How to keep me from making a purchase: show me your entire product line with $500 between the bottom and top, and describe every. single. product. in. it. as “the ultimate in performance.”

It’s either great or tragic that I left marketing.

Pretty day at Yaquina Lighthouse and tide pools

Hobbit Beach, near Heceta Head

“Twitter is a machine for directing self-righteous anger, and it fires all day, every day, whether the targets are deserving or not.” —John Gruber

I would offer some qualifications, because Twitter is at a scale where there sort of isn’t one Twitter, the same way there’s not really one “Internet.” But there is this aspect of it that approaches unavoidable sometimes. As a friend put it yesterday, “I hate seeing names on trending, because it means they’re either dead or did something terrible,” to which I added “… and when they’re dead, it means we’re probably going to find out they did something terrible in short order.” (And either way, if you had to go to a wake every single day, it would start getting hard to go to wakes.)

I know there’s a school of thought that says “you should want to know that,” and I am not going to write the thousands of words it would take to establish why I take some issue with that.

Instead, I’ll offer that one way to dampen the anger machine aspects of Twitter is to:

  1. Follow everyone you know.
  2. As a general practice, confine people you don’t know to lists instead of your friends. If you break this rule, unbreak it as soon as someone you don’t know gives you cause to regret your trust in them.
  3. Get a Twitter client that can filter, and make a filter that removes RTs, quotes, and @’s.

You can selectively disable retweets for individual follows without a special client, but that’s too fiddly for me. Instead, I have Tweetbot set up to filter out everything that isn’t “someone I know using their own words to talk about something.” That effectively makes Twitter about as reasonable as the people I follow, and since I largely stick to rule #1 up there, it means Twitter is about as reasonable as the people I know.

I know there’s another school of thought that considers this a squandered opportunity … an invitation to fall into an epistemic trap. For people who are cognitively and temperamentally wired up to treat Twitter as their front door, that’s great and please do go on. I don’t think I owe Twitter or its denizens unfettered access to my time and attention, and that’s not something I could tolerate. There are better ways for me to absorb a diverse set of viewpoints for me.

Elsewhere in my media diet

I think it’s a sign of my own slow return to merely “whelmed” that I’ve allowed Apple News back into my media diet. I still block sites pretty ruthlessly when I think they’re wasting my time, but I appreciate having an option that’s sort of a very pretty RSS reader with a “shuffle” button to go with my more carefully curated Reeder list. Now that Reeder has its own sync back-end, I’ve dropped Feedly.

I’ve also, finally, let podcasts enter my consciousness. A list of regular listens:

And I’ll mention the Slate Political Gabfest, but of all these I find this one the most alienating. It is the professional managerial class embodied. Reading Fear of Falling and The Virtue Hoarders helped me understand why I feel so antagonized and irritable after listening to this, but I do listen because it is also a fine encapsulation of maybe 85 percent of the modern Democratic voter coalition, from its “soft left” wing to its right.

Anyhow, that’s my media brain these days.

Xoco Coco!

I’ve bought enough camping gear lately that the advertising algorithms are starting to push 5 gallon barrels of dehydrated survival chow on the off chance I’m actually a prepper.


Rufus Landing and Deschutes Canyon Loop Trail, Columbia River Gorge

The Soapstone Lake trail, a few miles south of Hwy 26 on the way home from the coast.

Walk along the Nehalem Bay spit

Snowy Plovers

Manzanita Sunset

Assorted sights on Crescent Beach at Ecola State Park

Assorted creatures on Crescent Beach at Ecola State Park

Headed to the coast for a long birthday weekend. Trading the watch that goes bing and reminds me of meetings for the one that … doesn’t.

Possibly the best birthday card ever.

Ready for the season. Added “wood” flooring to warm things up a little.

Adding -youtube to my searches is like a time machine ride to a lost age where people learned by reading.

So, having the tv to myself last night I thought “why not watch The Snyder Cut? It’s only 4:02!”

It’s a mark of how much I’ve matured over these many years that during a slow part I didn’t tweet, “wtchng snyder cut omg darkseid is a lame thanos ripoff.”

Oh! Ulysses supports 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.

For All Mankind manages an interesting matrix of comparisons:

A little more dramatically sound than Mad Men with a comparable (but less slavish) level of period piece fidelity that outdoes Halt and Catch Fire whose characters I found a little more engaging. Toss The Right Stuff atmospherics in, but inflected with the whole alternate history thing …

I can tell spring is here, because I’m willing to engage with it. Two months ago, it was all I could do to stumble from one Vikings episode to the next.

