The Psalms

meta

Mastodon iOS Apps

A commitment to share my thoughts where developers actually want them, and an invitation for other reviewers/users to join me.

I have written more than my fair share of words about software, as I have loved, despised, and been utterly perplexed by it. This year, my return to the iOS community has perhaps inevitably turned apps into an addiction of sorts. This particular platform is so utterly chock full/stocked up of creativity at a scale immeasurably greater and more accessible than the whole of those throughout computing history, combined. For someone like myself, it is all too easy to allow oneself to wander down a virtually endless path of intriguing, very self-indulgent play, especially now that third-party sites like Departures.to have managed to add discoverability to TestFlight beta distributions, allowing those non-millionaires among us opportunities to use test releases of applications we would’ve otherwise had to pay for. This has been exclusively to my benefit – I can only imagine what 15 year-old me would have done with such power.

Your Ratings and Reviews - Apple App Store

In my recent endeavor to focus on making my work more useful to others, I've reflected on something I've heard from nigh every developer of the apps I've reviewed: Ah yes, your blog looks really cool but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE REVIEW MY FUCKING APP on the FUCKING STORE. Read: your commentary is appreciated, but your five stars would almost certainly more economically beneficial.

As you can see from the image embedded above, I have personally fallen very behind in doing my part for those apps I've celebrated, here. A vague intention to get around to it eventually clearly is not working, so I've decided to give myself a deadline: August 15th, 2021 – precisely one month from today. By this date, I will have sifted through my commentary on apps in this setting and adapted the most useful of it (per app, obviously) into a manner appropriate to appear on an App Store Page, and I would like to formally-ish invite other tech writers/app reviewers to join me.

I'm terrible at community organization, which certainly does not exclude events, so I very much welcome any feedback you might have, as well as any collaborative contributions you'd be interested in making. As I see it, I have a few essential considerations to offer.

First, the page in the screen capture above – which can be found in the App Store App ⇨ Account (your profile picture in the top-right corner) ⇨ Account Settings (the tapable element at the very top with your profile picture and information) ⇨ Ratings and Reviews – is broken as hell, along with the rest of the Account Settings menu, notably. This is important because I insist we all complain about it on all available channels, considering it's been broken for several months, at least.

Second, you should almost certainly use this “new” dev-facing tool when searching the App Store, considering that it actually works in a trustable way, unlike the user-facing tool in the app.

Since the standard online palette of event organization software are all so easy to use, these days, I've established event pages for this event on multiple platforms, linked in the list below, which I will update as per any suggestions/requests for equivalent pages on other services. Of course, it's certainly not a requirement that you join/engage with any of them.

One could could certainly just add the date to their own calendar (conveniently with this .ics file,) remain entirely silent about the thing on social, and still be participating. Those interested in further engagement, however, can Chat Me Up on Extratone's Discord, the Teams event chat, Telegram, etc. I also plan to reshare most of this post as a thread on Twitter.

As we face the horrendous, utterly inexcusable state of Discovery on the App Store/Apple's general fuckery regarding the independent developers mostly responsible for making its platforms a worthwhile space, I hope I've created something of value in whipping up this “event.” If you have thoughts on how I might do so more effectively, once again, please do reach out.

#software #meta

The Psalms 2020 WordCloud

Screens and software subjects big & small discussed within my most moderate 35,000 words ever.

Believe it or not, the cyclical cold season has once again come to pass! Oh, the W̘͖̯E̟̹À̫T̯̫͓̪̮͓̼H̝E̪͇̰̘̖͍ͅŔ͍̖̱̟̪!! If the past two days on Twitter were any indication, it is indeed time for a year's-end retrospective on what has been published on this Web Site. Given the extent of the attention I've devoted to bilge.world this past year – both technically and editorially – I thought it would be nice to chuck in a bit more in the pursuit of whacking myself on the back. I understand that 2020 has been one helluva catastrophic marker of linear time for just about everyone on Earth – as I write this on its last day, the inexplicable news of MF Doom's death has just surfaced and has already hit my adjacent communities remarkably hard.

Spring

The earliest archive.org capture of this particular Writeas blog dates back only to May 1st of this year, but its stylistic contrast with the site's current version is immense. I believe I was using Max Henderson's Anxiety theme virtually stock, albeit with some color rearrangements. By the 29th, I had already arrived upon the colors you see today. “You Know I'm Blogging” was just a meta update to say howdy after such a long drought, but “Dirty Dave's Poweruser Tips” actually proved popular (for me) among my newly-connected Fedi crowd, especially, thanks to an annotated share by Writeas on Twitter. Honestly, it was entirely worth it just for the accomplishment of exposing my platform peer Dino Bansigan to Alt+D. Writeas Community Manager CJ Eller and I began corresponding, which led to an interview regarding writing tools, managing fiddly compulsions, and the wonder of Markdown.

I think I'm just now coming around to understanding personal blogging and the freedom that entails. It's been a long while since I've had the urge to write about things on which I don't consider myself at least somewhat of an authority. I think – like many people – I originally just used my personal blog as a guinea pig for messing around with themes, and I'm just now actually catching up on some of the lesser items on my “to-write” list.

I dug deep in my long-overdue todo list for “Z̴͏a͞l͟g͝o͏ ̕G͟͝e͞n͞҉è̛ŗ͡a͝͞t̴o҉r͞ for iOS,” which – along with my 2018 review of Unichar – I felt was a necessary celebration of digital text as a weapon, which is very dear to me. “Preferred Writing Instruments” was probably the singular analog departure The Psalms will ever see and my condensed commentary on Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, and the current state of Star Trek: Online should fulfill all need mention of science fiction, here, for a very long time. Given yesterday's news regarding Slack's acquisition, perhaps I should feel revalidated in my insistence that “Discord is Better Than Slack,” but a developer friend of mine actually addressed my curiosity regarding why startups never mention Discord as a workplace option, despite its identical functionality: it's all about fuckin' enterprise security.

I had wanted to write about The Langoliers – Stephen King's flop of a made-for-TV movie/extended Twilight Zone episode – for a long while. It was probably the first program I watched as a child that genuinely disturbed me and always returns to my thoughts by barren-ish experiences. I had planned to watch the whole three hours all the way through and write whatever came to mind, but I only made it halfway or so in “Craig Toomey's Coronavirus” before I ran completely out of steam. I dropped what I had without revision, to this day. Perhaps one day I shall return...

In the right hour, the woodland springtime metamorphic processes of the neighboring Lake Geneva suburb’s in-betweens were in a paused state – the toads again hushed; the crickets tired, and the human populace, too. In the right hour, the fickle wind and the social owls were the only sound, and nothing moved but the sparse, light-footed doe in careful segments with her fawn.

These two sentences begin the sixth chapter of my indefinitely-postponed novel, Blimp's Burden, and are almost certainly my best writing, ever. My vanity simply wouldn't allow them to go forgotten, so I published the chapter as an excerpt on The Psalms. It may seem an intimidating wall of text, but give it your attention and you'll be amused, I think.

The Psalms Stats by Post - 2020

Summer

The general, distinctly 21st-century wisdom regarding one's content popularity seems to be something like you never know what's going to blow up. I experienced this phenomena quite severely for the first time in my writing life after posting “Google Is Not God of The Web” on HackerNews right before going out-of-touch for some 13 straight hours amidst a local BLM protest. I did not intend to write a baity title, nor did I expect anything to come of sharing it, there – I only did so simply because the thought crossed my mind. Honestly, it is probably the least-considered content I'd ever published on The Psalms – I only put it up when I did because I knew all of my energy was about to be absorbed for an entire weekend or more. I only started the thing because I felt it important to raise a small voice in reminder that tech media had started using language when discussing code/online development which had begun to assume the existence of a single, objective standard of measure for good web design. (Fuck your bootstrap baloney, The Drywall Website was a real paradigm shit.)

And yet... That single goddamned post would end up accruing more pageviews than all of my writing on the web, combined (I suspect.) Tens of thousands of words were written in hundreds of comments, which I did my best to parse in a for the hell of it substack email:

Out of everything I’ve shared on Bilge recently, it’s hilarious that this particular post – on which I spent a cumulative total of perhaps 25 minutes writing and made less effort than ever to edit – became probably my most widely-shared work of all time.

