A few notes on the new (to me) Honda Grom

The first thing I bought after I got my motorcycling endorsement was a Genuine Hooligan 170. I bought it under the theory that motorcycling of some kind seemed like fun, dealing with a clutch seemed like a pain in the ass, and that 170cc was all anyone really needs to do what I wanted to do, which was never leave city limits on it. The Hooligan was fun. It had great brakes, it could hold its own during rush hour, and it was small enough that it just sort of flitted around.

As I got my confidence up, I wanted something I could take on the highway, so I sold the Hooligan and bought a Honda Rebel 500. I bought it under the theory that it would be small enough to commute on, but powerful enough to take me places with better scenery. I did take it on a few country road trips, and up Mt. Hood, but storage was an issue and I didn’t really like the cruiser geometry for my kind of commute. It felt a little cumbersome to me.

So next up was a Yamaha X-Max 300 – back to scooters – and it has been okay. It can keep up on the local interstates, has plenty of storage, and it has a great pillion seat that works well for Al. Where it falls down is … fun. It’s not the most fun. I like riding it, and riding it is better by far than driving a car, and it is fun to take Al around on it. It is not fun for going to the store, or just taking a spin. It’s big and plasticky, and while it can get a lot of power to the wheels, it is contemplative about that.

So, enter the Grom.

I’ve known about them for a while, but they’ve always existed between my use cases: They’re motorcycles and have a real clutch, but tiny (125cc) and hard pressed to go faster than 55, so they’re out for highway rides. Also, the motorcycle journalism surrounding them makes me feel uncomfortable, because people are really, really hoping small displacement “mini-motos” and other “friendly” bikes will spark some sort of renaissance in motorcycle riding in the way Americans want people to ride motorcycles (in uneasy coexistence with SUV-dominated roads, and as some sort of cultural signifier) instead of the way most of the rest of the world rides them (as a small, efficient, maneuverable way to get around). So there’s a lot of talk about fun, and “grinning as you wring its neck” and “twisting the throttle bringing a smile to your face” that is just … no. See also the heavily gatekept and inward-looking photography world, which both wants there to be enough people buying cameras to keep making standalone camera ownership possible, but also despises new photographers and spends most of its time writing blog posts about how you’re doing it wrong and sternly informing you that you should stop taking pictures of certain things (like people under umbrellas and sunsets, according to a recent article) when it isn’t angry about filters and Instagram.

Anyhow, I recently picked up the habit of sort of skipping around YouTube at night, and I came across a few Grom videos that just looked like fun. Some of it was stuff I’d never do – Grom hooligans by the dozen buzzing cops, doing wheelies, and fleeing down sidewalks; and some of it was exactly stuff I wouldn’t mind doing – putting on some decent street/dirt tires and riding forest roads. The message that got through to me, ultimately, was that maybe it is more fun to ride a slow bike fast.

So I started looking around for them (and Honda Monkeys and Honda Trail Cubs). They’ve been hard to find in stock this year, and I walked into one dealership the second they opened hoping to buy a new 2022. I test drove one, but the sales guy came out of the business office looking embarrassed and said there’d been a mixup and someone else had claimed the thing. However, they had a 2018 sitting on the floor, with just 120 miles, and they’d take another $300 off the used price just for putting me out.

I drove it around the lot and immediately noticed that the 2022 Grom’s seat was way better. 2018 seats sort of force you against the gas tank and up over the dash in a way that forces your head down pretty hard to check your speed (or neutral). So while I was waiting for the sales guy to come back over I googled “2018 Grom replacement seat” and saw plenty of four- and five-star reviews of flatter seats. It was also a model with ABS (that’s good), so I decided I didn’t mind losing the extra gear the ‘22s have packed in and bought it.

In the week I’ve had it, I’ve swapped out the seat, added a tiny cargo rack that can hold a soft tail bag, and replaced the mirrors. I’ve taken it downtown, and around my extended neighborhood.

Headed south the back way out of my neighborhood, there’s a pretty steep hill with a 35mph speed limit. If I can hit it at speed, I can stay in fourth gear all the way up and not give anything up. If I get stuck behind a car I’ll probably end up down-shifting, but it keeps up then, and can even accelerate.

