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!
I’ve recently done some backend maintenance and moved hosting services. I’m fairly certain everything is migrated properly, but please let me know if you notice anything behaving oddly.
One thing that did come up during the migration is that my Jetpack install started having issues, and in the process of troubleshooting that, my site stats and email subscriber list were wiped. I’ve raised a ticket with WordPress/Jetpack, but I suspect they’re just gone. If you were subscribed via email, I’d recommend resubscribing (you can do so from the sidebar).
I’m not sure the hows or whys that discussion about the literary theory of the “death of the author” cropped up recently, but it did. Lindsay Ellis has an excellent video essay about it (and really, go watch the rest of her stuff while you’re at it). It covers a lot of ground, and also some of the impact that our current culture’s shift towards personal brand (and subsequent association of any work done with that brand) has on how we think about creators and their creations. Go watch:
This prompted a follow-up response by John Scalzi, which I think is also worth reading. In process of discussing how the author is not the book and the book is not the author, he noted:
One side effect of this is that you should expect that at one point or another the authors whose work you admire will disappoint you, across a spectrum of behaviors or opinions. Because they’re human, you see. Think of all the humans you know, who have never disappointed you in one way or another. Having difficulty coming up with very many? Funny, that.
(Don’t worry, you’ve disappointed a whole bunch of people, too.)
I think that’s a pretty salient point to remember these days. That’s not to excuse people who do terrible things, nor to say there isn’t merit in boycotting the work of someone who did terrible things. But if you treat every gaff or slight as unconscionable, you’re setting yourself to be constantly outraged and constantly disappointed. Everyone’s line is going to be different, though, and it’s your call on whether any particular occasion crosses that line. Relatedly:
A shitty human can write great books (or make lovely paintings, or fantastic food, or amazing music, etc), and absolutely lovely humans can be aggressively mediocre to bad artists. There is very little correlation between decency and artistic talent. You don’t need to be a good human in order to understand human behavior well enough to write movingly about it; remember that con men are very good judges of character.
With that said, if you discover that the writer of one of your favorite novels (or whatever) doesn’t live up to your moral or ethical standards, you’re not obliged to give them any more of your time or attention, because life is too short to financially or intellectually support people you think are scumbags. Likewise, you and you alone get to decide where that line is, and how you apply it. Apply one standard for one author, and a different one for another? Okay! I’m sure you have your reasons, and your reasons can just be “because I feel like it.” Just like in real life, you might put up with more bullshit from one person than another, for reasons that are personal to you.
Just more things to chew on.
Addendum: Neil Gaiman also touched on some of this topic (more specifically, the commingling of author and work, and people making assumptions about the author based on characters in their book), and makes a point I wanted to note:
Well, unless you are going to only write stories in which nice things happen to nice people, you are going to write stories in which people who do not believe what you believe show up, just like they do in the world. And in which bad things happen, just as they do in the world. And that’s hard.
And if you are going to write awful people, you are going to have to put yourself into their shoes and into their head, just as you do when you write the ones who believe what you believe. Which is also hard.
So, you just attended an event that was revelatory and cathartic and emotional, and now you’re a jumbled up pile of feelings and thoughts and have no idea where to even begin. You had these amazing experiences and conversations and you’re feeling excited and drained all at the same time. What do you do? Here’s some gentle suggestions:
Give yourself time. (But not too much time.) There’s a lot your subconscious is still figuring out, and it’s okay to give yourself the time, space, and permission to let things process. That said, if you take too much time, the mental thread gets lost, and the energy wanes. Give yourself a week to regain your bearings.
Actively process. Meditate, journal, discuss with a trusted friend. Think about what about the experience felt revelatory and energizing, and what you can do to extend and act on that feeling. Give your subconscious a leg up by being active about how you process it all.
Keep in touch. You met amazing people and had amazing conversations. Keep those conversations going. Reach out. It takes effort to keep communication going (especially when shifting mediums like from in person at an event to online), but this is how you form community, and how you’ll keep that energy for your New Idea™.
Write down your ideas. Your mind is running a mile a minute right now, and there’s all the people to talk to and all the things to do, and so many new ideas and new projects. That’s great! Write it all down while it’s fresh. A lot of the bigger ideas are going to take more time and energy than this hyperactive sugar-rush of feelings will sustain, so write it down. Process your feelings, then come back to the idea when you’re able to sit down and think about how to actually get from Point A to Point B.
