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Square
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Cello Spotlight

The Interface Newsletter

I keep meaning to write a long post about email newsletters, how I manage them in Gmail, and which ones I subscribe to. Instead I'll just recommend one newsletter that has been fantastic lately: Casey Newton's The Interface. If you're interested in how our Internet ecosystem works (or doesn't work) you'll enjoy it.
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Sunflower

Live Bloggin' XOXO II

Woke up with an odd mix of You Got What I Need and La Vie En Rose going through my head thanks to Jean & John & Jessie & Hari. (They should make one of those shirts.) They closed down XOXO Day 3 (9?) with some hard-hitting deconstruction of Biz Markie lyrics. The lies needed to be exposed.

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Here are some other quick thoughts I took away from Day 2 (12?):
  • Open Mike Eagle talked about complexity in art (among much more) and his thoughts about people being complex and needing art that speaks to that spoke to me.
  • The Reductress headlines were hilarious and are a way of finding a voice for things people aren't talking about.
  • Ravine is a fun cooperative game where everyone is working together against the game rather than competing against each other. It has some fun mechanics that I haven't seen in other games. It's not turn-based but it's also not complete chaos. Great balance!
  • I'm a big fan of the Criminal podcast so it was great to see Phoebe Judge and put a face with her voice. I wasn't sure how they'd be able to do a documentary episode live, but it worked well by mixing live narration with recorded interviews and adding some visual illustration.
Heading home now so I won't make it to XOXO Day 15, but it was amazing fuel for thought as usual. I also realize I need to make an effort to see my geographically distributed friends in real life—they are amazing too.
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XOXO stage

Live Bloggin' XOXO

I'm in Portland for XOXO 2018—a fun conference that pulls together indie artists to show their work and talk about their process. It's also a way for a bunch of people (like me!) who appreciate the weird web to get together and be socially awkward together.

This year XOXO got together with Chicago's LevelEater D&D events to ask this confluence of nerds to raise money for charity by playing Dungeons & Dragons. How do you raise money by playing D&D? It's a simple process: 1.) You get a space to play. 2.) You get some celebrity DMs. 3.) You get maybe a dozen volunteer DMs. 4.) You get someone to write a custom adventure for the event, along with fabricated props. 5.) You get people pay to play at tables of six and buy imaginary magic items to use in the adventure. 6.) And then everyone rolls some dice and goofs around for a few hours.

That's not easy to pull off if you didn't catch the sarcasm. I did this yesterday and it was a great time! I got to play with a personal hero of mine Patrick Rothfuss (site still rockin' ASP!) and give money to MyMusicRx in the process. The venue was an amazing music studio in Portland run by Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk who was there manning the front door, grabbing drinks for folks, and showing people around. The place was decked out in full fantasy regalia—here are a few pics.

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I'm really happy XOXO collaborated on this. It was epic fun!

The conference continued that night and I saw some fantastic film & animation projects I hadn't seen before. Graham Annable's Grickle is dark and hilarious if you're a pessimist like me. Do not miss Principal Skeleton. By the way, the venue is HUGE this year:

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I also saw some fun card games, video games, and heard an inspiring talk from CSS artist Diana Smith. Her purecss-francine is a herculean effort.

It's a lot to take in! I'm glad XOXO is back advocating for indie work, creating amazing personal experiences, and being a good ambassador for Portland. Thanks Andys!

Newsreader Update

After the demise of Google Reader in 2013 I found the open source clone Tiny Tiny RSS and I've been using it to subscribe to websites ever since. I installed it on my own server, customized the interface quite a bit, and wrote a few plugins. And because I had put a lot of time into modifying it by editing the source files directly, I didn't upgrade it. Ever.

Tiny Tiny RSS has been evolving over the years and it's pretty ridiculous that I didn't upgrade. I probably missed 1,000+ bug fixes and performance enhancements releases in the last five years.

Earlier this week I was looking at the latest version and found that the PHP requirements changed. One does not simply upgrade PHP. "We're in the future now," I thought, "Shouldn't this all be serverless?" It's not. I did find something neat in the process though.

A company called Bitnami has an AWS image with Tiny Tiny RSS installed along with everything you need to run it. I threw this on the smallest AWS instance (a t2.micro) and had a more recent version up and running in minutes. It took a few more minutes to get a free LetsEncrypt cert going for SSL, a trifling more to run the feed updater as a service, and finally a smattering more minutes to export/import my subscriptions. But minutes none the less!

The new version means I can finally use a real iOS app to read as well. Reeder 3 for iOS is free now and works with Tiny Tiny RSS if you use the Fever API plugin. (Although it seems like the project is abandoned and I needed to add a couple lines of code to get it working; hooray open source life.)

And to top it all off I only directly edited one source file. So I'm learning. Here's to another five years of this particular version of Tiny Tiny RSS!
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Yellow Westy
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Chicken Leaf

Making Unconscious Rules Conscious

Every couple days I visit How (Un)Popular is the President? by FiveThirtyEight to see what the polls show. And every day I am amazed that it doesn't change. I've read the articles that say 42% is still a historic low, but knowing that the family separation policy was widely known in mid-June and seeing the support number stay the same and then improve is discouraging.