Once again, I am thankful for the readership and correspondence, I just really fucking wish it had been on literally anything else I've written about technology.

In retrospect, it really is bonkers that I was excited about yet another vague promise to re-imagine email in the days surrounding the launch of Basecamp's HEY, but I feel it's important to nurture what paltry genuine enthusiasm remains about technology and the future, so I decided to respond to the service's homepage prompt, asking interested visitors to write in with their own thoughts on email. I spent a morning clacking out “Email and I: An Abridged History,” which I hope will one day serve as a part-foundation for a thorough, composed extension to my Why I Write About Technology series. This would be The Psalms last relevant work for a few months, while I played around with an experimental WordPress website and dove into fuckin' school for the first time in seven years.

WTF

Fall

I returned in late September with a partial recount of what I'd discovered: “Indulging Once More in Digital Excess.” After exploring the concept of Digital Gardens, buying my first pro-ready desktop PC in 10 years, playing with Big Boy Adobe software for the first time, and reading a delightful book documenting the history of word processing, I arrived upon the term Software Historian with which to partially describe myself. It doesn't mean all that much at the moment, but will no doubt be explored imminently on this Web Site.

Addressing “The Social Dilemma's Dilemma” and “Software Thanksgiving” in detail would be awfully redundant, but I would at least note how they represent diametrically opposed perspectives through which to discuss this stuff. Going forward into 2021, I think it's important that I hold short on the progress I've made in moderating my voice since 2018. Digestibility is not a virtue I am at all interested in, nor is it an appropriate one in which to invest any more effort. Any non-radical argument will inevitably prove enormously unoriginal, which makes for a huge waste of all our time. For the moment, that's all the editorializing I've done.

Blogging vs.

Three Point Oh

Somewhere along the research process for one of my school essays, I came across the concept of academic revision tracking and peer review via Git. Having dipped my toe back in academia, any such circumvention of its penchant for the most archaic practices possible was naturally intriguing. Just wait until I show these goons how to use hyperlinks. Perhaps inevitably, I was launched into the Git-Gone Bender I'm still riding simply because I finally had ample reason to actually understand it. In just two months, I've created and forked a total of nearly 80 repositories on my new GitHub account. Though I'd created one for each of my web properties ages ago, I had absolutely no idea how to actually make use of them, so they were all quickly abandoned. In the past two weeks or so, I think I've actually begun to get the hang of the system's core intricacies, best exemplified by The Psalms' Repository as it stands.

The “automated” Project Board I set up has so far been a very impressive replacement for the simple todo list. It tracks and categorizes Post Ideas in their various stages in my process: Mulling, Documentation (research,) Drafting, and actual Publication. Technical “Issues” regarding the CMS and/or the Repository, itself, have also fit in these categories well, so far. Just today, I discovered that one can simply tag Issues by their number to describe Commits, which form an impressive revision-tracking changelog when aggregated together. I also figured out the general idea behind Milestones and set The Psalms' first one for my 27th birthday, next month. The goal is to have figured this all out well enough by then that I'm no longer randomly stumbling upon entire featuresets multiple times in a workday. Thinking in Public – as my friend Tom Critchlow and his crowd say – is what I'm trying to do here, I think. Obviously, this really means that you are more than welcome to hop the fuck in at any time, in any manner you'd prefer. If Git is still no more than a conundrum for you – as it was for me just weeks ago – I would suggest the directory for In-Progress Drafts as a starting point.

GitHub Actions are still more or less a mystery to me, but I am unbothered – The Psalms' seems to be producing green text instead of red, now, in the midst of whatever I set it up to do. I poked around the livestreams for “GitHub Universe” a few weeks ago, when dark mode and GitHub Discussions were opened up to more users. At the moment, I cannot imagine a single application for forums in the context of my blog's repository, but I turned them on, anyway. It's very possible that all of the documentation-generating functions of Git are entirely unnecessary in this case, but – as I entrust GitHub with the eternal task of archiving such work – it is my hope that it will help me add further structure to my process.

Caslon Bilge Type Capture

If you've found yourself in possession of a .edu email address and are interested in GitHub related experimentation, see this list of discounted/free dev programs/services for students, which includes a free subscription to “GitHub Pro.” (Apparently, equivalent to a $4/month service.) Adobe has similar discounts, as you’re probably already aware, which have allowed me to pursue my goal of learning InDesign. So far, I’ve created a sort of commemorative 404 page for The Drynet and a font showcase of Georgia for my mother. As much as I’d love to continue discussing the current state of Adobe apps, I’ve realized 1) I am quite distinct from a professional user, which is why I genuinely find GIMP more useful than Photoshop, for instance, and 2) given the length of my to-write list considering my current pace, I don’t know if I’d manage to get around to it in this lifetime.

Between now and the 11th of this month, I will be migrating worthwhile posts from the experimental WordPress site (WTF) here and closing its hosting account. I haven’t been compelled to actually do anything with it in months, and the handy redirects, alone, are not worth the upcosts, however fair. Some content – including the corresponding posts for my Adobe experiments will not be imported from WTF here. I’m also going to rely on the Web Archive for publishing the rest. Notable discoveries so far include “Through an iPhone 4’s Lens,” which is a reminder of how revolutionary that particular handset was, and a few extra-Psalms pieces of content I’d like you to experience, like this Notion gallery of my single jaunt into drawing, # DavidBlueDraws. Best of all is my friend Tevin’s episode of Extratone’s defunct flagship podcast. In the years since, he’s become quite the prolific Twitch streamer. (I’ve watched enough and know Tevin well enough to say that he’s particularly entertaining in this medium.)

Coming Soon

For better or worse, all of these new exploratory avenues have so far led directly away from the business of actually writing, but – in my best self-estimation – I suspect I’m mostly done with fiddling, now, and ready to start thinking on the page, again. Predictably, I’ve let my upcoming iPhone 12 Pro Max Review turn into quite a monstrosity over the past two months. It turns out, years of lapsed attention toward iOS development resulted in my feeling more out-of-the-loop than I expected, which I was compelled to remedy, naturally. If you’re so inclined, you can follow the minutia attached to my review process via this dedicated Snapas gallery, this shared iCloud album, my personal YouTube channel , and this Twitter collection.

As per my newfound use of GitHub, I’ve played around with various ways of documenting this journey, specifically. First is this Wiki page (which I shall do my best to remember to keep updated) listing the entirety of my writing history on iPhone and iOS. (It’s uh... A bit underwhelming, if I’m honest.) I’ve also just begun a dedicated repository for iOS-related documentation and resources, which will soon include a full, sensically-indexed list of iCloud share links to my entire Siri Shortcuts collection (I hope.) Immediately following the review, I intend to publish here a post dedicated to functions Apple has failed to properly document, which I expect to be the most widely-useful content on this domain. To see some of the suggestions I’ve received so far and/or to add your own, see this mildly-successful thread I posted in r/iOS.

When I have finally tired of talking about handsets once more, I hope to return my attention toward some other overwhelmingly-ambitious monstrosities like my academic paper proposing federated, open-source social networks in favor of the Big Boys, my report on the experience of returning to academia for a semester in 2020, and my evaluation of Notion as perhaps the next Big Step in the evolution of notetaking software. Perhaps before tackling projects the size of these, I intend to compile another listicle of handy tips for newcomers to Writeas. As I linked before, you can now view the entirety of The Psalms’ status in as much detail as you’d like via its Project Board on GitHub. As always, you can delight me by directly engaging on Twitter, Mastodon, Discord, and/or via email. Let’s hope 2021’s equivalent of this review doesn’t take me until February to publish!

#meta

So Much To Do, So Much To See

An update on all I’ve been doing instead of what I actually intended to do.

