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.


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 for blog stuff and SmugMug for photo hosting. 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.


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. 😀