sense, the popular social media platform is simply emblematic of the problems posed in the broader internet. Twitter can just be a condensed microcosm of the troubling trends that pervade human interactions online. Jonas Ellison, muses about the internet more generally, in his newsletter. I see the internet as a giant omnipresent digital mirror. Since its inception, it’s been showing us a lot (!) about humanity. Like those magnified mirrors equipped with bright halogen lights that reveal all the blemishes, knicks, moles, freckles, scars, and discolorment in our faces - we’re seeing more than we were meant to ever see in normal daylight. Those unflattering lights seem particularly strong in Twitter’s corner of the Internet. After the incident I described, I changed my account settings to use protected tweets. “Protected” is a great word to use in this context, because I wasn’t really feeling like tweeting was safe. I didn’t need the friction caused by even positive comments and I surely didn’t need strangers tweeting at me that the Rape of Nanjing was a hoax (yep, that actually happened). I’ve been using the protected tweets feature for about 2 years now. I miss some of the aspects of having public tweets, though. It’s pretty limiting when you can’t tweet a reply to someone who doesn’t follow you, or ask a quick question of a company. Surprising positive engagements can happen along with the negative ones in a public space. I once tweeted a comment on the new Public Enemy album (with no @’s or hashtags) and the producer responded back to me. I do miss those kinds of interactions. Just not enough to expose myself to the red-faced mobs that seems to run Twitter these days. Now I spend a lot less time on Twitter in general. Most of my tweets are syndicated from a blog aggregation service with actual community guidelines - Micro.blog. I still think the Twitter product itself is very well developed and I miss what it used to be. When I’m on there now, though, I’m dodging true believers on my right and on my left. Let’s face it, Twitter wasn’t created to be a political platform. There is little room for explanation or context. I’m also avoiding tweet storms that would have been blog posts 10 years ago. Plodding through those threads feels a bit like reading a novel written on sticky notes. They are antithetical to the original design and intent of the service. Twitter has changed a lot over the last few years and it only seems to be slouching towards further decline. These days, there are usually many more edifying ways to spend time online.