Headed downtown, I’ve taken the inner-southeast route, sticking to Foster, 50th, and Belmont to get me to the Morrison Bridge. It holds its own on the Morrison just fine.

It is, indeed, fun. It’s tiny, and there’s something a little absurd about it because of that. You’re not in full-on monkey bike mode, but there is definitely a sort of “Ant Man didn’t quite resize the motorcycle to full-size” thing going on. Where I can get a wave back from the big bike people on my X-Max, and even more often did on my Rebel, it is beneath the dignity of many Harley people to wave back to someone on a Grom. Tiny and Japanese is just too much for them. They read their own indictments.

It’s way less cumbersome than a “full-size” bike for grocery runs and the like. Easier to maneuver at low speeds in the parking light, but the only cars it doesn’t leave behind at stoplights are the ones operated by people who have sat at the light staring at the side of your head who want a contest of machines.

The one thing I don’t like about it, when it comes down to it, is that its smallness and popularity make it a pretty easy collector’s piece for bike thieves: At about 230 pounds, it can go into the back of a pickup truck easily and quickly, so unlike any other ride I’ve owned I have a disc lock and alarm, and I shackle it down and cover it up at home. If nothing else, I’ll be able to collect on my comprehensive insurance policy with a clean conscience on the day someone just hucks it into their truck and drives off with the disc lock squealing.

Verdict: It’s fun, I like it, and it makes me come up with excuses to run to the store or not care if Ben has the car. Al is going back to get her motorcycle endorsement, and seems to have her heart set on a Monkey or Trail Cub, at which point I can see trading in the X-Max to fund her ride and see how well she likes it. In terms of aesthetics, I think I’m more of a Cub or Monkey person, and if you’d asked me three years ago if I’d have any time for a tiny sport bike with less power than my first scooter, I’d have laughed at you. But here we are: I like the little beast.

Oh! Ulysses supports micro.blog. I haven’t done much longish-form writing on here for a little while, but this will encourage that: I like the assorted Mac and iOS clients just fine, but they skew toward quick entries vs. content management.

Clockwise is okay automated calendar wrangling

The main thing I remember about having an EA for a year was the way my calendar became less a miserable time-sink with the stink of guilt and more a magical, ever-updating guidepost for the day.

The EA and I established a few ground rules: At least 30 minutes for lunch, please never move a 1:1 with one of my direct reports, and please herd things toward the morning where possible. Those understandings in place, it just became my job to go where I was supposed to be.

It has been a few years, and I still feel that loss pretty acutely. Putting together a meeting can take a lot of time, and there’s a tendency to just pick the time everyone’s available, which means that your meetings are creeping earlier and earlier, or people are just helping themselves to half your lunch.

The other problem you end up with is that you have all these extraneous 30 minute blocks that you delude yourself into believing can be productive time. But by the time your last meeting ran over, you’ve sent out notes on the meeting or followed up on something that came out of it, and get a glass of water, you’re just in time to start your next meeting. So the “real work” gets pushed into lunch, or after normal work hours, or in little slices here and there, and then it’s not really quality work because it feels like it’s “extra.”

I’ve tried, a few times, to go straighten out my calendar by consolidating as much time as possible for focused work, but that is laborious and sort of fragile: I invariably book over an odd monthly 1:1 because I didn’t check the time far enough ahead, or don’t notice the other person has a can’t-miss every other week.

I’ve also tried a few iOS apps meant to help with the problem of calendar fragmentation, but they weren’t super smart and were tied into the Apple ecosystem in a way that made me suspicious of them because I am suspicious of how well Apple’s Google Calendar integration works and mistrustful of it working well enough to turn my back on it.

Recently, though, I was trying to find time with a colleague and she said “feel free to book into my focus times … I have an app that puts them there for me,” and that’s how I learned about Clockwise, which is, at root, automated defragmentation of your Google Calendar. After three weeks, I’m a pretty happy user and I’m willing to recommend it to other people, even if just to find some fatal flaw I have not yet found.

