I had too much hair, it was keeping my up at night.
So I cut some of it off.
Later I got dressed. This is the latest in an ongoing series called “Joaquin looks like either a settler or a skinhead, depending on when he shaved last.”
So vanity, but also change. I’ve really kind of gotten into a rut in terms of my relationship with time, and I’m looking for excuses to kind of jar myself into shape. Aside from Temboo and yard-work I’m so scattered that I’m better off avoiding doing anything, rather than starting it and then forking off onto some other activity (which form Markov Garden inevitably means stupid distraction-oriented internet use.) I need to figure out some way to make myself feel more monastic. If only I had a bell!
I had planned to be so good. Furthermore, I guess I’d sort of hoped to coast along on the momentum that came with the previously-mentioned promotion, but of course I don’t work that way. Instead, it seemed to cause a bit of a rupture and everything got kind of destructured.
Pinterest is great. Despite initial reservations, I think I’m getting more out of it than any other internet service these days. After my initial reaction to the information flood my impulse was to stop following everyone to whom I was automatically subscribed when I created my account. Luckily I didn’t do this, and instead starting dropping individual boards in which I was clearly not interested. The result is that I avoid being inundated with crap, but I’m still seeing a lot of things that are very cool that I wouldn’t have found left to myself.
In the olden days that doddering old fools like me only barely remember almost all personal web presences included a substantial link section. People would use these to collect lists of pages that they wanted to keep around, and there was a sort of discovery process whereby you would find someone’s homepage and follow their links, learning about various corners of the web as you went. Traditionally-minded bloggers like Warren Ellis still frequently post entries that are lists of links, but in general this process has moved within the silos of social networking sites. Of course, Pinterest is a social networking site too, but it’s very easy to get stuff into it and (and really, this is the most important thing) one doesn’t have to be logged in to view content.
I’ve been really scattered. I’ve always tended to be this way a bit, but it has accelerated lately. I think. I definitely feel like I am less able than usual to determine what I should be doing next, which often means that I waste time doing nothing. It is also the case that my attention span has been really dismal. I’m not positive what that is about.
The most obvious victim of this has been Markov Garden, which is currently pretty dormant. It is very hard for me to decide what to do about that. Part of me would like to really focus on how I can get organized in such a way that a next step is either obvious or discoverable when I find myself wondering what I ought to do. Part of me thinks that the most important thing is to finish what I’ve started and trying to organize myself more effectively ought to wait until after that has happened. If you hadn’t guessed from the previous paragraph, the outcome of this conflict is always that I don’t do anything worthwhile.
Eventually, things change.
I’ve been at Temboo for over 5 years now. I have had a lot phases over the course of them. Sometimes things were good, and sometimes they were very, very bad. I almost left last week, but was convinced to stay by a gradual shift in my role. Basically I’m going to stop breaking things and start making them.
In my recent post about Temboo’s recent all-hands I mentioned that this was a direction that I needed to go in. At that point it seemed like that was going to mean Markov Garden, and whatever projects with which I decided to follow it up. What’s different about doing programming at work as well is that my mind is already going to be engaged that way. Programming is something where you need not only knowledge, but mindset. It’s a lot easier to write code today if you were doing it yesterday. This will be a good facilitator.
Another good thing that this means for Markov Garden is that I don’t have to feel like it’s a portfolio project. While I don’t think that I found that aspect of it particularly onerous, I’m interested to see what it will feel like to come back to it as just an example of personal expression.
At any rate, that’s what’s going on. It’s pretty crazy, really.
So. . . scarf, goofy t-shirt, Kung Fu slippers (not that I’m not entitled), Instagram mirror shot, cat, and I was (no lie) waiting for a test run of my Ruby project to complete when I took this picture.
So one of the things that I’ve been working on lately is trying to avoid information overload while still allowing myself the opportunity to discover new things. Part of this process involved spending a couple of hours mapping out a substantial cross-section of the ways in which I send, receive, and store data using the internet. Looking at the visual representation, C said she felt stressed out by the number of things with which I interacted regularly and wondered why.
I said, and continue to believe, that it was because it was a comprehensible representation of the scope of the web. The complexity of my process scaled out to encompass a huge group of people gives a sense of the irreducible complexity, but not one so overwhelming that the mind simply doesn’t acknowledge it.
At this point it’s a Barthean “punctum,” placing it only barely on this side of trauma. On the face of I it, it’s easy to find this a bit overwrought, but I think it bears scrutiny. If you think about, people have always tended to avoid acknowledging the degree to which the world scales beyond them, and the world has never been so far beyond the average person as it is now, but I’m getting ahead of myself (I mean, it is the future.)
In a related development, your uncle Bruce wrote an article for Wired (a magazine that I would love to hate, but the degraded state of our discourse means it’s pretty damn good) about this newfangled “New Aesthetic.” Now I probably should have had more of an idea about this whole phenomenon, but for some reason the package as such was new to me, although I have long been familiar with the products from every day life.
Sterling starts with some effusive praise, and then gets down to the business of complaining. His objections are sound, but I think that there are two things that he says and then doesn’t combine which constitutes a significant oversight. The first observation is that many of the networks that NA celebrates are overtly hostile. No amount of charming glitches, for example, make a police surveillance network like London’s anything other than overt fascism. A lot of negative things that should be called out are instead played down.
The second is that the “8-bit” aspect of NA is complete fucking bullshit, and while he recognizes that, his analysis of it is where things go a bit wrong. Here’s what he says about them:
Finally, retro ’80s graphics are sentimental fluff for modern adults who grew up in front of 1980s game-console machines. Eight-bit graphics are pretty easy to carve out of styrofoam. There’s a low barrier-to-entry in making sculpture from 8-bit, so that you can “rupture the interface between the digital and the physical.” However 8-bit sculptures are a cute, backward-looking rupture.
This makes the whole pixelizing the external world thing seem like something that can be trimmed off, but the pixelization is actually an integral part of the process whereby people allow themselves to ignore the dangers of things like surveillance networks by making them cute. It’s a metaphor that allows someone to form an idea about how a network interacts with the world without being overwhelmed by the experience. Unfortunately, deployment of this metaphor doesn’t just ignore the unpleasant aspects of the things under observation, it actively confuses the viewer. The fact is, we’re already past the pixel-era. The eyes of the network are getting more acute all the time, and the charming pixel metaphor is a willful blindness to that, and a rush to repression.
I kind of want to talk more about this, including the fact that all human error is attributable to inappropriate metaphors, so stay tuned.