Conversation

The Social Media Morass

A few months ago, Consequence of Sound reported on Disney passing on the chance to buy Twitter because, in the words of Disney chief Bob Iger, “the nastiness is extraordinary.” Gladiatrix fight photo by Hans Splinter from flickr. Once upon a time, way back in 2017, there was a little website called Twitter that caught the eyes of the monolith Disney. The idea at the time was for Disney to acquire Twitter to help modernize its distribution, The New York Times reports. When Iger saw the downsides of Twitter firsthand, though, he realized the deal couldn’t possibly be worth it. He began feeling intense dread and knew he had to reject the deal. Whether the overall nastiness started with Gamergate or the Trump presidential campaign, by 2017, it had hit critical mass. Around the same time as the revelation about the Disney purchase, Tim Challies wrote about “becoming a Kwitter.” At the top of the list is the simple reality that I may have the wrong disposition for Twitter. The man just doesn’t fit the medium. Over the past few years I’ve awakened to the reality that in many ways I am a weak person. I am weak physically, constitutionally, and in some ways emotionally. Especially, I’ve learned that I am easily fatigued, drained, or discouraged when involved in unnecessary conflict or even when witnessing it. If my unsanctified disposition is toward cowardice and running away, I believe my sanctified disposition is toward peace and peacemaking. Yet Twitter is a medium that seems to generate conflict and to thrive upon it. I find it a discouraging and intimidating place to be. I derive negligible pleasure from it. It adds nothing necessary to my life and very little that’s truly beneficial. I can relate to the admission of being weak in some ways and though I’m not usually conflict averse IRL, I see online conflict as mostly unproductive. Rarely do hostile exchanges result in changed minds or reconciliation. On a platform like Twitter, it can also feel like conflict can be unexpected and especially intrusive. I was caught off guard by this aspect of the platform one Sunday a couple of years ago when I quoted something that I had read in a popular newsletter and liked and with which I identified. I tweeted the quote with attribution. I did find the quote on a Twitter but I couldn’t use the retweet or quote features because the original tweet had some additional comments that didn’t really add context. So I used the good old copy and paste and throw some quotes around the copied text method. I then added “(x Twitter handle) has said:.” Pretty simple, right? After the tweet, I quickly started receiving multiple replies from the original author of the quote. She said that the statement was made in a private conversation with friends of which I was not a part. She said the way I worded the quote was “creepy,” even though I had just copied and pasted what she wrote in a public tweet. I apologized for using the quote and let her know it had resonated with me. She cooled down a bit but still remained fairly defensive, sending me more tweets before letting it settle. I had to teach a confirmation class at church that morning and the whole exchange really rattled me. In fact, it really weighed on me that whole week. To give the original author of the tweet the benefit of the doubt would be to guess that she had been the victim of some sort of trolling on Twitter previously. To immediately assume that this is not only a very real possibility, but in all likelihood, a probability, is to be ready to accept the malignancy that pervades the social media platform. The ubiquitousness of the clap backs and the quote slams would cause almost anyone to put their shields up. Even the normally mild-mannered seem to turn into battle-hardened pugilists armed with 280 characters on Twitter. Of course, in one sense, the popular social media platform is simply emblematic of the problems posed in the broader internet. Twitter can just be a condensed microcosm of the troubling trends that pervade human interactions online. Jonas Ellison, muses about the internet more generally, in his newsletter. I see the internet as a giant omnipresent digital mirror. Since its inception, it’s been showing us a lot (!) about humanity. Like those magnified mirrors equipped with bright halogen lights that reveal all the blemishes, knicks, moles, freckles, scars, and discolorment in our faces - we’re seeing more than we were meant to ever see in normal daylight. Those unflattering lights seem particularly strong in Twitter’s corner of the Internet. After the incident I described, I changed my account settings to use protected tweets. “Protected” is a great word to use in this context, because I wasn’t really feeling like tweeting was safe. I didn’t need the friction caused by even positive comments and I surely didn’t need strangers tweeting at me that the Rape of Nanjing was a hoax (yep, that actually happened). I’ve been using the protected tweets feature for about 2 years now. I miss some of the aspects of having public tweets, though. It’s pretty limiting when you can’t tweet a reply to someone who doesn’t follow you, or ask a quick question of a company. Surprising positive engagements can happen along with the negative ones in a public space. I once tweeted a comment on the new Public Enemy album (with no @’s or hashtags) and the producer responded back to me. I do miss those kinds of interactions. Just not enough to expose myself to the red-faced mobs that seems to run Twitter these days. Now I spend a lot less time on Twitter in general. Most of my tweets are syndicated from a blog aggregation service with actual community guidelines - Micro.blog. I still think the Twitter product itself is very well developed and I miss what it used to be. When I’m on there now, though, I’m dodging true believers on my right and on my left. Let’s face it, Twitter wasn’t created to be a political platform. There is little room for explanation or context. I’m also avoiding tweet storms that would have been blog posts 10 years ago. Plodding through those threads feels a bit like reading a novel written on sticky notes. They are antithetical to the original design and intent of the service. Twitter has changed a lot over the last few years and it only seems to be slouching towards further decline. There are usually much more edifying ways to spend time online.

Conversation

🍿 The Big Sick: I had been wanting to see this movie for some time but it seemed especially appropriate while going through health challenges. Really funny and touching. Such a fascinating and lovely true story.

Conversation

Good times, great oldies.

Conversation

That thing where you listen to a competently conducted interview that nevertheless doesn’t address the questions you have in your own head.

Conversation

A bassist admitted to burning 3 churches to raise his profile as a black metal musician. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like black metal, beyond simply the terrible aesthetics.