The core concept behind Clockwise is that fragmented calendars kill productivity because they don’t allow for uninterrupted deep focus. Clockwise at its most basic is just a tool that goes out once a day, looks ahead at your calendar, and tries to find ways to consolidate all those 30-minute blocks into a longer, more meaningful chunk of focus time. When everything lines up, it shifts calendar items around then protects the focus time it has found for you.

I would be pretty happy with it if all it did was moving meetings around behind the scenes, but there are ways to imbue it with a little more intelligence:

  • You can tell it your meeting hours by day. Since the R&D org I work in has a “no meeting Friday afternoon” policy, I can tell it not to book anything after 12 on Fridays.
  • You can tell it the time range in which you’d like lunch to fall, how long lunch can be, and the shortest acceptable amount of time lunch can fall back to. For instance, I have it set up to consider 11a to 1:30p to be acceptable lunch times, that I don’t mind going as long as 45 minutes, and am also fine if it’s as short as half an hour.
  • You can tell it which meetings are okay to put on “Autopilot,” and which are not. That’s great for two reasons: I prefer to keep 1:1s with my directs or mentees relatively sacred, because I want people to feel like that time is truly their time for them. Second, people have to plan to do work for some meetings, and it can feel disruptive to plan out your work in anticipation of meeting at one time, only to have it shift.
  • You can feed it a few other parameters, such as when you prefer to have focus time (morning, afternoon), how much you’re okay with it moving a given meeting, and whether it should hold travel time.

In addition to those extra smarts, it can do things like color code your meeting types (1:1s, team meetings, one-offs, external attendees), and you can connect your personal calendar to it so that you don’t have to do double-entry for personal appointments: It just blocks them as “busy” so that the time is protected, as is your privacy.

It also shows you the occasional bit of data: How much focus time it found for you, which meetings it moved and why, and who else in your org is using it. One thing I appreciate about it is that it seems to think in terms of finding focus time for other people, too. So the notice I just got telling me that it had moved a meeting explained that it was looking for focus time for me, and also found a time more convenient for the other person, too.

Some caveats and attendant best practices

There’s a certain kind of corporate citizen who is pretty good at optimizing their own life, is blithely indifferent to the suffering that may cause for others, and can even become tetchy or hostile if you do anything that breaks whatever brittle life hack they’ve discovered. Clockwise could be terrible in the hands of these people, and could, worse, sort of paint you to be that kind of person without you even realizing it. During my three weeks of use, I’ve thought about a few ways to use it and how to establish norms around it if a group of people are using it:

  1. It will offer to book all your time for you if you let it, but it will also ask for a max amount of focus time. I do not ask it to book every spare minute so I can balance my need for interrupted “flow” time with other peoples’ need to talk to me outside scheduled meetings. If your goal is a more networked, less hierarchical organization, you should make it easier to communicate outside of a rigid meeting framework, not harder.

  2. You can tell it which meetings can be on “Autopilot” and which should not be. As I mentioned earlier, there are certain kinds of meetings where, if you’re the person with the power, you should consider signifying the importance of that time by not giving it over to a robot to manage. Some people, in my experience, also look to the weekly 1:1 with their manager or mentor like an oasis; or they gauge their emotional energy for dealing with some frustration or setback by how long it’ll be until they can get some help from their manager without going outside the 1:1 cadence.

  3. It’s good to communicate to people that those focus blocks are important to you, but not necessarily inviolate. For my department’s “No meeting Friday afternoons,” for instance, I put this message in my calendar:

“The R&D organization observes a ‘no meeting Friday’ on Friday afternoons. We get that folks from other groups might need to schedule during that time, so please do check in via email or Slack if you need to book into this time.”

Clockwise doesn’t have a way to add a message to focus time events, which is unfortunate because I’d like to be able to just set that norm/expectation automatically. I guess I’ll go find the feature request form. In the mean time, Clockwise does allow you to toggle whether those focus blocks are marked as “busy/unavailable” or “free to book.” Once a group had adequate norms around what “focus time” means to each other, that toggle might be enough.

Final words

At our last 1:1, my boss asked “how’s your battery?” As I thought about my answer, something that kept popping into my head was that recently I’d felt like I’d been getting a lot more done, and so my battery felt pretty good. Like, definitely tired at the end of the day, and definitely going pretty fast on some stuff, but there’s the kind of tired you can get from just knocking stuff down and the tired you can get from feeling like there’s a lot of heat loss, and I reported I was definitely feeling the former.