There will always be plenth of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things. – Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think

Everything happens so much. – Horse_ebooks

You have a desire for indulgence in your home and family, Co-Star has just told me in my weekly, email newsletter-delivered horoscope. “Venus conjunct to natal Moon” indicates this part of yourself will transform into something else, and goes on to say something truly stirring: *the way you relate to your past is changing*. I continue to be amazed by how influential the potential of the computing hardware present in my life at any given time can be on my habits. In the two weeks I’ve had my first moderately powerful desktop computer in over ten years, I have found myself using new image & video editing software, installing local WordPress stacks, finally experimenting with Git, somehow generating 20 draft posts on a fresh experimental WordPress site, and putting my whole back into my new Notion account, including – among others – projects like my “Keyboard Shortcuts Wiki.” All the while, there has been a pull toward a more deliberate, focused sort of digital existence: reflection on Kevin McGillivray’s Word of The Year concept, digital gardening, and a few other like discoveries have culminated in a newfound, unironic use of the term “Creative Wellness” to describe a set of ideologies which I believe I should strive for in order to improve my intellectual wellbeing.

In tandem with the fact that I have gone back to school, this has all crucially resulted in very little actual writing, which may or may not be conclusive evidence toward the classical minimalist technology argument that less capability results in more focus. On that note, remember when the Game of Thrones author appeared on Conan’s show and mentioned that he still writes exclusively using WordStar 4.0? This happening has been vaguely in the back of my mind since I encountered it during the relatively brief, basement apartment-dwelling era in Oregon when I first discovered WinWorldPC and got into running a bunch of DOS VMs, trying out every download from that blessed site which sounded even remotely interesting. Before I go on, let me just include a transcript of the entire anecdote I’m referring to here, because it’s actually much shorter than one is led to believe:

Conan: These novels that that you write are can be over a thousand pages long. They're massive tomes and apparently you write them all on a computer, but unlike most authors, you're not worried about a computer virus. I mean an author who writes a thousand-page book their greatest fear is a virus invades and destroys a chunk of their book you don't worry about that. Why?

Martin: No I have a secret weapon – I actually have two computers: I have the computer that I browse the internet with and that I get my email on and I do my taxes on and that computer and then I have my writing computer which is a DOS machine not connected to the Internet.

Conan: A DOS machine. How old is this program?

Martin: A DOS machine. You remember DOS? I use WordStar 4.0 as my word processing system.

Conan: Did you make this computer out of wood? Did you carve it? I'm curious why you decided to stick with this old program.

Martin: I actually like it. I mean, it does everything I want a word processing program to do, and it doesn't do anything else. I don't want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lowercase letter and it becomes a capital. I don't want a capital – if I wanted a capital, I would've typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key. Stop fixing it!

Conan: You yell at computers a lot. What about spellcheck?

Martin: Oh, I hate spellcheck. Especially when you have the realm of [???], it's [???].

That’s it! A less than sixty second exchange. I did not remember just how much coverage it received on digital news sites. Embark on a Google search for “george rr martin wordstar,” and you’ll discover a ridiculously long list of brief stories including the YouTube embed. A book I’ve just recently discovered and begun – which I am extremely excited about – is Professor Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, and its introduction begins by mentioning The George Thing, which surely indicates that it is the most significant mention of word processing software in popular culture for at least a decade:

The clip was posted to YouTube and from there embedded in innumerable tweets, Facebook feeds, and blogs. Some commenters immediately, if indulgently, branded Martin a Luddite, while others opined it was no wonder it was taking him so long to finish the whole story (or less charitably, no wonder that it all seemed so interminable). But what was it about these seemingly obscure details that people found so compelling? Part of it was no doubt the unexpected blend of novelty and nostalgia: Many fans would be old enough to remember WordStar for themselves, and the intricacy of its interface seems somehow in keeping with Martin’s quirky persona, part paternalistic grandfather and part Doctor Who character. WordStar thus becomes an accessory to his public image, like the black fisherman’s cap he is frequently photographed wearing. But it is also clearly much more than that. Martin’s passion for the program is unmistakable...

The book, itself, was also more widely reviewed than one would expect, where it was deemed genuinely unique. I related quite hard to the preface’s first few sentences:

Track Changes began, as many books do, with a question: What was the first novel written with a word processor? Being an English professor interested in the history of writing as well as computers, I thought it was the sort of thing I should know, but I didn’t.

Discovering the volume was a result of a personal determination in the last week to give in to my latent obsession with word processing/text editing software, which also led to my creating a Notion table of every word processor I’ve ever heard of. Thanks to my desktop PC acquisition, found myself virtual machining a bit again, though some of the programs I’m particularly interested in trying have inexplicitly disappeared from my personal library and been removed from WinWorldPC, probably due to (mostly absurd) copyright claims. Most versions of WordStar are still available, though, and I’ll confess I still have a desire to learn how to use its cult keyboard shortcuts, as evangelized by Robert J. Sawyer in an essay also discussed in Track Changes, which specifically shits on WordPerfect more explicitly than I remembered. I keep returning to the idea that I should try writing the stuff I normally work on – like this post, for instance – in these software, but file transfer is a bigger and bigger obstacle the older the OS you’re running: VirutalBox’s “Guest Additions” – which allow clipboard sharing/shared folders/other interoperative network functions – are not compatible with DOS or any Windows editions before 4.0. There are workarounds, but I haven’t found any reasonably within my current abilities.

Truthfully, though, emulating twenty-year-old software seems a bit unnecessary when contrasted with the fact that Markdown, Typora, and Writeas were supposed to be my saviors from distracted writing. A compulsion to comment on a recent note-taking app comparison published in The Information reminded me that I still haven’t written an in-depth review of Typora, which I plan to prioritize in the near future, especially since it may finally be officially releasing, according to recent activity on Twitter.

Another result of my reintroduction to academia is that I can now afford a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud thanks to student discounts. This has been life-changing in a manner which I should probably be a bit ashamed of, but once the desire to make full use of my subscription (by trying every single program it licenses) subsides, I really do intend to become proficient with InDesign – a learning experience which I will surely at least attempt to thoroughly document, here.

Digital Gardening

I think it was Tom Critchlow’s Digital Gardening blogchain that first exposed me to the term and his static site-generated wiki project that introduced me to the concept of personal wikis, not so long ago, though the desire to organize and/or archive personally-relevant information through the format has actually been rattling around my head for the better part of a decade. When I discovered that one could install MediaWiki – the platform Wikipedia, itself is built on – I created the shortlived Drywall Wiki, once upon a time. Since I last wrote you, I also purchased the extratone.wiki domain and played around once again with the platform. Typora even offers exports in MediaWiki’s bizarre proprietary text format! For better or worse, though, I don’t see anything becoming of the project for the moment I suppose it feels like somewhat of a risk, investing a lot of time I probably shouldn’t have into documenting all of my Twitter jokes. For the moment, I think my Notion account will have to serve as my personal wiki.

The most inciteful argument I’ve read among the Digital Gardens discourse revolves around value as it is created within our personal online writing spaces. Two of the many infinitely-quotable essays within this space: Mike Caulfield’s “The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral” and “Stock and flow” from Snarkmarket. The former references Vannevar Bush’s infamous “As We May Think” essay (which I’ve finally gotten around to finishing and its description of a “memex,” which many cite as a disturbingly-apt prediction of the World Wide Web. Caulfield, however, disagrees:

So most people say this is the original vision of the web. And certainly it was the inspiration of those pioneers of hypertext. But in reality it doesn’t predict the web at all . Not at all. The web works very little like this. It’s weird, because in our minds the web still works like this, but it’s a fiction.

Reading back from a lens including this commentary, I immediately understood. The memex concept is far more intimate than the web has become (or perhaps ever was – I wouldn’t know.) “Stock and flow” defines creative value in two disparate types of media:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

To be honest, I personally cannot imagine undertaking the task of explaining this differentiation to anyone in my own life, but if the reactionary movement within The Web back to a focus on valuable content is, indeed, underway, perhaps such conversations are bound to shortly become more and more natural. For my part, I have attempted setting up an experimental site on Github Pages using Jekyll in the past few days with partial success: as soon as I tried to specify a custom theme, I apparently broke it, at which point I realized that I had homework to do. As much as I hate to admit it, Kev Quirk’s posts regarding WordPress’ practical simplicity over SSGs earlier this monthrings somewhat true. As things currently stand, WordPress’ permeability throughout The Web is an advantage for those who just want to publish something as simply as possible. My counterargument to both Kev and myself: Writeas is a wonderful compromise in terms of substance and image among one’s super e-enabled, Mullenweg-disgusted peers. It’s very much pure Markdown, but it’s far more accessible, cross-platform, than SSGs due to its shear simplicity.