Conversation

Affiliations

Patrick Rhone writes about why he used Amazon for affiliate links and why he no longer does so. He now favors a site called Indiebound, which serves to federate a group of independent bookstores and positions itself as the conscientious consumer alternative to Amazon. In the post, Rhone quotes Dan J on the danger of using the ubiquitous e-commerce site for book recommendations. The problem with linking to Amazon as a “safe default” is the same as the problem with just publishing your book on Amazon and calling it a day: it entrenches Amazon as The One True Place Where Books Are, and, while convenient, that’s not good… it’s not good for society to have one big private corporation responsible for distributing such a huge proportion of the collective written work of the human race. This highlights a problem that pops into my brain every time I make a purchase from Amazon. Not only do I not want Amazon to own the market on books, I don’t want them to own the market on almost any category of consumer goods. I would rather they not be the leading retailer of apparel, furniture, electronics, vinyl records, hygiene merchandise or any other product groups. When I was younger, Blockbuster Video was in its ascendency. As they grew, I watched a pattern emerge. When there were good, independent video stores in the same area, Blockbuster aggressively sent out coupons that offered excellent deals on rentals. They were enticing and certainly gave a customer reason to choose them over the competition. When, inevitably, the independent stores went our of business, the well of coupons from Blockbuster magically dried up. I witnessed this phenomenon play out a number of times. I can’t help but think of the Blockbuster strategy whenever I can choose between Amazon and a viable alternative. The alternative would preferably be an independent business, but even another corporate chain is better. A chain or independent, hopefully, that specializes in a certain segment of products and that can build their business around enthusiastic customers. I say all of these things as an Amazon shareholder who fully believes the market has room for a variety of retail establishments and that, despite that, Amazon will continue to grow.

Conversation

🍿 Just watched A Marriage Story. As an alternative, I could have just stabbed myself in the heart 20x.

Conversation

🍿 Just watched A Marriage Story. As an alternative, I could have stabbed myself in the heart 20x.

Conversation

This Is The Way

The Mandolorian Unofficial Wallpaper From Deviantart, a beautifully subtle Mandalorian wallpaper in an assortment of colors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0. Baby Yoda forever!

Conversation

It may have been Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t prevent my lady friend and I from engaging in our Friday night tradition of doing Apple New Music playlist bingo. “Does anyone have the new track by Camel Power Club?”

Conversation

Learning to Skate

This winner of the Best Bocumentary (Short Subject) Oscar this year went to the film Learning To Skate In A War Zone (If You're A Girl), about the courageous girl skateboarders in Afghanistan. [vimeo.com/369606564](https://vimeo.com/369606564) I fear for the individuals involved in this just as I revel in their enthusiasm. Having been a skateboarder myself, I recognize what an important outlet it can be and I believe that goes doubly for these girls from Afghanistan.

Conversation

This California fire is going to make already long waits for vinyl records even longer. The only other lacquer manufacturer is in Japan and is really backed up already. Worldwide vinyl record supply threatened by “devastating” fire at lacquer manufacturer

Conversation

Tread Lightly

John Pavlovitz found himself buying bananas the day after his father died. He was going through such a normal part of life, but inside he felt anything but normal. Everyone around you; the people you share the grocery store line with, pass in traffic, sit next to at work, encounter on social media, and see across the kitchen table—they’re all experiencing the collateral damage of living. They are all grieving someone, missing someone, worried about someone. Their marriages are crumbling or their mortgage payment is late or they’re waiting on their child’s test results, or they’re getting bananas five years after a death and still pushing back tears because the loss feels as real as it did that first day. I can vividly remember, in 2007, taking a walk on my lunch break from work, after finding out that my father was terminally ill. It was the most beautiful day imaginable, the sun was shining and the temps were in the seventies, but I was completely unable to feel the comfort of the perfect weather. I couldn’t even contemplate ever getting my way past that internal ache that was so much stronger than anything nature could provide as soothing balm. Who among us hasn’t had these times? There are almost inevitably seasons where we’re unable to feel the cool breeze cutting through the punishment of a blazing sun. We don’t go around wearing signs, but Pavlovitz visualizes how helpful it would be, anyway. There often are no noticeable signals. No helpful indicator lights to let people know our emotional tanks are almost on empty. Whether your reference point is Ecclesiastes or The Byrds, “to everything there is a season.” It can be hard to know in which season a person is dwelling, though. So we have to tread carefully with those around us. Pavlovitz sums it up nicely. We need to remind ourselves just how hard the hidden stories around us might be, and to approach each person as a delicate, breakable, invaluable treasure—and to handle them with care.

Conversation

Christ and a blue heaven.

Conversation

Every week, Medium sends an email about an article urging people not to “fall in love with a smart, introverted man.” For some reason, they seem to feel this is a particularly clear and present danger for me.

Conversation

The DMV forces you to pay extra to submit vehicle property taxes via a chatbot. Someone please explain to me how having a faux conversation about my address beats using a form.