Cherish the moment. Even if you go to the same event again, you won’t necessarily have that same energizing experience, and even if you do, these sorts of events tend to be only once or twice a year. So savor it while you’re in it, and try to remember that feeling six months down the line, when you’re feeling stymied or blocked. (Keeping in touch with others helps remember this feeling, too!)
Forgive yourself. At the end of the day, when the event is all over, it’s easy to feel like you could be doing more or should have done more, or have your impostor syndrome come back and double down. (And, worse, when the event rolls around again next year, you can find yourself discounting the work you’ve done, and thinking about all the things you wanted to do after the last time.) It’s okay. You had the experience you had, and it’s going to be a different experience than anyone else had. Some people maybe even had a similar experience, but come off more eloquently when they talk about it, and you feel like you should have had something more. But they’re not you, and while it can be useful to think about things you’d like to do differently, don’t dwell on it.
These are things I’ve found useful to remind myself when in these sorts of experiences. I hope it helps.
As a project this week, I’ve been doing some backend maintenance for my web hosting, which includes getting everything set up with SSL certs through Let’s Encrypt. (The writing is on the wall: most sites that can switch to HTTPS should switch to HTTPS. Not just for the added security for you and your viewers, but also because browsers and search engines and similar are starting to give warnings if it’s NOT secure.)
Thankfully, the days of having to pay an arm and a leg for a cert have passed. Let’s Encrypt is a free non-profit service (in partnership with other orgs including EFF, Mozilla, and Akamai, to name a few), which generates free, short term SSL certificates for your site. (For larger organizations, you may want to still throw down on a longer term set of certs, but for personal use this is great.)
Using the certs is pretty straightforward: they’ve created a tool that can run on your web server called certbot which streamlines the process and also monitors and automatically renews the certificates when they’re close to expiration. Installing certbot is pretty straightforward: it’s available via various package managers (apt and similar), so chances are good that whatever OS your server is running can install it pretty easily.
That said, there are still a few gotchas that I felt like got glossed over in the docs I was reading/following when using the tool, so here’s a few notes:
Be explicit about your domains: certbot doesn’t currently support wildcards (i.e. being able to say *.nadreck.me and have that handle any subdomains like images.nadreck.me). Instead, list them all out if you want them to share a certificate, and that includes both with and without www. So, for example, you might want to do something like sudo certbot --apache -d nadreck.me -d www.nadreck.me. If you don’t include both, someone going to your site using the address that wasn’t specified may end up getting the site blocked and the user warned of something potentially fraudulent.
If you already generated a certificate for a domain and need to update it (maybe you added a subdomain, or forgot to add www), the command you’re looking for is --expand. (I would have thought “update”, but no.) Note that when expanding a certificate, you need to re-list all domains you want included (you don’t just list the one you’re adding). So, using nadreck.me as an example again, if I wanted to add “images.nadreck.me” to the existing cert, I’d do sudo certbot --expand -d nadreck.me -d www.nadreck.me -d images.nadreck.me.
Keep it separated: the certs are free, there’s no need to overload the cert with a ton of domains. While it makes a certain amount of sense to bundle a domain and subdomains together, there’s no need to make one cert for all your sites. criticalgames.com shares a cert with nadreck.criticalgames.com, but not with nabilmaynard.com, if that makes any sense.
You can’t preemptively add sites to a cert. Certbot/letsencrypt performs a challenge response as part of the process to make sure you actually own the site you’re trying to set up, so if you haven’t actually set up that site or subdomain, the challenge will fail and the cert won’t be generated correctly. If you wanted to add, say, files.nadreck.me to your certificate, you’d need to set up that subdomain first, then expand your certificate. (The site can be empty, but the URL needs to resolve and land somewhere real.)
Anyway, hope that helps! The process really is pretty straightforward, and I recommend getting things set up to anyone maintaining a website these days.
KI I don’t have a problem, necessarily, about reading for improvement. I often choose a book because I think I’m going to enjoy it, but I think also it’s going to improve me in some sense. But when you ask yourself, “Is this going to improve me?” what are you really asking? I think I probably do turn to books for some sort of spiritual and intellectual nourishment: I think I’m going to learn something about the world, about people. But if by “improving”, we mean it would help me go up the class ladder, then it’s not what reading and writing should be about. Books are serving the same function as certain brands of cars or jewellery, in just denoting social position. That kind of motivation attaches itself to reading in a way that probably doesn’t attach itself to film.