One component which Digital Gardening would seem to offer others that I have never particularly struggled with is the freedom to write whatever I feel like writing. If anything, I have struggled in the opposite sense, existing in a state completely unhindered by consideration of the value my work may or may not offer anyone else. Perhaps the most substantial addition I’m capable of making to the Digital Gardens conversation, then, is best quoted from the first chapter of the advice book I have finally begun writing for young men, For God’s Sake, Just Sit Down to Piss:

If there is one idea of mine you ever engage with – in this book or otherwise – it is best distilled in this single sentence: you do not *actually* want to attain a state of true apathy, trust me. It is extremely unhealthy, miserable, and alienating. I have existed for an excruciatingly long time trapped in a state of being truly unable to care about anything in the face of a great, varying effort to do so. It is very far from the immunity imbued in terms like carefree – in reality, it is manifested in extreme depression. It is less immunity than it is distance from an essential part of life.

In terms of one’s blogging, I am glad for those who will/have/are finding a new freedom of expression, but hold this as a serious caution regarding the other extreme. Should you ever approach it, remember that considering one’s audience – as academics love to prioritize – really is important, eventually.

Curation

At this point, I’ve used a channel in Extratone’s Discord as my ongoing reading list for several years essentially without change. Earlier this month, though, I discovered Raindrop – a bookmarking service with public collections that (so fars) feels much more aligned with my own needs than Pocket – and pretty much immediately signed up to begin paying for it and set up a bot to crosspost from my new Reading List collection, there to the same Discord channel via the collection’s RSS feed. Raindrop’s browser extension – along with Notion’s, come to mention it – is actually usable in day-to-day browsing. As much as I love Reading.am, the prospect of its longevity worries me considering the most recent post in its development blog dates to 2016. Writing a dedicated “Little Review” of Raindrop is on my (ever-lengthening) todo list, but at the moment, I would especially emphasize my Digital Magazine Collection, which is the result of thousands of hours of web exploration and genuinely worth significant value for most anyone, I think.

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I know it may not seem all that significant, but this digital magazine collection actually represents a lot of effort – years of web exploration, both active and passive. Find it here: davidblue.wtf/magazines

A post shared by David Blue (@asphaltapostle) on

With the combination of my public Notion workspaces and public Raindrop collections, I hope to make my curatorial endeavors both more accessibly beautiful and more intimately available. In terms of a dedicated discussion of Notion’s interworkings and culture, I think I have quite a bit more exploring to experience before I’m sufficiently qualified, though my notes are already quite extensive (and publicly accessible, thanks to… Notion!) In general, I continue to be astounded by the amount of tools/services/applications I have not yet heard of, despite how long I have labored to become an authority on Writing Tools.

Too Many Fonts! - WordPerfect

Workflow

In my endeavor to more intentionally design my workspace – to actually dedicate a space for working, originally – I originally very much intended to set up dual displays for my desktop, but the desk I settled for (an old family piece from the early 1900s?) does not have enough surface area to position two displays, regardless of how thin they’ve become since I last had one. Combined with a limited budget and a concern that two displays might actually result in further distraction instead of less, I instead went for a single, 27” LED affair. I’ve also been making full use of Windows 10’s desktop switching feature and have found it surprisingly easy to make a habit, especially thanks to the Ctrl+Win+Lateral Arrow Keys keyboard shortcuts.

Hildur Keyboard Shortcuts

On the subject of keyboard shortcuts, I’ve by now worked out a personally-optimized remap (thanks to the keyboard manager tool included with PowerToys, about which I have far too much to say in some future post.) I had a conversation with a few Mastodon friends two weeks ago convincing me that my methodology of forcing myself to learn shortcuts by integrating a cheat sheet into my desktop backgrounds may actually be an original idea and useful to other users.

In terms of writing spaces, I have actually been composing the less serious stuff I’ve been writing within WordPress’ Gutenberg editor, which is not an admission I would’ve expected to be making, just a year ago. A dedicated post about this, too, is fucking coming, but suffice it to say that with a fairly-substantial PC and a better hosting provider (DreamHost over GoDaddy, in this case,) composition has become far far smoother – improving enough to make it a viable space within which to pound away original stuff for the first time. Writing essays for academia has encouraged my return to Microsoft Word, once again, on which I’ll blame the fact that I am currently composing this very bit in The Old Bitch. A desire to once again hack together a set of personalized Word templates has led to the birth of two such files which I am proud enough to share on my Notion drive. Eventually, I would also like to take the time to completely redesign the “Ribbon” in Word – something which I’ve literally never seen anyone else do. (I spent a substantial amount of time trying to find a library for MS Office customization files, to no avail, though you can find my own customization file as it stands on the same Notion page linked just now. Let me know if you’re able to successfully import it.)

Woke Word

A confession of vanity: I suspect the only reason I haven’t yet stopped composing within WordPress is that I figured out how to change the typeface to Adobe Caslon (across both the editor and the front-facing site, naturally,) thanks to my newfound access to Adobe Typekit. Yes, apparently I really am that shallow. For those Office 365 users among you, I highly suggest you look up how to enable the Classic Office sound theme. Unlike Make Use Of, I find them both adorable and genuinely useful as auditory feedback. You may also be interested in my discovery of some fairly-Woke additions to Word’s autocorrect options and the subsequent bitchy controversy their introduction spawned.

Software History Society Banner

The Read-It Website

If you know me at all, the following admission probably seems unbelievable: I have been using Reddit. I created a new subreddit for Extratone – which I do not necessarily expect to be populated any time soon – and r/SoftwareHistory after discovering that it didn’t yet exist, which I definitely do not expect you to populate, but would be delighted if you did. As with seemingly everything else I’ve covered, I also intend to write about how Reddit’s recent feature additions and redesign may actually make it a redeemable space on The Web, which should prove interesting. Clearly, I have become more than willing to accept the moniker of Software Historian whenever/if ever my authority achieves the appropriate volume to deserve to be christened so.

Obviously, none of the developments I’ve shared in this post indicate any improvement in my productive output, but I hope to learn soon how to settle into a fairly-consistent (and hopefully much more original) writing process.

#software #meta

Hildur

I bought a desktop tower for the first time since 2010 and spent an embarrassingly long time struggling with Bluetooth shit.

As with my entire history of computer purchases, my acquisition of an HP ENVY Desktop tower, today, was last-minute, ill-informed, and certainly irrational. You “PC master race” folk: please spare me the dude, you could've just built your own pc so much cheaper shit.[efn_note]Or don't. Whatever.[/efn_note] Yes, I realize the sensible course of action would've begun with a two hour trip West to the closest Microcenter, where I'm sure the staff would've made PC shopping an absolute blast and I would've come away with a more powerful, much cheaper machine. However, after I managed to break Windows on my only machine this weekend (and subsequently failed to reset it,) I was getting especially behind on schoolwork and had absolutely no desire to complete any of it on my iPhone.

And so... I've just returned from picking up said HP Tower along with a 27” HP LED display, and am writing you after having set up the machine physically and installed most of my “essential software” list (at least all that I could remember.) As per my favorite tradition of new computer acquisition, I have named the machine after Hildur Odegard from Fortitude:

“First Impressions”

It's been exactly 10 years since I last bought a desktop tower – since I first set hands on the Dell XPS Studio desktop with which I would create the majority of my intellectual property – and I was immediately surprised by how much smaller[efn_note]6.12 x 11.93 x 13.28 inches.[/efn_note] and lighter[efn_note]13.12 lbs.[/efn_note] this tower was than my expectations. The display, too, is remarkably light and thin. Rationally, I should not have been surprised by this, but I'm not going to punish myself for continuing to find any sort of magic in technology.

In the box were a Bluetooth keyboard[efn_note]Specifically, an HP model 4251a-khsap003k.[/efn_note] and mouse set – the latter of which I will hopefully never have to use, thanks to my Logitech G203 – and was perplexed by the process of how to pair the former with the tower while it was in setup mode for far too long. I was just about to give up entirely when I revisited the packaging and noticed what I'd previously assumed was an anti-theft device, but was actually the fucking dongle for the pair. I continue to despise Bluetooth peripherals, obviously, but the multimedia function keys of the product led to some important realizations: I now had reason to use Windows Desktop Switching and have a calculator application again! However, I have yet to figure out how to alter the Function key's behavior (I'm not even sure it's possible:) in order to input Alt+F4, I have to input Fn+Alt+F4, which is far too clunky to depend on. The issue did lead to a revelation which I may or may not integrate permanently: I mapped Alt+F4 to the previously-unused button on the very top of the G203. So far, it's been pretty nifty.