When I look at the demographics of that 42%—they look a lot like me. I've been trying to understand why I have a strong negative reaction to what I see while people who are similar to me do not.

I tried to write down a list of rules that are constantly running in my brain that help me understand the world. As stimulus from the outside world comes in, I filter it through some process and then make decisions about how to react. This process has built up over time based on my experience and I don't even think about how it works anymore—it's just who I am. I gave each rule a one-word alias so they would be easier for me to remember and spot them as they're working.
  • All humans are real, complex people who experience love and have hopes & dreams. (Respect)
  • Not all sources of information are alike. Journalists are a better source of information than companies, governments, or peers even though these will be better sources for specific information at times. (Discern)
  • Learn from diverse sources past and present; nuance exists and expanding your vocabulary can help you express and comprehend complex ideas. (Read)
  • Our systems of governing and commerce are currently unfair with winners and losers. Zero sum competition is the business environment but not the entire human experience. Someone else's success does not diminish you. (Balance)
  • Use power available to you to make the unfair world more fair for everyone. Help people in a weaker position. Vote every time. Frame issues when you talk about them. (Participate)
  • Trust your own mind and observations and continually work to improve them. Skepticism of authorities is healthy. (Question)
  • It is good to care about people and things you love and believe in. (Care)
  • Make friends both online & off but spend more time with people in physical space. Listen carefully. (Connect)
  • Doing things a different way from the majority is ok. Understand why things are popular but don’t feel compelled to follow. (Diverge)
  • Think about how things you say and make could be interpreted and used in different contexts and change if it makes the world less fair. (Imagine)
  • Wild, undeveloped spaces in our physical world are a source of inspiration so spend time there if you can. (Restore)
I don't perfectly execute these unconscious rules everyday, but my theory is that they're a core part of how I process the world. I'm sure there are rules that I'm not aware of yet. I can't wave a magic wand and know what rules guide other people, but maybe trying to make my own rules conscious will help me understand how I'm processing the world.

Twitter Breakup

Jerry Seinfeld had a funny line on his show about how breaking up is like knocking over a coke machine:

That's how I feel about Twitter right now. Even though I swore off Twitter in January I've found myself back in the daily grind there. Despite uninstalling the app on my phone and hacking my hosts file, I still end up back. Twitter and I have had some great times over 11 years and five months! It's not easy to give that up. I found my current job via Twitter, I hear stories from people I would never have met, I keep up with friends, I get industry news, and there are always great jokes.

But Twitter also has a problem with toxic speech that they refuse to address. That is the dealbreaker for me. That's the poop in the pool. Here's a sampling of recent decisive leadership from Twitter:

I also found myself identifying with Matt's My own reasons for leaving Twitter. I too feel that addictive pull all. the. time.

So this movement to deactivate accounts on Friday is just the kick in the butt I need to remind myself to make conscious choices about the places I patronize.

I will genuinely miss the fun parts of Twitter but I don't want to be part of a platform that hosts hate speech. The US government tolerates hate speech because it places a high value on free speech. I understand the trade-off there but Twitter is not the US government. There are plenty of places to publish online. Twitter is more like the host of a big party. And if the host of the party doesn't kick out nazis when they show up it's time to knock over the coke machine for good. (I'm definitely mixing metaphors here but the point is that I don't feel comfortable spending time and attention there anymore.) Twitter, I know it's a cliché but: it's not me—it's you.

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Canal Creek

Various Hyperlinks

Here are a couple summaries of the latest Mueller investigation indictments: @Baratunde reads through and Lawfare summarises.

These new developments make this article seem less like speculation and maybe it's time to speculate about How Life is Going to Change.

PSA: Remember Stylish the browser plugin that you might have installed that lets you change the look and feel of pages you visit? It's bad now. I exported my styles, uninstalled Stylish, and then imported them to Stylus. That should work until Stylus sells out.

No, YOU need this amazing retro keyboard based on a Hermes Rocket typewriter—not me. I don't have a keyboard problem.

I'm late on this one, but if you have any interest at all in Dungeons & Dragons you should hear Dinah explain it to Matt on his podcast Hobby Horse: Dinah Sanders rolls for initiative. She is the best ambassador I've heard yet for tabletop role playing and her joy is infectious. Go listen!

Also thought this was like something out of a D&D plot: How we discovered three poisonous books in our university library.
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yellowstone life
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bryce layers
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marvelous canyon
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zion wall
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forum statues
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Father's Day Links

I'm trying to take some time to think about what it means to be a father today. Whatever your relationship is with that aspect of humanity—I hope you'll also take some time to think about it in the context of current events. I'm tired of the tone policing, edge casing, whataboutism, and just asking questions around this topic. The subject is basic human decency.

I'm going to be rereading this article about Mr. Rogers several times today: Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children.
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