Robert F. Kennedy quoting George Bernard Shaw

Some men see things as they are, and ask “why?”. I dream things that never were, and ask “why not?”

Trying The Old Reader

I’ve run Fever, TinyTinyRSS, Miniflux, and even a homebrew LibXML-based script on a few boxes over the years, but recently I decided to check out some hosted options for things that I tend not to customise or tweak that much.

The Old Reader’s name and design is an omage to the original Google Reader, which itself was copied from the likes of Bloglines. There’s a lot of familiar UI around, from the sidebar of feeds to the ability to share and star posts.

The experience is so nostalgic, it made me smile. It perfectly captures what I missed about the Internet of yore. It’s also easy to recommend to others to try who might not be up for maintaining a VM, or yet another web stack somewhere.

Sitting in that comfy chair

Hi everyone! I posted on Mastodon and The Bird Site that I’d been discharged from hospital. The surgery in that tender area (hah!) was more complicated than they expected, which means the recovery will be much longer. But it wasn’t a tumour, and I have my beautiful (in every sense of the world) girlfriend Clara nursing me back to health, so I’m counting my lucky stars.

The best tasting coffee ever!

I’ve been unable to move from this chair for two days now, and boy does it make things seem distant. At least during Covid lockdowns I could walk to the balcony and get fresh air. Instead I’ve been staring at a book, or a computer screen, or the wall. The sum of all the world’s knowledge is a few clicks away, and I’ve never been so bored in my life. It’s ridiculous how the mind works.

I’m slowly getting back into the mental swing of things, even if the most adventurous part of my day is figuring out how to stand to perform certain duties without bucking over and screaming. The neighbour in the apartment next door banged on the wall once; maybe they thought I had a horror movie up too loud. They may have been right.

How have you all been? I know for the most part this is a one-way communication platform, but in some strange way I do feel like this is more of a time-delayed conversation. Writing this meandering nonsense has already lifted my spirits immeasurably :).

Annus horribilis

The Queen spoke of 1992 as being her annus horribilis owing to family turmoil that she felt responsible for. I think it’s safe to say many people will be seeing 2020 and 2021 as theirs.

Mine was 2007, but this year has sure come close to usurping it. But I’m trying to see the positive. Losing more close family and people I care about has made me appreciate even more what they stood for, and what they contributed to the world. I’m glad I’ve been cleared of the Big C, and that I can have a firmware update with some scary but hopefully routine surgery. I’m lucky how understanding my colleagues and boss have been of the mental space I’m in right now.

It seems such misfortune is happening to the best of us! All this is to say, I hope you’re doing well. I’ll be back soon :).

If you need something interesting to read in the meantime, I’ve updated my blogroll on the Omake page. May I especially recommend Hales, Asherah, Antranig, Wouter, James, Josh, Georgina, Nick, Om, and Doc.

To the coolest uncle ever, Dave Ross ♡

Classical music is okay, but it doesn’t SWING!

While I was on leave and had my phones turned off, the news came down that our beloved uncle Dave passed away. The celebration service was this morning, which I was able to attend virtually despite my own current health issues, which I was tremendously thankful for.

The news hit me hard, as I’m sure it did for everyone who had the joy and honour of knowing them.

Dave and my late mum Debra were two notes on the same score. Dave was a performer, composer, and lover of music; and the coolest damned uncle I ever knew. No really, I’d tell friends about his adventures, style, and talents, and they’d scarcely believe it. My mum often regaled us with stories of their time in New Zealand, the music they performed together, and how much she respected and looked up to him. Their close and unwavering relationship is one I’m happy to share with my own sister Elke now.

I think what struck people the most when meeting Dave and Debra were their humility, kindness, and wicked senses of humour. They were deeply intelligent people, well read and explored, and with strong senses of ethics and compassion.

My earliest childhood memories revolve around laugher, some to the point of tears. It’s these that I prefer to think I shed again while watching the service today.