Conversation

Vinyl Me Please

Dinosaur Jr. - Green Mind Us old dudes are suckers for reissues of our favorite records. I’ve owned Green Mind by Dinosaur Jr. on cassette, compact disc and vinyl. Still, when I saw another colored vinyl version newly available for sale, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to make a purchase. It’s especially hard to resist that kind of acquisition when you believe that, after the apocalypse, the only currency worth anything will be vinyl records. The limited edition vinyl game is not for the faint of heart nor the easily discouraged. A rare bundle of reissues came up recently for another one of my favorite indie-rock bands, and before I even knew about the bundle, it was sold out. The most frustrating thing about this sort of “you snooze, you lose” situation is that being off Instagram for a few days was what ultimately prevented me from getting the bundle of LP’s. The three LP bundle is sold out, and the only way to get the third record is to buy it off of Discogs for a cool $100. It wouldn’t irritate me as much as it does if it wasn’t a case of a legendary independent record label like Merge Records using a corporate silo owned by Facebook exclusively to advertise their new hotness. There is a news section on the label’s website, but it doesn’t appear to have an RSS feed. The founders of Merge records are famous for their progressive political activism. However, not even they consider the role that Facebook has played in undermining our democracy. That is a role to which even executives at the company now admit. It doesn’t seem like Facebook is a platform a fiercely independent label would want to help amplify. Nor should the label force their fans into those platforms to keep up with new releases.

Conversation

Engineering Our Art

Image via Bruce Timothy Mans Music is easier than ever to discover. Surely this is a triumph and yet, it makes me kind of sad when I think about how one doesn't have to search out and find music in traditional ways anymore. Pitchfork and Rolling Stone may still be relevant, but you don't need the encyclopedic knowledge of a music critic to tell you what you might like these days. Plug in some songs you already know you love, and have an algorithm feed you what else you will probably enjoy. It really works, mostly. What the formula probably won't tell you, that you should know, is that "Pale Blue Eyes" was the sonic template from which Mazzy Star was birthed. It won't tell you that "Sex Beat" by Gun Club created the sound that was heard in many a Pixies song. You might figure some of those things out from recommended "influencers" lists, but it will be hard to put together an entire band's catalog from the seed of some forgotten classic. Turning art recommendations into a system is about more than just algorithms, though. If you feel like you just want to unwind, in addition to the "chill mixes" that all the streaming services feature, neuroscience has found the song that will most relax you. After listening to the song, “Weightless,” by Marconi Union, I can attest to the fact that the song is indeed, incredibly relaxing. They even have a ten hour version. With results this precise, it can be hard to argue with science. This trend is not limited to music, either. New technology is even going to assess what audiences would like to see on the big screen. Warner Bros. is planning on letting AI green light their movies. It works by assessing the “value” of an actor, estimating how much the film could make in theaters or streaming sites, and offering “dollar-figure parameters” for packaging, marketing, and distribution decisions behinds movies. Human creative choices are not entirely out-of-the-picture, but data drives business decisions. They say lightning doesn't strike twelve times, but based on the criteria above, don't be surprised to see artificial intelligence recommend Die Hard 12. Thank goodness the Skywalker series is over because things could get a lot worse for that unfortunate family's saga. You might even find yourself wondering what could go wrong with reconstituting a couple of dinosaurs from some ancient DNA to make a theme park, again. As with many of the scientific and technological advancements, these things seem like mixed blessings. Computers can never replace humans in some areas, and creativity is certainly one of those areas. Tastes will never be an exact science. I like to think people are a bit too mysterious for that.

Conversation

Knowing E.B., this tweet will probably be purged soon, but I’m linking to it because it was inspirational to me this morning.

Conversation

It has been raining for days. It feels like we will all be living underwater soon. We’ll try to make casual conversation, but only air bubbles will escape our mouths.

Conversation

It’s in the 70’s in January here in NC. The windows are open and the sirens outside sound so close and so desperate.

Conversation

Thinking about switching from Ghost hosted on Digital Ocean back to Micro.blog hosting. Ghost is great, but M.b. is fast, easy, fun and has a great community built-in. Considering doing some more theme customizations, but I may need some help.

Conversation

Chinese Lantern Festival

Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Cary, NC

Conversation

When my youngest son’s friend suggested they turn on Disney+, I didn’t imagine they would end up watching a show about… horse autopsies.