Hot “Recent Period Pieces I Have Watched” rankings take:

  1. Halt and Catch Fire
  2. For All Mankind (provisional – haven’t even finished S1)
  3. Mad Men
  4. The Last Kingdom (its Netflixification is making it silly, but I’m giving it the 10th century nod over …)
  5. Vikings (… which, I’m sorry, did not manage the generational handoff, and turned Lagertha into a wax statue)

For context: 2020’s price, for me, was a near inability to sit through any sort of television program or movie. I did three hefty-for-me building projects instead. It felt better to fill my free time with learning about how to make things, and I appreciated the focusing effect of relearning how to use power saws. I wanted to keep all my fingers, so I had to think harder about less.

There was photography, too. Both in the taking: Simultaneously in the world but processing it as shapes, colors, and tones. And in the editing: Hours of going through the day or week’s haul and reconciling what the machine captured with new meaning I could feel emerging as I cycled through styles and crops.

Now, spring.

I’m relearning how to read complex things. I feel flashes of anger I wouldn’t have allowed myself over things it was safer not to think about for a while. And I am willing to stake out the fraught ground of ranking period drama premium t.v.

This was in a house on the coast and I found it transfixing, so I ordered my own. I am not sure where to put it.

Amazon Refuses to Allow Libraries to Buy the Books They Publish

A few recent discoveries I am acting around:

First, I don’t like reading non-fiction on an e-reader (unless it’s that sorta poppy, never meant to be read again kinda stuff that compulsively uses the phrase “turns out, we’re wired to … ”) so I’m back to buying more paper books. Fiction still works on an e-reader, because my fiction reading is … not the kind that makes you want to refer back to somewhere earlier … and I tend to read fiction when I’m traveling, where an e-reader is very useful. I still like my Kobo Forma a lot, and I can dodge Amazon pretty easily on all but a few titles I can usually get from the library.

Second, I understand that my family and I are not yet equipped to drive Amazon completely out of our lives. We’re trying, but it is still tangled up in some things.

Where books are concerned, though, I’ve largely shifted to ordering from Powell’s, or straight from the publisher if Powell’s doesn’t carry it in the online catalog. There’s a little more delayed gratitude going on there unless I decide to go to the store and shop, which I tried a few weeks ago and didn’t care for. The close aisles and sense of still air do not contribute to a sense of safety in the current circumstances. So, I order, and even here in Portland there can be a wait of seven or eight days.

Anyhow, I read things like that article linked above, laying bare the hostility to a public good reflected in Amazon’s behavior, and it becomes easier and easier to think about severing those last few ties.

Sometimes, in an unguarded moment, I let a feeling of dissociation go ahead and sweep through me as I think about some weird and arbitrary behavior we’re forced to live with to create the artificial scarcity that props up the content industry. Instead of shrugging it off and thinking to myself that of course it makes sense because that’s the civilization we live in and it just has to be that way, I let my brain go sort of slack and try to release as many preconceptions as I can, turn off the inner intellectual critic, turn off the inner “realist” and just follow the thoughts upstream as far as I can. Let the bland, arbitrary, nonsensical constraints of the system just sort of sit there, looking to me like an alien sculpture might look to an astronaut. And once I get there, it’s a race … waiting to see whether “Jesus Christ, we can’t imagine any better?” or “how is it possible that a culture with so much material wealth can be so blinkered and spiritually poor?” makes it across the finish line first.

I guess as a p.s., wow I’m enjoying reading polemic lately. Katherine Liu’s Virtue Hoarders: The Case against the Professional Managerial Class is scurrilous, delightful, and brawling. The way I felt the past four years was an amplified version of how I felt the eight years before it: Boxed in and alone, uncomfortable with the politics of a lot of the people around me, but feeling cut off from and fatalistic about the politics of my past, which seemed exhausted and irrelevant. While I was grousing and mourning, the kids were getting to work on the junk heap of theoretical spare parts left behind by the death of whatever hodgepodge of Trotskyism, anarchosyndicalism, mutualism, Situationism, and antiauthoritarianism I’d managed to synthesize and building a new thing to go learn about and interrogate. With a small sense of relief that at least the present threat isn’t holding (as much) state power as it was two months ago, it’s easier to imagine new things, allow “but remember what’s true” in alongside “vote blue no matter who,” and extend patience and kindness to people who may be wrong about some things, but are still mostly my kind of people.

As a p.p.s., How to Do Nothing is so lovely. It’s a joy to read.