As I thought about why, I realized it was because for the past several weeks, Clockwise had been finding me these two hour blocks and I was taking advantage of them. Most of them. The first one it found, I actually decided to take a breather and went to the lounge chair I keep in the corner of my office and I fell asleep. After that, I’ve gotten better at just doing a lap around the house, making a cup of tea or grabbing some water, reading the headlines or triaging mail while I waited for the tea to steep, and then spinning up for a good 45-minute block before taking a midpoint break for a few minutes.

The kind of work I was doing in those protected spaces felt better, too. I needed to review some work from someone doing that kind of work for the first time, and I felt more patient and able to just share notes and feedback instead of battling myself over whether to just do it. When I got stopped because I needed to ask a question or do some research, I was able to ask more thoughtful questions. When asked for thoughts, even outside of that focus time, it was easier to slow down and answer them because, I think, having those uninterrupted blocks has an effect on your overall rhythm and cadence. Maybe it’s just knowing that by having a two hour block coming up, you don’t have to ruthlessly optimize every second of your day.

So … several weeks of Clockwise use has been a good experience for me. I definitely recommend it for individual use provided people follow some of those best practices I mentioned, or at least agree to norms around it.

I also see people around me beginning to use it, and see that it has some team-based functionality I haven’t even tapped. The individual use experience has been so good, I’d love to experiment with it managing the meetings of a defined group.

Building the panic room

I’ve done three projects over the past six months or so: I made a patio cover and built a sectional for it, I did an easy-to-revert conversion of our garage into a home theater, and I built a loft for Ben.

The loft project started when Ben said he wanted to rearrange his space a little. We looked at it, and talked about his options, but I kept coming back to the notion that he was just sort of maxed out: A full bed, a desk for his computer, a giant beanbag for his gaming area … there just wasn’t much space, and rearranging it felt like it wouldn’t net much.

I proposed a loft, and after a little debate we decided to add it to my backlog.

Thinking back to my own lofts in college, and remembering when Ben had a rickety IKEA one when he was much younger, one thing I knew I wanted to get rid of was the need for a ladder or a climb up the end from floor-level. After some poking around, I found this design on ana-white.com:

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It had a few benefits:

  • stairs instead of ladders, with a deck at a decent level to make it easy to get in and out of the bed
  • simple design using 2x4 and 2x6, with no tricky cuts or techniques.
  • easily modified design: I could see how to increase its depth to accommodate a full bed, increase its width to go wall-to-wall in Ben’s room, and increase the height of the down-below area to make it easier for 6’2” Ben to get in and out.

Ben signed off and we took about three days to complete the basic loft, from clearing out his room to give me space to build all the way to screwing the stairs down to complete it.

Besides modifying the basic dimensions, I reused Ben’s IKEA slats system, rather than putting the mattress down on 2x4s for a little better feel.

Because I ended up going wall-to-wall, I was able to add more stability to offset the increased height and width by bolting ledgers to two of the walls and anchoring to them. I experimented with knee braces before settling on that, and they helped a lot, but just anchoring on ledgers makes it rock solid.

He was able to use it on the first night:

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On the second, I had the deck in place, but couldn’t quite get to the stairs.

On the third night, I had the stairs in place, and we decided to partially enclose the bottom area with a piece of plywood:

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The plywood didn’t sit that well with me visually, even less so when I built a sliding barn door for the bottom, so I got some cedar fencing and cut it to size to provide a facade that matches the door:

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The wall and door make it feel pretty cozy down below. He put an extra rug down, and it works with the mattress ceiling to dampen the sound in there, creating this sense that you’re in a very different space from the outer room.

Fiiiiinally took the time to get pi-hole up on the Synology. Pausing for a moment to remember the day my server started making burnt plastic smells in the nursery and I decided shared hosting was probably fine for my purposes.

Solitairica

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Solitairica is pretty fun! It’s a rogue-lite solitaire card crawler thing with character classes, procedurally generated bosses, and a lot of polish. The art reminds me a lot of the Kingdom Rush series, and it has a similar sense of humor.