HP 4251a-khsap003k

The HP 4251a-khsap003k included in the box with my new HP desktop.

That said, a component of my intention to create an intentional, static, upright-sitting desktop workspace included an allotment for a quality mechanical keyboard – my justification was that any professional in a particular craft makes a point to have the best possible tools for the job, so a high-quality keyboard has actually been very long overdue, in my case. So, I sought out a single Wirecutter recommendations list and even attempted to disseminate r/MechanicalKeyboards.[efn_note]I haven't even started self-harming yet, so my stomach is definitely strengthening![/efn_note] After a brief jaunt, I concluded that no reasonable person would be able to make heads or tails of the forum or its seemingly endless wikis without considerable indoctrination so I more or less threw a dart and landed on the Varmilo VA108M, which I ordered. All I know is that it's fairly highly-reviewed on the marketplaces I checked (though hardly mentioned on the subreddit, actually,) and that it has the Cherry Switches, which are... The good ones.

A concern I originally had with taking over the tertiary guest room – by far the smallest allotted living space in the house – as my office was its distance from our wireless router, two floors down. The last time I used the room as a workspace (five years ago,) my old tower's integrated WiFi card often struggled to maintain a reliable connection. The adapter included in this desktop, though, actually managed to clock the fastest download speed on my SpeedTest.net records just now.

SpeedTest Results

Somehow, I just managed to clock the highest download speed on my record from two floors up!

Bad(ish)

It's almost painful even to write this but... As beautiful as this $250 display is to behold, I've grown accustomed to my Surface Laptop 2's 2256 x 1504 13” display after years of hard, daily use. Apparently, those dimensions mean the little machine's display has a pixel density of 201 Pixels-Per-Inch. Filling a 27” display with just 1920 x 1080 means a pixel density of just 81.6 Pixels-Per-Inch,[efn_note]I suppose I should not have been surprised to immediately discover a dedicated online tool for calculating pixel density.[/efn_note] and the disparity was glaring to my eyes, even from the setup screen. After a few hours of regular use, I'm not sure I notice it anymore, but I suspect I will again when I've got the laptop running again. Please do indicate whether or not you think such a complaint makes me awful in the Crowdsignal poll below.

I've also already had trouble connecting my Bose SoundLink headphones correctly via Bluetooth. On my Surface Laptop, it registered as two separate devices – “Stereo Headphones” and “Headset” – which allowed me to use them as both the primary audio output and the primary audio input. For whatever reason, I have been unable to accomplish such a simultaneous connection on this machine: I can either connect them as headphones or as a headset, but not both. This video provided some help – I know now that I have to open Sound Settings and manually connect the headphones every time I re-connect them. Hopefully, I'll figure out another solution soon.

Returning to the webcam issue: I discovered that absolutely zero local stores keep add-on webcams in stock anymore, which makes sense. I resorted to searching Amazon for webcams and found a gargantuan list of brands I had never heard of. When I filtered by the one I did recognize – Logitech – I saw barely-facelifted versions of the camera my stepdad bought in 2008 and none were in stock. Unwilling to further investigate or research more, I set the price filter for under $40, sorted by customer ratings, and bought the first product which had even remotely legitimate-looking reviews: this 1080p thing branded with “Mersuii.”

After returning to the order invoice hours later for this post, I got curious enough to Google search the company name and discovered a dead-end url, zero Wikipedia page, and this Trademark registration, on which I spotted some very interesting information. Entered in the second “Goods & Services” row is the following text:

Adult sexual stimulation aids, namely, devices for massaging or vibrating external and internal portions of the body, vibrating and non-vibrating reproductions of parts of the male and female anatomies, male sex toys, masturbators, penis pumps, electrical penis cyclone pumps, rings, clamps, stimulators, vibrators, dildos, dongs, butt plugs, anal beads, rings to be worn about the penis; Adult sexual stimulation kit comprised primarily of adult sexual stimulation aids and a workbook

MERSUii Trademark Registration – “Goods & Services”

To hell with that keyboard! Now I am immensely curious as to what I'll be receiving in the mail this coming Monday, the 7th.

Take my Display Resolution Poll

#hardware #meta

Bilge Version 2.3

I've been devoting significant attention to this blog recently, and I hope it shows. Reading now contains a list of recommended email newsletters as well as an ongoing list of my all-time favorite reads on The Web. I also added Podcast for End User and a dedicated Subscribe page. I've added Open – a list of some of my favorite Open Web projects and Social – a list of my social links. About has also been updated with new branding and more current hyperlinks. Typography and colors have been unified and updated to Version 2.3, and my theme has been officially listed for those of you willing to engage in the sincerest form of flattery. Also, look at that favicon! Thank you, CJ!

Furthermore, I took the time to import some old work:

Bandcamp: Streaming's Secret Savior“ A magnum opus of a 13,000+ word essay on why Bandcamp should be the future of music streaming services.

Mark Fuck and the Goofy Godheads“ An old, hilarious rant about Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk that – if I may say so – still rings awfully true today.

The Matchsellers' Inheritance“ A local bluegrass band releases an album that proves they are not just what they appear to be.

The Case for Chuck Klosterman“ A deep dive into whether or not the voice of one old White Portland Dad should be culturally considered.

Kilgore Trout on CreateSpace“ A critique of self-publishing culture (immediately after self-publishing myself) disguised as a review of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions.

Virtual Reality Virginity, Lost“ An account of my first experience in VR thanks to my friend Isiah.

Twitter Thrives on Incompetence“ Pleading for users to just use Lists. Lists are linear and ad-free.

Profound Revelations in iOS 12“ Siri Shortcuts really meant something in the beginning.

Illiteracy in American Media“ A short academic essay about how little the illiteracy issue is covered in American media.

This blog has now surpassed Extratone in number of email subscribers, which I deeply appreciate. Though you're not paying – yet (hehe) – let me once again encourage any/all feedback you may have. Send me an email!

#meta

I was interviewed by Write.as Community Manager CJ Eller about writing software, Extratone, blogging, and self-curation.


So I am super curious that you mentioned Markdown as something that saved you from fiddling your life away. Can you go more into that?

I started an online magazine four years ago originally on WordPress. I thought I knew something about web development, but honestly I did not. It ended up becoming a fixation on trying to make something technically different from what I'd seen done with WordPress, which detracted heavily from my Editorial duties over the years. I'm on the OCD spectrum so I just couldn't let it go. I spent thousands of hours fiddling with different themes and formatting within those themes, and what I ended up with was a mess. I would make changes that would break old posts, so I'd go back and fix those, only to make more changes days/weeks/months later and have to go back again. I'd known vaguely about Markdown, but it wasn't until it was mentioned in the WordPress dev Slack that I really considered it seriously as a way out of what I'd been doing. I realized that its inherit limitations were actually very good for me – that I needed a limited system to constrain my workflow to keep myself on task. Finally, in late-2018, I started to convert our old content to Markdown and essentially haven't looked back since.

Did it take a while for you to accept Markdown's limitations? Was there a turning point for you? Did you look for a Markdown plugin on WordPress to help after making the change? I imagine there's something like that out there.

There are third-party plugins, yes, but I believe the new WordPress editor now supports “markdown blocks,” which is sortof handy for those who want to continue in that direction. The turning point was probably when we ran out of money and lost our account with our hosting provider. I was left with an old external HD full of old backups and an empty domain. I'd already started moving that direction within WordPress (largely because of the Gutenberg editor project,) but losing the site in its entirety was what I really needed to push us into a more modern, progressive CMS. Honestly, Markdown is capable of everything we actually need and nothing more. I'd like to think I was able to realize this from the beginning.

So you're left with an old external HD full of old backups and an empty domain. Talk to me about the process then of finding that modern, progressive CMS. Did you have a vague idea of what you were looking for? I imagine getting those backups ready for whatever you were going to choose as another process entirely.

