Ushering in 2022

It’s already the new year in some parts of the world, and will be here, soon. So let me just say! Happy New Year! I hope 2022 is filled with delight. Not just in big moments that punctuate periods of our lives, but in the little crevices and cracks that make up our daily lives. I hope you find the time to savor your friendships, to find that transcendent cup of coffee, to notice (and appreciate!) that moment in the afternoon when the clouds part and the world is lit up with that peculiar, golden, magic light.

I hope you find, and keep, and cultivate love, in whatever shape that takes. I hope you find joy in your journey, that you remember that the journey, not the destination, is the point. I hope that at least once this year, you find something that reminds you of a happy memory from your childhood. I hope that you make many more happy memories.

I hope that 2022 proves to be sublime, in all the best senses of the word.

I wish you all the best. Happy New Year.

Wrapping Up 2021

Here we are, in the last half of December. The past year (and really, two years) has been a weird mishmash of hurrying up and waiting, with days and weeks sort of blurring into each other. If I didn’t keep a work journal, I doubt I’d be able to tell you what I did last week, let alone a few months ago, and that doesn’t really help with the non-work parts of my life. I doubt I’m alone on this blurring – the pandemic dulls the punctuation of life, barring the occasional exclamation when something finally happens.

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Not Feeling It

But I am very poorly today & very stupid & I hate everybody & everything.

Charles Darwin

Not feeling it today. I’ve felt distracted and irritable most of the day, and at odds with time.

I’ve long maintained that I write here at my whim, and not as a brand or for an audience, but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t tickled when I see an uptick in readers, get responses or likes, or any other sort of feedback that makes it feel less lonely and like shouting into the void. Then, there’s the personal desire to show some consistency and that I can be reliable, and the feelings of guilt if I don’t maintain that self-imposed schedule.

But sometimes your brain is just sour, and your time is scattered, and your focus is lost in the fog.

Squam, 2021

As I mentioned in an earlier post (and you might have surmised by the flurry of posts), I’m on my annual sojourn to Squam. It’s a time to see family, decompress, swim, and take stock of things. I look forward to it every year, and always make time for it, even if it means not doing as much other travel as I’d like. I like to sit on the porch and look out at the lake, and listen to gentle waves against the shore and the wind in the trees. It’s nice to catch up with people, too – I may not always be as directly participatory, but my ears are open and it’s nice to pick up what others are doing. It’s a particular feeling that brings some level of contentment and unencumbered activity.

Squam Lake looking across the lake towards East and West Rattlesnake mountains.
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John Green on Vulnerability

And then he would do something absolutely extraordinary: He would roll over onto his back, and present his soft belly. I always marveled at the courage of that, his ability to be so absolutely vulnerable to us. He offered us the place ribs don’t protect, trusting that we weren’t going to bite or stab him. It’s hard to trust the world like that, to show it your belly. There’s something deep within me, something intensely fragile, that is terrified of turning itself to the world.

I’m scared to even write this down, because I worry that having confessed this fragility, you now know where to punch. I know that if I’m hit where I am earnest, I will never recover.

It can sometimes feel like loving the beauty that surrounds us is somehow disrespectful to the many horrors that also surround us. But mostly, I think I’m just scared that if I show the world my belly, it will devour me. And so I wear the armor of cynicism, and hide behind the great walls of irony, and only glimpse beauty with my back turned to it, through the Claude glass.

But I want to be earnest, even if it’s embarrassing. The photographer Alec Soth has said, “To me, the most beautiful thing is vulnerability.” I would go a step further and argue that you cannot see the beauty which is enough unless you make yourself vulnerable to it.

John Green, “Sunsets” from The Anthropocene Reviewed

Well said, sir.

Digital Nomad Timeline

Found via Kottke, here’s an excellent timeline of the idea of remote work and digital nomadism. The idea has been around for a long time – the timeline starts in 1964, with Arthur C. Clarke predicting it (well before it was broadly feasible – it’s sort of remarkable how much some of those 50’s and 60’s futurists managed to nail it). It’s been a long time coming, and while it’s not for everyone, the pandemic certainly gave many more people the chance to try it out. (It’s an imperfect trial, since being in quarantine and many places in lockdown isn’t necessarily indicative of what it would be like if you didn’t have that restriction and background stress.)