The classes are pretty well differentiated, with some interesting dynamics to attend to for each depending on their unique starting spells or ability. I seem to do best with the spellcaster types, can’t really crack the code on the tanks, and have had middling success with the healer types.

Part of the fun has been experimenting with different builds: You buy spells and items throughout the game as you earn gold, all of which show up in the store at random, so you never know which will be available before a given round. There’s also no perfect build. Some of the bosses use direct attacks, requiring a lot of armor and healing gear; some alter cards on the table in such a way that you need to be able to cleanse or remove them quickly. By the time a 19-match progression is in the final stages, you’re swapping spells and items in and out to cope with the (unique each time) characteristics of a given boss, so it’s wise to think in terms of grabbing things that you might not need right now, but will when a certain permutation of boss shows up. The store allows you to place a hold on an item you can’t afford for a little gold, which is also a good way to keep certain spells available until you need them.

I think it’s a pretty good comment on the game’s balance that a lot of rounds come down to “just one health left, one card to remove, boss has a finishing move queued up, will the right card come up?” sorts of situations. Those moments far outweigh the occasional “can’t draw a single useful card” wipeouts.

It also suits my gaming lifestyle: Each round takes about five minutes (barring some bosses that have annoying game-prolonging abilities) so it’s great for picking up and putting down throughout the day. I think I like the vague reminder of Hearthstone, which I put down because the solitaire modes weren’t what I wanted.

Available on Steam, iOS, and Google Play. It’s $3.99, and while it has IAP, it’s just for a few extra decks/classes, so it’s not the gross kind.

Q-Boats of Late Capitalism, Volume II

“Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage”:

“Third-party delivery platforms, as they’ve been built, just seem like the wrong model, but instead of testing, failing, and evolving, they’ve been subsidized into market dominance.”

Personal moral tragicomedy: Doordash seemed to take the lead in the “whom should we order from” rankings because it was doing better about worker wages than some of the others. Have some ethics whack-a-mole to go with your pizza.

“I at least had a sense of humor about it until I didn’t” moment: A Google person turning up to reassure the author that, as with all the big platforms, you’re welcome to play a perpetual game of defense, forever looking for the next thing that will destroy your reputation or business, and then filling out a bunch of forms to make it stop. For now. There’ll always be another attempt.

(via MeFi)

current_kcrw_to_things dot r b

I listen to KCRW’s Eclectic 24 stream all day long these days. I used to have a script that was handy for getting the artist and title from the current track of a ‘net radio stream from iTunes and making a Things todo out of it for later followup. I added the script to FastScripts, assigned it to a keyboard shortcut, and it lets me just notice that I like a song, hit a keystroke, and know that the track info has been tucked away in a todo for later, so I can explore the artist a little better without breaking flow now.

That script was also a decent example of the old rb-appscript library, which allows you to write Ruby to automate Mac apps with Apple events instead of AppleScript. It was a little wonky, but it definitely made it much easier to write pretty neat desktop automations that would have involved wrangling a bunch of OSAXen with their own weird ideas.

Sadly, when I picked up my all-day stream listening habit again under The Current Circumstances, I found it wasn’t working very well: a lot of streams aren’t Doing it Right any longer, including KCRW.

Fortunately, at least, KCRW keeps its historical playlist info in JSON, so it only took about 20 minutes to:

  • Discover that rb-appscript is dead, but there’s a drop-in replacement for it called rb-scpt that works fine even if Apple is quietly killing a few supporting APIs.
  • Poke around in the source for the KCRW playlist page to figure out where it hides the JSON.
  • Take out the parts that talk to iTunes/Music to get the track info and replace them with a quick “what’s item 0 in the playlist JSON”?

rb-scpt is drop-in enough that I didn’t have to change any of that stuff from rb-appscript.

Anyhow, gist:

I’d like to get rid of the word “conservative” in everyday political conversations.

… it’s a meaningless term for understanding our politics, with almost no remaining descriptive power.

There is still a narrow slice of the political spectrum that has relegated itself, with its strict readings and narrow legalism, to the role of useful idiot for nihilists of assorted stripes. Those people espouse “conservative” ideological beliefs and adhere to rigid “conservative” principles, and they are being gamed by people do not, themselves, have a particularly conservative world view.