I actually decided to ditch the backups and just move forward with a different Editorial direction (the project has since been more or less put on hiatus.) I knew Markdown had to be involved and that I never wanted to look at anything like WordPress' dashboard ever again. I played around with a local Ghost instance but just didn't feel anything for it, if that makes sense. I'd already moved my personal blog to Write.As months before and eventually realized that it was just what Extratone needed – so far, I've only imported my own contributions and the most recent work from others.

Could you explain what you mean by feeling something for a piece of software? I noticed this in your recent post on your personal blog and what I enjoyed about it so much. There's an enthusiasm about the software you do recommend that jumps through the screen. I want to use Bear after reading your post.

I'm glad to hear that! I suppose it dates back to my upbringing on a farm in rural Missouri, where I felt a real affection for – and attachment to – our tractors, combine, and such. When one cares about their work, I think it's inevitable for them to be emotionally invested in the tools they use to accomplish it every day. During my brief stint in IT in the beginning of 2019, I saw a lot of users struggling with outdated and ridiculously unintuitive software throughout their entire workday and it made me really appreciate the idea of “good workflow.” I'm not really a developer, but I believe software can always be better because I've seen it. As an End User of sorts with not much cash, I feel like my main contribution back to developers should be celebrating their good work. This is an idea I feel I do not encounter enough in day-to-day life.

As someone who also had a brief stint in IT, I totally agree with the struggles people go through because of outdated & unintuitive software. But IT also made me realize how much of software is personal — someone will want a solution that's unintuitive to you but is intuitive to them. You learn a lot of empathy from that.

I am intrigued by your last point there — why don't you think you encounter the idea of celebrating software developers enough in day-to-day life?

I suppose specifically I mean I don't see enough celebration of good development. It's hard to challenge the personal workflow of anyone, yes, but I hope folks will continue to want to better their lives with new solutions. As I mentioned in my Tips post, Microsoft Word is a great specific example of software that simply should not be used anymore – especially in composition for The Web. Not that Word is celebrated, necessarily, but its alternatives are not. It should be noted that I have no specific authority in this matter other than years of experience with – and enjoyment of – playing around with software. I just think that End Users deserve better than they get, and awareness of new/different software is a huge part of the problem. Making average people aware of better solutions should be the primary function of special interest tech journalism, IMO.

Great point about Microsoft Word. I don't even remember the last time I seriously used it — high school maybe? And like you said, discovery can be an issue to the adoption of these alternative tools. So are there any common patterns you've noticed as to how you've come about these software alternatives that you now use? Patterns that someone could adopt?

It's not that I slave away, but it does take a lot of time to discover them. The simple answer is: I drink a lot of caffeine and hyperfixate on the internet. I'm not sure it's something the average user should want to adopt, but if they do, they should be on Mastodon. They should be googling “alternatives to...” regularly, and they should worship Free and Open Source Software. Accepting that you never have to settle for one piece of software is probably the beginning. For lack of a better term, I just love playing around with software. That's not something I would advocate for my old clients or other End Users – I would rather find out myself and then present a list of alternatives in an entertaining way. I hope that's an appropriate and sufficient answer hehe.

No that's great! The acceptance of never having to settle for one piece of software is at once valuable and challenging to adopt. If you keep switching you could be a sort of software vagabond who throws their data into a rucksack to head to the next viable platform. I've always had trouble trying to find the proper balance between playing around with software & learning a tool well enough that it can be useful. How have you personally navigated that? I could imagine your foray into & out of Wordpress as an example.

It's always a challenge when trying new things. I obsess over different ways to accomplish tasks. I've probably signed Extratone for 15 different newsletter services (including Buttondown today) though I haven't actually written a single edition of our newsletter in nearly two years. I think it's only recently that I've been able to look at these habits from a reasonable perspective. As in, I am now able to finally differentiate between playing and being productive, but it took some 15 years. Self-awareness of one's actual progress is key. Asking questions like why am I actually doing this – for profit or for play? Differentiating between these two is something someone like me will always struggle with, I think.

The distinction between playing and being productive can be quite blurry. I sometimes find that playing around with a piece of software can lead to a productive use of it. How about you? Did you start with the idea of creating Extratone first and then tried to find the right software to fit the job? Or did you start playing around with Wordpress and then the idea of the digital publication took form soon after?

That's an insightful supposition. I actually tried to launch an online magazine before Extratone with virtually zero editorial focus along with a standalone podcast that I'd been hosting on WordPress for years. I originally began playing around with WordPress sites in my early adolescence, so you could say it all culminated in the idea. It took maturity to realize that I actually wanted to build a platform for other voices rather than continue to invest in my own. I'd like to believe that was all enabled by the playing hehe.

So what lead you to the conclusion of building a platform for other voices? Especially curious from the maturity angle. Because you still have a personal blog, so it doesn't feel like you've completely neglected your personal voice. But would you consider that as not the same investment of time & effort that you'd put into something like Extratone?

I should be clear that I have not accomplished what I set out to do with Extratone. After a fairly big personal trauma in 2015, I had a bit of an existential crisis and realized that I had surrounded myself with so many talented (in a particularly relevant way) online friends who were producing all sorts of incredible content – music and videos, mostly. I realized that I was better at editing and other platform duties than I was at writing, and that perhaps the online communities I was astride could be provided a single banner to give themselves. In that sense, I haven't figured out how to do what I set out to yet. Ideally, my byline would be completely gone from Extratone, so I've more or less put it on hold until I figure out how to accomplish that. Turning it into a somewhat profitable media company is still my biggest long-term life goal.

The curatorial characteristic you describe is underrated, even though the “everyone is a curator” idea is jammed down our throats all the time. There's something about this curation on a person-to-person level that still has lots of room for experimentation. On that subject, do you have any examples of communities, sites, or models that guide where you'd want Extratone to go?

My citable aspirations in that regard have been somewhat superficial, I'm afraid. From a technical perspective, I really admired what Joshua Topolsky was trying to do with The Outline – which just closed this month, actually. They built their own CMS including a bespoke advertising delivery platform which really looked great but they just couldn't figure out a sustainable editorial focus. In my fantasy world, I have the connections and digital media insight of Topolsky and know how to apply them in a way that supports our community because I don't see any one brand popping up any substantial umbrellas over the electronic musicians I know. (It wasn't until “too late” that I realized Extratone's sole editorial focus should have been electronic music all along.) I read a lot about media but I'm pretty picky as far as hero worship goes when it comes to my own professional goals. I once promised that Extratone would never run ads, so I could see some sort of non-profit classification working out in our future. I believe I could be an excellent curator – I'm just not quite sure how to get there yet.

I think you're a great curator — had to ask that question of influence because I think you have a unique curatorial presence on the web. Just saw you tweet about tractordata.com. Who else would recommend that? Love it. That's why I thought Are.na would be right up your alley.

So you emphasized “our community” there — what do you define as your community in that broader context?

Well thank you! That's a question I'm still struggling to define. Electronic music is about as far as I've gotten. I met most of my talented friends on Twitter over the past 10 years or so and have tried to contain them in a list before. There are innate challenges in defining such a creative community – I have done my best to label without being constricting, but it's definitely difficult trying to figure out how to provide a flag which everyone feels comfortable flying. I still think the best I've done to articulate what I'm trying to say was for Extratone's About page. Most of the folks I'm talking about are used to hustling their own brand so it's been a real challenge working on the right way to reach out.

A flag which everyone feels comfortable flying — that's a great way to put it. What I find interesting about your internet presence is that you defy the idea of flying just a single flag. Along with Extratone you have multiple podcasts, multiple blogs, and now you're starting a Motorsports & Tech dedicated Mastodon instance.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how important it is to have many online buckets to put your ideas in. One just feels too limiting, especially if it's solely linked to your legal identity. How do you think about this matter of identity & expression with your own online presence?

