This week, I’ve been at Squam. Each year, my family spends a week at a lakehouse on Squam Lake. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet, for a variety of reasons ranging from just enjoying the space and the peace and quiet, to a lot of good memories with friends and family. It’s sort of a sanctuary for me, and as a result, also tends to be when I take the time to write and create and tweak websites and do other random cruft. I look forward to it each year, and always wish I could find ways to extend the time, but you do what you can with the time you have. Continue reading “That Squam Time of Year”
Just a brief update because I thought it was time to share: I just started a new job as a Technical Writer for a company called ForgeRock. My first day was today! It’s a bit of a shift away from what I was doing before (QA), but anyone that’s worked with me in the past is probably unsurprised by the change.
For some context: this was apparently an unreleased B-Side from OK Computer. Since the album is now 20 years old (!), they’re re-releasing it and including 3 unreleased tracks as part of it. Fun track.
It’s been about a week since I got back from SOAK, which is Oregon’s regional Burning Man. For those not aware: as Burning Man grew and became more popular, many folks decided to branch off and do smaller related events that also follow the 10 Principles. They’re not officially part of the Burning Man organization, but do operate with their blessing. This makes for a great opportunity for folks to still participate and connect with that community, even if they can’t make it to the main Burning Man event. Chances are good that there’s a regional near you, wherever you are (especially in the US and Canada, but elsewhere too).
This was my fourth SOAK, but my first in several years (basically since I moved to the Bay Area at the end of 2013). It felt good to reconnect with this community — I saw a lot of old faces, and met new folks too. In general, I like Burners — especially the old schoolers. These are the sorts of folks who might crack jokes about you falling down, but they’ll do it with a smile and while helping you up and dusting you off. There’s lots of snark and puns and trolling, but not with ill intent (which feels refreshing given the current state of the world). It leaves you (well, me at least) feel more at ease with being yourself, and creates space for deeper, more interesting conversations than the usual small talk.
I camped with a small camp towards the outskirts, comprised of a few folks I knew and more folks that I didn’t — but it didn’t take long before we were all sharing food and stories and wandering around the event together. There were some great art pieces — a few highlights for me was the “digital stained glass” dodecahedron, “Stoicheia”; the monster heads; and the temple. There’s also a drone flyby you can check out:
Already looking forward to next year.
So You Want to Be a Writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists over at the Guardian, by Colum McCann, who also has a book on the topic. It’s an enjoyable read, and has some good advice without being a shill or clickbait-y.
The only true way to expand your world is to inhabit an otherness beyond ourselves. There is one simple word for this: empathy. Don’t let them fool you. Empathy is violent. Empathy is tough. Empathy can rip you open. Once you go there, you can be changed. Get ready: they will label you sentimental. But the truth is that the cynics are the sentimental ones. They live in a cloud of their own limited nostalgia. They have no muscularity at all. Remember, the world is so much more than one story. We find in others the ongoing of ourselves.
24. Tap your Macbook keys hard when in a meeting
While in a meeting and everyone has their Macbooks open. When you’re typing and have completed a sentence, whack your return key like you’re a bloody Pianist. It’s make a good noise and sounds like you’ve just finished an important sentence, to an important person. If someone comments laugh that you’ve broken a few keys in the past.
The Poverty State of Mind by John Scalzi. I feel like he really nails the reality of social and economic mobility in the United States these days (namely: while it’s still possible enough to feed lots of anecdotal “I made it, so can you!” stories, the reality is that it gets more difficult and less likely daily). I could rant about this for a while, but I think John addresses it far more clearly and cleverly than I.
Over at kottke.org, Jason discussed a social media fast he went on. His observations mirror my own “vacations” I’ve taken: no one really notices or cares when you take a break, even if you’re an active social media user (which I’m not), and that a lot of social media (and phone use in general) is more of as a virtual fidget-spinner than any actual need.
My own take: I took an extended break from Facebook last fall, and still haven’t really returned, though it has crept back into use in various ways. It’s still got just enough social utility that I’m not quitting it entirely, but I do plan to continue to not use it much. I probably could fully quit if I decided to — it would just take a few life adjustments and a little preparation. Interestingly, there seems to be a trend of this, folks getting fed up with the bullshit of modern social media, and making the deliberate decision to exit (and at least anecdotally, the people who’ve quit weren’t due to some weird policy change or other outrage machine, but simply because they realized it wasn’t useful to them anymore and was making them less happy).
As for other social media, well. I’ve been on Twitter for a decade, and have it pretty nailed down on what I use it for, who I follow, and what I choose to post there. That said, it still ends up going in fits and spurts: I might be on it daily for a few weeks at a time, and then not log in for a month. This is a far cry from when I was most active (circa 2008-2010), where I was on daily and actually kept up with probably 90% of my feed. The shift is due to a few factors: 1) it’s not my priority; 2) I’m not a fan of some of design changes and loss of client support; 3) the community has shifted, and seems to vacillate between being an outrage machine and a trash fire. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of great content there, but the short form, punctuated broadcasts seem to foster emotional outbursts, miscommunication, and misunderstanding just as much as they provide short, pithy thoughts and entertainment.) The shift towards tweet storms and people just retweeting the start of a 300 tweet thread is also a cause for a lot of eyerolling and disinterest (if you are writing medium-long form text in tweets, go write a blog post and tweet the link, seriously).
I have accounts on a number of other social media sites, but don’t really touch them, whether because they were on a whim (Peach), or inertia (Flickr), they just never grabbed me. I do occasionally log in and check my ello account, though I basically never post — I just think it’s neat to see how they’ve pivoted towards being an outlet for designers and artists. I’m infrequently active on Instagram, though I use very few of their features — mostly I use it because they make it stupid simple to cross-post to other services. I have a Snapchat but don’t use it (I kind of hate the UX, and I’m not using “hate” lightly).
I think a lot about consolidating, and finding ways to self-host everything. I don’t know if it’s really “there” yet, though the tools have come a long way (the Indieweb scene is actively working to make POSSE viable and easy). There are open source, self-hostable versions of many of the services we use every day (as an example, OStatus is a protocol that replicates and even expands on a lot of the functionality of Twitter, with tools like Mastodon, GNU Social, and PostActiv all in active development, and at least ostensibly able to federate with each other). It would be a lot of initial work to get everything set up how I want, and then there’s maintenance and keeping everything secure (it’s just me, so I’m not exactly a shiny target, but that doesn’t really matter to a bot that just probes the internet for any service with one of a list of vulnerabilities unpatched), but I keep coming back to the idea. Maybe I just miss the old internet, when things weren’t so silo’d, and we felt a little less like a product and a little more like a person. Even if I didn’t worry about POSSE, and just posted in one place, I’m not sure how much that would matter — I might not get as many views, but if past experience is any indication, I’d get just as much connection. Something to think about, anyway.