Those nihilists are not “conservative,” because they are hostile not only to how institutions are run when in the hands of Democrats or “progressives” or “liberals,” but are hostile to the institutions themselves. They’ve spent the past few decades chipping away at our faith in public education, and in the current circumstances are busy going after the Postal Service partially because of a mania for privatization, and partially because it could be a vehicle for enhanced voter participation and they don’t like that.

If you want, you can recurse even further into that nihilist tendency and unearth a number of camps: “watch the world burn” nihilists, “liberal democracy is a failed experiment” nihilists, and “we could probably just privatize police and military and be safe on our compounds” nihilists. These are not “conservative” positions.

We need better words than what we are using now, because the nihilists have captured people who are not, themselves, nihilists. They’ve done that partially by hijacking conservative institutions, and partially because our outmoded language and failed categories are blinding us to potential allies.

In this country, the conservative program won decades ago. That happened with Reagan and then Clinton. Democrats do not, with the exception of what passes for a “far left” in that party, talk in terms that are hostile to basic main street/Chamber of Commerce conservatism. The fundamental program of the Clinton-era Democratic party (I’d argue that’s the current era given this year’s nominee) is to triangulate enough to peel off what we refer to as “independent” voters and eke out wins.

That doesn’t all mean the “no material difference” people in the fever swamps are right. They’re wrong. It’s just that the difference between the two parties isn’t “liberal” or “progressive” vs. “conservative,” because the Republican Party isn’t a conservative institution. It is a nihilist institution that will burn any tradition or norm to the ground in order to eradicate any law that impedes the accumulation of wealth at the expense of all other concerns. In the taxonomy I put out above, that’d be the “we could probably just privatize police and military and be safe on our compounds” wing of the nihilist faction. When the Republican Party was still a conservative institution, it resisted that outlook: It saw some institutions as good things that guaranteed, if nothing else, the reinforcement of certain ideological constants.

Because that nihilist faction has to coalition with social conservatives, there are also some differences in terms of social agenda, and the Democratic Party is a more reliable ally in that regard. That’s why I’m not arguing that we need to destroy the Democratic Party, or sit out elections, or whatever left-nihilist formulations we could recount here.

I think instead I’m arguing that our politics have shifted and evolved to a point where there are people committed to what we widely understand as “civilization,” and people who are trying to destroy any of its trappings either because they have decided it is a failed project, or because it is keeping them from making as much money as they could without large parts of it.

I don’t know what language I would propose instead of “conservative” vs. “liberal,” but I do think the puck is pretty close to being where it is headed and we’re using language from a bygone era to categorize people and their beliefs in a way that is causing us to miss a huge political realignment.

See also this one, which is along the same lines of thinking:

Not a historian, but I imagine every time a society or system has undergone radical, shocking change, there have surely been people who were sitting around thinking that the radicals clamoring for change had no chance because they simply weren’t being realistic. I’m sure the radicals who ultimately upended those societies were glad they didn’t stop to listen to the “realists” as they set about defining the new reality, grateful they understood the truths of the old one well enough to destroy it.

An extra RSS health tip

One thing I forgot in my media pruning post: I set my RSS client to “mark as read on scroll.” If I don’t stop and read something or save it to Pocket, it’s marked as read as soon as I go past it.

That which is real

Let’s set aside the juxtaposition of “a more sensible America” and “radical overhaul.” That’s just someone’s ideology showing. The part that gets people hurt and killed is the next sentence.

”… both radical and realist models warrant serious consideration.”

Three years of a vicious kind of realism from radicals who have set out to obliterate norms and make the country a meaner, crueler place, and the reasonable center still holds on to a broken taxonomy where “radical” and “realistic” are … different from each other? It’s like saying “both the color blue and cars warrant serious consideration.” As surely as there are blue cars, there are realistic radicals.