That's a very good question. I can't take credit for mastd.racing, actually – I'm not sure who created that server but it's administered by an account called RaceControl. You've arrived at another one of my biggest challenges. Consolidating my interests has always been a problem, especially on The Web. Age has definitely helped narrow them down a bit, but I still can't help myself sometimes. I think it's ended up alienating a lot of my followers on social because I have a hard time posting just within my niche(s). I'm not so sure how to feel about this, honestly. One could argue that I should post whatever I want, whenever, but consider your audience is also a concept I can no longer ignore. If anything, I need to learn to let myself be limited a bit more by those buckets. Once again, Extratone is a good example of this – I should've never published app reviews there, but I did. We're all learning, I suppose.

Do you feel like you have to even learn to limit yourself on your personal blog? It seems like a personal blog can act as the release valve — a way of getting around cornering yourself into the niches that Extratone and other projects require. You can freely write about pens and Picard without feeling constrained to a single subject.

I think I'm just now coming around to understanding personal blogging and the freedom that entails. It's been a long while since I've had the urge to write about things on which I don't consider myself at least somewhat of an authority. I think – like many people – I originally just used my personal blog as a guinea pig for messing around with themes, and I'm just now actually catching up on some of the lesser items on my “to-write” list. Since we've begun talking I've begun building my blogs bookmark folder back up and following the #100DaystoOffload challenge, which I find immensely impressive. I can't say I'm quite up to it, personally, but I definitely plan on opening up the taps a bit more. (I also don't want to flood read.write.as with too many joke posts ya know hehe.)

That's awesome! You're reminding me of the interesting relationship between writing & tinkering when it comes to blogs. They both feed into each other in a strange way. Before, when my blog was on Wordpress, I didn't care about tinkering around — writing was my sole focus. When I moved to my new blog, however, I found myself shift towards creating apps that extend my blog and messing around with its CSS. So it's interesting that you've gone the opposite way, publishing more instead of solely tinkering.

What has awoken the urge for you to tackle those items on your personal “to-write” list? To open up those taps a bit more? Because I can see the publication mindset, being somewhat of an authority, getting in the way.

That is interesting. I'm wondering how many people are in each of our camps. I hate to be so topical, but the pandemic and being home constantly has definitely contributed. I've also begun to learn to let things go, which is an essential skill. Being able to actually kill work when it needs to die is the real secret. I just built up the strength to delete the rest of my 2019 list a few weeks ago.

I wonder also! And hey, no problem bringing up the current situation. I think it's making me write more also.

Want to drill into that practice of letting go as an essential skill for blogging. As a final question for this chat, how have you gone about the decision of keeping ideas that you've had for a long time and when to let them go? It's been something I've been struggling with for recently as ideas for blog posts start to pile up.

Self-curation is definitely tough. Generally, it's very hard to let things go – especially when I've progressed at all significantly into research/first drafting, but I know when to kill something if I reread and am unable to immediately see where I was going. I've noticed that trying to rekindle interest or momentum in a topic is unusually not a worthwhile use of time in my case. If I can't get my rhythm back fairly early in, I am very unlikely to, ever. That said, I think it's also important to forgive yourself for investing time in something that won't work out – otherwise, you will settle for less than what you originally intended and release something you won't be happy with.

Thank you so much for your time! I really enjoyed this!

Forgive and forget! That's a great point about rekindling an interest being a sign of letting go of an idea. I've done that too many times. This has been a blast to chat virtually David — really enjoyed your thoughts and am looking forward to future blog posts and installments of Extratone!

#meta

Kaweco Skyline Sport

It’s very pretentious to talk about pens, I agree, but I believe there’s a level of pen pretentiousness which is worth sharing with the writing masses. I continually encounter people in both personal and professional settings using – and often worshipping – very shitty pens. I'm not going to pretend spending $15 on a pen has not become a novel or ridiculous idea in contemporary culture, but if you're willing, this is one of those areas where some retrospective can lead to real pleasantnesss. Here are some of the tools I've owned. (I'll be linking heavily to The Pen Addict in this post. It's all we've got. Sorry.)

Parker Jotter

Parker Jotter

I believe everyone on Earth should own a Parker Jotter. It's a slim, small ballpoint designed for sketching with a clicking action that just about everyone loves. I have owned and lost many and I will continue to for the rest of my writing life. I cannot even begin to communicate how worth it $16.99 is to never write with another disposable ballpoint ever again. They're tough, light, and beautiful. Sarah Read for The Pen Addict:

If you're primarily a fountain pen user, but you acknowledge the occasional need for a ballpoint, this really is the perfect one. It looks and feels like you're spoiling yourself, but the price is low enough that you'll still have to add a fountain pen to your cart to get free shipping.

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot Metropolitan

The Pilot Metropolitan has been the entry-level fountain pen for all of time as far as I know. Google for reviews and you'll find praises across the blog spectrum – from Little Coffee Fox to Writing For Pain and Pleasure to The Gentleman Stationer. “I'm not sure there is anything on the market that even approaches a pen of this quality for $15.00,” says the latter. Testimony from the first:

I love how the Pilot Metropolitan feels in my hand. The brass body is cold and weighty while you write without becoming a burden to use. Despite its low cost, the look and feel of this pen will be sure to leave an impression on your friends and coworkers.

The Pen Addict argues for the next pen on my list as The Ultimate Beginner, but I'll stick with the Metropolitan. It's a little unorthodox, actually – it doesn't feel quite as substantial as the other fountain pens I've used in my time, but it's a blast.

Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari

The modern alternative to the Pilot Metropolitan, the Lamy Safari is the coolest instrument on this list to own, but it is generally twice the price. Though I liked being seen with the Safari more than the Metropolitan, and its writing experience is more conventional in terms of what to expect from other composite fountain pens, I still think the Metropolitan is more fun to use. Instead of reading what I have to say, though, check out the only words about any of these pens I spied in a major publication. For The Strategist, David Notis writes:

Fountain pens can be complicated and intimidating, but the Safari was designed to be approachable. (It was apparently originally meant to help teach proper handwriting to schoolchildren). Pen enthusiasts often recommend it as a great “starter” fountain pen, which I’ve found to be spot-on. [...]

Not that I’m suddenly an expert, but there is something special about writing with a fountain pen. The steady flow of ink is so expressive; it somehow makes the weird, messy quirks of my handwriting feel intentional.

To be honest, I feel like I could've done without my Safari, but I did actually write with it quite extensively. Here are two more opinions: The Gentleman Stationer and Little Coffee Fox.

Kaweco Classic Sport

Kaweco

Huge bias here: I adore Kaweco as a company. I first bought a Mint Skyline Sport (the featured image of this post) in 2016 and I fell in love. I love the breeziness of their colors. I love how Germanic their old logo is and how anything you read about their history is inevitably found on a website looking like this. As Susan M. Pigott points out for The Pen Addict, the plastic Sport series can be a bit lacking in refinement. “The Skyline Sport is made of plastic, and it feels rather cheap in the hand,” she says. Unfortunately, my white Classic Sport had the same problem, though I also adored it. From Shashwat Vardhana:

If you have small to medium sized hands and like the screw cap action, you should most certainly go for this pen. While it might not be the best writer of its class, its reliability is absolute and I have never had any complaints with the pen in this aspect.

Kaweco Steel Sport

Kaweco Steel Sport

My baby – my ultimate pen acquisition – was my Kaweco Steel Sport. I bought it in person with cash at Pen Place in Kansas City, and it was by far my favorite writing instrument of all time. As far as I'm concerned, this is as high as pens get. Find yourself in the position to buy one and you will be satisfied forever. From The Pen Addict:

The Steel Sport features a – wait for it – stainless steel barrel. What is it about stainless steel that I love so much in pens? It tends to land in a barrel weight sweet spot that is heavier than aluminum, and lighter than copper and brass. [...]

Stainless steel has a density and warmth that I enjoy in a pen barrel. It is also practically indestructible, which is what I want in a pocket pen.

If you write by hand, you should treat yourself to one of these instruments. If you'd like to write more by hand, you definitely should. A good pen will have you looking for excuses to write.

#meta

When I have to pee too much to actually finish anything.

Anxiety Theme by Max Henderson adapted for The Psalms

I've updated the look of this blog with a theme adapted from “Anxiety” by Max Henderson but I've yet to update the colophon with the new colors (partially because I don't have the energy to name them yet.) Extratone's theme was listed on write.as' new themes project a while ago, of which I am quite proud. I've begun crossposting to Mastodon from Twitter again.