It’s unsurprising but sad that many companies are already insisting people come back to the office, despite it: a) arguably being too early given vaccination rates, new infections, and variants; b) not being necessary, based on general productivity gains and losses compared to in-office; c) not being what their employees want, many of whom seem to prefer either remote or a hybrid of in-office and remote. (Personally, I’m quite happy working remotely 90% of the time, but recognize that it’s useful to get some real face time, too. Anecdotally, I seem to do best when I’m off remote most of the time, then go into the office maybe once or twice a week. I’d be interested in trying out something like being primarily remote and then coming to work from the office for a week or two maybe once a quarter or a few times a year.)

Anyway, definitely some food for thought, and interesting to see the sort of evolution and adoption of digital nomad lifestyles across the past few decades.

The Tchotchke Internet

The Tchotchke Internet is a social media landscape of digital flair and knick-knacks, a direct evolution of the freemium user experience. It’s the small ways that users can spend money (or make money) to have a better experience on social media. It’s Reddit Gold, Discord Nitro, Twitter Super Follows, celebrity verified checkmarks, premium Zoom calls, NFT galleries, Ethereum domain names in your bio, Fortnite skins, Roblox Robux, personal Minecraft servers, custom Twitch emotes, Linktree URLs, cryptocoin giveaways, Clubhouse invites, and social media partner programs.

People are spending a lot of money to express themselves online and most of what they’re paying for is basically the digital equivalent of an emo kid’s backpack covered in Hot Topic pins, random little digital artifacts that bely some kind of personal identity.

Ryan Broderick

It’s a clever, and I think apt, name for how the internet has shifted recently, and continues a trend we’ve been seeing for a while around virality, monetization, and content creation. We’ve been talking about “influencer culture” for a while, and I think this is a (perhaps inevitable) continuation of that trend. I think that the “digital flair” is definitely an attempt at status signaling, but also an attempt for some to feel like they can still express themselves and be part of the larger dialogue. As the nature of discourse on the internet increasingly feels like broadcasts (one-to-many, and largely in one direction), having little ways to make your mark feel increasingly important.

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Site Monitoring, Plausibly

I’m on my annual sojourn to Squam this week, listening to the lake and the loons. I’ve got a few personal projects I’ve been meaning to do that I hope to work on while here (in addition to the socializing and swimming and such). For instance, I’ve been meaning to move away from Google Analytics for monitoring site traffic. No diss on the quality of the tool, but philosophically I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with handing over my site’s viewership information to Google for their own purposes. I do still want some level of monitoring, though: site stats aren’t strictly necessary, but I’m enough of a stats geek that I do like to occasionally see what pages are getting views, what links are getting clicked, and so on.

There’s a couple different open source solutions out there that serve this purpose. Matomo is a popular one (it was previously named Piwik and has been around for quite some time), but seemed excessive for what I wanted. Personally, I ended up landing on Plausible. It’s fairly lightweight, fast, GDPR compliant, doesn’t collect PII, and I can self-host it. Setup was a little bit of a pain, but not an insurmountable one. To be more clear: installation itself is easy, as it’s just a docker container, but it terminates to http, not https. This meant I needed to set up a reverse proxy to pass it through a secure connection, or else browser content protections would block the script (they don’t like mixing secure and non-secure files). But hey, good opportunity to learn something new!

The Outrage Machine

Over at Garbage Day, Ryan Broderick discusses A Unified Theory of Online Anger, noting how algorithmic social media has effectively been weaponized (notably by the right, but let’s be honest, not just by them). They’re not wrong.

As these trending main characters go viral on Twitter, hundreds of online outlets race to turn this into content. And there’s a real financial incentive for covering these stories. As most people working at various content mines can tell you, the thing Facebook readers love the most is getting mad about stuff that’s happening on Twitter.

Ryan Broderick
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Not Dead, for the 40th Time

The blog has been lying fallow for a while. It’s getting to be time to till the fields and resume a regular practice. Sorry for the radio silence! I know how lonely the isles of blogging can be. I hope to resume a more regular practice soon, but not quite yet. Bear with me while I get my shit together. In the meantime, what’s happening?

Rambling Continues