‪The moderates lost the last election not because there was, like, a glitch in the matrix—a disorder of reality—but because they had a poorer mastery of what is real. Me, too. I don’t know how many times I reloaded the NYT’s electoral forecast widget on election night. “Damn thing must be broken, how the hell does that guy have a 90 percent chance of winning? It’ll smooth out when the west coast comes in.”‬

We can make excuses: The electoral college is unfair, James Comey subverted the election, Russian trolls. None of it matters, because a lot of us—and a whole presidential campaign—believed right up until all those influences large and small prevailed that there was no way the election could possibly go the way it did. A certain kind of radical—the kind most people reading this will not identify with—had a more realistic view of what the country could tolerate.

And a very grim realism continues to prevail: The leader of the Senate can steal a Supreme Court seat. So, who’s the realist? The guy who stole the seat? Or the people saying you can’t steal Supreme Court seats because of customs and norms? One of them handed that seat over to his party, the others just have to live with the consequences for the next several decades. One of them has power—control of our living reality earned by understanding it—and the others don’t. Just using the phrase “stealing” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what is real, because no crime was committed, no laws broken.

Not a historian, but I imagine every time a society or system has undergone radical, shocking change, there have surely been people who were sitting around thinking that the radicals clamoring for change had no chance because they simply weren’t being realistic. I’m sure the radicals who ultimately upended those societies were glad they didn’t stop to listen to the “realists” as they set about defining the new reality, grateful they understood the truths of the old one well enough to destroy it.

You don’t have to be of any particular ideological persuasion—or a radical of any particular bent—to understand how damaged the NYT’s frame is. If you’re a moderate, all I can say is that your paper of record is failing you. If you’re a radical, you should be delighted: The reasonable center you’re going to need to step over at some point doesn’t understand how reality works.

I’m really fond of the Kobo Forma’s large, rubbery physical buttons and didn’t realize how much I had come to dislike the Kindle Voyage’s haptic feedback.

The first few generations of Kindles had physical buttons, then there was a switch to using the screen to change pages. If the Kindle were a fast or responsive device, that might be fine–touch works fine on Kindle for iPad–but it’s not and it felt like a challenge to get it to register a touch reliably. I bought a Kindle Voyage because of the haptic feedback feature, which seemed to be the closest we were going to get to buttons.

Haptic feedback felt like a big improvement. Over time, though, I began to feel like I had to rest my thumb just so on the edge of the device. For whatever reason, my thumb always drifted toward the “back” region of the touch-sensitive area and I’d end up on the previous page.

Having real buttons back is nice. The Forma largely feels like it is a bit more responsive than any Kindle I’ve used. It also has a setting to only refresh the screen at chapter breaks, which does a lot to make page turns feel snappier while ensuring that the e-ink screen will occasionally get a power wash.

I’ve got a few other appliances and devices that have gone where the Voyage did, with flush, touch-like mechanical switches underneath a uniform surface: My dishwasher, an air purifier, a humidifier. None of them are great. Whatever the switch mechanisms are under the mildly flex plastic touch surfaces, they are dialed in to need a level of force I never quite get right: they register too much force as a double-tap, but won’t acknowledge the kind of grazing tap we’ve been conditioned to deliver with smartphone touch screens.

I think a generation of industrial designers got the memo that physical is out, touch is in, but are misapplying the principle with poor “touch-like” mechanical interfaces.

Digging micro.blog

dot unplanned has been a going concern for almost twenty years. It started life as a Greymatter blog for a brief while, then moved on to MovableType, wandered briefly into OctoPress, then settled into a self-hosted WordPress blog for a bunch of years.

Last year I gave the blog a long read, going all the way back to the beginning, and I didn’t like a lot of what I saw. It didn’t feel representative of me: The earliest stuff was pretty coarse and angry, and some of the stuff in the middle felt misguided and potentially hurtful to people I’ve learned more about over the years.

I struggled with that for a little bit, then decided to just take most of it down and put back only some recent things I would stand by, plus a few posts of historic interest. The rest went into a personal diary app that pings me on the anniversary of each post (2,000 of them), where I can still have access to content that amounted to a public journal and where I can be reminded of where I used to be.

I decided at the time that my main creative outlet had become photography, so I built a hosted WordPress site with a heavy emphasis on photography. I didn’t end up using it much after the initial setup lift: Clunky, constant plugin updates, didn’t feel graceful.