Autos And Such

I'm mostly blogging because I am fairly stuck on the Volkwagen Atlas review I promised to get done this week. (That link is to an online Word doc of my live progress, on which I'd love any comments on if you have them.) I've been playing enough Gran Turismo Sport that I've created a new blog specifically for automotive writing at dieselgoth.com. There, on Titanic day, I made a post including an “exclusive” invite link to mastd.racing, which I would compel any enthusiasts among you to oblige.

Me and Myself

Hanging out with myself trying to get Zoom-bombed.

Listening

This feature on the Bandcamp Daily regarding “Bleep” has really been my shit. Imagine my 70-year-old mother dancing to this.

[Matt] Anniss subsequently went on a local Bristol internet station, penned a blog post, and posted a DJ set of Bleep, as a way to convince those same DJs that his thesis had some merit. He wrote an in-depth feature on the form for electronic music site Resident Advisor—which caused him to think bigger about this formative, unsung moment in UK dance music history. “I found the sound itself alien and otherworldly, but also endlessly fascinating for some reason,” he says. “It seemed so fresh and futuristic still, but also mysterious.”

Software and Stuff

Still waiting on my tax return/possible Corona stipend, I have lost my subscription to Google One, meaning the business Extratone Gmail (ihadtopee@gmail.com) is about to be unhooked(?)/deleted/no longer able to receive mail. As such, I've spent the past few days moving accounts to davidblue@extratone.com including the newsletters I'm most fond of (like Nextdraft.) This has given me a good opportunity to weed out those I don't particularly care about and to try using Outlook as my primary email client once again. Somehow, this has got me reverted into trying to make use of my Microsoft Office business subscription once again – I have (eeek!) not been writing in Markdown. May the Gourd have mercy on my text format-fucking soul.

Two Microsoft Apps on My Homescreen

The other project I've been trying to distract myself from the Atlas review with is my list of poweruser/especially handy Windows/iOS/MacOS applications/tricks that I believe just about everyone should be using. From “Dirty Dave's Poweruser Tips” (working title):

I want you to come away from this list feeling as liberated and powerful as I do now when I’m On My Computer without any condescension or tedium. Unfortunately, there’s probably going to be some of both, so please stick with me and don’t take it personally. I do a lot of online reading, writing, and fiddling. I’ve been compelled to do these things in one form or another since very early childhood, and what follows could be described as a list of my favorite tools to accomplish things. Almost all of them are entirely free to use and the vast majority of them are easily and beautifully functional as well. They are what I suggest for my own mother to use, for what that’s worth, and I would argue sincerely for their extreme importance. Don’t waste your life on bad software.

Fucking Medium

In late March Nieman Lab's Laura Hazard Owen published “The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium, 2012–present,” which includes the most complete, linear timeline of the website's existence anyone could ever ask for. Naturally – in classic medium fashion – she begins many of her sentences with “But,” which I really hate.

Why spend so much time worrying about what Medium is? Maybe because we wanted to know whether it was a friend or an enemy. The answer is that it’s neither. It’s a reflection of what the media industry has worried about, and hoped for, and not received. But Medium was never something that we would get to define. Instead, it’s turned out to be an endless thought experiment into what publishing on the internet could look like. That’s not much fun for people who got burned along the way, but Medium was never exactly ours to begin with.

Other Stuff

#meta

Yes, I am still managing to waste my time digging up and re-arranging some very old content, but I just couldn't resist. Somehow, it didn't occur to me until yesterday evening that I could sort through the original video files of my old vines fairly easily in fucking Google Photos and blast them through iMovie for iOS into a full montage relatively easily.

Some of these are very cringey...

Yes, I'd love to finally get around to my ultimate romantic editorialization on that most dearly departed social network, but things are way too jumbled right now, obviously.

#meta

Compaq Logo BANG

Setting out upon a desperate personal journey to rediscover enchantment with computers.

This evening, a pack­age is sched­uled to arrive upon my doorstep con­tain­ing a Com­paq Portable Plus lug­gable com­put­er from 1983 which I have fan­ta­sized about buy­ing for far too many years. Despite liv­ing in the midst of per­haps the worst pos­si­ble finan­cial sit­u­a­tion to spend $139.99 out­right on a rel­ic of com­put­ing, I final­ly just bought one any­way last Thurs­day because I’m absolute­ly fed up with life with­out the mag­ic I remem­ber feel­ing from com­put­ers. Yes, I am hav­ing a mid-life crises and The Machine is just a phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of one of my favorite sto­ries, but I expect it will pro­vide some­thing irre­place­able for me and at least one piece of enter­tain­ment for just about any­body: I’m going to start a pho­to­series of myself using the 26-lb., suit­case-like, and utter­ly time-dis­placed Portable Plus in dif­fer­ent cof­fee shops through­out Port­land.

There’s also poten­tial oppor­tu­ni­ty (or neces­si­ty) for me to make use of my lim­it­ed knowl­edge of hard­ware elec­tron­ics. I’ve nev­er been very com­fort­able with open­ly using the term “hob­by,” but I ful­ly intend to savor, doc­u­ment, and pre­serve every pos­si­ble detail of my expe­ri­ence, so we’re going to behave as if the tales of com­put­er his­to­ry are pre­cious to a ded­i­cat­ed audi­ence besides myself, and that I am there­by and here­after bind­ing myself to an impor­tant duty of dis­cov­ery, cura­tion, and pre­sen­ta­tion expressed through mul­ti­me­dia of the high­est pos­si­ble cal­iber.

In oth­er words, I’m pret­ty sure I’ve just begun a vin­tage com­put­ing blog. Before we go any fur­ther, then, let’s dis­pense with the oblig­a­tory arrange­ments.

Lotus Word Pro

Why Compaq?

Put sim­ply, Com­paq was punk as fuck. Three dorky Tex­an techn­odads pre­med­i­tat­ed their leave of fair, secure jobs in the indus­try in order to bet every­thing on the promise of a sin­gle unde­ni­ably pro-user ide­al to dis­rupt its dom­i­nant monop­o­lis­tic supervil­lian. Unlike any of the count­less oth­er sto­ries from the infor­ma­tion age with the very same intro­duc­tion, theirs was imme­di­ate­ly pro­pelled into stratos­pher­ic, record-break­ing suc­cess — from cof­fee table sketch­es in the waste­lands of sub­ur­ban Hous­ton nights to one bil­lion dol­lars in less than five years, prov­ing that it was pos­si­ble to win huge in tech by com­mit­ting sin­cere­ly to lib­er­at­ing the con­sumer and man­i­fest­ing the ulti­mate per­for­mance of the under­dog com­plex Amer­i­can busi­ness has ever wit­nessed.

Those of us who’ve main­tained some curi­ous orbit of tech­nol­o­gy have recent­ly entered a rec­on­cil­la­to­ry process as the world has become all at once inti­mate­ly famil­iar with our col­lec­tive pur­suits’ true con­se­quences. Nev­er has it been more appro­pri­ate to reflect on the whole­some brava­do of the only Amer­i­can com­put­er com­pa­ny to build a bil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness atop the sole mantra of user lib­er­a­tion. At a glance one might assume that AMC’s attempt to repro­duce Mad Men’s for­mu­la with a sto­ry set in Compaq’s ori­gin in a series that’s sup­pos­ed­ly attract­ed a fair num­ber of Net­flix­ers called Halt and Catch Fire in con­junc­tion with the 2016 doc­u­men­tary Sil­i­con Cow­boys have suf­fi­cient­ly remind­ed Amer­i­ca of to whom it real­ly owes its priv­i­leged tech indus­try. How­ev­er, a Twit­ter search for “Com­paq” turns up vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing of con­se­quence, and — on the oth­er cul­tur­al spec­trum — I’ve yet to see a sin­gle well-doc­u­ment­ed col­lec­tion of Com­paq hard­ware, and I’m unsat­is­fied.

Like it not, you’re com­ing with me on a safari back through two full nos­tal­gic cycles to redis­cov­er our won­der and excite­ment about tech­nol­o­gy because I miss it des­per­ate­ly and I know you do too. We’re going to find some­thing mar­velous.

I believe com­put­ers can be mag­ic again.

I believe in Com­paq.

#hardware #meta