Many of the great classics that are studied by film scholars are sci-fi: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Kubrick’s 2001. They don’t seem to have suffered from the kind of genre stigmatisation their equivalents would have done in book form.
NG I remember as a boy reading an essay by C S Lewis in which he writes about the way that people use the term “escapism” – the way literature is looked down on when it’s being used as escapism – and Lewis says that this is very strange, because actually there’s only one class of people who don’t like escape, and that’s jailers: people who want to keep you where you are. I’ve never had anything against escapist literature, because I figure that escape is a good thing: going to a different place, learning things, and coming back with tools you might not have known.
Via Kottke, the Watson group at IBM has created a Personality Insights service analyzing social media (tweets) to determine your personality. This is what it had to say about me:
You are inner-directed and shrewd.
You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. You are adventurous: you are eager to experience new things. And you are solemn: you are generally serious and do not joke much.
Your choices are driven by a desire for discovery.
You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You don’t find taking pleasure in life to be particularly motivating for you: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment.
You are likely to:
be sensitive to ownership cost when buying automobiles
like historical movies
read non-fiction books
You are unlikely to:
like country music
be influenced by social media during product purchases
be influenced by family when making product purchases
It then goes on to graph out various traits and values, like openness, conscientiousness, introversion/extroversion, curiosity, etc. Nothing too surprising, seems to jive with my own sense of who I am (mostly – I do actually find taking pleasure in life to be pretty motivating, though I suppose I can see why it’d report what it did if that’s being treated as an either-or spectrum). This is both neat, and a little scary, because of the implication as to what an accurate personality read means as far as profiling and privacy are concerned.
Until about 7-8 months ago, I worked as a vendor for Microsoft (v-). It wasn’t a bad gig — the pay wasn’t amazing, but provided a nice opportunity to work on some interesting projects, and since I was a v-, had a certain amount of job stability (a- contractors are required to take off 100 days every year, which causes a lot of disruption in projects, but at this point has been established long enough that we’d work through it. Vendors did not have this restriction).
Apparently, Microsoft is planning to implement a required 6 month hiatus for vendors as well. I honestly don’t know if the upper management who made this decision is quite aware of just how much of the work is done by vendors. Optimistically, there is some grand plan as part of the upcoming restructuring (laying off 18,000 full time employees, plus apparently who knows how much external staff), which will allow the company to shift their culture and make this work. I’ve been known to occasionally be an idealist, but I’m not sure I can be optimistic enough to believe that.
My sincere sympathies for everyone getting laid off, and for my v- friends who will now need to navigate this new landscape.
A few years ago, I had a dream, involving a lake that I had never been to and did not even know existed at the time. When I awoke, I went to Google Maps and zoomed in on where the lake had appeared to me in my dream. Sure enough, it totally exists, and is just as hardcore as my dream would suggest.
The Lac à l’Eau Claire (the official name, in French), also called the Clearwater Lakes in English, Wiyasakami in Cree and Allait Qasigialingat by the Inuit, are a pair of circular lakes on the Canadian Shield in Quebec, Canada, near Hudson Bay.
The lakes were created by a double meteor impact roughly 290 million years ago:
The lakes fill circular depressions that are interpreted as paired impact craters (astroblemes). The eastern and western craters are 26 km (16 mi) and 36 km (22 mi) in diameter, respectively. Both craters have the same age, 290 ± 20 million years (Permian), and it is believed that they formed simultaneously. The impactors may have been gravitationally bound as a binary asteroid, a suggestion first made by Thomas Wm. Hamilton in a 1978 letter to Sky & Telescope magazine in support of the then-controversial theory that asteroids may possess moons.
There’s more information about the lakes here, though it’s worth noting, there isn’t really anything up there. Like, no one. The entire “unorganized territory” that spans that area had only 16 people, total, according to the 2006 census, in ~129,712 square kilometers. One of these days, I’d really like to charter an expedition up there, and spend some time exploring the lakes and islands. I’ve had this compulsion to head up there for five years, now. Maybe one of these days, I’ll finally manage to do it.