Alison, and my cousins Anna, Kate, and Niema all gave beautiful and fun remembrance stories. Dave’s life was all about music, but it’s clear from their words of appreciation and affection that he was also a wonderful husband and father. My favourite moments were Alison describing their long conversations, Kate’s memories of baking pizza together, Niema sharing all the life lessons he brought her, and Anna describing the strong coffee Dave must now be sharing with my mum ♡.

I like to think I got my love of jazz, my voice, and so many of my mannerisms from Dave. There were times where I’d be talking with my mum and she’d smile, saying that for a split second she thought she was taking to him instead. I couldn’t ever hope to match his wit, but I could think of no higher praise.

I’ll still remember that fateful group family trip to Bali when a haughty, long-winded, nonsensical conversation of silliness culminated in him exclaiming that I was to be an exploding computer operator! Or when looking for food, he lowered the passenger window of the car to ask passers by Salamat Sandwich? His long beard convinced temple guides that he was a priest, granting him access to areas that regular people like you and I dare not tread.

Dave’s talent, gentle demeanour, wisdom, stoicism, unwavering ethical core, and laughter are all qualities I respect, admire, and continue to see as a source of inspiration and joy.

Thank you for being a part of our lives, Dave. And thank you to Alison for giving me the video link for the service. It was an honour to share in these memories. ♡

The iPad mini 6

I’ve written choice words about the direction of Apple’s iOS platform of late, especially on mobile phones. Their last few generation of iPhones are unusable for those of us with OLED sensitivity, and the platform’s UI and design feel like they’re slipping backwards. At least, for the way I use them.

But then, as so often happens, all I needed was a bit of empathy.

Some recent health adventures have meant sitting or lying down for extended periods where using a laptop is awkward, so I’ve been shamelessly using my work iPad Air for reading newspapers, manga, and books. Steve talked about tablets being more “personal” and “intimate” devices… and I think I’m finally starting to understand why.

My only concern has been the size. If you’re feeling weak or tired, it’s gets too heavy too fast. It also has work stuff on it, which I’m trying to take leave from.

I’d love to get a larger form-factor Kobo for dedicated reading, but now I’m considering an iPad Mini. A few recent books have large photos and maps which look much better on a colour screen, and I’ve been reading so many more newspapers and RSS feeds having it on a tablet. It’s like the book form factor we’ve used for hundreds of years has something going for it.

iPads will only be media consumption or presentation devices for me; even with external keyboards they have far too many design compromises and limitations for how I work (not to mention the closed App Store, etc). There’s something about having a smaller one just for reading that could be fun. And uncharacteristically for modern Apple, it doesn’t have a notch, or an OLED screen!

Maybe I could use all the money I’ve saved living in a country with universal healthcare on something silly like this to cheer me up. I check the Medicare app and my jaw hits the floor how much these adventures would have cost otherwise. It feels like freedom.

(My ideal future setup would be a FreeBSD laptop with a HiDPI display, and an iPad to offload stuff I can’t run on the former, like chat or conferencing apps. A smaller one would weigh less in my bag next to it, too. But that’s for a future post).

The @Om Malik on writing

Om Malik continues to be a source of inspiration, care, and clarity in a tech world increasingly devoid of it. I hope he knows how important his writing is. If his writing sounds familiar, I’ve internalised a lot of it here over the years.

This was his advice last year about writing:

Be real. Write like a person. That is how your words will be unique because only you can be you.

Your writing should reflect your thinking. You don’t need to become someone else. You have to look no further than inwards to find your words and your writing style.

Your writing should have the same compassion you have when you speak and communicate with those you love and respect. Compassion always translates into civility. It shows that you care.

And a related idea: you can’t fake enthusiasm or interest. At least, not for long. You have an interest or passion the world needs to hear about. Write it, and share it with us! And please let me know, so I can add you to my blog roll. ♡

Gauguin, The Market Guardens of Vaugirard

A post-impressionist paining of a riverside town, by artist Paul Gauguin.

I needed a mental break today from stuff, so I started reading about Paul Gauguin again. Wikimedia Commons had one of my favourites.

Answering @buzzyrobin about burnout

Robin posted on The Bird Site:

I’ve read a lot of “I was burned out, I took some leave, I’ve kind of recovered” retrospectives, but comparatively few written by people in the middle of it and living with that uncertainty.