So now I’m on micro.blog for blog stuff and SmugMug for photo hosting.

micro.blog is pretty awesome. I looked at it a year ago and shied away. I still wanted a little complexity and I wanted a “substantial” platform, and thought I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by WordPress. What I get with it, though, is a really simple way to share ideas and status without the heavy feeling of WordPress. There’s room for customization that’s not much to manage if you’re used to something like Jekyll. I was able to bring my personal domain over (with SmugMug, too) and add a few menu links to other bits of my web presence without a lot of hassle.

One thing I’ve noticed now that I’ve internalized that I have this as an outlet, is a willingness to write little things that are longer than tweets but smaller than stuff I would have reserved for WordPress. It’s a sort of megatwitter that isn’t as willfully esoteric as Mastodon feels and that leaves room for acting as the anchor for a web identity.

When I think back to that first Greymatter blog, wow. My laptop weighed eight pounds and got three hours of battery life. I don’t think I’d even given in to having a mobile phone at that point (but did have a Handspring Visor). I splurged for a 2 megapixel digital camera. The world I live in now, where just an iPhone and a mirrorless camera would allow me to maintain a ‘net presence, is so far away from that.

Joker

I’d been putting off Joker until it was rentable, so that was last night’s viewing.

I dunno.

I had a few moments where I enjoyed it as a piece of motion picture craft. Like, literally “for the medium of pictures that move I admire the composition of this shot or the motion of the camera in this scene or the shades and tones of the whole thing.”

I think much younger me, ca. my early 20s would have liked it much more because I would have read its unrelenting, dismal, grim, seedy, grinding spiral of squalor as authentic. Last night I read it as monotonous.

A few other things about it:

  • I agree with a sentiment I saw go by on Twitter that Joker as a character is best without an origin story. The Joker that walks into the frame in The Dark Knight is enough, and the running “how did your face get like that” bit underscores the point. It reminded me of a paper I wrote a while back about the nature of villainy in spy movies: Spy novels of the ‘50s and ‘60s are ideologically motivated; the corresponding movies are usually recast as struggles of a precarious global order against chaos and non-state actors.

  • Joaquin Phoenix was generally good. There were only a few moments where I felt like I was being grabbed by the face and pointed at ACTING, and those were more directorial choices.

  • I can’t connect this Joker with any Joker that comes after. If someone felt like doing a Gotham ComicCinematic Universe that played this thread out, I guess I’d be curious about how they’d get us from this Joker to the Joker we know. I don’t understand how this Joker would survive long enough to become that Joker. I’d still wait for them to come out as rentals.

  • I deleted a paragraph about the gender politics of the movie, because I think the script blinked on Thomas Wayne and arranged the scales in such a way that Penny Fleck is Arthur’s bigger problem. As I sit here typing, I think it’s probably wrong to try to turn this into a just-so story about Todd Phillips’ misogyny; I also think it’s wrong to let him off the hook for how he chose to arrange the pieces.

After 10 minutes with my new Kobo

My Kobo Forma arrived tonight.

I signed into the Multnomah County Library on the Kobo via Overdrive and instantly disliked the interface: No way to filter on availability, slow, no way to browse anything other than curated collections (e.g. Star Wars novelizations, cookbooks, “what’s new”). So I grabbed my phone and opened Libby—which has awesome search and availability filtering—checked out an ebook from the library, picked up the Kobo and synced it, and there was my book. It’s as smooth as a Kindle, which is all I wanted: a small step away from Amazon, and a low friction way to use my public library more.

  • The Forma feels lighter and thinner than my (dying) Kindle Voyage, the display lighting is better (it takes on a yellowish hue as the evening progresses, so better for sleep), the screen is bigger, and there are physical page buttons.

  • It treats library searches as first-class citizens alongside the Kobo store. If the book you searched on is in your library, it’s as easy to check out as it is to buy.

  • It syncs with Pocket.

  • When it sleeps, it shows you the cover of the book you’re reading.

  • It syncs with Dropbox, so as I liberate Kindle books, there they’ll be.

Bottom line after 10 minutes: It’s a device that wants to give me a good experience without being as low-grade hostile or cranky as a Kindle when it comes to non-Amazon content. Now to figure out what I don’t like about it. 😀