Boxing Time & Losing

Over the course of writing this blog, I’ve come to view writing as an important activity, like meditation. And like meditation, I find my motivation comes in fits and spurts. One thing I found helpful with this site is the “don’t break the chain” method. Simply create the expectation and the space that you will sit down and do something for some period of time. It’s alright if you don’t do it. But, if that thing is say, running, and you know that it’s the time and you have your running shoes on. Chances are, you’ll do it.

The problem is when you have people in your life that want to live schedules that are different than yours, or have no schedule at all. So, in a moment of spontaneity, they’ll say something like: “I’m going to run some errands. Do you want to come with me?” Or, you have children, who when they are around behave in this way. I suspect that is why parents are so eager to put them on a schedule. If you don’t box the time, you’ll have none left for yourself or the things you want to do.

Perhaps the place where this is most insidious is social media. Like having children around, it is always there, an inexhaustible hole in which to dump your attention. With children, we do this because giving them our attention is an act of love. However, even love needs limits. But, what are we doing with social media? What benefits does it offer?

It can be entertaining. It is certainly distracting, so you do not have to focus your attention on the problems at hand. But, I cannot help feel that it is not time well spent. Whereas, time writing comments like this one, feels more like it is helping me gain a better understanding of how the world works and how I want to be within it.

Social media is like dipping into the Overmind of humanity. There’s interesting material there, but it needs to be balanced again incorporating it into our lives in a way that is beneficial. I’m currently failing to do that, as the infrequent posts to this blog serve as evidence. But, I’m working on it.

cafebedouin.org: 2022 Year in Review

Top 10 Most Viewed in 2022

Posts That Deserve More Visibility

Reviewing the year, I am happy again with the content. However, I had only 291 posts. I was consistent, posting every day, until June. Then, the wheels feel off. Some months, like September, I hardly posted at all.

Some of this is a function of switching phones in July. I no longer had my newsfeeds set-up correctly, and in the beginning of the year, I had started writing for cryptocurrency projects, which left less time for my blog.

In the coming year, I’ll work to be a bit more consistent. Hopefully, I’ll get back to a daily writing, article referencing practice. Now that I’ve been doing it for six years, there are definitely consistent themes that I think about year in and year out. It’s also obvious, looking at the above, that what other people are more interested in are the technical topics. I mostly write those so, if I have to do it again, I document the process and have an easier time of it next time. It’s nice to know it helps others as well.

Wish you all the best, in the coming year!

Some Reflections on Twitter & WordPress: 2022

You may have noticed that I have been posting to cafebedouin less lately. It is partially because I have been more involved in using Twitter. Why?

One thing I like about Twitter is that it is a larger, socially constructed version of the kind of thoughts that we have moment to moment. Reading the timeline is like dipping into this stream. Tweeting is adding to it, and opening yourself up for a feedback loop, where your thoughts bring up thoughts in others. There’s an interesting interplay that happens, which I think is what makes the platform appealing.

But, it is also hard not to notice that it also features a lot of outlier perspectives. Perhaps it is a function of who I follow on Twitter, but there seems to be a lot of trans folks on Twitter. On one level, this must be great as a trans person. You can interact with people that are struggling with similar issues. You can feel seen, or at least not alone when you may be the only trans person in your real life social circles.

And what is true of the trans community is also true of others. Twitter is one of the places I engage with other people that use cryptocurrencies. I don’t know anyone that thinks about cryptocurrencies in my day-to-day life. It’s either not there, or invisible to the degree that it might as well not be there.

WordPress, and blogging generally, is a fundamentally different medium. It is a way to think more formally, or at least note, ideas. Maybe flesh them out into something fuller. It is a kind of workshop or garage, where you experiment and see what is right for you. How do you view the world? What do you care about? WordPress is the essay you write, whereas Twitter is more of a conversation.

Conversation and writing can both transform our lives. But, they are really different activities and modes. Conversation is thinking, in the moment, with others. Writing is more, thinking in the moment, with ourselves. But, when you extend the time frame, conversations feed into writing. Writing can feed conversations, and in some versions, writing can also be a formal conversation, where colleagues discuss a problem in their field and raise different, relevant points with the hope of achieving some larger understanding. But, the difficulty and the amount of work that goes into that kind of conversation, to explore ideas that, hopefully, have lasting value is not how many of us spend much of our time.

But, I think the real value of these kinds of conversations is that it widens our experience and helps us to retain what is good and valuable. Much of what we think is neither good nor valuable.

I’d argue that much of the conversation that is happening on Twitter, even after acknowledging it has value in expanding our experiences and perception, is wounding. Maybe this makes us stronger. Assuming that we can recover and not too much damage has been done. But, I’m not so sure that’s the case. I think people talking about their struggles with mental health, chronic illness, unpleasant interactions, and the usual suspects of various X-isms maybe causing a kind of death by a thousand cuts, where we expand our concerns so wide that they don’t have any depth. Is it any wonder that if you try to wrestle with the demons of the whole world, that you run the risk of being overwhelmed?

I haven’t come to any conclusions yet. I’ve grown to like Twitter. I particularly like that it offers a window into different experiences, such as the problems women, people of color, or other groups face that I might not have any experience with.