I get that. As Robin explains, it floors me that people in financially perilous circumstances (aka, most of the world) can’t take leave, or the disabled among us who live with so much of this frustration on a daily basis. Respect doesn’t cover it. But I digress.

I’m in the middle of such leave right now too, so here’s my middle-of-the-road report. I’ve rewritten this at least a dozen times; I wouldn’t have expected that articulating such thoughts would be so difficult.

Everyone’s burnout manifests in different ways. Mine exacerbated longstanding anxiety, which when mixed with some deaths in the family, commitment overload, messed up sleep, and some unexpected “elective” surgery on the horizon, I snapped like a Polaroid Picture. Wait, that’s not the lyric.

Photo of one of the walking trails around Echo Point, near the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.

Robin’s “kind of recovered” summary matches my mood thus far too. Not panicking (as often) has been wonderful. My resting heart rate is lower, and that foreboding fight or flight alliteration is starting to feel manageable again.

IT people are trained to think in inputs and outputs, so it flummoxes me that my mental black box isn’t responding as well to this break as before. The Blue Mountains are a beautiful reprieve, but it hasn’t done it for me the way travel in Southeast Asia, or Japan, or the US travel did prior to Covid.

I’m sure this is a perverse form of mental recursion, but I can’t shake this unsettling feeling that my current trip “isn’t working”, or not to the extent previous ones have. Maybe it’ll take two weeks this time, or four? Who knows. Maybe things will click in a couple of weeks, or a month, and I’ll look back on this and laugh. I mean, the absurdity of it all makes me crack a smile now, which I’m sure PuTTY would fix. Eh, not one of my better ones.

Robin is among the most compassionate, professional people I’ve ever met. Not at all to equate what they’re going though with my own struggles (as Merlin Mann of 43 Folders and B2W fame says, we all have our own personal forms of psychosis), but I hope know they’ll pull through this too. ♡

Chancellor of Earth: Advertising

The Chancellor of Earth Ruben Schade made his way up the flower-lined stairs to the stage overlooking the Planetary Parliament chamber. The crowd of politicians, journalists, and commoners in the viewing gallery hushed their conversations and took their seats.

He adjusted his multicoloured tie and glasses, smiled, and looked into the transparent teleprompter.

Good morning, afternoon, or evening, depending on your locale. Pause for applause.

He shook his head. He wasn’t supposed to read that bit.

This month’s legislative agenda will put to rest once and for all two issues concerning the advertising of goods and services. These will come into effect within one Earth week, permitting affected parties time to pull down all relevant billboards, privacy-invading website banners, business cards, video advertisements, novelty pens, and so on.

He didn’t read the pause this time, but forgot to implement it nonetheless.

The first concerns grammatically-incorrect, vague, or meaningless slogans. If you’d flunk a language test reading the slogan, you will be fined the net worth of your company, and all your novelty pens, for publishing it.

A hand shot up from the front row of seated executives, though he was quick to retrieve it with his other one.

I’m not sure when these press conferences became a Q&A, but yes, you there with enough hair gel to launch a ship down a slipway.

Thank you Chancellor, I… hey. What’s the harm if my phone company wants to use the phrase Today Now or Possibilities Are Yes. It speaks to the dynamism, synergistic disruption, and unlimited potential for the…

The executive disintegrated into a puff of pink smoke, his bowtie and blazer dropping to the chair upon which he once sat.

Seems like someone could have stood to be more grounded. Huh? HUH!?

The sound of crickets punctured the silence in the chamber, a bizarre occurance given the time of day and the fact it was indoors.

Well then. The second of these concerns an immediate termination of the use of euphemistic or vague words to describe products we all know. For example, it is not bathroom tissue, it is toilet paper. We all use it, it is just as essential, there is no shame calling it what it is.

Another hand shot up, this time from someone wearing one of the aforementioned rolls on his head.

No, I think that’s all we have time for today. Thank you.

The Chancellor stepped down from the podium to the sound of applause.