Sunday, April 30

Alan shaves some blog yaks:

To readers who enjoyed the 3-column layout, the Edgar Allen Poe quote, and the engraving of the fragile rowboat disappearing into the mighty maelstrom: I’m sorry. It’s all gone. To me, minimalism is less an aesthetic than it is the search for time invariants, and well…here we are.

I did have a certain fondness for the fragile rowboat, but broadly speaking I think these are the right impulses.

Wednesday, April 12

I registered an account on a couple of months back and lurked a little. The vibe was a little heavy on the whole gay communist furry post-tumblr thing for me to feel like I had a whole lot to add personally, but it seemed like an interesting enough little corner of the network all the same.

Then the other day circumstances (and Sarah Jeong) conspired to bring it to the attention of the disgruntled-with-Twitter internet, and it got a bunch of extra signups and traffic. So far, despite an influx of longtime twitterites, the dominant style is a lot less rampagingly negative than a lot of places. It’s also heavy on programming, mental health issues, formulaic denouncements of capitalism, and reflexive Twitter-bashing. Most specific political content outside questions of software architecture seems to be culturally discouraged, though it’s starting to filter in.

Maybe more importantly over the long term, it’s built on GNU Social et al. and takes seriously the idea of a guaranteed-open implementation (AGPL!) and a network federated along the lines of old-school services like e-mail. Clients talk to a server, but servers are many and interconnected, while the identity of the user is bound to a server instance rather than global to the network. There are problems, but from first principles it’s a more hopeful of an effort than I expect from things that can gain traction on the internet in 2017.

Of course things could easily enough go to shit at any moment, and it does nothing to solve the problem of whether doing things on the public network is a good idea at all. All the same, it feels like a better effort than yet another centralized service.

ignoring the internet

Outside of that one specific thing, I have been basically ignoring what happens on the internet, especially the corners of it that are routine for professional nerds and people with an interest in politics. Which is probably detrimental to both my career and my capacity for civic involvement in the long term, but greatly increases the odds that I can work my way through any given waking day without falling into a crippling despair.

I recommend it unreservedly, and hope that I have the strength to continue it as a practice.

I’d like to work out a way to keep having political knowledge to the extent that it informs my actions in a useful way, but I’m pretty sure spending all of my time paralyzed with anger and disgust doesn’t do much for my political efficacy or my relationships to other human beings.

don’t write the comments

A related thought: I kind of stopped writing so many comments on websites, and I sure do feel like less of a full-time asshole.

“Don’t read the comments” has gotten pretty well ingrained in the general understanding (if not the general behavior), but I think it probably doesn’t go far enough. It’s not just that they’re usually a bad idea to consume. It’s that undertaking their production is on average actively harmful.

The exceptions are real, but rare.

Tuesday, April 11


The first time I ever traveled outside the United States, I spent a couple of weeks staying with a friend in Budapest. I was young and hadn’t seen very much. It felt like an extraordinary and sometimes electric place to me, the first city I’d been in that felt like Europe.

I’ve seen a little bit more of the world since then, and I understand the kind of place that Budapest is better now: A local center with a deep, complicated, and periodically brutal history, but also a periphery and a minor node in the current graph of power and capital. (And in that last way not unlike a lot of the places I’ve lived.) It remains one of my favorite cities; I’ve been back a few times and will likely go again, depending on just how far the political situation deteriorates.

Because the political situation is pretty well fucked these days. That friend I first stayed with in Budapest works now at Central European University, and CEU has lately been under direct legislative attack by a government that news outlets very circumspectly describe as composed of “right-wing populists”. (I guess I prefixed this with “protofascist” the last time I went.)

CEU itself has a bunch of material on this:

On April 10, 2017, President of the Republic of Hungary Janos Ader signed into law amendments to Hungary’s national higher education legislation which restrict academic freedom for CEU and other international universities operating in Hungary.

CEU strongly disagrees with this decision and, accordingly, continues to pursue all available legal remedies. Further, CEU calls on the Hungarian government to display the “mutual good will” called for by President Ader to find a solution to enable CEU to stay in Budapest.

There’s a petition.

I’ll be writing some letters. I’ve decided that’s my new thing, writing letters.

Thursday, April 6

Tuesday, April 4