But, there’s also limits. You can kind of listen in on the experience of a mother, a computer security specialist or whomever. However, it is an experience, removed. You might argue that it is no experience at all, no better than what you knew before Twitter. I don’t think that is right, but I do think it is not an unqualified good. In fact, the overall effect might be a net negative. It may not even be possible to bring it to a net positive, and if it is, it probably requires approaching Twitter with discipline, knowing what you want to get out of it, which is kind of antithetical to the medium.

All of this is a long way to say that I took a bit of a dive, and I think I’m good for now. I’m going to spend a little less time on Twitter. It has a place, but it should probably be a small one. I might take a deeper look at Mastodon sometime soon, just to see how it is qualitatively different, as some articles suggest.

Get Blogging!

“Your easy guide to starting a new blog.

A blog is an easy way to get started writing on the web. Your voice is important: it deserves its own site. The more people add their unique perspectives to the web, the more valuable it becomes.”

https://getblogging.org/

I’ve been blogging since January 2017. In those five years, I’ve found it to be a useful exercise of thinking out loud, taking technical notes, saving websites/stories, etc. I, personally, find it useful in my own life, and I’d recommend it as a practice for others. This can provide some help getting started to non-technical users. The easiest thing you can do is pay for a site on WordPress.com. I believe they still have free versions, and the personal version is something like $4 a month. Well worth it, in my opinion.

Smol Pub

Smol Pub is tiny blogging service.

– Web interface and CLI to manage your posts.
– Accessible from Web, Gemini and Gopher.
– Storage for your images.
– Write custom CSS for web.
– Attach your custom domain with SSL.
– Export your posts.
– No JavaScript, ads, or tracking technology.

On the back of My Writing Advice post from yesterday, a suggestion. If you want a low stakes online venue to just start a daily writing practice, Smol Pub would fit the bill. It’s $5 to get a key to start using it. Try it out. It’s nothing complicated, and you could try it for 30 days (or longer) and see if it works for you.

I find WordPress easy to use. But, there is a bit of a noodling period, particularly in the beginning, where you mess around with templates and so forth. There are templates on Smol Pub too, but it looks like it is much easier to set-up.

cafebedouin.org: 2021 Year in Review

Top 10 Most Viewed in 2021

Posts That Deserve More Visibility

Reviewing the posts I wrote this year, I’m pretty happy with a lot of what I’ve written. I think the post Write: More Frequently, Less Long is a good thing to keep in mind for the coming year. I posted about the same as last year, 408 rather than 418 in 2019. However, the word count for the year went up to 89,691 from 58,705. It may be better to be briefer.

In the main, you can probably expect more of the same in the coming year.

Hang In There Until You’re Sixty

“…try to hang in there until you’re sixty. Then you’ll find you don’t have to worry about what people say any more and, as a consequence, life becomes a whole lot more interesting.

Entering your sixties brings with it a warm and fuzzy feeling of freedom through redundancy, through obsolescence, through living outside of the conversation and forever existing on the wrong end of the stick. What a relief it is to be that mad, embarrassing uncle in the corner of the room, a product of his age, with his loopy ideas about free speech and freedom of expression, with his love of beauty, of humour, chaos, provocation and outrage, of conversation and debate, his adoration of art without dogma, his impatience with the morally obvious, his belief in universal compassion, forgiveness and mercy, in nuance and the shadows, in neutrality and in humanity — ah, beautiful humanity — and in God too, who he thanks for letting him, in these dementing times, be old.”

—Nick Cave, “I’m struggling a bit with the fact I’m turning 40 in a week. Some people say “You’re in the brightest part of your life”, others say you are an “old man”. What is your perspective on getting old?RedHandFiles.com. June 2021.

Farewell to Beyond the Beyond

“It’s the writerly act of organizing and assembling inchoate thought that seems to helps me. That’s what I did with this blog; if I blogged something for “Beyond the Beyond,” then I had tightened it, I had brightened it. I had summarized it in some medium outside my own head. Posting on the blog was a form of psychic relief, a stream of consciousness that had moved from my eyes to my fingertips; by blogging, I removed things from the fog of vague interest and I oriented them toward possible creative use.

Also, the ideal “Beyond the Beyond” reader was never any fan of mine, or even a steady reader of the blog itself. I envisioned him or her as some nameless, unlikely character who darted in orthogonally, saw a link to some odd phenomenon unheard-of to him or her, and then careened off at a new angle, having made that novelty part of his life. They didn’t have to read the byline, or admire the writer’s literary skill, or pony up any money for enlightenment or entertainment. Maybe they would discover some small yet glimmering birthday-candle to set their life alight.

Blogging is akin to stand-up comedy — it’s not coherent drama, it’s a stream of wisecracks. It’s also like street art — just sort of there, stuck in the by-way, begging attention, then crumbling rapidly.”

-Bruce Sterling, “Farewell to Beyond the Beyond.” Wired.com. May 17, 2020.

Bruce Sterling really nails the value of a blog, or at least my conception of it. It also makes me realize that I should be writing more for it. Perhaps it is time to start doing that.