Huh. Guess I did click the submit button on that Jacobin books subscription.

Bought a year of Hey

I liked my trial experience with Hey enough to pay for a year and forward a pair of personal addresses over to it for daily use.

This is the second time I’ve had a run at Hey. I wasn’t a fan the first time because I was approaching it too much like “this is a new email client to try out,” and not “this is a rethink of email.”

My thinking the first time was, “can’t ingest from an IMAP server? Weak. Can’t access the service from an alternate client? Lame.” I think I was hoping it would replace something like Google Inbox.

This time around I read the docs a little more closely, set up a very transaction-heavy address to forward into it for a trial run, and then lived with it for a few days, paying close attention to what was going through my head as I used it.

Some good or okay things:

Given my volume of personal mail, I love that it puts any address it hasn’t seen before in a holding tank for triage. Stuff doesn’t actually see your inbox unless you okay it. This replaces a few existing workflows you might have around periodic unsub parties, or smart inbox training if you’re a Gmail person. I just tell Hey to ignore addresses I don’t want to hear from anymore, and that’s all there is to it – no bothering with unsubscribing, and no wondering if the smart inbox sorting algorithm is going to think something weird.

I am okay with the top-level mail taxonomy (the inbox, the newsletter/comms folder, and the receipts/transactional/marketing folder) – it’s an acceptable reduction in choice to me, because it effectively means “personal stuff,” “interesting stuff,” “robots sending you emails stuff,” and that’s an okay hierarchy. It has super simple freetagging as a second-level taxonomy, and it’s easy to do that by contact if you’re the type to do a lot of labeling. I was a prolific procmail abuser back in the day, so it is pretty easy to please me when it comes to filtering and tagging because I have suffered from over-automation and tend to keep thing simple.

I like, in principle, its “reply later” and “set aside” workflows. My personal mail flow isn’t busy enough to benefit from having a screen of ready-to-fill reply boxes to blaze through, but man I’d love that workflow for my job.

I am generally okay with the sense that your choices and workflow are heavily constrained. It makes Hey a rhythm to learn as opposed to a tool to customize. There’s just not a lot to mess with and that turns out to be okay. It reminds me of the comically simple assassin email system in Assassins, which may have turned out to be visionary.

I really like the idea that time spent classifying stuff as it comes in is a simple, quick thing to do today that will, over time, leave me in a much better place overall. As my heavily transactional email flows in, I triage it into its buckets, and I know I will only have to do that once per account. Being able to bundle by address makes it even more appealing. I didn’t realize how much friction the mail clients that offer simple triaging still have until I started doing things Hey’s way and realized how helpful it is to basically make triaging sticky.

It’s good enough for now that Hey is able to send via your existing email service’s SMTP service. They say they’re working on custom domains, and I can easily imagine flipping my personal domain over to Hey hosting when that’s available. Meanwhile, it offers rudimentary aliasing.

They haven’t even bothered to try doing the aliasing thing with Gmail. I’m okay with that, to the extent I’ve been wanting to drop Gmail anyhow. I just forward my Gmail account into Hey and mean to gently direct personal correspondents to my “real” address if they’re not using it for some reason, and re-register under a non-Gmail address for assorted services and accounts as I can.

What else?

The iPad, iPhone, and Mac clients are all dead simple and keyboard friendly. The web client is fine. It’s one of those cases where you can easily confuse the native client for the web client unless you look for the browser chrome.

Someone took the time to write a Chrome extension for Gmail that mimics a lot of the Hey workflow in a very bailing-wire-and-chewing-gum sort of way. It at least introduces Gmail to the idea of proactive and sticky triage, but misses a few other things. I have it running now, but feel sort of resentful of it because it is an outright plagiarizing of Hey’s ideas, right down to the language it uses for the mail taxonomy. Lots of mail clients could probably get some mileage with the “proactive and sticky triage” concept, only with existing IMAP services, and I briefly considered using something like Mail Act-On to create the workflow in Apple Mail, but think the extended filter ruleset for automatic triage over time would get pretty ungainly. If I were still using mutt, I think I know exactly how I could do it with procmail, macros, and some shell scripts, but … *shudder* … I’ve got a job.

All of which sort of leaves me thinking that I don’t mind Hey’s decommodification of email. The annual subscription isn’t too expensive for the quality of service I get, and the help Hey provides in helping me feel more on top of my personal email workflows. They make retrieving your data easy, so there’s not a lot of risk in running the year-long experiment.